You know, running a blog business sounds really cool. And it is: I often find myself smiling to random people at the streets, just because I was thinking about all the great things that happen to me. But on the other hand, there is much that I still have to learn and practice. In this article I show you what nonprofits and Coca-Cola can learn from each other – and why that lesson to learn from others is so valuable for us.
Scroll to the end of this blog for the TedTalk video.
We are all guilty of comparing ourselves to others sometimes. In this funny book: How to be Miserable, 40 strategies you already use, Randy Paterson writes how comparing yourself with others is one of the things that makes peoples lives miserable.
For example thoughts like: what are the things that this person has which I don’t have? Am I good enough? and: Can I be like her? Many of the thoughts that we have hold ourselves back from a life of contentment. We use labels, judgments and comparisons, while they don’t necessarily make us happy. We keep focusing on the negative, dwelling on what we can’t change, isolating ourselves from friends and loved ones, eating junk food, or overindulging in alcohol. Those thoughts may limit the quality of our lives.
In the next article I like to explain to you the importance of learning from others and why the opposite of it, namely, comparing yourself to others based on labels and judgments, can be in quite in your way to grow.
The subjective side of labels
In the book Nonviolent communication by Marshall Rosenberg I came across this poem written by Ruth Bebermeyer. The way she explains labels stuck with me ever since:
I’ve never seen a lazy man;
I’ve seen a man who never ran
while I watched him, and I’ve seen
a man who sometimes slept between
lunch and dinner, and who’d stay
at home upon a rainy day,
but he was not a lazy man.
Before you call me crazy,
think, was he a lazy man or
did he just do things we label “lazy”?
I’ve never seen a stupid kid;
I’ve seen a kid who sometimes did
things I didn’t understand
or things in ways I hadn’t planned;
I’ve seen a kid who hadn’t seen
the same places where I had been,
but he was not a stupid kid.
Before you call him stupid,
think, was he a stupid kid or did he
just know different things than you did?
I’ve looked as hard as I can look
but never ever seen a cook;
I saw a person who combined
ingredients on which we dined,
A person who turned on the heat
and watched the stove that cook the meat –
I saw those things but not a cook.
Tell me when you’re looking,
is it a cook you see or is it someone
doing things that we call cooking?
What some of us call lazy
some call tired or easy-going,
what some of us call stupid
some just call a different knowing,
so I’ve come to the conclusion,
it will save us all confusion
if we don’t mix up what we can see
with what is our opinion.
Because you may, I want to say also;
I know that’s only my opinion.
I love the poem because it shows how easy it is to think in terms of judgments and labels, while you actually don’t know who you have in front of you.
Not only that, judgements can also be either positive and negative. You may classify a person “pretty” and “successful”, but yourself as “indecisive” and ugly. Whether it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day those labels are very subjective and comparing yourself with others through the labels that you make, can be quite in your way of becoming fully present.
Broadening my perspective
I know that I have some unique abilities that serve me well. But that has not always been my life. When starting a blog business in the online industry, I knew for sure that I wanted to do that. But there were also times that I saw myself as too introvert and with not enough knowledge for the entrepreneurial work. Because I didn’t believe that you can get there without having both, I labeled myself as “unable” to become an entrepreneur, or something like that. And once you label yourself that way, things become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a result of that label that I had stuck on myself, I started to live by that belief. I started to have a strong focus on improving my skills and knowledge, and kept spending my time to reading about entrepreneurship. From setting up businesses to people’s visions about leadership. I also spent some time with people and read some other books (mostly self-help) that helped me realize the limiting believe of that mantra.
As time past by I came to the conclusion that having an extra-vert character and enough knowledge of business were both part of how I thought a good entrepreneur should look like. And that although I was longing for it, there would never come a moment in which I would be satisfied of all the knowledge that I had gained.
Moreover, I had also to admit that if I had a good look around me, there were ofcourse enough examples of introverted entrepreneurs who weren’t shouting from the rooftops to promote their businesses. Take for example serial-entrepreneur Richard Branson, who is a self-called introvert. He wrote this blog about being an introvert in business: Even introverts can become great entrepreneurs.
I found myself in a place where, in some way, these thoughts distracted me from the real doing. I came to realize that I needed to change my perspective on things.
Whether that label of me being a bad entrepreneur was created by me or my environment, for sure it was implanted in my brain and it affected my way of thinking and operating. But I don’t think that I’m defined by my introvert character or the amount of knowledge that I have. I do think that we are all human, with basic needs, living through unique abilities.
Being able to see those unique abilities in yourself, that is what I would call a growth mindset. It enables you to think: well I may not have this, but I do have that. And being an imperfect person makes me proud because I know where I came from. Learning to see those unique abilities in others as well, can give you the opportunity to learn from others and use them in a way that it can improve your life for the better.
What I now know about myself, is that I have some unique abilities that serve me well. I’m a great listener, I’m always open to learn new things and I also have a great sense of what’s really going on in peoples lives. Those abilities serve me in achieving the things that I want to do. And because I am not afraid of admitting that I’m not the most dominant person, I’ll find people who are better than me in doing certain things. That’s how you lift each other up. Let’s see how I am now… A couple of years further I own this website and turned it into a real brand. And I absolutely LOVE it!
Learning from your opposite in business
Especially paying attention to people who are your opposite is a way to help yourself grow. And even from a business point of view it may be helpful to zoom in to the unique abilities of other brands. That is why I like the following TedTalk so much. It’s called: What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola.
Melinda Gates talks about the strategies that Coca-cola used to become the valuable brand that she is today. The strongest brand out there, to be precise. Those strategies can benefit nonprofits as well, to learn from others, to save lives and make the world a better place.
Consequently, it wouldn’t be constructive to stick the label “too commercial” on a company like Coca-Cola. It would give nonprofits the permission to say: “well, that’s not our cup of tea. We don’t have to look at that because we are not like them”.
Wouldn’t it be a growth mindset to say: “we want to learn from the unique abilities that this company has and incorporate these into the mission of what we want to accomplish in the world”. The same as with people.
Whether we’re talking about people or companies. Having a focus on the things that you can learn from your opposite in order to improve your life or the company’s life, can be incredibly useful. That’s what a growth mindset has to offer you.
Think about what this growth mindset can do for you and your life. Maybe there’s something that you can change for the better.
For now, you may have become interested in the Tedtalk about Coca-Cola and Non-profits. I’m not gonna give you any spoilers, so just dive into this thoughtful talk.
Head over to more life lessons that promote to learn from others if you like: