THE ONE CHARACTERISTIC THAT ALL WINNERS SHARE

Mental Toughness:  Relentless Optimism Rooted in Faith

 

Let me tell you a funny story and then a real one to illustrate what relentless optimism looks like.

 

There is the story of the little boy who was practicing his baseball skills.  He was throwing a baseball into the air and then attempting to hit it with a bat.  As he tossed the ball up, he was heard to say, “I’m the greatest hitter ever to play baseball!”  Unfortunately, he missed the first toss. He threw the ball again and repeated the phrase, “I’m the greatest hitter ever to play baseball!”  He missed again.  On the third try, he repeated his positive statement about his ability to hit, but he once again hit nothing, but air.   He stood there quietly for a moment and as he tossed the ball into the air, he was heard to say, “I’m the greatest pitcher in baseball!”

That story gives you a snapshot of relentless optimism.   The challenges of life are many and few people find success on their first swing.  You have to be able to keep on swinging, or if necessary, to be able to switch your efforts in a new direction without any loss of optimism.

Here’s my real story.  In the early days of my career when I was still struggling with the basics, I had devastating failure.  It was demoralizing and embarrassing and I was immersed in negative thoughts.  The enemy crawled on my shoulder and informed me that I should quit.  He asserted that I would never master the requirements to succeed in changing lives.  I was so frustrated and angry at myself that I almost took his advice. But, I can remember shaking my fist at the sky and with tears in my eyes I said, “I refuse to quit! I may never succeed, but I will not quit!”   Forty years later and having impacted thousands of lives through God’s help and power, I am glad I didn’t quit.  What enabled me to maintain mental toughness?  Optimism rooted in my faith.

Optimism (when it’s rooted in faith) contains several key components:

  • A realistic confidence about your talents and skills and how you can put them into play
  • A world view that sees abundance as opposed to scarcity.
  • A belief that God has a “soft spot” for those who just refuse to quit.

I want to encourage you to keep on building your mental toughness. Wherever you are at today, it’s not your final destination.  You can become the man or woman you dream of being and hundreds of lives will be impacted by your determination to relentless optimism.

When were you tempted to quit?  Make a comment below.  I’d love to hear your story.  Also, be sure and subscribe to this blog.  Next month, we will examine the fourth attribute of the mentally toughness, “the refusal to define yourself by the opinion of others.”

 

 

Stop Doing This Now and Start Moving Ahead

Mental Toughness Attribute #2

Refusal to dwell on past failures\regrets

I’ve had some monumental failures in my life. Some are humorous, and some make me weep.
I once asked a woman, whose name I was having trouble remembering, how her mother was doing? She looked at me with a shocked expression and replied, “Well, you performed her funeral service.” Ooops. I felt terrible, how do you recover after that?

Mentally tough people don’t sabotage their present life by getting caught up in reviewing past failures and regrets.

We all have failures in our lives. They range from the trivial, such as social blunders, to life altering mistakes in judgement.

Let me list a few failures:

Social errors:
• Public clothing mishaps
• Falling down on a busy sidewalk
• Getting people’s names drastically wrong
Leadership snafus:
• Making public promises that you fail to deliver on
• Unwise acquisitions for your business
• Hiring someone you later have to fire
Life changing failures:
• Bankruptcy
• Divorce
• Getting arrested

Everyone has something in their lives they regret, but tough-minded people push past those negative memories and move ahead. How do they keep their spirits positive after messing up?
• They accept that they are only human, and that mistakes and blunders are part of everyone’s life.
• They realize the foolishness of wasting the opportunities for a productive future on the lamenting of an irreversible past.
• They have a vision or dream that compels them to get back in the race no matter how devastating their failure.

I knew a Pastor who was helping his church to clear a downtown property for an expansion of their auditorium. When he was asked by the demolition company which building they were supposed to tear down, he pointed to the wrong building. The blunder cost his church thousands of dollars as they had to rebuild the partially demolished structure. He did not quit, but kept on serving his people and his church continued to grow and impact their community. He was mentally tough.

Make up your mind that the past is gone, and you will let the failures contained in it die. Extract any lessons for improvement from your failure that you can, and then put it behind you, and move on.

Success is difficult. Only those who can muster the continued energy to overcome obstacles obtain it. That’s why you need to be mentally tough, and mentally tough people refuse to let past failures and regrets steal their energy for life. Learn from the past, but live in today, and keep dreaming for your future.

Leave me a comment about how you have overcome regret and failure in your life.  I’d love to hear your story.

The One Thing All Successful People Do

A Rigorous Commitment to Reality

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”– Carl Sagan

The first key to mental toughness is to commit to facing the reality of every situation of life without flinching.

Have you ever tried to hide from reality?  Have you ever refused to open a bill that came in the mail, because you were afraid to see how much your debt had grown?  Have you ever refused to see your physician, because you were afraid to know what that pain in your stomach might really be?  Have you ever pretended not to notice the distance between you and your mate, because you were afraid to hear an honest answer to the question, “What’s wrong with you?”

Mental toughness demands that you face the truth.  One of the greatest questions you can ask yourself is, “What am I pretending not to know.”   It is staggering to think of how some of the most powerful leaders in some of the highest organizations, pretend not to know certain hard truths.

Mentally tough people have a rigorous commitment to reality.   They don’t ignore problems and hope they will somehow magically disappear on their own.  Mentally tough leaders encourage their subornates to tell them the honest truth about every situation, even if it is unpleasant or discouraging.

How hard is it to make the commitment to reality?

  • It could be as simple as deciding to pay attention to an uncomfortable, nagging feeling.
  • It could be as easy as not looking the other direction when you see something disturbing.
  • It might be as difficult as asking someone for the complete truth when you sense they are holding back.
  • It might be as demanding as setting up a meeting with a disgruntled client.
  • It might be asking yourself, “What am I pretending not to know?” 

First of all, reality isn’t the way you wish things to be, or the way they appear to be, but the way the actually are.   Secondly, the theory states that you either acknowledge reality and use it to your benefit or it will automatically work against you.”  Robert Ringer “Winning through Intimidation.”

In my next blog, I will examine the second attribute of mentally tough people; the refusal to dwell on past regrets or failures.

 

The One Attribute That Will Double Your Success

Mental Toughness

 

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise: Rudyard Kipling

 Rudyard Kipling

What separates the world class performers from the merely successful?

Mental toughness: the ability to withstand stress and control your mind.

Are you cool under pressure?

A minister I know was praised for how he led his church .  “He might be up to his knees in the fires of controversy and criticism, but you’d never know it when you heard him preach, he was cool as a cucumber no matter the pressure he was under.”  That’s mental toughness.

Are you cool under pressure?

Mental toughness is more important than talent or education. The real battlefield for success is in the mind.  Talent cannot save you if you cave under pressure.  Education will provide information of what to do in a crisis, but it cannot save you if you fold in stressful situations.  One of the arenas where you see this truth played out is professional golf.  You may not like the sport, but take some time to watch it carefully, and you’ll see mental toughness displayed in every tournament.  The pressure of having to summon up a relaxed and graceful putt on the final hole of a championship, with hundreds of thousands of dollars riding on the stroke, is determined more by the mental toughness of the player than by his hours of practice and natural skill.  Watching a player, who has just had a disastrous hole that put him behind in the score, put the bad strokes out of his mind and perform at championship level on the next hole, is a primer for mental toughness.

Examples of mentally tough people:

  • Winston Churchill withstanding the pressures of the near disasters of the early part of the World War II
  • American prisoners of war surviving years of abuse and imprisonment in Vietnam
  • American gymnast Kerri Strug working through the pain of an ankle injury to help her team win a gold medal in the 1996  Olympics 

What does it take to grow mental toughness in your life?

Over the next several blogs I’m going to examine five attributes of the mentally tough and give you tips for strengthening each one in your life.

Here are the attributes we’ll be studying:

  • Rigorous commitment to reality
  • Refusal to dwell on past failures\regrets
  • Relentless optimism rooted in faith
  • Refusal to define self by the opinion of others
  • Regular review of past successes

This will be a series of blogs that can take you to “next level”  success in your life.

How have you developed mental toughness in your life?  I’d love to hear your stories.  Please leave a comment and if you haven’t subscribed to my blog yet, please do so.

“I did it because I know what it feels like to be desperate.”

 

I heard Ben Horwitz, CEO of Opsware, tell a touching story about why he had his company pay insurance premiums for an employee that technically was not eligible for them. The man needed treatment for terminal cancer and the cost would be over $200,000.  Ben had been leading his company through a protracted struggle for it’s very survival for nearly five years when this decision was made. When the man’s widow called two years later to thank him for such a generous gift she asked him why he would do something like that for someone who he didn’t even know, he told her “I guess I did it because I know what it feels like to be desperate.” 

It’s interesting to speculate about whether or not he would have made such a generous gesture if he hadn’t been through such a struggle.  I don’t know Ben, but I think he, and almost everyone else in the world, might not have done it. There is a sensitivity to pain that is born in our hearts when have been through a fire.

This sensitivity is called empathy.  The dictionary defines empathy as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathy is a valuable tool for building your career as well as for helping others.  Since every business is a people business, we must remain in touch with our humanity.  Responding to the desperation in people’s lives will enhance our reputation among those we lead, and build rock solid loyalty in those we assist.

Some thoughts about empathy:

  • We don’t always choose when it shows up
  • We don’t always pay attention to its call for our attention
  • We always benefit from following its promptings
  • We will always be remembered  when we use it

Next time you are personally going through the fire, be grateful that not only is your courage being tested, and your resolution to succeed deepened, but that your heart is also being tendered for those who need you most.

I’m curious about how empathy has shown up in your work life.  Please make a comment and share your thoughts and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.

 

 

 

 

HOW BEING TERRIFIED CAN HELP YOU

 

 

I went zip lining in Costa Rica last week. I thought I was going to have to “wimp out” as I flew out into space on the first of 7 consecutive zip lines.  I am not afraid of heights and I’ve zip lined before, but never at such heights and speeds.  I didn’t want to go on, but I was with my church group and I refused to let them see me “chicken out.”

Flying hundreds of feet over the jungle canopy while supported only by a skimpy seat harness and a well-worn cable, I began to doubt my rationality.  What kind of crazy man risks his life like this I wondered? No, that’s not quite right.  What I really thought was, “Dear God what have I just done, please don’t let me die.” I was three zip lines into the experience before I began to relax and enjoy the amazing view and the thrill of speeding down the line. Once I got over my initial terror my senses were almost overwhelmed with the beauty below me and the fun of getting as close to personal flight as I have ever been.

Are you going through a terrifying time? Remember you are not alone. Starting a new business, career, or relationship can be scary. But often you’ll find that what waits on the other side of your fear will be one of the greatest experiences of your life.

What did I learn while terrified?
• Once you relax it gets good
• Beauty is available even when you are terrified
• Trust in those who have gone before you
• Use your peer group to propel you past fear
• Don’t miss the experience of a lifetime out of fear

When was the last time you were afraid? What lessons did you learn? Please leave a comment. I’d love to read your insights.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

Cue the music…. Enter the sweet tenor voice of Neil Sedaka  1967


Down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Comma, comma, down dooby doo down down
Breaking up is hard to do

Don’t take your love away from me
Don’t you leave my heart in misery
If you go then I’ll be blue
‘Cause breaking up is hard to do

This blog is not about romance or a trip down memory lane to my misspent youth, it’s about making difficult choices about successful disciplines.   A surprising trap for goal oriented people is getting stuck in disciplines that are no longer productive.   Have you had this experience?  You set a goal to lose some weight, and then you start a particular exercise routine.  You spend some money and get some excellent support and direction and it works for you.  You lose the weight and shape up and so you continue the program.  But, time creeps on and you find yourself a couple of years later and for varied reasons the discipline is no longer working for you, but you just keep following and paying for it.   New ideas catch your attention and you think about trying them, but you just can’t bring yourself to break up with your old discipline.  What’s going on?

Some of the very strengths that make you successful in life can cause you to get stuck in routines:

  • Successful people are loyal
  • Successful people are not quitters
  • Successful people know the value of positive habits

But let’s look at those traits again and apply them realistically to an unproductive discipline:

  • Loyalty should be to your ultimate goal, not the current technique you are following
  • Quitting can be a wise choice if you are merely switching techniques or programs
  • Habits are only valuable when they are positive, and they are only positive when you are getting results.

Breaking up is hard to do.   But, it can be productive and in many cases it will lead to greater success.  If you find yourself stuck in a routine, reexamine your ultimate goal and make the choices that will bring you success rather than pander to your habits.  Never underestimate the jumpstart that a new beginning can bring to your goals.  A new workout program, a new career coach or accountability partner, or a new morning routine could breathe fresh life into your career and personal success.   So go ahead, break up…. After all, you’re not Neil Sedaka and it’s not 1967.

 

 

 

IF YOU’RE NOT GOING USE YOUR LIFE, COULD I BORROW IT?

 

In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln became frustrated with his commander of the Army of the Potomac, when he kept putting off attacking the confederate forces in Virginia.  The army had been idle in Washington for over eight months. General George McClellan had built it into one of the largest and best trained armies in U.S. history.  Yet, he kept refusing to move out against the south, claiming his army was not yet ready.

On January 10, Lincoln met with top generals (McClellan did not attend) and directed them to formulate a plan of attack, expressing his exasperation with General McClellan with the following remark: “If General McClellan does not want to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time.”

There were undoubtedly many forces that shaped McClellan’s reluctance to move, but one of them may have been an addiction to planning.

Stop excessive planning and start taking action.

Planning is important and planning can be fun.  Planning can be exciting.  Planning is always safe, because it remains in the realm of theory.  No one is proved right or wrong until action is taken.  The bigger the endeavor, the greater the risk, and the more you will be tempted to remain too long in planning mode. At some point, you have to take action or your opportunity will be seized by others and your success in life will be limited.

How can you break out of the excessive planning mode?

  • Recognize the payoffs that may be tempting you to hesitate.
  • Check your self-esteem. If you are feeling insecure, it will tempt you to delay action.
  • Set a deadline. Make the commitment that by a particular date you have to do something.
  • Quit searching for the perfect plan. Accept that every action entails a risk of failure.
  • Comfort yourself with the knowledge that every plan requires adjustments once it has begun and have confidence in your ability to adapt.

Historians continue to debate whether or not George McClellen’s hesitancy to move, lengthened the war. Some theorize, that had he taken action sooner, many thousands of lives could have been saved.

There is no debate however, about the fact that excessive planning will limit your success in life.  No advancement in financial, career, or family success, is ever gained in the world of the imagination.  You have to take action.  You have to make the best plan you can and then boldly begin its execution. At some point you have to stop planning and take action.

“If he wasn’t going to use his life, I’d like to have borrowed it for a while,” would be a terrible epitaph to have etched on your gravestone.

 

TAMING THE TANTRUMS

 

For far too many people, far too often, their mind is the tantrum-throwing toddler of their personal lives. I admit to being one of them at times.

We manage our money. We manage our time, and we even manage our calories. Why don’t we manage our mind?

Why do act as if our mind is its own boss, free to do as it pleases?   We let it run out of control and create complications for our lives. We pretend that we can’t help it if we get depressed, moody, or irritated. We hide behind helplessness when our mind uses its creative powers to hurt the people we love and make emotional messes in our lives. Bad News— It’s not true! There is a level of control that we can possess with our rational thoughts. We may find managing our minds extremely difficult, but it can be done.

Here’s a mind hack for you:

What if you just assumed you could manage your mind?

What would you do differently?

  • Would you stop negative thoughts?
  • Would you refuse irrational fears?
  • Would you focus your attention rather than surfing your imagination?
  • Would you manage your mouth rather than let it spew like a volcano?

We actually have some experience with this mind management thing. It’s called dating. How much did you hold back when you were courting that beautiful girl or handsome man? Did you let your mouth run wild out of control?   Got ya, didn’t I?

If you could manage your mind when dating, then you can manage it now. It will take work and persistence, but hey, that’s how you managed to get married right?

Steps to managing our minds:

  • Admit you have power to do so
  • Change locations to change thoughts
  • Capture your “tantrums” on a time log to look for patterns
  • Enlist a friend to hold you accountable for bad mental habits.

Your mind can be educated into a well-behaved child instead of a sugar-crazed toddler if you have the courage and patience to tackle the task.

Rats

Combatting the Power of a Negative Comment

I recently watched Morgan Spurlock’s disturbing new documentary, “Rats.” The most unsettling part of the film was not the videos of hundreds of rats scurrying around or even the view of a man drinking out a pan of milk that rats had been drinking from and crawling around in, but the worst part was Spurlock’s evidence of the almost indestructible nature of the species.   He made a strong case for how rats as a species might still be flourishing when man has long vanished from the earth. The resiliency of the furry and almost universally disgusting creatures reminded me of the potency of negative comments in our lives.

Most us have had the weird experience of having one negative comment outweigh dozens of positive ones in our lives. It could be a comment about a new article of clothing you purchased, some creative piece of work you put out in the world, or some new direction where you led your organization.   You have dozens of affirming statements about your work and then you receive a single negative e-mail or phone call. In an amazing quirk of human nature, most people will begin to focus on the single negative comment and almost ignore the larger number of positive statements.

The behavior makes no sense:

  • Why don’t we embrace the sheer weight of numbers and focus on the positive?
  • Why would we let one statement carry more weight than dozens of others?
  • Why do we care so much about complaints that often come from strangers?
  • How in the world did rats and negative comments become so resilient?

I’m not saying people who disagree with our art or work are rats. I am lamenting the fact that negative comments have an amazing ability to survive the counterattacks of our rational minds and our most balanced analysis.

I have a few guesses as to why and one observation for moving forward.

Guesses:

  • We are wired to be sensitive to the negative, hence the famous news media policy, “if it bleeds it leads.”
  • We are usually so in love with our ideas, “after all we birthed them,” that we naively assume everyone else will love them too, hence the “every baby is beautiful” fallacy.
  • We are spoiled to people’s polite silence about our ideas and taste. Hence the shock when someone tells us our amazingly cute new shoes are ugly.
  • We are not wired to consider the negative. Differing opinions are a natural part of the environment and hence they should not surprise us like a rat bounding out of an alley.

Observation:

If you want to live a bold and creative life you will be noticed and draw comments. Not all of them are going to be positive. Treat them like the rats of the comment world. Don’t be shocked by them. Don’t think that they are out of the ordinary, because they are not. They just usually remain hidden. Work to put their limited appearance in perspective against the overriding positive support you receive. Most of all, keep working and creating.

Mr. Spurlock, I disagree, rats will never rule the world.