While some might consider it the “chick flick” of books, this month’s selection for #TeamYMC’s Level Up Book Club contained more than a few smack-you-in-the-face points that every leader should take to heart.
“If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse.” This quote is just one of the gut-punch truth bombs that Jen Sincero drops in her book, You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. All too often, I see leaders hold themselves back, hold their teams back, and hold their credit unions back from greatness—all by making excuses.
“We can’t because…”
“…we’re too small.”
“…we don’t have the right staff.”
“…we can’t afford the technology.”
All those reasons may be valid, but over the past few years, we’ve worked with more than two dozen “small” credit unions that found a way to overcome those same challenges, become relevant, and grow beyond their wildest dreams. The phrase “We can’t” usually means “We don’t want to.”
In her writing, Sincero maintains that Ego is the underlying challenge for leaders who prefer to bask in the delight of mediocrity. “I always thought that Ego was about being conceited and braggy and all,” she admits early in the book. “In the self-help community, Ego is used to refer to the shadow self, or the false self, or the self that’s acting like a weenie.” With her distinctive candor, Sincero refers to Ego as “The Big Snooze”—or BS for short (because let’s be honest, that’s exactly what it is.) Your Big Snooze, false self, or Ego (whatever you want to call it) operates according to limiting false beliefs. This collection of beliefs includes all of the garbage that was stuffed into your subconscious as a kid and any less-than-empowering decisions you’ve made about yourself since then.
Are you living the Big Snooze personally and/or professionally? Are you making excuses for why something can’t be accomplished? Or are you trying to push forward and reach the next level? Maybe you’ve presented big ideas to your board or leadership team only to hear all the reasons why those ideas can’t be done. When this happens, it’s much easier for the Ego to fall back on what’s familiar instead of summoning the courage to try again.
(Caution! From time to time, I’ve heard leaders accuse their board of living the Big Snooze, but in reality, those leaders were merely using their board as an excuse.)
Sincero likens the Big Snooze to an “over-protective Italian mother who not only doesn’t want you to go outside, but who wants you to live with her forever.” The intentions are good, but they reveal a resistance to change that’s rooted in fear of the unknown. When you refuse to wake up and make bold decisions for your life and your organization, it’s like giving up and living with that well-intentioned mother. Sincero warns against this temptation by pointing out, “As long as you stay inside the familiar, risk-free zone of your present reality, the Big Snooze is content.”
While we’re on the subject, I think it’s also worth mentioning that the Big Snooze doesn’t always mean you’re failing. Sometimes it happens during a season of success. Let me share a personal example. For 24 months, things were going really well at YMC. Our company was growing. Life was good. But about halfway through that period, we found ourselves in the middle of our very own Big Snooze. Since things were good, we avoided making some changes that could upset that run of success. In an effort to keep the peace, we failed to hold certain team members accountable. We also wound up working with some abusive clients that were not a good fit for our company. Sure, we made progress. We innovated and grew. But when things got a little uncomfortable, we backed off. While there’s no way she could have known the specifics of our situation, Ms. Sincero hit the nail on the head when she observed, “So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try it until it gets too uncomfortable.”
So, what’s keeping you from success right now? Perhaps you’re wondering why your credit union isn’t growing. Or maybe things are going well, and you’re afraid to rock the boat for fear that your run of success could come to an end. Can I offer a little friendly advice? Learn from my mistake. Your run of success will come to an end at some point, but it will end sooner if you stand still, paralyzed by the fear of making decisions. Throughout You are a Badass, we’re reminded that “growth ain’t for weenies.” Yes, growth hurts. But growing pains never hurt as much as the pain of regret you’ll feel if you refuse to move beyond where you are right now. As Ms. Sincero so eloquently phrased it, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Here’s to doing whatever it takes to blossom!