Gini Dietrich

What Gets In the Way of Your Own Success?

By: Gini Dietrich | September 9, 2009 | 

My good friend Sarah Robinson wrote a great post on her blog, Maverick Mom, on Monday about the things that hang her up so much that she can’t move forward. She asked her readers what three things hang them up.

I thought I’d share here what I commented. The three things that get in the way of my own success.

1) Last year I thought bigger was better. I ignored the bottom line, but drove top line growth and added more staff. And we lost money. For the first time in our history. And I had to make a lot of hard decisions about both staff and clients. Bigger is not always better.

2) My cycling goal for this season was to ride 20 mph, average, when I ride alone (easier to do that in a group). I push myself really hard, but my personal record is only 18.5 mph average, for the season. I was really hard on myself and then I realized I might not get to 20 mph, but that’s okay…18.5 mph is still pretty freaking fast and I can spend the winter working really hard in order to hit 20 mph next season.

3) My entire life I’ve been good at things. My college roommate hated that I didn’t have to study and still got straight As. But I’m a perfectionist and really hard on myself. I think I have to be superb at everything that I do. I have to be the best cyclist (see #2). I have to be the best skier. I have to grow a business as quickly as Zappos. I have to be like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan – the top of my game in everything that I do. So when I perceive something as failure, I have a really hard time. I beat myself up. I go introspective. I question why I’m doing what I do. I keep a quote on my wall to remind me that everyone fails and that’s how we, as human beings, learn. It is “It’s not in failing, but how we get up when we do.”

What are the three things you do that get in the way of your success?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Oh, lady. You went all touchy feely on us! I like it, though. 🙂

    My three things:

    1. Asking for help. I hate to do it and have a hard time justifying in myself my need for help. I like to think I can do it all on my own.

    2. Fear of making the wrong decision. I’ve always had a hard time making decisions because I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong one, like there will always be a better path. Have become much more decisive this year, but still struggle. Working very hard at this one now.

    3. Accepting my smarts. I know I’m a smart person, but I’m always in learning mode, trying to talk with people who know more and have more experience than me. Fantastic for growth, but I’m still insecure enough to have moments when I feel unintelligent or unaccomplished talking to them.

    Working on all three big time to push the through my job search. No time for paralysis! Hoping I didn’t bear too much right there. 😉

  • My 3 things:

    1. Insecurity/fear of rejection. Since I’m a student (now I’m actually *really* a student – I have a student ID to prove it!), I know I’m going to second guess myself at a lot of things. I’m insecure about the work I produce; whether or not it’ll measure up to the teacher’s standards, etc.

    2. Finances. Sometimes, it’s just hard to justify some things (i.e. tuition) because I have no money.

    3. Perfectionism. I’m a perfectionist. I want to nail it. But then, I want to go back and edit. And edit. And edit. In fact, I’m probably going to edit this comment in my brain after I post it. Sometimes, I just need to step back and accept it for what it is.

  • 1. Obsession over details. Not necessarily perfectionism, but details that are, in the end, unimportant.

    2. Falling into the “hours = output” trap.

    3. Not picking up the $%^& phone often enough and making the uncomfortable call.

  • Gini – great post. I really believe that with most of us, our success strategy gets us only so far (rise to the level of your incompetence) then you have to take a step back so you can see the big picture and adapt.

    Mine are:

    1. Not realizing you are good enough. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I’m really driven and always focused on goals. Sometimes, its the journey that is important. Always having to prove you are expert can make you blind to the lessons along the way. The things we shoot for often turn out to be landmarks towards something else, not the end goal.

    2. Not prioritizing tasks – busy is not the goal. Doing what makes a difference in the big picture is. Sometimes, this means working less, delegating, accepting criticism, ect. Coaching helps with this and learning to hold yourself accountable certainly does.

    3. Momentum = success. Not making a decision is the kiss of death. Make decisions quickly, move and build momentum. Even if you make bad decisions, when you have momentum, it is easy to correct a bad decision with a subsequent good one. The cost of making a mistake is small compared to the cost of being late to the party.

    Signed up for your webinars with Eric. Looking forward to it.

  • Thanks for posting this and passing this on, Gini! I think it shows great character when you can be honest about not only your strengths but your weaknesses as well.

    My three:

    1. I have to steal this directly from Dave Van de Walle – not picking up the phone and making the uncomfortable call. I’m more eloquent in writing, but sometimes a call is what the situation calls for.

    2. I can be entirely too cautious. I spent a lot of time in corporate jobs where I was in a “test” environment, so it’s in my nature to want to work out all of the bugs and make it perfect before I move forward. But fortune favors the brave, and sometimes you just have to jump in and work out the details in transit.

    3. I was the kid who would get the math problems right, or use proper grammar in a sentence, but teachers would be suspicious because they couldn’t see my trail of work. I believe I’m a solid team player, and I work well with others, but I still think I don’t always communicate my POV, or how I got to that point, as well as I could.

  • Gini,

    Another great post and a very interesting topic, something that I should probably think about more often, but let me give it a shot shooting from the hip.

    1. Fear of writing, I have never liked to write and it is something that is very difficult for me so I have always shied away from anything that required me to write. Classes in school, positions in my career, starting a blog, etc . .

    2. The natural inclination to work in groups, I discovered that how powerful groups were at a very young age and thus always tried to get study groups going in school because they really were powerful. But I think this has caused me to doubt my own abilities and gain self confidence that I can do things.

    3. The fear of being the center of attention. I don’t like attention and thus would much rather work in the background where I don’t get recognized or am forced to do things I don’t like. I think this fear is probably the #1 thing that has held me back from being more successful than I am.

  • Great topic, Gini. I’ve learned a few things in years of doing business. I hope there is some wisdom I share.

    Passion: Passion can be a two-edged sword. It can drive one to perform really great writing, but it can get in the way, too. Passion for a particular subject is highly regarded in business. When a particular expertise is called upon, one can find themselves in demand. There are great things that come with passion: drive and dedication are two. During difficult economic times, passion can shut you off to additional opportunities. It should be tempered with flexibility and a willingness to compromise on small matters.

    Perfectionism: Perfectionism is an excellent quality in the work we do in communications. This quality can be resented by others, though, and eventually one’s self. Extreme perfectionism can bog one down. A person can mire themselves with an unnecessary need to micromanage every detail of a project. It can get in the way of delegating when taking on large projects. Attention to detail is a sought-after quality, but it, too needs to be tempered. One should delegate and develop relationships with partners, superiors and subordinates that encourages growth in yourself and others. Without launching into an extended conversation on leadership, there are aspects of this quality that can be very detrimental in business. A belief that only you can perform tasks to your satisfaction drives others away. I believe perfectionism can be a terrific quality if it is controlled and accompanied by dialogue and respect for the talents and dedication of others. Let others put their stamp on projects. Brian Schwartz authored a book, “50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs.” It is a treasure trove of wisdom. Hiring great employees is often cited as key to success as Brian found. Give others a chance to shine.

    Fear of success: Fear of failure can drive one to put in the extra hours to develop large networks of contacts, polish writing to a sheen and keep ahead of dreaded paperwork. Fear is a great motivator. So, fear of success can be quite a conundrum. It is a confusing state of affairs to be sure. I’ve personally witnessed many professionals launch themselves into the upper stratosphere of success, always assisted by others. But, then they stall. Success in any field requires the ability to deal in exchanging favors. Fear begins to take its toll when the exchange becomes too one-sided. One can isolate themselves for fear that everyone who approaches them wants something (for nothing). One has to be savvy, to be sure. Favors can backfire and you can give too much attention to performing favors. There are many favors that can never be returned. You can avoid performing these favors – and never know the feeling of pride in others. Business requires a constant participation in this kind of bartering. I personally believe instinct and street smarts can carry you far. A belief that you have to benefit in the short term from every thing you do can deny you the traction you need to move forward. It can affect your reputation. If others come to know you as someone whose stance is always “what’s in it for me,” you may have determined that you already have enough success.

    I’ve already seen a few individuals flame out in social networking because they forgot that exchanging favors is a two-way street. If you’re a taker, people find out. If you’re a giver, everyone will love you, but you can flame out on this side, too. This is the fear. And, fear can paralyze. If you haven’t done a favor for anyone in a while, you should review your personal policy to see if you’re doing enough or too much. If you don’t find any satisfaction in seeing others succeed, you may want to work on making some actual friends. It begins with giving.

  • Thanks Gini – it’s like therapy 🙂

    1. Starting my own business: Have wanted to do this probably for about 6 years now, well, started thinking about it about 6 years ago and have really wanted to move forward with it over the past 3 or so. I think there are several factors surrounding it – sometimes working for another company keeps you out of the BS and you can just put your head down and do what you do best. There is also the steady income concern – I know how much I am going to get paid every other week and can count on it. I also like to be around people so I do have a fear of missing a “team” atmosphere. That being said, the reality is I work too much as it is. Its in my nature and blood. So doing it could do one of 2 things: 1. It could slow me down and give me more time for me or 2. (probably more likely) at least if I am pulling crazy hours it will be to support myself and go directly to my own bottom line, not that of a company trying to support overhead, office space, and executives/employees. I have consistently received great feedback from clients and in many cases been approached to continue to do their business on the side (cut out the agency). I am also exhausted from having to clean up over promising. When (not if) I start my own consulting gig, it will be clear what I can do for my clients – I will not try to promise something not in my skill set, but I will refer clients to people who can do that. My time and objectives/expectations will be clear – not fuzzy because I will do whatever it takes now so I can up sell you later – my partnerships will organically grow and based on my track record you will get a good bang for your buck.

    2. Doubting myself: I know I am good at what I do, but there is definitely the occasional moment when doubt can set in. I imagine to some degree (if it’s not often) this can be good as it pushes me to learn more and challenges me to prove it to myself. Sometimes however if the doubt gets too loud it prevents me from taking chances and that can be frustrating.

    3. Finances: Since I can remember I have not been good with finances. Funny thing is I don’t have lots of fancy things.

  • Pingback: Grading your own performance « ELEGY AND IRONY()

  • 1. I’m an athlete too, always looking for my next Everest. If I don’t have it planned, I can’t rest (even after doing something like climbing Everest…not that I’ve climbed Everest, but 35 teenagers on a service trip for a week…that’s an emotional K2 at least).

    2. I’m a perfectionist as well. It hurts to do amazing things, the things you’ve always wanted to do, and then somehow believe they’re not good enough (working hard on that one).

    3. I expect too much. My buddy taught me long ago, “Low expectations=happy.” I agree, and yet I will always have high expectations, so now I recognize my disappointment quick and keep trying (and failing and trying again) to forgive quicker.

    And to make it all better, I’m declaring a “year of appreciation.” It’s easy to get blocked from enjoying what’s good now, and while it’s a bit pollyanna, I’m trying to use the things that get in the way to figure out new ways to think about work and living well.

  • 1) I think I overwork myself, so I’m usually very fatigued.
    2) Focus on regular customers who don’t help me grow.
    3) Micro Manage my activities

  • I think the biggest thing that gets in the way of my success is not putting my self first. Its hard when you are a wife, mother, executive, sister, daughter etc. to put yourself first sometimes. It may even seem that you are but when you look long and hard you are just fooling yourself and everything else trumps “you” all the time. It may be counter-intuitive, especially once you have kids, because we all would die for our kids… but I think about that simple instruction in that card on the airplane that tells us to make sure to put our mask on first if the cabin should lose pressure. We cant help our kids, our husband, our parents, our colleagues, our business, our partners etc. if we dont help ourselves first. And counter to what some people may say, it is not being selfish… it is being smart because this way you can be happy and focused to do all the wonderful things you want to do and have the energy to execute flawlessly.

  • Thanks for the reply. You stated you may reward yourself with “social media” what were you you specifically referring to?

  • Isn’t it amazing that we are all human beings and that we all make mistakes and we all have success?

    I was watching CNN while riding the stationary bike in a hotel fitness room on Friday and the Serena Williams story was all over the news. I get pretty disgusted by that kind of coverage – she lost her temper, she shouldn’t have said what she said, she got fined. That should be the end of that.

    They interviewed a journalist who said it best, “People are very judgmental and everyone thinks they’re infallible. They think, because this young lady makes a lot of money and is successful, that she can’t make mistakes. The fact is, she’s human.”

    Blog posts, and comments, like this are helping to change the perception that, to get to the top of your game, you can’t fail and you don’t make mistakes. We’re all human and I love everyone’s participation.

    Thank you!