I know you’ve read this over and over… “be yourself”.
This is especially true when it comes to business, right? Be yourself, be honest, be authentic.
The problem is it’s one piece of advice, among many others. And here’s the problem, all that other advice is very often incongruent with the advice about being yourself.
It’s a trap.
You end up doing all the other things because they are so very important. You tweet 15 times a day, you write a blog post every day, you create a Facebook post and image every day, you send out an email newsletter every week, you change your website… until… you don’t.
It is all wasted effort if you can’t keep doing it. And likely you can’t keep doing it because you didn’t want to in the first place. Not because you are resisting all the advice but because some things simply aren’t in alignment with who you are.
A business cannot survive without marketing, that is a given. But there are so many wonderful ways to market that you simply can’t do them all.
Worse than that… the more tactics you use that are out of alignment with you, the more likely you are to lose your audience.
There’s a point where you need to step back, and stop taking all that advice to heart.
Advice is like a bookstore… you should go to the shelf and pull off the one or two books that appeal to you and your audience, not take home every book.
This is hard. Very hard.
The world is filled with stories of success, big stories of success. One guy says, “all I did was work four hours a week”, another says, “it’s all about the content you share”, and yet another says, “I was just brave enough to send an email to my hero and he responded”.
Those are great stories. But those are just three stories among hundreds if not thousands of stories of people doing similar things and not getting the same results.
And what made those three people successful, when others weren’t even a little bit successful?
First, they played only one role, themselves. They didn’t rely on someone else’s formula; they simply did the thing that fit their personal values and style. That’s one of the reasons they stand out.
Second, they bucked a trend. They didn’t follow the herd, quite the opposite. The right way to take advice is to use the parts that work for you, morph the ones that don’t, or toss them out entirely.
Third, timing. I don’t really believe in luck, but I do believe in timing. We can be in the right place at the right time, and even that isn’t enough because if you don’t realize there is an opportunity in front of you, you’ll fail to act.
I admit that when you are in a new situation, like running a business for the first time and flying just a little bit blind, it can be hard to make those out-of-the-box choices.
No I haven’t read Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s book called Flow, it’s on my reading list, BUT I have read enough about the concept as a runner to understand the basic idea. Here’s the Wikipedia version:
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. (Wikipedia)
So why am I bringing up the concept of flow?
Here’s what I’ve found, and I’m not talking about quantitative data, I’m talking about experience and observation, the seeds of real success come from those moments when we are in flow.
You’ve probably experienced a day in the life of your business where you were 100% on fire. Through the good and bad of the day, because these flow days are never simply good days, you managed it all with a spring in your step. On that day, you even felt good about the stress of it. The ups and downs were managed and although you may have been tired, you were still elated at the progress.
That’s what I call a flow day. And those days are the very epitome of what you should be doing in your business. On those flow days I suspect you didn’t follow anyone else’s rules. Those tend to be the days where you simply become you.
I know that when I have flow days I can look back and see that it was all just me. My values and my ideas at work. My way of being took over and there was flow.
When I observe successful people I see this sense of flow in them, the sense that they know who they are and what’s important to them and they go with it.
They are not confined by the general and generic advice thrown at us every day from every angle. They don’t fear stepping outside the norm and if they do have fear… they embrace it and power through.
My best success in business, the success not just from good profits, lots of customers, and reputation, but also from the sense of balance in the work I do, the sense of flow in my work, and the happiness I get from a job well done even when it’s hard… that’s the success you won’t get from following the rules. It can only arrive when you decide to become you and not what someone else expects you to be.
This isn’t an easy lesson really. Not for me or for you. I certainly wish I understood this idea a long time ago, it would have saved me countless hours of working in the wrong direction and countless dollars paying for advice that could never work for me.
Does that mean all advice is bad? Of course not. It simply brings me back to the idea that some advice is worth taking, some advice should be modified to fit your values and style, and some advice should definitely go into the trashcan because it doesn’t fit.
Before you go changing everything again… or before you throw in the towel completely, stop and take a moment to assess. Where are you at right now? Where do you want to go? And what actions will get you there in the way that feels right?
For every media covered success story, there are plenty of other stories of success played out without much notice. These quiet stories of success, if studied, will show you that there’s multiple ways to achieve success.
Remind yourself that in order to really be a success, you must become as much of you as you can. You need to be you. It is that uniqueness that stands the test of time. More importantly, you will be happier… and happier leads to a more balanced business and life.
On Becoming You: Greene, Robert, Mastery. Penguin Books, 2013.
On Balanced Business: Facio, Yolanda, Purpose: Build a Business You Love. Kindle, 2014.