How social pressure really looks like

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I am extremely picky about the people I spend my time with. I value time the most. I want to spend my time with smart, enthusiastic people, people who constantly improve, develop their talents and want to contribute to the world.

I police my every decision very carefully so that I don’t spend time with zombies or people who drag me down. Because zombies and energy vampires have a devastating negative influence on your life. They can suck every single drop of optimism from you.

With such a carefully selected environment, you can imagine how surprised I was when I got passive pressure from 8 out of 10 people (yes 80%) to whom I mentioned the big changes I’m making in life. 8/10 people who are already top of the top, crème de la crème of progress, success, productivity and personal improvement, on the domestic and international level.

Before we continue, I really have to emphasize something at this point. This blog post is not about accusations. It’s not that I’m not grateful and happy for every single friend I have in life. It’s about illuminating how we’re all wired as human beings. It’s about raising awareness for how we can all improve in encouraging each other to follow our deepest dreams and life visions.

It’s about becoming more aware of how we can put pressure on people and how other people put pressure on us without even being aware of it. I have to consciously discipline my mind all the time to not do the same to the people I love and to other people who share their goals with me and ask me for advice.

Now, let’s get back to the story. Just to refresh your memory or tell it to you for the first time if you don’t know it yet: after 12 years of hard work in pioneering the startup ecosystem in Central and Eastern Europe, I’m burning all bridges, leaving the startup scene behind, going into monk mode for 6 – 8 months to level up my game (IT and internet marketing competencies) and then I have no clue what I’ll be doing. I’ll definitely still be blogging and see how far I can bring this shiny and content-rich website.

Anyway, I sold my car, I’ll be living from my savings and will eliminate or minimize everything that isn’t connected with developing my competencies and this blog. No socializing, no mini projects, nothing. I’m making an absolutely extreme, drastic and dramatic move.

I was expecting more people to say something like :

  • Nice to hear that you’re following your dreams
  • Excellent, if that’s really what you want
  • It’s risky and crazy, but I like it
  • If you crash and fail (and I think there’s a big probability that you will) call me, I’ll always have a small project for you to help you
  • If you’re going to do this thing, here are a few good resources and things you should avoid and so on.

Social pressure

Instead, 8 out of 10 people responded with things like:

  • Why would you do something like that?
  • Learning how to code doesn’t make any sense, you’re a people person.
  • There’s always going to be someone who can do IT faster or cheaper than you ever will.
  • Aren’t you a little too old for that kind of big changes?
  • Why would you throw away everything you worked so hard for in the past 12 years?
  • You have status, you earn good money, you’re good at what you do, what got into you?

And also:

  • You can’t make money only by blogging, how will you survive?
  • What does your spouse think of that?
  • How is your spouse handling such a big change that you’re enforcing?
  • Will projects you were working on in the startup ecosystem even survive?
  • Wouldn’t you prefer to keep the projects you’re currently doing and try to learn all the things you want to learn in the afternoons and during the weekends?
  • Are you sure you want to do something like that?
  • Why don’t you go work for a blue-chip company X, I know they’re hiring?
  • I have a better project for you, if you’re interested?
  • And so on.

If you look carefully at the feedback above, it’s all more or less negative, all trying to convince you that a big change is a bad idea. Definitely all with good intentions! But it’s social pressure. It’s something that encourages your doubts and makes a big decision even harder.

Don’t forget that doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.

If you reveal your plans to 50 people and only 5 are excited like you are, while the other 45 think that you’re totally crazy and give you the “are you crazy/stupid” look, or only give you their humble (negative) opinion, that’s ENORMOUS social pressure. Social pressure that gives you additional reasons to not follow your dreams.

Well, social pressure never stopped me before and it couldn’t stop me this time. I feel 1000 % right about what I’m doing, I have a very detailed and systematic plan, I calculated my risks very carefully and I can accept the worst case scenario.

Every time you make big decisions, you definitely have to go about it in a smart way. One big stupid decision can take away years of your life. So I did a detailed analysis to be sure I’m not doing anything stupid. I’m taking a little risk with enormous potential gain.

Even if there isn’t any long-term monetary gain from my move, I know that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t make such a move now. And I don’t want to have any regrets on my deathbed. That kind of thinking is called Regret Minimization Framework.

There is only one important question. Would you regret not doing it on your deathbed?

If you’re going to make any unconventional moves, you’ll have to persist through C.R.A.P. – Criticism, Rejections, Assholes, Pressure. Even from people you don’t expect it from. It often happens that the people you think will support you the most show the biggest doubts about your plans.

People that surround you rarely put that kind of pressure on you on purpose. Most times, they’re doing it to protect you. Because they care about you. And sometimes maybe even envy you a little bit or are afraid to lose you. There are thousands of reasons why people are afraid of change.

You shouldn’t be afraid. You should follow your heart and take calculated risks, risks with low downside and high upside. Again, not any stupid decisions. Smart decisions made by following your heart and using your brain.

Nevertheless, you should accept that the first reaction from the society and your environment will probably be that you shouldn’t do it. You’ll feel some kind of a social pressure from the majority of people – either directly (don’t do that!) or indirectly (are you sure?). That’s nothing odd or rare.

That’s what happens 99 % of the time, no matter who you spend time with. Because nobody likes big changes and big moves – neither in their own lives nor in the lives of people they care about. That’s how we’re all wired.

There is only one way to make sure that social pressure doesn’t trample your dreams. Life vision empowered by a cause greater than every problem. You can also call it “why are you doing it”?

You’ll have to deal with social pressure if you want to follow your heart and your dreams. That’s why you need a strong enough life vision and a powerful emotional why that will easily overcome any obstacles on your way. Even social pressure. Even passive indirect social pressure, from the people you care about and who care about you. And all other obstacles.

Never let indirect social pressure ignite doubts in you. See it as an opportunity to show the world how strong and great you really are. Do it for yourself and do it for them. Who knows, they may even follow you when the right time comes.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Make sure yours is a daring advanture.

The key takeaways

When you’re making big changes in life, you’ll have to deal with social pressure. Most social pressure is unintentional and people aren’t even aware of doing it. They’re only doing it because they love you and want to protect you. Maybe some people can also be envious or have other reasons to block you. And there are always haters who gonna hate.

But to be really honest, that isn’t always the case. You can also get very good feedback that you’re doing something stupid. That is, especially from people who have already done it, have more experience than you, are already successful in what you want to achieve and so on, and at the same they really want to help you and give you additional ideas and directions for how to do it the right way.

So when making big changes in life, you should carefully analyze all feedback you get from the environment and categorize it into four catagories:

Encouraging feedback Discouraging feedback
Experienced individual Directions, Ideas, Traps etc. Don’t do the same mistakes
Inexperienced individual Appreciate Emotional Support and Care Ignore
  • People who encourage you, but don’t have any personal experience with what you’re trying to accomplish (great emotional support, but don’t listen to the advice).
  • People who encourage you and are already successful in what you’re trying to achieve (great emotional support, ask for directions, ideas, potential traps etc.).
  • People who put additional pressure on you and are successful in the same thing you’re trying to achieve (listen to them very carefully, see where the potential traps are and how you’re going to do things differently).
  • People who discourage you with additional pressure and have zero personal experience in what you’re trying to achieve (don’t bother with them at all).

Don’t just listen to feedback and let it discourage you. First become aware whether the feedback was positive or negative (sometimes it isn’t clear because of passive negativity), why you got such feedback, what the emotional background is, how extensive is the experience that the person has, and so on.

If the environment is trying to protect you from doing something really stupid, listen to it. But if the environment is unintentionally trying to stop you from following your dreams, follow your heart, just have an outstanding strategy for how you’ll do it with all the risks carefully calculated.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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