Thinking Possibilities

As leaders, one of the most important things we do is think.  We think about our followers, about mentoring and growing other leaders, about the future of our business or our team.
Our thinking becomes dangerous when we start thinking in terms of limitations. When we think in absolutes.  When we think with what’s called a “Lack Mentality”.
It’s been proven time and time again;  limited thinking leads to limited results.
When we think in possibilities however then answers and solutions come to us.
Ken Blanchard once said,
If you want to go places you have never gone before, you have to think in ways you have never thought before.
Possibility thinking leads to the creative.  It opens up new avenues and new solutions and allows you to be a more effective leader for your team.

Solutions Through Possibilities

Mr. Hollands Opus - Mr. Holland teaches musicIf you ever saw the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, starring Richard Dreyfus as music teacher Glenn Holland you would see an excellent example of this.  Mr. Holland is trying to write music and dreams of creating a world renown piece.  To pay the bills, he takes on a job as a high school music teacher and  faces challenge after challenge with the students and even his own child, who is born deaf.

Where others saw absolutes and insurmountable circumstances, Mr. Holland instead looked for possibilities.  His passion for music and his desire to share that passion with others led him to think of unique ways to make things happen and achieve success.  He finds creative ways to reach students and inspire them and even devises a way for his deaf son and other hearing impaired people to enjoy music through lights.
The end result was the lasting impact that Mr. Holland had on the people he influenced.  He led them places they didn’t think they could go.

How We Can

As a leader, the responsibility we have as well is to lead people where they don’t necessarily think they can go.  To do that, we have to be willing and prepared to explore possibilities and seek creative solutions in pursuit of our vision.
[snaptweet]When our vision and our passion join, we see hope.  But when we think HOW WE CAN instead of “CAN WE”, then we create possibilities to bring our vision to reality.[/snaptweet]

Here’s some things to help open you up to possibilities:

  1. Be a positive thinker –  Many think positive thinking is just sticking your head in the sand, but actually a positive thinker looks for possibilities.  They look for how they can get the best out of every situation.
  2. Remember WHY and HOW – Question things a lot.  Ask questions like “how can we be more effective?  How can we serve our customers more efficiently?  How can we improve our profitability?”
  3. Avoid the Impossible Thinkers – The consultants and experts that tell you it can’t be done, that its impossible to reach your goals or objectives.  There are always possibilities and we want to look for those instead of what we can’t do.
  4. Think “AND” instead of “OR” –  We limit our thinking by creating exclusionary choices.  We can do this or have that.  Why not look at how can we do this AND have that?  How can we improve customer service AND increase profitability?  Thinking that way helps us come up with creative solutions that are more effective for our organization.

What possibilities will you open yourself up to today?

Baseball Season!

We are coming up on another baseball season and I looked back on the statistics for the last season.  The number hitter in all of baseball last year was Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.  He finished the season with a .338 batting average.  What that means is that for every three times he went to bat he was only successful once.  In other words, one-third of the time he successfully accomplished his job.
How does a hitter handle that?  He goes to bat again; he goes up convinced that this time he is going to get a hit, whether or not he was successful the last time.
great hitter hank aaronOne of my all-time favorite players and another one of the great hitters in baseball was Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves.  Aaron was the the first one to break Babe Ruth’s all-time homerun record.  I remember watching it on television; even at that age I was a rapid Atlanta Braves fan.  Hank Aaron was more than just a homerun hitter, he was a great hitter overall.  When asked about how he accomplished so much in the game, he said,
My motto was always to just keep swinging.  Whether I was in a slump, or feeling badly, or having trouble off the field; the only thing to do was to keep swinging!

The Key

There is the key to being the big hitter.
The successful DON’T STOP!
They keep going.
No matter what else is happening in their lives, they keep swinging and have the hope and belief that they will connect this time.
The salesman who wades through a hundred no’s until he gets to the yes.
The job applicant who goes to interview after interview, taking care to always look their best and always remain positive; enduring the uncertainty and lack of call backs until that time that the opportunity is offered to them.
The inventor who creates and redesigns products until she finds the one that meets the needs of enough people to make her prosperous.
Anyone who keeps adding value to others until they are able to reach their goals.  Zig Ziglar said it best in his ageless statement
You can anything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want!

Keep Swinging

So how are some ways that we can keep swinging to become the big hitter?
  1. REFLECTION – spend time learning lessons from your experiences
    • Daily – keep a journal.  Look back at the day’s experiences and what you have learned from them.  Learn from the good and the bad.
    • Quarterly – what’s working?  what’s not working?  what needs to change to help move you towards your goals?
    • Annually – look at you accomplished in the last year and look forward to what you want to accomplish in the coming year
  2. ACCEPT WHAT IS BUT NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH IT –  Accept things as they are but be constantly looking for ways to make them better.
  3. DON’T STOP!  Whatever else happens, keep moving forward towards the kind of person you want to be.

And take time out to go see a ball game on occasion!

Vision and Crisis

It’s a natural thing.

As you go through your daily life, you sometimes lose track of where it is you wanted to go.  I do it; highly likely you do too.  Also likely that the most successful person you can think of does it as well.

Dreams get lost in the shuffle of daily living. Crises appear, fires need to be put out.  People are demanding our immediate attention.  Things crowd in and as they say you have trouble seeing the forest through the trees and we just lose track of where it is we wanted to go.

When you are up to your ass in alligators, its hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.There’s the old joke about the engineers that when you are up to your ears in alligators its hard to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

And so we sometimes let our daily activities get in the way of our goals during the crisis of the moment.

Lead Through Crisis

As I said, it’s only natural and like the saying above, certainly not original.  We can easily excuse our lack of focus on our vision away using daily goings-on as a crutch.  After all, nobody would blame us, right?  You gotta survive, right?

But this is the opportunity for you to step up! The opportunity to come forward and be the leader you were meant to be by bringing that vision back to the forefront!

This is the time to shine!

So here’s a couple of steps you can take to move positively in the direction of keeping your vision in front and getting yourself in place to accomplish those goals.

  1. USE THE UP-DOWN METHOD. Write it down and post it up! Write that vision down on a piece of paper and post it up where you are going to see it on a daily basis. That serves as a daily reminder of what it is you are trying to accomplish.
  2. ASK FOR HELP – FORM A TEAM. Take your strengths and your weaknesses, find people whose strengths compliment your weaknesses. And team together to help accomplish that goal.
  3. SHARE THE VISION OFTEN. If you continually share the vision in words and actions to your team, that helps keep them focused on where it is you want to go.
  4. ADJUST THE PATH AS YOU GO, BUT NOT THE VISION! Things will get in the way and won’t always go the way we want them to go, but we need to keep that vision at the forefront; the final destination of where we want to go.
  5. HELP THE DREAMS OF OTHERS. As you bring team members on, they are going to have dreams of their own. See where your dreams mesh, where there are opportunities to work together for a win-win where everyone accomplishes their dream. You may find it is going on to greater things then you ever imagined possible.

Keeping that vision before you AND your team is critical.

Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision.

Where will you go with your life or career? Anywhere a strong vision takes you.

Enter the Holidays!

Well, we’ve come up on that time of year where people the world over are celebrating this great event:  Christmas. Even people who aren’t particularly faithful will celebrate Christmas.  We give gifts, we buy gifts for others, we receive gifts from others, we spend a lot of time with family.  And we celebrate Christmas because of the importance of the event and what it means to us; even people who don’t follow it very strongly really understand what Christmas is all about.
Most of us, at least, take a break from our daily working and driving to success to get in a little down-time and relax.  Still there are many that can’t (or mostly won’t) even take a break for one day.  The entrepreneurial mantra is that you are working every day, even on holidays.

Questioning Your Motives

But one question to ask yourself is WHY.
  • WHY are you sacrificing relationships for your work?
  • WHY are willing to put everything else aside to achieve your goal?
  • WHY is it important?
  • WHY are you not able to take a brief respite from driving towards success?
And then one big WHAT question to ask:
  • WHAT is the REAL reason you are driven to meet your goal or achieve success?

Is it to serve yourself or to serve others?  Is it out of deep caring and concern or a need for personal achievement?

I have written before about self-fulfillment motives versus being motivated by the service you  provide.  The key to focusing on serving others is to really, sincerely care for others and believe in others and seek to add value to others.

At the core, what we do has to apply a little bit of the REAL meaning of Christmas to the rest of our lives.

See, at the core, what Christmas is really all about is LOVE!  It’s about how we love others!  How we care for them and nurture them and seek to help them achieve their best.
And this is the opportunity that our purpose presents to us:  the opportunity to love others.  To put the focus on other people in our daily activities – not just once a year but throughout the year – so we can care for them and add value to them.
So here’s a few things that I want you to take from this holiday season apply throughout your life and the coming year to share that love.
  1. Do something for someone else who can never pay you back.  Focus on that, look to do that daily; something for someone who can never pay you back.  That’s what love really means; when you don’t expect a reward or a payback, what can you do for others.
  2. Take time out to appreciate the gift of everyone you encounter.  What’s special about the people you spend your time and relationships with?  Tell them.  Tell them what they mean to you and that will make a world of difference to them!
  3. Look around you and appreciate the LOVE that the creator has shown you by surrounding you with blessings!  Even when you don’t necessarily see them.

You have to see value to add value.  That takes time and reflection.  Focus on the value around you and the opportunity to make it every greater.

That’s your success in 2014!

Over the Bar

You ever watch the High Jump during the Olympics or on television during one of the rare occasions they show track and field events?   I think the competition is somewhat cool, probably at least partly because I can’t do it very well. I have never been a very good jumper either horizontally or vertically.  The idea is that the athlete approaches a horizontal bar and attempts to leap over it without knocking the bar down.  Each time they raise the bar a little higher.  Naturally, whoever jumps the highest wins.

The first recorded High Jump event was in the 19th century in Scotland.  They would basically just scissors-kick over the bar.  That advanced to running up to the bar and then throwing the one leg over and then the other.  Shortly after people innovated with “roll” techniques where they would almost literally roll their body over the bar.  For protection, there would be a sawdust pit on the other side of the bar for a landing area.

Changing the Landscape

dick fosbury taking a leap of faithThe real innovation happened in 1968 when Dick Fosbury of Oregon State University employed a totally different technique.  By this time, the saw dust pit gave way to a cushioned landing area.  Fosbury would run up on the bar at an angle and the thrust himself backwards over the bar, head first, and complete the jump by “flopping” his legs over and landing on his back.  Fosbury used this technique to win the Gold Medal in the 1968 Olympics.  Today, almost every high jumper uses the “Fosbury Flop” technique.  The current record, according to, is 8 feet and one-half inch set by Javier Sotomayor from Cuba.

Leap of Faith

The reason I mention this is an observation made about the flop technique.  If you were to do that and land on hard ground or even in the old saw dust pits, you would likely break your neck.  In other words, if the cushion wasn’t there and you landed, you would be in a whole lot of trouble.  Broken bones, skull and brain damage would be highly probable.  But the flopper, because of the technique, doesn’t get to see the landing area as they are jumping; they simply have faith that it is there and that they will land in the right spot.  It is a LEAP OF FAITH in their ability to complete the jump.

The high jumper makes this leap of faith because they believe in their skills, their training, their visualization, and their execution to make the jump without getting injured.  He TRUSTS himself to do what he has prepared and trained to do.  He doesn’t wonder if any kind of outside force is going to get in the way, he trusts his body and his training to get the job done.  He doesn’t create excuses for why he can’t jump today, he just goes and gets the job done.

taking a leap of faithEven though he BELIEVES he will be successful every time he jumps, he actually doesn’t KNOW until it is over whether he has been successful or not.  So, the high jumper has FAITH in his ability to perform every time; even when he is unsuccessful or bettered by others.  At no point does he give up because the weather got in his way, or the bar was mounted incorrectly, or there are others competing that are more athletic or talented.  He ignores all outside factors and simply has FAITH in his skills and training and performs the best he can.

Flopping Our Way to Success

You and I may not be jumping over a bar 8 foot of the ground, (I already mentioned I am a terrible jumper), but we face hurdles and walls as we pursue our goals and dreams.  To overcome those hurdles and complete our mission successfully, we have to have FAITH in our abilities, prepare ourselves for success, expect success, and then success will come.  We won’t really be able to see the landing area until we are up and over the bar, and sometimes not until we land.  But the landing area is there and we have believe we will clear the hurdles and land successfully.  That is our LEAP OF FAITH.

What’s keeping you from making that LEAP OF FAITH?  What is argument you give yourself?  Is it true?  It is always true?  How can you prepare yourself more effectively to take a Leap of Faith?  How can you reinforce your beliefs everyday to keep that faith alive?

Action Plan

  •  Target an area where you feel like you are not where you want to be. Where do you want to be?  What do you think is holding you back from reaching that goal?
  • Apply a little realism.  Are the things you THINK are holding you back real or imagined?  Are they simply excuses?  It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself.  Yeah, you know the real answer!
  • Read or listen to a daily affirmation to keep a positive mindset.  Reading it out loud is best because the most important words you hear are the ones you say to yourself.  This is not (necessarily) New Age stuff; it is real and valid. Zig Ziglar, Norman Vincent Peale, and others have promoted positive affirmations as a way of changing your mindset and your life.  Here’s a good one from Hal Elrod or you can get one from Zig.  I prefer the Ziglar version, although it is a little longer.
  • Engage in your daily personal growth to prepare yourself for success.  Remember, be a 1%er.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

Zig Ziglar