Are You Born to Win?

Whenever I hear someone described as a born winner I always wonder what the person described as “the born winner” thinks. They very well may have been born with some advantages, a “leg up” if you will. Wealthy parents, a good environment, good role models in their life are some that come to mind but I believe this much is certain; they were not born winners. They worked, probably very hard, to become a winner. Even people born with advantages can “lazy” the advantages away if they refuse to work to maximize them.


People who win have invariably formed the habits of doing the things that people who don’t win simply don’t like to do. Winners don’t necessary like to do them either but they do them anyway. They do them to win!


Winners make better choices; sometimes the choices are hard to make but they make them anyway. People who don’t win often make only the easy choices or worse yet they make no choice at all, simply allowing the winds of chance to determine the outcome of their lives.


Winners know that every choice and decision produces some kind of result so they seek the guidance of a coach or a mentor when making big decisions. They don’t make decisions when there is a chance that their emotions may affect the quality of the decision. People who can’t seem to win are almost unaware of the significance of their choices and too often believe that “their station in life” affords them no real choices. It’s what a lot of people would call a losing mentality.


People who win take risks. Not crazy risks, but well thought-out calculated risks. People who seldom win believe they can play it safe and still win. That may have been true at one time but it’s absolutely not true in today’s world. The truth today is that never taking a risk is about the riskiest thing you can do. 


Winners have goals. Real goals, the kind that are written down with a detailed plan on how to achieve them. They do not think in terms of “if I can” they think in terms of “how will I.” People who seldom win have dreams, wonderful dreams that way too often begin with the phrase “if only”.


Winners work to make a difference in the world around them. They care about much more than themselves. They think long term and plan ahead, they know that a set-back is not the end of the world, it is just the beginning of the next success. People who seldom win work simply to pay the bills.


Winners live today while preparing for tomorrow, they learn from yesterday but refuse to live there. People who don’t win too often seem to be talking about the good old days. Winners know the best days haven’t happened yet.


Winners always do everything they can to control their attitude. They shun people who might bring their attitude down. (Yes, they will try to positively impact other people’s attitude but not at the risk of their own.) They don’t let other people and things set the altitude at which they operate, they maintain control of the precious resource of a positive attitude no matter what. The decision to maintain a positive attitude is the first decision winners make each day and it’s often their most important decision of the day.


People who struggle to win also struggle to control their attitude and there is no coincidence there – it is nearly impossible to win once you tell yourself you can’t.


Winners don’t worry about “having” luck because they’re too busy “making” their luck. The make their luck while developing their plan for success, they make their luck in the course of doing the “little extra” stuff that they do on a very consistent basis.  The people who don’t often win do what their job description says to do and little more.


Winners know that doing a “little extra” than required puts them way ahead of the group who only does “little more” than required.


Now here is the best part… everything that winners do can be done by anyone. These are simply (yes, I know, simple to say, hard to do) choices available to anyone willing to make a commitment to win.

So the question isn’t whether or not you’re a born winner. The question is will you decide to be a winner today?

What You Actually Own

So, let’s begin with my personal definition of “own.” For me “own” means it’s mine and it can’t be taken from me. I don’t owe a dime on my house but there are a bunch of ways I could lose it. I have in my possession lots of cool stuff that could be stolen, lost, destroyed or otherwise taken from me. Even if you say l “own” that stuff it’s at best temporary.


No matter how much “stuff” you may claim to own you’re not going to leave this world with very much and there is nothing you can do to change that. 


But there are two things in this world I absolutely own and so do you.


The first is my self-respect. 


Eleanor Roosevelt, the diplomat and former First Lady said,  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 


What an incredibly insightful statement. I first heard that in High School and boy did it come in handy. I went to a Military High School and the military staff worked overtime to try and make us feel inferior. That was back in the day when the concept of “you have to tear them down before you can build them up” was very much in vogue. They had the tearing down part totally mastered. 


But very few people really know me well enough for their opinion of me to matter. I’d bet that’s very much the case with you as well. So don’t let people who have not lived your life “help” you to determine your self-worth. They have no idea what you have overcome or are living with right now. Their opinion is just that, an opinion. It’s an opinion formed without many of the facts required to be accurate so put no more value in it than it deserves.


Always put a ton more value on the SELF part of self-respect and then be honest with yourself.  Never cut yourself more “slack” than you would someone else. You darn well know the difference between right and wrong and if it’s wrong for someone else it’s highly likely that it’s wrong for you too. 


The second thing that I absolutely, positively own, as do you, is the right to choose my own attitude. No one, regardless of their position, title, or importance in my life can take that from me…or you.


There are no circumstances, no problems, and no situations in life that can steal that right from you. 


In his amazing book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl describes the ability to choose one’s own attitude as the last of the human freedoms and the only one that can never be taken from us. 


By the way, Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust and in those horrible days he held on to the ability to choose his attitude so be careful when saying that your own circumstances make it impossible. You truly can choose your attitude no matter what!


Living an honest life while trying to make a difference in this world will make it easier to keep your self-respect when some around you would like to destroy it. Maintaining a healthy self-respect will make it far easier to choose a positive attitude. The two go hand-in-hand.

Healthy self-respect and a positive attitude are choices, they are choices you own and always will. Never forget that, not even for a second!

What Did You Learn Today?

I was in Boston earlier this year to give a Leadership Presentation. At some point during the talk I said that “every person on earth knows something that you don’t.” My point was that if we keep an open mind we can learn something from everyone we meet.

The next day I hopped in a cab for the short ride from Back Bay to Logan Airport. We were just a couple of blocks from my hotel when a car cut in front of us and my cab driver was forced to hit the brakes a little hard. 

He laughed a bit as he apologized and said that in his city there were many important people who were always in a hurry. He didn’t seem the least bit angry or frustrated by an occurrence that must happen frequently. 

I couldn’t place his accent but I could tell for sure that he wasn’t a native Bostonian; he probably wasn’t born in the U.S. either. But he had a wonderful sense about him; you could just tell he loved driving a cab and he loved the City of Boston.  

I asked him how long he had been driving a cab and he said “a very long time.” He had “completed” school and held several jobs before this one but he really loved this one because he learned more driving a cab than “in all his years of school.” 

He said his cab was like a classroom where he could study people. Over the years he had seen wealthy people who were never happy, happy people who would never be wealthy and poor people who were just happy to be alive.

He said “when you put them all in a pot together you learn that real happiness ain’t nothing more than a choice.” He says a prayer each day before he gets in his cab; he asks for wisdom to remember “his lessons” and for patience when the people around him don’t remember theirs.

He was an absolutely fascinating person to talk with. I had no idea when I got into that cab that a life lesson was waiting for me. It really is true, when you keep an open mind you can learn something from virtually anyone.

That also means you can learn something new almost every single day. With that in mind, what have you learned today? 

The Importance of Decision Making

Successful people make good decisions. “Lucky” people make good decisions. The people you admire make good decisions. Good results are the product of good decisions.

I could make a strong case that everything “good” comes about as a result of good decisions. Perhaps some people could argue that not “everything” good comes from decisions but this much is certain; the quality of a person’s life is directed affected by the quality of their decisions.

Way too many people are virtually unaware of just how many decisions they make each day. You decide, yes YOU decide, who you hang around with, what you watch and listen to, who you believe, where your information comes from, when to go to bed, how much alcohol to drink, what to eat….all of those things are decisions. 

You even decide whether or not you will have a positive attitude. Yes, even your attitude is ultimately your decision and it is likely the biggest decision you make each day.

Perhaps you think you don’t need to make decisions in those areas, maybe you’re a “go with the flow” kinda person and you just let the people and circumstances around you “decide” for you. If that’s the case you should know that letting “others” decide for you often has the impact of making you less successful than you could be.

It’s great to ask others for advice and I strongly encourage people to have a mentor for that very reason but for decisions affecting you personally YOU should be making the final decision. 

You need to make your own decisions because ultimately it’s the decisions you make that make you who you are. There are outcomes, results, and consequences, both positive and negative, to every decision. Everything you say, do, and even think plays a role in determining who you really are. It’s worth investing a moment or two in deciding what’s best for you.

Some decisions will be harder than others. Some may be excruciatingly difficult. When you don’t know what to do just do the next right thing… the next right thing doesn’t have to be a big thing, baby steps are okay, just keep moving towards being the person you want to be. 

Your life is collectively made from all the decisions you make and don’t make. Work hard to make the decisions that give you the life you want. You’ll find that those decisions work just as hard for you!

Understanding Success – Part Three

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the third post of a who knows how long series of those “it’s.” They will be short posts, each just long enough to give you time to focus on one “it” of success until the next post arrives. This series is getting longer by the minute and it could turn out to be as many as six or eight posts.

Just because successful people think they can do “it” that doesn’t mean they think they have to do it alone. Successful people are not afraid to ask for help when help is required.

That said, it should also be noted that successful people understand the difference between a hand up and a handout. They may ask for help in order to succeed but they don’t expect anyone else to make them a success. 

They have their support network lined up before they need it and they know that a great place to find that help is with their mentor, coach or anyone who cares about them. It may also be with an already successful person or maybe they just have to do research themselves to find the answers they need to succeed. 

Whatever the case, they don’t just wait around hoping someone gives them what successful people earn. They expect to have to work to get what they want and work is what they do. They control their destiny by controlling their thoughts, words, behavior and actions. 

If you are truly seeking success then feel free to raise your hand to ask for help, just don’t put your hand out and hope success will magically land in it.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the legendary comedian Bob Hope, he said “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” Of course he steered himself into a position to succeed, that’s what successful people do.

All truly successful people will accept a good break now and then but more often than not, their “break” came as a result of hard work over a substantial period of time. They put themselves in a position where success was possible. 

Focus on what YOU need to do to put yourself in a position to succeed… and then do it.

Are You a Success?

Let’s begin with my personal definition of success, or rather, what success is not.

Success is not only about money. If fact, money is a very poor measure of success. It measures monetary wealth, no more, no less. Many wealthy people are not successful people; they may have succeeded in one part of life but in other parts they are nearly complete failures.

Money doesn’t make you rich either, at least not in the way that I define “rich”. To be rich you must have true friends. Not work acquaintances, not guys from the bowling team, not people you see at church on Sunday, real friends. The kind you can count on no matter what. When have have two or three friends who will never let you down, who will always be there for you, well then you are truly rich.

My actual definition of success is pretty easy. Success is having a choice; the more choices you have the more successful you are. The choice of where you work, and who you work with. The choice of where you live, what kind of car you drive and who you spend your time with.

With that definition there are a whole lot of successful people walking around who have no idea just how successful they are. They may “want” to drive a BMW but can’t afford it, still they have the choice of dozens of car models to choose from. There are many people without that choice.

A lot of people would say they have no choice but to work where they do. The fact is they were looking for a job when they found the one they have. To work somewhere else they simply need to make the choice to look again, it may be a long search but the sooner it begins the sooner it ends.

Have I made it sound easy to succeed? Well it’s not! It’s hard work to manufacture the ability to choose. Successful people don’t just work harder than less successful people, they work much, much, much harder. They also have goals and a written plan on how they will achieve them.

Successful people have made the effort to earn themselves extra choices.

I say “extra” because everyone, yes everyone, begins with the same choices. We begin life with so many choices I couldn’t mention them all. As we grow and can actually begin to start making choices some people seem to forget they ever had a choice. But even today you still have choices. The choice to learn, the choice to try, or not, the choice to decide how much worry something is worth. The choice to forgive, the choice to see the good in other people and most importantly, the choice of a positive attitude.

No matter what is happening around you no one can steal from you the precious gift of a positive attitude ….. unless you let them. You have a choice to make each day, you can choose to be negative or you can choose to be positive. By and large, the most successful people choose positive.

You can too. When you make the choice each day to have a positive attitude you’ll suddenly find yourself with a whole lot of other choices you didn’t realize you had.

So, what’s your choice?

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions are the fuel of all successful endeavors. If you’re a person who strives to succeed you’ll need to make many decisions in your life. Try as you might, some of them will be bad decisions.

Some will be very bad.

I’ve written before about my thoughts on the importance of sound decision-making. Success requires not just decision-making but GOOD decision-making. Skilled decision makers use what I call judgecernment, the combination of judgment and discernment, to make the best decision possible. The most successful people don’t always make the best decision possible but they get many more “right” than “wrong” and the “bigger” the decision the more likely they are are to get it right.

But sometimes it’s the little ones, the quick ones, that when wrong, haunt you.

I’m truly fortunate to be trusted to speak in front of groups, often. It is an honor to be considered skilled enough and thoughtful enough to share my opinions and thinking with an organization’s people and in some cases, their customers.

Sometimes while “on stage” I’ll share some jokes too. I have this theory that if you’re in front of hundreds of people and you’re telling jokes then you are most certainly going to offend someone. No matter what you say, if somebody laughs then somebody else, at least one somebody, will be offended. No matter how “safe” the joke is, somebody will always be offended. I’m perfectly okay with that. So long as it’s not too many “somebodys.”

Last week in front of a very large group I shared a joke more suited to a barroom than a ballroom. I’d love to claim poor judgment but there would need to be at least a bit of judgment displayed in order to claim that it was poor. It was actually just a very bad decision.

I’m sure I disappointed some people with my decision. While I don’t want to seem cavalier about the feelings of other people because they do matter, I’m really not overly concerned about that.

Here’s what really made it a bad decision… I disappointed myself. I forgot for a moment the honor of being trusted in front of a group. While many people laughed (well, maybe not actually
many but some) and some more were even still laughing about the joke the next day.

Truth be told I’ve received little negative feedback from the joke but it doesn’t really matter because I was offended. I was offended by the fact that I failed to model the behavior I speak and write about every day. I got lazy and failed to look for a better, more appropriate joke. It’s a decision that will haunt me for awhile and frankly, it needs to. It’s good to be reminded that despite my skill and experience I can still make bad decisions that negatively affect other people.

Like I said, some decisions will be very bad.

So, you know what I did about that? I learned. Immediately. I committed to myself to make better decisions next time and then I made a whole bunch of decisions the very next day. They were all better decisions than the one from the night before though admittedly, I’d set the bar pretty low.

Successful people cannot allow bad decisions to prevent them from making decisions in the future. The failure to make any decisions, or to make decisions too slowly, can cost companies just as much as making poor decisions, sometimes even more.

Successful people learn from every decision, good and bad and they know that a person cannot learn from a decision that they refuse to make.

Making no decision is in fact a decision, it is a decision to do nothing and that is almost always a wrong decision. You can’t “fix” a decision until it is made. If you think you can avoid problems by not making a decision then you’ve just made the biggest mistake a decision maker can make.

So learn from your poor decisions, better yet, learn from the poor decisions of others and use the experience to grow as a leader and make better decisions in the future. It’s what successful people do.

And no, I won’t share the joke with you, you won’t be hearing that one from me again anytime soon!