It took me a long time to learn the foundations of maturity. As individuals we are responsible for our own actions. We also have a responsibility to respect ourselves and others — even if they aren’t behaving responsibly.
This attitude does not mean that we need to be victims of abuse, insults, or unfairness. Nor that we should tolerate clients, employees or others who fail to live up to their obligations.
Yet, once I discovered the responsibility mantra, and put aside self-pity and blame and anger, amazing things happened. It took just two years from surviving the near early death of my business and a circumstance where (because I had a property under-water, that is, worth less than its mortgage, I was effectively bankrupt. At the time, I also was single, without any serious relationships, and living in a dumpy apartment.
It looked pretty hopeless. I recall returning to my less-than-wonderful home from the office realizing that we were out of money and would not be able to publish the next issue of our publication.
Then, I experienced life epiphany number 2. (The first had happened a little more than a decade earlier, in Africa.) “I still have my health,” I thought to myself. “My family loved me and there was no abuse.” “I’ve had a good life with many wonderful experiences.” And finally, “I will do what I can to make things right, but it will be my responsibility, and no one else’s, to solve the problems.”
I’d like to say things got better, but in fact, my conditions seemed to deteriorate for several months. Yet, changes were happening, and within eight months, the woman of my dreams suggested we should move past a platonic friendship. We married a year later and are still together after two decades.
I was able to negotiate a “quit claim dead” with the second mortgage holder on my hopeless property, erasing the debt and preserving my credit status.
The business carried on — with selling effort, innovation, and new ideas. It still operates today.
On my wedding day in 1993, I enjoyed the love, family, companionship and the joy in my mother’s eyes (and of course in my new wife’s heart). My standard of living skyrocketed (I was the one to sign a prenuptial here.) It proved to be quite an amazing and rapid turn-around.
These values shape my life today. When things don’t quite work the way they should, I’ll sometimes have a moment of self-pity, or sometimes blame someone else for the problems, but quickly will bring things back on track with the reminder that “I’m responsible for myself.”
They also shape my relationships with others. I spend a fair bit of voluntary time on a Google help forum for people hoping to make money with online advertising. Quite a few of the people asking for help are selfish, greedy and stupid. It can be tempting to give these people a blast and brush-off.
Instead, I work to explain the reasons the program rules are in place, and offer them some challenging but available solutions if they are really ready to work hard and change from being whiners to doers. I don’t expect them to change — that is beyond my capacity — but I see no harm in treating them with respect and courtesy.
These attitudes won’t cause a marketing miracle, but if you think about it, they may solve the underlying problems you are experiencing. If you focus on what you have done and can do to make things better, and if you respect others, even if they are “nobodies”, you may discover that seemingly strange and invisible forces make things right. Sometimes, I think, the answers to the greatest marketing challenges occur when you stop worrying about how to succeed, and focus instead on how to be true to yourself and respectful to others.