Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Rachel Stewart @UnqualifiedTool Rachel started as an unqualified office manager, but over the last decade became the general manager of a $22M restoration company and the CEO of a software development company focused on getting contractors the technology tools they need. In her new book, Unqualified Success, Rachel shares the tools that made all the difference in her achievement in a practical and engaging way. The things she learned the hard way are made available in this easily accessible format for anyone who wants to take their life to the next level. Learn more at http://www.unqualifiedtools.com
SmallBizLady: What are the biggest misconceptions when it comes to achieving success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Most of us think that when we get the results we want in our lives, then we will feel worthy or qualified. For example, we think when we get the promotion, we will feel successful. But our feelings are created only by the thoughts we think. If we want to feel successful, we need to change our thoughts, which will then allow us to get the results we want. We have to feel qualified and worthy before we can have the confidence to act and achieve the results and success we want. We usually have it backward.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think mastery of skill is more valuable than formal education?
Rachel M. Stewart: I have been unqualified for essentially every position I have ever held, and every goal I have ever achieved. I believe that achieving success in life does not stem from fancy (and expensive) education, but rather mastering some very specific traits and habits along the way. While education may be required for many professions (yes, let’s continue to go to medical school future surgeons), what is even more important is mastering your mind, your beliefs, and your habits. My success came simply because I was willing to work and learn and keep showing up. I used the word simply, but that does not mean it is easy. It requires the hard work of mastering fear, dealing with failure, and being persistent.
SmallBizLady: How does imposter syndrome relate to being an Unqualified Success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Regardless of our resumes or our accomplishments or our certifications or our degrees, each of us harbors personal doubts about our ability to succeed and reach our goals. This means that on some level, every person feels unqualified. An Unqualified Success is someone who believes whole-heartedly in themselves and their ability to accomplish their dreams, regardless of the fears and doubts that surround them. An Unqualified Success is someone who figures out the only real limitations they have are in their own mind. And they are willing to completely ignore those limitations.
SmallBizLady: So, what are some of these limitations that hold us back?
Rachel M. Stewart: Our own beliefs about ourselves can hold us back. For example, if we think we’re not the kind of person that can do “x” or if we think we’ve never been able to do “y” then we unnecessarily hold ourselves back. Our past should never dictate our future. I like to encourage my readers to clean out their thought closet and get rid of the old thoughts that are preventing the new beliefs they need to take action in their lives.
SmallBizLady: But many small business owners face real challenges attracting clients, staying competitive, and managing cash flow. How does mindset play a role in these very present concerns?
Rachel M. Stewart: I love the story of Kevin and Keith Hanson. They owned a couple of successful running-shoe stores in Detroit. When Keith was asked about their success, he said, “Sometimes other shop owners will complain to me that running’s down in their area. And I think, ‘You do know you’re in charge of that, right?’” See? The Hansons are in charge of their business. They take responsibility for all of it—even the general running interest in their community and the deterrent Michigan winters. It’s all up to them.
At first glance, that philosophy may seem overwhelming. But the opposite is true. Taking responsibility means it’s up to you and no one else. What would happen in your business if you adopted this thought: “You do know you’re in charge of that, right?” Having the mindset that you are completely in charge of all your outcomes will empower you like nothing else will.
SmallBizLady: What else can our readers do to make more progress towards their goals?
Rachel M. Stewart: It’s important to recognize that our goals to build our businesses or grow our brand will always require us to do things that stretch us and are likely outside our current comfort zone. We always think about success as positive, but I have found that getting real success requires quite a bit of discomfort and negative emotion. Whenever I push myself, I find it is uncomfortable. The better we can get at feeling negative emotion without giving up or giving in, the more success we can access. This requires grit, persistence, and a deep hunger for growth. Developing these kinds of attributes will serve us as we work towards our goals.
SmallBizLady: What about when we fail in achieving our goals?
Rachel M. Stewart: Alan Mulally became the CEO at Ford at the worst time in the history of the company. They were failing. He used to tell his leaders and employees, “The situation is not good or bad. The situation is just the way it is. We get to decide what to do about it.” With this attitude, Mulally led Ford to one of the greatest turnarounds in business history. It turns out that the biggest determining factor in your ability to use your failures to generate future success is your own thoughts. What we make the failure mean is what counts.
SmallBizLady: How do we continue to be willing to learn and grow when we face failure?
Rachel M. Stewart: We all know that success is created one failure at a time, but this isn’t always comforting when we’re in the middle of one of these experiences. Recently, you might have seen Tiger Woods win the Masters tournament after not winning for 11 years—somehow he stayed persistent for all that time. Despite how anyone feels about Tiger Wood’s personal life, this is a pretty compelling example. Ask yourself how long you would be willing to fail if you knew for sure you would succeed in the end. A month? A year? Ten years? When it is hard to persist, imagine that you can see your future success and then decide: if indeed that success is inevitable, are you willing to keep going now?
SmallBizLady: What advice do you have for our followers who have big dreams and ambitions but feel stuck in taking that next step?
Rachel M. Stewart: Feeling stuck or confused about the next step in our business is natural because the next step usually involves things we’ve never done before. This is where having a clear vision of our goals and dreams can be very powerful. It turns out that our brains can’t tell the difference between the past and a vividly imagined future. When you are stuck, try the following exercise:
- Imagine the future you want. What does success look like to you? Get as specific as possible.
- Take a snapshot of that future and record your vision in writing. Make the description as vivid and detailed as possible.
- Spend a few minutes every day visualizing your future so that your mind can go to work believing it and then creating it.
When you are feeling stuck, giving your brain a specific vision of the destination of where you want to end up, even when you don’t yet know the exact way to get there, is all the direction needed. Your brain will then get busy figuring out “the how.”
SmallBizLady: Do you have other tips for taking a business to the next level?
Rachel M. Stewart: Yes, I would say get to work to develop the traits you need. Do not simply read and consume information. Instead make sure that after you read something that resonates with you, decide how you are going to take action and start putting it into practice.
I wanted my book, Unqualified Success, to be super practical and so I included specific exercises with every chapter that people can use to apply the principles from that chapter. Practicing the skills that create unqualified success will be so much more valuable than just reading or consuming information on the subject. We live in a world with so much information; what we need is more chances to apply what we’ve learned. If you need resources, exercises can be found at unqualifiedtools.com.
SmallBizLady: Do you think anyone can be an Unqualified Success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Absolutely. Without question. My book is full of example after example, of person after person, from every socio-economic situation, from every industry, with a variety of talent or lack thereof, that have applied these proven principles and achieved massive success. Success is never limited to the “qualified.” Anyone who is on a growth trajectory is unqualified for the next step. That’s what’s so amazing!
SmallBizLady: How do you measure success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Remember that your success is not just about you. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that your success is personal, that if you try or if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter. Every success we achieve personally affects the world around us. Our success breeds more success for others. Your success makes a measurable impact on everyone around you. It affects your clients and customers, your employees, your community, and those you lead. Think for a moment how many people are depending on your willingness to overcome your own mental obstacles and achieve massive success so that they can follow you and do the same.
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