Choose what’s right, damn it.
…okay, so maybe we need to flesh this out a bit more.
See, when you’re running a business, at times it can be very tempting to take the path of least resistance. To slack off. Whether that means not bothering to actually write out a guarantee for your product, clocking out at 3 PM on a Friday so you can hit the ski hill instead of finishing up that urgent client project that’s due ASAP, or even something like promising yourself a day off and then going to work anyway.
It’s so easy to just be on autopilot all the time, thinking about your business goals, thinking about the bottom line, thinking about your to-do list for the day, but forgetting to think about the one thing that actually matters: How you treat the people around you.
See, how you treat people is what’s going to determine whether you get mentorship opportunities, whether your clients refer you to their friends, whether you get repeat business, and, ultimately, whether your business is a success.
Nobody likes doing business with a lazy, unpredictable jerk.
And if you’re not careful, that’s what your choices will turn you into.
Every day, you make countless choices about how to live your life and run your business that, bit by bit, come to define you.
Some of those choices are relatively harmless, like whether you’re going to have the tuna salad or the cold cut for lunch.
But some choices carry a lot of weight.
Are you going to finally start building out that workshop you said you were going to put together, or just keep doing client work for the rest of the day?
It’s much easier to focus on client work, because that way, you know that the bills are getting paid. But the workshop could, at some future point, pull in lots of new potential clients and generate a lot more revenue – making it the right business decision.
But that’s just the outermost layer on this onion of a dilemma.
See, what psychologists know is that whenever you make a choice to do something, you start to see yourself as the kind of person who does that thing, making it easier for you to do that thing again in the future.
In other words, your actions shape your identity.
If you spend the day slacking off and screwing around on YouTube instead of fleshing out that project proposal, you’ll start to see yourself as the kind of person who screws around on YouTube when there’s client work to be done. You start to see yourself as lazy. And then you start acting lazy.
Your behaviours shape your thoughts, which then shape your behaviours, which then shape your thoughts. And then around and around we go, on a self-destructive merry-go-round that ends with you finally deciding that you’re not the kind of person who’s cut out to run a business.
This is what’s known as a self-fulfilling prophecy, and psychology has validated the process time and time again.
My social psychology prof at UBC, Dr. Paul Davies, is one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. He also has a serious caffeine addiction that even dwarfs my need for that dark, bitter wonder-potion called coffee.
(In our first lecture, he introduced himself by pacing quickly around the room and saying, “I’m Dr. Davies. Don’t try to keep eye contact with me; you’ll get whiplash.”)
But anyway, in one lesson, we were learning about social interactions and the relationship between the self and society, and Dr. Davies started talking about self-fulfilling prophecies.
Let’s say that I’m about to introduce you to someone you’ve never met before, and right before you meet that person, I say, “Fair warning, he’s kind of a jackass.”
Well, what’s going to happen is you’re going to go into that conversation expecting the other person to act like a jackass. Because of something called confirmation bias, you’re going to actively look for evidence that said person is, indeed, a jackass – and you’ll ignore evidence indicating that they’re not so much of a jackass.
So you’re going to start getting worked up, and you’re going to start acting like a jackass yourself, because hey, you’re pissed off, and you stopped taking people’s crap a long time ago.
So then the other person is going to start getting all angry and worked up, and the two of you are going to get into a huge argument, and then as you’re both walking away, you’ll both think, “God, that guy was a jackass!”
All because of something someone else told you.
That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that becomes reality not because it was an accurate reflection of what’s actually the case, but, rather, because you believed it and acted as if it were true.
And when it comes to choosing between what’s right and what’s easy, you want to build self-fulfilling prophecies that have you choosing what’s right.
What happens is, eventually, after you’ve chosen the right thing over the easy thing several times, you start to see yourself as the kind of person who chooses the right thing over the easy thing.
And because people generally try to act in ways that are consistent with their self-concept (their own idea of what kind of person they are), that makes it easier for you to choose the right thing again in the future.
That’s why it’s so critical that you choose the right thing over the easy thing in every situation. That’s why you need to be 100% fully committed to your business. Because the instant you start to backslide, you start changing your self-concept. You start changing your own idea of who you are – and that limits you.
But when you fully commit to choosing what’s right because you’re the kind of person who chooses what’s right, then it becomes much easier to make those decisions, no matter what’s at stake.
And when you can do the right thing no matter the cost, you develop the kind of self-discipline that builds businesses into empires.
What right-versus-easy dilemmas are you on the horns of? How will your choice impact your business and your life?