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.

Teddy Roosevelt was a Weakling!

Roosevelt pursued him dreams with passion

It’s true.  Growing up, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., the 26th President of the United States, known for his gregarious personality, adventure-loving and thrill-seeking lifestyle, leader of the Rough Riders, and one of the faces on Mount Rushmore, was actually a sickly, frail child.  He was so asthmatic that he had to sleep propped up in bed.  He had frequent illnesses.   He was almost literally a 98-pound weakling physically!

I don’t tell you this to try to take down another public figure.  If that was the whole story it would certainly be a negative, and malicious attempt to destroy someone regarded as one of, if not the, greatest Presidents of the United States.  Obviously, however, he didn’t stay that way.

As Theodore (he actually hated being called Teddy) entered his teens he desired to become something more.  Encouraged by his father, he began boxing lessons, working out, and reading a steady stream of books to improve himself.  He quickly improved both physically and mentally and led a life of great experiences and adventures, including becoming at 42 years of age the youngest person ever elected President.

Even after that, he never stopped learning and growing.  He read thousands of books over his lifetime (which meant several books a DAY) and legend has it that after he died in his sleep and they removed him from the bed they found a self-improvement book he had been reading.

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.  –C.S. Lewis

Putting All You Got Into a Dream

There is a point here.  Roosevelt had visions, he had dreams of what he wanted to be, and he pursued them with passion and enthusiasm.  He had his detractors and enemies, including very famously Mark Twain, but never let it stop him or even slow him down.  He continued to dream new dreams and set new goals, even up until he died.  Despite his robust life, he battled Rheumatoid Arthritis most of his adult life and lived with a bullet in his chest for many years.  Still, he kept on learning and growing and dreaming, preparing himself as well as he could for the next adventure and the next episode of his life.

Theodore Roosevelt knew you had to GROW INTO YOUR DREAMS!

They don’t just happen.  You achieve your dreams only when you fill your pursuit of them with passion and enthusiasm, prepare yourself for when your dreams arrive, expect to achieve them, and pounce on the opportunity when it arrives.  As Zig Ziglar says

You were born to win!  But to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win!

Action Plan

  1. If you haven’t written your dreams down, now is the time to do so.
  2. Have it written down?  Now, think about how life will be when you achieve it.  You need to create a very specific vision of achieving your dream in order to commit it to your mind and develop a passion and enthusiasm for achieving it.
  3. Now think about how you need to prepare for it.  Consider yourself a poor marketer and know you will need to effectively market yourself to achieve your dream?  Read marketing books and attend workshops on marketing.  Need to develop your leadership skills?  Find a leadership coach, attend workshops and seminars, join a leadership mastermind, identify your leadership strengths.  Just need to grow yourself overall?  Find a growth coach, read self-improvement books, join mastermind groups of other like-minded people to help each other grow.  Preparation is key!


A Dream in Your Head is Called a Fantasy

One of the things I have noticed in my talks with people about their dreams is how many have to search their minds for exactly what their dream is.  In fact, that’s the only place they have their dream documented.  “I have it all up here!” they proudly proclaim, yet seem to have trouble finding it in that filing system.

It doesn’t work!  You need to get your dream out of your head and down on paper!  When you write down your dream, you have made it more than just a dream.  You have made it a goal.  You have given it substance.  As Napoleon Hill said in Think and Grow Rich

A goal is a dream with a deadline.

When you document it, you commit to it probably truly for the first time.  Things written down tend to have more meaning and permanency to them, like an ancient king making a declaration and then saying, “so let it be written, so let it be done!

If we put it down on paper, we put it not only in our minds but in our hearts as well.

visualize your dreamNow when I say paper I simply mean documented somewhere.  You can do it in Word on your computer.  There are lots of apps out there for tablets and smartphones.  I use Evernote because I can synch it between my tablet, my smartphone, and my laptop and access the same information everywhere.

However, you do it, DO IT!

When it is documented it takes on legs.  And wings!  It spurs you on to action so much more than if you simply keep it “all up here!”  It creates a visualization that helps you really paint a vivid picture of what you dreamed about.  It becomes detailed and real and tangible.  You begin to see it, feel it, touch it, taste it!  It moves from the realm of “one day, it would be nice” to “gotta have it NOW!” and you begin to build your case and your plan.

How to Record Your Dream

Here’s a few great ways to get your dreams down “on paper”.  Remember that detail is important here.  The more you write down the dream with all the trimmings — the who, what, when, where, why — the more real it becomes and the more likely you are to take action.

  1. The simple one is…get a sheet of paper and write it down.  Or buy a composition notebook.  Or if you want a lot more guidance along this lines, buy a goals planner.  Zig Ziglar publishes a great one but it can be pricey.  Here is a shorter version you can download as a PDF. I used this and it was sufficient for the time being.
  2. Use an online application or use Evernote to write down your dreams in detail.
  3. Create a “vision board” using pictures to represent your dream or dreams.  Vision boards are great because it completes that step of visualization, making your dream real and tangible, that we talked about earlier.  If you want to have an online version of this, consider using Pinterest.  You can create a page with your vision board and make it private.  It’s about the only real good usage I have found out of Pinterest at all.

Action Plan

  1. Set aside time tonight to think about your dreams.  Brainstorm for 15 minutes and write down every dream that comes into your head.  Don’t evaluate them, write them down.
  2. After the 15 minutes is up, look at what you wrote.  Pick out the top three to five to start working on right away.
  3. Write them down in detail using whatever method you have chosen.  But write them down, don’t keep them in your head.




How to Get Better Ideas

positive thinking yields brighter ideasWho gets better ideas, the positive person or the negative person?  A traditional saying is that “necessity is the mother of invention”; in other words, great ideas are spurred by need.  On the surface, that seems negative but actually the opposite is true.  Taking action happens from a positive attitude.  The negative attitude simply sees the need but the positive attitude not only sees the need but also believes fully that there is a solution if they only look long enough and hard enough to find it.  The negative person gives up, the positive person gives more.

I also believe BETTER ideas come from a positive attitude.  The positive thinker is outward focused and sees possibilities in every situation.  This ignites the thinking processes that want to find not just the easiest way but the best way and they will look at multiple options; not rejecting anything until they determine which will work best.  The negative thinker looks for the easy way out, doubting that anything will work and why not choose the path of least resistance.  This concept is born out in research, as I noted in yesterdays blog, Bouncing Back.  The positive person is simply in a better position to see options and make the most effective choice.  They are also more likely to execute it, which after all is the point.  No solution works if you don’t implement it.  Earlier in the week I mentioned a quote by Zig Ziglar that applies so well here:

“Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”

Pollyanna Was Right

pollyanna showed positive thinking in all situationsMany people use the term Pollyanna-ish to denote an idea or person who seems to be unreasonably positive.  This is based on the book and movie Pollyanna about a girl who goes to live with a relative in a town that is struggling and her constant positive outlook befriends everyone in town.  Many see Pollyanna’s attitude as almost a head in the sand, ignore the bad things and look at the good things attitude and see it as non-productive and certainly not results oriented.  So typically, referring to something as Pollyanna-ish is meant to be a derogatory term.  I think the opposite is true.  It’s not ignoring the situation, it’s simply refusing to accept it as final.  It is always seeing possibilities.  Being a Star Trek fan, I have to try and fit in a quote here from James T. Kirk (paraphrased a bit):

“I don’t believe in a no win scenario. I like to think there are always possibilities.”

A positive attitude allows you to reach high and overcome odds, it allows you to look for and see the best in people instead of the worst.  It also means you EXPECT the best from people and not the worst.  When you expect the best and make that clear in the way you treat people, most will go out of their way to live up to your expectation.  Will some disappoint you and break your heart? Sure, it’s inevitable.  But it is still better than expecting the worst in everyone else, treating them accordingly, and never being surprised or disappointed.  Expecting the worst in others brings out the worst in you.  Expecting the best in yourself and others creates a world of potential and possibilities that the worst can never bring you.

Think about your employees or colleagues in the workplace.  Do you expect the best from them?  Do you show that by treating them with respect, by giving them YOUR best?  Do you make your expectations clear?  How do you support them?  Encourage them?  Equip them?  As soon as you believe in possibilities and show that daily, they will too and it will show as they strive to constantly meet your expectations.

Action Plan

  1. Apply the thought “always possibilities” to a particular problem you are facing.
  2. Think about how you can give your best to your employees or colleagues. Determine your first step and do it.
  3. How can you communicate your expectations without being aggressive or offensive?