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Staying Positive in a Negative World, part 12

Aug. 19, 2009
46. Forgive Yourself. We all screw up from time to time. Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and unscrew up. We can’t change the mistake. All you can do is learn from it. You should learn from your mistakes. As George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This is the twelfth in a series of articles by Matt Michel about how to stay positive when we’re surrounded by bad news and negativity. If you missed the previous article, click here to read it.

46. Forgive Yourself. We all screw up from time to time. Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and unscrew up. We can’t change the mistake. All you can do is learn from it.

You should learn from your mistakes. As George Santayana said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The price of your mistakes is the tuition of experience. Sometimes the tuition is minor. Sometimes it’s not. Regardless, the tuition is paid. It’s not necessary to add on a guilt premium.

You screwed up. You paid for it. You learned from it. You can’t change it. Forgive yourself and move on.

47. Remember Where You Started.
Football great, Barry Switzer said, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” It’s not where you are that matters, but how far you’ve traveled, what you’ve overcome along the way, and where you’re heading.

It’s always tempting, maybe inevitable that we compare ourselves to others. We stand on second base and look at the guy smiling smugly on third. When we do, it’s important that we also remember where we started. We may not be on third base, but considering where we started, we’ve done pretty darn well. Plus, the guy born on third may not be going anywhere. We already have and are.

Measuring our progress from time to time matters. It reinforces our decisions to persevere and press on when times are tough. In his classic book, “Think & Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill describes how he was given the opportunity by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to study America’s most successful people and share what he learned. Hill reported that “more than 500 of the most successful men this country has ever known, told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them.”

Don’t worry about the guy with the silver spoon. Worry about yourself. When you face your next challenge, remember where you started and what you’ve overcome. Success may only be one more step.

48. Dismiss Critics. Ronald Reagan never lacked critics, yet never seemed very troubled by them. Reagan biographer Dinesh D’Souza described a time while Reagan was serving as governor of California where a newspaper columnist was particularly harsh. Reagan’s aides needed to review the column as part of their daily briefing, but were hesitant. The critic was nasty. How would the governor react?

Reagan’s response was to ask, “Yeah, what’s *his* problem?”

Reagan shrugged it off. Sure in his own path and approach, he didn’t let the criticism bother him. Instead, he turned it around. He wondered what was wrong with the critic.

Once, someone got so upset by a column I wrote that they took out a full-page ad in a trade magazine criticizing me and what I wrote. At first, it bothered me. I guess I’m no Reagan. My view changed when industry consultant Charlie Greer, reacted more Reagan like.

“I’m insulted,” said Charlie. “That they’ve never wasted money on a full page ad attacking me.”

Charlie pointed out that I was being criticized for being on target. I should be honored that someone felt threatened enough by something I wrote to spend thousands of dollars in an attempt to refute it. In truth, they spent the money because they were worried. They were worried what people who read the piece might think (I can see why they might worry in hindsight, though ironically, I wasn’t even thinking of them when I wrote the column).

Charlie was right. They have the problem, not me. I’ve thought about framing the original column and ad side-by-side as a reminder. Take a detached view. Thoughtfully consider what a critic has to say. And if the critic’s the one with the problem, dismiss him.

49. Seek Inspiration.
Positive people are inspired. They’re inspired by a compelling vision. They’re inspired by others. They’re inspired to look forward and look upward.

Sometimes inspiration finds you. Your subconscious mind synthesizes random bits of data below the surface. One day, the compelling idea takes shape and takes hold. You cannot help but pursue it.

Sometimes inspiration comes in the form of a person. You read about or meet someone who inspires you.

Inspiration cannot be commanded. It can be sought. It can be sought in the stories you read, the television you watch, the speeches you hear, and the places you place yourself. Seek better mental nutrition. Choose with care what you feed your mind.

Feed your mind inspirational material and your subconscious will synthesize the input, leading to new ideas, a new focus, an attitude of gratefulness, and an overall forward vision.

50. Choose To Be Positive.
One of the simplest ways to stay positive in a negative world is by choice. *Choose* to be positive. If that’s over simplifying things, it’s because it is simple. A positive attitude can be the result of a conscious decision.

Choosing to be positive won’t give you a new outlook overnight. You must first break the habit of negative thinking and replace it with the habit of positive thinking. Whenever you catch yourself falling into the old patterns, mentally say, “Stop!”

Discard your negative view and replace it with a positive one. In golf terms, you are mentally replaying the hole.

Watch a golf pro after a bad shot. He doesn’t shake his head sadly and resign himself to poor play. He looks solemnly at the hole or down the fairway for a second. What’s he doing?

During that second he’s replaying the hole. This time the ball is traveling straight down the fairway.

Golf pros know that bad habits are all too easily formed, while good habits result from practice and diligent reinforcement. When pros make a mistake, they replay the shot mentally, swinging and connecting perfectly the second time.

When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop. Replay the hole, but this time replay it positively. Practice being positive. Choose to be positive.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, an alliance of HVAC and plumbing contractors. For just $50, contractors receive access to millions of dollars of downloadable, customizable, sales, marketing, and business tools that are certain to grow your sales, build your bottom line, and give you more time for your family. Give it a try. Matt says he’s “positive” you’ll like it.

If you would like to contact Matt, you can reach him at [email protected], toll free at 877.262.3341, or on his mobile at 214.995.8889. You can subscribe to his Comanche Marketing newsletter at