In my life, I’ve been through some pretty tough s***. Expletives aside, being a leader is hard. Plain and simple. If it were easy everyone would do it. If it were simple everyone could do it. There is something about being the President and CEO of The Penn Group that energizes me every morning. I love getting up knowing that the next big thing could be right around the corner. It’s that energy that forces me to focus to solve impossible challenges. How do you get half a million products into a website without even a list of the products? How do you dynamically deliver marketing to a list that doesn’t exist? How do you grow your business when you can barely keep up with what you have? How do you do it with no money and a mortgage? Life is hard, being a leader is hard, but hard things can be easily concurred. You can solve the problems you face. How? You have to start with the fundamental belief that you can solve the problems you’re faced with. You have to believe higher.
The hard things
When I was a junior at Oklahoma State University, I was working as a full time application developer at an electronics repair company. I found myself in that position by offering to deliver a solution to one of our fundamental problems we had at the repair shop: we were using a clunky record keeping system that was extremely slow and difficult to use. The team of 6 repair techs couldn’t keep up with the demand. I went home one day, and out of frustration developed a very simple proof of concept that could allow a repair tech to very quickly enter notes on the repair. The estimated time savings per device was around 5 minutes. After presenting the POC to the shop manager, he was amazed. He called the entire shop in so I could present the demo again. I was given the job of application developer, and with no raise or fancy promotion, I was now tasked with doing the impossible. I was to single handily develop an application that could keep track of our repairs, billing, and shipping process. I had 6 months to deliver. I was so excited to finally have a shot to prove my worth. There was only one problem: I had no idea how to program.
Become slightly unreasonable
By the time I finished programming the application for the repair shop, I had learned a few things about myself. The most important: I had began to grow the confidence that I could do something if I just set my mind to it. This may seem obvious, and to some extent it was obvious. The problem was, I like so many, grew up insecure. I was beaten into submission by society to reject my own ideas and adopt the norms of society. The reasonable thing to do would have been to reject doing the job in the first place. On paper, I wasn’t qualified. Worse, I didn’t even know where to start. I wasn’t ready. What I had was the undying belief that I could figure it out if I just tried. I tried hard too. In the beginning it was slow going. Bugs and problems plagued progress. The management team didn’t understand software development and placed unrealistic demands on me. I delivered time after time. I just had to become slightly unreasonable. I had to believe I was capable of doing things that I didn’t even know I could do. I finished the development project on time and left the company a few months later to start my first business.
What do you believe about yourself?
Take a moment and think to yourself about what your inner voice says to you. It’s the loudest voice you will ever hear. Are you hearing “I can’t do that!” Or “that is for other people!” Or maybe even “is there something wrong with me?” These thoughts are not only common, but it’s the baseline norm of our minds. Unless proven otherwise, we generally believe we can’t. It’s too hard, it’s too much, and I can’t. Here is the mindset shift:
Believe you can be 10 steps higher than you are currently.
You have to elevate your mind. You can be CEO tomorrow if you believe you can today. You have to believe that you’re 10 times more capable of doing what you’re doing. You have to believe you can do the impossible. The impossible is only not possible as long as it has never been done. You can do it. Believe that you can do it. It will change your life and change the world around you.