Here’s why its so hard to manage yourself (and what to do about it)

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I think one of the key insights to leadership is that the toughest person you will ever manage is yourself.  Forget trying to control kids or spouses or coworkers.  It’s you (and me) that’s the problem, not them.

Wow, is this ever true in my case.  One of the comments in my DISC Personalities ™ profile is that I am ‘a poor subordinate worker.’

I have a hard time obeying rules or submitting to people, which is both good and bad.

I wouldn’t have been much good at sales if it had occurred to me to obediently followed the ‘no soliciting’ signs.  Or if I had stopped cold calling when someone called me a pest and to please go away.  I just think, “Their loss.”

On the other hand, I would probably have fewer speeding tickets and a happier marriage if I could stop knowing everything for 10 minutes and take advice humbly for once in my entire life.

But if you’re going to win in life at work and at home, you’ve got to be making progress in this area.  Here are some suggestions to help you thrive and survive:

Understand your personality type

This isn’t small, it’s huge.  Many business leaders I work with tell me this is the most important thing they learned while working with me.

It’s key to understanding what you should be doing more of, and what you should limit doing.

I remember sitting with a mentor when I was young who looked at my profile and said, “Right; great idea, do it right now! And then struggle to complete it! Does that ring true?  That’s both a strength and a problem for you.”

That single insight was mind blowing for me. Somehow, he was able to see through all of my masks and pierce through to my soul. I sat naked right in the middle of Dennys staring at my now congealing moons over my hammy wondering with what strange alchemy he could know so much about me so quickly.

Turns out, he was just reading from my profile.  Which you can write and read for yourself in about 10 minutes.

I know I bang this drum all the time, but if you haven’t yet done so, do yourself a favor and take my DISC Personalities assessment. It’s free.  I made it free because every other reputable tool costs money, and I wanted it to be available to everyone.  See it here:

You can also join people from all over the globe (literally) who have taken my free course. You get a certificate of completion and will understand this tool thoroughly when you’re done:

Some questions to ask to help you figure out your unique genius

So, a huge part of managing yourself is about doing what you’re good at.  Or what you’re genius at.  We all have something.  Here are some questions to ask yourself to find this out:

What have you been good at doing for as long as you can remember?

In high school were you the:

  • organized kid (administrator)
  • troublemaker (entrepreneur)
  • bossy one (organizational leader)
  • trusted confidante (solid team member/contributor)
  • class clown (sales leader!)
  • art kid (creative innovator)

Probably your strengths have followed you for a long time. Keep taking advantage of them.  You’ll just get better and better at things you’re already good at.

What do you do that when you do it, you lose track of time?

Watching movies doesn’t count.  Nor does eating.  And no, that other one doesn’t count either as you can’t/shouldn’t do it for a living.

But there are some jobs that just make time disappear.  These are signs of huge areas of strength.  Pay attention!

What tasks make you feel strong?  Even magnificent?

We all do jobs that we’re good at that tire us out.  I’m a pretty good parallel parker, but if I had to drive all day for a living, I’d find a way to end it all.

But some jobs fill you with energy and strength.  Another clue.

What tasks on your to do list do you eagerly jump to do first?

If an actual human needs a response, I’m on it immediately. With joy.

If a prospect and attendant details needs to be entered into Hubspot, somehow I’m always too busy to get to it and have to cram the night before the team meeting.

Here’s a huge hint:  Work on, not in your area of weakness

If you do that, self management gets really easy.

Figure out how to ‘pay the rent’

One of my early mentors (thanks Mark!) taught me this.

We all have ‘rent’ that needs to be paid at work.  Once the rent is paid, people get off your back and you win yourself some freedom.  But if you don’t pay the rent, you’ll be micromanaged and harassed and maybe even fired.

What’s your rent?

  • A sales quota?
  • Clients who say they’re happy?
  • Accurate, on time, financial statements?
  • Showing up to certain meetings and waving the flag?

There are probably a small handful of key duties that make you indispensable.  And if you don’t get them done, you’re not valued at all.  And the other stuff that fills your day doesn’t matter all that much.  Make sure you know what the important things are.

I’ve been to umpteen conferences and read scores of books and I’ve ended up using a handful of tools and rhythms that work for me.  Probably .01% of the content I’ve learned/heard/read about I’ve actually applied.

And that .01% is all I’ve needed to have a pretty great life.  Figure out those rhythms that make all the difference for you.

What are your self management secrets?  Love to hear them in the comments section below.

“Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as the chief obstacle”

-Jack Paar

The secret of getting ahead is getting started!

PS  I’ve just added a new course on how to run the 5 basic meeting types that every leader should know about.  Check out  the course preview here:

And use the discount code trevor20 to get a 20% discount off the cover price.  It’s valid for the next 30 days.  If you’ve already purchased my Leadership Fundamentals bundle, you get the course for free and can start on it today!

Trevor head shot in office

Trevor Throness is a speaker, consultant, and author of “The Power of People Skills.”  He is also co-founder and senior instructor at

Find more about “The Power of People Skills” here:

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Written by Trevor Throness
Trevor is a veteran coach, keynote speaker, and the author of the book “The Power of People Skills” released by Career Press NY in 2017. He’s also written for or been featured in places like Forbes, Inc, The NY Post, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, CEO Magazine, and numerous podcasts and interviews.


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