For an entrepreneur, conviction is where it all starts. An exciting idea enters your brain and gets your juices flowing. You can’t stop thinking about it so you start testing the idea out in conversations with friends. After that reality check you begin making lists of considerations and steps to take to test out until you finally become convinced that you have to make the idea real.
However, not all good ideas come with conviction. To dissect the anatomy of conviction, let’s look at where it comes from, why it is important in business, how you find it and how you hang onto it.
What is conviction and why is it important?
On the most basic level conviction means that you have found your path and are walking it.
The people of acclaimed conviction—Christ, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and even Mother Theresa—all believed that a meaningful life was a life of service. The Boy Scouts instilled me with a similar ethic at an early age when I learned to leave my campground (i.e. the world) a little bit better place than I found it. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, sick or well, there is always a unique path of service that each of us are meant to walk.
People with true conviction are virtually unstoppable. They know in the very core of their being that what they are doing is what they were meant to be doing. Conviction is what gets us through the inevitable ups and downs of business. With conviction, problems are not barriers, but rather challenges. The idea of doing something else other than the work we believe in is unthinkable.
As a marketing tool there is nothing as powerful as true conviction. Conviction breeds enthusiasm and enthusiasm is like a magnet. One of the marketing truisms from the traditional business world that I agree with is that the person who believes in what they are selling will always be more successful than the one who does not.
On that premise corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to create training programs for their sales staff. Unfortunately, most of the money is wasted because conviction is not some piece of external knowledge like geography. It is a process that arises from within. You can teach people how to act as though they believe in what they are selling, but you can’t give them that belief.
Often those corporate sales meetings take on the feel of high school pep rallies, using crowd dynamics such as “us vs. them” and “we are winners” to rally the troops and motivate the sales staff to set goals and work hard.
But true conviction can never be imposed from the outside. Motivation that will be sustained for the long haul emerges naturally out of true conviction. Belief in your work is what motivates you to jump out of bed early in the morning and stay up late at night. Conviction instills meaning into even the most mundane parts of your work, like laundry and bookkeeping. With conviction, the lines between work and play become blurred. People who love their work believe they are the luckiest people on earth. My personal little secret is that I feel like I am always on vacation.
Walking your path of conviction is not difficult. The tough part is finding your path in the first place. In contemporary culture, recessions not withstanding, if you are educated and middle class the number of roads to be traveled is still virtually unlimited. Unfortunately, our culture does not always provide us with the skills to determine which unique path is meant for us.
We bodywork professionals are lucky on this score for three reasons.
First, we are, by definition, in a service profession and one that clearly makes a contribution to individuals and to society. This provides us with a strong sense of self-worth because of the inherent importance and meaningfulness of massage.
Second, we are fortunate because, for most of us, bodywork is our vocation. The Latin root of the word “vocation” means “a calling.” We got into massage because something deep inside us felt called to this work. Perhaps massage helped us through some difficult period of our life or we saw it help someone else. Perhaps we recognized early in our lives that creativity with our hands was important. For most of us, we did not so much consciously choose this work, as it chose us. That is good because that is the foundation of conviction.
Finally, bodyworkers have the advantage that we trust our bodies. Finding your path is not an exact science. But when we are on our path we have a “gut” instinct of the rightness of our choice that may actually defy rationality. But our body knows. Minor aches and pains disappear, depression and anxiety dissipate and the whole world just seems to work better around us. It is an ongoing challenge to learn to trust the wisdom of your body to tell you if you are on your path or not.
How to know if you’ve got it
Here are a couple of easy tests of true conviction.
Conviction, like love, is unquestioned and unconditional. If you are not sure you’re in love, then you’re not. Both true love and true conviction fit the wearer so naturally that they leave no doubt about their authenticity.
Another test is to ask yourself whether you would do this work even if no one paid you for it. If you won the hundred million dollar lottery today, would you quit your job tomorrow? No? Then you have found your unique path of service and have conviction. Walking your true path is a leap of faith you make because to do anything less would be a failure of courage.
How to keep it
Conviction must be nurtured. On a regular basis it is a good idea to remind yourself why you got into massage and what you get out of it. The answers to both questions will change over time, as you get deeper into your work. Initially I thought I went to massage school to learn how to do massage. Later, I realized that I went to learn how to touch and be touched. Still later, I understood that my path was to make skilled touch accessible through chair massage.
Besides paying the rent, chair massage feeds those parts of me that like to serve, to learn, to teach, to write and to grow. The benefits of walking my path continue to pile up in ways large and small that together add up to the satisfaction of a life worth living.
To find your path takes faith; to begin walking your path takes courage. But from then on it’s a piece of cake. When you are on your path doing the work that only you were meant to do, you are in the Tao, as the Buddhists say and you become like the Bible’s lilies of the field, clothed in glory. Life becomes easier, lighter. Decisions become obvious. Resources seem to appear out of nowhere.
Find and feed your conviction and success will follow.
Question: Does your conviction pass the lottery test?