Around Thanksgiving, we often ask each other, “What are you most thankful for this year?”
Over the years, I’ve heard many answers to that question. I remember one man, years ago, who was sitting at a lunch counter next to me. I was waiting for a to-go order. Now, I won’t call him old, but at the time, I was maybe 20, and he was many years my senior. His face was lined, his hair as white as it could possibly be, and his eyes had a look of mischief mixed with wisdom. It was a few days before Thanksgiving.
I asked him the question as a conversation-starter, and he nodded, a demonstration he was processing.
“I’m most thankful for my business success next year. Growing faster than ever. Having to hire more people to help with the growth. And the expansion to another location. That was more than I expected.”
The place was getting louder. Clearly I heard him wrong, so I clarified.
“You mean this year.”
“No, next year.”
“You’re thankful for opening another location for your business next year?”
“Yes, definitely. It’s even more successful than our first location.”
I didn’t even know what business he was in, but I was beginning to think he was losing some of his mental faculties.
Until he continued….
“See, I’m thankful for what’s happening next year. I am so thankful. I think about the people who made it happen, and I think about the results. I spend a lot of time thinking about them.”
My sandwich was now ready, so I paid for it and took the change. I thanked the man for sharing.
As I was gathering up my things, he asked me the return question. “What about you, son? What are you most grateful for?”
I remember responding quickly. “You. I’m thankful for you.”
And I was gone.
I don’t recall the sandwich I ate from the restaurant. But I sure do remember that conversation. I didn’t realize the power of it then. This gentleman had unlocked a secret. It was visualization with a powerful twist. He not only saw himself achieving his dreams, but he was already thanking people – in advance – for the success.
“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.” –Bo Bennett
A tradition in many homes on Thanksgiving is to ask, “What are you most thankful for?”
Growing up, I heard all types of answers from the serious to the hilarious.
The focus on thankfulness and gratitude is a welcome one in a world that’s often negative and draining. It’s impossible to feel entitled when you’re busy thanking those who have made a difference in your life. Expressing thankfulness has numerous benefits from reducing depression to boosting your immune system.
“Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” –Hansa Proverb
But today I was thinking about the holiday differently.
Because it’s not only about being thankful and grateful.
The equation, in my way of thinking, is backwards. We often think of it this way:
Giving ⇒ thanks.
We think of Thanksgiving as the time to give thanks. We stop and show appreciation, express gratitude for all that we have in our lives. And that’s good.
But perhaps the equation is supposed to be exactly as stated:
Thanks ⇒ giving
Instead of giving thanks as the end result, it’s the beginning. We should give to others as a result of our thanks. In other words, because of our thankfulness, we are to be giving. Does that way of looking at it change anything?
It does for me. I realize that I can use this opportunity to do more for others.
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” -Karl Barth
Author and serial entrepreneur G. Shawn Hunter is the founder of Mindscaling. His latest book, Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact, argues that it’s the simple things, when done extraordinarily well, that make a great leader.
Shawn and I talked about his book and how it’s not always the most extraordinary, sweeping actions that make the biggest impact.
“The greatest leaders cheer us on when we try something new.” -Shawn Hunter
I love this philosophy because all of us can make just a few adjustments and improve our leadership today.
Do One Thing At A Time
You advocate that small, incremental choices can lead to a big impact. In your research for this book, what one small choice have you noticed in the most successful leaders?
I would say the one thing that successful people do is that they do one thing at a time. That might sound small and trifling, but, honestly, the way successful people get things done, or have meaningful conversations, is to do only that one thing. They turn off their phone when talking to people. They turn off email. They schedule time for writing and reading. They block off time for exercise and reflection. It sounds small, but it adds up.
Is it possible to teach self-confidence? What are some ways to increase it?
The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence. Nothing makes you feel confident like being prepared. There is also a type of self-questioning that can be quite helpful. Instead of repeating the mantra, “Yes, I can do this!” to build self-confidence, try asking yourself if you have the capabilities to achieve what you are envisioning. If you ask specific questions of yourself, you will be forced to answer to your weaknesses and reconcile them.
“The biggest contributor to building self-confidence is building competence.” -Shawn Hunter
You talk about building resilience through challenge. Do challenges make the leader, or does the leader seek out challenges?
From what I understand through studying flow states, it’s a self-reinforcing paradigm, but only if you get the challenge part right. As your readers may know, flow states occur when the level of challenge presented meets (or slightly exceeds) your skill level. In that state we can become hyper-aware and hyper-focused. We also accelerate our learning. Once we feel that state, we often seek out those experiences which create flow states. There are people who can actually get addicted to inducing this type of state. They’re called Type T people, also known as adrenaline junkies.
Pronoia: believing the world is conspiring for your success.
Persistence. I love the story of your daughter and how she ended up with a rare poster of Taylor Swift. What are some ways to develop persistent curiosity in everything we do?
Good question! The great physicist Richard Feynman once described how you can spot a real expert versus a phony. Look for three little words, “I don’t know.” The phony will have all the answers, while the experts will be willing to admit what they don’t know. Real experts are relentlessly curious, even assertively curious – that is, they will demand explanations for things that many others simply accept as rules.
Here’s an interesting fact about people who describe themselves as curious. These people are also assertive. Curious people are decision-makers. They are influencers. They often say they have direct influence over the outcome of decisions and change. If you think of the people in your company and community who consistently drive change, I bet you will be thinking of inquisitive people – people willing to ask the hard questions.
“Creating confidence is the result of applied effort and work.” -Shawn Hunter
You advocate the counterintuitive advice of taking breaks when we’re busy. Why is taking a break so important? How do you get a type-A, driven leader to follow this practice?
All-nighters don’t scale. Period. In some corners of business, we have created a work environment in which it’s cool to brag about how many hours we work, and how little sleep we get, and how many deliverables we accomplish. I worked in a company once that mandated a rapid response time to every incoming message. When you create an environment which requires people to constantly monitor correspondence over email and text, the next thing they do is constantly initiate messages.
Studies demonstrate what we already know intuitively. That is, our intellectual and productivity capacity diminishes rapidly when we are sleep deprived and when we are distracted. To answer your question, organizations and leaders should reward people who deliver meaningful, thoughtful contributions, not who puts out the highest volume of email noise.
12 Intentional Behaviors for Big Impact
1: Believe in yourself.
2: Build confidence.
3: Introduce challenge.
4: Express gratitude.
5: Fuel curiosity.
6: Grant autonomy.
7: Strive for authenticity.
8: Be fully present.
9: Inspire others.
10. Clarify roles.
11. Defy convention.
12. Take a break.
Of the 12 critical competencies, is there one that more leaders struggle with than others?
The Olympic rings must be magnetic, pulling me in every few years. Whatever the event, I’m fascinated by the competition and by the stories of the athletes. They are irresistible. The fact that the world comes together, for just a few weeks, is incredibly inspiring.
“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.” – Dan Gable
If you’re a student of success, the Olympics offers an unprecedented opportunity to understand drive, determination, and discipline. Every individual has a unique story of overcoming obstacles. You don’t make it to the field without years of practice. You also don’t make it without a team of supporters.
I especially love watching the podium during the award ceremonies. As the medals are placed around the winners’ necks, and especially when the anthems are played, you glimpse the sheer joy of victory. It’s common to see tears, the emotion raw at that moment. And then, if the camera catches it right, you also see some of the others who are also part of the success. Friends, family, and coaches are beaming with pride.
“By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.” -Voltaire
As the games in Rio draw to a conclusion, I think about all of the people who help us succeed every day but never get a medal. These people are instrumental in shaping us. Maybe it’s a mom or a dad, a teacher, or a friend who is always there. You may have had a mentor or a special boss who inspired you to do more than you thought you could. If you’re as fortunate as me, it may be your spouse who deserves the Gold.
“The joy of leadership is helping others succeed.” –Roger Stilson
Why not take the time to recognize some special people? Who deserves a Gold Medal in your life? Go ahead and share this post with them. Tell their story in the comments (it’s really not that hard to leave one! You can sign up for Disqus, sign in with your social media account, or sign in as a guest) or in your social media stream.
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“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” –John F. Kennedy
This is a guest post by Janet Miller. Janet is a mom of four, former Fortune 500 executive and executive coach. She is the cofounder of Jen Reviews and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, and Tiny Buddha.
How to Be Happier and More Successful
Og Mandino once said, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all the others is – I will form good habits and become their slave.”
“Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure.” -Og Mandino
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit…or to break one. While the end result may not happen in the blink of an eye, these seven things we will go over today will definitely get you on your way. In the meantime, the happiness you will attain in realizing you are on your way to solidifying good practices will lead to your overall success. So, yes, you will realize a difference on the very first day, today, if you wish.
To most, this would seem like one of the least likely cases for long-term happiness and success, as it might leave you open to being let down. Quite the contrary. In assuming someone’s good intentions, you are allowing yourself to see things from their perspective, which in turn brings out the ability in you to be a good listener. You begin to see that their point has some valid root in something that they themselves find important, and you want to know what that is. It takes away the defensive attitude that we sometimes get when people come up with ideas that are not our own and also curbs our innate subconscious desire for self-righteousness.
Leadership Tip: Always start by believing in someone’s good intent.
Write down your goals every day. Studies show that writing down daily goals significantly improves the accomplishment of those goals. A good idea can also be a fleeting one, and it pays to jot every one of them down and then to arrange them in such a way that you can work from them towards a future arrival point, whether long-term or short-term. It can create and maintain vision, in which you can dream big, decide where you want to eventually be, and know the steps it will take to get there. It solidifies measurability, and creates something you can look back on as you begin to reach the finish line you have created.
“People with written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.” – Brian Tracy
3. Realize that setbacks can ultimately lead to success.
While intelligence is most often a fixed-in-place factor in our lives, resilience is not. It allows us to cope with and eventually overcome adversity, which is something that can be acted on and improved. As we strengthen our resilience, we are able to recover faster from setbacks, and that makes us a little more open to taking chances that might grant us the possibility of even more success. When failure happens, there are a couple ways to deal with it, and they make a world of difference. One way is to place blame on someone or something else or to feel so badly about it that you learn nothing. This gives no room for moving forward. On the other hand, acknowledgement makes way for setting emotion aside and analyzing the failure in such a way as to move on from it and, eventually, overcome it.
“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” –Truman Capote
All kinds of negativity can come from comparing yourself to others. Whether you are looking at success, body image, accomplishments, financial gain or social status, all of this can ultimately result in jealousy and feelings of inferiority. It can even lead to anxiety and depression if allowed to be a constant in life. In no way does it help you achieve a single goal that you have placed for yourself and can actually cause you to stop making progress on your own goals. Instead, focus your energy – both physical and mental – on being the absolute best that you yourself can be.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt
There are studies that have proven that stress can leave a negative impact on the brain that lasts and lasts. Even short-term exposure can leave lasting impressions on the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. Long-term exposure can destroy neurons completely, which is irreversible. To think that stress is not an enemy of happiness and success is to completely ignore the reality of this situation. Being able to manage one’s emotion and reaction to outside stressors has a direct relevance in our lives, and to avoid as much of that as possible from those stressors is of the utmost importance.