Learn From Mistakes

The best companies allow employees to experiment and make mistakes. In many organizational cultures, innovation is discouraged when leadership doesn’t encourage risk taking. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Managers who do not empower employees to take risks to avoid consequences of their actions will depress learning and development. Many people avoid taking risks because they don’t want to experiences consequences. Others make mistakes and don’t learn when they look to avoid consequences.

The same principle applies in our personal lives. I haven’t always made great decisions, though I accept responsibility for and learn from my mistakes. At one point, I started a business without doing my due diligence or consulting my wife, who wisely was against the idea. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. Experiencing the consequences of our actions can be a catalyst for change.

Failing to take responsibility and ownership for our decisions can be very costly. We lose the opportunity to learn and grow. I had a friend who was losing his home a couple of years ago. In his case, he decided to stop paying his mortgage when the value of his home fell below what he owed. Many people did this expecting a bailout from the government. When he was complaining about why the president wasn’t doing enough to help him, I interrupted him and told him his blaming was preventing him from finding another solution. He was being a victim. Experiencing the consequences of our actions is incentive to quickly learn and change course. I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. When we take personal responsibility, we change our behavior and our outcomes, creating opportunities to learn, grow, and change. It all starts with choosing our response, and learning from the consequences of our choices.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

Silence Your Saboteur!

Learn How We Derail Our Goals And Steps To Get Back On Track

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach. I learned how I (and others) self-sabotage when working towards our goals. In my initial meetings through various processes, my coach discovered my values and goals in several areas of my life. Subsequently, I would meet with her weekly on the telephone and discuss how I was doing in my business and in my personal life. I would report on my progress toward achieving my various goals. Through this process, I discovered a saboteur that would show up from time to time and stop or slow my progress towards my goals. This saboteur was no foreign or domestic terrorist. This saboteur was grown much closer to home.

I had declared I really wanted to achieve certain financial goals. When I didn’t achieve these goals as expected, I would become frustrated. This caused me to push harder to achieve my goal. You might be thinking, “bravo Spencer, push on!” What I found was the harder I pushed the further I would get from my goal. I would become cranky and curt with co-workers and loved ones. In these moments, my way of being was blocking me from achieving my goals. My coach asked me to give my sabotaging behavior a name so I could recognize it when it showed up.

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Captain Insano

The purpose of this exercise was to help me identify my saboteur. I worked to understand what my saboteur would sound like when he talked. I identified his fears and more importantly, his values. I needed to understand how the saboteur’s values would hijack and terrorize my declared values for his values. The name I gave my saboteur was Captain Insano, made famous by Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy”. In the movie, Captain Insano is a wrestler who the Water Boy idolizes. He offers his services to Captain Insano through a nationally televised fan show. When captain Insano learns the Water Boy is 31 years old, he maniacally laughs at him in front of the TV audience. In this moment his vulnerability is exposed, and his hopes and dreams of working with his idol have been sabotaged.Block What you think

After this original inspiration for the name of my saboteur, I learned that the Urban Dictionary defines “Captain Insano” as an individual who may or may not be at fault for their habitual stupidity due to their bi-polar nature and lack of general common sense. My saboteur would show up at vulnerable times and stop me in my tracks. Many of us construct saboteurs as a self-protection mechanism. Most often they protect us in an awkward way. They will say to us, “stay where you are at, it is more comfortable here!” “It is okay to be mediocre because not as many demands and expectations are made of you!” In a relationship, a saboteur might tell us to avoid taking a chance so we won’t get hurt.

When I declared I wanted to write a book. Captain Insano showed up and asks, “what have you got to say that people want read?” He convinces me I am neither interesting nor unique. When I became CEO of a company that had been struggling, I would hear Captain Insano tell me the fight I was experiencing was not one I could win. He said I should just give up and not put myself through unnecessary pain and misery. He told me I deserved to be successful and perhaps that could be achieved elsewhere. He justified for me why it was okay to give up and give in. If you are like me and want to achieve your goals, it is time to stop the saboteur inside your head for good.

Steps to defeat your merciless saboteur:

  1. Identify your saboteur:

    Notice when you feel frustrated, angry, sarcastic, dismissive, afraid, unmotivated or upset. Your specific block to success could be fear of failure, fear of success, conflict avoidance, verbally attacking others, steamrolling others, need to be right, focus on problems, inability to say no, controlling, inflexible, have to work too hard, need to be liked, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, overly skeptical, overly agreeable, analysis paralysis, critical, procrastination and many more. Consider asking someone you trust for help identifying your self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Name your saboteur:

    Notice what is happening when the above negative feelings arise. Begin to understand what situations give your saboteur power. Recognizing that you are recognizing will help you regain control of your thoughts and behaviors. Naming your saboteur will help you to not take yourself so seriously and become more objective about your behavior.

  3. Focus on the outcomes of success you have declared:

    When you hear the saboteur talking negatively in your ear, Block focus-on-where-you-want-to-go-not-on-what-you-fearstate the outcome you desire. For example, when Captain Insano tells me no one wants to read or hear what I want to say, I tell myself “people are interested in what I have to say. I have ability to influence people to achieve positive results.” As I focus on these positive statements, I hear the saboteur less and I begin to program my subconscious thoughts to start supporting my goals declared by my conscious thoughts.Block celebrate-what-youve-accomplished-but-raise-the-bar-a-little-higher-each-time-you-succeed-mia-hamm

  4. Celebrate your progress:

    Recognize that you are making improvement. If your saboteur is strong, understand it will take time to defeat and be kind to yourself. You may have years of practice listening to your saboteur. Avoid letting your saboteur talk bad about you. When you start to notice any improvement, it is okay to cheer yourself on. Gain confidence with each small victory and keep moving forward, even after a challenging time where you may have taken a step or two back to your old habits.

  5. Get out of your comfort zone:

    Look for opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. This is where you will learn new empowering behaviors. Recognize the conversations with your saboteur are designed to keep you in your comfort zone. When that happens, you will not move towards your goals. Do something uncomfortable everyday. Call a new prospect, ask for help that you need, get up and give a presentation, etc.

  6. Breathe:

    When you are frustrated upset or angry, often during these moments you are not breathing effectively and the lack of oxygen encourages your saboteur. Slow down and breath. Oxygen helps Captain Insano fall asleep.

As I have gotten control of my saboteur, my results have dramatically improved. He still shows up from time to time. I am more equipped to deal with him. As a result, I feel much happier and more confident.

Start now to defeat your saboteur. Achieve the success you deserve! If you feel you are getting stuck, work with an expert who can help you, do it today! Remember…Block insanoThe author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”,“The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If Today”

10 Ideas For Your Pursuit of Happiness

If you are like most of us on the planet, you are searching for happiness in your life. Where do you believe we find happiness: fame, riches, power? Do you know someone that has these things and is not happy? Or conversely has none of these things and is supremely happy? I believe that each of us has it within our power to be happy. How is it done? Here are a few simple rules which I find make a difference:

  1. Increase your gratitude:

    Increasing your feelings of gratitude can impact your happiness and so much more. When I am frustrated or upset, I am thinking about what is wrong in my life. Since we get what we focus on, dwelling on frustrations will only erode our happiness. The next time you are experiencing frustration that robs you of happiness, I invite you to focus on an event in your life that brings you intense feelings of gratitude. It could be the birth of a child or an act of kindness that was proffered on your behalf, etc. Our minds cannot focus on negative and positive feelings at the same time. If your gratitude feelings are strong enough, they will quickly chase away your frustrations and negative feelings.

  2. Do something for someone else:

    For many, the pursuit of happiness is a self-centered process. However, when you take a moment to stop thinking about

    how events and people impact you and think about how you impact others, you will be much closer to your goal. Helping someone else will allow you to take your focus off your own challenges. It will energize you, give you a sense of value and contribution. Focusing on others who may have needs greater than your own will also increase your gratitude for what you have. You don’t have to look far for opportunities to help someone else. Nor do you have to go to great lengths to make a difference. Take time to notice someone in need. Listen, console, give of your time and labor, write a note or letter, give a gift, etc.

  3. Look for the good:

    Look for the good in every situation. No matter how bleak things may seem, there is always good that may come. I know from personal experience that when something I perceive is negative happens to me, I have a choice. I can feel self pity and become depressed, or I can use my creative energy to focus on what good may come. I found that that as I look back on events that were challenging, I invariably gained experienced or developed talents that I might not have had, but for the challenging experience. Looking for the good puts our creative energy to work for us in our pursuit of happiness.

  4. Surround yourself with good:

    Be very careful about what you put into your mind. make sure what you read, watch and listen to reinforces your happiness. Our minds are the most powerful computers in the universe. They search and find whatever we program them to find. This means everything we put into our minds will take us further or closer to our goal of happiness. Surround yourself with good people who will hold you accountable to your goals and will let you know when are off course. Make sure you read good books, listen to good music and watch only media that reinforces good.

  5. Find life balance:

    I know many people who feel great fulfillment in their work, so they neglect other areas of their life. The best way to find happiness is to find balance in many areas of life including: financial; emotional; spiritual; physical; relational; recreational, and intellectual. You may find that all of these pursuits are interrelated. I personally find my self out of balance often. However, when I take the time to work on life balance, I feel greater happiness.

  6. Exercise:

    This is a part of life balance. Exercise releases chemicals that can help us feel great and think more clearly. Remember life balance. Some feel that since exercise makes them feel good, more is better. An excessive focus on any pursuit may take us further from our goal.

  7. Develop your talents:

    Learn something new. Improving your abilities brings a sense of satisfaction and increases your ability to help yourself and others.

  8. Avoid criticizing others:

    Along with looking for the good, avoid criticizing others. We find what we look for. More importantly, how we treat others has a way of coming back to us. Call it karma, law of the harvest, universe or what you will. Thinking good of others will do much to bring those good thoughts back to us.

  9. Let go of the past:

    While it is true that we have control over our thoughts, we can’t always control what happens to us. When something bad happens, it is hard to think of the good. Holding on to negative feelings about something or somebody will only rob us of reaching our goal of happiness. We have the power to give meaning to our thoughts. They can only control us if we give them power to do so. Letting go of the past requires us reframe our thoughts. For some, this process may be difficult and require professional assistance. Being willing to get help if you need it is a good thing and will help you get one step closer to being happy.

  10. Live by a morale code:

    Some people believe anything goes when pursuing happiness. When you choose to be disciplined in following a moral code, you are closer to finding happiness. A friend of mine shared his experience with this principle with me. When his children were young, he and his wife set boundaries of behavior. They had friends that took a different approach with their children. They chose to let their children behave without boundaries or restrictions. This couple would criticize my friend for being strict with their children. My friend and his wife were more interested in being parents than friends. As the children grew older the results of the two approaches was clear. The children of my friend loved their parents and respected them. They had a strong rewarding relationship. Their friends children did not respect their parents. They were self centered and spoiled.

It is not the events or situations of our lives that determine happiness. Rather, it is our own behavior and thought process. I am sure there are many more ways to be happy than I have listed above. I would love to hear from you. What have you found that makes you happy?

Is Happiness A Choice?

I have heard that events that happen to us in life are neither “good” nor “bad”. These are only titles we choose to assign to how we feel about things that happen to us. Further, I have learned that our happiness depends on our assignment of the “good”or “bad” titles we apply to these events in our lives. Do you believe that?

It is my opinion and experience that our happiness absolutely depends on how we decide to feel about the events in our lives and consequently the actions we take or don’t take in response to those feelings. This is not to say that I do not believe in good or bad, I do. I believe there is great good in the world and I believe there is terrible evil. What I have learned is that our happiness does not depend upon only good things happening to us all the time. Thank goodness for that, because I do not know of a single person that has what most would interpret as good things happen to them all the time. Since we all don’t have good things happen to us all the time, why are there happy people in the world? Why aren’t we all unhappy since bad things happen to all of us? The answer is choice!

You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands
You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands

Let me illustrate by using one personal example: My father had a very successful business. He provided a specialized color separation service for the printing industry for over 20 years. He was looking for a new accountant. At the time, I was seventeen and I knew that one of my church leaders was an accountant. I told my dad that this man was an accountant and he must be a good man because he was a member of our church. It turned out that this man saw an opportunity in my father’s trust and worked to take control of the company. Because of the stress of the situation, my father had a massive stroke at age 59. He was in intensive care for a month. He lost his business, his home, his wife and almost all his earthly possessions. We were devastated as a family. There were some members of the family that criticized my father for his poor decision to hire this accountant after he began recovering from the stroke. Personally, I was devastated because I lost the father I knew who loved life and loved being active. I lost the future opportunity to run the business and reap the rewards of family succession. Our family felt by all accounts, these events were bad and we had reason to be unhappy. My father certainly had reason to be depressed and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he taught me a very valuable lesson.

My father chose to look at these events as good. He recognized that he could be angry at the person who defrauded him. However, that would just make him miserable. Instead, he decided to forgive the person. This took a huge burden off his shoulders. No longer did he waste precious thoughts on revenge or anger. My father had worked very hard his entire life. He rarely took time for himself. Now, he had time to study and learn. He took time to do much of what he had not done up until now. After these events, my father was almost always happy friendly and outgoing to people he met. Even though he was partially paralyzed from the stroke, he chose to laugh at his awkwardness and slurred speech. He chose to look at every day as a gift.

I believe this is an example of an event that could definitely be interpreted as bad. However, since my father decided to look at the event in a positive light, he took the opportunity to use his time in ways that he never did before his stroke and loss off business. Because of his choice, he was happy until the day he died at age 79 on February 16, 2008. I miss my father, and I am grateful for the valuable lesson he taught me about choosing happiness. There are some members of my family who have decided to look at these events as negative. To this day, they hold resentment and frustration that robs them of happiness. How can the same event produce such different attitudes and feelings of happiness? It has nothing to do with whether the events are good or bad and 100 percent to do with how we choose to interpret if events are good or bad. In fact, I believe that events that many would interpret as bad can have the biggest opportunity for good and even happiness in our life. The choice is ours.I Choose to Be Happy

Living at Cause

April 8th, 2011 Today I received an email from a friend who I had spoken to about a year ago about the importance of living at cause. He wrote: “The transition to living in cause is full of surprises and continues everyday. I often think of the moment when you pulled me aside and “warned” me about the difficulties and pitfalls of changing from living in cause to living in effect. Thank you for your words that day and know the lessons I learned at Rapport are with me still.” Living at cause means you make the choice about how you act and respond to the circumstance of life. It means that you are the cause of the outcomes in your life. On the other hand, being in effect means circumstances affect the outcomes of your life and there is no choice.

My friend had graduated from one of our leadership classes last year and made the declaration that he was now going to live at cause in every situation. Meaning, no matter what life dished out, he was going to choose to look at it in a positive light. He was going to be the master and commander of his life. You may think that such a life perspective is only for the Pollyanna’s of the world. There is too much that happens in life that is out of our control. I explained to my friend that his commitment was admirable and I warned him that it would not be easy and it worth it. I teach the importance of living at cause and it is difficult

Create your futurefor me. I find that I go into effect when I do not live according to my core values, especially when I know better! Then I remember, I am at choice.

I believe that we determine our own outcomes of life. True, we cannot choose all the circumstances in our life, we can choose our responses to those circumstances. Stephen Covey states that 10% of life is what happens to us, 90% of life is how we choose to respond. This is a difficult doctrine because it means that we cannot blame spouses, bosses, friends, enemies or God for what happens to us. It means we are accountable and we cannot deflect blame. Nothing is PermanentThe email from my friend is more poignant to me, because today is the funeral of our mutual friend. This friend leaves us after losing his fight with cancer. He leaves behind a wife and young children who depended upon him for their support. At times like these, it is truly difficult to stay at cause. So why not just give in and be in effect? That is an option for each of us. Instead, I choose to do what I can to support his family. I choose to believe that my friend is no longer in pain. I choose to believe that as difficult as it will be for his wife and children to move forward, they may choose to do so and as a result, their lives will be blessed by the strength they develop. They will always have the memory of a beloved husband and father. Soon enough, I choose to believe they will all be joyously reunited. I choose to live at cause, it is worth the effort.

Seize the Moment!

Seize Title We live in a great country where every day, every moment, you and I have the happy opportunity to make choices: Each morning we can get up early or hit the snooze button; watch TV or read a book; rent a movie on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, etc. or go to the theater; go to college or not; work in the private sector or public; meet minimum performance standards and just get by, or obliterate them. You can let work and life happen to you or seize the moment and make life extraordinary! Seize the moment cliffYou are the captain of your life. While it is true that we may not choose all of the circumstances of our lives, we may absolutely choose our response to circumstances and we may learn to influence and change our circumstances. At the end of the day do you look back at your actions and say; “I gave it everything I had!”? Does there have to be some great project, mission or opportunity for you to get engaged, or are you willing to give it everything you have with everyday things: Every phone call, every conversation, and every assignment no matter how small?! Many of us live waiting for what is next. We say things like: “I can’t wait to get to high school.” “I can’t wait to get out of high school.” When we get out of high school and get a job…”I can’t wait to get a job I like.” When in college…”I can’t wait to graduate.” When single…”I can’t wait to get married.” When married…”I can’t wait to be single.” With small kids…”I can’t wait until my kids grow up.” We can’t wait to have money when we have little, when we have abundantly, we can’t wait to have more. Many of us live on someday isle. “Someday I’ll be home in time to read my children a story and kiss them goodnight!” “Someday I’ll get in shape!” “Someday I’ll finish my degree!” “Someday, I’ll do what it takes to earn a Seize the moment romancepromotion!” We live on someday isle where opportunities pass us by while we are waiting for the “significant” things in our lives to happen. I believe a great indicator of how people will perform in a defining moment is how they perform every day. Make right now your great moment! When you share a conversation, make it great…be present, be invested! When you are given a task you think is beneath you-crush it! Come back to whomever assigned it to you and report it complete ahead of schedule and under budget. You want to prove your value on great things? Prove your value on everyday things. Otherwise, all too soon, our children are grown with children of their own, our careers are over and our short time on this earth is coming to a close and we have failed to act and seize many of the opportunities available to us. Seize the moment TeddyAs the Captain of your life, you have the responsibility to LEAD yourself where you want to go. I don’t believe you need to have followers to be a leader. Start with leading yourself. The word “leader” is derived from Greek and Latin words which mean “to act”. Leadership is not about title or rank, it is about the ability to act and “impact”. Make a positive impact on every person you meet, in every game you play, with every job you undertake! Taking charge and leading your life takes courage. Think of your life to come as Louis and Clark might have approached the vast uncharted Louisiana Territory. We have many choices: We can stay safely in “St. Louis” and enjoy vicariously the adventures that lie beyond the horizon; we can venture out, but stick to the easy trails; However, if we want real adventure, if we want to make a real impact, we must do with our life’s opportunities what Lewis and Clark did in the Louisiana Territory-get off the beaten path and seize new opportunities! It is time to leave complacency and comfort zones behind. It is time enjoy the moments of your life right now. It is time to make a positive impact. It is time to act and seize the moment and make life extraordinary!!

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