Happy 2011: Are bad habits a form of self-protection?

Happy 2011 to everyone out there in the translation blogosphere!

To start the year off, here’s a very interesting interview I came across: sports writer Bill Simmons interviewing New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell. Both Simmons and Gladwell draw some interesting parallels between sports and the rest of life, but my favorite is Gladwell’s take on why certain people (in this case athletes, but it could be translators) “don’t work hard when it’s in their best interest to do so.” Gladwell posits, and I’d agree, that failure caused by poor preparation is a way to insulate oneself from a more awful possibility: failure caused by a lack of ability. Gladwell applies this theory to golfers Tiger Woods (an obsessive preparer on the golf course, whatever his vices off the course!) and Phil MIckelson (who states that he didn’t pick up a golf club for 5 weeks before a major tournament), saying “…it’s really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn’t work hard. It’s a form of self-protection. I swear that’s why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I’ll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating…”

Let’s apply this to the business of freelance translation. Hopefully you achieved some or even most of your goals for 2010. But as for the goals you didn’t achieve, did you fail because you didn’t follow through or did you fail because you followed through and still fell short of the target? I’m with Gladwell on this one; it’s a lot easier to tell yourself that you didn’t meet your income goal because you didn’t have time to do your marketing than it is to accept that you marketed and marketed and things didn’t pan out. Therefore, it’s a lot safer not to do the marketing so that you have that excuse in your back pocket.

So here’s a resolution for 2011: whatever your business-related goals are, give yourself permission to really, really try to meet them. Rather than protecting yourself with the usual “not enough time,” “too much else going on” types of excuses (I’m as guilty of these as the next translator!), give those goals your best, most honest and most thorough effort. Accept that you might not reach them, but try to drop the self-protecting excuses!

3 Responses to “Happy 2011: Are bad habits a form of self-protection?”
  1. chris.durban@gmail.com January 7, 2011
  2. Allison Ahlgrim January 8, 2011
  3. Alexis W January 10, 2011

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