“Be yourself no matter what they say”
Sting, Englishman in New York
As a creative individual or aspiring business person, chances are you will have received at some point The Advice. It usually takes the form of: “In order to be successful in your field, you need to do X or Y; if you haven’t been successful, it’s because you either haven’t read The Advice, or you haven’t followed it through correctly”. Every year there are literally hundreds of articles, books and blogs containing The Advice. It doesn’t restrict itself to one field; you can find it in the creative enterprises, in businesses and in all forms of human endeavour where there is room for growth, success and self-improvement.
But do you really need The Advice? Would you be unable to cope and be successful unless you follow a certain formula, usually given by self-proclaimed experts in their respective fields?
You don’t. No matter what they tell you, not many of the experts who give advice know whether the advice they give is directly related to their success. Just because people are good at something, it doesn’t mean that they know what makes them successful.
In his excellent book “The Inner Game of Tennis”, Timothy Gallwey points out that any performance occupies aspects in two different parts of our minds, both underpinned by different neural circuitry; the conscious mind is preoccupied with the technical aspects of performance. As these aspects are easier to perceive and measure, most of The Advice is concentrating on such aspects. If you play in a band, chances are you will hear advice about how to network, how to talk to labels, how to create and sell your merch etc. As a business, you will hear things about making a SWOT analysis, identifying your ideal customers, conducting market research etc. Gallway points out that while the aspects related to the conscious mind are important, what truly enhances performance is the way their conscious mind interacts with the unconscious mind. He calls this the inner game, a game which takes place in the mind of the player, and is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation.
The idea of the Inner Game is that the unconscious mind knows what needs to be done to achieve success and enhance performance, but it’s usually sabotaged by the conscious mind which likes to be in control. His solution is to be consciously unconscious: to create a state where the mind is so concentrated, so focused that it is still.
This state of being consciously unconscious requires you to amplify your inner voice in order for it to be heard above your conscious mind, and above that of The Advice that tells you what to do and how to do it, often against your inner instincts. That unconscious voice is faint and weak, as it is often suppressed by the constant humming of your conscious mind. You need to listen carefully to your inner mouse, and understand what it is telling you. You need to amplify that inner voice, in order to hear its roaring.
The conscious mind is your critical voice and as it has helped you navigate the perils of life, it feels entitled to be there at all times as a background commentary to everything you do. For that reason, it is often referred to as your Gremlin. The problem with the Gremlin is that, blinded by its success in negotiating your survival, it feels it needs to be constantly in control of the proceedings, even when it’s not appropriate to do so.
The Advice can only take you so far. Chances are that, unless you are an absolute beginner in your field, you would have read it and followed it through at some point. However, to be truly successful in what you want to achieve, you need to do more than enhance the technical aspects of your skill and follow through the ‘formula of success’. Because as you are doing so, hundreds of other competitors in your field will be doing exactly the same. To make the difference, you need to understand what makes you unique, different and what makes you tick. You need to conquer your fears, acknowledge and understand how the Gremlin is holding you back and create your own path to fulfilment, success and ultimately inner and outer wellbeing.
Kostas The Coach is a Personal Performance and Small Business Coach based in Slough, UK. I help creative people develop their individuality and businesses grow sustainably while remaining ethical.
Kostas The Coach site
*The Mouse that Roared is an excellent Cold War satirical novel by Leonard Wibberley which has also been adapted to a film starring Peter Sellers. This blog is not related to either the film or the novel, but focuses on how to unleash your inner voice and make your inner mouse roar like a lion!