Being a self-professed Paul Arden super fan, Whatever You Think Think the Opposite is a book that I’d been meaning to crack open but instead, it sat in my office untouched for a good six months. Truth be told, I was a little afraid of what his advice would be — sometimes I play it too safe in life and this book is all about breaking the rules. I value stability but at times, I overcompensate to hold onto that sense of familiarity instead of taking big chances that scare me to death. So I finally picked up this book and read it cover to cover in a day, all in the hopes that it would inspire us rule followers to loosen up a little and face those things that scare us head-on, for better or worse. It delivered.
Arden’s trademark humor peppers the opener with “Let us start off on the right foot by making some wrong decisions.” In this day and age, we’re often afraid of being wrong, and this is especially so on the internet. At times, it feels like observers are standing by idly, waiting to jump on our mistakes but on the flip side, are slow to congratulate our triumphs. But we all make mistakes (and will continue to) because we’re human. And that’s how we learn. What mistakes have you made lately? In the end, did they actually benefit you in some way you hadn’t expected?
At The Blogcademy, I talked at length about the power of differentiation when it comes to branding. I love what Arden had to say of the subject. “Original ideas are created by original people, people who either through instinct or insight know the value of being different and recognize the commonplace as being a dangerous place to be.” Trying to look and act like everyone else will do little but leave you in the pile with everyone else. It’s clear that playing by the rules often leaves us feeling more trapped. Arden relays that if you’re feeling this way, “it’s not because you are making the wrong decisions, it’s because you are making the right ones…the problem with making sensible decisions is that so is everyone else.”
For me, the most important point of the book was defining the difference between wishing and wanting. Whereas “I wish” equates to “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” and leaves us wishing our lives were different, “I want” demonstrates leadership. It boils down to the assertion of “If I want it enough, I will get it.” Successful people don’t take no for an answer. They work towards finding a way to make the life they want a reality.
But how do you get there? Arden says that “Getting what you want means making the decisions you need to make to get what you want.” What a mouthful! He goes on to say that “The unsafe decision causes you to think and respond in a way you hadn’t thought of.” Think about all those times were you were caught in a bind because the safe plans you’d made fell through. When you lost a client or a job or a living situation fell through, how did you react? How did you survive those times? Did you come up with some far-fetched, downright crazy idea that panned out even better in the end?
The more time we spend online observing versus going out into the world and doing, the more our imaginations take over. I’m guilty of getting caught up in a never-ending whirl of blogs, inspiration sites and social media time sucks. And what I’ve realized is that I never walk away feeling better about myself. All that time spent searching, observing and living vicariously through others’ lives keeps us from being truly productive. Arden made me think hard about this when he says, “Everyone wants an exciting life, but people are afraid to take the bull by the horns. So they take an easy option for an exciting life. They live their excitement through other people.”
I’ve always been a big believer in putting plans into action and then fixing them as I go and Arden endorses this mindset as well. Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. The pursuit of perfection will have you waiting around forever. Instead, set deadlines and just launch already! This has always been my mindset with blogging. When I started, I was still in school for design. I was still figuring out the ins and outs of blogging. I was young, enthusiastic and made changes as I learned. In a way, being a bit naive and not over-thinking your plan will get you further faster because you’re less afraid of being wrong or taking those big chances.
Arden says, “There is only one person who can determine the shape of your life. You. What are you going to be?” It’s up to you to simply change your life. And if your plan doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. I got a good dose of perspective when I was reminded that “No one is going to cut off your right arm, take away your motorbike or put you in jail if you don’t succeed.” So just go for it. Follow the path less traveled; you might be pleasantly surprised where it takes you.