Growth / Personal Development

How to Banish Your 'Inner Thief' and Elevate Success

Ellis Friedman

Updated: May 18, 2019 · 4 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

acheiving success

Even professional athletes experience intense self-doubt and fear. Take Joe Courtney’s word for it. 

His book, Life Above & Beyond the Rim, might detail a lot of his time playing professional basketball for the NBA, but it’s not specifically about him or basketball.

Instead, he dives into the principles he used to break through barriers and achieve success professionally and personally. As an entrepreneur himself, Courtney has a visceral understanding of how our doubts and fears can get in the way of our own successes.  

The cat burglar within

What gets in our way is what Courtney calls the "inner thief." Your thief might be doubt, fear, a feeling of inadequacy or a myriad of other negative emotions, and you might not even realize it. Here’s what Courtney wrote about his thief epiphany:

I became a workaholic who never relaxed enough to enjoy the simple things in life … My wife told me so many times, “Joe, just relax and let it go,” but I would work through countless holidays. I was building my construction company, positioning it to be one of the top companies not only in my area but in the whole United States. I wanted to grow and make more money, so I worked seven days a week, and contractors were at my door 24/7. [My wife] Lee stopped me one day. “Joe, why are you working so hard? I know you said you’re doing this for us, but what good is all the money if we don’t have you? We just want you.”

I realized then that my thief was out of control. I had a big house, multiple properties, nice cars, a thriving business, and a beautiful wife and child, but inside, I battled a constant feeling of being unfulfilled. I was driving for success to prove my father wrong. I hadn’t been allowing myself to enjoy the fruits of my labor, which left a void, a feeling of unfulfillment.

Does this sound familiar? That might as well be called Entrepreneur Syndrome. Sure, some of that feeling is a drive and competitive nature to be the best. But when you find that you’re unfulfilled—or worse, you’ve become self-destructive, either by neglecting your health or your loved ones—you’re living contrary to the reason you pursued your dream in the first place. 

Expose your thief

It’s gritty work to dig inside yourself and expose your deepest thieves, but it’s also the only way to move from being a victim of that thief to taking ownership of your life. 

Courtney provides five ways to expose your thief within; they include identifying your strengths, then exposing the potentially painful reasons why they became your strengths. For example, maybe you’re eager to help everyone; this may be because you were bullied in the past and thus have a strong desire to be a people-pleaser.

But it’s important to learn how to distinguish between a thief and your instinct. Instinct is an important and positive protective device; a thief manipulates by putting you on the defensive and making you overcompensate for negative events.

Reclaim control and power

It’s easy to fall so deep into a rut of unhappiness that you don’t even realize you’re unhappy. It’s often not until you start to come out the other side that you realize how unhappy you were. Negativity is an influence so all-consuming that you truly forget there is a better way to live. There are many clear indications that a person might be a victim to their inner thief, and they include procrastination, argumentativeness, negativity and a tendency to surrender quickly. 

Reclaiming yourself (because really, thieves steal the essence of who you are) is work, but it’s doable. Courtney recommends these (and a few more) methods to control the inner thief: 

  • Acknowledge your thief exists.
  • Write down everything you’re thankful for.
  • Declare and define a new vision of your life.
  • Eliminate negative words like can’t, won’t and hate and replace them with can, will and love.
  • Choose to be proactive and take control now. When you start thinking negative thoughts, take a positive action to combat them. If you think you can’t do something, act immediately and give it your best.

The important thing to remember is that you choose your life. That might sound obvious or like a big burden, but at its core it’s empowering. You can choose to liberate yourself from your inner thief and change the direction of your life.


Sections of Life Above & Beyond the Rim reprinted with permission.

*Full disclosure: Courtney is an Infusionsoft by Keap client .

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