I wrote a novel recently — my first ever — and sent it off to 50+ agents, confident someone would snatch it up immediately. After all, I’m already a professional writer so why wouldn’t someone want to sign me? When the first few agents either didn’t respond or said, “No thanks,” my spirits remained high and I assumed the problem was I just hadn’t found the right agent yet. By about the 25th rejection, I started to wonder if the problem was me. After the 50th rejection, I knew it was.
In my naivete, I assumed my writing skills would translate. That because I’ve written so many articles for so many publications, of course I’d be able to write a novel. It was only after numerous rejections that I started to question that belief. I started doing more research and attended a writer’s conference. It was eye-opening, to say the least. I learned precisely what agents are looking for in submissions and realized many of the turnoffs they mentioned were included in my manuscript. Ouch. I realized even though I originally thought someone else was the problem, that wasn’t the case. The problem was me.
I mention this because how often in business (and life) do we assume everyone else is at fault? That they’re the ones who need to change when in actuality you’re the problem? If you find yourself using hyperbolic words like “all,” “always,” or “never,” chances are you’d be better suited looking in the mirror. How could it possibly be true that your bosses are always terrible? Or that all of your colleagues are idiots? It can’t.
I’m reminded of “John” from therapist Lori Gottlieb’s book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. He proclaimed that everyone else is an idiot and clung steadfastly to that belief. Gottlieb writes:
“When people come to therapy, I’m listening to their narratives but also for their flexibility with them. Do they consider what they’re saying to be the only version of the story – the ‘accurate’ version – or do they know that there are many ways to tell it? Are they aware of what they leave in or out or how they amend their story for the therapist’s ears?”
Even though she mentions this in the context of therapy, it also applies in business. Are we being flexible? Do we understand there are many ways to describe a situation? And that perhaps instead of being a hero, we’re a villain? It’s easy to point the finger at someone else, but that’s not grounded in reality, nor is it an empowering way to behave. It’s tempting to fall into a victim mentality, to think something is happening to me, but the truth is, I also have a part to play. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my communication, or I said “yes” when I wanted to say “no.” Maybe I didn’t set a boundary and now I’m resentful. Whatever the situation, it’s important to remember I’m an active participant in my life, including my business life.
We often think of business as being separate from our personal lives, and while that’s true to a degree, it’s also not. We’re still humans when we’re at work. We’re still interacting with one another. We’re still bringing our baggage, our trauma, and our defenses with us. That means our personal lives bleed over into our professional lives. They aren’t really separate. And so the more we do personal development work, the more we engage in self-reflection, the more harmonious and joyful our work life will be.
If you’re interested in partnering together, reach out to me.