Driving Through the Fog

If you have ever driven a car, you have likely had the experience of driving through heavy fog. 
Building a business, building a career, and building a life can feel a lot like that.  In fact, that’s precisely the problem for many people; they spend their time navigating through the fog.  
  • A businessman with no real direction who leaps at the next new thing to offer in the hopes for profits that turn the business
  • The person goes all in to the next scheme guaranteed to make them millions
  • The girl or guy who obsesses over the next person they think will truly make them happy.
It’s a mirage in fog.
Many people make decisions when things aren’t going well. They look for relief in the despair of the valley instead of waiting for the clarity that comes from being on the mountaintop. And when you’re experiencing the darkness of the valley, it’s always tempting to make changes that you hope will relieve the discomfort.  -John C. Maxwell

Finding Your Way Clear

Successful people have CLARITY.  The path is clear in front of them and they are joyfully on their journey.  And while they path may wind, the hills may seem steep, and the road gets rocky on occasion; they forge ahead with determination because they can see where they are going.  How do you achieve this clarity in your life or career or business?
[snaptweet]It’s not the problems that make YOUR life song so special, it’s the clarity you get when you determine to see your way through it.[/snaptweet]

Key Elements to Achieve Clarity:

  1. KNOW YOUR CORE VALUES – Know what you stand for.  Know what defines are the very core of your organization or core of your person  exactly what has to factor in to every decision you make and everything you do.  Honesty and integrity are key core values that you want to integrate into everything you do.
  2. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE – What are you driven to do, what do you want to accomplish.  Here’s a tip: if it takes more than a sentence, then you haven’t fully defined your purpose.
  3. VISUALIZE THE END OF THE ROAD – See where it is you are trying to go.
  4. KEEP AN EYE ON THE PATH IN FRONT OF YOU – That’s where you are going to encounter those rocky roads and if you spend all your time looking ahead, the roadblocks in front of you may stop you before you can get there.

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.

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 Reference.com, 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


Ripping the Shirt Off of Fear

Brandi focused on win instead of fearIt’s July 10, 1999 and in Pasadena, California Team USA and China are battling for the Women’s World Cup Soccer Championship in the Rose Bowl.  This is the largest attended women’s sports event in history.  At the end of regulation play, the score is tied and it goes to overtime.  In overtime, Brandi Chastain intently lines up for a penalty kick.  She sets herself, runs up to the ball, and launches it into the upper right corner of the goal to score and in her now famous celebration pulls her shirt off in mid-field.  A win and championship for Team USA!

Tell me, what do you think was going through her mind?  Was Brandi thinking about how she was going to blow it?

Pointing to Success

The Babe had ignored his fearsGoing back further, in one of the greatest sports moments of all time, George Herman “Babe” Ruth of the New York Yankees steps up to home plate in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.  The score is tied 5-5 and the Chicago Cubs players on the bench have been riding the Babe mercilessly.  As Ruth steps to the plate, he makes a gesture that many believe has him pointing to the center field wall after taking strike one from the pitcher, seemingly declaring his intention.   He did it again after strike two.  On the next pitch, the Babe mightily smacked the ball deep into center field and over the fence for a home run!  It is estimated the ball traveled 490 feet!  The Yankees went on to win the World Series in a four-game sweep.

Whether you believe the intent of the gesture or not, do you believe for one minute that Babe Ruth, who not only held the record for homeruns but also for strikeouts, focused on what would happen if he didn’t deliver?

The difference in success and failure is often a matter of how we handle our fears.  Dr. Heidi Halvorson, co-author of the book Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing The World For Success and Influencesays that handling that fear effectively is often a matter of mindset.   It’s all about where we focus our attention.  According to Dr. Halvorson, we have a choice of one of two mindsets when faced with accomplishing a goal or meeting a deadline or performing during a critical moment.  We can have a what she calls a Prevention Focus; where we concentrate on the negative aspects of the situation.  The concentration is on NOT messing up.  We do this in our daily lives and with others.  When a parent tells a child who wants to help set the table,

Okay, but this is our best dinnerware, don’t drop it!”  

With instructions like that, you might as well trip the kid yourself.  Or a manager tells an employee,

it is very important that you don’t blow this account.

Best example I can think of is the story Zig Ziglar tells of the 1982 football playoffs between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers.  With Dallas ahead and less than a minute left on the clock, Dallas implemented the Prevent Defense.  Joe Montana dropped back and threw a pass deep into the end zone that appeared to be sailing for out of bounds when Dwight Clark jumped up and made a fingertip catch for San Francisco to win the game.  Later, someone asked Cowboys owner Tex Schramm about what made the difference and he said,

“The Dallas Cowboys were determined NOT TO LOSE the game.  The 49ers were determined to WIN the game and that made the difference!”

So prevention focus centers on trying not to lose the game.

The opposite then is Promotion Focus.  In this mindset, you are focused on what you have to gain when you are successful.  “If I complete this project on time, our company will collect a big bonus from our customer.”  Promotion Focus centers on the win, always opting for growth, willing to take the risk to see the reward, and quick to take action.

Promotion Focus people tend to have better and more consistent results than Prevention Focus people.  You have a tendency toward one or the other but the good news is that it’s not born in you.  It is something that has been learned, placed into your brain by the attitudes of people to whom you bonded, other people influential in your life, and combined with past experiences.  So, if your tendency is towards the cautious, risk avoiding, and tentative nature of Prevention Focus, the good news is you can change.  It is a matter of changing your mindset.

Start by imagining a change you wish to make or project you wish to start.  List all the possible positive outcomes from successfully making that change or completing the project.  Don’t downplay it, but also don’t go overboard.  In most cases, you aren’t going to be a guest on The Ellen Degeneres Show because you completed a proposal package ahead of schedule for a client.  But you will likely make a favorable impression on the client, which can lead to award of the project and potential future projects.

  • You may get referrals to other clients and generate a significant increase in business income and grow your business.
  • You may be able to hire staff and afford to take vacations.
  • You can build your reputation within the industry.
  • Your self-esteem goes up.

Imagine every possible positive outcome of making the change and WRITE IT DOWN!  Then, every time you start feeling fearful, bring out the list and read it to yourself over and over again until you feel more in control.

Determine for yourself to Play to Win instead of Playing Not to Lose.

Action Plan

  1. Take Dr. Halvorson’s FOCUS Diagnostic assessment to see whether you have a Prevention Focus or a Promotion Focus.  Warning: be prepared to list about 12 attributes you would like to possess.
  2. Think about one big thing you want to accomplish; it can be a current project or a dream, particularly if you have been feeling a lot of fear over it.  Write down all the possible positive outcomes of accomplishing it and post it prominently.  Set a start date.

fearThe Basis of Fear

According to Psychology Today, fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger.  If we didn’t feel it, then we could not protect ourselves from legitimate danger.  Life and death can hinge on our fear and our reactions to it.  Our survival rate would be extremely low if not for the fear that helps us to regulate our behavior during moments of crisis.  Fear is not our problem.

Natural Functioning of Fear

fear of snakesOur problem comes when the fear engine kicks into high gear, often due to past experience.  Almost all fears we have of situations that are not life-threatening are what psychologists call “conditioned response“.  Something happened somewhere in our past that now triggers a fear response in us.  On a basic level, for example, an experience I had with a snake has led to a dislike and sometimes fear of snakes.  I don’t shriek and run the other way, but I am also not likely to approach it.  When I go camping with our Boy Scout troop and I happen to spot a snake, someone will invariably ask me what kind of snake it is.  My response is always,

“I don’t know, I did not get that close!”

On another level, past experiences with risk situations that led to devastating results can create conditioned responses in us that lead to fear.   People with Reactive Attachment Disorder develop an overwhelming fear of bonding relationships with people because of past experiences where trusted relationships betrayed them or took advantage of them or abused them.  Others, on a lower-level, have a past romantic relationship that ended badly and avoid future romantic relationships.  An employee encounters a boss who berated them or humiliated them when they came up with a creative idea and develops the fear of making a contribution.

Unnatural Fear

Even more so, our mind has a natural tendency to protect us in every situation, even to the point of creating scenarios that don’t even exist just to keep us from placing ourselves into potential danger, whether real or not.  Fear and resistance build up.  Every time we go to stretch ourselves – to push out of our comfort zone, to take a risk – we start to imagine all the things that will go wrong.  We will be publicly humiliated.  The newspapers will carry front page headlines documenting our failure.  Our boss will fire us.  Our family will disown us.  Our friends will make fun of us.  We will sit on the curb broke, destitute, with no future prospects and no hope.  This one failure will destroy us!

fear - false evidence appearing realYou see where it goes.  The more we focus on it, the more our fears run away with the perception of what will happen.  Many like to reassure people by saying that FEAR is simply

False Evidence Appearing Real

While not entirely accurate, it’s a good start towards working on our fears.  When we understand that often our fear is based on situations that are imagined, we can begin to put them into perspective.  Once we regain perspective, it becomes easier to work past the fear and take the risks we need to take to succeed in life.  So the key is not to conquer fear,  because we can’t.  Fear is a natural part of our body’s system and we cannot get rid of it.  What we can do is learn to manage it, to work with it, and work beyond it.

In the posts the rest of the week, we will examine ways in which we can manage our fears and be productive.

Action Plan

  • What are some ways you deal with fear now?  Post your comments here so you may be able to help others.