Remove the Unrealistic Limits on Your Business and Professional Goals
“Everything you want is just outside of your comfort zone.” – Robert Allen, American author
Nearly all of the hundreds of laundry owners I have consulted with over the years have expressed to me the strong desire to experience greater success.
Yet, at the same time, most of them convey the message they believe that only a certain level of success is available to them. When I asked one store operator to define his version of success, he told me: “I guess just owning a laundromat is pretty much it. After all, I’m no Bill Gates.”
What you have just read is a clear-cut example of a very common human condition known as “assumed constraint.” Essentially, it is a belief based upon your past experiences that puts strong limits on your current and future experiences.
Is assumed constraint holding you hostage? Do you have an inner critic that constantly says to you that you’ve gone far enough and that you don’t have what it takes or even the right to go to a higher level of achievement? If so, you are by no means unique.
The following are actual assumed constraint events from history. So, when you think you can’t achieve something, I suggest you recall these examples:
• “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try to find oil? You’re crazy.” This was said by drillers whom wildcatter Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859.
• “Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value.” This was said by Ferdinand Foch, a professor of military strategy and later the commander of the Allied forces in World War I.
• “Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” This was said by Irving Fisher, a professor of economics at Yale University in 1929.
• “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” This was said by Thomas Watson Sr., president of IBM in 1943.
• “A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, market research reports say that America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” This was said in 1975, in response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields Cookies.
• “$640,000 ought to be enough for anybody.” This was said by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 1981.
Amazing examples, right?
The real psychological purpose of assumed constraint – which includes making compromises, as well as avoiding opportunities, actions and people – is so that we can avoid the very uncomfortable human emotions of fear, lack of complete control, and uncertainty. We rarely ever change our strategy because it is so comfortable. It’s like a military force fighting a current battle with the unsuccessful tactics of a previous skirmish.
It seems we are preoccupied with our failures of commission, but give little or no thought to our failures of omission. Many people actually believe that huge success is called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.
One of the all-time greatest direct sales geniuses was a gentleman named Joe Sugarman. Perhaps you remember him. He’s the guy who sold a zillion Blu-Blocker sunglasses (and a bunch of other items as well) a number of years ago by advertising on TV and in print.
Joe was extremely outspoken about achieving success and, in one of his many books on the subject, he originated the following example to make the point that assumed constraint is learned early in childhood – when we are essentially taught to avoid all kinds of painful experiences and risks.
Joe called it, metaphorically, “The Elephant Story.” Here it is:
“Have you ever looked at a circus elephant anchored to the ground? If you have, you might notice that the elephant has a metal collar around its leg to which is attached a small chain. And the chain is attached to a wooden peg driven into the ground. Pretty good protection from the elephant getting loose?
“Pretty lousy, if you ask me. That 12,000-pound elephant could very easily pick up its foot and with one fell swoop yank the peg out of the ground and walk away. But the elephant doesn’t. I’ll explain why.
“When the elephant was still a baby, that same collar and chain and peg were used to hold the elephant in place. The restraint was sufficient to hold the baby elephant in place even if it wanted to break away. And break away is indeed what the baby elephant tried to do.
“So every day while the baby was chained up, it would pull at the chain and pull and pull until finally a cut appeared on its leg exposing the sore sensitive layers of deep skin tissue. It hurt to pull like that and soon the baby elephant, realizing the effort was both futile and painful, stopped trying to escape.
“As the baby elephant grew older, it never forgot that bad experience with the chain and the peg. And so, whenever it was anchored down in a spot, it would think, ‘Hey, it’s impossible to break away and besides, it hurts’. End of story.”
The psychological takeaway truism in play here is that people always want to be protected against anything they interpret as bad. This can apply to violence, a fire or other disaster that may engulf your house or business, a disease that may afflict your body, or significant psychological discomfort such as fear and anxiety.
As humans (and laundry owners), we are often – beginning at a young age – shackled by an exaggerated need for protection (like the baby elephant) and carry that assumed constraint throughout our lives. So, the cure to assumed constraint is quite simply not to assume it, because it is most often unrealistic…
• YES, with proper preparation, you can have more than one laundry.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can expand your facilities.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can go back to school for an advanced degree.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can acquire commercial accounts of magnitude and find ways to service them.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can develop employee incentive programs that work wonders.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can devise highly unique marketing methods.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can invent knock-their-socks-off loyalty programs.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can learn to repair all of your machines.
• YES, with proper preparation, you can advertise your business on television, with you playing the starring role.
Surrendering your assumed, unrealistic fears is dramatically demonstrated whenever you go past the point of fear and step away from yourself by doing something with adequate preparation, but without the utter and complete rock-solid certainty of the outcome.
Whenever you step beyond your habitual patterns of restraint and “rational” caution – and, of course, with careful preparation – you will enter the realm of uncertainty and open up the possibility of amazing personal growth and transformation.
Your “YES list” is endless – if you just allow it to be.