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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Getting your Moby: Strategies for Success

A good friend of mine recently went whale watching around the tip of Cape Cod.  I asked him if he brought the tarter sauce along with him.  He just kind of laughed and I asked him if he got his Moby on.  He laughed again unaware of what I meant.  Unbeknownst to him--that is until he reads this--his story reminded me of a time back in high school when I was a cross country and track athlete.

Anyone who has competitively raced knows that success at it is largely mental.  Of course, you have to have decent God-given talent, but you have to have determination and drive too, especially to push when you don't feel it.  Competitive racing and training is such a grind that it is easy to dwell on the negative such and pain and discomfort.  When you are tired, hurting and/or just having a not feeling it day, it can be easy to just want to throw in the towel.  Anyway, my track coach was big on the power of positive thinking.  He would usually have us get comfortable, lie down on a table or carpet and close our eyes.  He would throw then on a tape. We would listen to motivational speakers such as Zig Ziglar.  Anyway, one particular tape comes to mind.  In the tape, the speaker implored us to expect success.  He spoke about bringing tarter sauce with us in the pursuit of Moby Dick.  His point was not that you'll end up dying in pursuit of your goal--though for a few that might be a reality--but rather to expect success.  That is to say, be so tuned in or focused and confident about succeeding that we don't give the negative thoughts any space in our mind.  In other words, EXPECT success, not just hope for it.  (Of course, as teenagers we thought the tape was hilarious, but it's over 30 years later and I still think upon or remember it.  So, clearly its message was not lost.

So, it occurred to me that Moby Dick represents our goal(s).   Not easy to achieve goals, but goals which take time and focus and which can be elusive.  I touched upon this in an earlier blog, so some of this is a repeat, but I'd thought I'd expound a little.

We have choices in life as to how to live:
  1. Do nothing and failure is very likely to come.
  2. Make a minimal effort by "Going through the motions" to try to fool yourself or others into thinking you've tried.
  3. Push hard and hope to succeed.
  4. When your body and soul are screaming out, "I can't take it anymore.", push a bit further and further.

Your likely success for each choice in the same order will be:
  1. Probable failure
  2. Marginal success
  3. Taste some success.
  4. Live with numerous successes.

No one ever said success would be easy.  It may seem like it is impossible at times.  But, how can you succeed at those points.  In my own life I've found the following strategies tend to work.

  • Break the big goals into smaller, easier to conceive, easier to achieve goals.
    • If I am pushing a hard 20 laps around the track, I don't focus on all 20 at once, I focus on achieving portions of the 20.
      • While completing the first lap, tell myself, I'm almost at 5% done.
      • While completing the second lap, tell myself I'm almost at 10% done.
      • ...
      • While completing the tenth lap, tell myself, I've almost got the majority of my run out of the way.
      • ...
      • As I am wrapping up my last lap, tell myself, I just need to push a little longer.
      • I now have completed the 20 laps.
    • If I am working on a project at work, I focus on getting smaller units of the project working.
      • Design
      • Create
      • Test
      • Implement
      • Repeat the cycle for each element of the project.  Pretty soon I'll have all elements of the project done.
    • Having smaller successes keeps morale up, keeps the forward momentum and most importantly increases confidence.  Successes build on each other.
  • Realize that failure is part of the path to success and work not to take it personally.
    • Even within failure there can be some success
      • Sometimes 'failures' result in getting closer to your ultimate goal.
        • You miss making the team this spring, but you've shown enough get on the team's radar--being a possible next call-up.
        • You miss being named the starter, but you shown enough that you are second on the depth chart vs. third last year (in short closer to starting).
      • In 'failing' you can learn lessons that can lead to ultimate success.
        • Thomas Edison had hundreds of failed attempts at the light bulb.  With each failed attempt, he eliminated options that had failed.
        • Eventually, he found a combination of material and design that worked for him.
    • An easy early 'success' can lead to a false confidence or taking it for granted.
      • Initial failures can teach persistence.  That is, it can ingrain the need to stay at it when success is elusive.
      • Having to really work to achieve success, can make success sweeter vs. having a 'cheap' victory.
    • Use failures or setbacks as a motivating tool to try harder.  When you lose a job, lose a promotion or have another setback, mourn it where necessary, but turn around and vow to work that much harder to avoid a similar setback again.
  • Focusing on what you can do, not what you can't.
    • That means don't get stuck on your 'failures' or weaknesses, but instead focus on your strengths.  
      • Focusing too much on weaknesses or failures can be mentally or emotionally disabling, such as a relief pitcher that cannot get past a blown save or two and loses his nerve.
      • Focusing on strengths can help you build confidence for when you have to face the tougher situations again.
    • That doesn't necessarily mean ignoring weaknesses, but instead not letting them overtake you.
      • If you have a weakness, own it rather than letting it own you.  Don't live in shame of a weakness, but instead live in awareness.
      • Instead of letting it overtake you, use it as a motivator.  Realize that it is something that you can and will always work to get better at.
    • As a kid and young adult, I focused on the fact that I wasn't particularly handy around the house or with cars. 
      • I should have spent more time focusing on what I was good at.  I have always been very technically literate and good thinker and now writer.
      • Over time some of the problem solving/critical thinking skills used in dealing with technical issues, I could learn to channel into everyday handyman type issues.  That is, I might never be an expert electrician, carpenter or the like, but that doesn't mean I couldn't learn anything.
  • Surround yourself with positive people and doers.
    • It is human nature to want to fit in.  If you are with positive people and doers, you will tend to strive to emulate them.  In other words, you'll tend to actively emulate success.
    • Positive people and doers will rub off on you.  Without even knowing it, you can pick up positive traits, helpful hints and just positive thinking.  In other words, absorbing the positive energy and steps necessary to be positive and successful.
  • Keep or limit the negative people and circumstances in your life and find a way to bleed out or channel the negative where necessary.
    • Negative people or circumstances can be very draining.  They can actually feed negative energy in your life.  Nobody needs that.
    • Unwittingly in a desire to fit in, you may start to dwell too much in the negative along with negative people.
    • This doesn't necessarily mean ignoring, disowning or acting like you are above them, but instead understanding that you cannot live in their negative. Therefore, limit exposure to them where necessary or possible and recognize their toxicity in either case.
    • Understand we live in an imperfect world and not every day or every situation will be 'peaches and cream'.  Sometimes we can't totally wish away or ignore the negative.
      • Do not live it, but instead acknowledge and surrender it.
      • Do not live it, but instead properly deal with or mourn the negative where necessary.

I'm sure many people have their own route to success.  These are just some techniques and observations I've used in achieving the successes I've had in my own life.  As always, I recognize that I don't have all the answers and others may have their own strategies or paths to success.  So, like I do, take what you find useful or helpful from my words.


If you like this blog, you will like: 
Baseball and life: The winner mindset, a tribute to the upcoming season 
The Fine Line: Failure takes no effort, success takes a lot of work

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