Beliefs. You've acquired them through your interactions with society, whether it was through your childhood experiences, education, relationships, entertainment or work. They're engraved in your mind. And often difficult to change.
But are they holding you back from success?
Chances are, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
But what beliefs are holding you back and how does the world actually work?
I've been fortunate enough to speak to some professionals who have made significant progress in their careers. They provided me with some mind-expanding advice. And after reviewing their insights, I can understand exactly why each of them are in their current positions.
Avoid these 10 beliefs and do what these experts say instead:
Misbelief #1. If someone looks successful, they are successful.
I live in San Francisco. I've been here for a very long time. And in my town, it's often very hard to distinguish who is and isn't successful. Joseph Bradley, Vice President of IoT & Digital Services at Cisco, grew up close to where I live down in Mountain View. His first job, outside of his entrepreneurial ventures, was at Wells Fargo, where he worked as a bank teller.
He would see people come into the bank driving his dream car, and would think that they had money, but when he would pull up their information, he was able to see that the only had $100 in their account. Then when someone else came in with a t-shirt and jeans, the screen would flash VIP.
Bradley quickly began to realize that the people who looked successful weren't, because they spent all their money trying to impress others.
"Once I learned this lesson, I always give five minutes to people who reach out to me, no matter who they are, what they look like or what car they drive," Bradley says. "It doesn't matter where they reach out to me, whether it is in person or online, I will find five minutes for them."
Instead of judging others based on what they have or don't have, give them your time and learn how you can create a mutually beneficial relationship.
Misbelief #2. Fail fast.
I've been just as guilty as anyone in perpetuating this misbelief. And it's true, many an entrepreneur will tell you they learned tremendously from startups they founded that just never found success.
In Silicon Valley, failing has turned into a badge of honor. The more you fail, the more you are praised. It's kind of like an unusual victory where no one actually wins.
This mentality isn't contained to one region though. It has spread throughout the entire tech industry.
Bradley says, "Failing fast is a joke. Anybody who says they want to fail fast or fail slow doesn't understand it. You don't want to fail fast. You don't want to fail slow. You don't want to fail."
I've had my fair share of failures in the past, and I'm sure you have as well. If you have truly experienced failure, you would know that the last thing anyone would ever want to do is fail. So what's the alternative?
"To get ahead, you want to accelerate and improve your rate of learning on everything that you do," Bradley says.
By focusing on learning at an accelerated rate, you are able to process data quicker and navigate yourself out of sticky situations, before they turn into graveyards of broken dreams.
Misbelief #3. You have to know everything.
Have you ever met that person in the office who wanted to acquire all the data they could? Or the startup founder who read book after book after book?
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with learning. But these people aren't going out there to learn. What they are doing is trying to learn every single thing possible about their industry, their competitors, their potential clients and so forth.
Data is powerful, but you don't need to know everything.
"It's not what you don't know that causes you to fail. It's what you believe to be true that will cause you to fail," Bradley pointed out.
It's what you believe to be true that will cause you to fail. How powerful is that? Every person has their own set of beliefs. And these beliefs are what shape our thoughts, actions and decisions. So how do you change your beliefs?
"You have to challenge your beliefs each and every day," Bradley explains. "The unknown isn't the issue. None of us know what is going to happen tomorrow. If you are able to challenge what you believe to be true, that ultimately will allow you to be successful as a leader."
Misbelief #4. You need to be good at everything.
Not only do you not need to know everything. You also don't need to be good at everything. Some people start a business or enter into a role thinking that they need to be good at everything, otherwise people will doubt their abilities in the workforce. This is especially the case in entrepreneurship, where business owners feel like they have to do absolutely everything. But what usually happens when you do this is you become a jack of all trades, master of none.
"You don't have to be good at everything," says Patrick Witham, President & CEO at Paragon BioTeck, Inc. "One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that I know what I'm good at and I know what I'm really good at, and you can probably fit that in an envelope, but that's all I really have to be good at."
Instead of trying to be good at everything, focus on your "thimble," the smaller number of things that you are very good at.
"This is the reason I get to leverage everybody else's thimble and create extraordinary value through the relationship," Witham stated. "If I focus on my thimble, and I influence the people around me to tap into their thimble, we end up with a room full of people who are good at what they do. The result is a work product that is amazing."
There's no reason to stretch yourself thin by trying to do everything yourself. When everyone works together and focuses on what they are best at, you can take a deep breath and relax, because others will come to your aid and cover for you in the areas you are weak.
Misbelief #5. You can do it on your own.
When things are going good, you get more confident. When you get more confident, you might rely less on the people around you and take on more decisions by yourself. Sure their advice might have helped, but it was you at the end of the day making the final decisions. And things are working. You are making the right decisions.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, beware of this type of behavior. In business, it's easy to get so focused on what you are doing that you forget it takes a team to make everything work.
"Our company solves some of the largest problems in getting new medications and devices through regulatory processes," says Witham, "What we do is relationally driven... It's surrounding yourself with strong partners that have different competencies than you. That is what allows us to solve our client's problems. Leverage your relationships and expertise. Create and develop a relationship where both parties can get value."
Just like how Witham wasn't able to create million dollar companies on his own, you won't be able to either. So rally a team and build your success together.
Misbelief #6. Skills are the most important resource to cultivate.
Who can do it better? You may have asked yourself this question. Then when you saw someone else outshine you, you felt discouraged. And discouragement either leads to trying harder or giving up. But in most cases, it's giving up.
The good news is that skills aren't the most important resource to cultivate. "In actuality, culture is the most important resource to protect," says Douglas R. Andrew, bestselling author of multiple books and founder of Live Abundant. "I advise treating work relationships like a three-legged stool."
The three legged stool follows the three R's. According to Andrew, you should:
- Respect everyone. Don't treat people as superiors or subordinates. Respect others; call them "sir" and they will give you equal respect back. Be sincerely interested in your employees. Don't be guilty of only criticizing their work and not showing appreciation.
- Develop rapport. Be on a first name basis with your employees. Know their spouse's name and know what's troubling them. Be interested, make comments, ask questions and accommodate their needs in ways like giving them Fridays off with four 10-hour days if needed or preferred.
- Have resilience. There is no greater skill than the ability to bounce back when curveballs are thrown. In a meeting you might say, "Wow I appreciate your perspective. Can I share my take on how this happened?" Gain the ability to recover quickly from anything that happens financially, such as a down month. Don't be the person moping around for 2-4 days and causing everyone around you to be walking on eggshells.
Misbelief #7. Benefits are a nice-to-have extra.
If you're in an HR role or the role of an owner of a company, you may have thought about employee benefits. Make sure that they get their health benefits and retirement accounts.
It sounds like a solid idea. People need them. Especially if they were to get sick or have a tragic event occur in their lives.
But here's the problem.
"A lot of businesses offer benefits that require the employee to die, get sick or leave to use their benefits," Andrew says.
In the mind of an employee, a benefit doesn't seem like a benefit until they have to use them. So many people go through their whole careers feeling as if they were never rewarded.
"Instead of just offering the normal benefits, think about incorporating personal development days on top of that," Andrew suggests. "In our company, once a week we have people share three positive accomplishments. Most of the answers have to do with their personal lives. People are blown away by how much we are like family, sharing positive accomplishments with the entire team. We have 14 full development days every year. Most of them are away from office at a resort or a cabin. We also do two service projects a year and hold four events with spouses; two with children as well. It has done more than anything else to build camaraderie and rapport."
But just how effective is this? Some of Andrew's employees have been offered $20-30K higher salaries elsewhere, but won't leave because they don't want to give up the personal development perks.
Misbelief #8. We can't control what our employees and customers think.
If you run a company, you may think you have absolutely no way to control what your employees and customers think. If they show up to work just to collect a paycheck, you may feel that's just the way it is. If your employees are lazy or don't like the company, you blame it on the person. But is this really the truth?
When people first start working with Andrew, he would ask them what they do. Often times, they will say something like, "I answer phones, I am just the receptionist."
"In situations like this, we might coach our employees to understand and say, 'I'm helping to build a company where we change families, our community and the world,' instead of 'I keep track of accounting,'" Andrew explains. "Too many employees seem ashamed or don't want to talk about where they work. Great leaders should turn that perception around."
You are in control of that perception. It's up to you to drive and change the culture.
Misbelief #9. Never admit your mistakes.
If you have read books like The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, you may not have admitted a mistake since first picking up the book, which in itself may have been a mistake.
Maybe since reading the book, you've deflected when asked about a mistake, thrown a colleague under the bus, or put blame onto something else. It makes sense. People who make mistakes feel like others will hold that mistake over their head, because a former colleague, friend or lover did so in the past. And the only way for you to get out of someone holding something against you ever again is to never admit you did anything wrong, right?
"Instead, you should admit your mistakes and let others see you sweat," says Michael Dennin, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and the Dean of Undergraduate Education at University California, Irvine. "Leadership requires appropriate ownership of errors and then moving forward from them."
When you take responsibility for your actions, others will turn to you as someone who won't sugarcoat things, but as someone they can trust and rely upon. This in turn strengthens your leadership position as opposed to weakening it.
Misbelief #10. Leadership can't be learned.
You may be thinking that leaders are born with their traits. That you can't become a leader. That it is impossible to learn or develop the skills to become someone who influences others.
This thought may be what is keeping you stuck in your position in a cubicle at your office each day, wondering how long you will have to repeat the same monotonous tasks before your boss decides to lay you off.
There's a way out. And that's by learning leadership skills.
"Being a physics professor, a vice provost and a dean, I have a unique perspective when it comes to leadership," says Dennin. "There are new innovative systems and technology that are helping more people than ever learn the knowledge and skills needed to be a leader."
"Don't wait for a leadership opportunity to find you," Dennin says. "Go to college, or if you can't find the time to go to college, find educational tools, resources, or leverage the technology that is right in front of you and learn about leadership. Use what you learn to create opportunities to practice your skills, and with hard work and a positive attitude, you will become the leader you always wanted to be."
Whether you're a business owner, an executive or an employee who is barely hanging onto their job, these misbeliefs are holding you back. Challenge your beliefs, create new ones and conquer your career before it's too late.