We all tell stories about ourselves, both to ourselves and to other people. Some of those stories puff us up. These tall tales make you the hero: They highlight smarts, skills or abilities.
Other stories we tell make us the zero. We repeat a story to ourselves and others so often that we believe and hold onto any little truth in it — even if facts could tell otherwise. These “limiting beliefs” box us in, and the only way to overcome them and break out of the box lies in seeing the box in the first place. Success as a small business owner which, let’s be honest, most contractors are, often relies on facing and overcoming these limiting beliefs.
Let’s talk about just a few.
A Lack of Skills
For years, I told myself that I sucked at math. I excelled in math in high school. In fact, I ran out of available math classes after my junior year (which, to be honest, probably says more about my school district than me). Then, I didn’t have a math class for three or four years. By the time I took college algebra, I struggled. A lot. That struggle taught me to doubt. That doubt lingered on as a limiting belief.
I no longer tell that story. It took a lot of trying, stubbornness and trial and error, but now I do all the bookkeeping for the small business my wife and I own. I built interactive Excel profit and loss and cash flow statements, as well as a balance sheet, from the ground up. I acknowledged the story I told myself, and looked for a very direct way to make it untrue. I turned a story that tore me down and limited what I could do into a powerful narrative that instills confidence.
Just don’t ask me to do the long division in my daughter’s grade school homework.
We Can’t Find Good Employees
I hear this all the time when I talk to contractors and manufacturers in the drilling industry. I’ve written it in this space before. But, let’s be honest: This thinking limits industry growth.
All limiting beliefs have a foundation in truth. This industry has real struggles finding the next generation of hands. Some of those struggles, though, stem from employers looking for no’s instead of yes’s. People who, even subconsciously, expect to fail will find a way to do it every time.
Get creative. Look for yes’s. Visit high school shop classes. Partner with trade schools and community colleges. Sell drilling as an adventure. In some ways, it’s not. Drillers have to sometimes wade through cold, ankle-deep mud to get the job done. But other times, they get to see a breathtaking sunrise over a remote jobsite in a country their friends will never visit. Find a yes in a field of no, and help prospective employees see it too.
Breaking Through Other Limits
I know some folks who only ever see yes’s in professional and personal life. I’m not there, and you may not be either. But practice absolutely helps in breaking through limiting beliefs.
The two earlier examples just touch the surface. Limiting beliefs for contractors might include:
- I don’t think it’s possible to break $1 million in revenue for this small company.
- I can’t find enough customers to grow this business.
- I can’t afford the new rig that will really let me compete with the next guy.
Think of the sentences you say all the time that start with “I don’t” or “I can’t.” Those limiting beliefs put boxes around what we imagine as possible. But, by facing those beliefs and using a little dogged creativity, we can — at least in one aspect of our lives — go from zero to hero.
What do you think? Is there an “I can’t” story you find yourself repeating? Did you break through a limiting belief of your own to find success as a contractor? Tell us. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.