The U.S. Marine Corps is well known for taking raw young men and women and transforming them into lean, mean fighting machines (or so goes the saying). The process they use is fascinating and very instructive. It involves breaking down an individual and then building them back up. Legendary drill instructors use a variety of physical, mental and emotional techniques to accomplish this. There’s a lot of yelling and screaming. Recruits are pushed to their limits and beyond. After weeks of training a recruit who was 45 pounds overweight can climb a thirty-foot rope with one hand or run three miles in 19 minutes.
How does any of this apply to us as entrepreneurs? There was a statement in the preceding paragraph that is the key. “Recruits are pushed to their limits and beyond.” Many of these future Marines never dreamed that they could perform some of the physical tasks required. They never knew they had the mental fortitude and emotional stamina to endure. But here’s the truth – they totally underestimated themselves.
As entrepreneurs we may also have a tendency to underestimate ourselves. We fail to see our full capabilities and understand our greatness. Sometimes this is due to a lack of confidence. But it may also be because we just don’t think big enough. And there’s a lot of societal noise that is difficult to listen through. Remember when we were children and an adult asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Some of us answered an astronaut, movie star or even the President of the United States! Then something happened and we didn’t become astronauts, movie stars and U.S. presidents. Certainly our interests changed, but we also felt pressure to be more “realistic” with our expectations. We were herded into more “achievable” chutes and we eventually conformed to generally understood limitations. All of this imprinted upon us as adults and we lost the desire to dream in a large way.
Almost every one of us has the potential to be more and to do more. This is evidenced every time we learn something new. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has reached his or her full capacity to achieve. And yet we sometimes sell ourselves short. We tell ourselves in different ways that we’re not smart enough or persistent enough or creative enough to do something. “Where are we going to get the money to pursue this new idea,” we ask. Then we answer, “I don’t have the right contacts to do it.” This may be a true statement at a particular moment in time. So what are we going to do about it? We can avoid underestimating ourselves when we take intentional “I can” steps.
The first step is to reject the societal noise that tries to impose limitations on us. I’ve learned to catch myself when I start to think or say, “I can’t do that.” I replace this with the thought or statement, “How can I do that?” This sets a whole new tone and puts me in a problem-solving mode from the outset.
The “How Can I” notion will be the trigger that releases a creative stream into which we can tap. By throwing off our mental shackles we are shaping a mindset that is receptive to this creative flow. We explore a multitude of ideas and begin to see a path that leads us to that which we want to achieve. We don’t worry about our ideas being judged as stupid or crazy for we’re looking at all kinds of possibilities. I find the process of discovery to be exciting and challenging, and I thrive on the mental stretch that ensues.
The final step is that of visualizing the successful outcome we are seeking. Visualization is a powerful tool and cements our objective into our conscious and subconscious minds. What started out as the question, “How can I raise money for this idea,” now is revealed as complete. The idea has been implemented and boy is it amazing!
We can avoid underestimating ourselves by asking the question, “How can I” rather than affirming “I can’t.” Then we let the creative juices flow to figure out “How I can.” Ultimately we visualize the end result in grand fashion and move decisively to make it happen.
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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.