"It’s more fun to be the underdog anyway – it makes for much better stories."
Sean Stephenson’s book Get Off Your “But”: How to End Self-sabotage and Stand up for Yourself is a collection of simple life lessons that can be applied to both your personal and professional life. Baked in are real life tangible stories that both he and others have used to overcome challenges. This book isn’t rocket science, and even before picking it up I naively thought I might be able to finally unlock the secret to fear and doubt. Turns out, most of what the author shares with us are things we already know. Despite knowing them, they may be having a profound affect on where we are in life. Stephenson summarizes his findings with the following key lessons:
Lesson 1: Start Connecting
Lesson 2: Watch What You Say to Yourself
Lesson 3: Master Physical Confidence
Lesson 4: Focus Your Focus
Lesson 5: Choose Your Friends Wisely
Lesson 6: Take Full Responsibility
Instead of going through each one, I decided to focus on areas that stuck out the most to me. Reading through you may find your own combination of lessons that stick out to you. The important thing you will find, though, is that ultimately you are the driver in this journey and whatever happens or doesn’t happen starts and ends with your own choices.
The Big Idea
Gift or Burden
"'Sean,' she asked quietly, 'is this going to be a gift or a burden?'"
Part of Stephenson’s previous work experience included time spent at the White House and the opportunity to meet and work under President Bill Clinton. He shares with us his Top 10 Lessons he found working with a top influential leader of our time. He applies many of those lessons directly into his book. For example, through story and vulnerability, Stephenson opens up about the physical disability he was born with and the choices that his parents and, subsequently he himself, had to make to decide how his life would be lived. This is an overarching theme I recognized throughout all the lessons – is this going to be a gift or a burden? Can you make a positive out of a negative? Are you going to wallow in your own pity or start taking action on what you can accomplish? There are plenty of things the author could focus on that he can’t do, but instead he focuses on what he can do. When this pivot happens throughout the many stories and examples provided you see the positive affects it has on the individual, sometimes in ways they weren’t even expecting. I actually would describe it as liberating. Deciding to shift towards a positive has the ability to actually liberate you into the world of what is possible.
Who Said That?
"Choose the words you are saying to yourself wisely: they are creating your reality."
There are many things that might hold us back from doing what we really love, making a choice, finding forgiveness, or moving forward. Whatever it may be, people tend to have a dialogue or story around why this is the case. Upon digging deeper into this, more often than not this underlying fear or self-doubt is coming from none-other than our own selves. So while it may feel as though there are things holding you back, likely it is really only yourself. So how do you break out of that? Following the lessons outlined by Stephenson is an obvious start, but I think the above quote is a simple and yet powerful reminder. We are the narrators of our own story, so take a moment to listen to what that narration is saying. If you don’t like it, then change the tune.
Fool Me Once
"Negativity doesn’t need your consent to affect you."
I found this to be such a profound reminder of how negativity, through others or our own thoughts, can and will affects us. This notion is weaved throughout the author’s lessons. In particular through Lessons 5 (Choose Your Friends Wisely) and 6 (Take Full Responsibility) I think it becomes clear how you can take action against negativity that may be in your life. Examining your tribe and who you choose to spend time with plays an important role in the amount of negativity you experience. Equally, I think taking responsibility for your actions, where you are and the choices you make has an incredible ability to liberate you from a feeling of constant doom and gloom. Negativity isn’t something that you can opt out of like ordering a burger with no onions. Even the most positive and self-aware individuals are affected by it. Instead of focusing on what we can’t change, you can focus on what you can and that is deciding who and how much time you will spend with people and to what extent you will let negativity influence and control you.
“The ability to manage your focus is one of the greatest powers. What you put your attention on determines what you accomplish, how you feel, and what you can handle in life.”
This book is about taking ownership of your life, your choices, and where you want to go. The lessons are designed to help you get the most out of any choices or changes you are willing to make to reach your goals. I am reminded again that ultimately the one person that can influence this the most is you. Think about a situation or a relationship that you feel is holding you back. Now instead of thinking about how it is preventing you from your goal, start thinking about what you can do, right now, to achieve it.