Written by Scott Orth
I am a blockhead.
It’s okay, I don’t mind saying it. No one, save for my wife or siblings, has ever called me a blockhead that I know of… it’s a title I give myself.
Why? It keeps me humble. But also, I think its how I’ve often viewed myself. I’m 40 years old – but I still feel like a 20 year old trying to figure out what life is all about. I don’t see myself as a mature adult; let-alone a successful entrepreneur.
People tend to think I’m pretty smart. That’s not a brag – just my perception. They praise my strategies, business acumen, and ability to see opportunities and get results. I could nod in agreement and say “Yep, I’m just that good.” But here’s the secret – I question myself and my path to success every day.
Am I really good enough? Am I as good as this agency or that agency… or my colleagues… or my competitors? Am I a good enough consultant? Did I build my agency the right way? Should I be doing things differently? These questions pester me every day. Even though I’ve built a million dollar consultancy, and can ask a handsome hourly rate for my time… I still question these things.
So I have to stop and take stock every so often, remind myself where I came from, and look at the successes we’ve been able to create. I might be a blockhead, but I’ve done something right – and I’ve got dozens of clients around the country who tell me so.
How have I done it?
I am driven. I believe having a drive to succeed is the most primal energy one must have to gain success. If you’re not driven, how will you ever survive the pains, challenges, and failures that nearly all successes are built from?
At one point in my life, I was married, my wife was pregnant with our third child, I held three jobs, and I was going to night school to finish my bachelor’s degree (after nearly 10 years of taking courses off and on at two different colleges). Friends and family thought I was crazy. But I felt there was no choice. I either did it all, or I accepted society’s belief that you must choose one direction only. No, I would succeed in marriage and family at a young age, complete the college education I always wanted, and build a professional career for financial success as well. And I did it!
But it’s not all self-drive. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of people pushing me; family, colleagues, bosses and mentors. It’s all-too-easy to give up. To stay down after a fall and just say ‘screw it – it’s too hard’. I know I’ve said those very words a thousand times in my life, and I’ll probably say them a few more times before I’m done. But someone has always pulled me back up or encouraged me to see better things to come.
How can YOU succeed, even if you’re a blockhead like me?
Everyone is different. And as such, everyone will find different paths to success. But I believe there are a few things that everyone must do to succeed:
Believe in Yourself.
There is no greater power than the belief (and love) we have for ourselves. If you were stranded on a deserted island all by yourself, who would hold you up? Who would love you? Who would go through the pains and trials with you? Who would help you? Who would guide you through the process of survival? YOU! The first and most important part for you to succeed is for you to support yourself. And that starts with believing in yourself.
The great thing is, we’re rarely on our own. There are always people who will support you, help you, and give you encouragement. All of these things are amazingly powerful – but the most powerful of them all is the foundation you set when you are fully immersed in the belief of your own power and ability to make things happen!
Part of believing in yourself is being okay with mistakes and failure. So you messed up. Learn from it, put it behind you, pat yourself of the back or give yourself a ‘Great Effort’ award, and move on. You will fail many times before you succeed. And that’s okay.
There are two types of self-awareness to achieve:
Being aware of how you are perceived by others (being aware of your speech, body language, dress, odor, or any other personal element). If you’re Bill Gates or Donald Trump, this type probably doesn’t matter that much. You can be a complete douche and everyone will still do as you say. But for the rest of us, we should be exceptionally aware of how we are seen and heard by others in the professional world.
I was first exposed to external self-awareness in my first agency job. My boss would point out ticks or habits I had while presenting to clients. He’d lecture me on being more self-aware so as to grow in my ability to hold a client’s attention and impress them. From the way I looked or dressed, to how I spoke, to body language – he was always giving tips on ways to be hyper-aware of how others perceived you.
This was awkward at first, because I took many of the suggestions as insults to who I was. Like he was calling me fat and telling me to lose weight (he never did that, by the way). But I learned that there is great power in self awareness. It’s not about caring what others think, necessarily. But it is about how they perceive you, and therefore how they will address you, respect you, work with you, or maybe even admire or praise you. If you want to be seen as a high-level professional, for instance, you probably shouldn’t go to work in torn up shorts and flip-flops, or smelling like a dead fish.
Now take that same mentality to other parts of yourself. How do you portray yourself to the world? Do you speak intelligently? Do you exude confidence? Or are you coy? Or potentially negative in your tone or choice of words? How others perceive you in the professional world can make all the difference in your success, or level of support you gain from others.
The other type of self-awareness is internal. Knowing yourself. Coming to understand what frightens you, hurts you, or drives you. Self-awareness is important both for self-growth, knowing your inner-self and how to find and keep happiness… as well as for growth in business and relationships.
This type of self-awareness is acutely different than external. In some ways it may seem even opposing or conflicting. Because with internal self-awareness we’re learning about how we tick, and we don’t care at all how others perceive us in this light.
One surface-level example would be if you know that you excel in the morning. You love mornings, you are alive and awake, and have no limit to energy. Your brain is on fire and you can’t wait to share it with the world. This is a form of being internally self-aware. It means that you need to do whatever you can to schedule meetings in the morning, or to schedule creative projects or brainstorming campaigns in the morning.
Other elements of internal self-awareness might be deeper. These might be fears (like public speaking, or difficulty with certain types of people), or it might be people, surroundings, or situations that trigger issues like depression, anxiety, or aggression. It’s all about what makes you tick, for better or for worse.
Knowing yourself, and understanding and acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses, and what makes you thrive or run for cover, will help you create a roadmap of improvement, and set you up for success.
Surround Yourself with Intelligent People
I would be nowhere today if not for the teachings of those who have walked the path before me.
For most of us, there have always been those that we’ve looked up to through our lives. It might have been mom or dad, or an aunt, uncle, or older sibling when you were a child. It may have been a teacher or professor through your school years. It may have been (or still be) a business mentor, boss, or colleague. The point is, most of us have now, or have in the past, looked up to and learned from others.
Your focus should be to listen. But listen intently because truly intelligent people are often times the quietest. They speak when there is a need. They ask fantastic questions that have a true point or path to their answer. These are the people you want to surround yourself with.
But keep your mind open. These people may not always be your elders, teachers, or mentors. They may be your co-workers… or even your students or someone younger than you. Against traditional thought, intelligence is not always gained only through age or education.
I’ve worked with some truly strange people. Or, that’s what I thought at the time. But as I would watch them, listen to them, and work with them, I realized the only thing strange about them was that they were far more intelligent than anyone else around.
ABL – Always Be Learning.
If you’re going to surround yourself with intelligent people, what is the most powerful thing you can do? Learn from them! Learn to listen and to absorb like a sponge. This isn’t a memory game. You’re not trying to remember what everyone says, or be able to recite step-by-step instructions. No… just pay attention. Be in the moment and learn.
It might not feel like learning at the time; but if days later you think back to a situation (i.e. meeting, conversation, presentation) and something resonates with you or guides you. You learned. Good job.
Every conversation I have with someone, I am subconsciously looking for tidbits or gold nuggets. This is especially true when speaking to someone who has already succeeded, or has gotten through a challenge that I’ve yet to concur.
Learning never stops, and if you want to succeed, you should not only accept that learning is a daily process… you should embrace it!
One of the greatest ways to learn is through failure. You might disagree. Some may say, instead, that we learn through success. Ah, yes grasshopper… but only through failure does one find true success. And thus, it is through failure that we learn our greatest lessons. These lessons then tend to lead us to better paths, and onto success.
Realize You Can’t Have All The Superpowers.
As Albert Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Understand that you might be amazing at one thing, but not as good at another. That’s okay. Even superheros usually only have one or two superpowers. One might swing from a web, while another runs at the speed of light… and yet another can lift a car with a finger. Yet none of those superheroes can do what the others can. Does that make them worthless?
It’s much the same in business and in life. Find your passion. Find what you’re good at, and excel at it. Let others excel at what they are good at. And if it fits, bring these talents together to form a team.
At thrivesearch.com, we must be great at web design, website development, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, Social Media Marketing, Email Marketing, Ecommerce, and many smaller channels that cross between and overlap each of these. I’d be crazy to think I can personally excel at all of these.
As I said, I am a blockhead. Not in everything… just in some things. Ask me about building profits or fixing a business problem and I’ll shine! Ask me to build you a website with some funky custom functionality and it will get done… but not by me.
Surround yourself with talent. You are not on a deserted island, so why work like you are. It took me years to finally come to grips with the fact that I can’t be an expert at all areas of web marketing. And when I finally started teaming up with others who were fantastic at what they do, our joint strength increased ten-fold.
Drive – Never Give Up
This is sometimes easier said than done – but I believe drive is the most important element to success. Drive creates persistence. A never give up attitude that will see you through the hardest times, and ensure that you don’t give up, right before you might have succeeded.
I have days where I just don’t want to get out of bed. Days where no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get my head in the game. That’s okay – it happens to everyone. Some more than others. The objective is to know when you must push through and persevere, versus take a break or a day off to recapture your passion and drive.
By the way, the lesson about inner self-awareness will help a great deal in this manner. Knowing your inner self can help guide when you should push through, versus when you’re facing true burnout and need to step away to regain mental strength.
Drive does not mean go-till-you-die. Think of a marathon runner. They have to pace themselves due to the long road ahead. They absolutely have drive! But even with drive, they monitor themselves, and they adapt their pace to make sure they don’t burnout before the finish line.
In this same manner, you also need to be careful of burnout. It’s easy for driven people to push themselves too far; to become overworked, exhausted, and eventually they burnout. I know, I’ve been there.
If not limited or negated entirely, burnout can destroy your health and your passion to succeed. If you’re feeling burnout coming on, stop, re-evaluate, and make necessary changes so that you don’t lose your drive to succeed.
Scott Orth is the Owner of Thrive Business Marketing and an independent contract Consultant focused on the stability and growth of businesses through online marketing efforts. His expertise in online customer acquisition and customer experience strategies has directly created over $100 Million in revenue for his clients in the past 5 years.