Entrepreneurs

Why You Must Unlearn Habits and Beliefs as Your Company Grows (and How to Do It)

Before I went through personal development, I was closed-minded. Negative. Jealous. Thought I knew better. I thought that successful people were just lucky. That I was born less privileged than the rich and successful. 

Then I went to those seminars where you hug and hi-five and dance on your chairs like it’s 1985 to the Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling. I started reading self-help books and articles until 1am. Previously the kind of thing I rolled my eyes at, I invested in myself. I even got therapy. I was high on life, and felt that the glass is half full– happiness is a choice. 

All the gurus taught beliefs like, the more you learn, the more you earn. Invest in yourself, you pay the best interest. The mind is like a parachute, it works best when it’s open. So off I went on a 15-year journey of ‘learning to earn’. Knowledge, plus action, is power.

And it worked– to a point. 

I got out of £50,000 of debt. I sacked my boss, like they said I should. Became an entrepreneur. Built companies. Built a team. Made my first million pounds by age 31, and my tenth by age 35. But something was missing– something persisting that I was resisting. But still, I followed others’ good advice. Learn to earn. Got it.

But here’s what they don’t tell you: You are who you are. You are unlikely to change who you are.

Sure, you can learn new skills. You can acquire experience. You can read all the books and go to all the seminars. You can even ‘manage yourself’ and your emotions better. But you are who you are and you do what you do. And you will keep doing you and being you. 

That includes your bad habits. Your triggers. Your flaws and your fears. No matter how much new information you learn on top of these, they will likely not change. In fact, your new learnings will simply exaggerate these existing traits. You could learn, earn and lose it all because the underlying ‘issues’ have been with you since you were 7 years old. 

It’s easy to see the flaws and holes in others that self-sabotage their success, but much harder to see your own. But if you want success, progress, wealth, happiness, and fulfillment, then those triggers and flaws need to be unlearned.

Unlearn procrastination, overwhelming habits, blaming, and complaining. Unlearn boredom, micro-managing, and spinning too many plates. Unlearn confrontation and unlearn avoidance.

To truly unlearn these deep-rooted, who-you-are habits is to have radical self-awareness of your flaws. What are your recurring habits, triggers, and behaviors that attract most of the mistakes or challenges you want to transcend?

Take Responsibility

To unlearn is to take full ownership that everything is your responsibility, even if it is not. Because you can only change what you own. Covid and lockdowns were not your fault, but it’s your responsibility to own the change required to not just survive but thrive in disruptive times and seize the opportunity. Be the change you want to see and reflect back the outcomes you want by being those outcomes first, rather than hoping or worse expecting things to change. Things only change when you do.

To unlearn is to have many objective conversations with yourself, and with mentors, to control your auto-triggers and reactions, change your reactions and actions and make new decisions. Done consistently this will unlearn old unwanted behaviors and form new empowering habits. 

This takes deep, self-aware, disciplined work. This takes vulnerability and courage, sacrifice, and discipline. This is an ongoing pursuit of self-management and mastery. A continued process of unlearning how you were raised and what you were lead to believe to be true, that is not. This is what great managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs are able to do that the rest stay blissfully unaware of. And that is un-learning. 

And remember, if you don’t risk anything you risk everything.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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