Who annoys you? Who frustrates you because they’re more successful than you but they don’t deserve it? You’re smarter. You work harder. You provide more value. Yet, for some reason, they have achieved success and you might still be struggling … and it drives you crazy.
Luck on your side?
I’m obviously assuming that you are, in fact, struggling. That might not be the case. You might be rockin’ and rollin’ at this point. If so, you’ll appreciate this message even more. So for now, remember back when you were first getting started, and play along.
Everyone can think of somebody who seems to have it easier than they do; somebody who seems to have luck on their side. The reality is simpler yet also more unfair than you might think. The sad truth is that those people already have some success behind them, and that success changes everything. It gives them confidence but more importantly, it gives their audience some confidence too; confidence in their ability to succeed.
As it turns out, it’s very difficult to behave differently than how people expect you to behave. Go back to your high school reunion and you see this immediately. Everybody falls back into the same roles they had years or decades earlier. Of course, there are always exceptions but for most of us, we feel ourselves being pulled back into those earlier roles.
Living up to expectations
Expectations have a major impact on performance. Failure breeds more failure and success breeds more success. Regardless where you are today, your performance is a magnet for more of the same, and it manifests through your own expectations and those of your audience. If a prospective employer expects you to be an incredible candidate, you have better odds of delivering that impression. If wealthy investors know about your past success managing money, they will be more willing to invest with you themselves. If you walk into a party with a beautiful date, other beautiful women (or men if you’re a woman) will be drawn to you.
Likewise, if a prospective employer expects you to be a worthless candidate, it will be extremely difficult to change his or her mind. If you only have $37 in your bank account, it will be impossible to convince wealthy investors to trust you with their own money. And if you walk into a party with an ugly date, don’t expect to go home with a beautiful one!
So how can you switch from a cycle of failure to a cycle of success? Brute force.
In any given situation, a magical milestone exists that divides the failure cycle and the success cycle. Before you reach it, you have to battle persistent headwinds. You’re swimming upstream. You have to work harder for every inch than what should realistically be required. But when you finally reach that milestone, everything changes. From that point on, you have finally convinced yourself that you deserve success (often the hardest battle) and you have also changed the perception of your audience. While they used to expect failure, they now expect success. And now, the wind is at your back and everything becomes much easier.
So let’s examine the pre-milestone realities. If you want to move 100 yards forward, you’ll have to walk 200 to actually get there. If you want to win a fight, you’ll have to be twice as powerful as your opponent to actually win. If you want to secure a new piece of business, you’ll have to be twice as good as your competitors. Why? Because you have to win two battles: the quantifiable comparison between the different options as well as the headwinds of failure expectations. Keep in mind that in the pre-milestone world, you have not yet achieved enough success to justify confidence in your audience or even in your own mind. Bottom line; life is difficult, unfair and frustrating.
How do you change it? Do the work. Walk twice as far. Be twice as strong. Deliver twice as much. Overwhelm your opponent. Accumulate such massive evidence of your own superiority that it becomes impossible to ignore. Every success I have ever had in my life was a function of brute force.
Expectations distort perceptions. If you’re 20% better than someone else (a substantial margin, in my opinion), it still remains possible for people with failure expectations to not believe you. They may not even recognize the direct comparison. Or if they do see it, they will dismiss it as an aberration. In order for them to see past their own expectations, you have to be far more than 20% better.
So what’s the magic number? How much better do you actually need to be? I have no idea. It’s different for every situation and every member of your audience. What’s the tipping point within your community? It doesn’t really matter. Just do more. Keep doing more until it finally works. And when it works, do just a little bit more.
It’s only unfair if you quit before reaching that magical milestone. If you give up before getting there, your efforts will go unrewarded. But if you finally get to that milestone, you’ll be well armed to dominate the field thereafter. You’ll finally be in the big leagues and have more ammo in your clip than anyone else. That’s where the fun begins. And the new challenge will be staying motivated rather than getting fat and happy, sitting at the top. But that’s a topic for another blog post.