Tag: Steve Jobs

4/22/12 “Self-doubt”

Good day team,

This weeks challenge comes from a quote I read by the great French novelist and playwright, Honore de Balzac.

“When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”

I think we all know what Balzac was referring to. When we set out to accomplish something that doesn’t go exactly as we expected, or when our ideas or actions are rejected by others, we immediately experience self-doubt. Our inner voices are suddenly fueled by negative thoughts that say things like, “My idea was stupid in the first place”, or “No one ever appreciates what I do”, or “What made you think you could accomplish this in the first place? What a fool!” and so on.

This experience of self-deprecation is one of the greatest ways we sabotage ourselves. We give our power away to that self-doubt and shy away from what we were trying to do in the first place.

How many of us sat at the dinner table growing up and were asked this question by a parent. “What did you do today at school?” Our parents were expecting us to describe what we had achieved, not how we had failed. “Well Dad, I got a B+ on my history test.” “Great son, what else?” Again, tell me what you accomplished.

Imagine how the conversation might have gone if Dad had congratulated us for our failures as well as our successes. Here’s a great example of what can happen when failure is encouraged.

Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx, a highly successful company that makes women’s undergarments. Just a few months ago, Sara was on the cover of Forbes magazine and recognized as one of this country’s newest billionaires. She built her fortune by conceiving, designing, and manufacturing a product that millions of women around the world wear. It’s a bit like a modern day version of a girdle. Call it panty hose without the hose.

Sara didn’t come up with this over night. She was involved in a number of start-up ventures before she launched Spanx. They all failed miserably. But unlike many of us, she never got discouraged. She never allowed self-doubt to disempower her. She just kept coming up with new ideas and trying to turn them into successful businesses.

When Sara and her brother were growing up, their father asked them a completely different question at dinner time – “How did you fail today?” When they answered the question, their Dad would respond, “Gee, that’s great. You learned another set of lessons about what works and doesn’t work. Good job!”

When I read about Sara’s father asking this question, I realized that he was helping to teach some valuable lessons:


failure is to be expected whenever we try to achieve something new

what we learn from failing can be most important.

Instead of criticizing his children for failure, he did just the opposite. Consequently, Sara grew up more than willing to take risks, try out new ideas and products, fall on her face more than a few times, and still get up everyday with the attitude that she was doing the right thing – because she was failing! Think of how different your life would be if you had been raised to embrace and celebrate your failures? The whole notion of success and failure would be turned on it’s head.

This came as a revelation to me a few years back when I realized that I made many decisions from fear rather than from desire. I wanted to write a book of poetry when I was in my 20’s but I was too afraid of criticism. I wanted to go back to school and get an advanced degree. But I was too afraid that the work load would prevent me from attending to my business and that I wouldn’t make enough money. I wanted to learn how to play piano again. But I was afraid I wasn’t committed enough to practice and that it would be a waste of my time. I wanted to travel to Africa but I was too afraid that I might get sick and not be able to find good healthcare. The list goes on and on. In each case, the more I heeded my fear and inner negative voices, the more empowered they became. Eventually, they became powerful enough to talk me out of doing what I wanted to do and feel justified in not doing them.

One day, I got angry enough to change. I wasn’t going to continue to listen to my self-doubt. I was going to start making decisions based on what I wanted to do. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, when, after many years of war and destitution, she reached into the earth, grabbed a clump of dirt and raised it to the sky exclaiming, “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again!” Well, as my God was my witness, I wasn’t going to let fear lead my life!

I had to come up with ways to neutralize my self-doubt so that it wouldn’t become so convincing. I needed to find ways to convert doubt and defeat into empowerment and courage.

I discovered some things that helped me and offer them here as suggestions that might help you have more trust in yourself :

1. Get grounded through presence

I often find that when I’m experiencing a lot of self-doubt, the simple act of trying to be present brings me out of it. This requires focusing on my attention on something very specific (like feeling my feet or my breath) to bring me into the moment and change the subject. Sometimes I focus on a sound, or a picture, or a sensation. Sometimes, going for a short walk will immediately pull me out of my negative thoughts and refresh me. Talking with a colleague or friend can work as well.

2. Balance the minuses with pluses

If you naturally see the glass half empty, try seeing it half full. If you still can’t focus on the positive aspects of something, ask someone who you know sees the world naturally as half full. There are always losses and gains to everything, but focusing only on the losses keeps us in that negative place. I often ask my clients to tell me what they gained from having worked with me. I keep their comments written down and review them whenever I find myself in a particularly bad bout of self-deprecating thoughts.

3. Find what makes you feel good

Finding yourself in a funk can be remedied by doing something that makes you feel good. Find what nurtures you and do it. Maybe you enjoy listening to music or reading books. How about having your significant other massage your hands or feet? Sometimes, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by self-doubt, I take a hot bath. My husband finds his joy in playing, writing and arranging music. This always changes his state of mind and heart. Make sure you make time in your day to play at whatever you enjoy and get enough sleep. All of these things will help you maintain a healthier state of mind and body.

4. Reach out to others and connect

As much as we can try to do things for ourselves in our moments of self-doubt, reaching out to others for help is essential. This is where coaches and therapists, teachers and mentors really come in handy. They are trained to listen and support us when we need it most. We can also benefit from acting in this role for another. One of my favorite ways to neutralize my self-doubt is by coaching someone else. Just by taking the focus off of me and being present to them, I automatically benefit from the interaction. And, it always gives me a different view finder through which to look. Even reaching out to a co-worker or friend and asking how they see something can help us adopt a more positive point of view.

This week, try using some of these methods to cast self-doubt and deprecation out of your mind. No one ever got anywhere by listening to their inner thoughts telling they couldn’t do something. See if one of these methods helps you cultivate a different set of thoughts that serve you better. How about working on your attitudes about success and failure? Maybe just seeing it completely differently is enough to encourage you to keep going.

Having the courage and determination to keep trying in the midst of failure seems to be one of the major keys to success. When you experience self-doubt, don’t give it any more power than it already has.

As Steve Jobs powerfully reminded us,

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

~ Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and CEO of Apple Computer

Have a good week!


Kathleen Doyle-White

Founder, Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

1/15/12 “Modern Thinking”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about the struggle to stay current as we get older. A recent experience illustrates my point.

My office exists above a successful bakery and coffee shop in NE Portland. Needless to say, the early morning aromas of fresh-brewed coffee, muffins and bacon, wafting from the first floor to the second, present strong temptations.

Until recently, I occupied the largest office at the front of the building in of a suite of five. When you live in Portland, getting any kind of light into an office space, especially during the gloomy grey days of winter, is a luxury. I rented that particular office because it had an entire wall of windows facing south.

This past year, three fellows moved into the smallest office in the back. They had recently left their employment with a successful company to create their own startup. I could feel their excitement about their new venture, and everyone in our suite of offices encouraged them in their efforts. After almost a year of presenting their ideas to venture capitalists (a grueling process at best), they received a considerable amount of funding for their startup. The money arrived the second week of December — what a great holiday gift and a terrific way to start the new year!

Along with the funding, however, came the realization that they would now need to hire more people and expand. They were already crammed into the small office in back and began to look at office space in other locations. If you’ve ever shared office space, you know how rare it is to find people who all get along, and none of us wanted our startup guys to leave. So I decided to sacrifice my large office with all the light and proposed that we switch places. The startup guys thought this was a great idea, and when we all returned from the holidays, we commenced the move.

Fortunately for me, these three, young guys helped move me out of my office. After moving all of my furniture, books, rugs and other supplies into our shared reception area, I looked at it all and wondered how one woman could accumulate so much stuff in a year’s time (perhaps fodder for a future challenge). As I stood there, one of our other suite mates commented as he walked by, “Geez, it looks like an antique shop!” I was devastated! Was all my stuff so conservative and old-looking that someone would make such an observation? I looked at everyone else’s office décor. One could only describe it as somewhere between contemporary garage sale finds and IKEA. My Oriental rug, mission-style desk and comfy chairs looked ancient in comparison. I wondered, “Are my office belongings a reflection of my antiquated thinking? Have I reached an age where my thoughts and attitudes, which I often don’t question, reflect my age and many years of business experience rather than being particularly relevant to the present modern times?”

A few days later, in talking with my landlord about moving my landline from my old office to the new, he asked me why I even had a landline. “Don’t you use your cellphone most of the time anyway?” I had to admit that I did. There it was again. Had I become such a fuddy-duddy that I hadn’t even thought about why I had a landline? In my world, if you have an office, you have to have a landline. “But Dan,” I said, “I’ve had that phone number for 14 years!” “Well, that’s not a problem,” he replied. “Your cellphone company can simply port the number to your cellphone. The real question is, why do you even need that number anymore?” As I considered this, I realized I was actually attached to my phone number. Like having a pet for 15 years, I had grown an emotional attachment to a set of numbers!

Whether or not I get rid of my landline is not the point, but how I use my landline and whether or not that’s still relevant for my business is what’s most important. This means I need to change my thinking from “That’s the way I’ve always done it” to “Is this the best use of technology for my business?”

These thoughts caused me to make a resolution for 2012. This year, I will try not to assume that just because something was true before, it’s true now. There’s a lot to be said for practical experience, and I’m sure many of the solutions I recommend to my clients are still sound and work well. But I’ve resolved to question my thinking more often and to try new things. Part of the benefits of sharing office space with young people involved in a startup is that I get to witness how flexible they are in their thinking. They come to the venture with very few preconceived notions, and they’re not afraid to explore new territory. In fact, their new company is based on just that, a brand new set of ideas and possibilities.

This week, try experimenting with your thinking. Don’t be afraid to question your assumptions and talk about new ideas with your staff or business partners. Maybe you’ll reconsider some of the processes you’ve had in place for a number of years and change them or maybe even eliminate them altogether. Try asking yourself “Why?” rather than “How?” when it comes to the way you do things. You might even create a new meeting each month for the sole purpose of generating new and creative ideas. Ask people to come to the meeting with the attitude that the sky is the limit and that no ideas, thoughts or questions are stupid or inappropriate.

With the passing of Steve Jobs last year, I realized how much this man changed my life because he wasn’t afraid to think out of the box. He thrived on new ideas, creative solutions and that wonderful energy that comes from successfully doing something no one has ever done before. As he said, “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem.”

This week, consider thinking and acting in new ways. As this quote from author and inventor Roger von Oech advises, “It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago but will soon be out of date.”

Have a good week,


© Copyright 2012 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.