Get your mind out of the gutter.
This morning I was listening to Hal Elrod’s Achieve Your Goals podcast, where Jon Berghoff was interviewing one Gail Goodwin. As I casually listened, she said something that suddenly popped out at me.
“If I were successful at this, what would I do?”
She was telling an anecdote about how she got inspired to prove to the soldiers on the front lines in Iraq about 10 years ago, and how they were very much supported by their fellow citizens. She wanted to prove to them that they weren’t forgotten. She had no idea how she would do it.
Her daughter came up with an idea to write a song. The problem was that she had absolutely no experience in music. She as a real estate developer, without a single musical bone in her body. She didn’t know how to read music, let alone compose much of anything. Yet, she allowed this inspiration to sit in her mind for a while. One night, she had a dream that her daughter kept singing one particular melody to her. It kept playing over and over again in her dream. When she woke up, she wrote down dots and lines of how she thought the music should be illustrated on paper. Remember, she didn’t know how to write music at all.
So her daughter and she continued down the unknown journey to bring the message of support to those in active service. Eventually, through serendipitous twists of fate, they found themselves boarding a plane to Iraq in the middle of the war. Armed with this melody that had transformed into a full-on professionally produced song. What’s more is that they put together more than 18 miles of newsprint scroll with filled messages of love and support from multitudes of civilians including members of congress. All of this, they brought to their military brothers and sisters halfway around the world. They were overwhelmed with unwavering love and support from the country that they served.
She accomplished this tremendous feat along with her daughter. But in the beginning, she had no clue how any of this were to happen. She did, however, have the concept of what she wanted to accomplish.
The “how” was an enigma.
This message was so powerful to me because we all have amazing ideas that we want to pursue. It could be in our career, a far off place that we want to visit, or an ideal work-life balance that we want to achieve. Too often and too easily we abandon that ideal life, that fantastic goal that we want to achieve. Mostly our goals die an unceremonious death because we have absolutely no clue how to do attain it.
We don’t have any idea where to start, or we think it’s way too difficult for us, too time-consuming, or that we don’t have the talent, the money, the support in which to achieve it. So we don’t. We succumb to the status quo. We end up wasting away years of our life with only what we can see in front of our eyes. We end up envying someone else who managed to attain that same thing that we were too afraid to venture.
Get Out of Your Own Way
If we can only get out of our own way, how many of our dreams can we actually accomplish?
Let’s get real. I’m not saying that I’m immune to this either. It happens to everyone, especially me. Every winter, on Facebook, I look at all the fabulous pictures of tropical vacations that my friends take. It seems like everyone manages to have enough money, enough time, enough of everything to scoot off to exotic places and post postcard-worthy shots of them frolicking in the sun. Or I see people who are moving into fancy, new houses and I think how lucky they are. How do they do it?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’ve got plenty of amazing things going on in my own life. What I’m trying to say is that whatever you’re working towards, whatever you have achieved started off with an idea…. An idea without a plan, without intelligence, without support. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. To bring that idea to fruition seems like it ought to be a daunting task. But often it’s not. On the contrary, it’s made up of tiny little tasks that are held together overall by a recipe, a plan. So the question becomes, what all is involved in making that plan happen?
If I were Successful, What Would I do
That’s where we go back to what Gail said: ‘If I were successful (in attaining this goal), what would I do?’ If you ask me, you just need to know one step. Any step. It doesn’t need to be the first step. You just have to identify one thing that ought to be accomplished in getting that goal. Once that one step is identified, subsequent steps appear. The best part is that those subsequent steps often doesn’t even come from you.
This is getting exciting. There are so many directions I can take with this.
The Universe opens Doors
A few years ago, we were listening to one of the founders of Visalus Blake Mallen speak about entrepreneurial start-up. He illustrated that every day in the universe we are bombarded with 100’s of millions, if not billions of little pieces of information. Our brain then filters out the information to only those relevant to us. Otherwise, we would go bonkers with overwhelm. We have a subconscious mind and, obviously, a conscious mind. The subconscious mind knows what we want to happen in our life. Our subconscious mind holds our goals and our dreams but it has no facility to actually making it happen. The conscious mind, on the other hand, is the facility that makes things happen but it has no control over what we want to make happen. Only when the two work together can we make progress in what we want to achieve.
So of the 100’s of million little bits of info, the subconscious mind would filter out only those relevant to your heart’s desires. Then your conscious mind puts ‘mind over matter’ and makes things happen. The more you hold your idea in your subconscious mind, the more doors are opened to you. This interaction often gets mistaken for ‘luck.’ People who are ‘lucky’ seem to always be in the right place at the right time. They always seem to meet the right people. Things always seem to work out for them. On the contrary, those who are ‘unlucky’ seem to be constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time. They never seem to meet the right people. They never catch a ‘break’ in life.
I think it’s a load of crock. I’m about to debunk that myth.
Do you Feel Lucky… Punk?
I’m currently reading a book called “The Element” by Sir Ken Robinson. In one chapter, he debunks the very myth about luck. He elaborated on a social experiment that was done some time ago, where a group of volunteers was separated into those who thought that they were ‘lucky’ and those who thought they were ‘unlucky.’
The participants were asked to meet someone in the cafe. Just outside the café, the researchers deliberately dropped a 5-pound note. (This was in England, by the way, so that’s like $10.) Then they observed the behavior of each participant.
The lucky participants noticed the money, and of course, picked it up. Most of them when into the café, ordered a cup of coffee, and one additional cup for a stranger sitting next to them. Then they would strike up a conversation about something, anything really. Before long, they would leave the café, pleased with how well everything went.
The unlucky participants were asked to do the same thing. However, they generally missed seeing the money on the ground. They still went into the café and proceeded to buy themselves a beverage. Then, they complained about not ever getting breaks in life.
I draw a couple notables from this:
- The same opportunities are out there. Whether or not you think you’re lucky or not, the same potential opportunities are out there. In fact, by sheer virtue of being born and/or living in North America, you’ve already won the lottery.
- Whether or not you feel like luck is on your side depends on your ability to see opportunity.
- It’s one thing to merely see opportunity. It’s another thing to take advantage of that opportunity and to engage it.
Common Traits of Lucky People
As Sir Ken Robinson illustrated it turns out that lucky people have some commonalities, as do unlucky people.
- Lucky people clue in to maximize opportunities. They are good at creating, identifying, and taking advantage of these opportunities when they come across them.
- Lucky people are good at listening to intuition. They do exercises like meditation, quieting their mind that is intended to boost their intuitive abilities.
- Lucky people are lucky because they meet the world with happy anticipation of a positive outcome. In other words, they expect things to work out. Their underlying assumption is that things tend to work out in their favor. This in itself is independent of the event. As I wrote in “Simple Tools to Turn your Bad Day into Christmas Morning,”physical events in the universe do not come with meaning.
“There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so” — Hamlet
It’s literally up to the individual to make meaning of a particular event. If a person suddenly loses his job, one person can think it’s the worst thing in the world ever to happen to him. Another person could rejoice at this circumstance because he sees it as an opportunity to finally get the kick-start (and perhaps the funding via his severance package) to start his own business.
- The last trait is possibly the most important trait that lucky people possess. It’s the skill is to make lemonade out of lemons. It’s the ability to turn bad luck into good. Lucky people move quickly, manage the situation, and turn the entire thing around to make it work out in their favor.
I would add one more trait to this list:
- Lucky people are generous to pay it forward. They operate in abundance instead of in scarcity. They’re not afraid to give. They know deep down that when they are in need of something, it’ll come back to them. If they do something and the result doesn’t come back to them right away, it’s not a big deal because they know that they’ve made a deposit in the overall bank account of the universe. They know that it’ll come back to them when they need it.
Unlucky people, on the other hand, tend to wait for luck to come. They’re never in control. They let things happen to them. They are the proverbial victims of their circumstances. We all know people like that. We all want to slap them across the face.
How do You Know Which Opportunities to Engage?
1. Listen to Intuition
Obviously, we don’t want to say yes to everything. We can’t. But I really don’t think that we need to worry about it. If your mind is doing its job, it will filter out relevant opportunities for you. If it feels right, go for it. If you’re always thinking about that opportunity, it’s a sign to engage.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, he discussed at length how we make split-second decisions. The success rate of these decisions is way higher than those consciously via due process. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to follow every fleeting whim you have. All I’m saying is that there is reliability in your intuition. The problem is that most of us are so used to second guessing our intuition that we don’t have the confidence to rely on it.
Here’s the rub. Listening to your intuition involves taking a risk. We as humans are inherently prone to avoiding risk. It’s a survival mechanism. Our self-preservation over the ages depends on avoiding risk wherever possible. At the same time, the progress of humanity depends on going out on that limb and taking a risk. Listening to your intuition supports you in taking that risk. Think too much about it, and you’re likely to talk yourself out of doing it. You’re going to wuss out.
2. What’s the Worst that can Happen?
In my post “What to do When You feel Intimidated,” I discussed the ability to consider what-if scenarios. The problem with what-if scenarios is that we tend to get carried away with them. We often let our imagination run buck wild. We end up fabricating these elaborate catastrophic possibilities that really never happen anyway. I am especially good at doing this. All it takes is for me to contemplate the situation and I can create these amazingly ridiculous outcomes that I know will never happen. There is, however, one way we can make this an advantage.
Whenever I’m faced with a risky decision, I actually let my imagination run wild a bit. I concoct in my head every single crazy alternate ending that could happen. The next step is where the magic happens. I weigh out the possibility of how I would fare if that worst case scenario were to actually happen. Most of the time, I realize that it’s not all that bad. Even if the worst case scenario happened, I could still deal. Suddenly, that risk factor dwindles. It’s not completely eliminated. But having gone through this mental process, I feel fortified that I could handle anything that comes my way.
I don’t believe in luck. Good, or bad. I subscribe to the philosophy that you, anyone can create their own luck. As the great Hollywood film producer Samuel Goldwyn said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Opportunity is always out there. It’s often dressed in coveralls and work boots so most people walk right past it. Don’t let that be you.
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