Like 24 million other people… the biggest cable audience ever for a non-sport event… I tuned in to the Republican debate at the beginning of the month. And like most viewers, I wasn’t disappointed with the show’s entertainment value. Antics, rebuttals, arguments and of course Trump made for a lively viewing experience.
I’m no political pundit. I’m not a student of politics. I’m a business and executive coach. And as such, by default, I am student of people. What I took away from the debate had nothing at all to do with government and everything to do with governing. How these 10 diverse individuals govern themselves and how we can learn from them.
Let me be clear. I do not mean that we can learn from how they presented or conducted themselves that night. On that count, many of them arguably failed in the spotlight. What I mean is how they got to be on that world stage in the first place.
Whatever your own politics are, it is undeniable that objectively these 10 men are highly successful. Three governors, two former governors, 3 senators, a neurosurgeon and a billionaire make an impressive lot. It is probably fair to assume that all of them share certain obvious qualities: confidence, drive, diligence and ambition. Additionally, it might be logical to assume that they also have in common a personal and family background that made such success possible. That assumption, however, would be dead wrong.
Indeed, half of the candidates either came from political, highly educated or privileged families. Half of them came from humble or even troubled beginnings. Marco Rubio’s parents are Cuban immigrants and according to him, he had $100,000 to pay off in student loans. John Kasich’s father was a mailman. Mike Huckabee’s father was firefighter and a mechanic; Huckabee was the first person in his family to get a high school diploma. Scott Walker didn’t graduate from college. Ben Carson grew up in the inner city of Detroit; his mother married at 13 and had a 3rd grade education and his father, a discovered bigamist, left Carson and his mother financially devastated.
To believe in themselves, these men in particular had to disbelieve in what so many others take as gospel. That higher education is the only way to advance a career. That poverty defines you. That family connections are essential for success. Had any of these 5 candidates bought in to these “limiting beliefs,” it is unlikely they would have been in the company of those objectively considered more fortunate. Limiting beliefs are beliefs that we have about the world, our environment or ourselves that we accept as “true.” In our personal and professional lives, these limiting beliefs lurk everywhere. Leaders don’t show a lot of emotion; the best entrepreneurs are usually young. Good moms only work part time; deep relationships are complicated; it takes money to make money… and the list goes on.
Limiting beliefs hold us back for this simple reason: if we don’t believe something’s really possible we are unlikely even to try and if we do try, it’s often halfheartedly. What limiting beliefs are governing you? And what are they holding you back from? Maybe you too could be a presidential candidate…