Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
I do my best to maintain a positive outlook and mindset. This has been a topic of past blogs but also, I feel weaves its way into what I write about and how I write. My family members will sometimes show frustration with me as I don’t jump in with them to the deep end of the negativity pool, instead choosing to dip my toe and then talk about the alternatives.
A friend of mine is a particular challenge for me due to their negativity that surfaces in every conversation and text that we share. I know many of you are thinking back to our last interaction wondering if it is you… if you are, then maybe you already see an opportunity to change! But, back to the story. While I care about this person, my initial reaction when my phone rings or when I see a text notification is one of dread. I get angry at myself for that feeling afterwards, but when it happens, it already puts me on edge and in a negative frame of mind which I hate.
Depending upon my initial mood, my approach to those conversations goes one of two ways: 1) I am short, impatient and I add fuel to support their negativity or 2) I turn philosophical and try to talk about the power of positivity and the potential of the future that has not happened yet. Obviously, I much prefer the latter, but it is a test to be in that mode.
In a recent conversation, I was in full positive mode so when my friend started with the sad story and he was feeling sorry for himself, I called him out and talked about staying positive. He responded with, “Good advice but I know me better than you, obviously. Just keeping it real.” Well, I was not going to be denied. So, I challenged them about how they let their frustration get the best of them and then they take it out on others. I said, “Your choice... be a victim of your circumstance or do something about it.” I went on to stress that “you don't have to accept your past as your future. Build new habits going forward.”
My friend then engages me and acknowledges what I am saying and even references some podcasts that I have recommended to help with his outlook. It seems like he is trying to build himself up, to speak truth and positivity into himself, but then finishes with a sentence talking about how hard it is to be positive and that their life makes it easier to be in that negative state of mind, regardless of how depressing it is.
So, I called him out again. I was not going to let him get away with this negative self-talk to lower his expectations of himself. Because the 2nd Pillar of Impact is to Expect Excellence in yourself and others, and right then, we both needed it. “There you go again. What are you focusing on? What you don't have? What's depressing? Or you could focus your thoughts and words about what is awesome. You must enjoy the moments.” I finish off by paraphrasing Jon Gordon saying it’s impossible to be negative and grateful at the same time.
“You’re right,” my friend replied. “That’s just me, I never thought it would be something I had to work at, but I guess after being where I have been for so long, it has enabled me to stay in that state. But trying to NOT focus on the negative is truly a challenge especially when the domino effect starts my days.”
I quickly reflect on many of my past experiences with him. The way his anger would bubble up and then be targeted at you or whoever was around. Full throttle anger that you knew was not really about you, but about him and the world he lives in that was built by the choices he made. You knew instantly when he was not on his medication based upon the volatility of his reactions. At those moments, there was no reasoning with him, you just ride the storm out. But this wasn’t one of those days and I needed to push forward.
“Believe me,” I said, “I understand the dominoes you are talking about, especially in regard to receiving the impact of those dominoes from what you say. Words are powerful. I share this with you because you say stuff that matters. Maybe not to you, because they are just words. But they are your feelings and represent you, which is why it SHOULD mean something to you.”
I went on to suggest that since the words matter, instead of accepting "that's just me" say "that was me, but not anymore". I explained that every time he gives power to the negativity and victim status saying that he can't change, he is taking a step further away from who he can become - a step further away from being happy.
I could tell that my friend was deep in thought, soaking in what we had been discussing, so I decided to wrap up our conversation. “You always tell me that you appreciate what I say. So do me a favor and show it with your actions. Don't make excuses. Don't expect anything less than excellence. Not perfection, but the pursuit of excellence in everything you do. Remember, it's not failure, if you are still moving forward.”
A quiet and caring response is what I got from my friend, “All in time.” I knew that it wasn’t over. That his thoughts were not focusing on the power of the positive or the future that has left to be lived but instead, was still focused on the decisions and situations that had gotten him to this place. The loss. The bad decisions. The hurt. But, despite his reflections, I could see a glimpse of sunshine. The fate glimmer of hope that today would be a good day.
Negative thoughts are going to happen but clinging to and immersing yourself in those negative thoughts will lead to negative actions. That is not good for you or those who care about you. Commit to finding the positive. Commit to moving forward. Commit to being grateful. Commit to focusing on what you can be versus what you were. Commit to be better today than you were yesterday so that you can be better Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.