Is this the best of times? Or the worst of times? It’s time to make up your mind.
Volatility is the new stable. Extreme is the new normal. Crazy is the new reasonable. Either nothing makes sense. Or it all makes a whole new kind of sense. Either we’re surrounded by sheer insanity. Or we’re confronted by spectacular opportunity.
What do you think? Will the insurgent in the white house bring us all down? Could Rocket Man blow us all up? Will the Dow plummet below 2009 levels? Is the world going to melt down? Will disruption damage your career? Will algorithms usurp your job? Will artificial intelligence make you look stupid? Will augmented reality ruin your personal reality? Will gender politics claim you as a victim? Or will you just be overwhelmed by the sheer chaos of it all?
On any given day this year, I thought the sky would fall in. I thought my world was about to shatter. I doubted my ability to surmount the obstacles in front of me. It all seemed so impossible. On other days, I knew the force was with me. I knew exactly what to think, say and do. I felt unstoppable and irresistible. It all seemed so easy.
On most days, I experience dramatic swings in mood and motivation. I go from exhilaration to exasperation and back again. Every hour brings a new reason to celebrate or curse my circumstances. I feel like I’m on a magic carpet ride through thunder and lightning. Shock and awe are my two constant companions.
Here’s my point: that’s how I feel. That’s not how I act. I act as though I’m about to achieve a breakthrough. I act like I’m about to earn exactly what I want. I act like the people around me are allies and advocates. I act like I expect to win even when I lose.
You know why? We can’t always choose the way we feel. But we can always choose the way we act. Emotions can take us by surprise. They can hijack our senses. They can bruise us so badly we don’t want to go on.
Caring and empathy carry a steep price: we feel others’ pain. We get hurt when people we care about get hurt. I can’t even watch violent movies because I don’t want my heroes to be harmed. I’m always going to be affected by other people’s misery. I’m always going to be scared of disappointment and rejection. I’m always afraid of failure and looking bad. I never want to let anyone down.
But I’ve made up my mind. Think about that phrase – made up my mind. I’ve made it up. I’ve told myself a story that enables me to act like a motivator and coach. I’ve decided that I will be an agent of other people’s success. I will do whatever it takes to help them win. No matter how I’m feeling, I’ll act like I’m feeling great. I’ve discovered that it’s easier to act my way into feeling great, than feel my way into acting great. Let me repeat that: it’s easier to act my way into feeling great, than feel my way into acting great.
Action creates feelings, not the other way around. If you’re waiting for the right feeling, you’re at the mercy of your environment. And the current environment will show you no mercy.
When I talk to other people, I have to be upbeat and optimistic. That’s my job. I’m a merchant of hopes and dreams. I get paid to inspire others to do things they otherwise would not have done. I cannot give what I do not have. No matter what my situation, I make up my mind to be the best I can be. Some days, I may be better than other days. That’s called being human. But on every day, I will be the best I can be that day.
It’s simple but it’s not easy: If you want to achieve your goals, you need to inspire others to achieve their goals. We’re all interdependent on each other. If someone isn’t helping you win, you’ll choose not to help them. You may still have to work with them, but you won’t go the extra mile for them. The most successful people motivate other people to want to do more for them.
So here are Lipkin’s three principles for making up your mind:
1. Make up your mind to be great at one thing that is valuable to others. In my case it’s inspiring people into successful actions. I coach, persuade, motivate, cajole, nudge or push people out of their comfort zones. I’m always developing my craft through study and practice – just like I’m doing now. What have you made up your mind to be great at? Why is it valuable to others? And what are you doing to develop it?
2. Make up your mind that the future is getting better all the time. We’re only as good as what we expect to happen next. If you’re pessimistic about the future, your problems will become self-fulfilling. If you’re excited about tomorrow, you’ll pull the future towards you. Go looking for reasons to be elated. For example, in the January 7 2017 edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote, “2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity. A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before. The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell.” Wow! I’ve made up my mind that 2018 will be even better. I’m fascinated by the magic of change. I can’t wait to see what happens next. My best days are just ahead of me. It’s always Day One.
3. Make up your mind to be act intentionally. Evaluate your impact on others. Be the best version of yourself in every conversation. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Feel the pain, fear, fatigue, frustration, disappointment, and be extraordinary anyway. Become the reason why people believe in the goodness of others. Train yourself not to lose your temper. Be cool if you want to be hot. Practise, practise, practise.
Today is a great day to make up your mind to be great. You don’t have to be perfect, just perfect enough. You will have so many opportunities to step up, stand out and shine, no matter what the weather. Seize them all. Train people to expect you to wow them in ways both big and small. First, you’ll amaze yourself. Then you’ll amaze everyone else. This is Mike Lipkin, and until the next time, hunt breakthroughs, expect miracles.