What Holds us Back?


Anthony A. Achmat
Co-owner of Managers-inc.com.

Where we come from has more effect on us than we are prepared to admit. Do we really understand how affected we are by our upbringing and all the conditioning we receive along the way?

Over the past few years I’ve been asked to speak to senior students about success. The first question I ask in general is ‘What does success mean to you?’ and I am continually amazed to hear the word ‘money’ in the answers. How many people do I know who have money but do not consider themselves successful, and on the other hand how many people who are successful in the eyes of others have no money.

Next thing I ask is ‘Name three of your life values’. It may come as no surprise to you, and it’s no longer a surprise to me, to hear that they have never been asked this question before, hence, have no answer.

Our belief that we are able to do things successfully is taken away by people around us at an early age. Remember being told you can’t do something for the most mundane of reasons? Well, truth is, that the person could not do it themselves, or most likely, was too frightened to try, therefore transferred their fear and failure onto you. I wonder if Michelangelo listened when he was told he could not climb up there, lie on his back and paint ceilings. I think not.

Isn’t it amazing that we ask for creativity in people when we actually stop them from being creative around seven years of age? Before then, everything they put pencil to, went on the fridge and was admired by all. Then we sent them to school where teachers do not want creativity; they want rote. That continues through to high school and even some universities, so we get highly qualified people who lack creativity. A few years ago I asked a group of middle managers to think out of the box and draw what type of day they were having. Most of them said they couldn’t draw. A class of kindergarten children were asked the same question and they complained there were not enough colored pencils.

Flexibility is always hampered when you hear ‘We don’t do it that way here’, or ‘This is the way you have to do it’.

A class of six-year-olds was asked to draw God; each child had a different picture. No one was wrong and all kids were flexible enough to accept that the others had beautiful pictures of God. Many people today find it hard to conceptualize a picture of God. Have we become so inflexible in our ageing?

Many people who ask for feedback really only want to hear things they expect to hear, not what they need to hear; and of course, someone who has never heard anything good or positive about themselves does not believe it when they are told. Their life conditioning has taught them that they are always bad, and they always will be.

Success comes when you take your first step towards the time when you will be able to say ‘I have done the best I possibly could have’. Success comes when someone says: ‘That’s fantastic! Congratulations, you’ve done well!’ Success has many shapes and forms and it always feels great.

How can we help build success for people around us? Engage with them, not with the cell phone with its texting function. Be candid with people. Don’t be afraid to give suggestions for improvement or to praise. Be there for the other person when needed. Don’t be too busy because it could be the last time you ever get the chance to really hear that person. So what holds us back from being the success we want to be? We do. If we believe our conditioning, we will be what they say we will be. But if you believe in yourself and you develop your drive to be successful, if you are honest enough to listen to the candid feedback you are given and flexible enough to move into the position of success, you will be successful.



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