Vows are a good thing, right? We make them to each other at the altar, we vow to be good, to never eat another fudge brownie again, we vow to be caring mothers, good friends, we vow to be honest no matter what. But vows are sneaky, and what most people don’t now is that they can actually kill your chance at true success.
A couple of years ago I met David at a new technology conference in North Carolina. A tall blonde with an intense gaze and a staggering intellect. He was developing a revolutionary process that would change waste water treatments. If David’s process were streamlined, cities would become more environmentally sustainable and save millions on their annual budgets. That may not sound exciting to you, but every year cities spend billions on waste water, and their processes aren’t always great for the environment.
David was jazzed and sure of his success. But governments are slow to change and the vested interest of insiders make it even s-l-o-w-e-r. As David struggled against entrenched interest, his enthusiasm slowly turned to frustration. He felt victimized by the status quo. He tried to partner with a few other innovative, brilliant people in the industry, but all the partnerships failed. To make matters worse, another group created a process like his and they wound up being a huge success. “I need help!” he told me.
And so we sat down on my terrace, on a beautiful day here in Nashville, to find out how to get David to his Yippee. Whenever I work one-on-one, I always start with questions. Because YOU know what is keeping you from your Yippee. You just might not know you know. One of the first questions I asked was about his reluctance to partner with anyone in the “establishment”. He wanted to work with independent outsiders. People in the “in crowd”, he told me, would just take his ideas and leave him on the outside.
Where did that notion come from?
David said his father had gotten “screwed” by some big wig partners. So David had made a vow that we would NEVER partner with well-connected, influential people. The vow happened a long time ago, so long ago it was hard for David to remember who the bigwigs were or what the project was. And that was our ticket to David’s Yippee. A vow was getting in the way. And it had gotten so big, it was ruining his chances of success.
We all make vows. A vow results from taking a strong emotional position in the past, usually when we felt like we were at risk. It’s a theory: This guy had red hair, and he broke my heart. I’ll NEVER go out with guys with red hair. Then prince charming arrives on a white horse with keys to the castle, and we say, No thanks. Because of the carrot top.
How do you know you’ve made a vow? It includes ALWAYS or NEVER instead of sometimes. David told himself it was “safer” to ALWAYS seek out other outsiders. Did he do this consciously? Probably not. It was a secret vow. Even to himself.
But the vow made it so he was only working with others who were as disconnected as he was. So, in all his partnerships, the essential skill of connecting was not there.
He’d gone from one ineffective partnership to another and eliminated partnerships that would be lead to his Yippee.
Vows are sneaky. The way to find them is to ask yourself what you will always or never do….
David broke his vow, and he’s now flying in his Yippee! Have you broken a bad vow? Did you let yourself change from ALWAYS and NEVER to sometimes? Where did it lead you??? I’d love to hear what you discovered!!
Until next Tuesday, YIPPEE!