planning

Are You Worried?

For Christmas, about ten years ago, my sainted wife bought me a plane ticket to head to Dallas to spend some time with my best friend who I hadn’t seen in person in a couple of years. The ticket was for mid-April. I was furious.

Not that I had to wait so long to see him but that I had to agonize over the flight for four months. I worried a lot about flying at the time, or more accurately, the sudden cessation of flying otherwise known as crashing. I’d flown a dozen or more times without incident but I still couldn’t get my lizard-brain to understand how this massive metal bird was able to get off the ground and stay there. Surely I was destined to be one of those people with their name on a memorial somewhere due to a bad O-ring.

For months I found myself experiencing what were likely fun-sized panic attacks. I’d be irritable and have minor blow ups over nothing. Just me and the background music of my own 500mph plummet into the earth playing in my mind. A video loop of my oldest son looking like JFK Jr. saluting my empty coffin – you know, because I’d been turned into a Rob-Gazpacho by the crash? Why couldn’t I stop with this awful coming attractions loop on repeat?

Spoilers; I didn’t die on that flight or any of the thirty or so I’ve been on since then. I knew statistically that I had a better chance of getting stalked by Britney Spears, and yet. Why the hell was I so worried? Why are we all worried about so much that has such little chance of actually occurring?

Once, when I was 18 I bought a lottery ticket and worried for a few days about which of my friends I’d bring to buy matching Porsches. Seriously. I was certain I’d win like $100 Million and I reasoned I’d only buy matching 911s for five of my friends but what would I say to friend number six? I swear I’m not actually this dumb IRL.

Psychology Today has a few suggestions for why we worry and how we can stop. Feel free to read at your leisure. For me, I think it had something to do with my concern for my fledging family and what would happen to them if I was gone. I didn’t like imagining them all alone without a mountain of money to break their fall and the cash was only amounting to a respectable pitchers mound at the time.

I think it was this trip a decade back where I realized I was doing myself (and those around me) a disservice by not letting my rational brain take the wheel. It was always going to be fine. I’d spent so much time and energy uncomfortable over something as routine as falling asleep. From then on I’d only get more comfortable on flights with my nerves only appearing in the 30 seconds around takeoff as the engines fired up.


Why in the hell was I letting worry drive the ship when it couldn’t stop getting the directions wrong? If my brain was like the movie “Inside Out” why would the other parts of my brain possibly let Worry take the helm when it was so often wrong? Enough of that. Rationality bitch-slapped Worry and save for a handful of moments, it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Plenty of what we worry about will never happen. The trip home will be safe. This shopping cart doesn’t have Aids. Canada isn’t going to invade and put those Nickelback on the money. It’s all stuff we need to hear from time to time.

What was the last thing you worried about that you realized in retrospect had no chance of happening?

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” or Coach Taylor meets Sun Tzu

Everyone loves a good motivational speech and there are few better than the ones from our favorite movies. The one where Rocky says that’s how winning is done. The one where Al Pacino talks about the game being one of inches and the inches are all around us. The one in Independence Day where President Bill Pullman says they won’t go quietly into that good night. Stellar stuff, all.

As much as I love them, I can’t use them every day. What I can use is a mantra, and not from a movie but a TV show – the long canceled Friday Night Lights. It’s simple and startlingly prescient. I can’t stop seeing it everywhere.

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”

I think of this when we get something wrong because we allowed ourselves to become easily swayed by the information we didn’t bother to interrogate. I find myself muttering it when someone makes a stunning reversal and course corrects after allowing the truth of the situation to come to them.

All that, and honestly, I’m a sucker for six words. There’s music to that number, arriving in two-word pairs. Hemmingway once won a contest by penning a compelling story with only six words: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” My first Mission Statement at CVI was only six words: “Be professional, Solve problems, Create value.” Distilling something meaningful into six words is an art and I’m its favorite patron.

Clear Eyes

The ability to see. The ability to identify what is happening all around you and not deluding yourself about the conditions on the ground, in the air, or in your own heart. You can see it all and you need that ability if you’re going to do anything meaningful.

Any idiot can make decrees or decisions while not knowing what’s happening; that’s most of life. What an effective agent of change needs is the ability to discern what the hell is happening; both inside and outside themselves.

Sun Tzu says any winning General must master the Five Factors:

  • The Purpose
  • The Weather
  • The Terrain
  • The Leadership
  • The System

You can’t master anything if you can’t see it. And not just with your eyes. You need to see it with every part of your understanding. You especially need to see that which you’re inclined or incentivized not to see. Clear Eyes is of supreme importance and so it comes first. As mantras go, this one is fire.

  • The Purpose is the cause, the morality; what are we fighting for? Is this who we are? Do we know?
  • The Weather is the conditions. If not the rain or wind then the market forces at work.
  • The Terrain is the ground, the topography. If not a battlefield then the shelf or the venue the sales battle will be fought.
  • The Leadership is not only those in charge but those whose influence exceeds their titles. How capable are your leaders to produce and adapt on the fly?
  • The System is my favorite. It’s the thing that accounts and adapts (or should) for all the strengths and weaknesses of the others on this list. It’s what we have the most control over if we’d only recognize it and give it its due.

The General who masters the Five Factors will win every engagement, even if they don’t. Clear Eyes reminds us that we should never lie to ourselves. Self-awareness is one of our most powerful weapons if we’ll develop it properly.

How many times have you seen a person, organization, or company, fail because they couldn’t see clearly; because they refused to see clearly? Too many.

Full Hearts

Are you in to it? Do you believe in what you’re saying? Do you believe and trust in what you’re doing? Does what you do each day, right now, resonate with your core beliefs?

Can you stay focused and dedicated when things get tough and your path gets blocked? Can you fight through self-doubt, stumbles, and the hellish unknown? Can you manage to lose a battle without losing yourself?

Can’t Lose

There are two types of losses; the one on the scoreboard and the one in your mind. You can’t fully control the first kind of loss. You can plan, scrap, and brawl with all your might and you may still lose when the points are tallied. The second kind though? That’s all you.

Keep your vision clear. Don’t lie to yourself, ever, about anything.
Walk your talk. Believe in what you’re doing and be prepared for the way to get rough. Don’t lose yourself.

Do those two things and you’ll never lose.

If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.

If you don't execute, you don't eat.

This sums it up perfectly. EXECUTION is ALL that matters. Apologies to the delicate sensibilities out there, but all the warm fuzzies of best intentions won’t sell SQUAT. Positive thoughts and “hard work” alone won’t move product or make a difference if nothing actually, HAPPENS.

If you make a difference, a REAL difference, then something should be DIFFERENT because you were there. Sounds simple, right? Are the material conditions on the ground different because of something you DID? If so, you made a difference. If not, hate to break it to you, but we’re still waiting.

I’m flummoxed and fired up when a solid sounding strategy never makes waves. It stays perfectly conceptualized inside the minds of the creators and on the tongues of the braggarts and blowhards – but never encounters the harsh light of actually being birthed into the world.

I get it. The world is messy and there are question boxes to outnumber those in the Mushroom Kingdom. There are as many threats, too. If you’re scared, if you can’t get over those fears to bring something to life, please do the rest of us a favor and politely move out of the way. There are things to make and worlds to conquer and markets to impact.

Repeat after me: “If you don’t execute, you don’t eat.”

You can’t sit around talking about how cool it would be to kill a wholly mammoth, and survive. At some point, one of you is going down. Stop talking and pick up a spear. Stop telling me about your responsibilities and tell me about what you changed – what DIFFERENCE you actually made.