STOP going back to what is harming your business

STOP going back to what is harming your business

My friend Kivoli is essentially a recluse.

I tell her this often. Yet even though she prefers solitude or intimate settings over the spotlight, she occasionally shares a gem of wisdom so simple and so profound it makes me want to push her to center stage.

Now is one of those times.

She recently wrote on the wall of her Facebook page, “People always go back to what hurt them. #lifehastaughtme” (She often shares nuggets of wisdom using this hashtag.)


This is Kivoli's post.

This is Kivoli’s post.


This got me thinking. She is right.

This is true in life and in business.

People (until they realize and change their ways) typically tend to gravitate towards the things that hurt them. It is often a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

Think about the stories of many domestic abuse victims. For many reasons that I understand, it is very difficult for many to leave the relationship.

Think about the stories of those who have suffered emotional abuse. Many of them repeat the same types of relationships with the same types of people who’ll cause them emotional distress.

Here’s an example that’s a little less traumatic: When my nephews were younger, they’d often misbehave as children sometimes do. If the behavior were egregious enough, my brother or sister or mother or grandmother would explain what they were doing wrong and pop my nephews on the hand or leg as a consequence for their misdeed. My nephews would cry. And then, because they needed comforting, they’d run into the arms of the person who issued the consequence.

Another one: Business owners often approach me to ask how they can get people to purchase their wares on social media. These people are the types of entrepreneurs who constantly ‘sell’ on social. Their entire social feed consists of asking people to buy from them; no one ever does. They can articulate that their strategy isn’t working. I share new steps, a new approach. Still, they go back to what did not work before.

Here’s another: I once had a meeting with a client who was in desperate need of a visual brand identity makeover. The business was suffering. The visuals that represented the company actually repelled customers – not attracted them. I explained this. I shared focus group and survey results. Still, even equipped with information that illustrated their current brand identity was harming the business, the business owner refused to change course. It was as if the business owner was married to mediocrity – no matter how harmful it was to the health of the business. The business owner would not divorce the abuser.

It is a strange thing to see.

But I understand it now.

I have another friend, Sri, who studies and practices hypnotherapy, meditation, and natural healing. In her teachings of self love, she often explains The Theory of the Mind.

This is Sri. Here she is explaining the Theory of the Mind concept to workshop participants during the Ladies, Lipstick, and Luggage conference.

This is Sri. Here she is explaining the Theory of the Mind concept to workshop participants during the Ladies, Lipstick, and Luggage conference.

Sri’s Theory of the Mind tells us that we humans go through life and encounter experiences that our brains classify as either positive or negative.

When we experience hurt or pain our brains automatically classify that experience as negative. When we experience something that makes us happy, our brains automatically classify that experience as positive.

Makes sense, right? But here’s where it gets tricky. When we repeatedly experience a certain type of circumstance – whether positive or negative – our brains will eventually classify the experience as positive.

Thus, what is known equals pleasure or positivity. What is not known equals pain.

So, if we keep experiencing the same negative circumstance over and over and over again, our brains begin to file those experiences as positive – not negative. Things that counteract or contradict the negative circumstance we repeatedly experienced become painful or scary for us.

This is why “people always go back to what hurt them,” as Kivoli says. It is because whatever hurts is most likely a known experience.

And this is why it is so difficult to get many business owners to divorce what is harming their enterprises.

I know. I am guilty of it, too.

In my own business, I have held on to things that no longer serve me. I’ve gripped tightly onto clients who are not a good fit. I’ve held tightly to contractors and interns and other team members who just can’t cut it. And, in my early days, I stuck with offering services that weren’t exactly in my set of strengths.

I did this because I was too afraid of what my business would be like if I let them go. In the past 18-24 months, I have only been able to more than double my income because I severed ties with relationships and processes that ultimately harmed my business. It was #additionbysubtraction (another Kivoli gem) on steroids.

Even with those strides, there is still much work to be done. There are still relationships and processes I have to eliminate in order to grow. I know I cannot stay married to people and stuff that harm my business – no matter how comfortable and familiar they are to my world.

I know that I have to get uncomfortable. I know that real growth and change comes during times of discomfort. It does not come from continuing to go back to the stuff we know or maintaining the status quo.

Man, Kivoli and Sri are SO right.

Tell me. What are you holding on to that’s hurting your business?


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