Learning When to Give a F*** in Business

Mike Taylor | 10 August 2017
Dreams bring ideas

It’s not often I get the time to sit down and read a book. Maybe it was something about the title that provoked an interest. If anyone is familiar with the bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson tells us that not giving a f*** is the key to a happy successful life. Taking a different approach to most self-help or motivational literature, Manson cuts through the positivity bull to deliver the message; life can be crap, deal with it. That’s not to say he takes a stoic approach to life and its woes, without a care in the world, inflicting his negativity on the vulnerable. Quite the opposite; it’s about learning when to give a f*** and when to think, do I really care?

If you get the chance to read the book, do it. In the meantime, here is how I would take his advice and apply it to any business mindset.

Dreams bring ideas, hard work brings success

We will all be familiar with the inspirational quotations ‘good things come to those who wait’, ‘a positive attitude can make dreams come true’;  ‘you can if you think you can,’ ‘It’s the taking part that counts’.The way that society has mollycoddled us to believe we succeed by chasing aspiration with positivity has evolved us into self-entitled beings who are never satisfied because our pursuit of success is unattainable. And a lie. From graduating four year olds for turning up to kindy for a term to awarding all participants in the egg and spoon race, we have become so engrossed in being rewarded for just being or taking part, that we have forgotten the fundamentals for success are hard work and failure.

Success does not come from a dream and positive thinking. Anyone worth a cent in business will tell you that if you want to be successful, you need to put in the hard work to get there. Dreams are normal and healthy, but expectations of an enriching, powerful life because you believe you can change the world is narcissistic.

Success does not happen overnight. Behind every successful business owner are endless hours of hard slogging, late nights, tested relationships and empty pockets. There is no one defining the moment that makes you successful; it’s learning to overcome every small obstacle one at a time, and there will be plenty of them. We all love the results, but we need to learn to love the process.

You can’t please everyone

Three years in and I’m learning to accept that I can’t please everyone, all of the time. I have customers, clients, suppliers and employees, and somewhere along the line, I can’t deliver on everyone’s expectations.

In business, we only have 24 hours in a day. If we spend our entire day worrying about every menial disagreement or why we are one year in and we’re not in a position to retire, we will become so consumed in our need to please, succeed and achieve, we will have very little time left for the business itself. Get your priorities right and pursue the things that matter. Care about the things that align with your personal and business values. Learn how to say no and learn to admit when you’re wrong.

Failure makes way for success

As Manson points out, failure and suffering is an inherent part of life. We learn and grow from our mistakes. Embracing and pursuing pain and adversity makes us a better human being. Our mistakes are what makes us better at what we do, and being downright crap at something and recognising the uncertainty puts us in a much better position to advance in our strengths.

There are winners and losers and we must learn this from a young age. You can’t be good at everything, and that’s ok. Find your niche, strengths, interest and weakness. Recognise success and recognise failure. One is not possible without the other.

There will be people better than you – use it to your advantage

Another great topic discussed in this book is our unfulfilled need to be the best at everything; to be the most successful, to have the most friends, to be happy, have the most attractive partner, or at least to be perceived as being the best.

In a society where we aspire to an Instagram feed, we adopt values that are superficial and self-destructive. As well as being made to feel inferior by our misconception of society’s norm, we’re fed the ridiculous notion that we can all be great, all be unique, all be winners. If we are all the something, then we’re all just average anyway.

In business, there will be people better than you, that’s why you hire them or join them. A successful entrepreneur is one that can step back, pass the baton and do what is right for the business.

These days, one of my greatest enjoyments is watching my team succeed. To do that I have had to learn to let go, and be challenged. Ultimately I didn’t get into business to work 100 hours a week, so by letting go and empowering my team, we are a better agency because of it.

Just learn to accept that we can’t be the best at everything, and when we stop trying to be and setting ourselves up for a lifetime of inadequacies, we would have just freed up a lot of time to apply ourselves to where it matters.