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Keep Positive

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Article from ADMIN 62/2021
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The road to success is paved with negative commentary.

I still remember telling one of my computer consulting clients that I was quitting my business and going back to a regular job, while also pursuing my dream of being a technology writer. He responded, "Oh, that's very competitive, are you sure you're doing the right thing?" Fast forward to now, almost 20 years later, and my answer is still, "Yes. Yes, I am." I heard pretty much the same thing from everyone I told. Everyone told me that writing, especially writing for a living, was too competitive and unrealistic. I'm glad I didn't listen to the naysayers.

You see, people will take every opportunity to discourage you from exploring your dreams. Sure, there's some rejection associated with writing, acting, filmmaking, or really doing anything you want to do, but it doesn't stop there. If you proclaim your innermost desires to do anything that's difficult, risky, or time-consuming, you don't have to look far to find someone who'll attempt to dissuade you from going further. My best advice is –  spoiler alert  – don't listen to them.

My son is a good example of someone who listened to the naysayers. He worked in a retail environment and wanted to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and he told a few people that he had enrolled in the EMT class. His manager discouraged him and disparaged the field as competitive, low paid, and not worth his time. His manager had attempted the class and exam a few years earlier himself and failed. My son quit the class a few days later. My response to him was, "Don't listen to someone who's unsuccessful at something. Of course, they're going to discourage you. They don't want you to be successful at something that they failed at." By then, of course, it was too late.

If you want to know something about a job or creative pursuit, don't listen to naysayers. Chances are very good that they aren't successful at anything, much less whatever it is that you want to do. The correct thing to do is ask someone who is successful in that role. If you want to be a system administrator, ask an experienced system administrator about the job and what it takes to get there. If you want to be a screenwriter, ask a successful screenwriter how you should proceed. Asking people who have failed at something will usually net you a disappointing response, whereas asking those who are successful will encourage you to go further.

Negative commentary is all too common, and it's very powerful. Regardless of how many times I told my son the opposite of what his former manager told him, it didn't help. We even had him talk to a local EMT, who gave him all kinds of encouragement, and that didn't help either. It's a psychological fact that it takes something on the order of 17 positives to offset one negative. So, in the minutes it took to destroy my son's aspirations of becoming an EMT, it would take hours of positive discussions to get him back to a psychological break-even point. He has since changed his goal to becoming a cybersecurity professional. I've preloaded his positive psychological scoreboard for that one. So far, there have been no failed security experts to kill his buzz.

All this boils down to some advice for you, regardless of your aspirations. First, listen only to those who are successful, as they will encourage you to stay the course. Second, keep your eye on the goal and don't stray from it. Rejection and disappointment are often indicators that you're doing something right. I know that sounds crazy, but people who do nothing never experience rejection. Those who do nothing never experience failure. Third, learn from your rejections and failures. Turn them into successes by asking for feedback and looking at the work of those who are successful. Finally, anything worth doing or having is worth a little time and a little pain to achieve it. Remember that, if it were easy, there would be no naysayers ready to discourage you. Success is often measured in aspiration, inspiration, and perspiration.

Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor

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