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Quiet Strength


“These boots are made for walkin’ … and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over YOU!”

It’s not just Nancy Sinatra’s sexy white 1950s boots you have to worry about. Others want to walk all over you as well. Have you noticed?

Just by writing these words, I’m having an experience similar to what Dr. Raymond Moody talked about. Moody is a physician who studied people with near-death experiences. He found that people who died and “came back” often had a similar experience of “going into the light” and finding what amounted to a visual film festival of their life.

I can relate. The details of the situations where people walked all over me with their boots are way too easy to recall.

Here’s the funny thing about folks who push your boundaries: You LET them do this to you. Especially if it happens more than once.

That’s what happens when non-negotiables are allowed to become negotiable.

Here’s the thing. The quality of your life directly correlates to how well you “call tight” the non-negotiables in your life. The more loosey-goosey you are about what’s non-negotiable, the more sand you can expect to have kicked in your face.

So, are you a wimp?

Let’s see. Your toddler asked for and receives water more than seven times in one night; then it happens the next night too. Yep. That counts. You are a wimp.

Your colleague does part of her work without much attention to detail and then hands it off to you to “make sure it is accurate.” So, you spend two extra hours at the office reviewing, correcting and completing her project. It’s not that you shouldn’t step up and “give” freely at work. It’s that she repeatedly slacks off and makes her problem your problem. Score one for the sand kickers.

Your team members don’t do what they committed to do, so the entire project is delayed. All of you risk losing your bonuses. Instead of asking everyone for a commitment so they catch up, you camp in the office for the weekend all by YOURSELF. Bring on those boots!

Enough already! You want to live your life leaping over tall buildings with a single bound and creating kick-butt results. Yes, that sometimes means “stepping up” to help others get the job done. But there comes a point when it’s time to get the people around you to start leaping with you.

The answer? Non-negotiables.

Non-negotiables are clear, AND they define what happens if the non-negotiable is violated.

At work, it could look like:

  • “Get your sales funnel report in by 3 p.m. every Friday or your commissions won’t be paid until the following month. Miss it more than once per quarter, and your commissions will take a 30 percent hit.”
  • Zero tolerance for talking about the company’s or clients’ private information outside of work. You talk, you walk.
  • This is a no-gossip workplace. If you have a problem with someone, talk to that person about it. Immediately.
    NO whining to others. Violate this fundamental rule, and you will be invited to “free up your future.”

These non-negotiables work at home, too:

  • “If you are even one minute late for your 11 p.m. curfew, no personal use of the car for a month.”
  • “Daddy only reads the bedtime books after ALL the toys are put back in the toy box.”

And then there are the serious ones that REALLY destroy lives if not met:

  • “If you choose to continue to drink or come home after drinking, you will move out immediately.”
  • “You will never hit me twice, because you’ll never see me after the first time.”
  • “If you continue to violate the procedures or miss the outcomes of your job and put the success of our company at risk as a result, you will need to leave.”

Our boundaries define our results and our results define whether our lives work or not. Be clear regarding your boundaries and let those around you know what you expect.

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PollyAnna on the Happy Bus


Recently, I went out for lunch with my son.  Is there is anything better than having a person you pushed through the birth canal become one of your best friends who intrigues and stimulates you with great thoughts and inspiration.

If so, I can’t imagine what that is.

He chose the restaurant. Perkins. Why? Because they have huge breakfasts in the afternoon. What could be better for my son, the culinary black hole?

From him, I learned one of the biggest lessons in life about explanatory styles. He seems to be walking on a permanent cloud of incredible success in so many areas of life—great job, great wife, great friends. 

As the waitress left with the order, he turned to me with his eyebrows up as if he just saw the Red Sea split in two. He said, “Mom, I just knew they would have exactly what I wanted for breakfast and that thing I ordered had it all—pancakes with blueberries, fried potatoes, a meat, and eggs! All I had to do was ask. Mom, that’s how my life works! I just think about what I want and it comes easily. Things just work out for me.”

I was floored. Didn’t he know that you can pretty much go anywhere to order a breakfast and they have a breakfast meat, eggs, pancakes, and whole wheat toast, for goodness sakes? He did get accepted into one of the best PhD programs for physics in the country so he’s no dummy.

But I must be. What I learned from him is that the reason his life is so gracefully filled with successes, fun, friends, and happiness is that his filter sees it all that way. He’s on the happy bus and Pollyanna is his date!

If he gets a setback, he explains it away as a temporary challenge. Let’s face it: If they didn’t have pancakes, we would have had to figure out how to get them down the street. He expects things to work out, so, in his worldview, they do!

Yep, his mother—who might instead have whined that they never have the food on the menu I want—just learned a powerful lesson from her son.

Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, has done profound research that shows that optimists, those with a positive explanatory style, tend to be far more successful than those who interpret events as negative and permanent.

His research show that successful people explain good things as positive and permanent:  “That’s how it always is for me.”

They discuss less optimal results as not likely to happen again: “That’s just not like me.”

How can you “learn” optimism by consciously choosing an explanatory style that is positive and permanent? It might just transform your life.

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Making Circumstances Good


Florna, a 50-year-old woman, was a bathroom cleaning specialist. (I’m actually not sure what her title was, but that’s what she was doing when I met her, so that’s what I’ll call her.)

Florna was engaged in her work at an Atlanta airport bathroom. Now, let’s be honest here. This is NOT the job her momma wanted her to grow up to have. THIS job was an excuse to be bumming.

But Florna was not bumming. She was humming.

Florna was a hummer. You know. Like a bumblebee-type hummer. I found that entertaining as I used the facilities while she cleaned. Frankly, it made me smile. Then, when I came out of the stall, she broke into song. Okay. I’ll admit it. I joined in. That was Florna’s game—to make people happy.

Florna didn’t stop there. She shuffled toward me as she sang, gesturing for me to sing along. Why not?  As I washed my hands, she leapt to reach for my paper towel while she gyrated s to “Start spreadin’ the news…I’m leaving today…”

That’s right. A woman who worked at the airport, cleaning toilets, was singing “New York, New York” to me as I came out of the stall. And I wasn’t special. THIS, I could see, is what Florna does. 

THIS is a human who puts meaning in her work. This girlfriend is spreading the joy as she’s mopping the grunge.

Contrast Florna with the millions of people who spend a good chunk of their day complaining:  “Nobody tells me what to do.” “Nobody appreciates me.” “Jeffrey got a bigger raise and he doesn’t even know how to do mail campaigns.”

The more they complain, the more they need to look for evidence why the world is treating them unfairly.

Now they have an excuse for not giving their all. They need to find more complaints to justify their previous complaints. That’s how it works for complainers. If they stopped complaining, they’d have to admit that THEY had the problem in making up their previous complaints.

So, the question is yours. Do you choose joy or not?

Try this:

Make a list of all the things you can be grateful for about your job. (My boss isn’t a screamer. I get a paycheck every two weeks. I hardly ever have to work on a weekend. I get opportunities to learn. My teammates tell me when I’m a doofus…so I’m being coached to grow as a person.) Make the list long. Just decide to keep writing for at least five minutes…keep writing…

Make a list of your five biggest complaints.

For each complaint, reframe it. For example, “My boss micromanages me.” can be reframed to “My boss cares enough about me and about keeping me out of trouble to step into my work when I need help.”

Stay in a state of gratitude and see if suddenly the world doesn’t miraculously seem to be filled with nicer people.

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Pocket Full of Sunshine


You are as happy as you decide to be.

Every business, school, and organization has them … the people who are crabby. I spotted one the other day. Posted on her desk area, was a piece of paper with a lovely little message that made her life view very clear. It said, “life sucks, and then you die.” My goodness, let me rush right home and cross-stitch that on a pillow. That pretty much tells it all. No raise, no opportunity to work on a fulfilling project, no promotion, no removal of other people who aren’t performing that get in her way would solve her internal unhappiness that she’s committed herself to. Safe bet her life will be even more miserable next year.

In the latest findings on happiness, the University of California and Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness says that genes predetermine half of a person’s happiness. That’s a lot, but that’s not all. Ten percent of a person’s happiness is based on their life circumstances … their job, their kids behavior, whether their spouse gives them a foot massage, etc. That leaves 40% of a person’s happiness based on something they can influence. The intentional activities and thoughts that you choose that either increase or decrease happiness. We have the opportunity to control 40% of our happiness.

So if you’re busily blaming life’s circumstances, stuff a sock in it. Life circumstances are not what are making you unhappy. You make you unhappy. Now what about happiness as money. Will money make you happy? More than 200 research studies show that money does not make you happy. Surprised? However, research shows that people who are happy do earn more money. More than $750,000 in their lifetime when compared to those who aren’t happy. So maybe money doesn’t buy happiness but happiness apparently buys money. These studies have found that happy people also have more relaxed and peaceful lives and are more fulfilled. Go figure, these happy people have it all.

What about the antithesis of happiness?

According to statistics, one out of five women in America are on antidepressants. More than 118,000,000 prescriptions for antidepressants were written last year … now that’s a little depressing. While researchers are finding that a fair amount of depression has to do with the influence of unhealthy foods on our brain chemistry, the astonishing fact is that a good share of our unhappiness has to do with how we think-how we frame events and conversations in our lives. It is how you interpret your events, people, and things on a daily basis that makes a difference.

Is a rainy day a good thing or a bad thing? It’s neither it is neutral. You decide if it’s a good or bad thing – you decide this about all things in your life. That is what determines a fair amount of the mental state of your happiness. When you interpret things as good instead of bad, that changes the dendrites in your brain so suddenly, your brain finds it easier to interpret things as good. You have rewired your brain for happiness. When we become clear that most of life’s events are neutral, and waiting for us to attach meaning, we regain our ability to find happiness.

According to experts, what is one of the best ways to create happiness? Find meaningful work. Even better, make your work meaningful. So when you make the life of your customers and co-workers better, you may be amazed at how you’ve picked up a skip in your step.

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The #1 Way to Show You Care…


The great philosopher Homer Simpson says: “Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean I’m not listening.”

Okay, there you have it. You can always quote some good stuff from Homer.  He’s pretty brilliant.

But are you showing that you’re listening to show that you care?

Look, listening is a hard thing to do.

Most of us are waiting our turn to talk instead of actually listening to hear what is being said.

Listening is not just with our ears, but with our hearts because we need to understand why are they saying that? What are their motivations? Gosh, it seems like this person is hurting. What is the concern here? How do we move through this particular piece?

As we’re thinking about listening, think about how you’re being a listener in your life.

How are you listening to your supervisor? Your spouse? Your children? Your colleagues? Your clientele? How are you hearing what’s really underneath the words?

Listening is hard. And listen, nobody’s perfect. I’m sure not. It is something that when we choose to get better at it, we do get better at it.

So don’t take advice from Homer Simpson. Instead, decide to make sure that you are listening and that you care.

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