Archives for the month of: March, 2011

If you want to be happy, put your effort into controlling the sail, not the wind. – Anonymous

Did you ever look at yourself in the mirror and just smile? How’d it make you feel? When I consciously did this for the first time a number of years ago I was surprised at the sudden positive boost this simple action gave me.  Soon after, I made it a routine that first thing after I shaved in the morning I would look at myself and smile. Corny, I know. But it did work.  But, like many resolutions it faded from my routine.

The point is that attitude is a choice.  And out of all the choices out there, it is one that is solely ours to make.  That’s what makes it so powerful.  But if it is solely ours and if it that powerful,  why is it so hard to do?

I struggle with this one personally. For whatever reason, my intrinsic attitude is not “optimistic”, nor is it darkly pessimistic.  I just don’t look at everything and see the up side.

The choice of a more positive attitude for me then becomes an active exercise, day in, day out.  When things are going well – it’s easy.  When things get tough – well, not so easy.

I do work at it. I, like most of you I’m assuming, want to be happy. I’ve learned that this is my responsibility – I control the sail. I often slip, but I try not to dwell on those instances. I know that the choice is still mine and that the journey starts again tomorrow.


If you’re willing to accept failure and learn from it, if you’re willing to consider failure as a blessing in disguise and bounce back, you’ve got the potential of harnessing one of the most powerful success forces. – Joseph Sugarman

In 2002 I left a fairly successful consulting career to take over ownership of a coffeehouse in Philadelphia. I had plenty of personal reasons about why I thought this was a good idea, although I had no experience in the retail food industry. Long story short, a little under two very long, challenging, stressful years later, I had to sell the cafe and return to consulting.

Had I persisted longer would the shop been successful?  I doubt it. I believe I had persisted long enough (I know my wife definitely believed so.)  What it came down to was that this particular venture was a failure. A pretty significant one for me. At that moment I was not looking at it as an opportunity to learn as Mr. Sugarman above instructs. Honestly, I was looking to forget about it.

Surprisingly, one of my brothers provided the most insightful comments from the whole experience. He said, “Just think how much you wouldn’t have learned if you were successful.”

The truth is that when failure hits, it is tough. We all fear failure and many of our behaviors reflect that fear.  So much is written about learning from our failures and being persistent in the face of failure.  I agree. Life goes on. It took a bit for me, it still stings a little even today. I have been able to look back and gain learnings from my experience.   I think we all have that capacity.

We don’t need to always celebrate failure as some suggest.  When projects fail it sucks and we feel accountable. What we can do is create a blameless environment that allows for honest and open communication about what happened and what can we learn from it. That doesn’t only mean what will we do different next time, but also what knowledge was gained from the failure. Everyone knows the story of how Post-it notes were created. There is knowledge in failure. In that we all can gain resilience and a more persistent attitude.

[Note: This is the 6th in  a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

[Note: This is the 5th in  a 12-week series of posts that will discuss “choices” from the book Monday Morning Choices by David Cottrell.]

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do – Henry Ford

How much time and energy do you spend “going to?” As in, “I’m going to speak up at the next team meeting” or “I’m going to step up when they ask who wants to manage that new project” or “I’m going to start keeping a journal like I always wanted to.”

We all have these desires and wants. This weeks choice is about taking action, or as Cottrell puts it, not vacationing on “Someday Isle.”

It’s not always easy to take action. Many times we get in our own way. Sometimes our fears stop us.  So it does take courage to step off Someday Isle and start swimming. If you are having trouble, chunk your action down. This blog (and the Internet) is full of how to get things done!

One area that is emphasized in the book is to read every day and continually improve. In a recent HBR blog post Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Heidi Grant Halvorson writes that the #5 action is “Focus on getting better, rather than being good”

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices, and reach your fullest potential. People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride, and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

I’ve been a habitual reader for many years. About 5 years ago I took on the Personal MBA (PMBA) Reading List compiled by Josh Kaufman. Josh’s site has become much fancier than when I started, but if you want a focused list of reading material applied to becoming better at business than nothing beats Josh’s list and the support of the PMBA community.

What have you been “going to” for a while and are now ready to make the choice of action to make it happen?