“Second-Place Thinking” Just Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

When I set out to be a copywriter, I was riddled with self-doubt. If you’re like me, sometimes you focus on the reasons why you can’t accomplish something instead of focusing on the reasons you can.

“I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not good enough.” These are just a few of the thoughts that undermine your success.

Feelings like this easily turn into frustration and despair. They stop us from taking necessary chances and achieving our goals.

I have the perfect example from my school days of how negative thinking can slow down or completely destroy success.

One day a year, we’d compete against each other in track and field. When I was 10, despite the fact that I’d finished first in all events the year before, all the talk was about another kid, Jimmy Argent.

Everyone told me how fast Jimmy was and that he was a cinch to win the 100-yard dash. Eventually, I believed them.

The race began, and something miraculous happened. I was way ahead of Jimmy Argent! Then I started doubting myself and thinking that something wasn’t right. With about 20 yards to go, I slowed down. Jimmy Argent zoomed past me and won the race. I finished second.

Don’t Let “Jimmy Argent Thinking” Defeat You

“Jimmy Argent’s gonna win” thinking affects us all. More than once, it’s made my productivity shrink to almost nothing. I’d sit there and convince myself I didn’t have what was needed to become a professional copywriter.

One big way this doubt surfaces is in the persistent feeling that “I don’t know enough.” But I recently discovered a way to overcome this feeling. It sounds simple, but it eliminated those doubts as soon as I put it into action.

The trick to overcoming that “I don’t know enough” feeling is to … well, to make sure you know enough.

Problem was, to reach my goal of becoming a professional copywriter, I had been focusing too much on the writing. And with all the writing I was trying to do, I’d pushed learning about copywriting to “when I’m able to get to it.” Which translated to “seldom.”

So now I schedule time to learn about copywriting. Every day, I read something that enhances my skills as a copywriter … something to give me new ideas on how to make my headline more effective, my lead more compelling, or my close more convincing.

And every day, I have the satisfaction of knowing I’m moving closer to reaching the career goals I’ve set for myself.

The Real Crux of This Strategy

The heart of this strategy is to have all your short- and long-term goals written down. Then develop daily, weekly, and monthly schedules to turn them into reality.

I include time in my schedule for that all-important self-education. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I know exactly what I have to accomplish that day.

I learned how to write attainable goals … and how to reach them … from a great new AWAI program called “Making the Leap.” It’s taught me dozens of tips and strategies (like the self-education one I just told you about).

I wish I’d known all this a year ago. I know I’d be further along in my career than I am now. But, of course, there’s no sense in looking back. It doesn’t matter what missteps you’ve taken in the past. It only matters what you do from today on.

Even so, I sometimes imagine myself jumping into a time machine and traveling back through the years to put the “Making the Leap” strategies into action.

One of the things I’d do over is that 100-yard dash against Jimmy Argent. It would turn out right this time. I’d have the first-place ribbon. But more importantly, I’d have the satisfaction of knowing I never gave up just as I was about to win the race.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: July 3, 2006

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