Letters from Vietnam (6): “That’s the best thing that happened to me” is usually a lie
Letters from Vietnam – Part 6
Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?
We all lie. Most of the time to ourselves
You must have made the following observation as well.
You are talking to somebody and he tells you his story. He recently went through some hardship. Be it that he lost his job, got through a divorce or had to cancel his holiday. When he gives us the details of the course of this experience then there is usually a twist and something completely unexpected but gratifying turned out to happen. If he lost his job he might have found a better one and he concludes that he didn’t like his old job anyway. After the divorce he met somebody far more attractive and the cancelled holiday gave him the opportunity to engage in a highly interesting project at work. What ever happened, all those stories end with the same phrase:
“This is the best that ever happened to me!”
This is usually a lie.
The last time when I lied to myself
Before I explain why we lie to ourselves let me tell when I last lied to myself. It only happened yesterday.
I am currently in Cambodia and yesterday, after visiting the breathtaking site of Angkor Wat in Siem Riep, I was travelling by bus back to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. During this trip we had a forced break due to a flat tire. The tire was fixed for 3US$ and the passengers could stretch their legs. So far, nothing extraordinaire. It happens all the time.
Most bus drivers usually make some extra money by picking up locals and giving them a lift. After the mentioned break I came back to my seat and it was occupied by an old Cambodian lady who the driver had allowed to embark. I tried to tell the lady that this was my place and that I would like to have it back. After all, it was a good seat.
My seat was a front seat and I booked early to make sure that I will have a seat that gives me the best opportunity to observe the flying by nature. Front seats are not only better because of the view. The further you sit in the back the more unpleasant the ride over these bumpy roads will become. If you sit in the back of a vehicle, especially behind the rear axis, you will find yourself most of the time under the ceiling. Far from my understanding of a pleasant journey. There was only one disadvantage about my front seat, and this was the air condition that I couldn’t regulate and it was freaking cold their.
Unfortunately I couldn’t make myself clear to the lady, she didn’t understand what I wanted. And I didn’t want to make a big fuzz about it so I took a seat further in the back. The ride was bumpier there and the view was not as good. However, the regulation of the aircon worked and I could shelter myself from the freezing breeze.
Then I concluded: “This is the best thing that happened to me on this journey!”
Lie! BIG LIE!
This was not the best thing that happened to me. I only changed my priorities. After all, picking a front seat was the consequence of some thoughtful reasoning. How can something that was out of my control and that happened by pure accident suddenly be a more favourable situation for me?
The lesson learnt: Why we lie to ourselves
We lie to ourselves because it eases our minds. We give up and conclude, that what we wanted is not that important anymore. We came in second and now we rationalise why that is such a great thing.
Now, don’t take me wrong.
I am a keen supporter of the idea to always look for the best even when things get rough. I am strongly convinced that there’s good in everything. And we should never stop searching for exactly this. But we shall not fool ourselves in convincing us that missing the target is something that we should have aimed at in the first place.
Application of the lesson learnt to your business
The application of the lesson learnt to your business is pretty easy though it may come as a surprise. Here it is:
Don’t be an easy quitter.
When we convince ourselves that it was a good thing not to reach our initial goals, than we abandon our plans, we hand control over to others and we give up. Rationalising is natures way to ease our pain when we don’t hit the target. Let’s not get fooled by that. It’s fine to have your Plan B ready, but you shouldn’t quit Plan A all too easy. If your business idea doesn’t work in the beginning then you should at least give it another ten tries. You’ll become better with every shot. And only when you have failed at least ten times you are entitled to accept that it’s not going to work.
And by the way, the number of attempts “ten” and the word “failing” are highly debatable. After Thomas Edison’s seven-hundredth unsuccessful attempt to invent electric light, he was asked by a New York Times reporter, “How does it feel to have failed seven hundred times?” The genius responded,
“I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” Thomas Edison.
And now go, and try once more. Failure is an attitude, not a result.