Excuses, Excuses: Does Being the Underdog Serve You?

excuses underdogPlaying the underdog is a form of victimhood that forms a noble identity around the delusion of powerlessness and the fear of change. The deflection attracts good-hearted, sincere, hard-working people who truly mean well. However, their relationship to their own power is deeply conflicted. They unconsciously create an external world that matches their anxious inner world, creating a negative feedback loop that perpetuates chaos.

I want to share with you a mostly verbatim conversation I recently had with a business owner. I’ve known him for years, so we were able to go quite deep in a short amount of time, but the more I practice cutting through excuses, the more I think this is possible even with total strangers if they’re open and committed to the process. This is what I’m going to teach members how to do in the upcoming live seminar that starts January 10th. Have you joined the waitlist yet?

Here’s how that conversation went. You’ll spot right away how this person made himself into The Underdog.

Owner: “The labor market’s just horrible. We’ve raised our wages probably 15% over the last few years and our prices only about 5%. You hear everyone talking about this. Everybody’s fed up.”

J: “I don’t hear anyone talking about this.”

O: “No, well, in my industry everyone’s talking about it.”

[This is the Bandwagon Fallacy: justifying his frustration because others experience it, too.]

J: “I work with owners in your industry, and I don’t hear it.”

O: “No, eh?”

[I allow a long, uncomfortable silence here to weaken the excuse.]

J: “What’s useful about the belief that the labor market is tight?”

O: “We just can’t get any help.”

[This is Dissociation: failure to answer the question.]

J: “Did you answer the question?”

O: “What did you say? What’s useful?”

J: “What’s useful about the belief that the labor market is tight?”

O: “Oh, nothing.” [Laughter]

[Deflection via non-consideration of the question and humor.]

J: “What don’t you have to do if that belief is true?”

O: “I’m not used to actually having to think when I talk to people. [Laughs] I don’t know.

[More humor deflection.]

J: “Yeah, you do.”

O: “What’s useful…hmm…” [Nervous laughter]

J: “What are you off the hook from when you believe the thought that the job market is tight?”

O: “Well, it allows us to just live in denial, believing we can’t get help. There’s always help, we just have to pay them more.”

J: “Is that true?”

O: “Yeah, if we pay enough. We’ve gone from $11/hour to $12.50–

[Deflection: Attempt to hide in content when the issue is contextual and thematic.]

J: “Let’s come at this another way. So the belief is that ‘The labor market is tight.’ What does that mean to you?

O: “It means there’s not enough people that want to do a low wage job.”

J: “Okay, good, is that true?”

O: “Yes.”

J: “Do you absolutely, 100% know this to be true?”

O: “Yes, I mean, there’s empirical evidence in terms of–

[Another attempt to hide in content that I interrupt.]

J: “Yes or no. You absolutely know that to be the truth?”

O: “Would I bet my life on it? No. Would I bet yours? Maybe.” [laughing]

[Another humor deflection that I now choose to name to sober the conversation.]

J: “I want to challenge you not to use humor for the rest of the conversation. So you don’t absolutely know it’s true. How do you react when you believe the thought that the labor market is tight?”

O: “There’s a heightened level of agitation because I know there’ll be increased overtime, and staff getting tired. I’m stressed.”

J: “What else? You’ve been dealing with this staffing problem for years, what’s it like?”

O: “It’s the nature of the business.”

[This is the Bandwagon Fallacy again to avoid feeling the pain he’s causing himself.]

J: “That’s not what I’m asking. What’s your experience of this issue? You don’t know that it’s the nature of the business. You’ve convinced yourself that it is.

O: “It causes a lot of stress.”

J: “And how long have you been feeling that stress?”

O: “Since I started in 1995.”

J: “So for twenty-three years you’ve been living inside the stressful thought about the job market being tight?”

O: “Well, there have been times when it’s easier. It depends on the local unemployment rate.”

[This is a form of Dissociation know as Backpedaling. If the issue suddenly isn’t so bad then nothing has to change. This almost always indicates that fear of change is the primary issue.]

J: “Yes, but do you see the belief there: that the ease of staffing depends on the job market?”

O: “It doesn’t?”

J: “Is it absolutely true that your ability to effectively staff your business depends on the job market?”

O: “It’s about 80% of a factor.”

J: “Do you absolutely know it’s 80%?”

O: “No, but it’s a substantial factor.”

J: “And how do you react when you’re so sure it’s a substantial factor? Agitation and stress, right? Do you know why it causes that?”

O: “Why?”

J: “Because you have no control over it. You’ve identified that 80% of this problem is beyond your control. How’s that working? Are you enjoying that?”

O: “The reality of the situation is that any business owner is going to have to deal with the labor market.”

[Dissociation: Failure to answer the question.]

J: “Do you know that’s true? Is it possible that some owners experience the job market only minimally affecting staffing issues?”

O: “Oh yeah, sure.”

J: “The question here is about how big a factor it is and whether the challenge is beyond your control or not. That’s the belief you’re living inside of: that this is a problem that can’t be solved. That’s what causing all the stress. It also means there’s all sorts of stuff that you don’t have to do… like what?”

[Long silence]

O: “I don’t have to do things to try to change it. I get to just sit back and be a victim.”

J: “Exactly. When your manager showed me her recruitment ads, guess how good they were on a scale of one to ten?”

O: “A two?”

J: “Yup, and do you know why they were a two?”

O: “Because like me, she has the mentality that it’s hopeless.”

J: “That’s exactly right. And then I gave her five pages of information about how to write better job ads with the assignment to use it, and guess what happened?”

O: “She was too busy and didn’t do it.”

J: “Correct. I showed her where she had control, put her hand on the lever, and she ignored it, preferring to be a victim of overwhelm. What if you’re doing the same thing? That location you just closed after five years of it not being profitable enough—what did that cost you?”

[Long pause]

O: “Over $200k….”

J: “That’s what knowing what to do and not acting costs. Frozen in overwhelm, or analysis paralysis, or whatever—it’s costing you a lot more than that, probably, even as we speak.”

O: “Yeah, I never wanted to actually say that number out loud.”

J: “I believe you. I get that it’s painful. I’ve made mistakes like that, too, that cost me about the same. I know what that’s like, and the only way I know how to make peace with it is to learn the lesson so deeply, that you make it worth it. What if you could make that $200k lesson so powerful that you say ‘I’m so glad I lost that money, because it was exactly what I needed to get out of this victim bubble where I feel like I have no power in the world, and then I went on to make five times that amount with the changes I made!’

“That’s what’s possible for you here. But if you do what your manager did with the job ad, then you can expect next year to look a lot like this one. The lesson is that you focus on what you can control. When you focus too much on what you cannot control, you play victim to life, and nothing ever changes.”

O: “Yeah, I know, this is stuff we’ve talked about before.”

J: “That’s right, yes, and so ask yourself: if you don’t learn the lesson now, how expensive might the next lesson be? Life is obviously trying to get your attention. You can predict that life is going to continue to give you more and more opportunities to change this, and things are likely to get worse if you don’t.

“Life wants you to learn the easy way, but if you don’t listen, it turns the heat up—that’s accountability. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a mistake that you held onto that location for too long—that’s what you needed to do to learn the lesson. But now the invitation is to be proactive and ask ‘Where else in my life is that victim dynamic happening?’ This is the path to creating whatever you want.”

“Victimhood makes sure nothing changes. It’s entirely by design. The story that the job market is tight—what’s the effect of that? Obvious, necessary improvements in management don’t have to happen. You don’t have to look at the incompetent managers you have, don’t have to deal with training them, or replacing them, don’t have to learn how to manage yourself.”

Victimhood is a wall that surrounds you and protects you from change. [Click to Tweet]

“That’s the central issue for you. You’re too okay with the devil you know, and won’t risk the unknown. It took $200k over five years for you to risk the unknown. You don’t experience the fear of change, you experience the wall’s made up, hopeless stories about reality. And these excuses have become the culture of your business: everyone whining about how busy they are, how they’re doing the best they can, and how tight the job market is, etc. The cultural conversation is about what’s not possible rather than what is, because nobody wants to change. There’s no power in this, and your finances show the score.”

O: “Okay, I’m ready to change this. How do I get started?”



Are YOU ready to get started? My upcoming live seminar will teach you how to look inside and figure out where you’re putting up walls to protect yourself from change. The community members will be there to help support you in breaking down those walls and undoing the limiting beliefs, false assumptions, and habits that don’t serve you. Won’t you join us?

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