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When the "Small But" Stops the Big Why

transformation Nov 07, 2020

(Or the Curse of the Maybe)

There’s a curious phenomenon that prevents most of us from achieving our dreams. And I have an excellent laboratory where I study this phenomenon.

That laboratory is my coaching business.

 Clients decide daily whether or not to enroll in my program. 

 If I give them an offer. 

The first decision is mine, and I take it very seriously: should I allow this person to enroll?

You might think of course I will give the person an opportunity to enroll. After all, I get paid at the end of it.

But I do that in less than half the cases.

There’s one of three reasons why I don’t:

  1. Business is good and demand outstrips my ability to serve my clients. 
  2. I don't believe that I can help the person
  3. I don't think that they’ll be fun to work with

The last one is probably the most important reason. 

After all, I am going to spend a LOT of time trying to get them to change their behavior so that they can achieve breakthrough career results. 

Why would I want to work with anyone who I won’t enjoy taking on that journey?

But when they are a good fit and I do make the offer, most clients hesitate. It’s natural.

You’re deciding to make massive changes in your entire life. And you’re going to invest a significant amount of time and money in the process.

The curious phenomenon is that hardly ever does anyone say no because of any doubts in my ability as a coach.

 (In fact, hardly anyone says no.)

 The thing that stops people from pursuing their dreams? 

 It’s the Curse of the Maybe.

A battle among three forces

The Curse of the Maybe is a struggle among three things:

  1. Your Big Why
  2. Small Buts 
  3. Trust in Yourself

Your Big Why

Everyone tells you you’ve gotta know your why…

Why is it that you do what you do? 

Why are your goals important for you?

This isn’t always easy to discover. You have to really dig in and meditate on it.

It seems elusive. 

But let me make it simple for you.

Your Why is 99% about your tangible contribution.

It’s the actions you take to make a change.  

The change might be HUGE. It might be that I am Elon Musk and I want to ensure the survival of the human race

Or it might be small yet equally significant. Maybe it’s that you want to go on a big vacation for three weeks every summer. Or that your kid's college is paid for by the time she’s 10. Or that you’re able to eat dinner with your family every night.

Change happens when you realize how your current circumstances are 100% at odds with the contribution you want to want to have.

For example, maybe your current job only gives two weeks of vacation time, and you use up half of it going to visit your in-laws for the holidays. Or that you’re so overworked that by the time you get home your kids are already asleep.

You know that you need to make a change in order to live out your Big Why, but there’s another problem standing in your way. 

The Small Buts

It’s rarely big objections that prevent people from taking action. 


It's the small buts. For example, for my clients who want to move their careers forward in able to live out their Big Why, some common objections I see are:

  • Will I be able to attend all of the classes in the program?
  • What if I fail at doing the exercises
  • Which credit card will I use to pay for it?

Tim Ferris has an exercise called Fear-setting. The key to facing your fears is to first and foremost define your fears. Once you define them, you can make plans on what you can if the worst-case situation. happens

If you follow Tim Ferris's exercise, you’ll realize that on their own, these objections don't contribute to much at all.  

They are small matters. 

You can negotiate your schedule, you can find a credit card to pay for it, and if you fail the exercises you can learn from them and try again.

You have to dig deeper and get to the real objection holding you back. 

This changes how you phrase the question.

For example, “Will I be able to attend all of the classes?” becomes “How do I ensure that I am able to make the most out of the class? How do I negotiate my schedule and communicate to others why this is so important to me?”

Once you really understand the buts that are preventing you from moving forward, it’s time to dust off a tool that you probably don’t use enough.

Trust in Yourself

Most things in life are uncertain. You could work your butt off at your job and then the company goes under and you lose your job. Or you could start a business and then the economy tanks and no one wants your service.

Trust in yourself is knowing that you can figure things out even if the circumstances are against you.

It's knowing that what you’re doing requires you take a leap of faith.

It's understanding - as Tony Robbins says - that you are a creator of your circumstances and not a manager of the circumstances life throws at you. 

People who accept those circumstances as fact have a victim mindset. As a result, they end up playing small. 

That Trust in Yourself is the lever which allows your Big Why to outweigh the Small Buts.

The challenge now is how we look at it.

It looks worse than it actually is

The reason why we decide not to pursue our Big Why is we have a negativity bias. 

We look for examples in our past that prove we won’t be able to overcome those circumstances that make achieving our Big Why a reality. 

Maybe you’ve been told you’re lacking in the experience you need to get your dream job. Or perhaps your last job interview went so poorly you’ve convinced yourself that you’re stuck at your current company forever.

You can allow these past experiences to predict future outcomes. 

Or you can do three things that will help you overcome your negativity bias. 

1. Explore the buts

So the small buts together look like a big butt. 

(Of course, I had to make a big butt joke here.)

On their own, each but is small. Together they seem like a massive butt. 

But break it up and examine each but. You’ll likely realize that you can easily overcome each one on their own. 

2. Explore your history

You’ve done a LOT in your life. You just don't give yourself enough credit.

We can all recall our failures, but most of us have not revisited the success we have had in years. You have to remind yourself daily what makes you successful. 

In my confidence challenge, I teach my clients how to make this a daily practice. 

3. Remind yourself of your Big Why

It’s easy to allow yourself to believe those big contributions you want to make will never happen. As a result, you settle for things that feel good enough. 

A stable job that pays you a decent salary. A company that offers pretty good benefits but whose mission doesn’t excite you. 

But that comfort comes at the cost. You lose your ability to make your desired contributions to the world. 

You’re giving up on the things that really drive and excite you. That force that gets you up at 4 AM in the morning to write this article (yes, that is exactly how the first draft of this post happened).  

So how do you combat that?

Remind yourself daily of your Big Why. 

It needs to be so inspirational that you can look at it anytime and feel that a change needs to occur. 

“Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.”

― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek

How to make change happen

So what’s the practical cure to help you to move forward? 

  1. Journal
  2. Explore your buts. Understand how bad they really are -- or aren’t.
  3. Get a mentor or coach to help you move through these fears.

Let me help you with me using www.leadtheproduct.com. Let’s explore your fears together, and let’s see how far we can take YOUR career.


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