After a cold week, the porch is drenched in warm sun, the plants on the property are glowing as the sun streams in to light their edges, and the mountain in the distance is still purple gray. Thank goodness for spring.
“Your Ideas Are BS, Eric”
Last week I received an e-mail from an artist who had read my new marketing book. In the book I talk a lot about the importance of managing your own mindset and its impact on your life, to which she suggested that “positive thinking is complete BS.” Her words were a little stronger than that.
My Tortured Friendship
In my response I told her what I’ve learned about this recently and the story of my dear friend Chris, whom I met when I was about 18. Chris ran a local radio station, and I was a young budding broadcaster. We became friends and remained friends as he moved up the ladder to different jobs across the country. We shared a love for radio broadcasting.
Though Chris was a dear friend, the one thing I used to kid him about was how negative he was all the time. He too thought positive thinking was BS. “It’s easy for you,” he said. “You grew up in a good family, your dad owned a business, and you had a lot of advantages, which is why things are going so well for you.”
Chris had grown up in a much more difficult climate. His mom had passed away and his dad, who had to work all the time, placed him in a boarding school and was unable to spend much time with him. He felt abandoned. He stayed in boarding school from a young age through high school, then college, and then he was on his own. “Is it any wonder I’m a negative thinker?” He would say to me. “I did not get the breaks you had.”
Of course, you and I both know that boarding school and college would be considered a big advantage by many people.
Advantages Don’t Matter
I spent most of our friendship trying to get him to look at the brighter side of life and never got him to agree. I pointed out that I knew people who grew up with great advantages, wealthy families, great educations, parents who offered to help them start businesses, and still those advantages did not help them. I also pointed out people I knew who came from really difficult situations, growing up in horrible families, horrible neighborhoods, struggling and starving, who pulled themselves up and made successes of their lives. It was thinking that made the difference, but he refused to agree.
Impact on Your Health
One day I told Chris his attitude was going to shorten his life. I then cited evidence. More BS, according to him. Years later at lunch he revealed that doctors thought he had brain cancer, and he decided he was going to give up smoking. He was really scared. Yet the next day, after he’d been given an all-clear, he started smoking again, and two years later he died of lung and brain cancer at a young age.
I bought Chris the book Think and Grow Rich, which changed my life. He never read it. Though it was written back in 1937, it turned out to be right. Today we have significant evidence that the brain reacts to the ways we interpret things.
Two things have been PROVEN scientifically:
- If you visualize something happening to you, in detail, and you take action toward those dreams, there is a high likelihood you can achieve things that are seemingly impossible. It can work in reverse if you think of the worst that can happen to you.
- If you treat others who don’t believe in themselves as though you believe in them, and tell them about how much you believe in them, and how much you know they will succeed, evidence suggests it can begin to remake their brain chemistry and positively change their lives until they get to the point they can manage their own mindset. Belief is a powerful thing.
The key in both cases is that positives need to outweigh negatives 10 to one.
I’ve been teaching these things for a while and find them fascinating, so much so that I’m actually taking a course to become a certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) coach. No, I don’t plan to quit my job and become a coach, I just want to understand it in depth, because my personal experiences with NLP have been game-changing and I want to take it to the highest level of performance.
In NLP, the foundation of everything in life is CAUSE and EFFECT.
In Chris’ case, “My dad put me in a boarding school and abandoned me” is cause. “I’m at a disadvantage because I did not get my dad’s love, and therefore my life sucks” is effect.
Chris was playing the victim.
I don’t doubt that he was hurting, or that he did not understand why his dad put him into boarding school. But instead of accepting it for what it was and managing his life in spite of it, his hurt became his excuse for problems and negativity his whole life. It’s OK to lick your wounds for a short time, but at some point you have to move on or you’ll get stuck.
Cause and Effect: One thing causes another thing to happen.
“I’m late because of you.” You caused me to be late.
You made me late. It’s an “if/then” mentality. If you did this to me, then this is the result.
Sadly, most of us spend our time in effect mode. Effect is always someone else’s fault. Frankly, it’s easier to blame others than to blame ourselves or accept personal responsibility. Plus, making it someone else’s problem gives us a subconscious excuse to fail.
- “I didn’t get that job because you made me angry when you told me I needed to wear a tie, so I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.”
- “I can’t concentrate on my homework because dad has been mowing the lawn and making too much noise.”
- “You broke a promise years ago, therefore it’s OK for me to treat you badly.”
- “My boss is a jerk because he embarrassed me in front of others. Therefore it’s OK to steal from the company.”
- “All rich people are evil, so it’s OK for me to steal from them.”
- “I don’t like your politics, so it’s OK for me to slam you on social media.”
Are you stuck in the effect side of life?
So what’s the alternative? After all, bad things are going to happen.
To be better at cause, the key is never to blame others or blame circumstances. Accept what is and move on. “In spite of the car breaking down, I made sure I got all my meetings done anyway.”
Brush It Off
Learning to brush off cause so you’re not living with effect will change your life. Why waste energy on effect?
“I am so proud of myself. I had a challenging day. I had to concentrate really hard since they were working with a jackhammer outside my window. But once I had decided that I was going to concentrate on the job, the noise didn’t bother me.”
Looking back in the future, do you want to say, “If it wasn’t for this or it wasn’t for that, I could have made a lot more out of my life”?
When you are on your deathbed, do you want to be looking back and blaming other people or your circumstances for not having realised your potential?
The Difference Between “A” Players and Others
I spend time with a lot of highly successful people and all of them spend their time in cause and not in effect. In fact, I’ve found that A players are cause people, and B and C players are effect people.
Who are you blaming?
Why blame anyone or anything? Why not just accept circumstances and live the best life you can live without excuses?
You cannot ever expect anyone to pull you up out of your circumstances to make things better. Only you can be responsible for making that happen.
Which side will you spend your time on? Cause or effect? Cause is bright and sunny. Effect may be comfortable, but it’s dingy and dark.
Either “I am in charge” or “Things happen to me and I am the victim.”
Where will you live the rest of your life?
PS: Yesterday I had the pleasure of being the judge of the Paint the Town plein air festival in Marble Falls, Texas, and I met some amazing people and even had a chance to do a marketing talk earlier in the day. Today I drive back to judge the quick draw. I love my job. Then in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be heading out to the Plein Air Convention to spend time with my tribe. You should check it out. It’s a lot of fun. Did I mention I love my job?