Don’t Set Yourself Up to Fail

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Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you go into a situation convinced you will mess it up or get it wrong or fail in some other way, you’re doomed before you even start. You may not even realize you’re doing it. I didn’t. That is, until someone pointed it out to me.

Tunnel vision

It was years ago when I was a young community organizer. I was both young and new to the job. I had come back from the most intense year of my life in rural Nicaragua. While I’d had some success there, it was a yearlong uphill battle. I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing much of the time. Many, many days, it had not felt like I was succeeding.

Evidently, I brought that underdog attitude with me into my new job in organizing. Once again, I found myself feeling like I was guessing my way through how to do that work. I had a few early bumps in the road that left me wondering if I was cut out for it.

That mentality began showing up in how I spoke. Going into a tough meeting, I would say to a colleague, “Well, this isn’t going to go well.” When the boss started our staff meetings with a scowl on his face, I’d say, “Uh oh, what did I do wrong now?” My whole attitude conveyed my conviction that I was going to fail. So, I started to.

Wisdom that’s stood the test of time

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” –Henry Ford

Damn straight.

I’m not talking about rose-colored glasses. I’m talking about the little ways we set ourselves up to fail when we don’t have to. Believing in ourselves and our ability to get it right or be willing to stick in there long enough to figure it out is critical to success.

If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

Don’t set yourself up to fail. Life and all the pursuits we follow are hard enough. Don’t trash talk your own ability to figure it out. Try a little pep talk instead. You might be amazed at how well it can work.

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