In this episode, I talk to you about 5 fallacies that trap leaders & kill futures.
- I’m a decision machine
- I need to be selfless
- I’m on my own
- I’m responsible
- I know the truth
Believing in those five fallacies put me in a place that I’ve come to call the Valley of Uncertainty. It’s where entrepreneurs and leaders fall into when fallacies and circumstances take over. They zap energy and competence and zap thinking about the future and things that progress. You wallow there for a while, and it starts to feel comfortable. Then suddenly, you’re in a place you don’t like, that you don’t know how to get out of. Fallacies help keep you stuck there, so you must identify them and learn how to overcome them, which you will learn in this episode.
Full transcript below.
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fallacies, decisions, future, talk, walls, selfless, stories, leader, facts, shifts, valley, assign, responsible, erase, entrepreneur, activating, uncertainty, episode, thinking, inspire
Mike Malatesta 00:14
Hey, everybody, welcome back to the How’d it Happen podcast, I’m so happy to have you here, as I am, every week, every episode. And as you know, if you’ve been listening to this podcast, my goal with it is to inspire, activate, and maximize the greatness in every one of you, in everyone that’s listening. And my goal, why that’s a goal, why that’s a mission of mine is because that’s what I’m trying to do for myself every day. And if not, if not every day, definitely every week. I’m focused on being the best that I can be in all aspects of my life, the best that I can be. And it’s hard. Focusing on that is hard. It’s a lot easier to focus on being the average that I can be or better than someone else, at least in, in my mind. So this is really hard. And every guest that I bring on, and every success story that I explore, I’m trying to get to the point where I can have you walk away with a little bit more confidence about activating and maximizing the greatness inside of you.
Today I’m going to talk about something that I think gets in the way, oftentimes, of achieving, maximizing, and activating that greatness. And it gets in the way of us imagining the futures that we want, and making those futures happen. And I’m going to call this, How to Overcome the 5 fallacies that Trap Leaders and Kill Futures. And if you’re like me, this probably resonates with you. I have a past, and I have experiences, and I have things that I believe, things that I tell myself. I’ve been conditioned in certain ways. And all of those things, and a lot of other things have sort of, you know, conspired along the way to help me, or prompt me, to make me create stories about who I am, and what life means, what business means, what future means, what all kinds of things mean, and I’m going to limit this to a business-to-business context today. But you know, a lot of those stories are just that — they’re stories that I made up. And I not only made them up, but I made up what I believe about them. And along my entrepreneurial journey, I discovered, like in an earlier episode, I talked about walls and tearing down walls, and fallacies are similar. I discovered that I had been living with certain stories, certain belief systems that I had assigned truth to along the way at some point, and they just weren’t true. That was just what I had assigned to them. So I’m calling those fallacies and there are a lot of fallacies that I have today.
Today I’m only going to talk to you about five. And those five are (1) I’m a decision machine, (2) I need to be selfless, (3) I’m on my own, (4) I’m responsible, and (5) I know the truth. And believing in those 5 fallacies put me in a place that I’ve come to call the Valley of Uncertainty; it’s a place where entrepreneurs and leaders of all kinds go or fall into or get trapped into when fallacies and circumstances create take over and they zap energy and they zap competence and they zap thinking about the future and things that progress, and you go there and you sort of wallow there for a while, and it starts to feel comfortable and then all of a sudden you’re in a place you don’t like, that you don’t know how to get out of. Fallacies help keep you stuck there. So let’s talk about a few fallacies. But before we start, let’s talk about what the definition of a fallacy is.
A fallacy is a mistaken belief, especially one based on an unsound argument. It’s a mistaken belief, especially one based on an unsound argument. As I mentioned, the way that fallacies get created is from stories, stories that we tell ourselves. Stories aren’t good or bad, they’re just stories. It’s what we assign to them that make them real.
So these were the five fallacies that I assigned realness and truth to, and I want to talk you through how I broke down those fallacies and changed the story that I believe. And I think that fallacies are so important to break down because whenever you have these fallacies that you’re living your life with, not only are you not getting the future that you want, but you’re also failing to shift. Pivots and shifts are super required, they’re a natural part of evolving in life, movement in a different direction, or a slight course of action changes is what shifts do and they’re there. They’re important to get through fallacies because if you fail to shift, if you fail to move forward, you tend to get stuck. And then you’re, you know, in a Valley of Uncertainty of your own, for example.
So these are the 5 fallacies. Starting with (1) I’m a decision machine. See if this resonates with you. I prided myself and I assigned value to the belief that I was really good at making decisions. I loved having the skill set and the awareness and tribal knowledge and whatever else combined together that allowed me to make quick decisions in my business. And I not only valued myself on being able to make decisions, I valued myself on the quickness with which I could make a decision, and how satisfied most people seemed with most of the decisions that I was making, at least in front of me, may have been a totally different story when they walked away. And eventually, I actually set up my company so that I had to make a lot of decisions. It was sort of setup like this where, you know, I’ve had all these people doing all these things, but ultimately, I set it up. So run a pass at me, you know; oh, yeah, let’s do that. And then, you know, so no one was really as free to act autonomously and to make their own decisions, they sort of came to me because that’s how I designed it. That’s how I thought I wanted it. And everyone just did what they thought I wanted it because that’s usually what happens in an entrepreneurial-run organization, and maybe all organizations. But what occurred to me, when I was in the Valley of Uncertainty, I was there for several years trying to figure out how I was going to move forward. I was making a lot of decisions, but I was making very few choices. Then it occurred to me that decisions were like these sort of quick things that I made for the reasons I’ve already talked about, and I assigned value to those and I made it so that those were coming at me kind of all the time, and it made me feel like I was doing my job, but what it prevented me from doing was what was really my job as the entrepreneur, as the leader. And that is, you know, thinking deliberately and intentionally about the things I wanted, the things we needed, the things in the future that had to happen, and then decide, you know, making a choice as to what those were and then bringing them back. So I look at decisions as sort of these quick kind of, you know, maybe even insignificant things. That’s not to say it’s not important, but then I started looking at choices as being the things I really need to be doing. As a leader, you know, making intentional, thoughtful, well-considered. choices about what I want to wear, I want it to be both me personally and the company. So that’s one. That’s fallacy number one, I’m a decision machine, or decisions versus choices.
Fallacy number two, I need to be selfless. I had no idea what I was doing when I started my first company, and probably the second as well. But you know what the saying is, if you put other people first, they’ll always have your back, and they’ll always take care of you. And if you do, if you don’t ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do, then that builds trust and it builds a team, and if you put everybody else’s needs first, you are going to win bigger in the end. I believed that, I practiced that. And it didn’t get me what I wanted. In fact, it made me frustrated. And it made me unhappy. I couldn’t figure out why modeling this behavior of being selfless wasn’t something that people saw and then acted on themselves. And so they actually took away the need for me to be selfless, because they took the incentive to take care of things that I had been helping them take care of. For example, and it was such stupid thinking, because I was modeling behavior that everybody saw and interpreted it as what I wanted. And why would someone get in the way of something that you actually want? So you’ve got this huge disconnect. And it occurred to me again, while I was in the Valley, that I had it all wrong, that this whole selfless servant leader thing that Level-Five leader Jim Collins talked about in his “Good to Great Book” was I had it backwards. So I just had to realize that if I didn’t spend time thinking about what I wanted, what I wanted my future to be, what I wanted my company to be, what I wanted our team to be like, if I didn’t take that selfish time to really apply myself to that kind of thinking I was never going to to be the leader that I could be. And I was never going to create the company that I wanted. And I was never going to be able to build the team that I needed, and I might say, deserved. So the switch for me came when I decided that I needed to get selfish. Before I could ever be selfless. See once I was selfish, and once I really had a handle on what I wanted, then I could build everything the way that I needed it to be in order to accomplish that. And then I could be very selfless again, because I would only be needing to help in the areas where I happened to have the importance or the necessary perspective or skill set instead of emulating it, and everybody else could do the things that they were good at. And so I wasn’t in a position where I had to put everybody else first because they were putting what needed to be put first first and they were acting on it and it just made me a much better leader. It made me a much better entrepreneur and it opened my eyes and my brain up that this amazing thing that was possible because I had been selfish. And because I would continue to be selfish when I needed to be in order to be selfless and unlock the potential in our company. So that’s fallacy number two.
Fallacy number three, I’m on my own. In an earlier solo episode, I talked about walls. As I mentioned, I built these walls around me for many, many, many years and I lived inside of those walls, and I thought that that’s what brought value to me, that’s what brought value to my team. That’s what brought value to our company. And in the dream stage, which is sort of stage one of the entrepreneurial journey, and maybe even in the grind stage, which is stage two, that may very well have been necessary. And I don’t regret having done it. But at a certain time, I’d learned everything I can from the people around me, I’d learned everything I can from our clients and customers. For example, I’d learned everything I could inside of these walls that I constructed. And, you know, inside of those walls I’m just becoming a bigger, sort of fatter fish in a smaller pond. And I needed to tear down those walls and get outside of them, because outside of those walls, that’s where were all the answers were. And all the people were and all the resources were to help me get thinking about where I wanted and needed to accomplish my goals to create my future. I know that everyone doesn’t suffer with that I’m on my own problem. It’s not a fallacy for everyone, but it was, for me. And in my experience with a lot of entrepreneurs, it may be even the most extroverted, the most networked. They are often living inside walls that are keeping them from their maximum potential. And I like to talk about it and inspire people to see and have the confidence and the tools to get out, break down, tear down those walls, and maximize their future greatness.
Number four is the fat fallacy — I’m responsible. So I took personal responsibility in my business for everything that was happening, especially the bad stuff. So when my partner, Butch, died as a result of being burned in a fire at one of our plants in 2003, that was about 11 years into our business. I felt responsible for that, personally responsible, as I had for many other things that that had occurred. And that was the incident that, I think, really dropped me into the Valley of Uncertainty in the first place. And I kept telling myself, “I’m responsible, I’m responsible, I’m responsible,” and it’s just building and building and building and building, and I could only take so much of that building on me. Not only was it a weight, but it was also a confidence-crusher. So every time I take personal responsibility for something, I’m saying, this is a part of me, this is who I am. And that’s a huge load, and it chips away and breaks away at your confidence. And when I was in the Valley, I am thinking about these things. I thought the way I need to process these things is that I have responsibility for them. But I am not personally responsible. In other words, I still have to deal with everything that happens. Just like every owner, every entrepreneur, every leader has to deal appropriately with everything that happens. But approaching it as something that is a part of you, a reflection of you, part of your DNA, that you’re responsible for is unhealthy. And I think it knocks you off course, it certainly knocked me off course. When I shifted that to I have responsibility for it. Like I said, it didn’t change the circumstances, that didn’t change the situation. But it made it about making progress through whatever it was, as opposed to getting stuck or dropping into a Valley that overwhelmed me, that I couldn’t possibly get past that ; it was not a reflection of me, but it became a reflection of me. So that shift from I’m responding to I have responsibility for was a fallacy that completely opened my brain, my mind and my, my mindset to progress to something that I could actually move forward and drag me and help walk me out of that Valley.
The fifth one is I know the truth. And this sort of wraps up the theme of this whole thing. Fallacies are stories, they are not good or bad. They may not be, you know, true or false. They just are. And, for me, going along with every story that I was telling myself I was responsible for was something that I was seeing as a truth. And about me. And some of them I didn’t like, I didn’t want those to be truths about me. But I felt like well, they’re true. So I didn’t know where else to put them. In other words. Until I started thinking about well, I can’t change facts; facts are facts. But a fact about me, for example, is not a truth, meaning it’s not forever. It’s just a fact. It’s just something along the journey that happened that, you know, whether I did, or it just happened on my watch, or whatever. And I needed to acknowledge that, but I also needed to make room for the rest of the story, the future story, because when I was trapped, thinking that those facts were the truth, they were limiting me in my thinking about where could I actually end up? Where? What did I want? And how was I going to get it. And another benefit of being in the Valley, it helped me think, and it helped me understand that I could erase the stories that I was telling myself, like in the old days when you had a chalkboard and erased it at the end of every day. Now, just because I erased it didn’t mean that whatever was on there was gone. It’s wasn’t gone, it was trapped in the eraser, you know, and it was in the dust of the chalk. But what it did with erasing it is create a freed-up space. So just like when you go into school, the next day, once the space was freed up, the facts were still there, and the chalk dust. But I now, instead of telling myself that’s on the blackboard, that’s on the blackboard, that’s on the blackboard, I was now able to say, Oh, my Blackboard is blank. So now what do I want to put on the blackboard? What do I want that to say? What do I want the facts to be? And how am I going to you know, create that story, the story that I want to tell? So fallacy number five is I know the truth. I can’t change the past, but I can make room for the future that that I want.
So, in closing, I just want to remind everybody that a fallacy is a mistaken belief, especially one based on an unsound argument. And I’m hopeful that going through those five fallacies, and there’s a lot more to those, of course, but going through those five fallacies that trapped me as a leader and killed my future for a period of time might also be happening inside of you. And you might want to think about that. And if you decide that that is what’s happening inside of you, I hope this inspires, activates and maximizes your willingness and your ability to erase that and start telling yourself the story you want to tell, the one you want to believe, the one you want others to believe that will make your future your property. Thanks for listening.
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