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.

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes happen. They are a part of life. With any luck they are also part of learning. Actually luck has nothing to do with it. Humility does. Honesty does. A desire to grow does. Authenticity does.

You will never learn from a mistake you will not admit. You will never learn from one of your mistakes that you attempt to blame on someone else.

People who will not admit a mistake are not much better off than the people who won’t try anything outside of their comfort zone because they are afraid of making one.

Mistakes you don’t admit you make again and again. Mistakes you blame on other people you make over and over. There is however a school of thought that says after you make the same mistake 3 or 4 times it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a decision. I am firmly enrolled in that school.

Successful people are not afraid to admit their mistakes. They accept responsibility for them, learn from them, use what they can to grow and then they move forward towards greater success.

But even better than learning from your mistakes is learning from the mistakes of others. This is most commonly accomplished by paying attention, having a mentor and asking the right people for advice. Notice that I didn’t say asking for advice, I said asking the right people for advice.

It is my belief that the right people are those who have already accomplished something that I’m hoping to accomplish myself. The right people won’t only tell you how to do something, it’s likely they will show you. They can also provide you insights on how not to do something and that’s the advice that can help us learn from their mistakes.

I say “can help” because in order to learn from the advice of others you must be willing to both listen to the advice and do something differently than you otherwise would have because of it.

So let me offer you this advice: Make a mistake! In fact, make lots of them. A good portion of your success will be determined how fast you can make your mistakes. The rest of your success will be determined by how fast you can learn from those mistakes so you don’t repeat them. Extraordinary success will find you if you’re able to learn from the mistakes of others rather than making them yourself.

Everybody makes mistakes. Not everybody can learn from them. Which everybody are you?

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.

The Power of Focus

Somebody a lot smarter than me once said “the man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” I don’t recall who said it but it’s absolutely true.

But there is a way that guy can catch both rabbits. He just has to chase them one at a time.

That’s focus.

If you can’t say no to many things then you’ll find it impossible to say yes to focus. In most areas of your life what you choose not to do will determine what you are able to do. If you’re trying to do too much you fall victim to what is known as task saturation. If you fall into that trap you end up accomplishing far less than the person focused on one thing at a time.

That’s the big illusion that multi-taskers present to themselves. They believe they can do many things well and that they can do them all at once. But every bit of research shows without a doubt that they are fooling themselves.

One person doing eight things one at a time will do them better and faster than one person trying to do all eight of them at once. That’s the power of focus.

Some people would tell you they can’t focus. That’s not exactly right. What they can’t do is decide. They can’t decide on their priorities. They are like a kid in a candy store…they want it all and they want it right now.

That “kid in the candy store” mentality causes them to accomplish things right at the deadline. They get them done in the nick of time because suddenly they didn’t have to decide what to do next, a deadline made the decision for them. The problem is, things done at the deadline are seldom done as well as those things done with time to spare.

The most successful people possess laser like focus. They invest a bit of time, well actually some serious time, in determining their priorities and then they go after them to the exclusion of all distractions.

Warren Buffett has laser focus and he has a dependable process to keep it that he shares with people who struggle with their own focus.

He’ll ask them to invest some time to write out their top 25 goals. These can be life goals, 10 year goals or goals for the coming month or year. Once they have that list he asks them to review it and select their top 5.

So now they have two lists, let’s call them list one and list two. Buffett asks what the person intends to do with list two. Most say that they will work on them as time permits because while they are not as important as list one they are still important.

That’s when Buffett gives them life altering advice. He tells them list two is actually their “avoid at all cost” list. He says that list should get zero attention until list one is 100% complete. That’s what focus looks like in practice.

I can tell you from personal experience that focusing is easy when compared to developing the lists. If you want success with your own list one you must be willing to sacrifice everything on list two.

Most people are able to do that but are unwilling to do that. Those 20 things on list two prevent them from achieving any of the things on list one. In their case, ALL the rabbits got away.

Some would say if you’re focusing on more than one thing you don’t really have focus. I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt and say so long as you’re focusing on one at a time you can maybe have five or six things on your radar.

Any more than that and you might as well be Elmer J. Fudd.

The Lottery of Life

I don’t often buy lottery tickets. I do when there is a jackpot over $500 million or so but why bother with those pesky $200 or $300 million ones. 

 

I think lots of people are just like me. Lottery officials seem to confirm that. The higher the jackpot the longer the lines to buy tickets and the faster the jackpot grows. 

 

There are a lot of people who play the lottery of life the same way. They ask for a little help but what they mean is “do it for me.” They will actually refuse “some” help because they want enough “help” so that they don’t have to do a thing on their own to succeed. 

 

The people who truly win the lottery of life are the ones who have developed the discipline and work ethic to succeed on their own. Except they know they never really do it on their own. They work their butts off and accept whatever help they can get along the way and use it to boost their own efforts, not replace them.

 

There are certainly people who seem to “luck” their way to success. There are people who have the appearance of success handed to them. There are also a whole lot of people hoping for success to somehow magically appear.

 

But the surest way to find success is to look for it in the hard work and effort you put forth to earn it. 

 

The legendary baseball player Babe Ruth once said, “You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Are you that person? Do you suffer the setbacks that life offers and bounce back to try again? Are you working for success or hoping for success?

 

I don’t want anyone to stop hoping for something better but hope alone doesn’t accomplish much. Never allow hope to stop you from making a concerted effort to earn the success you’re hoping for. 


If you’re willing to work for it then I’m willing to bet you’ll find it. You’ll find it or you’ll make it but either way you’ll have won the biggest lottery of all. You’ll have won the lottery of life!