I woke up this morning glad to be back to my routine: coffee, breakfast, a little news and a workout! It felt good, after the holiday, to be back to normal. As I started the coffee, still waking up, the lead story on the morning news caught my ear; partly because it was refreshingly positive and partly because it was the type of story that just touches the heart and draws you in.
The news anchor was reporting about a veteran — a young soldier who had lost his leg and was training for a climb — the climb of his life. The reporter went on to explain that he was an elite marine from New York whose leg had been destroyed and then later amputated after an IED attack in Iraq. The marine, now wearing a prosthetic, was attempting to climb — yes, climb — one of the steepest, most dangerous routes on icy Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.
The reporter shared that his ascent was a way for this marine to honor his fellow soldiers who did not make it back from Iraq. In addition, his hope was to use this climb to raise awareness and funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization that supports wounded and hospitalized soldiers and the children of those killed in combat.
The marine, who is just 26, admitted that while the IED may have ended his career in the Marines, it had not stripped him of the “determination, perseverance and mental toughness I’ve gained.” The anchor went on to share this marine’s story: all that he had gone through on the battlefield, to recovering from his injuries, and then the tragic loss of his leg. Yet, despite all of that, the anchor shared the amazing list of achievements this marine is accomplishing now, against all odds. His story, as you can imagine, is nothing short of remarkable.
While I was moved by his story, I was far more inspired by his words and his actions. He was conveying the powerful message that no matter what happened to him, no matter what challenges or obstacles lay in his path, he was not going to be defeated. I reflected on the power of his attitude and mental toughness, and how closely both are connected to what we can overcome, and what we can accomplish. It is, like this marine, nothing short of remarkable. Not to mention the impact an attitude like his has on those around him, how it positively influences others.
So as you look at 2013 and begin to set your goals, define your focus, and get ready to take action, think about your attitude. Ask yourself: How mentally tough are you? Are you ready, mentally, for the year ahead and how tough this economy is going to be? How prepared are you to be flexible and responsive to your customers’ ever changing needs? How will you stand up to the new competition that is certain to come your way? Do you have the courage to take risks and try new things? Are you resilient enough to get back up after you fall? Because trust me, you will fall, make mistakes, and make some bad decisions.
How mentally tough and prepared you are has a direct impact on your success in this Trust & Value Economy. So how do you get ready? How do you know if you have what it takes? Are there exercises you can do to get your mind and your attitude in shape? Absolutely!
There are six techniques that I like to follow. I personally use and practice these six ways to keep my attitude positive and my mental state strong:
1. Embrace Failure – We have all heard it said that if you are not failing enough, you are not taking enough chances, and in my opinion, you are missing opportunities. Unfortunately, failure is something that our culture does not accept or appreciate, so we have lost sight of one of our greatest learning tools. Understanding why something did not work is as important, is in fact part of, learning how to make it work. So make the choice to embrace failure as a learning tool, and consistently ask yourself these questions: What went well? What did not? What do I need to do differently going forward? Let go of your ego, learn from your mistakes, and failure will become a way to propel you forward instead of holding you back.
2. Forget Outcomes – You have far more control over the process than you do the outcome, so focus your attention there. Especially in today’s economy, with so many outside forces influencing your success, your goals and expectations need to be flexible. Put your time and energy into perfecting your process, delivering a better product, improving your sales strategy, etc. Become the best at what you do and how you deliver it. A strong process will put you in position to be flexible and responsive to market changes, and give you the courage to take risks no matter what this Trust & Value Economy has in store for you.
3. Take Action – Just do it, as Nike would say! Every single day, every single week, move forward and take action. With your process firmly in place, you now need to work it. Make the sales calls you said you would, coach your employees, follow up on customer service requests, etc. In the Trust & Value Economy, those CEOs, business owners and professionals who are achieving success are no smarter or more capable than you are. They are just those who take action. The practice I like to refer to is motion first, which is understanding that learning, growth and results come from taking action and choosing to consistently move forward. Lots of people talk about what they are going to do, but few actually do it. Be among those who take action! Make a list of five things you are going to do, every single day or week, that are proactive and move your business and your life forward. Then do them!
4. Right People – If you are going to succeed and achieve a level of mental toughness, then you need to surround yourself with people who support your goals and dreams, and your attempts to make them happen. All too often I see professionals who get beaten down by a boss who focuses on their mistakes and forgets to point out what they do well. Or they have family members and friends who see their mistakes as failures rather than as learning opportunities. If you want to master this Trust & Value Economy and increase your mental toughness, then learn to set boundaries. Limit your time with people who do not infuse you with energy, and increase your time with those who do. Remember, people who focus on your faults and point out what you do wrong more than what you do right are people you need to limit your time and exposure to.
5. Manage Your Energy – Speaking of energy, learn to manage yours. So many of us have tried time and again to manage our time, with no luck at all. That is because time is not really the problem. The challenge is truly the amount of energy we have to accomplish everything we need and want to accomplish. The concept is simple, really. There are people and activities that infuse us with energy, and people and activities that deplete our energy. Our job is to learn to balance the two. Some things that deplete our energy, such as certain chores, or social outings or business functions we attend, can actually be eliminated from our lives. Then there are things that increase our energy, such as our hobbies, certain business functions and favorite people. Your job is to make better choices, and schedule your day around energy, not time. Certainly, you cannot get rid of everything that depletes your energy. But if you look at it honestly, there are definitely some things you can limit. In addition, identify what puts energy into your life and add more of that. For those days when you have to do tasks that deplete your energy, throw in a few that add to it.
6. Take Personal Responsibility – My personal favorite. If you want to increase your mental toughness, learn to overcome obstacles and achieve great things in the Trust & Value Economy, then stop blaming other people or situations. Understand that everything that goes wrong or right in your life you had a hand in. You made a choice and you are responsible for it. So take a look at your actions and behaviors, and embrace your responsibility for the outcome. Understand this clearly: achieving success and taking personal responsibility are deeply connected. One cannot — I repeat, cannot — be achieved without the other. Spending time blaming others or the situation, even if you’re right, is a waste of time, and more importantly, a waste of energy.
There you have it. So take a lesson from our Marine. Whatever we want to accomplish, we can, if we choose to have the mental toughness to do so. I trust that few, if any of us, will face the challenges this young marine is facing. If he can do it, if he can achieve his dreams, then we can too!
Happy New Year! Remember, this is your economy; now go out there and get it! Set yourself up for Winning In the Trust & Value Economy!