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The Disease of “Nobody Believes in Us”


Tell me if you’ve heard this before:

  • They said we couldn’t do it
  • Nobody thought we would win
  • It’s us against the world

Or a hundred different variations of the same theme. Nobody believed in us. We had to do it on our own to prove the doubters wrong. We were successful when everyone else thought we wouldn’t last.

Let’s acknowledge one thing: It’s usually trope. It’s a figure of speech. Most of the time, it might be a couple of people against you and seven billion people who didn’t even know you exist. There is no “they” or if there is, you can call them out by name.

Here’s the problem, though: The “nobody believes in us” mythology comes off as petty when exposed to the light of the truth.

Consider Michael Jordan. The myth that gets told is that he was cut from his high school basketball team. I hear this one all the time, from motivational speakers to casual observers of Jordan’s career.

Jordan wasn’t cut from his high school basketball team, though. From a Sports Illustrated profile on Jordan’s high school coach:

He was still Mike Jordan then, not Michael Jordan, just another sophomore guard among 50 eager boys competing for 15 spots on the varsity and 15 more on the junior varsity. There was no doubt that Mike Jordan could handle the ball, but his shooting was merely good and his defense mediocre. Mike Jordan was seven or eight inches shorter than Michael Jordan would be, only 5’10” at age 15, and at least one assistant coach had never heard of him before that day.

“Michael — well, Mike — Jordan was placed on the junior varsity level. Uh-huh? He was placed on the junior varsity level. He wasn’t cut away from the game that made him.”

He was placed on the JV team because he was the same height as I was at 15 years old. Yet Jordan, master of taking slights — however minor — and making mountains into molehills for competitive fuel, convinced himself that he was cut.

When you look back at his hall of fame induction speech, it’s hard to get past the myth that he created. You get the sense, even after being recognized at the pinnacle of basketball’s greatest players, that it wasn’t enough. It was never enough.

* * * * *

I talk a lot about competition with our clients. It’s definitely something to pay attention to, of course. But most of the time, when I chat with your competitors, there is a good chance they don’t think of you the way you think they do. That’s if they even think about you at all.

More often, it’s your organization against:

  • Macro or microeconomic business pressures that affect everyone
  • Market awareness of the problem you’re solving or alternative solutions
  • Yourself (whether cash flow, processes, prioritization, or a hundred other possibilities)

Nobody may believe in what you’re doing, but conversely, nobody is probably working against you either. At least in any active or conscious way.

Instead of being head down, focused on what you’re great at, and getting the word out, you’re spending precious mental energy and time on beefs that don’t exist, scores that don’t need settling, and working towards something your clients don’t care about. In the process, you look like someone who’s priorities are out of whack or whose pettiness interrupts their own success.

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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