The Perfect Inaction Tale of Bruce and Sheila Wannabeeze
Bruce and Sheila were your stereotypical ‘Aussie battlers’ husband and wife team. Their favourite food was meat pies; their favourite drink was from a green can; they loved holidays in Kuta, Bali; they thought all politicians were ratbags and their favourite food was a Sunday morning hot dog at the local hardware store. They had a small café business with hardly any customers, or at least none of the type of customers that she had imagined they would attract. There’s no disparagement with any of those descriptions, except for the lack of business acumen that had turned her fantasy into a nightmare.
It had always been Sheila’s dream to own the perfect café. In her vision, respectable, middle-to-upper-class business professionals would be purchasing top quality food and paying top dollar to frequent their establishment. She had this hazy image where she could see men in pin-striped suits and ladies in beautiful dresses chuckling together over the white painted tables with red and white checked tablecloths, sipping on their chardonnays against a backdrop of delightfully coloured flower arrangements. Sheila would sometimes pause to engage in idle banter with her regulars, whose cheeks were always rosy with excessive laughter.
The reality was somewhat brutal in comparison with the Hollywood portrayal of the perfect café in her mind’s eye. The shabby and run-down enterprise featured wobbly, splintered wooden tables with uncomfortable chairs – the sort you might find in a soon-to-retire dentist’s waiting room and which would fill you with about as much gleeful anticipation of the experience ahead of you. Sheila had planned to upgrade these chairs and tables as soon as they could afford it, but Bruce had insisted that he needed the 4-wheel drive for fishing trips this year, so the ‘profits’, that were mostly made up of GST owed and staff superannuation money had been suitably diverted.
The business name was B & S Best Nosh Emporium with the slogan ‘You can bank on it!’ (She thought that the implied high quality of cuisine would attract the nearby bank staff for their lunch breaks) but someone had graffitied the sign out front and changed it to ‘Bull and Shit Nosh Emporium’ and the slogan had been amended to something that you almost certainly wouldn’t want on your lunch break sustenance! Bruce was going to paint over it when he had a free weekend, but he needed ‘the right paint’ and besides, he was waiting for a paint sale to come up. Sheila said there was no rush anyway because customers would find it funny.
The Impact of Criticism
The wine was an unlikely part of the dream because they had never got around to applying for the liquor licence. They had planned to get one for the past three years but Sheila’s sister-in-law, Tasha had warned them that she’d heard from a reliable source that the paperwork was too hard. Sheila didn’t want to be reminded of her academic shortcomings by tackling something that would trigger her feelings of inadequacy. She would never forget how the schoolteacher in her country town of Bumtruck, Doris Taskmaster used to pick on her in class and call her a stupid little girl who would never amount to anything because she couldn’t spell. Her Mum even gave poor Sheila a clip around the ear for being stupid when she read Doris’s comments on the school report. Thus, the liquor licence remained but a pipe dream.
The menus were printed on recycled paper, which would certainly encourage the greenies she had thought. She had meant to get around to having them laminated, but at least the sauce stains and childrens’ nose-pickings helped to cover up the spelling mistakes. One of these days she was going to look around for someone who knew how to spell properly and design stuff that could help her – Tash said she knew someone who knew someone she was going to ask on Sheila’s behalf. Sheila could rest easy knowing that someone would get around to it for her soon.
Facing Up to Reality
Sheila was also aware that something wasn’t right. They just didn’t get enough customers and most of the ones who did come in her were new faces who didn’t seem to come back. Bruce said he was going to do a survey and ask people what they thought or wanted but the boss was getting him to do overtime and they needed his job’s income to help pay the café’s bills. Besides, Sheila couldn’t do the survey until she was really clear on what the questions needed to be and until she found that person who could spell stuff properly for her. They had even discussed getting a Business Coach to help them, but that would have to wait until next year because they couldn’t justify spending money on luxuries!
Bruce and Sheila knew that the café was approaching dire straits and they weren’t talking about the rock band here. They would have to get around to looking at doing something about it, and soon (ish).
To be continued…
Why Do We Wait for Perfection?
I have been known to sometimes joke that ‘There aren’t many of us perfect people left in the world!’ Now, I would consider myself a pretty self-confident chap, but even I am obliged to admit that I do have faults or that other people can do a lot of things better than I can.
I know a lot of you have probably fainted in shock and protested ‘No Tony, that cannot be. We think you’re perfect’. Sadly though, it’s true – my wife confirms (all too frequently) that I have not yet become the consistently perfect being that I might aspire to be.
In fact, I think it’s fair to say that ‘Nobody is perfect’. The religious people have been telling us all this home truth for years, but do we listen?
So, having accepted this notion of imperfection, why do we get stuck in our business sometimes in procrastinating on projects and telling ourselves that our product or service offering isn’t ready yet, that it’s not good enough for public consumption or that our marketing needs tweak after tweak before we can risk showing it to anyone, let alone our customers? We know it could be better, perfect even, in our dreams, yet somehow, we hold off on doing something about it whilst we await the perfect moment that we can get it perfectly right.
We put things off, just like Bruce and Sheila, even when the consequences could be disastrous and the benefits of taking action instead could be huge.
What’s that all about?
The Fears that Keep Us in Chains
In third world countries they train baby elephants not to run away. They do it by tethering them to a small stick in the ground that the babies don’t have the strength to pull away from. Elephants reputedly never forget, so as they grow older, their masters gradually change the stick to slightly bigger and sturdier ones. By the time the elephants are adults, they could easily rip that stick out of the ground, except for one thing. They no longer believe that they can. They have become conditioned to accept that they can only move within that circle surrounding that stick.
As we grow older, we too can become prisoners, enslaved by the words of teachers like Doris Taskmaster and the reinforcement of inadequacy from those who loved us most and who totally meant to do their best by us.
“Be careful!” and “Don’t climb too high!” they yelled as they prepared us to proceed with caution in a world fraught with danger. “It’s probably not for you” they would warn as they sought to shield us from the bitterness of failure and disappointments. The ‘System’ means well, but it limits us and tells us to settle for average.
So, we mature, with a lack of self-belief and a fear of failure; or a fear of embarrassment; or a fear of being judged by others; or even the ultimate baffler, we grow up with a fear of success.
What Could Bruce and Sheila Do Before It’s Too Late?
The situation of Bruce and Sheila Wannabeeze is one that could apply to many good folk in our fast-paced, highly competitive, social media-driven society.
Far too many Bruce’s and Sheila’s have businesses that go under before they get around to doing something about it.
The issues at play here could occupy a whole thesis rather than just a blog post, but here are a few of the many possible quick tips to consider for those who see elements of this story in their own situation:
- Take Responsibility – When the chips are down, you need to be your own best friend and realise that before ‘it’ will change, ‘you’ must be willing to change, which means thinking differently, learning new things and taking different action to make it happen.
- Clarify Your Values, Vision and Purpose – Most people never ‘get around to’ doing this. If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything. If you don’t know what you want or why, how the hell is the Universe or anyone else who might help you, going to know how they can help you?
- Develop Enthusiasm – If you’re not enthusiastic about your mission, which is the driving force behind your business, how could you expect staff, customers or suppliers to be confident about why they should get involved with your venture? Would you hire someone who has no enthusiasm? Obviously not. That’s how important it is.
- Commit to Learning – Figure out the skills and knowledge, or even personality gaps in your business. Find those gap-fillers. If you know there’s stuff you don’t know and you know you should know it, but you don’t know what it is that you don’t know – talk to a Coach, whether it’s me or someone who resonates with you for whatever reason. I’m not the only guru for everyone and I don’t have all the answers, though I have coached literally thousands of people to improve themselves in my career, but the world is full of resources, so tap into them and most importantly, follow through and apply that new knowledge.
- Be Consistently Ethical – You’ve probably been told things like ‘Money is the root of all evil’ or that ‘Only ruthless people are successful’ but it’s just BS. It’s what you choose to do with money that counts. For every occasional rip-off merchant who made it big, there are way more who ended up being repaid by karma. If you focus on doing the right thing in all of your dealings, you’ll build a trusted brand, you’ll massively improve your chances of success and you’ll have a far happier life in the process.
- Build Belief with Action – As you climb the small hill you can see the bigger peak beyond, and so on, until your view is from the heights. Of course, it is human to have self-doubts, but history has proven many times over that those who build their belief, achieve greater things in life and are more fulfilled than those who don’t.
- Invest in Yourself – The same people who will fritter away money on trivial purchases or frivolous pursuits may never see the value in self-improvement, and sometimes it’s hard to see your own potential. Many of my clients have remarked that I believed in them more than they believed in themselves, and certainly initially, so that belief was then transferred to their minds and hearts. ‘If he believes in me, then maybe I CAN do this’ they thought. So, find mentors, coaches and courses that can all help you to be the best version of you that you can be.
What Happened to Bruce and Sheila? (I know you want to know!)
Scenario One – They never got around to any of points one to seven above. While they waited for that perfect moment, to get things absolutely right, the café across the road took some imperfect action and made a fortune. Bruce and Sheila went broke and lost the car and their house. The old graffitied cafe sign sits in the back yard near the barbecue area in their rented property, next to the ‘Gone fishing’ sign as a constant reminder of their procrastination. Bruce intends to mount it on the fence one day. He never goes fishing because his second job is still paying off the café debts. Sheila is thinking about running off with the gym instructor, but she’s waiting for the right moment.
They frown a lot.
Scenario Two – They engaged a mentor and coach (it might even have been me). They got serious about wanting to do better. They listened to ideas and advice. They took action. They changed for the better. The business grew until they sold it for a big payout. They started a bigger and better business and now they take their children on holidays overseas that will educate those kids way beyond what they had previously thought possible. They all go fishing together in exotic places.
They all smile a lot.
Be a Friend
You may know some good, hardworking battlers, some Bruce’s and Sheila’s, so if you want to help them, you know what to do:
You could suggest that they subscribe to my blogs or tune in for a webinar. Subscribe to Tonys-Blog by Email
You could suggest that they invest in themselves by buying my book.
You could suggest that they contact me and arrange to have a chat about how I may be able to help them.
Sometimes, one of those resources can trigger an ‘Aha’ moment that leads them to change for the better.
Or, you could mean to do any one of those things and tell them later how you had meant to suggest one of those options, but well, you know how life just happens to you…