Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
'I'm too good for this'
Good news and bad news, and things we tell ourselves. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I have some good news and some bad news.
Good news: Most people could achieve a lot if they'd let go of false beliefs.
Bad news: Most people won't do it.
With that in mind, here are 7 simple self-defeating lies that people tell themselves to torpedo their own success, along with how to stop believing them.
1. “People will laugh at me.”
Let's start with a huge, ironic, life-affirming secret that many people never learn, or learn only when it's almost too late.
Nobody cares. Nobody will remember.
Oh how refreshing it is when you realize that almost nobody cares if you fail! Of the very tiny minority who even notice, an even tinier sliver will remember.
Here's what to say to people who belittle your effort: "Meh."
Even better: nothing.
They don't matter in the least. And if you do fail, just do something else new before anyone has time to notice.
2. “It won't be good enough.”
Good enough for what? Someone else's standards? Good enough to make a lot of money? Good enough to become your life's work?
None of those things matter, really. Almost anything you start in life, one of two things will happen:
Either you'll succeed, or
You'll have an opportunity to learn something that helps you succeed in something later.
Either one is a win.
3. “It's too late/I'm too old.”
An Understandably reader drove this one home to me. (I wish I could find the original comment; let me know if it was you who said this). Basically, she was considering going back to school, but she got cold feet when she realized how old she’d be by the time she finished.
Someone asked her: How old will you be then if you don't go to back school?
Let me put it differently, from someone who has had his 50th birthday: As you get older, all of the ages you've already passed start to feel pretty young.
There's almost no such thing as too old to pursue your dreams.
4. “I'm too good for this.”
Flag this one, because now, we get into the real sauce, meaning the lies that people tell themselves—but that they don't want to admit they actually believe.
Example: They think they're too good to ask 100 people for help and to hear 99 rejections.
Deep down inside, it's not the asking or the repetition; it's that they think they're above being told, "no."
Maybe they're not willing to do the dirty work. Maybe they'll have to carry heavy things, or clean up messes, or deal with customer complaints, or spend endless hours filling out administrative forms.
Maybe their parents told them relentlessly that they were smart, and that they deserve to go to a good college, and that if they put in just a bit of effort, they should be somebody's boss. But maybe it's something else.
The biggest lie here isn't just that some people think they're too good for the things they'd have to do to achieve success.
It's that they'd have to risk discovering that they aren't good enough.
5. “I can't afford it.”
Some people say they can't pursue their dreams because they can't afford to do so. That's true in some cases—but only for a very small minority of people.
For most others, it's more that they aren't willing to cut back on other things in order to finance their dreams.
Again, I'm not saying that nobody is truly in a tough enough bind that they have few ways to work out of it while accommodating their aspirations to greatness. But the group of people for whom that's the truth is a lot smaller than the group that chooses to use this fallacy as an excuse.
Maybe you can't afford the time or money it would require to chase every dream. But most of us can chase after the ones that truly grip us the strongest.
6. “Somebody else probably already thought of it.”
Yes indeed. Somebody did probably already think of whatever you've imagined.
Guess what? They almost certainly allowed all the other lies on this list to derail them from their dreams.
Viewed that way, the existence of these lies is actually a benefit, isn't it?
Most people self-select out. Don't be like most people.
7. “I already tried that.”
There are exceptions to every rule, but most of the time "I already tried that" is a signal that someone isn't actually looking for a solution. Instead, they're looking for excuses not to follow the hard paths that might lead to a solution.
"I already tried that" is a no. You're looking for a yes. Instead, try:
What can I do to improve the last way I tried this?
Can you help me figure out why the thing I tried didn't work?
Doing X didn't work, but I learned Y, which makes me think maybe I should try Z.
Don't fall in love with the lies. Go out and find the truths instead.
I know that some of this can seem over-simplified. But things that are simple are often not easy, and yet people confuse the two concepts.
Also, I share these difficult lessons from a place of humility, because I realize that even as I was privileged to have some of the best teachers in the world as part of my job, it still took me many more years to understand and accept what they had to say
The true measure isn't how many lies you've told yourself. It's about what you do next, after you've learned to reject them.
We can choose to believe or choose not to. But now, we can't say we were never told!
Christmas/holiday song voting
Due to a technical error, a lot of people couldn’t post comments yesterday. So, I’ll continue taking nominations for favorite Christmas or holiday song in today's comments. Then, we’ll run the poll I promised in Thursday’s newsletter, so people can vote on the most-nominated songs. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, it was the last item in yesterday’s newsletter; a bit long to reprint here!)
7 other things worth knowing today
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday plans to appear in Washington to meet with President Biden and visit Capitol Hill, according to people with knowledge of the plan — a trip that will mark Zelensky’s first public international appearance since Russia invaded Ukraine. (Washington Post)
A former secretary who worked for the commander of a Nazi concentration camp has been convicted of complicity in the murders of more than 10,500 people. Irmgard Furchner, 97, was taken on as a teenaged shorthand typist at Stutthof and worked there from 1943 to 1945. She was given a 2-year suspended sentence, and is expected to be one of the last people tried for Nazi crimes. (BBC)
After a month-long trial and nine days of deliberations, Los Angeles jurors found Harvey Weinstein guilty of the rape and sexual assault of just one of the four accusers he was charged with abusing. But, Weinstein, 70, who is two years into a 23-year sentence for a rape and sexual assault conviction in New York that is under appeal, could get up to 24 years in prison in California when he’s sentenced. (AP)
Wells Fargo agreed to a $3.7 billion settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to resolve allegations against the banking giant for misapplied loans, wrongfully foreclosed homes and illegally repossessed vehicles. Wells Fargo will pay $2 billion to customers affected by its policies and a $1.7 billion civil penalty for the legal violations. (The Hill)
Long COVID story: "It's been a rough year for me. After catching COVID in Jan I never recovered. I had some dark days, at my worst I couldn't read, think or really move. Post-viral illnesses can be devastating, but they're poorly recognized. It's difficult to get help." (ABC, the Australian version)
There's a shortage of vets to treat farm animals. Pandemic pets are partly to blame. (NPR)
Over 55% of people admit to lying on their resume at least once—here are the 8 most common lies. (CNBC)