I recently listened to a two-part podcast by John Maxwell, the pastor-turned-leadership-guru, that truly resonated with me on where I am honestly my own worst enemy and liability in leadership. Below is an abbreviated transcript of the first challenging, inspiring episode:

Most of the people who don’t make it, don’t make it not because they can’t make it. They don’t make it because they do something to themselves along that journey that keeps them from being all that they can be in reaching their potential.

Here the first four of ten self-sabotaging mistakes that we have to eliminate to get out of our own way:

Number One: A Poor Understanding of People

And I have found that if you don’t understand people, it is impossible for you to reach the level of success that you could reach if you had a good understanding of people. And what I’m really wanting to say here in this lesson, in this part of this lesson is the fact that when we have a poor understanding of people, we are constantly going to be messing ourselves up. And there are a lot of things I can say about people, but let me just say three things that I think fit when we think about people here.

Number one is the fact that people are peculiar. And you have to understand that. And until you and I understand that people are peculiar, we’re going to always be tripped up. We’re going to be tripping ourselves up because we don’t understand this point. When I say they’re peculiar, I mean, they’re odd. We are a crazy bunch. And I say, we, we all are. We all have our idiosyncrasies. You tell them that the bench in the park has wet paint on it and they’ll touch it. People, we’re just weird. We’re just weird, odd, peculiar individuals. And we have to understand that people will spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. People want to sit in the front of the bus and want to be in the middle of the road. They think their problems are the biggest, their jokes are the funniest, and their kids are the smartest. In other words, all I’m saying is everybody’s weird.

Now, what I don’t understand about leaders is how leaders don’t understand this point. I watch people all the time and they’ll talk about people as if the person they’re talking about is one special, weird person. I mean, that’s just life. People are peculiar. And when we have a poor understanding of people, it is going to constantly keep us from being successful.

Now, let me say something else about people. They’re not only peculiar, but the second thing I want you to see is that people usually see things from their own eyes. And every scenario that a person builds up in their life is built from their own perspective that we all see from our own eyes.

And the third thing is that most people are insecure. Now, when you realize those three things about people. Insecure people resist change. They won’t risk. But when you understand those three things about people, and you begin to have an understanding about people, it will not only help you in dealing with them. It will help you in leading them. There is not a day in my life that I don’t get letters from people that would basically bring out these three traits. There’s not a day in my life that I don’t sit down and have a conversation with somebody that would not bring out these traits. And all I’m saying is, is that we have to have a better understanding of people. Relationship…so important. When we don’t have that, it’ll sabotage us.

Now, the remedy for poor understanding of people. Well, one, find the key to their life. Number two, show them their benefits, and then give them encouragement. I found that leaders can help people when they really want to be better in their relationships.

Number Two: Blaming Others

In other words, we’re talking about people who do this, make other people out to be the bad guys when things go wrong, and they just blame others. This will always hurt us…Well, in life it’s that way. When we start blaming other people, whether it’s blaming the boss for our problems or blaming our spouse for the home, or if we can’t think of anybody else blaming the kids, regardless of who it, when we begin to blame other people, we begin to sabotage ourselves.

I know an awful lot of people in life who literally constantly cannot see themselves, and they are always blaming others, or like the angry guy who jumped out of the car after he got into an accident and he said, “Why can’t you people watch where you’re going? You’re the fourth person today that I’ve hit.” Well, this whole issue of whose fault is it and always blaming someone else for our problems.

Don’t you know people who just absolutely cannot take the blame or cannot take responsibility for something? If we blame other people, what happens is this. For our feelings, our behavior, we give that person control over our lives. And what happens is we begin to see ourselves as a victim. You watch people who cannot take responsibility, have to blame others, and they always have a victim mindset. Somebody’s picking on me. This whole process of blaming others. And instead of keeping ourselves in a proper perspective, we look at ourselves as one being picked on.

Remedy for blaming others, assume that you’re a part of the problem. And by the way, usually we are. Very, very seldom is it one person’s fault. It almost always is both parties. Accept responsibility and admit your wrongdoing. Okay? Again, it’s tough to say I’m sorry or I’m wrong. I did it.

Number Three: A Lack of Focus

A lot of people never get where they need to go because they cannot focus in on what they should be doing…But when we lack focus in our lives, a couple of things begin to happen.

Number one is we waste time. You show me a person who has a lack of focus, and I’ll show you a person who waste an incredible amount of time. That’s just a fact. There are 37 hours out of 168 that we have during the week that are basically called discretionary time. In other words, the average person has 37 hours a week that they’re not on the job, they’re not eating, not sleeping, but are pretty much are taken up, perhaps with family, duties, errands or whatever, but it’s kind of more discretionary time. And then you begin to draw that out to a year. And the fact that in a year’s time, that’s almost 2000 hours. In a decade’s time, that’s almost 20,000 hours.

And as I’ve thought about that two or three times, I thought to myself, the people that will do the best with the discretionary time are people that have a focus, know what they’re really going to do. All I’m saying is if you lack focus, you’ll waste time.

If you lack focus, secondly, you not only waste time, but you will misuse your resources. What happens is if we lack focus? We don’t even know where to place our energy and our resources. And so therefore, we are constantly misusing those resources that we have. And when we really have a focus, we’ll use our energy and our resources the way that we should. Okay? Lack of focus. I just watch people all the time kill their chance for success because they lack that focus.

Remedy for lack of focus. Well, what are my interests, opportunities, gifts, and then go for it.

Number Four: Not Being Informed

When we’re not informed about the situation, many times we hurt ourselves. Sherlock Holmes pointed out the danger of being uninformed when he said, “It’s a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. And sensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.” In other words, without good information, you won’t see things as they really are. You’ll see them as you think they are. Good information. The important questions to ask myself, do I check out the reasons behind behavior I don’t understand, or do I just react? Do I gather enough facts before making crucial decisions? Do I act impulsively?

I’ve always said, decision-making is very easy. I’ve never had problems with decision-making. The issue is not decision-making. The issue is having all the facts before you, before you make the decision. It’s always an information issue. Do I gather enough facts before making crucial decisions?

Another thing, facts mean very little until they are rightly understood, related, and interpreted. It’s unbelievable what happens just because you’ve got the information. A lot of people, they try to make decisions when they don’t have information, and they’re not aware of everything going around them. And they make decisions from a very wrong or very narrow perspective. A lot of people sabotage themselves because of it.

Remedy for information, make no decisions without it, make person seeking decision responsible to obtain it. Did you read that last statement? This is absolutely essential. Make the person seeking the decision responsible to obtain the information for you. When a person walks in and says, “Well, what do you think?” “What do I think about what? I mean, come on, give me some information.” You can’t make good decisions unless you have information. And we sabotage ourselves when we don’t have it.

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