Not Everyone Will Like You

There are few things in life I’m more sure of than this…not everyone likes me. I think I’ve always been fine with that fact. If there was a time it bothered me it was so long ago that I can’t remember.

I’d would much rather be unliked by some and happy than be liked by everyone and miserable because I can’t just be me. I suppose somewhere in the world there might be somebody who is universally liked and happy too but I’ve not yet met them. And I’ve met a whole lotta people.

I want to urge you to resist the temptation of thinking it’s bad when someone doesn’t like you. I strongly urge you to ignore that little voice in your head telling you that it’s your fault they don’t like you.

There is no fault. Some people will love you, some people will like you and some people won’t like you. That’s neither good or bad, it simply is what it is.

You should pay attention to the advice you receive from the people who love you. They may not, in fact they will not, always say the nicest things to you. But if they love you they will have your best interests in mind, so consider everything they say to you, whether you want to hear it or not.

When it comes to the people who like you I’d advise being very cautious about listening too closely to what they say. You may disagree agree with this but “friends” don’t always have your best interests in mind. Unlike the people who love you, their motives may be questionable. I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s friends, I’m only saying to be aware.

But what about the people who don’t like you? Well this may surprise you but you can learn a lot from those people. Their “advice” is often not meant to be advice. It may be delivered in a hostile manner or even through a third party behind your back.

But you would be wise to give it serious consideration because if one person sees a possible flaw in you others may see it too. Maybe not but maybe. The most successful people are willing to consider even the harshest criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow. People who don’t like you may in fact be more honest with you than the people who do like you.

Their intention may be to hurt you but that’s their problem. You still have the potential to strengthen and improve yourself with the very words that were intended to do you harm.

Or, you may determine, as I often do, that their words carry no merit and you can dismiss them. But DO NOT dismiss them without a pretty healthy dose of HONEST self-reflection. You will be better for it.

There’s enough people in the world who don’t like me that if I failed to learn from them I might not learn very much at all. It might be the same for you…just a little something to consider.

The Danger of a Defensive Mind

But.

That single word has prevented more learning than all other words. Whatever language you speak as your primary language there is a word comparable to “but” and that word is just as destructive.

But is a defensive word. When you’re in a conversation with someone and your response begins with but, or any form of but like “however” then you have likely not actually been listening to the other person. You’re only waiting for your chance to respond.

“But” indicates a defensiveness to your reply. And that’s almost never good.

Because a defensive mind is closed to possibilities.

Many people in leadership positions fail for the simple reason that they have a defensive mind. They somehow came to the conclusion that they can’t be wrong because they are at the top of the org chart or because they head up their department.

As a young engineer in my twenties I was already considered one of the brightest minds in the new field of Electronic Currency Validation. Some even said I was the best.

I made a terrible mistake when I decided to listen to those who said I was the best. Since I knew more than anyone else I had nothing to learn from anyone. That meant that when someone came up with a new idea that I hadn’t already thought of they must be wrong.

The company I worked for created a new position called “Sales Engineer.” They decided that I should do it because I could explain new and challenging technology better than most.

The “sales” part was very humbling at the beginning because people didn’t respond with the clarity of a microchip or voltage regulator. I learned very quickly that no matter how much I knew that I could be wrong about anything at anytime.

I learned I had a defensive mind and I was using it to prove I knew more than other people. Of course, I thought that required me to prove them wrong in which I took great delight.

Unfortunately it prevented me from learning essential sales and leadership skills like empathy. I mean, why try to see anything from the other person’s point of view when they are so completely wrong.

Fortunately for me along came this woman named Vicki who til this very day is willing to point out to me exactly why and where I’m wrong. Which it turns out is pretty often. 🥴

What about you? How many of your responses in a conversation begin with a “yes but?” If even a few of your responses have a “but” near the front of them I can almost guarantee that you’re listening with a defensive mind rather than an open one.

And defensive minds have a much smaller opportunity to learn.

So before you even begin a conversation with someone set a goal to learn something new from it. This is critically important in conversations with customers or the people you lead.

I’ve grown comfortable with being wrong. It’s actually developed into one of my greatest strengths. Even though I’m comfortable being wrong I hate it. The good thing is that it forces me to learn so I’m not wrong about the same thing again and again. Sometimes, I’m even able to compassionately show someone I was right after all.

That’s far easier to do with an open mind than it is with a defensive mind.

I can’t think of a single good thing that comes from being defensive. It lulls you into thinking you know more than you do. It prevents you from learning. It stops empathy in its tracks.

There is nothing wrong with listening to different thoughts and opinions. There is nothing bad about discovering you may be wrong.

I have seen a hundred times over that there are people who don’t know as much as me but are still smarter than me. And thank heavens for them because they are my only hope of learning new things.

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes happen. They are a part of life. With any luck they are also part of learning. Actually luck has nothing to do with it. Humility does. Honesty does. A desire to grow does. Authenticity does.

You will never learn from a mistake you will not admit. You will never learn from one of your mistakes that you attempt to blame on someone else.

People who will not admit a mistake are not much better off than the people who won’t try anything outside of their comfort zone because they are afraid of making one.

Mistakes you don’t admit you make again and again. Mistakes you blame on other people you make over and over. There is however a school of thought that says after you make the same mistake 3 or 4 times it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a decision. I am firmly enrolled in that school.

Successful people are not afraid to admit their mistakes. They accept responsibility for them, learn from them, use what they can to grow and then they move forward towards greater success.

But even better than learning from your mistakes is learning from the mistakes of others. This is most commonly accomplished by paying attention, having a mentor and asking the right people for advice. Notice that I didn’t say asking for advice, I said asking the right people for advice.

It is my belief that the right people are those who have already accomplished something that I’m hoping to accomplish myself. The right people won’t only tell you how to do something, it’s likely they will show you. They can also provide you insights on how not to do something and that’s the advice that can help us learn from their mistakes.

I say “can help” because in order to learn from the advice of others you must be willing to both listen to the advice and do something differently than you otherwise would have because of it.

So let me offer you this advice: Make a mistake! In fact, make lots of them. A good portion of your success will be determined how fast you can make your mistakes. The rest of your success will be determined by how fast you can learn from those mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Extraordinary success will find you if you’re able to learn from the mistakes of others rather than making them yourself.

Everybody makes mistakes. Not everybody can learn from them. Which everybody are you?

Are you Determined to Learn?

If you’re not willing to learn then no one can help you. If however you are determined to learn then no one can stop you. Learning is a choice. The decision to improve your lot in life through education is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I have never met a very successful person who hasn’t at some point in their life made the decision to learn.

Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school year and it shouldn’t stop when you’re handed a degree. It’s never been easier to learn. If you’re a bit careful where you look there is a wealth of great learning opportunities to be found on the internet.

There isn’t anyone alive you can’t learn from. Heck, thanks to that same internet you can even learn from dead people. Everyone you meet can teach you something.

People who you wouldn’t normally hang out with can teach you something. People who look and sound different than you also know things that you don’t. If you’re willing to push the limits of your comfort zone a bit and take a chance you can learn from them too.

Think for a moment about your typical conversations with people. Are you doing most of the talking? Are you talking mostly about yourself? Are you asking questions about the other person and what’s new with them?

Most people don’t ask enough questions. I suppose that’s because they don’t want to look or sound dumb. Successful people know that a person who asks what may seem to be an ill informed question might sound dumb for a moment. But the person who is too embarrassed to even ask remains ill informed for a long long time.

You’ll never learn a thing by talking to someone. What you can learn from them is limitless if only you’ll listen to them. So ask three people who know you well what you can do to be a better listener. Then DO what they tell you. You don’t have to agree with them, you do however have to follow their advice. At least if you want to be a better listener.

When a person decides that they will never stop learning their potential grows right along with their knowledge bank. But learning begins with the decision to try. If you think you already know enough then you’re really no better off than the person who thinks they know it all.

And this much we all know….no one likes a know it all.

Unknowing Leadership

True or false? Leaders must know everything.

That’s false. In fact it’s absolutely  positively false. Few things about leadership will ever be more false. It’s odd then that so many people in leadership positions act as if it were true.

Insecure and inexperienced leaders hate to say “I don’t know.” To avoid admitting to what they see as a weakness, they guess. They make something up or in the worst case, lie.

All because they believe uttering the words “I don’t know” makes them look weak.

Authentic Leaders embrace the unknown. They live in ambiguity. They know what they know and perhaps even more importantly, they know what they don’t know. And they are completely comfortable with not having all the answers.

They know that ambiguity leads to opportunity. When they don’t know their answer is “I don’t know…yet.” Their thought process in that moment is not on what is, it’s on what could be. They realize that not knowing is the beginning of the learning process.

Authentic Leaders know they will never know it all. They also know that they don’t have to. They use the knowledge and experience of their teams to fill in their gaps. They also don’t expect anyone in their organization to have all the answers and they willingly fill in the knowledge gaps of their team.

When an Authentic Leader doesn’t know what to do they do the next right thing. Doing the next right thing doesn’t require knowing the end result, it only requires knowing the next right thing to do. A series of “right next steps” will invariably lead to the desired end result.

Authentic Leaders do not try to solve every problem immediately. They live in the unknowns of a problem to better understand it and it’s root causes. They are willing to allow the problem to persist a bit to ensure that once it’s solved it’s solved for good.

It’s only by embracing what you don’t know that you can know more. If you think you know it all, or think you must convince others that you do, you rob yourself of the opportunity to grow.

Don’t simply tolerate ambiguity, embrace it. Relish the unknown and use it as a springboard to knowing more. Admit what you don’t know. Admit it especially to yourself. And remind yourself that not knowing isn’t a weakness, it is the beginning of knowing more.

Be Better Soon

If you’re a leader then hopefully you know that one of your prime responsibilities is the development of the people you lead. Unfortunately not everyone in a leadership agrees with that thinking.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve had conversations with two such “non leading” leaders. One told me that their sales team didn’t need any sales training and the other told me that their leadership team was “set” when it came to developing their leadership skills.

I wish I could say those conversations were unusual but they are not. Over the years I’ve had those types of conversations hundreds of times. Way too many people in positions of leadership do not accept any responsibility for the development of their people.

What makes that worse is the fact that I’ve had even more conversations with the people those “non leading” leaders are supposed to be developing. In those conversations the “un led” people say that it is not their responsibility to develop themselves. If their boss or company want them to grow then it’s the company’s responsibility to develop them. They won’t do it on their own time and they certainly won’t invest in themselves if it’s for the benefit of their employer.

So there is a whole bunch of people who have no one accepting responsibility for their development. That’s a shame because it’s never been easier to find information, online training or presentations that are very effective in helping people improve themselves.

There will likely always be people in leadership positions who either refuse to lead or think they are leading when they really aren’t. Maybe some of them really think that their team is “set” but I’ve never seen a salesperson or a leader who couldn’t get better.

If you’re one of the people waiting for somebody else to make you better then here’s some advice….stop making excuses. Start accepting responsibility for your own growth and the increased success that will come with it.

Do a bit of research to find a blog or podcast that focuses on an area where you could improve. Commit to invest a few minutes every day to learn something new. Always have a book nearby on a topic of interest to you and set aside time on a regular basis to actually read it.

Develop yourself for yourself. There is a reason it’s called self-improvement….you do it for yourself. There are far worse things in life than your employer benefiting from something you’ve done for yourself. Never allow the fact that your boss or company won’t invest in you stop you from investing in yourself.

Make 2020 the year YOU make the world a better place by making a better you. Start now and you will be better soon!

Learning is Never Wasted

I had just finished up a large project. By every measure it was a tremendous success. I was proud of the effort I had put into it and especially proud of the efforts of my fellow team members. 

 

A person a little higher in the organization than me told me the event was a huge success. I commented that I had learned a lot and they said “that’s too bad cause we’re never doing that again.” The implication was that whatever I had learned would go to waste. 

 

They were wrong about what I had learned going to waste. They were wrong because learning is never wasted. All learning, I repeat, all learning is beneficial.

 

I had an outstanding teacher in the 7th grade. His name was Cyril Paul. He was a life changing kind of teacher and I’ve never forgotten him or the lessons he taught me. I tried finding him several years ago to give him a proper thank you and to let him know how he changed my life. My search unfortunately did not succeed.

 

I remember complaining to him one day about some junk (in the infinite wisdom of a 12 year old I was certain it was junk) he was teaching in math class. I said “I’m going to be a baseball player, I’ll never use this.” 

 

He said I could be right, I might never need that particular knowledge. But he quickly added that learning how to solve problems would benefit me the rest of my life. He said that every class I was in was serving two purposes. Teaching me whatever the subject was and teaching me how to learn. Every single class was teaching me how to learn! I’m not sure when I discovered he was right about that, I think it came upon me slowly. But he was absolutely right.

 

I am still learning today. I hope you are too.

 

No one can take your education from you. Don’t think for a minute that something you’ve learned will be of no use to you in the future. You never know when some tidbit of knowledge from your past will come in handy. 

 

It’s never been easier to add to your base of knowledge than it is today. There are tons of good online classes and many of them are available at no cost to the learner. Remember, the most successful people learn something new almost every single day. 

 

Don’t use lack of time as an excuse for not learning. If educating yourself is a priority then time won’t be an issue. 


So, what are you learning today?