02. January 2020

Have you ever been in situations where you simply don’t understand why things are just not working out for you? You try and try, give it your all, put your heart and soul into it and yet you feel you are getting absolutely nowhere?

A once dear friend of mine found himself in that situation, sitting in front of me in tears and frustration and repeating that he was trying so very hard – always – and yet failing.

My response was that perhaps he was simply trying too hard. He asked me to explain what I meant by trying too hard, and this is something that I would like to share with you. It may not have anything to do with rejection directly – not at first sight – but I believe it fits in rather well here anyway as it is quite a challenge.

That said, this is my very personal understanding of trying too hard:

It starts with having an idea of how things should be or how you want them to be. I believe that we should have goals, self improve all the time, be honest with ourselves and others, reevaluate situations time and again.

One of the things that tend to stand in our way is our own impatience. We have an idea as well as an ideal in our head, often driven by our own unrealistic expectations but also so often driven by the expectations that others have in us or we believe that they have them. Expectations that are simply impossible to meet but still we try – often too hard.

As my friend is a business man, I will try to give an example that I have experienced several times in companies and businesses, when the numbers went down significantly and they started trying too hard (in my opinion).

Several years ago one of these companies was sold to investors and these investors saw a company that had amazing worldwide growth for the past five years. Certainly a relevant aspect to the decision making to buy the company.

Numbers started going down already before the deal was finalized, not all too significantly yet, but due to an unexpected crisis (which can occur in any business) this downward spiral continued. Now please bear in mind that I only have a very rudimentary knowledge of economics but I have seen a lot and made my own (possibly completely demented) conclusions. So please be gracious with a complete amateur and bear with me, I will get to the point.

A lot of companies in this situation do the following – they panic. I have seen exactly this happen several times in my career. I do of course understand that an investor has mainly one thing in mind – a ROI. In my eyes a clever investor invests long term (I know reality is often different). What I have also seen that sometimes a business needs to shrink itself into a healthy state again. This can be an opportunity for something new, something healthy and stable, even something truly great. What happens when you panic is usually the same – the need to take action, any action (more often than not, the wrong action).

In the last case they racked their brains to increase numbers to somehow meet the targets for the fiscal year. What better way than to launch an incentive. A great idea in theory and alright if you do it once in a while. But if the first incentive doesn’t do the trick you launch the next one, and the next one and so on… What happens is very simple.
1. Nobody does anything anymore without an extra incentive on top of what they are getting anyway.
2. As one incentive follows the next you become predictable and sales actually go down again as people wait, holding sales back because they are waiting – surprise surprise – for the next incentive. If it is not what they have hoped for, they simply do less to nothing as they wait for the next – (guess what) – hopefully even better incentive – bigger better more! You have opened Pandora’s Box
3. Especially in this certain business, when there are only a certain amount of distributors and a certain amount of customers that have a certain amount of capital available. If that is spent on an incentive than it is likely that there is less or no capital left for the following month and the downward spiral continues.
4. The distributors start to panic, create their own incentives or simply start screwing people to sustain their business. This causes
a. disgruntled customers
b. a bad reputation (next crisis to follow)
c. sales go down even more
d. it turns unto a full-fledged catch-22 situation. You have to do more incentives or other mad things that cost you dearly to just stay in business.

Why am I telling you this? They try too hard and risk losing everything instead of looking at other options. Customer relations for example. What does the customer really want and need. Why does he need it and can I comply with these demands or do I have to rethink my business model altogether?

Trying too hard often entails wanting the right thing but doing the wrong thing to get there and being too impatient.

I hope this – very simplified view – makes sense to you. I am not naive and know very well that there is a lot more to it than that but give me some credit for trying hard and not too hard. So that is an example of trying too hard in business. But I am guessing that you are more interested what this means on a personal level.

I would like to start with a very personal example.

I have tried too hard for a great part of my life. Coming from a rather loveless home with parents that were mere providers, I was never taught that I am enough, that I am ok the way I am, that I am likeable or even lovable if I don’t function as expected by others. My friend once told me that I aim to please and he was right. It was due to my upbringing, not being allowed to ask questions, not learning what a family should be, having no support or protection, no safe space to be. So you try hard (often too hard) to please, to be accepted to be liked and hopefully even loved one day, or to simply survive.

I never used to understand why someone would like me, and when it seemed like someone did I doubted it because I always thought I am not worth it. So I tried and tried, I tried too hard too many times.

This all started to change for me (and I am still in the process making great progress) on one beautiful summers day in 1999.

The birth of my daughter. I made a decision in that one moment when she was first put in my arms when I felt this unbelievable surge of purest unconditional love anyone can possibly feel. That was my one moment, my epiphany. I finally woke up from a very very long bad dream.

In all my relationships before that I simply tried too hard. I wanted things to work so I used what was given to me by my providers – I gave myself up and functioned, trying too hard and losing so much of myself along the way.

My children saved me from a life of constantly trying too hard. They drove me to be better, to see myself and develop. They love me just as unconditionally as I love them. I try, I often try hard, even very had but I do not try too hard as often as I used to.

To be continued…

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