OK so you’re not Oprah – now what? Getting beyond “Yes, but I’m not…”

July 18, 2011

But I’m not Oprah! (Cue the world’s tiniest violin playing.)

It’s a darn good thing, too, because if you were Oprah, that would mean that you were born into poverty in rural Mississippi in the 1950’s, to a single mother, then moved to the inner city where you were raped as a child and bore your own child when you were only 14, who then died. I have had some very difficult times in my life, but I would not trade any of it for that background.

No, no, you scream, not that part of being Oprah. I mean the incredibly gifted part that launched her into being one of the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet!

“Oh, sorry,” I say. But it’s like my real estate agent always told me – no, Marilyn, you don’t get to put this house on that lot.

“It was her destiny!” you then protest. (And you, apparently, were just not born to be great.)

I call this the “Yes but I’m not” game, and it’s a form of self-sabotage that is quite common. (A variation of the” Yes But” Game from Eric Berne’s Games People Play, a classic from the 1970’s.)

The classic Yes But Game goes like this:

You present a problem to someone.

They say, “Oh, well why don’t you try…” (Or “Have you thought about…” or other variations on making a helpful suggestion).

You then say, “Well, yes, but…” followed by all the reasons this isn’t going to work for you.

Yes But I’m Not is a new game of the current era, where rapid information has made it possible for us to know a lot about many other people. And one thing we have learned is that some people who have made it big had some, let’s call them “obstacles”, along the way.

Now, it is useful to understand that every story has a lot of parts. For example, in the case of Oprah, you could say, “Well, yes, but she’s incredibly talented/gifted/brilliant….” And that would be true. (You might also notice that she’s struggled with her weight, that she’s not married, things that many of you use as excuses. Hmm…) If you were telling the story of Bill Gates, after you’d been told the part about how he didn’t graduate from college, you could “Yes but he’s a genius.” That would also be true. Of course, there are lots of other people with just as much genius. Even if he’s in the top .001% in terms of brilliance, there are approximately 68,000 people just as smart as he is.

Just like I’m glad that I did not have Oprah’s childhood, I’m glad that I have not had to testify in antitrust litigation. I”m glad that I can ski at Vail without worrying about my family’s safety. Even Gates says that the fame of being one of the wealthiest people on the planet has brought unwanted attention.

But let’s get back to you. So you’re not Oprah, you’re not Bill Gates, and let’s save time and not list the other approximately 6,775,235,698 people currently alive. Heck, we’ll save even more time and not list those who have passed away, either.

You’re you. So what are you going to do about it?

Here is a problem with ranking wealth (or ranking anything, for that matter). Unless everyone has exactly the same, then someone is very likely to have more than you. Gates was only the richest man on the planet for a few years!

It isn’t about anyone else. You will continue to be told stories of people who attained things in spite of difficulties. There are those who love to dismiss those stories, who want to live in the negative, doubting, unhappy world of being victims. But the stories are worth hearing. There really is wisdom in them. Go do a bit of reading about Abraham Lincoln. The log cabin he was born in was only the start of his troubles, which ended with his murder.

I realize that with this post I have crossed my own line a bit, gone over from the side of always supporting you to being just a bit challenging to you.

When I read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which is, in my opinion, a must read book for those interested in wealth and success, the thing that I know draws these people together was their passion for something, and the way in which they pursued it. AND they had something many people wanted AND they didn’t give up AND they surrounded themselves with all right people AND…

I know quite a few authors. I know quite a few authors who have published something good (great…?) and cannot get the attention that they feel they deserve. Now, this is a cutthroat world these days, book publishing and promotion – have no doubt about that! But when I hear things like, “But I’m an author, not a marketer!” or “But I don’t have time to blog, too!” then I just hear another version of Yes But I’m Not.

(And authors, here’s a very hard truth. Only a very small percentage of the books are truly great. And sure, some people make money writing stuff that is junk, but they have something people WANT. One key to this is matching what you have to offer to what people WANT, not what you think they need.)

What excuses are you giving yourself for not succeeding? Is it that you’re:

  • Too poor
  • Too busy
  • No talent
  • Overweight
  • Unattractive
  • Unlucky
  • Born under a bad sign
  • Divorced
  • Married to a jerk
  • Married to a great guy/gal who takes up all my time

The list is as long as the human race. Those who make their dreams come true have no time for such lists – they are too busy doing what they need to do.

Your own success, however that looks, will be yours and yours alone. This life you have been given is your greatest gift.

When you hear yourself saying “Yes but I’m not…” then at least finish the sentence with “I AM…” You are just as divine and deserving as everyone else. There is plenty here for all of us.

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