Have you ever come across the most brilliant idea and wondered why no one else had thought of it?
Excitedly, you tell your friends and family all about it and how your life would change. Maybe you found a way to:
- Start a business that would make you rich.
- Pursue a lucrative career that would enable you to do what you love.
- Move abroad so that you can go on adventures.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
You know that you have what it takes to succeed, but no one else thinks so. People around you just shake their heads, tell you all the reasons why something won’t work, or their eyes glaze over.
People don’t react the way you hoped they would. The problem is, no one believes you.
What is wrong with everyone?
They’re either fools that don’t know anything, or they seriously underestimate your abilities. Or both.
But there could be another reason behind their skepticism.
We All Like to Believe That We’re the Exception
Whenever you read a book or watch a movie, you notice that the story focuses on the person who is the exception. The typical plotline goes like this:
The protagonist lives a mundane life. S/he is the same as everyone else. Everything is boring, until something happens.
An event, a thought, or a change in circumstance causes the protagonist to do something unusual. A timid clownfish’s son goes missing, so he goes on a journey to find Nemo. Jack wins a ticket to board the Titanic, where he meets Rose (and the impending disaster). Frodo Baggins is called upon by Gandalf to embark on a quest, so he leaves the Shire to destroy the One Ring.
The trigger is pulled. The protagonist is then forced to embark on a quest, whether it means going from rags to riches, undergoing extraordinary change, or fighting the status quo.
The point is, the story revolves around that one person who is pushed into unusual circumstances.
In our lives, we all believe that we are that person. Who wants to think of themselves as a supporting or (gasp) background character?
Everyone thinks they’re the exception, not the rule. Who can blame us for thinking this is the case? After all, we’re the protagonists of our own lives.
We’re raised to believe that we can rise above any obstacles and be successful. Parents, teachers, and the media instill this belief that we can conquer anything if we just try.
But when we come up with an actual idea we want to pursue, the negative attitude appears. Others try to talk us out of it and give all sorts of reasons about why it won’t work. They might cite someone who tried something similar, and look at how that turned out.
Sure, that person we know might not have done so well, but it won’t happen to us. What happened to that person won’t happen to us because we’re somehow different. We’re unique.
But are we? What about us sets us apart?
Let’s flip the viewpoints over for a second and assume that you’re a friend or family member hearing someone else’s wild idea.
How a Poor Teenager Went On to Create an Empire
Imagine that you know a woman who’s had a very rough childhood. She was born in poverty to a teenage single mom and raised in an inner city neighborhood. She became pregnant as a teen herself, but had a miscarriage.
Afterward, she worked at a job where she started covering the local news. Unfortunately, her boss didn’t think she fit the profile of a TV announcer and gave her a demotion. Even though it was disheartening, people could understand why he did it. She didn’t seem like someone who belonged on TV.
And yet, this same woman had big dreams of one day impacting millions through her own TV show. Sounds crazy, right?
Someone like that would seem easy to dismiss, let alone one day see as an influencer and billionaire. Today though, we know her as Oprah Winfrey. We celebrate her achievements, work ethic, and her rise from poverty.
You could point a finger at her old boss and think, “Ha! She proved you wrong.” But that would be hindsight bias. After all, if you had met her when she was in her teens, or as a young adult, would you have seen what was coming?
The reason why we believe in her today is simple: it’s because she’s already proven herself. She’s shown that she has what it takes to succeed.
People Become Exceptional by Proving Themselves
We like to think we’re exceptional, or at the very least, have the potential to be. But do other people think so? It depends on a couple things:
What patterns do you follow?
The past is the best indicator of the future. Like it or not, it’s why employers like looking at resumes to see if you’re suitable for a position.
People look at your track record when they decide what you’ll do next: do you tend to say you’ll do or start on a project, and then waver along and give up, or do you stick resolutely to complete what’s important?
For example, I know someone who is pursuing her PhD, and people think that she’ll succeed based on her past successes. She’s already accomplished other things that she set out to do in the past, so there seems little reason why this goal should be any different.
On the flip side, I know someone who hasn’t had a job in years because he stopped working after receiving an inheritance. He keeps saying he wants to start a business.
Once every few years, he comes up with a new idea. Nothing has gone further than an idea and a public proclamation of what he’s going to do. Is it a surprise that people don’t buy into what he says?
What do your actions say about you?
People can only judge you by your actions, not your thoughts. You can have the most ambitious ideas or dreams running through your head, but of none of it translates to action, then it doesn’t do any good.
I’m sure we all know some variation of that person who’s been working the same minimum wage job for decades that always seems so vocal about their ambitions. They’ll talk about their goals non-stop and how their life is going to turn around.
Would you believe in this person’s success? Don’t think so.
Tons of people say they’re going to try out something new. They talk about their plans to partner up in a venture, travel somewhere, or change their situation. They might even do some research and dabble in a few things.
But a couple years pass, and nothing changes.
The Best Way to Make People Believe You
The most sure-fire method of making people believe in your abilities is having something to show for it. Having some sort of proof, whether it’s a small win or progression, goes a long way towards building other people’s confidence in you.
So how do you begin?
Two things. First, have a concrete plan. If you want something, what are the exact steps you’re going to take? Is there some indication that your plans will lead you where you want to go? [Note: If you haven’t done so, sign up here for my guidebook on how to map out your goals and create a fail-proof plan.]
One of the most interesting things is when people tell me what they want to do and how others don’t support them. So I say, “Okay, sounds good. What are the steps you are taking to get there?”
Instead of saying you don’t want to do something simply because you “don’t like it”, or how you want to do something else instead, outline what you need to do to get there. This will put the validity of your idea into perspective and show people you’re serious.
The next point is what I call the “do it, then say it” principle. Often, when we come across something we want to try, we shout it from the rooftops and let everyone around us know our intentions.
I’ve done this often myself. After all, it feels nice to make such an announcement. Also, aren’t we told that public accountability makes us more likely to complete a project?
The research at NYU shows the exact opposite. Study results found that announcing your intentions decreases the likelihood of achieving them. In other words, it’s better to keep your thoughts and plans to yourself if you want to get things done.
When you tell people what you want to achieve, you develop a premature sense of completeness. So the next time you want to complete a goal, put your head down and get to it, instead of telling everyone around you.
When you have concrete results to show family and friends, it’s a sign that your idea isn’t another pipe dream.
After all, seeing is believing.
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