It’s Not About Belief, It’s About Willingness


We hear a lot about self-belief in relation to ambition and achievement these days, don’t we? It’s almost as if willing ourselves to succeed is the only ingredient we need to not just reach for the stars but also grab and keep them.

This is especially true when it comes to business. There isn’t an entrepreneur alive who hasn’t either read or been told at some stage that all he or she needs to do is believe in themselves.

If only it were that simple, right?

A healthy dose of self-belief and rhino-thick hide certainly go a long way to helping people achieve their goals, whether in business or in life.

If you started a healthy eating programme believing you were never going to succeed, you’d simply order in another pizza and veg out on the sofa. If you didn’t believe you could pass your driving test, you’d simply shrug resignedly and renew your Oyster card.

If you didn’t believe you could set up and run your own successful business, you’d settle for the job you were in or be scattering copies of your CV like seed in the wind.

Self-belief is an important trait when it comes to business, but to my mind, having been in this crazy game for a decade and a half, it’s not the most important quality when it comes to being successful.

That accolade goes to willingness.

If you really want to be successful in business – and let’s not forget that success has many definitions; it’s not quite all about the money – then you have to be willing to put yourself through situations and experiences that you would otherwise instinctively avoid.

First off, you need to be willing to feel really uncomfortable. Just like life sometimes teaches us harsh lessons, business will also make you face up to your own ignorance. You’ll have new things to learn that are far outside your comfort zone and you’ll be embarking on a journey littered with mistakes, many of them financially or emotionally expensive.

Building a business requires investment and not everything you put your money into will return a profit, so you’ll need to be willing accept that you may waste money in trying to find the key that unlocks future growth. When you find it, the chances are it will cover your losses.

Behind every success is a failure of some description or other. Often these missteps are the inspiration for the success that follows, so being willing to fail is, to some degree at least, part of the preparation for success.

It’s about being willing to say yes. Saying no is easy and it’s safe. Saying yes when you want to say no is where innovation and entrepreneurialism live. It’s uncomfortable and leads to angst, but sanity lies in calculating the risks and mitigating failure.

Sometimes you just need to do it. There will be times as a business owner when you’ll need to get something done quickly but don’t know exactly how to do it. Be willing to be imperfect – it doesn’t necessarily have to be pretty, sometimes it just has to be in order to move forward.

And being willing to do things clumsily means you have to be prepared to do that age-old thing of imitating a duck. Act as if you know exactly what you’re doing above the surface – and then paddle like billy-oh under the waterline.

Being successful in anything requires tenacity and whilst there’s definitely value in knowing when the horse you’re flogging has expired, until then be ready to keep going because you’ll never know when being the last man standing means you’ll discover something your competitors gave up on too early.

There are few of us who like conflict or confrontation, but the simple truth of being in business is that you absolutely have to be willing to have difficult conversations, occasionally with people who you like and respect.   Setting boundaries is essential, the alternative:   being a people-pleasing businesswoman / man is a disaster if not already happening, then waiting-to-happen.   I’ve been down that painful road & you end up seriously depleted of the three essential resources for business:  time, money & energy.    

At the end of the day, you need to safeguard the financial and emotional investment you’ve made and if that means you have to tell someone when you’re not happy, then so be it.

Staying under the radar is all well and good, but if it means losing money or, at an extreme, losing your livelihood, then it’s not an option.

Good businesses constantly review and evaluate their activity and processes and it’s a good habit to have – but you have to be willing to listen to opinions you might not like. Limiting your evaluation to the views of people who love you and love what you do won’t help you to build a better business, it’ll only help you to feel temporarily smug.

Confirmation bias – when you look to prove your own prejudice – kills business every day, even the big ones. If you want proof, you need only look at the collapse of Monarch Airlines last year to find an example of a company that became complacent in a bubble of false awareness.

And running a business is personal. At the hardest of times, you must be willing to carry on showing up, to risk the fact you may look like an idiot, to make your personal experience part of your brand story, to leave your vanity and pride at the door – and then to not take anything personally when some things don’t work out quite as you expected.

Your business is – or should be – aligned with your personal beliefs and values. It’s what makes you stand out and you have to be ready to work at that, too.

You don’t need to understand business to be in business, but you do have to be willing to learn on the job & understand that the road is likely to be tough and challenging and, at times exhausting – but like most things in life, what is hard won is often the most treasured, so saddle up & go on the journey anyway.

This White House Legacy Will Be Felt For Generations. And Not In A Good Way

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There are times – many times, in fact – when the current Presidency of the United States feels like a practical joke that has gone spectacularly and tragically wrong.

How we all laughed when he started his run for the White House. How we snickered at the impudence of it all. How we guffawed when he talked about the ‘big, beautiful wall’ he was going to build between the US and Mexico, not realising the punchline was still to come: Mexico would be made to pay for it!

We branded him a clown. But a man in greasepaint driving a small car in circles until the doors fall off is actually funny (unless you suffer from coulrophobia). Watching the doors fall off the supercharged Buick 8 that is the most powerful country in the world has been a long way from funny.

There have been times when watching the leader of the Free World has been akin to being in the audience the night Tommy Cooper collapsed during the Royal Variety Show and everyone thought it was hilarious. Until we all realised it wasn’t and that it was too late to save him.

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Why Pretending Is Bad For Your Health

Woman's Head Replaced By A Black Balloon

Last week, TalkRadio presenter and former contestant on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Iain Lee published a blog which laid bare his struggles with his mental health.

Reading it is a deeply uncomfortable, moving and raw emotional experience and if, like many, you’re someone who is disinclined to have sympathy for well-paid celebrities who seem to have it all, I can’t suggest strongly enough that you take some time to read it.

It will teach you more about what it’s like to live with depression and low-self-esteem than you can possibly imagine.

Iain Lee often polarises opinion. He can be outspoken and provocative. His views and opinions can sometimes appear obnoxious or ignorant. But, like so many of us and as those of us who watched his journey through the jungle last autumn saw for ourselves, at heart he just wants to be liked and loved.

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On Peanut Butter & Other Phobias

Peanut Butter Jar And Knife Holding Some Of It

Last week I mailed a jar of peanut butter to Steve Wright, the Radio 2 presenter.

Ordinarily, I’m not in the habit of emailing foodstuffs to famous people because I worry they’ll interpret it as the sort of character trait associated with a person who might later need to be the subject of a restraining order.

But in this case, the planets aligned, the fates conspired, and a peanut butter opportunity strode up the path to the door of my London clinic and knocked loudly upon it.

And why? Because the lovely Steve Wright just happened to mention the word arachibutyrophobia during one of his Factoid links. For those of you who don’t know what arachibutyrophobia is (and why would you, unless you suffer from it?), it’s the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

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We Need To Sculpt A Better Education System

Computer Lesson At School

Ask anyone with even the most limited appreciation of the arts to name ten of the most famous sculptures in history and the chances are that Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker would probably be having a fist fight with Michaelangelo’s David to be at the top of the list.

Rodin’s work, created in the late Nineteenth Century and first cast at the turn of the Twentieth, now resides at the Musee Rodin in Paris.

I mention this not because I have any specific interest in the work of Heroic Avant-Garde sculptors (don’t worry, I Googled that), but because I have a question.

In the process of creating a masterpiece, which element contributes most to the finished work? The clay or other medium (get me with my art words)? Or the artist who sculpts it?

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The Sickening Truth About Secrets

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Over the last few days, former Wham! manager Simon Napier-Bell has suggested that George Michael may have been tortured by a childhood secret that proved to be both the singer’s inspiration and his curse.

Michael was, of course, a global superstar, recognised as one of the most gifted songwriters of his generation. A string of bubblegum hits in the Eighties with Wham! made him the bedroom-wall-pin-up for teen girls – and some teen boys – around the world.

And as he outgrew the sockless deck shoes and coiffured highlights and forged a more contemporary image rendered in brooding charcoal and black and punctuated by goatees and designer shades, his songwriting became similarly substantial, its themes darker and more complex.

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A Note On Addiction

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“Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

Princess Diana, speaking to Martin Bashir for Panorama, November 1995

It was the interview she was never supposed to give. A candid airing of the Royal Family’s dirty laundry that the establishment had tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress and which effectively sealed Diana’s permanent exile from royal life.

The third person in her marriage to the Prince of Wales was, of course, the woman he would later marry, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the current Duchess of Cornwall.

Of course, Diana was by no means the first or last person to have endured an intruder in their personal life and this week we saw evidence of another relationship left in tatters by the destructive presence of an unwanted companion.

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5 Good Reasons To Stop Calling Your Ex A Narcissist

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The more I read and hear about narcissism these days, the more I think that it is to contemporary emotional psychology what the Atkins Diet was to weight loss in the Nineties: everyone’s got an opinion about it, but no one seems to quite understand how it works.

Google my ex is a narcissist and you’ll get 2,650,000 results. Which is a crazy number. Though arguably not as crazy as some of the advice they contain.

The pearls of largely uninformed wisdom I found in the first dozen or so pages of search results included advice on how to break up with a narcissist, the signs to look for in a narcissist, the three phases of a narcissistic relationship and, most worrying of all, how to win back your narcissistic ex.

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The Path Is Not The Punishment

Lovcen Mountains National Park At Sunset Montenegro

I have a friend whose favourite theory is that Hell isn’t a place you go to when you die, it’s the place you go to live. And you get to do it over and over again, until you become a decent human being.

He’s fond of arguing that reincarnation is simply the re-taking of life’s exams. Then again, he’s also fond of arguing that the people who learn the fewest lessons in life are destined to live in Middlesbrough, so I’m not sure how much credence we can attach to his ramblings.

But if you ignore the religious context for a moment, there’s something of truth in the notion that life will continue to give you the same lesson until you finally learn it.

Giving in to human nature and casting ourselves as victims of life ‘continually’ might elicit more sympathetic hugs on Facebook, but it’s also a sure-fire way to guarantee missing the key lessons we should be learning.

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When The Solution Has Become The Problem

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Whether your view of human history is founded on Darwinism or doctrine, a common factor of man’s existence on Earth has been his almost obsessive need to fit in with his environment.

As social animals designed to co-exist in group, we are defined by elements that are as diverse as they are disparate. Blood, money, breeding, interest, appearance, education, profession and more are all part of our individual social DNA and determine our physical and mental behaviours.

And when we can’t fit in, two things generally happen. Either we modify our own behaviours to become more like the group we want to belong to; or we seek to mask our social discomfort by finding a different focus.

Sometimes that can be harmless. Often, it’s quite the opposite. Welcome to addiction.

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Additional Credits

Video by Weeks360.

Photography by Liz Bishop Photography.

Production by Mark Norman at Little Joe Media and Joanne Brooks.

Hair by Jonny Albutt.

Make up by Olly Fisk and Nabeel Hussain.