You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

I always like to know where quotes come from, and it looks like a variation of that saying was said by Cicero, a Roman philosopher. Over the last year, Cicero’s statement “You Are Your Own Worst Enemy” has come up in a few different ways, both professionally and personally. I can’t express how many things can be learned by continuously assessing yourself or having people around you who respect you enough to give you advice on things they see from the outside.

We as humans all have flaws. These flaws, if not carefully acknowledged, can hold us back from achieving the things we “say” we want. I put the word “say” in quotes because we verbally or mentally tell ourselves things like “we want to get in shape”, “we want to get a better job”, or “we want to make more money”, but ultimately we get in our own way. I want to break down some of the reasons I’ve observed over the last few years.

Fear is one of the biggest dream killers. Fear can enter in a lot of different forms like doubt, uncertainty, worry, inadequacy, etc. We hold ourselves back by holding on to fear and it then restricts us from making a decision or progressing forward.

Fear of the Lack of Control
Over this last year, one of the reoccurring fears I’ve had is the loss of control. I tend to try and hold all the cards until there are so many in my hands that stuff starts falling and it has even gotten to the point where I’ve almost dropped the whole stack. I’m not sure who coined it but someone smarter than I said something to the effect that “the first principle of leadership is delegation”. My partner has helped me work through this and it would be something I challenge everyone to just try. Give up control of all the projects on your plate, everything. The process is liberating and you’ll actually get more done. A month or so ago I came to another one of these points where I had all the cards and I didn’t know what end was up. It wasn’t because I sought all the projects out, but through some transition in our company all the projects came back to me. Instead of realizing I was taxed, I attempted to run each and everyone of them, without completely relying on my team. Once my partner realized the state of things, he quickly helped me push everything off my plate. I’m still working through the transition, but my team has been great, we’ve gotten more projects done, things are much clearer and I have more time for the higher level projects that really need my attention.

Fear of Failure
The fear of failure is another moment where someone can be like a deer stuck in the headlights. All of us handle failure different, some of us embrace it while others panic. The unknown can be intimidating and if we don’t take a step back and assess the situation, we’re likely to not act and push through it. One of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is safety. Failure to us isn’t safe by nature and our individual risk tolerance can then dictate how “uncomfortable” we’ll allow ourselves to be. There have been times where I’ve tried to perfect something rather than just sticking it out there and going for it. I’ve been able to learn that failure helps perfect things in a way that if I tried to do it myself, I could have never done it as well. The best advice I can give is to take a project just far enough that it can come to market, release it into the wild and let the marketplace be the judge of it. You’ll learn things about your products or services that you would have never thought of during the time you wasted trying to make it perfect.

I don’t mean for this one to be offensive, but I really just think some people are lazy. They might not be consciously doing it, but they just don’t have the drive or motivation to change their current state. I’m not a believer in the lack of options. If someone on really wanted to change something, there is a way to do it. I think everyone has different pain thresholds that we self impose on ourselves. Someone might feel pain and discomfort making $30k a year and they seek ways to change that while others aren’t labored or are perfectly comfortable making that and just stay there.

Low Goals
Just in this post, I’m sure you’ve noticed I like quotes. One of my all time favorite songs is Imagine by John Lennon. The chorus goes like this:

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

We all need to dream and we need to dream big. If you don’t have your sights on the sky, you’re setting them too low. Anything is within your reach if you’re willing to go and get it. If you set your long term goal to only make $30k a year, that is all you will ever make. If you are ok with being a C student and that is where your goal is set, you’ll be an average C student. Having low goals can be a result of many things, maybe one is fear. We set our goals within reach as to not fail. Failure is the best learning experience and the best way to grow and move forward.

Ultimately we’re all at different stages of our lives and careers. The biggest thing I try to do every day is be aware of myself. Where are my goals? Where is my time spent? What am I accomplishing? What are my priorities? Asking my self these questions and more helps me frame my current state and realign things.