The Jonah Complex is defined as a fear of success which prevents the realization of one’s true destiny. Besides being the dumbest thing I ever heard, it is also the most asinine thing I ever heard. Fear? Of success? I guess this explains why everyone expects a trophy now just for showing up. Or we could Missy Elliot that thought and say the presentation of unearned awards has taught recent generations that no actual effort is required to succeed. When effort is required, they avoid it – wouldn’t want to get dirt on their delicate psyches!
This “fear of success” thing is so offensive to me that I had to look it up. And as you might expect, there is a medical explanation. Are you ready? The body responds to stress and excitement in similar ways. The body, which is always trying to protect itself, will eventually equate trauma with elation and your brain will urge you to avoid both. This will be a long, drawn out process, but by avoiding most of the risk in life you’ll also eliminate the possibility of sustained joy and success. Mired in the murk of mediocrity, as it were. How? By developing “coping mechanisms” (i.e. excuses). For those of you in sales reading this, does anything below sound familiar?
- You know more than your boss
No you don’t, sunshine. If you did, then you’d be the boss. I’ve learned something from every boss/manager I’ve ever had. I chose to garner the good, take it and mold it in such away that would spur my career. Sure, I’ve had bosses that I didn’t like. But I never thought that I knew more than them.
- You won’t follow directions
Won’t or can’t? Sometimes stupid just gets in the way and some people simply don’t want to do well. They don’t want to be the leader because they can’t give direction and they can’t (or won’t) follow direction.
- You have a problem for every solution
I have 2 gears. Problem and solution. If I’m not in one, I’m in the other. The problem gear is full of negative energy unless I quickly jump gears to the solution. Negative energy is draining. Except for the one stirring the pot and looking for followers. And it’s the same moron that can’t follow (or give) direction!
- Your pride trumps your hunger
Pride is crippling. False pride is paralyzing. I suffer from acute more-ism. The more I get, the more I want. And not because I’m greedy. But because I want to bless others and be a vehicle for good. I’ve suffered from false pride and still do on occasion. It sucks. It prevents me from moving the needle and recognizing more success. When I’m aware of it, I can silence the noise (negativity) and focus on the mission that matters.
If any of these “coping mechanisms” are part of your daily life, you will never succeed. Just for the record, I’m still having a real hard time with this whole “fear of success” concept. I do believe that we write our own destiny, and agree that fear will prevent us from achieving what is possible. I preach this gospel quite frequently, but what is most important is how do you recognize and confront the Jonah Complex head-on? I’ve thought about it, and rather than soar off on some theoretical, buzzword-infested, value-added blah blah blah, I’ll offer this idea. Ask yourself, can I do it? Can you run that half marathon? If you can’t do it tomorrow, can you do it after training? Can you exceed your sales target? If you can’t do it tomorrow, can you do it with the help of a weekly debrief of your efforts with the COO? Can you be happy and successful? If you can’t do it tomorrow, why the hell not? Sorry, I’m losing patience. As luck would have it, I blogged about how to tackle fear recently (see 50 Ways Afraid from March 9). The main idea was to identify what is holding you back and address it.
Address it unless you believe you have already achieved your destiny. Jonah tried to avoid his destiny – he ran from it and got three days in a whale’s gut for his trouble.
So You Won An Award – Now What?
Hollywood isn’t the only club that throws a big party celebrating itself a few times each year. We in marketing do it too. Of course, we may not have the same knack for bacchanalia as those lampshade wearing, banshee swearing, bodice tearing party professionals from the left coast, but we do OK. Yet this begs the question – after the last game of duct tape twister, after the last delinquent has peed in the sink, and after the last goat has been thrown in the pool, then what?
(No, I mean after the call to housekeeping.)
There are industry awards for top tech, B2B, automotive, content marketing, and many more. Winning an award, any award, is a blast and a great stroke for the corporate ego. But more importantly, an award is a (often unexpected) marketing opportunity. Internally, it tells your employees that they are collectively rockin’ the joint and should be proud (boosting morale). It tells them that their company is a great place to be with a bright future (boosting morale and retention). It even speaks to prospective employees and puts your firm on their job-seeking radar. It motivates. It energizes. It empowers. All that is great, but so far your award is an internal matter. Your company has just been honored in a public forum – RUN WITH IT! Develop a plan to leverage your award, and do it yesterday! If you do nothing I will personally encourage your employees to stake you to an anthill with a week-old box of Krispy Kremes in your shorts.
But Brian, how do I leverage my award? I’m so glad you asked:
- Create a press release and post it prominently on your website
- Share your press release through a wire service and via social media
- Have your PR people contact local media (everyone loves the “local company done good” story)
- Use the award logo liberally in your advertising
This last one is very important, because by advertising I don’t just mean “advertising”. The award logo can be shamelessly shilled in many subtle ways. Use it in product packaging, as part of company email signatures, in store displays, on business cards, on company swag like notepads, stationery and shirts, job announcements – the list is endless. All of this is (of course) in addition to including the award logo on the company website, in social media profiles, and in print/digital ads.
You must take full advantage of every opportunity to show potential customers how great your products and services are (and by association, how magnificent, insightful, and jaw-droppingly handsome you are). So follow my suggestions, or I’ll see you at the bakery….
Let me just tell you up front – this is gonna hurt. Not in the physical pain, King Joffrey meets the Terminator kind of way (50 knaves to slay), but more like the “hurt so good” manner of John Mellencamp meets Vlad the Impaler. This is gonna hurt, but there’s something in it for you.
How do you get ahead in this world? How do you grow, whether it be in intellect, in influence, in stature, in wealth? It takes work, people, and that hurts. No pain, no gain, right? But there’s much more to it than that. Anyone can inflict pain on themselves by single-mindedly focusing on a goal, by neglecting your friends and family, or by working too hard. Hell, if all it took to get ahead was pain then we’d all fire walk our way to the bank. No, the trick is to identify those areas where we come up short and do something about them. It’s gotta be surgical (50 strays to splay), like a smart bomb down the chimney of our insecurities. And believe me, this can’t help but hurt.
Why? Because if it was an easy fix, you would have done it already. If it was all good without the initial unpleasantries, we would run to it just like those monkeys in the lab that continued to self-administer cocaine until their heads explode. This requires a cold, hard look in the mirror and the question, “What is holding me back?” And the answer is always – fear.
Fear comes in many forms, and it can paralyze. Take fear of failure. Back when we dragged our knuckles, failure (to run fast, to gather food, to recognize predators) could get us eaten (50 ways to prey). So it’s no wonder that millions of years later avoiding failure is hardwired into our brains. But strangely enough, now that we walk upright and have turned the tables on our predators, there are even more ways to “die”. Comedians talk about “killing it” onstage, but on a bad night they can be “killed” – sometimes over and over again! Public speaking is a terrible fear for many. In fact, surveys suggest that as much as 75% of the population fear public speaking more than actual death. Fear of loneliness also drives many human decisions. Again, this is a hardwired fear that can be traced back millions of years to when individual survival was predicated on association with a group. Think for a moment of the problems we encounter by not severing ties with unsavory people or groups. And then there’s fear of actual pain. Pain is your body’s way of saying, “Hey stupid, stop doing that”, and to be sure you stop, it sends a cease and desist bitch slap at nearly 300 miles per hour through your nervous system.
So what’s the point? Look in the mirror, ask what is holding you back, and tackle it – now! Are you afraid to take a chance at work? Get a mentor, ask him or her to review your work, and then step up! If you’re afraid of public speaking, join Toastmasters. If loneliness haunts you, get a dog. Pain is subjective, and all of these actions will hurt in the short term. But don’t forget, there’s something in it for you. You can rise above your peers, outduel your competition and be a star.
50 played, touché.