This week I write about what’s holding most of us back? What's holding you back? I’ve been answering a ton of questions from Verse readers lately and a common theme I’ve found is nearly everyone wants to move forward, whether it's with theirs careers, their skills or their current situation in life. But there’s always something holding them back. You may be in a similar situation and I hope that this post can help you on your journey, and to give you some insight on some of my thoughts.
Here are some of the common themes that hold us back and what we can do about it.
1. Analysis paralysis & overthinking things.
There’s something you want really to do, you’ve been researching, planning, and doing everything else but actually getting started. You know doing the actual hard stuff or the thing that you want to do. Maybe it's starting a side project. Or getting into freelance. Or leaving your job. Whatever it is after a while you start to overwhelm yourself and the self doubt creeps in. You start to have resistance. You look at other people and think maybe I'm not qualified. Or there's so much competition out there I'm probably not good enough. Or what if it doesn't work won't I look like a fool to everyone? You overthink and over research on a task and in the end no real action is taken. You spent 90% of your energy and time thinking and over analysing details that didn't matter yet. When you should've spent 20% of your time analysing and 80% executing.
Sometimes the best thing is to just do it. Richard Branson says his motto is "screw it, let's do it". Even though "he doesn't always know how he's going to do something", he always give it a go and tries to find a way. Have the naivety to dive in head first and try to figure things out on the go. Nothing beats the act of actually doing something and putting in the reps. If the task is too big or audacious break it into manageable and actionable steps that you can start almost immediately.
Let's say you wanted to quit your job, because you realise that it's not what you want in life anymore. Perhaps you have a family or kids. And financial obligations. The first step is NOT to just quit. But to manage it into clear actionable steps that you can take.
So first you need to start working on your finances. Start saving. Start understanding how much money you need to survive and support your family. Have a clear objective on your financial runway. That is something you can start on immediately. It's actionable. Then when you've figured that out, you can maybe get your feet wet and experiment with other revenue streams to meet these financial requirements. Maybe you can start working on trying to see if you can land clients in your after hours. Because if you even can't do that at this point, what hope do you have when you quit and your financial situation depends on it. So how do you get clients? You can start by reaching out to your immediate network thats something actionable you can do. And so on...
Don't overanalyse and turn things into insurmountable tasks. Or procrastinate by spending your time on things that don't matter. Like working on a company logo for yourself for 6 months, when you should have been saving and thinking about your finances first.
Simplify, prioritise and take action.
Once you've taken action then you can supplement your actions with more knowledge and planning. If you want to quit your job but don’t have the finances and confidence yet. I recommend you check out Overlap by Sean McCabe. (Note: this is note a affiliate link, I just think Sean dishes out great and relevant advice on the topic)
Whatever it is, action and the act of doing is key, don't get analysis paralysis.
2. Self limiting beliefs
I wrote about this a while back. But having self limiting beliefs is a common problem that plagues a lot of designers. And it can sometimes manifest from analysis paralysis.
But this problem stems from our psychology and mindset. Those thoughts again, what if I’m not good enough? I’m not happy at my job but I’m too comfortable and afraid to move on.
What else can you do about this?
It's about mindset shifts. You have to remember that these self limiting beliefs are not FACTS nor TRUTHS. In the end they are constructs of our mind and are merely thoughts.
You you don't have to synthesise them as the truth. Objectively they are a range of thoughts that come and go. Having a range of emotions is normal - but what you retain as facts or truths are up to you.
When you have these thoughts, acknowledge that they are just your thoughts and forge ahead. When you get actual feedback from people or from the marketplace then that is real feedback that you can objectively work with and improve. Not the things swirling in your mind.
In our careers and lives we all tend to set self imposed limits on ourselves. And what I want for you is to allow yourself to think bigger. To catch yourselves when you have set self imposed truths – that are self limiting and not actually true. I could never speak in public because of ‘xyz’. I could never work for ‘xyz’ because it’s too far away and I could never relocate. I can’t charge more than $50 per hour. People say I’m an asshole so I should play the part. These are not facts, but self imposed truths. Allow yourself to see where your upper limits are and push beyond that. To break that ceiling. If you are tenacious in the face of adversity, consistent in execution and meticulous with measuringyour gradual improvement, you will realise nearly anything is possible. Make your self fulfilling prophecy a positive one and not one that will hold you back. You can do ‘xyz’ because you’ll apply the right steps to get there.
3. I don’t want to be a sellout. I don’t know how to sell.
This is another common one that is potentially holding you back. You want to create something but you're afraid to sell it. That if you sell out or talk about money that you are grimy or sleazy. But newsflash! You’ve got to learn how to sell as designers. The starving artist mentality is bullshit.
When you get paid well I would argue that that means your work or what you do is actually good. Steve Jobs had no problem selling because he genuinely believed in the products he was creating and selling. If you BELIEVE in the work and the product then you should believe in selling it.
Because when people buy it or accept they are essentially saying I put my trust in you. I put my trust in your work. And I VALUE your work and what've you've created here or will create.
You need to learn how to sell. Selling gets your ideas realised. It gets you PAID, so you have that "f*ck you money" saved up.
So you can buy time and have the freedom to do what interests you. To do your life's work that can hopefully benefit and help other people.
So learn to sell, talk to people, learn to present and sell your ideas. Once again this takes reps upon reps of practice. Create work you believe in, so that way you have no problem selling it.
So how can you get started on selling? Good question.
Here's some basics. https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/5-basic-princip... That's the initial stepping stone.
When you create great work/products you build a reputation and your customers start selling for you. Not sleazy car salesman tactics. Create great experiences repeatedly with the same people and you will build great rapport and a personal brand.
Help provide a ton of upfront value to people first and then sell. Do you think I'm selling? These articles and posts I write every week are free, but it's a form of selling. I'm selling by just helping. But I know if I create great rapport with you and HELP you, then one day when IF I create something great, and something that's of INTEREST to you, you will support it. Because I've front loaded the value.
You can sell by being genuine and by helping first. Learn to sell and don't let that hold you back!
4. Losing motivation. It gets hard sometimes there’s no 2 ways about it.
Finally the big thing that is holding you back could just be a lack of motivation. This happens. It happens to all of us. It happens to me, it happens to Sally down the street. It happens to everyone. So what do you do when you just don't have the motivation?
You want to move forward but you just don't have the drive.
I'm not going to lie to you. It get hard sometimes, it will get difficult because anything worth doing is usually hard. Let's recap on some things you already have to face.
1. You're going to have to STOP overthinking things and start acting on the hard things that actually matter. Sh*t that doesn't sound fun.
2. You're going to have to get out of your comfort zone and expand on your self limiting beliefs. Sh*t that's going to take some guts.
3. You're going to have to start selling. Like what happens when people say 'NO'. You have to be ready to realise that a group of people are going LOVE what you do and others will shit on it and reject you. Damn is this really worth it? Take a look at this dribbble shot by Dann Petty, read his comments and you can see the criticism you'll have to face. You have to be ready for that.
So what do you do when the motivation to act just feels so difficult. Even though you know that moving forward is the direction that you want to go. That that job at 'x company' is actually what you want to do. That if you raised your rates or got paid more it would make a world of difference to you and perhaps your family. Or that design project you've always wanted to work on – that dream project is just waiting for you to create it but after work you're just drained mentally.
There's a wall, it's draining and it's holding you back.
I will say it's ok to pause and take a break.
But sometimes we also need to show up even when it's hard. Even when we're not 'inspired'.
And to do that.
You must answer your why? What are you in it for? Take a moment to reflect deeply. Only you will know the answer. It could be so you can spend more time doing more of what you love. That can be a strong enough reason. Maybe it's so you can spend more time with your love ones. Whatever it is find your why.
And so when a dip happens and a lack motivation occurs think about why you're doing it. Why it matters to you. Why it makes you hungry and lights that fire in you to push through. Then motivation will come despite the external circumstances. And so you get to work.
Every step of the way you can assess is what I'm doing worth it? If it is then endure. If not then it’s ok to quit.
You have to set a contract with yourself and make it clear on why you want to do something. Because if you believe in your why, even when it gets hard you won't give in easily. Opportunity vs. investment. You weigh that option.
1. Have a vision and a plan. Sometimes it’s not execution or acting or a self limited belief that’s holding you back. You are just a bit directionless. Have a mentor or a blueprint that you can follow so even though it's hard you can see progress being made. Day to day. Month to month. Year to Year. Seeing progress is encouraging.
2. You could be investing a disproportionate amount on the wrong things. Learn to create & make more than you consume. When you consume for entertainment its fun but do too much of it and it can be fleeting. When you invest in yourself, learn and create more you are building assets that keep giving back as time goes on. This builds momentum and motivation, particularly when you are struggling. Use your motivation to build investments and assets.
I hope these lessons can help you move forward.