You know that person, they complain about everything and nothing is ever their fault. Maybe you recognize some of these traits in yourself, before I started my transformation, this list was the 10 traits of me. I walked around blaming the world for the challenges I was having, I didn't think of those things as challenges to overcome but as problems other people caused to happen to me. It was a pretty miserable existence. Let's dissect the 10 most common traits of the mediocre and how I allowed myself to live in this way.
1. Lack of gratitude
I'll be honest, gratitude took a bit for me to wrap my head around, with all of the shit that was going wrong in my life what do I possibly have to be grateful for? The thing I didn't realize about gratitude at the time is that taking a few minutes each day to be grateful for the little things, put my brain on a better path, one that is positive. I remember shortly after I was incarcerated, that was my wake up call to the power of gratitude. I was feeling sorry for myself, about how shitty life is for me, being locked up in prison for trafficking LSD, mindlessly flipping through an old magazine and stumbling on an article about someone being sentenced in Singapore for charges similar to mine, the sentence was death. Holy shit! Death! Here I am sitting in a federal facility in Southern California, with three meals a day, time to work out, time to read a magazine, and most importantly - I wasn't going to be killed for doing what I did. That slapped me right in the face, things can always get worse, there is always something to be grateful for - I could be the guy thats getting caned getting the death penalty, and then I was so very grateful I wasn't. While there are challenges in my life, I have a TON to be grateful for.
2. A victim mindset
One of my startups was in the VoIP space, we built an open source soft-switch for enterprise customers, this was the first time I raised money and, only in hindsight, I learned a lot with this business. Not only from a raising money perspective and how to really mess that up probably doing everything someone could do wrong in a deal - giving a security interest in all of our IP giving the VC all IP in the event of a bankruptcy, sole right of refusal to our VC for any subsequent funding, giving up control of my board, the list of bad decisions and mistakes could fill a book. I failed on this business, the company went through an ABC (assignment for the benefit of creditors), and my IP was lost.
When I failed, I immediately became the victim. I blamed the VC for doing this to me, not the fact that I just signed a really bad deal. Not only did I sign a bad deal, I also didn't achieve the goals and targets that I agreed to as part of the deal, seems ridiculous now, at the time I had the mindset that this was happening to me - not because of me. It took a bit of reflecting to under stand that things don't happen to me, they happen because of me, because of my actions or lack of actions. I wasn't a victim, I am the person in control of the outcomes in my life. I needed to reframe the way I looked at everything.
3. Lack of personal responsibility
A lack of personal responsibility ties very much into the victim mindset, and for me this crept into all aspects of my life, long after being incarcerated. I didn't take responsibility for anything in my life, from my personal finances to the performance of my businesses. I would think my business isn't doing well because of the market conditions or that employee that wasn't performing how I thought they should be. As I started to shake off the victim's mindset and taking ownership for all areas of my life, I realized something that was so liberating - I am responsible for everything that happens in my world. In my business, if my employee's aren't performing, it's my responsibility as a leader to help them perform. In my personal life, if I'm clashing with my wife, it's my responsibility to help her understand my point of view or to understand her's. I own it, it's all me, and there is no one to blame.
4. Poor communication
Communication was one of the most difficult areas for me to improve but should be at the top of the list. I was a person that had two modes to communicate that became very obvious after I read the book Crucial Conversations. I either went to silence or violence. I would get quiet and shut down completely or start screaming, throwing things, calling people idiots, sounds like a great guy to be around right? When I did speak, I wasn't as direct as I should have been - I really cared about upsetting people, I wanted people to like me. As an entrepreneur you can't have that.
This horrible communication led to severe issues in my early businesses, my team didn't understand my vision and I didn't do anything to help them understand. I would think if I said something once, that was enough and everyone should just remember it. When I gave direction it wasn't clear. One of my good friends and colleagues, Meni Morim, said to me, "You've given us the first chapter of the book and you can see the ending, but no one else can. You need to talk about the middle of the book." This led me to start writing my vision down and sharing with everyone on my team. Then led to me building the plans with my team on the vision.
Not only did my inability to communicate well impact my business, it took an even larger toll on my relationship with my wife. When I was having difficulties at work, I didn't talk about it. When things were going well, I didn't talk about it. I expected my wife to read my mind and it wasn't cool. It left my wife wondering how I felt, wondering what I was thinking then to her assuming how I felt and what I was thinking. The bottom line, you need to speak clearly, concisely, openly and honestly.
I'll continue to build on this list over time and share strategies that have implemented when I exhibited these traits.