Many years ago, my friend Arlin Sorensen was given an award at a conference I was attending. In his acceptance speech, he made a profound statement that stuck with me permanently.
He said that his father once told him this:
“Don’t worry what people think about you. They probably don’t.“
Maybe I was just in the right place at the right time to hear that message, but it struck me clear through to the bone. This truth has helped me keep my ego in check AND make my businesses easier to manage.
Human beings are intensely egotistical creatures. Beginning at age one, we each believe the world revolves around us. I cry and get fed. I complain and I get a toy.
. . .
But then we grow up into the real world. And most of us forget to notice that the world no longer revolves around us. (Actually, the world never did revolve around us. But we didn’t realize that reality.)
As adults, we find ourselves worrying a lot about what other people think. In fact, we build up entire conversations about what other people will say.
. . . He works too hard.
. . . She charges too much.
. . . He doesn’t have enough training.
. . . She doesn’t have the skills.
We worry about an endless number of things that rest on one assumption: Other people are paying attention. They’re paying attention to what we do, why we do it, and how our actions affect them.
But that’s not true.
In reality, most people aren’t paying any attention to us most of the time. Most people are doing exactly what you’re doing on a daily basis. They’re working their work, tending to their family, and leading their lives.
But please note: This is all good news!
When you realize that other people aren’t paying attention to you, you have great freedom!
Perhaps the most powerful action you can to be more successful is to take time to stop worrying about anyone or anything long enough to get something done inside your business or personal life. But, I hear you saying, “I have to check my email all the time, all day long. And I have to let my phone interrupt me all day and all night. And what if there’s an emergency?” etc.
Contrast that with the experience I know you have: You can simply disappear for a day and the world keeps spinning. You can ignore your phone and social media for 24 hours and no one will notice.
Most of the time, no one’s paying attention to you. I know this seems hard to believe in the era of social media, but it’s true. We all make fools of ourselves taking selfies all day long. And yet most people aren’t paying attention.
I run a couple of businesses that involves lots of public communications. I blog, I podcast, I create videos, I post a lot on social media. And I travel lot. Several times a year I take plane rides that keep me offline for 12, 15, or even 20 hours.
But guess what? No one cares. No one sits on Facebook eagerly waiting for me to post my next update. No one. Ever. And when I land, there’s never an emergency message. There’s never an urgent client call.
Some people might think this is depressing. But once you realize it, it is liberating. I can take a day off to do whatever I want and no one will notice.
More realistically, I can take four or six hours at a time and read, write, or do something else that’s good for my personal growth – and no one will notice.
As a business owner, I can take time to work ON my business instead of working in my business. That’s the power of disappearing.
Another benefit is that we can worry a lot less about making mistakes. One of my employees was recently taking on responsibility for scheduling a podcast. She accidently scheduled the podcast to go up 24 hours earlier than it should have.
She wanted to know if we could fix this error. I simply told her not to worry about it. Why? Because no one is paying attention. She and I may be the only two people on earth who know when that podcast should have been posted. So if we got it wrong, no one noticed.
Lesson: Relax. Don’t freak out about stuff. Most of the time, no one is paying any attention.
Forgive yourself. Don’t give it a second thought. Learn from your mistake, and move on.
There’s a growing body of research that says that we all need to un-plug more. We need to spend time relaxing, away from a screen, recharging our batteries. Our constant need to be ON and to be in emergency mode is exhausting. It’s also bad for our health.
Tend to your business.
Tend to you personal life.
. . . and when you show up again, everyone will be glad to see you, even if they didn’t notice you were gone.