Do This….When You Don’t Know What to Do

Most people, maybe all people, certainly me, experience times in their life where they don’t know what to do. That doesn’t make them weak people. That doesn’t make them dumb people. It also doesn’t make them less likely to succeed…. unless they do nothing because they don’t know what to do. 

 

Hopefully you have someone in your life that you can bounce ideas and problems off of. It could be a coach or a mentor. Possibly a close friend or family member. The importance of having someone in your life that you trust enough to share anything with cannot be overstated. If you don’t have that person or even better, people, then you need to find one. 

 

But sometimes, even with help, your next move can be hard to determine. You’re not sure what to do next. 

 

Because that’s happened to me from time to time I’ve received lots of advice on the subject. One time when I had to choose between two options and deciding seemed hopeless, one of my mentors told me to flip a coin. I said that the decision was too important for something as frivolous as flipping a coin. 

 

He told me that it wasn’t at all frivolous because when that coin was in the air I’d know exactly which way I wanted it to land. I still wanted to dismiss his suggestion but somehow I knew he was right…and he was. So I flipped the coin and said if it was heads I’d do this and if it was tails I’d do that. It came up tails and I didn’t want that so I decided that it was such a big decision I should do two-outta-three. It was then that I knew exactly which way I wanted to go. 

 

As clever as that was I still find it a little ridiculous to make a major life decision on a coin flip. So I sometimes use advice from Benjamin Franklin. 

 

When the very wise Ben Franklin was asked for advice he would tell people he couldn’t decide for them but he did share his own decision making “tool.” He advised people to take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side of the paper he said to list the reasons for doing something and on the other side of the paper list the reasons for not doing it. 

 

Then he said, and this is the key advice, he said to NOT count the things on either side, he said to weigh them instead. Seeing the reasons on paper made them more concrete and real. You could have 12 reasons on the “do not” side verses 2 on the “do” side but if the 2 outweighed, or mattered more, than the 12, you knew your decision was to “do.” 

 

When I share how to use Ben’s tool today I let people know it’s okay to take several days to list your reasons on that paper. As you ruminate over a decision keep that paper nearby and track your reasons for and against, you’ll have your answer in relatively short order.

 

But sometimes even when using that tool the “weight” of the decision is equal and you just won’t know what to do. 

 

So do this.

 

Do the next right thing. You may not know completely what to do or what not to do but somewhere in you the knowledge of the next right thing to do exists. Doing the next right thing may not get you to where you need to be but it will get you closer. 

 

I can tell you from personal experience that doing the next right thing is a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve often convinced myself that I didn’t know the next right thing to do because I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do the easier thing. 

 

Right leads to success. Easy leads to…well it doesn’t lead to success, at least not real, lasting success. 


The knowledge of the next right thing to do lives inside of you. The only question is do you have the courage that is often required to do it. 

Are You Committed or Compliant?

The difference between a committed person and a compliant person is like the difference between night and day. It’s huge!

 

A committed person carries an attitude that helps them drive towards their goals. A committed individual acts with purpose for a purpose. Not only do they have goals they also have a plan to achieve them. Their commitment to themselves, the people they care about and to their organization or business shows in everything they do. 

 

Committed people look different. They act different. They speak differently than most people and they tend to brighten every room they enter. 

 

Compliant people are easy to spot too. They are doing what they are supposed to do and not much more. They live in the zone of “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. They may think they have goals but often those goals only deal with “getting through the day” or “doing what I have to do to keep the boss happy.” 

 

You know how when you’re at the grocery store and there are two check out lines to chose from. You pick one and after a few minutes you realize you picked wrong. The other line is flying and your line is barely moving. The other line likely has a committed cashier and your cashier is the compliant one. They are doing the same job, they are just doing it with very different attitudes. 

 

Think about how unhappy you are when you’re dealing with a compliant person. Then think about which cashier most closely resembles you and your attitude. 

 

Your level of commitment is directly related to your attitude. Your attitude cannot be left to chance, it must be made by choice. Failing to consciously choose a positive attitude results in the unconscious choice of a negative one. 

 

There are no neutral attitudes. If your attitude isn’t positive then it is negative. There is too much negativity around everyone to assume that positivity just happens. It does not, you MUST choose it and then work to keep it. 

 

Being that slow cashier is the likely result of failing to chose. The best news is that no one, no circumstance, no traffic, no weather report, no nothing nothing nothing, can rob you of that choice. 


So… what are you choosing today?

Can I See Your Priorities?

I already don’t like this post and I’m the one writing it. I can only imagine how many of you will feel about it. It’s a tough post to write because a lot of the people reading it will not feel better about themselves, at least not right away.

 

If just one person takes this message to heart then it will be a worthwhile post, no matter how many people might be offended. I know it will offend people because the first time it was shared with me I was offended too. But I have a lot more of everything today because I eventually changed my behavior because of it.

 

Around 25 years ago I was sitting in the audience at a Dale Carnegie Traning national convention. We were listening to a Dale Carnegie sales representative talk about the challenges of succeeding in the training business. As with almost all Dale Carnegie presenters his talk was awesome. What truly made his presentation unique however was the fact that he was playing the harp throughout his entire presentation. 

 

It was like he had two different brains working at once. His message was that achieving success, long-term true success, required that we do more than we thought possible. 

 

It was impressive to say the least. I made a comment to the person sitting next to me that I’d “give anything” to be able to play a musical instrument. 

 

He said that wasn’t true. Here’s the thing about working for a self-improvement organization like Dale Carnegie. The teaching never stops. Everything is a lesson. You are held accountable for everything you say and everything you do. It can be a challenging place to work but it is life changing. For the vast majority of the people lucky enough to experience it the change is very positive.

 

So the person sitting next to me said it wasn’t true and the lesson was on. When I said it absolutely was true he said “well then, what instrument do you play?” I said again that while I didn’t play any instrument I wished I did. 

 

It was then that I was informed I was mistaken. I was mistaken because if I really wanted to play an instrument then I’d be able to play an instrument. He went on to say that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to play an instrument, it was that I wanted to do other things more. He said I didn’t play an instrument because while I might like the thought of it, actually playing an instrument wasn’t a priority for me. 

 

He said lots of people say what they want but when you watch them they show their true priorities. 

 

I felt a little like I had been called a liar but eventually what he said sunk in. I started to measure the things I said I wanted against what actions I took to have them. It turned out I was like most people…. I said a lot and did very little. 

 

I decided that had to change. The change was instigated by the awareness that wanting something and doing what it takes to have it are two very very different things.

 

The odds are pretty high that you have some of that “say a lot do very little” stuff within you too. So here’s a suggestion. 

 

Make a list of your priorities, the “things” you want in every area of your life. Your personal life, your professional life, your financial life, etc. 

 

Then track how you spend your time, every minute of your time, each day for a week. You can Google “Time log” to find a tool that will help you with your tracking. BE HONEST! 

 

You will be somewhere between mad, disappointed, shocked, or horrified at how little of your time is spent in pursuit of your “priorities.” When I realized all those years ago where my time was going I was surprised to say the least. You might be too.

 

But awareness is a wonderful thing. You may decide that what you thought were your priorities really aren’t. You may decide that they are. In that case then you’ll also know that something must change. 


I still think that playing an instrument would be nice. I also know that I won’t give anything to be able to play one. In fact as it turns out, I was unwilling to give anything at all. 

Are You Too?

The excuses I hear most often when someone can’t or won’t do something usually have the word “too” in them somewhere. As in, “I’m too busy.” Or “I’m too old to learn.” Or “I’m too important to do that job.”

 

Here’s what the most successful people would tell you…. no one is “too” for anything. 

 

I understand that sometimes we don’t want to do something. I also understand that sometimes we don’t have a good reason for not wanting to do it. I get that’s why we make excuses. 

 

But geez, if you’re not going to put any effort into doing the thing you don’t want to do at least put some effort into a better excuse. 

 

I remember the story about George Steinbrenner the long-time owner of the New York Yankees who passed away in 2010. A group was visiting Yankee Stadium and for whatever reason no one was available to show them around. Steinbrenner offered to do it himself. 

 

While attempting to lead the group across the field they were stopped by security. Mr Steinbrenner was informed he didn’t have the proper credentials to cross the field. The security guard directed him to take the group back up the long stairs and walk the long way around the stadium. 

 

The guard didn’t recognize the owner of the team. Rather than pull the “don’t you know who I am” card Steinbrenner dutifully lead his group all the way back up and around the stadium. He wasn’t too important to give a tour and he wasn’t so important that he felt the need to embarrass the security guard who was merely doing his job. 

 

George Steinbrenner wasn’t too important to do any job.

 

I recall years ago meeting a man who would become a good friend and mentor. He was already arguably the very best salesperson who ever lived. He had sold billions, yes billions, in life insurance yet I met him in a sales training program. He was well over 60 years of age at the time. I expressed a little surprise that someone of his “experience” would be in a sales course. He said, “well, intelligence begins with the knowledge that you’re never too old to learn.” 

 

He was in a sales training program to learn, one that I was going to help teach, yet that single sentence taught me more than I could ever teach him.

 

As for those who feel they are “too busy” I have very little sympathy for you. No one has more time than you! Everyone has 1440 minutes a day. The people who manage to get everything important done in that amount of time have simply stopped long enough to learn how to prioritize. 

 

They know what’s important and they know that most things aren’t important. They are never “too” to accomplish what they need to do to succeed. 

 

The most successful people don’t make excuses, they make things happen. They are never too busy, too tired, too old, or too important to do the things that less successful people simply don’t like to do. 


So…are you too?


Don’t Confuse Excellence With Perfection

I’m a perfectionist who consistently does things in an imperfect manner. I’m a person who hates settling for good enough yet I frequently accept something that is as good as I can get. 

 

I make those compromises in the interest of getting things done. 

 

There are many people who would criticize me for making those compromises. But I believe a job, project or assignment completed, even if a little less than perfect, is better than one never completed. 

 

One of the five great weaknesses of ineffective leaders is hesitancy. They may be brilliant, they may have great ideas and they may have passion. They are also in need of the perfect circumstance or the perfect timing in which to pursue their passion or idea. Sometimes if they are not certain of a perfect outcome they hesitate to the point of never actually getting started at all. 

 

For these leaders the hunt for perfection is a slippery slope that most often turns into the bondage of procrastination. 

 

I would never encourage anyone to halt their pursuit of perfection. That’s not what I’m recommending here. What I’m recommending is to continue moving towards your goal or objective while you’re in pursuit of perfection. You are unlikely to find perfection but the pursuit itself will likely lead you to excellence. 

 

Some people believe that excellence and perfection are identical twins. They are not. Perfection does not guarantee excellence and excellence does not require perfection. There are few things that waste more time than doing something perfectly that doesn’t need to be done at all. 

 

Excellence does require patience. You will also need an understanding that patience is the acceptance that things can happen in a different order than you had in mind. Knowing how perfection will be achieved is not a prerequisite to starting. Even knowing what perfect looks like is not required to begin. 

 

Get moving and whatever knowledge gaps you have will be filled in along the way. 

 

You’ll rarely find a perfect time to begin anything. If you’re not sure where to start then start with what you’re sure is one right thing to do. Your first step does not need to be a giant leap. Baby steps are okay and though they may be small they are considerably better than no step at all.

 

No matter how long your journey, how lofty your goal or how big your dream, your success will begin with a single step. Never forget that simple fact.


The pursuit of perfection is an honorable pursuit. It is the attainment of excellence however which will lead to your ultimate and undeniable success. Chase perfection today and you’ll be very likely to discover that excellence tomorrow. 

The Essential Ingredient for Success in Business

There are many ingredients required to grow a successful business. Many of those ingredients can be, and in fact are, provided by leaders at every level of the organization. 

 

But there is one ingredient, the one essential ingredient, that can come only from the leader at the very top. That ingredient is organizational culture. 

 

Leaders at the top must never fool themselves that the culture is developed “near” the top, or that it comes from the majority of the leaders. It does not. It comes from the very top and that’s the only place it comes from. 

 

If you’re a leader at the top of an organization then it is you who determines the overall health of the culture in that organization. You set the tone, you model what acceptable culture looks like and what it sounds like. 

 

You can’t do that by telling people what healthy culture looks like, you must show them. If your words don’t match your actions you can be sure that your people will follow your actions and not your words. They will do what you do light years before they will do what you say. 

 

The culture within any organization is merely a reflection of the top leader. 

 

Stop for a while today, a long while perhaps, and ask yourself what kind of culture you’re modeling for your people. Are you providing an environment where it’s impossible to maintain a negative attitude? Are you nurturing a culture where caring for others is encouraged and even rewarded? Are you demonstrating a culture where recognition is freely given and feedback is actually sought? 

 

Do you display a culture where people are free to provide suggestions and point out weaknesses within the organization… without the fear of reprisals? Is your culture one that values loyalty and does that loyalty work both ways? Is your culture one of “spending on people” or “investing in people?” Is yours a culture that supports and promotes the same opportunities for everyone regardless of their appearance or personal preferences? 

 

If you’re a leader at the top of an organization you must be able to confidently answer those questions. If you can’t then your organization could be lacking the essential ingredient for long-term success. 

 

That’s on you! You cannot shift responsibility for a healthy organizational culture in your organization. The moment you accept that fact is the moment the culture in your organization has a chance to improve.


Organizational culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that top leaders completely control. If you’re not controlling that then what the heck do you think you are controlling?

The Vortex of Can’t

I had the misfortune recently of sitting in on a meeting that was quickly swallowed up by the Vortex of Can’t. Everyone, not nearly everyone, I mean everyone, was discussing the things that they can’t do. This by the way was with a group of people who are paid to do what they can. 

 

After 45 minutes of listening to this I announced I was leaving the meeting. I suggested they invite me back to another meeting when they were ready to discuss what they could do. I haven’t heard anything from the group yet. 

 

I believe that success in any endeavor is about momentum. Momentum is actually pretty easy to build and that’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s also easy to build momentum in the wrong direction. 

 

Discussing all the things you can’t do in a planning meeting is building momentum in the wrong direction. 

 

The most successful people think in terms of what they can do while less successful people think in terms of what they can’t do. The difference in that thought process produces very different results. 

 

We are all faced from time to time with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We must never allow those obstacles to prevent us from overcoming all the obstacles that we CAN. The fact that we may see a challenge somewhere down the road must not stop us from beginning the journey. Many things can happen on the path to success. By the time you reach the roadblock it may be gone or you may have gained some knowledge or skills that make it possible to work your way around it. 

 

Never let the fact that you’re not yet certain how your success story will end stop you from beginning to write it.

 

Henry Ford said that “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” 

 

Success begins with a mindset of CAN, it’s not possible to simply think your way into success but you most certainly can think your way out of it. 


Focus on CAN and it will be far more likely that you actually will!