In the early days of our business, before it was controversial, Steve and I Airbnb’d an apartment in our building as a way to subsidize our life and generate some reliable monthly income.
Over the years, we had more than 100 guests, which allowed us to observe the bell curve of people’s problem-solving skills, and how much of it is tied in to their beliefs.
And this was on full display when it came to opening the door with the key.
You see, it was an old building, and the key sometimes required a slight jiggle to open the door. I’d say around 95% of our guests had absolutely no problem. But once in a while, I would get a frantic call or text from someone who was “locked out!” because in their own typed words, “LOCK IS BROKEN!”
Of course, I knew it wasn’t the lock.
But that didn’t matter; I couldn’t ever convince them of that. I’d inevitably have to show up in person and (easily) open the door for them, at which point they’d often get defensive, insisting even more adamantly than before that the lock “didn’t work.”
It wasn’t working because the person didn’t have the real key to opening the door: the confidence that it would work.
I know plenty of people who “fail” this in life (hello, husbands!). Those who are quick to assume something is broken, doesn’t work, or won’t work, rather than assume it works and that, perhaps, another try or a different approach is needed.
But in my experience, unless you show up to the situation with the resolve that it absolutely will work—whether it’s a doorknob that doesn’t open easily or your business that isn’t working—then 9 times out of 10, it won’t.
As Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you believe you can or can’t, you’re right.”
Opening The World Of Possibilities
There are two kinds of people in this world, and you can tell which one you are by taking The Doorknob Test. It’s simple: when presented with a key that doesn’t open a lock, what is your first thought? Do you think it must be the key or the lock that is broken? Or do you think it just means you have yet to figure out how to jiggle the key to get it to work?
If you can commit to the latter, the world is your oyster.
I’ll give you another door example: Our office is in an old renovated warehouse building in Brooklyn, and we lock the door with a huge deadbolt.
Our office also has a handle on the door with a cheap push-button lock that we never use, but over the past eight years, there have been a handful of times it has accidentally, and we can’t get in because we don’t carry that key around. Luckily, it’s one of those locks you might have on a bathroom or a bedroom door, so it’s not that hard to open with a credit card if you’re crafty like me (a skill I proved on the record when our old office-mate, Cole of Find Fat Fish fame, sent me into the hallway with only a credit card and bet me lunch I couldn’t get in. Don’t worry; he put his money where his mouth was about 30 seconds later).
A few weeks ago, I got to the office for an 8 a.m. Zoom meeting with about 15 minutes to spare. I dropped my bag, turned on the Nespresso, and ran to the bathroom. And wouldn’t you know it? When I came back to the office, I found that the stupid doorknob had locked behind me for the first time in more than a year.
I had nothing with me—no keys, no phone—because I had just put down all my stuff inside the office. I didn’t even have my wallet to use a credit card to pick it (a move I had become a pro at). And I had a meeting in 10 minutes! Plus, it was early, so nobody else was in the building.
What did I do next? What I didn’t do is say to myself, “welp, this call isn’t happening.”
I started going through my options with rapid-fire speed: I needed a credit card. Where could I get something like a credit card?
I ran downstairs, hoping that the ever-present, increasing pile of undelivered mail that reliably crowds our building’s mail room would have some junk mail with a credit card offer with a fake card inside that no one would miss.
But for the first time in the history of my occupancy, someone had apparently decided to toss the pile! Argh! I dashed over to the trash area and scanned for any useful supplies, like cards of any kind or maybe a crowbar?
Aha! Cardboard boxes!
I ripped off a piece and was back upstairs in a flash. I tried to use the credit card technique, but the cardboard was too thick and soft. Argh again!
Time was really running out, but I persisted. I sprinted outside and across the street to our local coffee shop. I yelped from the doorway: “I know this is really weird and random, and I’m sorry I don’t even have a mask on, but I’m locked out of my office. I have a meeting in five minutes, and I need something shaped like a credit card. Can you please help?”
“No problem!” said the barista. They had a stack of old gift cards in a drawer. Success! I thanked her profusely and ran back upstairs.
But the hits kept coming. It wasn’t actually a plastic card; it was paper with a plastic coating, so it was cheaper and flimsier. As I frantically tried to pick the lock, it was shredding into pieces.
As I furiously worked, hunched over at this door, I was sweating—not just because it was that oppressively hot part of the summer, but also because I knew my call was starting any minute, and I couldn’t even tell them I wasn’t going to make it! They were going to think I just forgot, and there was nothing I could do about it.
It wasn’t a high stakes moment, but my mindset and resolve were being put to the test.
After I jammed the first corner of the card into the crease between the door and the frame, it shredded too much to be of use. I turned it and proceeded to shred the second corner swiftly. Then the third. With less than a minute to go before my call, I had only one corner left.
I stood up for a second, sweat pouring down my face from the heat and the stress, and I focused all my attention on my resolve that It. Would. Work!
“I will open this door with this last corner. It will work because it can work, and I’m going to make it work. Pia, you have done this before, and you will do it again right now.”
With confidence, I gave it one more determined shot and bam!
The door popped open because it had to! The cool air of the air-conditioning enveloped me in a sweet blanket of victory, and I wasn’t even late to the call.
Now, when I think about the people who have called me when the metaphorical or literal door doesn’t open with the key, I’m pretty certain those people would never go downstairs to check the mail room for credit card offers they could borrow and definitely wouldn’t rummage around the trash or go so far as to ask a coffee shop for a plastic card.
I’m not really sure what they would do because I’m not them. They might just walk home and, when convenient, send a lengthy excuse and apology email to the missed meeting attendees.
When You Think There’s Always A Way, There Always Is
(Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve actually broken into places I’ve been locked out of quite a few times over the years, but those are stories for another day…)
It’s like when you’re moving a couch, and it doesn’t seem like it can fit through the narrow doorway. I’ve always been the one to say, “Come on, guys, we will make this work!” And push the group to keep trying. Sure enough, I haven’t had to saw a couch in half yet.
And I know why it always works: because I believe it will. And I believe it will because, over the years, I have approached whatever I’m doing with the resolve that I can and will make it happen. Each time I do, it strengthens my resolve for the next time.
This resolve is what everyone needs in their business.
I recently interviewed a fellow business owner who exemplifies this principle in action, and it’s remarkable how dramatically it has turned into growth in her business.
Rachael Wonderlin has been in my higher-level coaching program LEAP for the past year, growing her authority and her business. It’s clear that her can-do and will-do approach has manifested into more money, better clients, and additional opportunities to grow in a way that lets her spend most of her time doing what she loves and does best while hiring out for everything else.
If you want to know what’s possible in your business when you adopt this attitude, check out our podcast episode and learn all about it. Amanda shares tons of stories about how many people told her that the model she wanted for her dementia-care consulting company, Dementia By Day, was not possible, and how she refused to listen and instead jiggled the key to make sure the door opened.
You want this kind of success and want it quickly? Want to Show Your Business Who’s Boss? This is always the biggest difference-maker. How do YOU show up in your business?
Is The Lock Broken Or Do You Jiggle It?
Ask yourself: Are you somebody who tries the key in the lock, and when it doesn’t open, assumes it’s broken? Or are you the person who assumes it will open when you just find the right way to jiggle it?
It’s time to start believing that the lock is never broken, and you do have the key that will open it (and if that doesn’t work, I’ll kick that mother down!).
Next time you’re in a situation where something doesn’t work the first time, pay attention, and notice what your brain is telling you. Do you assume it’s broken or won’t work?
I dare you to decide that you just have to find the right way to try it again and choose to figure it out, believing that it will work. And even if it doesn’t work, if you start training your mind in small ways to think this way, it will pay you dividends for life in your business. Then you can open any door you please.