[Cross-posted form Inside Retailing.]

What is the hardest thing for people to do? What is the hardest thing for you to do? Have you ever watched IDOL – the TV talent quest (or any show like that) wondered ‘why has no-one ever told them that they couldn’t sing’? But you see, people have told them that. They just failed to accept it.
Because ACCEPTANCE is the hardest thing to do.

It is hard to…

  • accept who you are (and who you are not)

  • accept that there are things that you don’t control

  • accept that you are responsible for the things that are wrong in your life (and business)

  • accept forgiveness

  • accept that you may be wrong

  • accept responsibility

I could go on, but you get my drift. How does this apply in life?

The prevalence of any number of addictions, from weight-loss to drug addiction, is proof that people failed the acceptance test:

  • They failed to accept that they have a problem

  • They failed to accept personal responsibility

  • They failed to accept help

The high divorce rates are symptomatic of:

  • failure to accept each other

  • failure to accept change

  • failure to accept responsibility

  • failure to accept differences

You may argue that failure to accept the status quo is the stuff that great achievements and amazing innovations are made of. There is some truth to that. But let’s no confuse discipline and perseverance with denial of reality.

No matter how much you believe in ‘the secret’ or the ‘power of dreams’, I doubt anyone reading this can crack the 10-second barrier in the 100m sprint; so let’s learn to accept reality and move on.

But what has this to do with running a (retail) business?

When you run a business, you will receive a lot of advice; from customers, staff and consultants. As a consultant I get to see how people process ‘advice’ all the time – and what I see as the first reaction is how people get defensive.

No matter what the cold facts are, the first reaction is to justify why things are what they are. And why it became that way. And why it is too hard to change.

  • When someone tells you that your service sucks, you should believe them instead of telling them why they are wrong and what they don’t understand about your business.

  • When someone says you should invest in better systems, maybe you should buy one instead of finding reasons why the current one is good enough.

  • When someone tells you that you are too expensive, you could find a way to lower prices or change perceptions rather than explaining that it is the supplier’s fault.

  • When someone says you should change the way something looks, you could change it rather than justifying why it has always been done that way. Does this mean that one should always accept advice in good faith? Of course not:

In the first instance, when someone gives you unsolicited advice about something personal and about what is possible and not possible – IGNORE it.

When someone gives you advice that is based on their experience of an interaction with you and your business – EVALUATE it and assess it on its merits. Be aware of the temptation to justify it and to rationalise it away. Make a level-headed decision about whether there is any merit in the advice and then act on it or discard as appropriate.

When a consultant or trainer gives you advice, IMPLEMENT it; because presumably you are not stupid enough to employ a consultant who has no expertise in that area.
Ask any alcoholic. Ask any divorcee. Ask any bankrupt: Acceptance is the first step of a change in direction.

As long as the first step isn’t a knee-jerk reaction.

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