13. The inner critic and business success

Posted on Posted in 15th Anniversary

week thirteen

Are you successful? Your inner voice probably already shouted an answer, and it likely was not ‘yes’. One of the greatest challenges in life is managing your inner voice. I think being a business owner makes this challenge all the more difficult as you don’t have any outside criteria like a job description or performance rubric to measure success. Being left inside your own mind can be a dangerous place – especially for business owners.

Where (not) to look for a definition of success

Letting others define success or worse looking outside at others is a probably one of the most dangerous places to look. It is all too easy to look at others and let envy seep in. This poison paints everyone as doing great, eliminates any problems from their life, while at the same time magnifying every minor problem you have into a catastrophe. The inner critic is out to get you by telling you all the reasons you can’t and aren’t really any good at what you do.

How do you define expertise?

Two pieces of advice have helped me manage the inner voice that happily insinuates I am a fake and a failure. I wish I could give credit, but I don’t remember who shared this definition of expertise. They defined expertise as being able to talk passionately about a subject for thirty minutes. Sounds silly, but business ownership requires expertise, and this definition eliminates all the angst about others knowing more about something than me. I have expertise on a range of topics around branding and marketing. I can say that confidently having been in the industry for over twenty-five years, and continually studying and learning about how technology continues to shape marketing.

Advice from grandpa

The second piece of advice came from my mom’s father. My grandfather became a business owner later in life and he shared one piece of advice that has proved valuable. He told me, “Half the people you hire will not work out, so don’t sweat it.” Managing people is probably the hardest part of business ownership for me, so this advice has quieted the inner voice and helped me to understand what works for me and what doesn’t work when it comes to employees. I have had some successful hires and have had some spectacular failures. When it doesn’t work, I don’t sweat it.

Pursuing significance over success

You will always be your worst critic, but I have learned to return to my own definition of success and silence the inner critic by remembering certain truths: Owning Spire2 has allowed me to spend a significant amount of time with my family. It has given me freedom to make significant decisions, and it has allowed me to chose work that I find significant. Sounds pretty successful to me.


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Jeffery James
Jeffery James
Jeffery is the Creative Director and Principal of Spire2. He brings marketing expertise from a variety of industries. He excels at understanding clients' corporate objectives, translating them into brand positioning and executing marketing materials that exceed expectations.