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Showing posts with label success. Show all posts
Showing posts with label success. Show all posts

Thursday, April 23, 2020

A negative tends to have a greater impact than a positive.

As Mark Twain was purported to have said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”  Obviously, what he meant was that it is easier to spread a falsehood than to correct it.   I also realized when in was in my first year of college that failure is easier than success and spoke about this concept in The Fine Line: Failure takes no effort, success takes a lot of work .  Most of the time you don't have to do anything to fail.  In fact, I believe that it is doing nothing that will inevitably usually lead to failure.   In more recent years, it has occurred to me that a negative generally has greater impact than a positive.  As a matter of fact, the concepts here actually go hand in hand.   Just as failure is easier than success, a negative tends to be the default or more pervasive state than a positive.

But, think about.  When studying history what do we put more of our energy on?  When we have both good and bad interactions with people, what do we tend to focus more on?  If we have an otherwise good driving record marred by a life-changing accident, what will we and others focus on?   When we have a good work record marred by a very bad screw-up or marred by an unfortunate interaction--especially if we are dismissed as a result--will we feel like a success?  When we have an uneventful or clean deployment that ends with a trauma, what will we be tend to focus on?

I've had some successes in life, but in my later 40s and 50s, I have worked through and processes a lot as a childhood sexual abuse survivor.   The successes have helped me keep perspective BUT they did not completely erase the impact of CSA.  This all leads to the questions:  Why does the negative in many (or I dare so most) cases have a greater impact than the positive?  I'm going to consider that here:

Impact of Negatives vs. Positives

  • I think the positives, though we appreciate them, we can take them for granted and not realize their goodness or importance.  Negatives on the other hand I think are harder to dismiss as 'these things just happen sometimes'.  I think we tend to look for a reason or why.
  • I think often the consequences of a negative just is more devastating than a positive.  
    • I understand a common exercise to teach teens the difficulty and challenges of raising a baby utilizes an egg as the baby. 
    • The goal is to take the 'baby' wherever you go without 'breaking it'.
    • No matter how many times or days you've handled the egg, if you drop it once on any kind of hard surface, it will break.  Similarly a baby can easily be injured if you drop him or her once.
  • I believe we may savor the good or positive times and relive them, but they will tend to become a distance memory. Their impact can fade over time and we won't usually tend to second-guess them.  Bad or negative times, if bad enough, can come to the forefront.  From my experience, if they are not resolved, can come to the forefront very quickly.  Bad times are a lot more likely to lead to second guessing.  That is, how could we have made that choice, said those words, done that thing, etc.
  • I believe we tend to view 'negatives' as a moral failure.  Meaning we have a harder time 'forgiving ourselves'.  I think this is especially true if the weak or more challenged our faith is.  The positives we take pride in but we are taught not to gloat too much about them or take too much credit for them.

So believing that negatives tend to have a greater impact, what do we do to mitigate against that?  I don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas.

Mitigation Strategies (Against the Oversized Influence of Negatives) 

  • Make reminders of success prominent in your life.  Not to gloat on them or to show or develop arrogance, but as a reminder to yourself when the bad times or negatives hit that your life has balance.  Meaning that as much of a particular failure or negative hurts, it is not who you are.
  • Remember who your Higher Power sees you as.  Yes, it hurts if the world or you in particular sees a negative or failure in your life, but how does your Higher Power view you?  For myself, I've been taught that we are made in God's image and 'God doesn't make junk'.
  • Surround yourself with those tend to be uplifting for you.  That's not to say surround yourself with yes men, but those who will be more willing see you in a positive light than a negative.   In other words, while you don't want those who would 'Blow smoke up your *ss', you also don't want those who would "Rain on your parade' either.
  • Learn to view negatives or failures as blessing in disguise where possible.  If not that, then at least learn to view them as a learning experience or point along the journey.

Few people can completely shut the negatives in their life and I believe it is human nature to focus on the negatives over the positives.  However, that doesn't have to be a place 'where we live' but instead maybe a place we visit from time to time or a reminder of what to avoid.

Anyway, that's my thoughts for the day or my story and I'm sticking to it.

-- Rich

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nothing to Sneeze At: Different definitions of success

History is littered with what we now consider odd symbols of wealth or success.  Being fat used to be a sign of being wealthy especially in accent times, where plentiful or readily available food wasn't always guaranteed.  The ability to sneeze upon demand oddly was one too.  Sneezing was thought to be a way of clearing one's mind.  Those with idle time and/or the money to afford snuff--which could induce sneezing--were typically aristocrats.  Interestingly enough, sneezing in conversation was typically considered a sign of disapproval.  Hence, "not to be sneezed at", indicated that something was worthwhile.  Anyway, when we think about the phrase, "nothing to sneeze at", we think of an amount of money that is significant.  But really you could apply that phrase to any measure of success.

When we measure success, we most often think of how much monetary advantage someone has gained.  However, as we know that is but one measure of success in a person's life.  From my perspective, there are many measures of success and not all traditional.  By it's nature, traditional implies long established or understood.  So, let's start with the more readily thought of measures.

  • Wealth
    • A person who has a lot of money, especially if they've largely earned it themselves is typically considered successful.   Gaining or accumulating a small fortune is not an easy task for most, so society looks upon it as a sign of accomplishment.
    • A person is considered 'successful' if they can provide a comfortable (aka free of money concerns) for themselves and family.   Being able to provide that in death is also a sign of success. 
  • Power
    • Being able to shape events and shape the world around you is another common sign of success, especially considering those with money can more easily buy influence.
    • Power, often, but not always, comes in conjunction with having 'made money' or the ability to do so.
    • I believe in society we tend to admire those who are able to exert control over as many of us feel like we are powerless in the worlds.  Typically those who are able to do so have a better chance of making sure they and their friends are 'taken care of' and we hope that they can take care of us (those whom they lead or 'rule' over).
  • Awards or Achievements
    • Not everyone can be the best or win at something.  We tend to recognize achievements, especially those that are rare and/or above and beyond the norm as indicators of success.
      • In the NBA for example, there is only one person who is considered the most valuable to their team per year.  So, to get that award really speaks volumes about your success, especially where it relates to helping your team.
      • The Noble Peace Prize likewise is award to person or group every year.  So, if you are nominated and win it, it typically speaks volumes about how people value your efforts towards advancing peace.
    • Typically, but not always, an award or achievement is forever.  Therefore, not only will you be recognized at the time it is given, but you will go down in the 'history books' when you achieve or are recognize for greatness.
  • Fame
    • Typically, but not always comes with wealth.
    • Often is associated with some degree of influence or power.
    • Tends to come with, but not always, awards or accomplishments.
    • Is a sign of 'relevance'.  
      • While it is probable that being rich will tend to make one more memorable, it isn't a guarantee thereof.  While wealth my guarantee some publicity in one's own life or the life of one's own life, it is no guarantee that generations hence that you'll be remembered or even thought of.
      • Once we get past survival thoughts, I believe there is a spiritual yearning in many if not most people to feel like they matter.  
  • Successful influence.
    • Even if we don't 'succeed' according to the world's other measures of success, we may be considered successful if our children that we've raised have achieved one or more of the previous measures.
    • We ourselves can gain some measure of pride if we can claim that we helped our children (or players or students/spouse) to succeed.  

  • Sacrifice
    • This may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes success is sacrifice, especially if that sacrifice was not in vein such as in examples below:
      • A soldier who dies in the service of his/her country, can through his/her efforts be part of a larger success in military victory and/or keeping us safe.
      • A fireman who dies in the line of duty--such as on 9/11--while leading other to safety has succeeded in making the world (or his/her part of it) a better place.
      • A police officer who dies in the line of duty, but helped keep his/her town safe by protecting the citizenry in the process.
    • Sacrifice can mean giving up of our hard earned time or treasure to help others succeed.  If we by our sacrifice help others to succeed, then we have achieved a level of success ourselves.  Successfully passing it on.
  • Survival
    • This can take many forms some include:
      • Literal physical survival such as in a battle (such as in war or a personal fight like cancer). 
        • When pinned being enemy lines, being able to make it out alive can be success (a miracle)
        • When you are deemed to be terminal and given only a short time to live, beating the odds can be a huge success story.
        • When you have a hard-core addiction, especially one that could be life-threatening, it may not seem like much, but success can be as simple as making it alive and sober another day.
      • Keeping a roof and food over your head in a bad economic downturn.  When you don't know how you'll make it, being able to look back and say, "somehow I made" it is a sign of success at navigating the storm.
      • Emotionally surviving after an attack or repeated abuse.  Sometimes having the strength to endure and to recover without getting destroyed or destroying yourself is a miracle.
      • Spiritually surviving trying circumstances (such as loss of job, family members or home).  Keeping the faith despite the world around you seeming to collapse is not something everyone does.
    • People who haven't been through the rough times, cannot always appreciate that success in life can be as simple as surviving.
    • Survival can be a success on the way to other successes (thriving). 
  • Simple Completion
    • In some ways this can be considered a success or a point just past survival.
    • Some challenges are so great that we don't have to be the best to be considered a winner or success.  Examples are as follows:
      • Finishing last place in a marathon is in itself a success.  Many people either don't finish or never have tried in the first place
      • A baseball player who makes it to the major leagues for a short stint, never to taste that success again can be considered a success.  Especially if/considering:
        • That player was not considered to have the talent level to make it.
        • For all those who have played the game, it is a rare class of people that even touch that level of success, even for a moment or brief stint.
  • Serenity or Spiritual Peace
    • We may not have the recognition, the worldly 'successes', the praise, the glory or even the simple notes of appreciation, but there is something to be said for being at peace with your Higher Power.
    • Many people live their whole life, never having achieved any level of serenity or spiritual peace, so achieving it is achieving a success that no other worldly success can match.
    • Serenity or Spiritual Peace can help us whether storms or lack of 'successes' in other areas of our lives.
    • The importance of it best captured by this verse: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)
  • Successfully Leading/Supporting 
    • Our children, students or players may never achieve pinnacles of the traditional measures of success, but that's okay.  Not everyone can be the richest, most famous, most accomplished or powerful.
    • Our spouse may never be achieve the pinnacle of success, but if we have supported him or her and encouraged him or her to be the best they can be, that is a measure of success.
    • In a world in which many people crash and burn and fail, leading those under us to well-adjusted lives is in itself "nothing to sneeze at".  We can't guarantee them 'worldly success', but we can give them the tools to be well-adjusted. 

In this world, we are often pushed by those close to us to succeed according to worldly standards. We are pushed by who are well meaning and by those who live vicariously through us.  While it can be a good thing to strive towards the traditional or worldly measures of success, it is important to never forget the more basic and less traditional measures, thereof.  Doing so, I believe can help us to be more grounded and can keep us from getting discouraged when we aren't succeeding as well as we'd like by the traditional measures.  But, I believe in all our successes we should remember the following:
  1. Never forget those who helped us along the way (especially and including our Higher Power).
  2. It is okay to have some pride in our successful efforts, but it is important not to be too prideful.
  3. Worldly 'success' can be fleeting, so appreciate it while it is there, but always be aware of the the less traditional measures of success which tend to be longer lasting if not eternal.
  4. The measure of who we are is we do with what we have.  (Vince Lombardi)  We are not guaranteed worldly success by any measure, but I believe we are guaranteed being considered a success by our Higher Power if we do the best with what we are given.

Thanks for reading,

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

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Fine Line: Failure takes no effort, success takes a lot of work

I believe if you have been around long enough and reflected a little, you'll come to realize (at least on some level) that life is full of fine lines.  To wit consider:
  • In sports and competition.  
    • Winning or losing a 100 meter swim or sprint by .01 seconds
    • Fouling back a pitch vs. hitting a home run.
    • Throwing an incomplete pass vs. a touchdown pass.
  • With a change of a word or two, something meant as a compliment can be taken as an insult.
  • With a moment of inattention we could be in a major accident on the highway.  
  • Going out a few minutes earlier or later or signing in a few minutes earlier or later could make the difference between finding a companion who treats us well vs. one who treats us poorly
  • A couple answers on a test can mean the difference between getting a scholarship or not or getting into the school of our choice or not.. 
I don't know when I came to it, but having lived my life without much of a safety net or extras or flash tends to make you realize the fine line between success and failure.  I realized that if I didn't succeed in college that I would never have any type of life as I tend to be less handy with my hands and more handy with my mind.   I realize that if I didn't succeed I would not any help to speak of from family.

As I likely have adult ADD, sometimes learning takes a little more effort.  So, while I am very smart, sometimes I have to really bear down and focus to get the job done.  So, I knew success wouldn't come easy for me.

I have seen people around me fail by making very little if any effort at all, but alternatively have seen people succeed by trying hard.  It has become clear to me that failing is actually very simple, often times it is a matter of doing little or nothing.  Like if you take your hands off the wheel when driving, you will eventually crash vs. getting to your destination.  If you don't look for work you'll stay unemployed.  Etc.   Success on the other hand typically means pushing past when you are tired, pushing past when you are ready to quit, pushing past when you are 'done'.  Success often means reaching for that little extra when you are physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually exhausted.  In other words, it is a fine between giving up and failing and success.

I guess the take away is this:

  • Failure is the eventual default position, but success is the position that takes a lot of planning and/or effort.  That is to say failure is the default state and success is the state that you have to work towards. 
  • The difference between success and failure is often a very small amount.  That is, a fine line.


Keep moving forward toward the dream

The difference between failure and success
Is often when you've decided to continue or take a rest

The goal seems too far away
But, if pushing forward you stay

Focused on the prize ahead
Despite all the effort you dread

You will find that as you continue to move forward
Close and closer to you reward

Will you get, until one day you have achieved your dream
Then all the your effort will seem

To fade into the background
But you on the other hand will still be around.