How Values Sabotage Your Success

Excerpt from “The Chemistry Factor" by Barney Feinberg.

Building a start-up is both exhilarating and exhausting.There are so many issues to deal with all at the same time. I was totally dedicated to building a successful office in Hong Kong, overseeing the operations of a new buying office for a leading clothing conglomerate. 

My value of dedication came naturally—it was in my DNA,passed down by my parents and reinforced by the success I had throughout my life. It is a value striving companies encourage and so did I. What I found is that being totally dedicated to work and expecting the same level of dedication from the people working with me was a double-edged sword. 

As our company grew from a staff of 5 to 125, our original close culture started to fray. There was more turnover, mistakes were more prevalent, and communication breakdowns more common, both internally and externally with our clients. 

We were profitable, and the business grew, but the focus on dedication could limit our success. At times we grew tired, and upon reaching our goals, we found our energy lacking to exceed them. We were goal oriented and dedicated, but that dedication was overused more out of habit rather than because it was called for.

Values are what create your success formulas. You have what I term “DNA values,” which you use without thought as to whether they serve you at a given time. DNA values are often on automatic pilot: You use them to succeed but often do not choose them; they choose you. 

When a DNA value inspires you, then it is serving you well;it energizes your actions. However, if you find your energy draining, then it is likely a DNA value is self-sabotaging you, making your work hard and less productive. I call this Value Disconnection, and there are several signs to look for that will inform you it is happening. You are: 

  • Making people or events wrong
  • Seeing work as hard and stressful
  • Reacting rather than acting to your circumstances

Disconnection from a value indicates that it is not being honored either by you or someone you are working with. Additional warning signs that you are disconnected from your values are that you’re frustrated, angry, confused, misunderstood, or bored. Work becomes a chore—you are focused on completing it rather than being inspired to do it. 

So the question is, “How can you avoid being self-sabotaged by a DNA value?”

It begins by identifying the values that control your actions, discovering the values you automatically go to without thinking. The ones that can make things wrong and have you in stop-and-go action due to the circumstances you are facing. 

The real power in the leadership of yourself and others is to have the ability to choose the values you want to use no matter what the circumstance. Your ability to make that choicebegins with identifying your values, and it is your DNA values that have the most influence over you.

Once you have a strong understanding of your DNA values, you can learn to choose which ones will energize you and which ones will not in any given circumstance. In business, people are prone to forget who they are being to get the job done, more focused on the destination rather than the journey. Many of you are comfortable being uncomfortable doing your work. 

If you have ever procrastinated while working on a tight deadline, you know what I mean. That approach simply gets the work done by allowing fear or stress to motivate you. No wonder TGIF is ingrained in our culture. Values create your success formulas, and it would be better to choose a formula that inspires you so that work will be seen as TGIE (every day).

Here is an exercise that will help you identify your DNA values.When you experience value disconnection, you will have other values to consciously use rather than allow one that is controlling you make your work hard and energy draining.

 Identify Your DNA Values Exercise

1. Visit my free Website ( download Appendix A—The Chemistry Factor Values List. This is a list of values designed to help you determine values that are most important to you.

2. Choose about 10 or 1 values and write them down as your DNA Values List. Choosing DNA Values is more art than science. Choose the values you feel most connected to. That said, here are some tips for identifying your DNA Values: 

  • “I feel great”: When you think about a value, it feels great. You are on solid footing with this value, and it is powerful and comfortable. 
  • The value feels clear and simple: The idea of the value rings true. You don’t feel ambiguous about standing by this value. 
  • The value impacts you in a way that makes you feel stronger and more energized. It motivates and inspires you.

Once you have completed your list, start to take ownership of your values. Have them front and forward in your mind. I suggest you define what each value means to you. When you are feeling disconnected at work, look to see which value might be in the way of your enthusiasm. What is that value making wrong? 

Here is your opportunity to shift to another value on your DNA list that would better serve you in this circumstance. As an example, if I discover my value of dedicationis not being honored, maybe I am beating myself up for not being dedicated enough, and I can shift to another value that will inspire me. 

A value I often enjoy empowering when I am self-sabotaging myself is the value of calm. I remember a peak moment in my life that instantly takes me there—a moment on the top of a mountain ski slope in a whiteout. Standing there felt angelic, giving me a new perspective to re-inspire my actions.

Values are your rules of conduct;they characterize your sense of self and are elemental to the actions you take. When you start choosing the values that inspire you in a given circumstance, your work will reach new levels of productivity and success.

Excerpt from “The Chemistry Factor” by Barney Feinberg.

Barney Feinberg began his career as a CPA learning the language of business. At the age of 25, his career journey took him to live in Asia for seven years, where he was COO for a large clothing conglomerate. There he learned how to assimilate into a multitude of cultures, always with the purpose of building strong relationships at work. His career in executive placement began in 1994, and in 2002, he became a certified life coach with The Coaches Training Institute. Feinberg is a member of the International Coaching Federation with a Professional Co-Active Coach (PCC). Over the last 25 years, he has worked with thousands of executives, coaching them on how to strengthen their chemistry factor for greater success. Feinberg’s book, “The Chemistry Factor,” is available on Amazon and other fine booksellers. You can reach Feinberg on his Website,, and on social media at: FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter


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