Posts Tagged ‘Perception = Reality’

You’ve likely heard the story that it took Thomas Edison 10,000 tries before successfully inventing the lightbulb. Some would consider that a lot of failure on the path to eventual success. He didn’t appear to take it that way. In fact, I’ve heard his response was that he hadn’t failed 9,999 times, rather, he had discovered 9,999 ways NOT to make a lightbulb! To me, that speaks of a pretty positive attitude; certainly one who would not be daunted easily by what some might consider a set-back.

Or what about the scientists at 3M who invented Post-it Notes. The story goes that they were attempting to create a sticky glue substance, not one that held lightly for a while, but was easily detached. Was what they discovered a failure? Not by a long-shot! While they weren’t immediately successful in creating what they had set out to create, they created something extremely useful and valuable. I’m sure 3M would say this “failure” was worth billions, literally!

The key is how we choose to look at and respond to the things that happen to us. I’d say these two examples demonstrate some folks who have chosen to approach their lives and work with a positive attitude.

Two weeks ago, I was in Orlando, Florida, with the John Maxwell Team, and we were blessed to have Nick Vujicic with he. He spent a considerable amount of time sharing his story with us. If anyone were to have an excuse for having a negative attitude, Nick would likely get a pass. He was born without arms and legs. Today, at 30, he is happily married and has a 6-month old son. He travels the world bringing awareness to a variety of issues that touch his heart, motivating others, and displaying the value and fruits one may harvest if one faces life with a positive attitude. He swims, has been surfing, sky-diving, and, again, travels the world. He has an undeniable zest for life and is not willing to let anything stand in the way of achieving his heart’s desire.

If you ever have the chance to see or hear him speak, I highly encourage you to do it! His attitude is contagious in a very good way.

Personally, he is a reminder to me that very little in life is truly impossible. His story reminds me that although I will face adversity in my life, and I may not be immediately successful in everything I endeavor to do, there really is nothing holding me back except for me. I find, it’s an effective attitude adjustment.

Today, as we begin these four weeks focused on attitude, it’s good to have a baseline to measure from. Take a close look are your attitude in both your personal and professional lives. What is working well for you?

What do you need to change?

How is your attitude impacting the people around you?

As John Maxwell often says, in every relationship, you have the opportunity to be a plus or a minus. What do you choose?

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Well, we’ve spent the last four weeks focused on Legacy…what you leave behind, how people think and talk about you, when you are gone. Now, this may simply be because you’ve taken on a new role, left the organization for a new position with another company, or have passed away.

We’ve learned, by example, that you have the power and ability to design your legacy; you can influence what you want it to be.

What if you had the opportunity to know what it would be…would you be likely to make changes in your direction or behavior?

Let’s look into the story of a man who unexpectedly had just such an experience!

In 1888, an infamous Swedish industrialist received news that his brother, Ludvig, had died in France. You can imagine his dismay when he read the obituary and discovered the editor of the paper had mistaken his brother’s identity for his own!

The headline read, “Merchant of Death is Dead.” The obit went on to explain how the man had built his wealth through the invention, manufacture, and sales of dynamite. He was considered a heartless profiteer for having introduced the world to such a devastating innovation.

To be sure, reading one’s own obituary is a rare occurrence, indeed; but what an opportunity! Profoundly affected by this experience, Alfred Nobel determined to make a change, resolving to put his wealth to to work in hopes of reviving his legacy. In the eight years before his death, Nobel created an endowment worth more than $9 million to reward exceptional humanitarian effort. Today, the Nobel Peace Prize is one of the world’s best known and most coveted awards, bestowed annually to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to humanity. *

While it’s not likely any of us will have this same experience, but we do have the opportunity to increase our self-awareness and become aware of the legacy we are building. If we choose to do it now, we have time to make changes if what we learn is not in tune with what we desire.

What do you know about how you are perceived, about what people think and say about you when you are not there?

Is it in line with how you wish to be remembered and talked about?

If not, it’s not too late to make a difference.

*From the Intentional Leadership booklet, by Giant Impact. 

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Perception = Reality.


This beautiful bird spent the better part of four weeks fluttering up and down this window. You see, it thought it was flying into a tree. And it was persistent! It literally fluttered up and down this window most of the day; occasionally flying off into the trees you can see beyond it. The window has reflective film on it, to keep the heat of the sun out of the office. If you look at the window from the outside, you see the trees and bushes (which you can see as you look beyond the bird in this photo) reflected in the glass — pretty clearly, too. No wonder the bird thought it was flying into a tree…and behaved in a frustrated manner that it couldn’t get into the tree. It’s perception was that the window was a tree, and so it continued to try to find a way into the tree, because that was its reality.

Clearly…it wasn’t a tree and the bird was unsuccessful!

This is one of the key concepts I teach when I’m teaching communication skills. It fits in nicely with my two key lessons — self-awareness and intentionality are key to your success.

Understanding the power of perception is important because someone is always watching you, especially when you are a leader. And they make up stories about what’s going on based on snippets of information — often incomplete — combined with their beliefs, values, past experiences, and rumors. What they come up with may be accurate, close to accurate, or a million miles away from the truth, but because they don’t have access to the whole story, the one they create makes sense to them, and they move forward based on it.

My question to you is, how is someone’s else’s perception of you affecting your performance and chances of success? How is it impacting  your relationships?

What about your own perception about yourself? About your abilities, skills, and talents?

Whether you believe you can or your can’t, you’re right. ~Henry Ford

This quote says it all. What you believe to be true about yourself will determine your future. Knowing that, it’s important to examine how you perceive yourself and understand why it is so. Then, what can you do to make it different, if you need to make some changes to move forward into your potential?

And, what perceptions do you have about others that may be affecting your path forward?

Please, don’t waste your time and energy fluttering up against a window that is NOT a tree, and expect it to magically become what you want it to be! Make the effort to have clear vision and understanding about who you are and what’s going on in your life…and then move forward with confidence!

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Passion is powerful; we all know that. And it can be a force for good or a force for … well, not so good! The same passion that can make you the best in your field can also result in an insufferable ego! Often times, when we are really passionate about something, we can be easily offended when someone disagrees with us or offers a different perspective on the topic.

I can say, humbly — I hope, this has happened to me. I strive to be more self-aware, however, and understand that it’s ok for others to have another perspective and that they don’t necessarily share my passion.

Today, think of someone who may have offended you as they touched upon your passion. Starting today, take a step to repair that relationship. One of the most profound ways to keep passion grounded on principle is through humility.

Pick one of these options to start the healing / forgiveness process today:

1. Contact the person and begin reconnecting. Before you take this step, however, it’s important that you forgive them and approach the connection with an open heart.

2. Write the person a note and mail it today! Acknowledge your part in whatever happened and ask them for their forgiveness; tell them you value the relationship and want to repair it. As you drop the note into the outgoing mail box, tell yourself that you forgive them for their part. Truly let go of the conflict as you release the letter.

3. Speak with the person today. Let them know you need to ask their forgiveness for being upset with them. Let them know you may not have understood the full situation, allowed yourself to become upset and held it against them. End the conversation with this simple question: “Will you forgive me?”

Which one will you choose?

I can say from experience, there’s something very liberating in this process. It may not always end with the relationship repaired and things between you back the way they were…but you will feel better for owning your part, for making the move to begin the healing process, and for having some closure of the situation.

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If we begin with the premise that excellence requires superior quality, first we must define what that means…to ourselves and to our customers — both existing and potential, and for each of us this may be very different.

For me, it requires ongoing education and keeping up with the latest developments and thought-leaders in the areas of personal growth, leadership development, team building, and communications. It means being solely focused on the success of my clients. It means being an outstanding listener — which we all know is an active process, requiring my undivided attention and ability to tune out my own thoughts as I listen to what my clients need to discuss. It means functioning intuitively and perceptively to discern what the true issues and challenges are that my clients face. All of these things will allow me to tune-in to my clients and really understand their unique needs. Then I must be able to tailor what I have to offer to be able to actually help them move through, around, or past these obstacles and challenges to perform at higher levels and achieve their goals.

There are a lot of other factors at play here, other actions I need to take, other behaviors I need to demonstrate, as you can imagine. But for purposes of getting your thinking started, I think this is a good beginning place. Clearly, your inputs and outputs are likely very different than mine, but the thought processes around what excellence means and how you demonstrate it are the same.

The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor. — Vince Lombardi

What edge could your organization gain by committing to, and delivering, superior quality…at a level higher than that of your competitors?

In what areas are you already known for superior quality — at your team’s level or for that of your entire organization?

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Good morning, and Happy Thursday!

Today is another day for reflection. I encourage you to spend some time journaling about what you learned through your colleague, yesterday, about external perceptions of your skills in building the foundational elements of relationships.

What did you learn?

How can you use this new insight to help you improve?

When you are done with that, shift to thinking about the people you lead or interact with regularly. In each of the foundational areas, write down an action step you can take to promote these behaviors and strengthen your relationships.






Now, we know that if we don’t make these actions a priority, they won’t likely get done. So, let’s look at your schedule…fit these actions into your schedules on specific days and times. You will have a much greater chance of success then.

After all, your calendar is one telling measure of what your true priorities are.

Have a thoughtful Thursday!

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Armed with your clearly defined vision, the plans you drafted last week, and your evaluation of your preparation from yesterday, it’s now time to get some feedback from trust colleagues or confidants. As we all know, others often see us differently than we see ourselves, so it’s always good to get some insight from others.

Today, find two or three people who know you well, and are familiar with your work. It’s critical that you have sound relationships with these folks, because you need them to tell you the truth.

Ask them for their thoughts on what would happen with your team or organization if you were to leave; would the team/organization be able to carry on successfully without you?

Do they understand your vision well enough to continue driving toward it?

Are they committed to your vision such that they would continue to pursue it, even if you weren’t there to lead them?

Have you equipped them well enough to keep moving forward without you?

What are your answers to these questions? How do your answers fit with what you heard from others?

Several thoughts come to mind for me…

First, I’ve often thought it a sign of an effective leader that his/her team or organization is fully able to carry on the business of the organization in the leader’s absence. It says the leader developed a strong team, provided clear guidance and expectations, equipped the team with the resources it needed,  and is able to leave them to their work, knowing all will be well.

Second, having this kind of conversation with trusted colleagues will tell you a great deal about how you are perceived and the effectiveness of your leadership — provided you have developed trust-based relationships with them, so they will tell you the truth, even if it is uncomfortable.

Third, if the team/organization would continue to pursue your vision in your absence, it says the vision truly speaks to the others and they haven’t been “following” you simply because you have a title, position, or authority to make them do it.

As I often tell the leaders I coach, the higher you rise in an organization, the less likely you are to get the kind of candid feedback about your performance from those around and below you, and the more you really need it.

Seek it out!

And when you receive it, consider it a gift…just listen. Say “Thank you.” Reflect on what you heard. Follow up.

It will make you a better leader.

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Now that you’ve given some thought to the history and values of your organization, and what value they offer in terms of your vision, it’s important to know what your peers and employees know about your history and values. Not only what they know, but also how they interpret the history and values; as you are surely aware, “one size does not fit all” in terms of perception of things.

Before you can make progress towards your vision, you will need to assess the level of commitment your employees have to your organization. To do this, you may ask a few simple questions:

What historical facts do you know about the company?

How would you define our organization’s values?

What is our vision — what are we trying to achieve?

What is it about our vision that draws you to the organization?

What role do you play in achieving our vision?

How does the organization keep you connected to our vision and values?

The key here is to truly listen and make note of the things they tell you, especially if what they say is unexpected or counter to your beliefs and understandings.

I suspect some of the answers may surprise you. Pay close attention, though, as you may gain some invaluable insight into the collective mind of your employees that can help guide you in what you need to do next.

More tomorrow!

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Last week, faithful reader Amy asked me to elaborate on constraints and perception of self as relates to achieving goals. Thank you, Amy, for reading, commenting, and asking for me. Here are my thoughts. Let me know if this clarifies the concepts.

External Barriers

Have you heard of food deserts? Apparently, in some inner cities, there aren’t enough grocery stores and the ones they have are not conveniently located for all.  People who live in these areas are challenged to provide healthy meals for their families because if they don’t have a car, they have to rely on public transportation — or getting a ride from others — to get them to and from the grocery store. They are then limited in what they purchase based on what they can carry back easily and what will not start to spoil (frozen or refrigerated items) on the way home. In addition, they would need to plan menus in advance to ensure what they bought would be just what they would need in the coming days. There are, however, fast food restaurants and convenience stores. As you can imagine, for many in these areas, their nutritional intake is less than optimal. This is an example of an external barrier, created by forces outside us. It presents a challenge, but those who are committed to eating healthier food will find a way to overcome it.


When my husband and I decided to start a family, we agreed we wanted one of us to be at home with our kids. We were in a position, financially, to be able to do this. We have a son, and my husband has been home with him since I returned to work after maternity leave about six years ago. This decision, while it has been great for us — and I wouldn’t do it differently given the opportunity, has created some constraints. Living on one income required us to be extra careful with how we spend money, not often buying high-priced items, and we don’t take elaborate vacations. This is an example of a self-imposed constraint, made with full awareness of what we were investing and sacrificing. And, at any time we can make a different decision about how we handle this area of our lives; we have that control.

Self-Limiting Beliefs

What you believe to be true about yourself is the single most powerful indicator of your success. As Henry Ford said, Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right. These beliefs are formed very early in our lives, mostly based on what others tell us about ourselves and what we are capable of. After all, as you are a child growing up, surrounded by older and presumably (but not necessarily) wiser people, we believe what they say is true and possible; how are we to know otherwise?

Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right.  — Henry Ford

I’m reminded of the movie The Help, set in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi. The main character, a black housekeeper named Abilene tells the story of the children she raised, as she cared for numerous white, well-to-do families over the years of her career. She made a point to tell the children each and every day, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” Poor grammar aside, she did this because she observed the children mostly being treated as an inconvenience by their parents, and she knew they could use all the positive reinforcement they could get. She wanted to implant those messages in their little brains, hopefully to counteract the negative messages they would inevitably hear from others as they grew up.

The same is true for the rest of us. If we hear a message often enough, especially from people who matter to us, we will begin to believe it, and it will begin to control what we accomplish.

This is the voice you hear in your head when you want to try something new, meet a challenge, take a giant leap into the unknown. The important thing is what is says to you. If it’s along the line of all the things you aren’t enough of…smart enough, fit enough, pretty enough, thin enough, wealthy enough, creative enough…or maybe all the things you are too much of…too heavy, too tall, too short, too slow, too shy, too inquisitive, too thin…you will struggle to rise above yourself and reach your goals. Truly, the lists of faults could be endless.

This is another reason why it’s so critical to surround yourself with people who love, support, and believe in you. People who will encourage you to reach for your dreams. People who will help you get back on track when you stumble. People who know and accept how amazing, talented, and gifted you are. After all, each one of us was created for a specific divine purpose.

Consider the real-life story of my mentor Paul Martinelli. Growing up in Pittsburgh, he stuttered. At the time, it was considered not a merely speech impediment, but a learning disability. People frequently told him he was stupid, incapable of learning, would never amount to much. He believed them…dropped out of high school. But over time, he continued to prove to himself he could do a lot of those things people said he never would, including overcoming his stutter because learning to recite a story flawlessly, and with humor, was the ticket to getting something he desperately wanted. He is a true entrepreneur, with big vision and he has made a name for himself, not just in the US, but internationally, as well. Today, he is well known in the personal development field and has worked with many of the other well-known leaders in the field. He is living proof that what you believe about your self can be a critical limiting factor, but when you learn to change your beliefs you can take on the world.

Pay attention to the voice in your head.

Be mindful of the way you talk to yourself, especially when you hit a speed bump.

Consider adopting this powerful phrase one of my mentors shared with me. Rather than assuming I was destined to not be good at certain things, he encouraged me to think more along this line: I was never good at __________ (fill in the blank), until now!

I was never good at ________________ (fill in the blank), until now!

What do you believe to be true about yourself?

What do you dream of and long for?

What’s holding you back?

What evidence do you have that you are “enough” of whatever it takes to achieve what you long for?

Take this challenge, right now — write down all your accomplishments — the ones you were confident you would achieve and the ones that surprised you. Then write down all of your failings. There are two key lessons with the second part — 1: What did you learn about yourself when you stumbled, and what did those lessons allow you to do when you got back up to try again; and, 2: What were the things you believed to be true about yourself that held you back from trying, again?

I’m confident, if you make an earnest effort at this exercise, you will be pleasantly surprised at how competent, talented, creative, accomplished you truly are!

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I’ve recently finished reading two memoirs, one by Rob Lowe (Stories I Only Tell My Friends) and one by Andrew McCarthy (The Longest Way Home: One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down), and actually enjoyed them both very much.

Both shared stories of their personal journeys, and while they phrase it differently, both were (are) striving to become a better version of themselves so they are able to “show up” and really be present for the people they love. As McCarthy put it, it wasn’t just about being able to be physically present with his family – that would be easy enough – but more importantly to be emotionally present, available, vulnerable, and truly connect with his loved ones.

As they both “grew up” in the insanity of Hollywood, it may be easy for us to think we know them as we’ve heard stories about them for years in the media – but I caution you from making that mistake; all is not necessarily what it appears to be on the surface. Yes, they made mistakes. Yes, they drank too much, partied too hard. And yes, thankfully, they recognized there was more to life than that and that their previous behaviors were not going to get them to the places and people they longed for.

Through it all, they proved that everyone has issues, challenges, fears, hopes, dreams, and makes mistakes; the hard stuff in life is not withheld from the wealthy, popular, and privileged. Life is life. People are people. Regardless of our circumstances, we all struggle with something.

…dreams coming true don’t change your feelings.

As Lowe said at one point, I tried to “outrun loneliness, outrun feeling ‘different,’ and outrun the shock that dreams coming true don’t change your feelings.” It reminded me of the saying: “Wherever you go, there YOU are.” Meaning, the grass may seem greener on the other side, but when you go there, you still have all your personal baggage…issues, fears, insecurities…it all goes with you. So the key is to change yourself, and maybe your environment, as well. But changing just your environment won’t bring you to the place you long to be.

Nothing in life is unfair. It’s just life. To the extent that I had any inner turmoil, I had only myself to blame.

At another point, Lowe says, “So, I came to the realization: Nothing in life is unfair. It’s just life. To the extent that I had any inner turmoil, I had only myself to blame.” I like this because it reminds me to take personal responsibility for my circumstances. Stuff happens in life; sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes neutral. What matters is how I choose to approach it and what decisions I make about how I move forward. 

Near the end, Lowe says, “I also thought of my two boys and what kind of example I hoped to be. I would always want them to take charge of their own futures and not be paralyzed by the comfort and certainty of the status quo or be cowed by the judgment of those on the outside looking in.” High hopes for this father of two; but isn’t this what we would all want for our children, our loved ones, ourselves?

I applaud McCarthy and Lowe not only for taking the journey and being open to its lessons, but also for having the courage to bare at least a sliver of their souls to us in telling the stories; through their growth, we can be inspired and perhaps approach our own journeys with some assurance that we are not alone.

As the saying goes, I am striving to never settle for the path of least resistance, as I know that is the road to complacency. Complacency means no growth, and that doesn’t work for me. It’s also about continuing to reach for those things I know in my heart to be true and right for me, which doesn’t always match up with what others think I should be doing. 

What do you need to do to be able to truly “show up” for your life?

What journey are you – or should you be – on?

How will you chronicle your adventures and lessons learned?

Will you share it with others, so they can learn from your experiences?

*Please don’t get the impression I didn’t enjoy McCarthy’s story as much as Lowe’s; I just didn’t take notes as I went through it – I will when I re-read it.



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