I will readily admit I’ve spent too much time in the past two years watching interviews and speeches by business leaders. I’ve fallen into the obsession of thinking by watching people talk about how they succeeded for hours, their success would somehow rub off on me. The problem with this theory of course is to be successful you must actually do something.

But I have learned a lot from the time spent ingesting their opinions and knowledge, including both the positive and negative effects of it. Today, I’m going to talk about one very important negative.

Trying to emulate success

So many successful entrepreneurs and visionaries have these wild childhood stories of their hustle. They’ll talk about how they bought and sold baseball cards on the playground, sold all their Halloween candy to their friends, or built a lemonade stand conglomerate. Interviewers will ask about where their success or mindset came from, and their answer is often along the lines of “I was born with it” or “I’ve been this way since I was little.”

This can be an extremely discouraging line to hear. If you are like me you didn’t do that stuff when you were little. I don’t have any interesting stories about my business adventures as a six year old. What if you were just a normal kid, does that mean you don’t have what it takes to be successful?

Absolutely not.

We focus way too much on trying to emulate other people’s success. I don’t blame us, it seems a lot easier to look at what has worked for someone and try to emulate it. There are two problems I keep seeing. First, and the most obvious, everyone is different. What works for one person might not work for another. Second, the battle of constant comparison to another person is exhausting. Comparing yourself to anyone, especially someone you consider successful, is a huge detriment to your self-confidence. If you’ve ever had that sinking feeling when hearing entrepreneurs talking about themselves you know what I’m talking about.

Create a filter

We need to stop worrying about how other people did it. I’m sure you can learn something from their experience – I certainly won’t stop watching my favorite thought leaders. But I’ve begun watching them with a filter on. Look for actionable tips and perspective on business that you can execute on. The “how you got here” stories are great entertainment, but filter them out because of the negative effect they can have on your mindset and confidence.

Listen to thought leaders with a filter on.

You shouldn’t let your past dictate what you accomplish now and in the future. With this in mind, think about how absolutely ridiculous it is to let someone else’s past dictate your present and future. Are you kidding me!? Absurd. Yet when you get discouraged because you weren’t a childhood hustler, this is exactly what is happening.

It’s this defeatist mentality crushing your dreams and confidence.

So the next time you watch that keynote, interview, whatever it may be, put on the filter. Forget the imposter syndrome and realize you must go out and create your own future. I’m not saying it will be easy. It will be really freaking hard. You will fail, struggle, toil, maybe even cry a little.

But not trying at all is the worst alternative.

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October 3, 2015

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