I’ve written a lot over the last few years about The 8 Percent and how super rad we are – because: obviously.
I’ve been having an insane couple of weeks, and it’s really lead me to think about the downsides to being an over-achieving member of this group.
We often talk about perfectionism and achievement in a positive light – which is great because it allows us to feel superior and smug. But it’s rare that we really address the downsides to being a high-achiever.
And they definitely exist.
Look, no one throws their life into their work without some kind of catalyst – whether it’s proving mum and dad wrong, showing the world, having some kind of wake up call – there’s always something driving human ambition and obsession.
The downside to this is that the driver can go from healthy achievement to unbridled and unending ambition with no happiness really easily, if you’re not careful.
I write about this stuff for a living, I teach it at the highest levels and even I’m not immune.
I’m better than I was five years ago – I don’t do “moar” for the sake of more. I’m not building for no reason, hoping that one day it will make me happy.
But, as in all personal development, when you think you’ve got something beat, typically your brain just manifests it in new and more insidious ways – like that old saying “same devil, different level”.
For me, right now, it’s coming up around learning how to let go of the areas of my business in which I’m not doing a great job, and hiring people who could do it much better than me.
It’s not exactly my ego – I don’t think I’m better at all of the things I do than somebody else would be. I like to think I’m fairly objective about my strengths and weaknesses. Writing is a strength – management is a weakness.
But in some ways, it’s totally ego – it’s like I believe that I should be able to perform every single element of my business at a level of professional excellence, when literally no one in the history of humankind has ever done that. BUT LEELA WILL!!! (No, I won’t. Thanks, ego).
I mean – think about it.
In what company is the CEO also: the CFO, the trainer, the product developer, client-facing, sponsorship and high-end deals manager, content production and marketing? I literally do the jobs of eight to ten people.
I’m on stage anywhere from 34 to 60 days a year.
This year we’ve rebuilt our three key products from the ground up, and developed 2 new ones.
I have a stable of eight high end private 1:1 clients, and 100-odd masterminders.
I write two blog posts a week, and am 50,000 words into a book.
I have eight full-time staff.
We’re currently running two publishing deals, where we run the back-end marketing and sales for partners.
We’ve got a meeting next week to confirm the details for the TV Show we’re filming next year.
We’re about to shoot the final episode of our web series.
And that’s just the big stuff – that’s not the day to day running of a multi-million dollar business. I swear I spend 5 hours a week just conversing with my book keeper and accountant.
I’m so tied up in the idea that doing everything makes me somehow superior, when actually – the opposite is true. I let my staff down because my exhaustion means I’m not there for them when they need me. I let my clients down when I don’t take time off before and after events, because I can’t perform at optimum level when I’m that tired. I let my personal relationships down, because I’ve mostly destroyed them, or the ones I do have are a part of the business and revolve around that.
When Nothing is Ever Good Enough
But do you want to hear my secret?
I honestly feel like I’m not productive.
I beat myself up because nothing is ever good enough.
I get angry when I’m too tired to get to everything on my to-do list (which is, at any given time, typically 2-3 pages long).
Look, logically I know that’s ridiculous.
I understand that I’m over-loaded with work – add that to a pretty severe case of cortisol burnout that I’ve spent the year working to recover from and you’ve got a recipe for never doing a great job at anything, because you’re doing too many things.
But knowing and feeling are different things.
I feel guilty for not being on top of everything.
I feel guilty for every little thing I miss – and there’s a lot of things.
Mostly, I feel guilty for even considering outsourcing the things that are currently my job – because I feel guilty about only doing the work I enjoy.
And that guilt makes me want to beat myself to death with a stick it’s so stupid.
I ran interviews last week for an Operations Manager and I feel good about the decision we’ve made.
But I also play this game where I doubt myself.
I obsess over every bad hire I’ve ever made – and there’s been a lot of them.
I ask myself repeatedly if I’m making the cardinal mistake of outsourcing my incompetency. Doing that has cost me a lot of money, time and heartache over the year.
I hold myself to this standard where I believe I should be able to do everything, on my own, with no help.
And then I wonder why I’m burned out, and have days where my brain doesn’t function properly.
I think this is what they mean when they talk about founders getting in their own way.
I want to let go – but I’m afraid of making a mistake that will hurt my business and my family. I’ve done it before and it was catastrophic. I like to think I’ve taken the lessons from that and used them to make a better decision this time around, but there’s still that creeping fear at the back of my mind.
For me, this is the negative side of my faith in the Universe – I worry about being “punished” for making the wrong decision. Which is dumb, because if we assume that there is such thing as a sentient Universe, what are the literal odds that it would give a damn if one human being on a planet of billions in one moment of time in the history of all time on one tiny rock in an infinite universe, hired a person or didn’t?
I am but a speck of dust. But I’m my speck of dust, so my brain is pretty convinced that makes me the centre of every single thing that has ever mattered in the history of the universe.
That’s a lot of pressure, brain, thanks.
These are the Gordian knots we all tie our minds up in. Yours may be different, but they’re there.
They’re a combination of our schemas, our childhood experiences, our fears about ourselves.
None of us are immune – but writing articles like this and giving myself a birdseye view of how objectively silly it looks, is really useful.
I typically like to finish out my articles with a – hey, here’s how to deal with this!
But I don ‘t really have one on this issue. I’m moving ahead and hiring an Operations Manager, so that’s a thing. But I won’t be able to tell you for 6 months whether that was a good or bad decision.
I hope that, whichever way it goes, I learn the lessons I need to learn to be able to systemise my business and step away from the day to day operations, so that I can focus on what I’m truly great at – the things that both provide me joy and create amazing positioning for us and our brand in the marketplace.
If there’s something I’ve gotten good at over the last 12 years, it’s finding the lesson in everything. I’ve gotten pretty good, too, at not making the same mistake twice. No, every mistake I make – and there’s plenty of them – is a new and fresh hell.
So I guess this article is less about “here’s how to deal with it” and more about “here’s what it looks like inside my head – if you’re also a member of The 8 Percent, you probably feel the same way. You’re not alone.”.
That said, if you’ve been through this and dealt with it, I’d love to hear from you – wins and losses. I’m really interested in hearing how other members of The 8 Percent have moved through this in their life.
Hit me up – in the comments or on Facebook!