I was intrigued by Andrew Waitman’s Money Talks column. In it he talks about a disease that inhibits growth of people in our society. A disease that does not kill the host but rather “actively works to infect all who come in contact with the host.” He says the disease works by “corroding the fabric of ambition and accomplishment.”
He calls this the doubt disease.
Has it ever happened to you?
Has anyone ever tried to corrode your fabric of ambition? Have you ever heard comments like “that will never work”, “that’s a stupid idea” or a sarcastic “good luck with that, let me know how it turns out” just after you shared your dreams, hopes or ideas?
Or has anyone ever tried to corrode your fabric of accomplishment by saying things like “you got really lucky with that…” or “that was really risky, you could have lost everything”?
Does this sound all too familiar? Have you ever shared similar comments with others?
Without contributing to much to the doubt disease, no pun intended, I will give the benefit of the doubt to those who are numbed by this disease and say that they don’t do it intently or maliciously.
Usually this vocalized cynicism or skepticism is based on their lack of knowledge or limited experience in the concerning area. These people are the same people who rarely identify with opportunities or solutions but instead fixate on problems. As a result of their internal self doubt it becomes infectious to all those around them.
What causes this disease?
The two biggest contributors to the doubt disease are fear and failure.
Fear can rear it’s ugly head in many ways but is usually a result of some sort of uncertainty. Plain and simple where there’s uncertainty the doubt disease is lurking. Failure on the other hand is as Andrew defines it is “simply an unintended consequence” the opposite of success. I agree with him completely. The unintended part is the key, however.
Have you ever set expectations for something only to have them, for better or worse, differ drastically from what you expected?
Certain things will turn out how you planned and others won’t. Just because life modified the picture you drew doesn’t necessarily mean anything. So many people get crippled and give up because of these unintended results. It’s the experience and what you learn from it that counts.
All results whether intended or not are not necessarily bad or good. Similarly all failures are not bad and all successes are not good. They just are. Andrew also points out that success is really just achieving ends that we desire. He concludes that since there are far more failures than successes, the doubt disease exists.
How can we achieve ends that we desire and rid the dreaded doubt disease?
I don’t believe any of us are completely immune to the doubt disease. It’s just a matter of frequency and magnitude. I also believe it’s part of our make up, just like emotion, and we can’t get rid of it. Nor should we want to. We should however, learn how to control our inner self doubt and stay far away from people who want to contribute negatively to our inner workings. Obviously, this is not as easily done as said. But the greater attempt we make on quarantining the space around us the less friction we’ll have trying to get where we want to go.
Without a doubt the single best contributing factor to building a strong immunity to fight the doubt disease is to focus on the bigger picture. I think there is no better quote that illustrates the bigger picture than the words from Steve Jobs Commencement address at Stanford:
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart” and every reason to doubt fear and failure.