Why I Banned the Word “Unbelievable” in My Office

Kelly Teemer
Jun 20, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

The following is adapted from Embracing Failure by Mat Pelletier.

A couple of years ago, we banned the word “unbelievable” in my office. No one is allowed to use that word to describe anything that happens.

In our profession, commercial construction management, nothing is unbelievable. And no matter how bizarre or unexpected a dispute or delay or setback might be, if it just happened, then it can’t be unbelievable. And if what happened to you today was unbelievable, what word are you going to use tomorrow when something even more unlikely or ridiculous happens?

Setbacks Will Happen

I banned the word in order to get everyone’s mind away from the idea that setbacks are unfair, unexpected, or should never happen. I want people in my office to think of mistakes, problems, or misfortunes as opportunities, not as incredible acts of fate.

In business, you must anticipate that things will go wrong. If you think the problem is unfair or unwarranted, you’re giving yourself an excuse to be delayed, angry, or otherwise thrown off course. You can’t do that and still succeed. You must treat problems and setbacks as part of the regular course. Problems are absolutely going to happen. Nothing is going to be smooth sailing. Nothing is unbelievable.

I want to reassure you that fear and adversity are not your enemies. I reached this conclusion through hard work and overcoming my own uncertainty. Back when I started on my career path, I wish someone had given me the advice that fear and adversity are necessities in life and in business. I can tell you now that when you are faced with obstacles and self-doubt, you must objectively recognize them for what they are — just more hurdles to clear and something that should be expected.

No one enjoys fear or failure, including me. I also know there is no growth without fear. On the other side of fear are bliss and success. Whatever you’re doing — going to school, starting a profession, starting a business — you must go through fear first.

Finding Success

The path to success starts with imagining your true goal, picturing a path to it, and then staying on that trail — regardless of how many times you get pushed into the weeds. Ignore the naysayers, develop good habits to go with your strong goals, scrutinize every stumble or fall, and decide how to avoid them in the future.

No one skyrockets to wealth and success. There are no shortcuts. Some triumph faster than others, but that doesn’t mean those people didn’t put their nose to the grindstone or get knocked over a few times. In business, everyone fails at some point. The winners are those who don’t let those failures stop them.

I sometimes compare my business to waging war. As a construction manager, you are always grinding, trying to make forward progress. The process of constructing a new building is fascinating to some people, but it is not magical. There isn’t anything romantic about it. It’s hard work. It’s a process of overcoming one small problem after another. It’s about change and change management.

But it’s a process that I love, and one I’ve succeeded at because of the attitude I bring to this type of work. I look at setbacks as part of the job, and each one we overcome makes us stronger and more confident that we will master the next one, and the one after that.

It’s an attitude that all successful entrepreneurs must have. To succeed, you must be willing to push ahead and work through all the challenges, little and big, standing in your way. In fact, failure is probably the only thing you can be certain you’ll face in life.

If you’re going to get anywhere, you have to embrace failure, overcome it, and learn from it.

Don’t Wait to Get Started

If you’ve dreamed of starting your own business, get started. If you’ve dreamed of starting a new career, get on with it.

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you’re pretty sure you will succeed. There will never be a right time. Regardless of how long you wait, you will face problems and challenges. Be ready to fail, fail, and fail again, because the route to winning is lined with failures that you must overcome and push aside. Identify what you want to do with your life and take steps every day to get closer to that goal.

Most young people I meet today don’t face down their fears. Instead, they do a 180 and walk away from them. Don’t join that group. Instead, laugh at your fear. If you’re going to start a business or do great things to help the world, then you will face some obstacles.

The goal is to succeed — and to enjoy success, you must conquer your fears and setbacks.

For more advice on entrepreneurship, you can find Embracing Failure on Amazon.

Mat Pelletier is the principal at Pelletier Construction Management LLC, a Clinton, Connecticut based firm that specializes in commercial and industrial construction management and real estate development. He enjoys writing about topics such as overcoming fear and entrepreneurship on his company’s blog. He attended Salve Regina University, where he took courses in history, philosophy, and law and earned a bachelor of arts degree. He has been in the commercial and residential construction business for thirty years. He is married and has two sons, ages fifteen and seventeen. Mat enjoys playing his guitars loud while his dog, Pedey, sings along. Yes, his dog can sing.

Book Bites

A little taste of some of our favorite non-fiction

Kelly Teemer

Written by

Book Bites

A little taste of some of our favorite non-fiction

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade