One thing I have noticed about people that struggle to make headway towards their goals, whether personal or professional, is that they often seem to live for everyone but themselves.
And I don't mean they are living for others in the sense they are dedicated to serving a worthy cause or caring for loved ones that are unable to care for themselves (which we all would accept is an act of kindness and compassion), I am talking about people that live for others in the sense that they care too much about what everyone else thinks.
When you live this way, everything is assessed through the filter of an imaginary judge and jury comprised of peers, parents, mean teachers from the past, playground bullies, friends, acquaintances, the Facebook brigade, and faceless, unnamed others, who you let sit on the decision-making panel of your life and have an influence on how you live your life.
And I am not saying this to judge anyone. Because I am aware of the power of group-think and the mob, who can make even the most capable, talented and self-assured people second-guess their decisions.
I am also well aware that much of the time it is not so much that we care about everyone’s opinion, but that we care about a select few people that always seem to be at odds with our decisions; people that we wish would support us more but instead always have some ‘constructive’ criticism to make us re-think things that we were otherwise sure we wanted to go towards.
When I was in my 20s, coming straight out of university and landing into the corporate world, I was earning more than my best friends who were in the arts, journalism and politics. Everyone knows that the beginning rungs in these careers can sometimes be a brutal slog of rejections, low pay and bad working conditions.
If they had compared themselves to me at that time they could have felt demoralised because they weren't earning as much, they were renting when I had bought a home and the sweet smell of success and recognition seemed far away.
But they didn’t.
Because they knew that they were on their right path, and 20 years on, they are at the top of their fields. And it is me that finds myself on a new journey, as a new entrepreneur, filled with excitement and trepidation, essentially starting, in some ways, again.
If we would have judged ourselves as failures or successes when we were younger, it would not have been fair or accurate.
As my friends stayed on their true path and slowly but surely reached that pinnacle of success and job satisfaction, I, meanwhile, did not take the time to find my true path, and so did what so many do and settled for the road frequently travelled by my university peers and went into a 'safe' profession.
If I had set up a scoreboard at that time, it would have been fatally flawed, because I didn't even know what metric would be most important for me later in life. Was it money? Job satisfaction? Contribution? Or was it creating change or legacy?
The point is: we are all on different paths and we are all motivated by different things and that is why it makes no sense to make decisions that align with, or compete with, what someone else is doing or what someone else thinks you should be doing.
Your measuring stick for success is not the same as theirs. Your journey is not linear. You may go up, and then down, and then change direction completely and be back to square one.
You may speed ahead, only to find yourself up against unexpected roadblocks and making fatal mistakes and they may be like that slow but steady tortoise, taking one deliberate and intentional step after another.
And this is true in business as much as anywhere else. We have all dealt with competitors that seem to think their path to success lies in emulating and copying your techniques, ideas and processes.
However, most of the time, because they don’t know your next move, they can only ever be on a path that is lesser than yours, that feeds off your used and old ideas because they don’t take the time to create anything new and the lack of originality and authenticity is evident, and often fatal.
Even in the business world where two companies produce the same thing, they simply cannot compete on exactly the same things, in exactly the same way.
The importance of walking your own path, taking your own measure of success, is therefore evident everywhere.
Looking at what people are doing to your left and right only serves as a distraction on your own journey.
Stay focussed, don’t worry about what anyone else is doing!
Just keep putting one sure foot in front of the other.
As they say, a journey of a thousand miles is made of a single step - so just make sure the next step is a step towards your true direction, on your path, not anyone else’s.
What do you think? Comment below!
If you are interested in getting additional insight and support, I offer coaching and consultation services at the link below.