When relying solely upon yourself for success, stability, and happiness, there is a perennial sense of self-doubt and impatience that haunts you. Whether you're writing a short article, submitting a business plan, or contending with the innumerable financial pitfalls associated with self-employment, it's ever so simple to allow yourself to slip into a state of impatience, doubt, and fear.
Successful and unsuccessful alike have written thousands upon thousands of words on precisely this topic. Oddly, from both ends of the spectrum, the overarching sentiment of these anecdotes, essays, and books seems to center upon quite how difficult it is to grapple against these psychological barriers. For the successful, the implication of the writing is embarrassingly self-congratulatory, whilst, for the unsuccessful, the implication is transparently envious and excusatory.
Interestingly, I've come across few people who simply acknowledge the lingering senses of self-doubt and impatience as inescapable and important elements of true accountability.
In life and business, there is a remarkable lack of admission of mistakes, struggles, and failures. Just last week, a BuzzFeed columnist, Jack Stuef, published a radically inaccurate article about the owner and sole-proprietor of The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman. For days, we were left to mull Inman's apparent tendency toward pandering content and flagrant capitalism. And then, all of a sudden, Inman systematically unravelled all of the blatant misinformation his name and brand had been subjected to. Caught with his trousers down — as so many journalists are these days — the matter seemed more than deserving of a heartfelt apology.
All that happened, however, was a three sentence "Update" to Stuef's article acknowledging several factual inaccuracies. Nothing was mentioned of any harm caused, the gross lack of research, or the seeming inability in the online community to fact-check articles from columnists and contributors. In fact, BuzzFeed had the audacity to imply that Inman's decision to respond on his website and not comment on the accusations of the article directly was dubious, thereby somewhat disguising their extraordinary editorial incompetence.
And yet, for all of the negativity associated with the situation, few are surprised at the obvious lack of accountability displayed by Stuef and BuzzFeed. In fact, for the most part, we've all quickly moved on with our lives.
Simply put, we're embarrassed of our near unilateral inability to own our faults. We've grown so competitive for page views, venture capital money, and job titles that we've forgone the basic human tenet of accountability for our actions. Thus, when witnessing the embarrassment associated with BuzzFeed last week — to name only one recent example — we collectively decry the problem, but then quickly retreat to a self-constructed safe-havens in Twitter and the like — quick to move onto a less thought provoking matter.
Self-doubt and impatience haunt the actions and behavioral traits of bold people. And yet, with heaping piles of GTD apps, mute filters, and endless articles explaining away our mistakes and faults, even the most bold of us seems to have forgotten the value of these feelings.
To succeed in life and business, it's fundamentally necessary to comprehend your flaws, limits, and mistakes. Understanding that you're a great writer but an appalling financial analyst allows you to effectively surround yourself with people and resources that can bolster both your strengths and weaknesses. And, more importantly, owning your self-doubt and impatience allows you to face your concerns and logically contend with them.
For every passion project, op-ed article, and experiment I see retracted due to initially poor feedback, all I see is someone crippling themselves and their potential with self-doubt and impatience. For every entrepreneur writing thousands of words about the route to success, all I see is someone doubtful of their self-worth. And, conversely, for every entrepreneur writing thousands of words about the importance of his or her particular failure, all I see is someone unwilling to pick themselves up, cast away self-doubt, and to try again.
Self-help and life-hacking have a dangerous propensity toward the subversion and disguise of personality flaws. With these novel applications and scripts, we find workarounds to temporarily overcome our problems, but we do little in the way of introspectively owning these flaws and attempting to deal with them in a pragmatic and valuable way. We mute those who disagree with us, block those who are angry with us, ignore those who sustain differing beliefs, and, somewhat bafflingly, decry those who we disagree with.
In these walled gardens, we lack awareness and accountability, our opinions seemingly validated by an audience of like-minded and non-contentious people. We confidently nitpick at matters we know little about for the sake of short-lived praise and plaudits, laugh at the failures of companies we don't buy from, and decry similar design tendencies, but do little in the way of contribution.
We've collectively reached a point of such self-congratulation and misguided confidence that the fog of contextual inaccuracy has become borderline impenetrable. Running away from our self-doubt and our impatience for success, we've allowed ourselves to take an extraordinarily easy route — one in which all that we do is great, failures go without acknowledgement, and lessons go unlearnt.
If you're working to build a business, an identity, a brand, a weblog, a Twitter following, a podcast, a publication, or even a friendship, doubt and impatience are fundamental elements of the human experience which need not be paved over with excuses and escapism. Do not allow yourself to succumb to fear of your feelings, but rather use them to your advantage.
Learn about the competition you're so quick to dismiss, listen to those who disagree with you, and appreciate differing perspectives. Understand that your business might fail, your weblog might not be read, and your Twitter follower count might remain stagnant. But do so without blinding yourself to your shortcomings and flaws and without overlaying each moment with flimsy excuses and illogical reasoning.
We are inherently flawed, accident-prone, embarrassing, doubtful, and vulnerable creatures, but no matter how many tools used and words written to the contrary, the only way to overcome these flaws is by simply adopting accountability and embracing our self-doubt. With this, you'll be confident and aware, and you'll be someone worth following, working with, reading, or investing in.