Two words holding you back from success

Recently I gave a talk to enterpreneurs at Runway East in London, which was a great success and resulted in emails from attendees thanking me for an inspiring and great event - some of them even asked me to give them life coaching. But before giving the talk, I was really nervous; the venue told me it had reached capacity and sold out, which for me increased the pressure to perform well. I had “performance anxiety”. Here’s how I overcame this.

Take the focus off yourself

First, let us consider the thoughts that were flying through my mind:

“I’m scared what people will think of me”

“I’m worried I might get tongue tied and people will think I’m an idiot”

“I’m frightened that no one will want coaching from me”

“People might think I’m a fraud”

“I’m terrified I’ll be rejected”

Did you notice a common theme in these thoughts? They’re all focused on me and I. The way I solved this was to ask myself this important question:

“How can these people be served in the most powerful way possible?”

I even said a little prayer before my talk, asking the Universe to allow me to be of service and to release me from the bondage of self.

And guess what? The talk was a great success.

Service Mode vs Selfish Mode

I’ve coached a few coaches who run workshops. Something I’ve heard commonly is the fear that a few participants might be able to outperform the coach. When I hear this, this is what I tell them:

“It sounds like the problem is that you are putting the focus on yourself. So when you’re running the workshop, you’re constantly thinking of ‘what do people think of me?’ As a result, this causes you to have performance anxiety. Instead, try focusing on how you can serve the participants in the most powerful way possible.”

I then tell them to observe throughout the week whether they are operating in Service Mode or Selfish Mode. Here’s the difference between the two modes:

Service Mode

In Service Mode, the focus is more on:

Selfish Mode

In Selfish Mode, the focus is more on:

An analogy to help explain

A formula one driver needs their team to service the car’s wheels and oils during a race, or else they won’t be able to operate at the highest level of performance. Just because the pitstop team aren’t as good at driving as the formula one driver, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be of service or that they’re not needed.

Similarly, just because a coachee is better at a particular thing, be it acting, building a company, singing, etc. that doesn’t mean that the coach can’t be of service.

I’ve often said that coaching is a bit like driving a truck; the coachee is in control and they can look in the rear-view mirrors, but they still have several blindspots. The coach’s job is to help the coachee realise what these blindspots are that are holding the coachee back. In other words, what are the unconscious beliefs and actions that are preventing change?

And this is near-impossible to recognise all by yourself, no matter how self-aware you are. You cannot see or observe all the subconscious thoughts or negative behaviours until you are made aware of them. It is like trying to find the unknown unknowns.


Having had much sales coaching myself and hiring salespeople in the past, I can tell you that the best sellers in the world operate in Service Mode. They focus on the client’s needs and they are terrific listeners. They do perhaps 20% talking and 80% listening. They are empathetic and understand the client’s pains and problems, and they connect authentically and explore solutions together.

The worst sales people I have seen do a lot of pitching. They focus on selling and talking about their company and themselves. Ironic, don’t you think?

For those who think that to be successful you have to be selfish: think again. The two words which are probably holding you back from success are me and I.

I’ve coached people who are far more talented, older, wiser, richer and famous than me. But when I coach them, I focus on only one thing: how can they be served?

It doesn’t matter what gender, ethnicity or religion you are, or how young, old, rich, poor, fit, unfit you are. The only thing that matters is this:

Can you be of service?

If the answer is “yes”, then that’s all that matters. To quote Bob Dylan:

“You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

About Nick Hatter

The author of this article, Nick Hatter, has coached musicians, actors, CEOs, ex-military and other coaches. He is offering a free powerful one-hour coaching session to new clients.

About the Author

Nick Hatter
BSc (Hons), Accredited Enneagram Practitioner, NLP Master Coach, MAC

Nick Hatter is an Accredited Life Coach and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) Master Coach, and is certified in Positive Psychology for Coaching and Resilience Skills. He is an expert on well-being and is one of London's leading career and life coaches.

He has featured on BBC, Channel 4, Forbes, Metro, AskMen, HuffPost and more.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @theNickHatter

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