Success or failure?

The biggest element for success or failure

There is an old story of two salesmen sent by their shoe company in England to a remote place in Africa. It was the days before international phones. It was the days before internet.  It was the days before air travel. Their task was to assess the viability of opening a shoe store there, and report back to corporate.  

When they got there and saw the situation, one sent a telegram (fastest way to send a message at the time): “No possibilities here STOP Nobody wears shoes. FULL STOP."

The second salesmen also evaluated the situation and sent a telegram. But his read: “Great possibilities here STOP People don’t have shoes yet FULL STOP."

Both were seeing the same situation. Yet, what they saw, and the way they responded was completely different. One saw an impossibility. The other saw opportunity. It was all in their attitude about what they saw. 

After reading many research papers about what is the one element that makes the greatest contribution to the success or failure or leaders, there's one that keeps coming up: attitude!

The most important step you can take toward achieving your greatest potential is to learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you.

You don’t have a choice over what life throws your way, but you can always choose your attitude, which will influence your response, and ultimately your success.

In working with leaders there is one issue I have to address over and over: how to deal with the loudest and most influential voice of their own self-critic. It can work for or against you, depending on the messages you allow. It can be optimistic or pessimistic. It can wear you down or cheer you on. You control the sender and the receiver, but only if you consciously take responsibility for, and control over, your inner conversations.

Habitual bad or negative attitudes are often the product of past experiences and events. Common causes include low self-esteem, stress, fear, resentment, anger and an inability to handle change. It takes serious work to examine the roots of a harmful attitude, and how to rid yourself of this heavy baggage, but it’s worth the effort.   

If you are serious about improving your attitude, here are 3 basic strategies to help you:

1.  Feed your positive internal dialogue

Positive internal dialogue is a way to override your past negative programming by erasing or replacing it with a conscious, positive internal voice that helps you face new directions. Your internal conversation—that little voice you listen to all day long—acts like a seed in that it programs your brain and affects your behavior. Take a closer look at what you are saying to yourself. Then replace any negative talk with positive phrases that can change your attitude. 

For example: If when you make a mistake your internal voice says: “How can you be so stupid? You will never be successful!” 

Repeat to yourself several times something like: “I would not be an executive if I were stupid! Everybody makes mistakes. I’ll focus on how to prevent this from happening again.”

You will have to find something that resonates well with you. Then every time you hear the negative voice, repeat your positive affirmation. You will be surprise how your attitude changes!

2. Discover your basic motivation and use it.

Discover what motivates you—what incites you to take action and change. Basic motives include love, self-preservation, anger, financial gain and fear. Self-motivation requires enthusiasm, a positive outlook, a positive physiology (walk faster, smile, sit up), and a belief in yourself and your God-given potential.

Once you know what motivates you, decide if that’s what you want to base your success on. And then cultivate a positive attitude based on your motivation.

3. Visualize your way to the top.


Studies of the psychology of peak performance have found that most great athletes, surgeons, artists and leaders use affirmations and visualizations either consciously or subconsciously to enhance and focus their skills. Nelson Mandela wrote about how visualization helped him maintain a positive attitude while being imprisoned for 27 years. “I thought continually of the day when I would walk free. I fantasized about what I would like to do,” he wrote in his autobiography. Visualization works well to improve attitude and to propel you to your higher goals.

Seek your personal and professional success by using these tools. It is no secret that life seems to reward us most when we approach the world with a positive attitude.

Next time you are tempted to label a situation, or a person as hopeless or impossible, consider taking a second look. Look for the opportunity or possibility present. With the right attitude, it’s almost always there.

Remember. . .

As a leader, your can choose your attitude and what to see. Look for. . .

  •   the positive
  •   the strengths
  •   the collaborations
  •   what can be done
  •   the good exceptions
  •   the opportunities

You control what you see and how you see it. Choose wisely!