The Power of Attitude

When I was a young salesperson (yes, it was long ago) I made a cold call with my Sales Manager on a potential customer. The purpose of that call was to drop off some literature and get the name of the individual who made training decisions for the organization.

There were two pieces of literature I wanted to leave behind. As I reached into my folder to pull out the second one I saw the receptionist tossing my first piece into the waste basket. As I handed her the second piece I asked her what she just did with the first piece. She said “I speeded up the process.”

I said I didn’t understand. She then explained that if she gave the information to her boss he would just throw it away…so she was speeding up the process. I made some comment about her unprofessional behavior (which I shouldn’t have) and we left the building.

When we got back into the car I made a negative comment to my Sales Manager about the women who had thrown away our literature right in front of us. His reply surprised me.

He said “what woman?” “I don’t remember any woman, we have lots of calls to make, let’s keep going.”

Without saying anything else his point was made. He had made a choice, he wasn’t going to let anyone rob him of one his most precious assets, a positive attitude. He truly seemed to have put the whole thing out of his mind before we left the parking lot. He is likely to read this post and he won’t remember this at all but it’s just one of the many things Mark taught me. I on the other hand remember it very well and it happened almost 30 years ago.

And that’s one of the challenges I have long faced in my career, I allow too many things to have a negative impact on my attitude. And I hang onto them for too long. That’s bad but what’s worse is when I pass that attitude along to others.

There will always be “stuff” that gets us down. There will always be “things” that can negatively impact our attitude. But, and this but can make all the difference if you remember it…but it can only have a negative impact on our attitude if we allow it.

And that’s a choice.

On the days I remember that my attitude is my choice I always choose a positive attitude. On the days that I don’t remember to make the choice of a positive attitude other people and those “things” make the choice for me. It’s never the choice I would make.

I am willing to bet that many of you face that same struggle with the choice of a positive attitude. So here’s what I’m going to do…from this day forward there will be a reminder on my iPhone, it will be at 6:00am EVERY morning. That reminder will be one word…that word will be Choose. That will be my reminder to make my choice of a positive attitude.

I’d encourage you to do the same. The power of a positive attitude is so great that we can’t allow other people and “things” to choose a negative attitude for us.

When you control your attitude you control your life. If you don’t control your attitude then your life is out of control. That’s a fact we need to keep in mind if we want to be the ones to control our lives.

The Decision to Try

All self-made successful people have one thing in common. They made the decision to try. I hesitate to say “self-made” since I’m not sure I’ve ever met a truly successful person who wasn’t aware that they had lots of help on their journey to success.

But whether they realize they received some help along the way or not that doesn’t change the fact that their success began with a decision to try.

One of the factors that prevent many people from trying is they wait until the timing is right to begin. Some of them wait until the timing is perfect. Those folks are likely still waiting.

People who try know that the best time to begin is now. People who try know that the best place to start is from wherever they are. People who try are willing to fail…bigly, if that is what it takes to eventually succeed. People who try have a 100% greater chance at success than those who don’t.

It is just my opinion but it’s much better to try and risk failure than it is to never try at all. I’d be willing to bet a sizable amount that people who try have far fewer regrets than people who don’t….whether they succeed or not.

I know for certain that people who try will never be failures even if they never achieve the full measure of success they sought. I’m not at all sure that can be said for those who are not willing to even try.

If you’re willing to try then craft a plan that gives you the best chance to succeed. Then put the plan into action assuming it will succeed. When it doesn’t then craft another, better plan and put that one into action with the absolute certainty that this time it will work. When it doesn’t then craft another, even better plan and launch yourself into it head first with complete confidence that you cannot fail.

If you’re wondering how many times you should do that don’t. Just keep doing it until your final best plan actually works.

As long as you keep trying you cannot fail. When you finally achieve your full measure of success remember that your success wasn’t due to the final best plan, it wasn’t even due to all the better plans along the way. Your success was ultimately due to your decision to try in the first place.

So….what are you going to try today?

The Jail You Build

Everyone faces obstacles. Everyone has challenges to overcome. While everyone is created equal the environments they are born into are far from equal.

Some people ignore those inequalities and go on to accomplish great things. Some people use them as an excuse to not succeed. Some people who are born with “built in” advantages have to invent excuses to not succeed. The more excuses they invent the better they become at it. They also become very good at not succeeding.

From time to time everyone invents excuses for why they fail at something or why it’s not even worth making the effort to try. This is dangerous because the excuses you invent are addicting. If you make excuses long enough you’ll even start making excuses for making excuses.

These invented excuses are created from negative thoughts and self-talk. If you’re wondering if you talk to yourself you just did, when you asked yourself if you talk to yourself. It doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you human.

Your negative thoughts and self-talk become limiting beliefs. You tell yourself something is impossible and presto, it’s impossible. One thing you and I have in common is that we are the most credible person we know. If we say we can’t do something then we absolutely can’t do it.

You don’t have to say you “can’t” very many times before it becomes fact. You have built a jail around yourself and that jail is keeping you from success.

So here’s a life changing jailbreak for you. Humor me and do this even if you never tell yourself that you can’t do something.

Immediately start paying attention to your self-talk. Write down every limiting thing you say to yourself. You only need to do this for a day to be shocked by how often you say something to yourself, about yourself, that is very unflattering. It’s also most likely not true. But because you thought it you’ll believe it. That negative thought quickly becomes your reality.

Once you get a few limiting thoughts on paper pick one. If the thought includes the word can’t this will be easy….just get rid of the “t.” Change the can’t into can and put that thought back into your brain. The next time you think that thought replace the can’t with the can.

Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? It’s so corny I can hardly believe I’d write it. It’s sounds so simple that it’s stupid.

Except for one little thing…it works. It unlocks the jail door and opens it wide enough to drive a truck through.

We humans are funny creatures. We all claim to want success but most of us tell ourselves something every day that puts us in failure jail. No one can talk themselves into success. It will always require sustained effort to achieve lasting success. But everyone can talk themselves out of success just by telling themselves they can’t have it.

Change your thoughts from “I can’t” to “I can,” it doesn’t guarantee success but it makes it a whole lot more likely.

Finish Before You Start

Everybody knows procrastination is bad. What many people don’t know is that multi-tasking is one of the worst forms of procrastination you’ll ever see.

I know there are people who swear by their multi-tasking “skills.” If you’re one of those I’d like to ask you to sing your favorite song WHILE you read this post. Not AFTER you read it and not BEFORE, read it WHILE you’re singing. That’s multi-tasking!

If you’re so confident in your ability to multi-task then I have another offer for you. If you’re willing to read this while you sing there will be a test available for you online. If you answer every question right you’ll receive a check for a million bucks. (That might be fake news)

Are you still confident enough to risk a million bucks by reading this WHILE you sing?

If you are then I’ll bet you’ve cost yourself way more than a million bucks worth of productivity through the years. That’s because rather than improve your productivity multi-tasking kills it.

For the record, actual multi-tasking is impossible for a human being to do. You can have a bunch of balls in the air but you can only focus on one at a time. You cannot compartmentalize your brain to do two entirely different things at exactly the same time. You simply can’t.

So you move from one thing to another to another going back and forth and back and forth. You do none of them as effectively as if you were focusing on them one at a time. All this switching back and forth causes each task to take longer to accomplish as well.

4 tasks done singularly, to the exclusion of other distractions may take an hour. Doing those tasks all at once through multi-tasking (at least what people think is multi-tasking) will likely add at least 25% to the time it takes to complete them all. That means your one hour of productivity has consumed nearly 90 minutes.

If you don’t believe that then you have never used a time log to determine where your time goes during each 24 hour period that we call a day.

The most productive people finish what they are doing before they start something new. If it’s a big task they may break it into pieces and work on it at different times of the day or different days of the week. But when they are not working on it they put it out of sight so as to not be distracted by it.

Focus wins the productivity battle! It always has and it always will.

If you’re attempting to focus on several things at once then you have no focus. Sorry to break that to you but the sooner you believe it the sooner your productivity will soar!

Skip the multi-tasking for a week. See if you’re not accomplishing more. Prove me wrong if you dare to try. But if I’m right you won’t need me to send you a million bucks; you’ll be on your way to making it on your own.

A Self Leadership Checkup

Everybody says we need Authentic Leadership right now, perhaps more than ever before. Well it must be true since everybody can’t be wrong. But it seems to me most people talking and writing about leadership these days are missing an important point.

Before you can lead others authentically you must effectively lead yourself.

If you’re an Authentic Leader then you know the people you lead really need you now. That’s because especially in challenging times people need to be led, not managed. But you’re people too. You need leadership as much as anyone. The difference is you may well have to lead yourself.

So let’s do a quick checkup on your self-leadership skills.

You know that your people need some extra inspiration right now. They look to their leaders to provide it. But it’s pretty tough to inspire others if you’re not inspired yourself. In those quiet moments (perhaps few and far between right now) how are you staying inspired? What does your “self-talk” sound like? Are you aggressively looking for positives to keep your mindset where it needs to be.

It’s as easy for a leader’s attitude to go south as it is for anyone else. If you’re going to keep other people’s spirits up them you’ll have to keep yours up first. Find the possibilities in every challenge. Problems are an opportunity to learn and grow. They provide the chance to become better and more nimble.

Coach yourself to see obstacles as growth opportunities. Remember, your people will do what you do far faster than they will do what you say. Model the attitude and mindset that you want your people to possess.

You are the master of your emotions, no one else. If you do not make the conscious choice of a positive attitude every single day then a subconscious choice will be made for you by events and circumstances. It will not be a choice that serves you well.

Positive attitudes do not happen by chance, they happen by choice.

How are you doing with time management? If you’re suddenly finding yourself leading from home you may find that you don’t have the same level of discipline that comes with working in an office environment.

Setting daily goals can help with this. Goals create discipline. Discipline is simply choosing between what you want now and what you want most. Your goals should be what you want most. Holding yourself accountable to do the same amount of work at home that you would do in the office requires that you keep in mind what you want most.

The “work things” that you may be less accountable to accomplish right now are the means to the things you want most. When my daily work goals are achieved I allow myself what I want most. That would be ice cream! If the work isn’t crossed off my list then the ice cream doesn’t cross my lips.

It is important to remember that no one on earth has more time than you do. No matter how pressured you may feel you do not, I repeat, you do not have a shortage of time. What you most likely do have is a lack of prioritization skills.

Pursue those daily goals with the zeal of a crazy person and you’ll discover you have all the time you need to accomplish every one of your goals.

Are you carefully choosing your words? A leader’s words carry more weight. In challenging times they weigh even more. Choose your words to convey the exact message you’re trying to get across. Remember how you say something can be even more important than the something you say. Are you being mindful of your tone? It is likely you’re doing more communication over the phone than normal. People can’t read your body language so they use the tone of your voice to decipher the meaning of what they are hearing.

It is your responsibility to make sure they are hearing what you intend for them to hear.

Leading others begins with leading yourself exceptionally well. These three areas are not the only leadership skills to focus on for exceptional self-leadership but they will get you on the right path to being a leader who is prepared to lead others in turbulent times.

Is Your Boss an Idiot?

Let me answer that question for you right upfront. NO! Your boss is not an idiot.

That doesn’t mean that you may not have some issues with your boss. You would however do well to know that thinking your boss is an idiot is likely causing a good many of those issues.

Our thoughts tend to drive our behaviors and thinking your boss is an idiot will lead you to interact with them in less than a respectful way. You may also think that your boss doesn’t deserve respect but you’d be mistaken about that too.

Think about this for a minute…for your boss to actually be an idiot that you mean that the people in the organization above your boss are idiots too. I mean clearly, only an idiot would make another idiot a boss. Exactly how many idiots do you think work at your organization?

If your organization is truly full of idiots then why are you working there? Unless….

So get that ugly, limiting thinking out of your head. Just like every other human on the planet your boss has a set of strengths. Someone saw them and put your boss in a position of leadership so that those strengths could be put to use.

Your role should not be to focus on the limitations that your boss has (yep, they have limitations for the very same reasons they have strengths, they are human) but to help them apply their strengths.

Those limitations cause gaps and if you want your work and life to be more enjoyable and meaningful then you should focus on using your own strengths to help fill those gaps.

Anybody can find a weakness in others because everybody has gaps. That most certainly does not make everybody an idiot. If it did then almost all of us would be fighting for a spot at the front of the idiot line.

Your thoughts are no small thing. They determine your actions. If you’re thinking that your boss, or anyone else for that matter is an idiot then you are limiting your ability to learn from them. Whatever shortcomings someone may possess they know something that you don’t. That means you can learn from them.

Open your mind and look a little closer at your boss. Look for their strengths. Try to see them the way their boss sees them. Look for the good in them. Help them use their strengths by stepping up and filling their gaps. Use your strengths to fill them.

People who struggle to work well with their boss get noticed in a negative way. People who help people use their strengths get noticed in a positive way. If you worry less about who gets “credit” and think more in terms of a team success your own success will increase along with the team.

Think about it.

It’s Good to be Pushed

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who liked to be pushed around. At least by my definition of being “pushed around.” I think that’s means being coerced into doing something you really don’t want to do for the sole benefit of someone else. Being pushed around can include being threatened with very unpleasant consequences. The worst part is that there is nothing to be gained by the person being pushed…it’s all for the benefit of someone else.

Being pushed is very different than being pushed around. Although it doesn’t necessarily feel better in the moment you’re being pushed. The end result however feels far better because the person doing the pushing is doing it for you and not only themselves.

I’ve frequently benefited from that type of benevolent pushing.

I should clarify what I mean by pushing. I went to a Military High School that promised parents that if they sent their boys to that school they would return them as young men. I felt pushed in that environment but often times that pushing was of the physical kind. Sometimes the “pushing” went well beyond a simple shove but eventually the bruises went away and the cuts healed up and it was all good. In the end the kids benefited from that sort of pushing too but I’m glad that type of pushing is largely a thing of the past.

The kind of pushing I’m talking about here is the encouragement kind, the positive affirmation that you can in fact do more than you think you can. That’s the kind of pushing I, and most people, benefit from.

I’ve always been lucky to have people in my life who believed in me enough that they pushed me to be better. Even very early in my life there were always people who believed in me. And then I got married.

Without boring you with all the details it’s safe to say that pretty much everything good in my life has come about as a result of my wife pushing me to do more, be more, enjoy more, care more, understand more, listen more…you get the drift, it was a lot of more more more. That can sure be frustrating except for this little detail…in every instance she was right. (sure hope she doesn’t see this)

Being pushed got to be such a habit that I actually started pushing myself. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when people believe in you. It’s beyond amazing when one of those people is you.

There is one major similarity between be pushed around and being pushed. For either one to actually happen you must allow it. The good news is no one can push you around unless you allow it. The bad news is no one can push you unless you allow it.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Being pushed around will make you feel inferior, DO NOT allow it.

Being pushed by people who believe in you and care about you can have a lasting positive impact on you life. Allow it despite the initial frustrations it may cause.

When the frustrations are forgotten you’ll be more than you would have been without them.