Everyone should have a mentor. A mentor whom will guide you in life. I’m lucky to say I have one. Today, I wrote a letter to him, talking about what I have learnt, and the correlations with what he had taught me. I thought it’ll be nice to share. Write me a comment if you have any thoughts about it.
Before I kick off this letter on what I wish to share with you about, please allow me to first express my sincere appreciation to you for the opportunities that you have given me. Even though we are – technically – not very closely acquainted, it is my honour to have you reminding me of my potential, and giving me the chance to unleash what you see in me. I want you to know that in my eyes, you are, to me, more than just a friend, a senior, or an investor. You are my mentor in my eyes.
Through this period of time working alongside (although not literally) with you, you have guided me a lot about life. Most important ones are our approaches in life, which will be the subject of this letter that I’m penning right now.
It is because of your benevolence that I am able to focus on what I want to do. With more time on my hands now, I started to read more, and learn more. Recently, I read a book, titled “Performance Intelligence At Work”, and I came across an interesting subject that I want to share with you about. You have, many times, talked to me about this also. This time, let me share with you my thoughts, and my views.
Doc Julie, who is a specialist in Performance Intelligence study, wrote the book I have read. She coaches sportsmen and sportswomen by teaching them how to focus better in order to play to win. In her book, she often uses the phrases such as “Winning Game Plan” and “Focus to Win”. I like to share with you a topic in a chapter that she wrote in the book that I have mentioned – Success vs Failure.
Recently, you have requested me to translate a letter that was “meant” for your staffs, which you are, in fact, subtly getting me to widen my perspectives in life. Thank you, as I have gained a lot from doing that translation, mainly the core of the letter, which was about – again – perspectives. Another that I have improved was the translation part, where I learnt how to write with flow without missing the important messages in the letter. It was a lesson that I attended which was fulfilling without having to spend a cent in class.
Success vs Failure; how do we recognize them? In the book, Dr Julie wrote about a bell curve, which I can relate, and I want to share with you. The Failure, Average, and Success scale.
0 Average 10
This is a fairly easy scale to process. On the far left, the scale is 0, for actions in which lead to failures. Failures that we do not wish to have anyone witnessing. On the far right, the scale is 10, for success. The middle of the scale represents the average: the place in performance where we are on a consistent basis. Average is a consistent performance indicator, and this is important. This is an individual’s performance evaluation.
Let us not be distracted by the word average. This is merely a word that we going to use to realize that what we have in us. It is a place where we are standing right now – the average point.
Let us start with asking ourselves, how bad a performance has to be before we consider it a failure. Usually anywhere below average, yes? Great. Let us move towards more to intentional thinking now. Let’s talk about success.
Question is: how good does a performance have to be for us to consider a success? I fell for the trick when I was reading that book. In my mind, I told myself success would be at 10 points. Doc Julie proved me otherwise. Here’s what she wrote in the book:
“10 is reserved for exceptional performance. These performances happen infrequently. Therefore, if you define success only as a 10, by default, everything else becomes a failure.”
Incorrect evaluation will lead to frustration, lack of motivation, and burnout. It will also affect our lives, not only our work. And that was what you have told me in the letter – 故身受挫折失败，都应泰然处之，不灰心，不丧志，再接再厉，力争上游。(Translated as: In the face of adversity, we should face it without fear nor sense of disheartened, and instead try again to strive and reach greater heights.)
The message in the scale is simple: If by doing something is an average, doing something more will be a success. Our focus must be on success, and not the failure in not doing anything. Everyday, as we embark on our journey home after a day’s work, we tend to have monkeys on our back (another term used by Doc Julie, representing negative thoughts that we have). The monkeys will be telling us what we have not accomplished, and these are negative thoughts that will lead us into feeling stress and anxiety, and in general, we go home feeling like losers. Thoughts will lead to actions, and actions will lead to results. If we were to fill our thoughts with negative ones, our actions from our thoughts will, too, be negative, and so will the results. We don’t want to see this.
Doc Julie’s recommendation, which I totally agree, will be to consider this equation: If average is where we are consistently, and everything below is a failure, then everything average and above has to be called a success. Refocus is the key word. Instead of focusing on where is wrong, we should focus on where we have done right. An example will be:
With 10 tasks on hand, and we completed 7 at the end of the day. That’s a success, because with the list, we are at our average, and with the completion of one, we are already moving away from the average and towards the success end of the spectrum. When we focus on the success we have achieved – in this case, 7 out of 10 completed – we are motivated to achieve the success in completing more tasks the next day. We’ll feel like a winner, and we’ll face tomorrow as a winner. I trust that you agree with my thoughts on this.
Having refocused ourselves towards the positivity, in the above example, the success, we are more motivated. Once we get into momentum, there will always be room for improvement. As we move on, our average will increase, and we will see unlimited potential in breaking into new average, and that’s where we see will see our potential. Once the new average is defined, we are on the next level, ready to move up higher. Success is a powerful motivator, and it brings us towards the positivity spectrum in our lives.
With positivity, we see things not with “cannot do”, but with “how to do”. I will like to share with you on the next thing that I have learnt.
Positivity vs Negativity
Playing to win versus playing not to lose. Here’s what everyone is not noticing, and the key word in touching ground on this area is one that I love the most: Refocus.
Here’s a scenario that I will like to share with you to talk about this, and this is also something that you have taught me many times whenever we meet. Here we go:
A guy wants to start a business, but he has something in his mind: Starting a business is easy; running the business for years to come is hard. Even before he brings his plan to his investors, he is already thinking about how hard his future years will be. In this case, he is being bogged down even before anything materializes. An example of Negativity.
Another guy wants to start a business, and even thought he knows that running a business entails hard work, he embraces it with confidence, because he is sure that he has the ability to run the business into his desired outcome. An example of Positivity.
Both cases have something similar – the uncertainty. We know that businesses are uncertain. The uncertainties in the above scenarios are going to be the investors’ interests or disinterests, and the response of the market when the businesses are launched. There is another thing that is similar, in case we have not realized, which is control. We cannot control the investors’ decisions, and we cannot control the market. But in the examples above, both guys have the control over this: their confidence and their actions.
Both guys can exercise their controls, be it in the processes running the businesses, or their presentations to the investors. If the investors are not willing to go into the businesses, they can improve their presentations next time. But the first guy will not be able to do it, because his mind is already in an “it’s not going to be easy” mode. While chances are going to be higher for the second guy, because he’s going to say, “Okay, what is the next thing that I can say to convince the investors?” Negativity vs Positivity in play.
Here’s another example that I am going to quote. Ed Catmull spent 26 years working with Steve Jobs, who was notorious for being stubborn. It is quoted in his book, “Creavity Inc”, on how he dealt with Steve Jobs”
“In all the 26 years with Steve, Steve and I never had one of these loud verbal arguments and it’s not my nature to do that. … but we did disagree fairly frequently about things. … I would say something to him and he would immediately shoot it down because he could think faster than I could. … I would then wait a week … I’d call him up and I give my counter argument to what he had said and he’d immediately shoot it down. So I had to wait another week, and sometimes this went on for months. But in the end one of three things happened. About a third of the time he said, ‘Oh, I get it, you’re right.’ And that was the end of it. And it was another third of the time in which [I’d] say, ‘Actually I think he is right.’ The other third of the time, where we didn’t reach consensus, he just let me do it my way, never said anything more about it.”
The positivity displayed in Catmull is his recognition of his actions, rather than the outcome of it. He focused on working to convince Steve Jobs, instead of focusing on Steve’s response. The results of his actions were the success rate of 67% (2/3). In my opinion, he was successful every time, because every time he tried, he was already above his average. It is success in my eyes.
Our focus ought to be on the actions, that will lead to the outcomes; not on the outcomes. Let the win take care of itself. Here’s where the word “refocus” comes in: when we find ourselves focusing on the outcomes of the things we do, we have to remind ourselves that the focus have to be on the actions that will lead to the outcomes. With positivity, we are then able to work on the actions to achieve the outcomes that we want. What if we fail? Then we shall scrutinize the actions on where is wrong. Not only to know where are the mistakes, but also to know where are the corrections. Then we are able to process new thoughts, that will lead to new actions, and new outcomes.
It is a sad thing that many people are not able to apply positivity in all aspects of their lives. Many business owners, once after achieving success, turn negative in attempt to protect what they have. But they failed to realize that they are standing on the platform where they are playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. The difference is huge. Playing not to lose is an average, and playing to win is a success.
I hope that this letter is a good sharing of information and knowledge. I recognize that it is an uphill task to influence the world to think positively, but we can start with the people around us. I think what I have learnt from this book is worth to be shared, and I am glad that I am able to share with you what I have learnt. This letter can be a good motivator for your staffs.
I wish you good health for many years ahead. I still have lots to learn from you.
If you are interested in knowing more about the book I’ve read, here’s the information that you might want to know:
Book Title: Performance Intelligence At Work – The 5 Essentials to Achieving The Mind of a Champion
Author: Julie Bell with Robin Pou
Andy Lawson is the average man on the street that you’ll not even trouble yourself looking at him if he passes by you. He’s sensitive to bullshit, and he hates mediocrity in most people. He is the author of his self-published book: Facts and Fiction of Fengshui: Facts that Masters are NOT Telling You. He doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, because he hates to be associated with people who tend to be passive-aggressive online, but he does have a very limited set of vocabularies, terrible grammar, a twisted mind that makes himself God in his own twisted world and an ability to communicate with people who wish to be his friend.