Let me share the first time I encountered a crippling kind of doubt in my life. It was 1974, and I was in second grade. My teacher made me read aloud from a book in front of the rest of my class. I’m badly dyslexic, so I failed miserably. Since nobody really knew what dyslexia was back then, my teacher told me I was “dumb as a box of rocks.” It was all I could do not to cry in front of the class. At that moment, I could’ve just decided I was a stupid kid, but instead, I wiped my eyes and decided I was going to succeed.
Have you been focusing on your doubts lately? I’ve been there. Worried you’re not as educated as the other guys? Been there, too. Comparing yourself to that gifted new hire, wondering how you’re ever going to keep up? I’ve been right there with you.
You know what all those scenarios have in common? You. That’s right: you. And you, just like me, are the only person standing in the way of achieving the success you dream about. Think about it: You are the only person you can control. Everything else is external—your competition, your boss, your territory, your product. Even as a second grader, I knew I had a decision to make: I could either make excuses or make my way.
What is it that pecks away at us, driving us to focus on these perceived limitations? Doubt. It’s a devil of thing, how doubt works on you. It’s defined as a “feeling of uncertainty or a lack of conviction.” Once that uncertainty creeps into your thought-process, you change from head to toe. You start thinking in negative terms, your posture changes, and the energy you give off becomes murky. Worse yet, if you get to the point where you’re lacking conviction, you’ve torpedoed your work entirely. It’s hard to build a relationship with those who don’t believe in their own products, services, or company, right?
And here is the kicker: Once you’ve allowed that hesitation to be seen, you create something wicked in your customer, your colleague, or your boss. Can you guess what that “something wicked” is? Doubt, of course. They start to feel less conviction and more uncertainty. Like I said, we’ve all been there, and even the best of us have been struck by a moment of doubt here and there. But doubt can be defeated. Let me tell you how.
Is it thinking your way out of it? That’s never the answer. Thinking your way through is a trap that we can all easily fall into, because we can convince ourselves of anything if we put our mind to it. That’s the problem; it’s all in our mind. At best, if we try to think through it, we can achieve a fleeting moment of clarity, but that’s about the end of it.
Okay, so maybe we could talk our way through it? Closer, but still not enough. Talking through a tough patch can be helpful in identifying that doubt has snuck in.
So, how do we diagnose doubt? There are many signs of doubt, including anger, frustration, anxiety, and defensiveness. Today, I want to draw your attention to three very relevant ones for our chosen careers: poor listening skills, second-guessing yourself, and excuse-making. If you find these behaviors occurring in your daily work, you probably have a case of the doubts.
It’s just like the old saying: “Knowing is half the battle.” The other half? Hard work. In our chosen career path, taking an action always beats talking or thinking. Hard work is your best friend and the most important thing. Commit to your method or process, but then get up. Show up. Dress up. Answer the phone. Knock on doors. Learn your product in, out, up, and down. If you put the work in, then at the end of the day, you can be certain you’ve done all you can. You’ll walk in your front door with a feeling of accomplishment. String together one day, two days, three days, a month, a year. Do that, and when you look back, you’ll see that you’ve made the kind of progress that leads to success and obliterates doubt.
I’ve created a simple acronym as the antidote for the poisonous effects of doubt: “GOW!” What in the world is that? It’s “Get Out of the Way!” The way this works is that when you start feeling the doubt working into your world, you remind yourself that only you can get in the way, and so you must tell yourself as loudly as you can, to “GOW!” Once you’ve done that, it’s time to commit to the hard work and let the success roll in.
-Michael Ray Newman