Jim Rohn

easy to get right, easy to get wrong

A simple question: When is 2/5/13?

It’s not a trick question and the answer is more significant than it seems. Hold that thought, we’re going to come back to it.

Jim Rohn used to say that when something is easy to do, it’s also easy not to do. And that’s the problem. He’d point out that it’s easy to “eat an apple a day” for your health, yet  many people don’t because it’s so easy not to. It’s easy to put off until tomorrow and tomorrow often becomes never.

Likewise, you may have noticed that when something is easy to get right, it’s generally easy to get wrong. We put all kinds of processes and instructions and safeguards around the things that are hard to get right, but assume that the easy stuff will be done perfectly because, well, it’s easy.

So when is 2/5/13? It looks so cut at dried, but the answer is: it depends. If you’re sitting in Frankfurt 2/5/13 is May 2, 2013, but if you’re in Dallas it’s February 5, 2013. In an isolated world that’s ok, but in a globally connected world it matters.

I was watching a video from a Swedish band on YouTube the other day and noticed that there was a link announcing the band was playing at a local(ish) venue on February 5. How cool is that? Truly, if the whole tour schedule had been posted, I wouldn’t have paid it much mind, but as a snippet of the information most pertinent to me, it caught my attention. As I was marvelling at the wonders of this modern age and debating going to the show, I went to the band’s website and noticed that, yes they are playing that venue. On May 2.

Details matter. So easy to get right and so easy to get wrong.

Yesterday, I was digging into the data in our Learning Management System and was having trouble sorting it because some of the items were inconsistently entered. If someone signed up for but didn’t attend a class, the “Post-Status” field was either left blank, marked “incomplete”, or marked “no show”. All mean essentially the same thing, yet aren’t. Data consistency is so easy to get right and so easy to get wrong.

A friend works at a company that just switched payroll providers. Many employees discovered that their expense reimbursements were processed (and taxed) as income. The company that messed it up is a well-known and experienced payroll company who should never make such a simple mistake. It seems so easy to denote income and expense reimbursement differently. So easy to get right and so easy to get wrong.

Or what about the interviewer who swears they will call you with a decision by the end of next week, but never do. Or… or… or… How many examples of great / terrible customer service, HR, leadership, etc. come down to getting the little, simple details right?

So when is 2/5/13?

Your thoughts?

don’t wish it were easier

It seems like every time we start to get caught up, something happens. If only we could get a good year or two, then we could get ahead.” I’ve heard statements like this from several leaders recently. Although I understand and empathize with the uncertainty and pain and fear they are wrestling with, I am left thinking, “so what?”

Worrying about all the outside factors causing me to lose will ultimately cause me to lose for several reasons:

1. “If onlys…” are a distraction. It’s a drain to put time, emotion, and energy into worrying about things I can’t control, or even influence. The economy, conflicts around the world, the government, the weather, changing social norms, shifting demographics, etc. are what they are. If I can change it, change it. If I can influence it, influence it. Otherwise, I can only accept it and move on OR focus on what I need to change about myself to better deal with the circumstances.

2. Regardless of where I am today, this is the only starting point I have. Things are not going to suddenly be different and the world doesn’t owe me anything. That said, I have easy access to clean water, food, shelter, medical care, and transportation. I can call up an aeon’s worth of information instantly and communicate globally on my computer. There is due process of law, minimal corruption, free education, guaranteed human rights and individual freedoms, and a democratic system that seems to work ok. People tell me how miserable the economy is, but someone is buying all those smart phones and tablet computers. Perfect? Not a bit. But I don’t have to look back too far in time or too far across a map to realize just how good I (and anyone reading this) have it. Life may get scary, uncertain, and overwhelming, but if I had to choose a place and time to be at today, I could do much, much worse.

3. If the world were easier for me it would also be easier for my competition so I wouldn’t be any further ahead. Sure, it’s easier to run downhill, but if we’re all running downhill, so what?. If you’ve ever been an endurance athlete, there is a state of mind where you take solace in knowing that if it’s difficult for you and you’re hurting, it’s at least as bad for your competition. Some even see the difficulty as a source of competitive advantage and look forward to the brutal courses and bad weather. They know that many of their competition will have mentally given up even before the start. So, as I look at my life, career, and business today, I can join in all the worry and complaining or I can accept that it’s difficult, appreciate the challenge, and smile every time I hear leaders from other companies complain because I know they are believing their own excuses and mentally handing the race to me. The worse they think they have it, the easier they make it for me.

4. I can complain about the challenges, situations, and general state of life OR I can figure out who I need to be and the skills I need to develop to get where I want to go GIVEN the challenges, situations, and general state of life.

I’m going to wrap up today with my favorite quote from Jim Rohn:

Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom. 

Your thoughts?

it’s not your positive thinking that’s the problem – it’s your lack of action that’s getting in the way

I really dislike the term “positive thinking”. Not because I don’t like positive thinking – I’m all for it. Rather, because many people have a skewed idea of what it means and act as though it’s a bad thing.

I find that when people have a negative view of positive thinking it’s because they are confusing it with Pollyanna, happy-sunshine, ignore all the problems, ain’t life wonderful thinking. A recent blog on Fast Company’s website “How ‘Positive’ Thinking Sets You Up To Fail” referred to research that indicates that “positive thinkers” are less likely to take action.

If you read the blog you’ll see that what the author’s really talking about is that happy-sunshine daydream thinking without action sets you up to fail. I’m in total agreement. Mr. Positive Thought himself, Zig Ziglar famously commented that “Positive thinking won’t let you do anything but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.” Jim Rohn said similarly, “Affirmation without action leads to delusion.” It’s not positive thinking that’s the problem, it’s the lack of action.

Let’s quickly look at these three types of thinking:

  • Happy-sunshine thinking: belief that all is going to work out, only look at the good of any situation, all you have to do is think good thoughts and all will come to you. This is what many people do when they try to “think positive”. Putting your head in the sand is just denial. It has nothing to do with positive thought.
  • Negative thinking: belief that nothing is going to work out, there is no good in any situation, why bother thinking good thoughts because nothing goes right anyway. This is victim mentality. A refusal to try with a built in excuse for failure.
  • Positive thinking: recognizing the obstacles and challenges and problems of a situation and taking action with belief that it can be made to work out. The author of the blog refers to this as “good negative thinking”. But this is NOT negative thinking of any kind. It’s simply being real about the obstacles and acknowledging that life is hard and anything worth achieving is going to take some effort. We have to believe that we can overcome the challenges or we won’t attempt it. That’s positive thinking.

Notice that happy-sunshine and negative thinkers both operate on blind faith and neither takes action. Positive thinkers assess the reality, devise a plan, and take action because they know that thought without action is worthless.

Imagine a person wants to lose weight. The happy-sunshine thinker visualizes it, thinks good thoughts, but takes no action. The negative thinker gives it up as hopeless, blames their metabolism, and does nothing. The positive thinker recognizes that losing weight is a challenge, it will involve changing a lifetime of habits, and acknowledges that there will be set backs, but has confidence that they can do it. Then they develop a plan and – here’s the important part – they take action.

So what’s this look like in business? The happy-sunshine thinker ignores the recession, keeps the same expenses, pricing, and strategy as before and merrily goes out of business. The negative thinker believes confuses a slowing of the economy with a stopping of the economy, and either gripes and does nothing (except letting customers and employees know how bad they have it) or completely overreacts. The positive thinker acknowledges the situation and adjusts their strategy accordingly while keeping faith that with the right action they will get through it.