The Mind-Bucket

Picture your mind as a bucket. It’s open and ready to receive and hold whatever the world offers you. Some of what the world gives you is cold and negative, and some of what the world gives you is warm and positive.

The warm things can be words of encouragement, accomplishments, and the results of well used gifts. The cold things can be unwarranted criticism, insults, and failures. At the earliest age, we start having our mind-buckets filled. Maybe you were encouraged and told all the things you’d be and accomplish one day, and the temperature of your mind-bucket was high, or maybe you weren’t and were put down and started with a pretty cool mind-bucket.

The temperature of our mind-bucket has a lot to do with our perspective, confidence, and behaviors. This life and leadership strategy is all about one simple truth; you can change the temperature of your mind-bucket. It is not fixed.

The temperature of your mind-bucket, and self-image, is an accumulation of all the inputs over your lifetime. It comes from what others put in and from what you put in. The way you talk to yourself and think about yourself is just as important as how other people treat and talk to you.

If your temperature is low, change it. Start by stopping to cool yourself down. When you fail, learn that failure is an event and not a character trait. Learn and grow. When you aren’t being the person you want to be or need to be, use your energy changing to be better instead of beating yourself up. Most of us would never talk to other people with the harshness and heartlessness we talk to ourselves. Stop it.

Start putting warm water in your mind-bucket and find other people who will too. It is okay to celebrate your successes, no matter how small they might seem. Practice gratitude to allow yourself to start to see the positive around you and in you more clearly. Find people that are not tearing other people down all the time, that don’t complain for recreation.

There is one caveat; you must be honest. If you really are failing, not living up to your potential or working as hard as you should, own it. You can’t take a bag full of ice, pretend it is hot, and dump it into your mind-bucket and expect it to make you warmer. Your temperature will not change and your self-image will not improve by being dishonest with yourself and others. You cannot take shortcuts to being a warmer and better self.

Our friends, family, coworkers, and community need more warm and uplifting people. We can be those people for them. We just have to become them first.

Self-Image and Potential

We all have potential that is greater than we usually assume and experience. We settle for less than we are actually capable of because we don’t realize what we are capable of. At moments, we come close and exceed our own expectations. We surprise ourselves but call it luck.

We don’t see the reality of our potential because we are blinded by our self-image. For some, the ceiling of self-image is much lower than our true potential. For others, it is closer. Our hope is to get those lines as close as possible but it takes some honesty and work.

A low self-image stands in the way of building confidence, reaching our potential and being the best leader, laborer, team-member, partner, parent and community member we can be.

Here are some ways to raise the ceiling of self-image.

1. Spend time with people that have a higher self-image. If we are around negative people we will develop a negative world view and view of ourselves. People with a higher and healthy self-image show us how to be honest and self-aware. We were made for relationships. The relationships we have should make us better.

2. Say and hear things that affirm your potential. It’s more than seeing other people living with a higher self-image, do what they do. Practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion. Let yourself off the hook when stuff doesn’t work out the way you want. Remind yourself (out-loud) that you don’t control everything, but you do control how you choose to see it. When you succeed, congratulate yourself for being the kind of person that does the stuff you do. Stop telling yourself what you aren’t and what you can’t do and start telling yourself who you are and what you can do.

3. Remember and remind yourself of your accomplishments. It is too easy to dwell on failure. Build a mental trophy case to remind yourself that you win too. Failure may happen, but don’t let it define you.

4. Dream about what could be and visualize what will be. If you aim low you miss the target. Just like you need to remind yourself of who you really are, tell yourself what you want to see happen.

5. Have faith you’re more than you’ve seen. We made in the image and likeness of a perfect God. He makes good things, and He made you perfect for the life He’s planned for you. Andrew Carnegie said, “Immense power is acquired by assuring yourself in your secret reveries that you were born to control affairs.”

You might not believe your potential is so much higher than your current self-image, but what we believe and what is true isn’t always the same thing. Our family, friends, neighbors and coworkers need someone to show them what happens when we overcome our self-image, live in and live out of our true potential. Be that person for them. Be that person for you.

The $25,000 Plan

In the early 20th Century, Bethlehem Steel was the second largest steel producer in the United States and the world’s largest shipbuilder. Charles M. Schwab bought the company at the turn of the century and led it into unprecedented growth. By the 1910s the corporation was expanding rapidly, acquiring many other, smaller companies.

Schwab knew that rapid growth can kill efficiency, so to combat this problem he hired a consultant named Ivy Lee in 1918 to give advice on how Bethlehem Steel could continue to run smoothly. Lee came and observed the organization and looked through the data, then came back to Schwab asked to be given 15 minutes with each executive in the company.

Lee spent those 15 minutes explaining a simple organizational method to each executive. He told them to spend a little time at the end of each workday to write down the six most important things they wanted to get done the next day. He told them to put them in order, starting with the most important. As soon as they got to work the next day, they would be ready to start with that first thing and were to work on it until it was finished and then move on to the next until it was finished. If they didn’t finish all six things in the day, whatever was left would get bumped to the next day’s list. He told them to do this every day.

Schwab asked how much this sole and simple advice for Bethlehem Steel would cost. Lee told him to wait and see how it worked for three months and then pay him whatever he thought it was worth. Three months later Schwab called Ivy Lee back to his office and wrote him a $25,000 check. That is over $450,000 today for one simple plan that boosted the company’s productivity and efficiently more than anything else ever had. The Ivy Lee plan was taught to all managers and workers in the company.

It was just a to-do list. It worked.

This life and leadership strategy teaches us that making and executing a plan is the key to living and being effective. We all know it’s true, but we still don’t always take the time to do it, or we don’t stick with it.

Sometimes we don’t stick with it because the system we try to use gets more complex than we care to maintain. There are phone and computer apps that help us do this. Personally, I haven’t found them effective. I bullet journal instead, pen and paper to-do lists for each day of the week. The best method of planning out what you need to get done is the method that works and one you will stick with.

I plan out my work, family, social responsibilities every week. I usually find more time in every day than I need, because so much of it is used well. It has been priceless in my life.

In the early 20th Century, Bethlehem Steel was the second largest steel producer in the United States and the world’s largest shipbuilder. Charles M. Schwab bought the company at the turn of the century and led it into unprecedented growth. By the 1910s the corporation was expanding rapidly, acquiring many other, smaller companies.

Schwab knew that rapid growth can kill efficiency, so to combat this problem he hired a consultant named Ivy Lee in 1918 to give advice on how Bethlehem Steel could continue to run smoothly. Lee came and observed the organization and looked through the data, then came back to Schwab and asked to be given 15 minutes with each executive in the company.

Lee spent those 15 minutes explaining a simple organizational method to each executive. He told them to spend a little time at the end of each workday to write down the six most important things they wanted to get done the next day. He told them to put them in order, starting with the most important. As soon as they got to work the next day, they would be ready to start with that first thing and were to work on it until it was finished and then move on to the next until it was finished. If they didn’t finish all six things in the day, whatever was left would get bumped to the next day’s list. He told them to do this every day.

Schwab asked how much this sole and simple advice for Bethlehem Steel would cost. Lee told him to wait and see how it worked for three months and then pay him whatever he thought it was worth. Three months later Schwab called Ivy Lee back to his office and wrote him a $25,000 check. That is over $450,000 today for one simple plan that boosted the company’s productivity and efficiency more than anything else ever had. The Ivy Lee plan was taught to all managers and workers in the company.

It was just a to-do list. It worked.

This life and leadership strategy teaches us that making and executing a plan is the key to living and being effective. We all know it’s true, but we still don’t always take the time to do it, or we don’t stick with it.

Sometimes we don’t stick with it because the system we try to use gets more complex than we care to maintain. There are phone and computer apps that help us do this. Personally, I haven’t found them effective. I bullet journal instead, pen and paper to-do lists for each day of the week. The best method of planning out what you need to get done is the method that works and one you will stick with.

I plan out my work, family, social responsibilities every week. I usually find more time in every day than I need, because so much of it is used well. It has been priceless in my life.

Seventeen Percent Principle

My friend is a law enforcement firearms instructor. He’s told me he consistently gets perfect scores at the shooting-range; 100% accuracy. During training, they add in factors to cause stress; they have to run, do sit-ups or push-ups to raise their heartbeat and increase breathing, or they run scenarios that limit their options and require fast decision-making.

He is a better shot than most with 100% accuracy in practice, but under elevated stressful conditions in training scenarios is around 17%.

This doesn’t mean he is at 17% in stressful situations on the street, serving and protecting. That’s why they train. They create situations to get use to the stress, hurried pace, and tunnel vision to practice dealing with and overcoming it.

The 17% Principle is a life and leadership strategy that tells us we can learn to deal with and overcome stress and see past the tunnel vision. This requires intentional shifts in perspective and repetition to accomplish.

Psychological research shows people perform better in life when they are in a positive or neutral mental/emotional state than a negative/stressed one. In business, productivity increases 30% and sales increases 37%. People at positive or neutral mental/emotional states have better relationships, less health problems and live longer.

Is all this research telling us to avoid stress? Should police officers read this and decide to avoid all stressful situations? Of course not! This is why they train. These studies aren’t about our circumstances, but about our state of mind. Self-training is about our state of mind.

When a stressful situation is dealing with us, instead of us dealing with it, our fight/flight/freeze response kicks in and the tunnel vision takes over. We only see the problem which prevents us from seeing our options to solve the problem. This is what we need to train to gain control.

First, identify the bad ways we respond, so we know to avoid them. Don’t rationalize why you should be overwhelmed by stress (fight) because you shouldn’t and don’t have to be. Don’t avoid these situations (flight) because that isn’t helping anything. Don’t do nothing (freeze) and dwell in the negative state.

Catch yourself doing these negative things and call it out. Challenge that way of responding and thinking as being bad and choose a better response.

Pause. Breath. Allow yourself to see stress, even failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Choose to tell yourself that you aren’t facing a problem, but an option to move forward. Expect stress to happen and give yourself permission to move on so you don’t dwell on it. Most importantly, focus on others and serving and caring for them instead of fighting/fleeing/freezing because of the stress.

Our workplaces, homes and heads can either be dungeons of stress and anxiety or havens of peace and progress. Do the hard work of training yourself to serve and protect peace where you are so you can lead your coworkers, community and children to be able to do the same.

Rosa Parks Principle

December 1, 1955. Rosa Parks got on the Montgomery City bus around 6pm after a full day of work. She sat down on the first row of seats in the “colored” section. After three more stops all the “white-only” seats were full. So, the driver moved the “colored section” sign back one row, behind Mrs. Parks. He told the passengers in this row to move back because they were in the white section now. The other three moved. Rosa Parks did not.

The driver asked if she was going to move. She said, “No, I’m not.”
He said, “If you don’t, I’m going to call the police to come arrest you.”
She said, “You may do that.”
She was arrested that day and became a champion of civil rights.

What did Rosa Parks do that made her a hero? She sat down and nothing else. She said, “no.”

The Rosa Parks Principle, for life and leadership, is sometimes the best thing to do is nothing and the right thing to say is no.

Listen, I’m not saying don’t do anything. Mrs. Parks worked that day. I am saying sometimes when our work is done, it’s right to do nothing more. When other people try to move the line and make you feel more is required it’s okay to say, “No.”

The right way to live is to make sure our work is done with excellence, our families receive all the care they need to thrive emotionally/spiritually/physically, and we do as much good as we can for our communities. All three are equally necessary for a proper life. If we feel this is impossible, it is because other people moved the line of what is expected of us, and we allowed it instead of saying, “no.”

At work, we let the line move towards shortcuts that allow us to avoid excellence because we accept the lies of mediocrity and status quo instead of the truth of our real potential. Others let the line move towards overload because we believe the lie that our identity comes from more compensation, praise, and a better position, so we strive for something else and miss excellence.

At home, we allow other people to set the line and let our schools, clubs, sports teams, hobbies, etc. distract us from our privilege and responsibility make sure our partner/children/grandchildren really are thriving.

In our communities, we let other people move the line towards values we don’t hold and decisions we don’t agree with because we are too busy or disinterested to be involved and make sure everyone else has the best opportunity to live in peace and fulfillment.

It happens because we don’t say “No.”
We don’t say, “No” because we don’t want the consequences.
Rosa Parks got arrested. Doing the right thing has to be worth the consequences or you will let other people move the line and you will never learn to say, “no” for the sake of your work, family or community.

Barn Principle

I heard an old story about a farmer and his wife. They had a few good years of harvest and could save away some money.

The farmer had planned on using the savings to build a new barn. The older one wasn’t big enough to store everything he needed, keep the animals warm, and give him enough space to work on the tractor. He spent more and more time mending holes in the old roof every year.

His wife had planned on using the savings to build a new house. The older one wasn’t big enough for their growing family. The kitchen didn’t have enough counter space, the dining room was too small, and the one bathroom was never adequate. She spent more and more time reminding her husband about all the things that need fixing every year.

The two of them sat down to decide. They shot reasons back and forth in favor of the barn or the house. None of them were bad reasons. Both the barn and the house were lacking but there was only enough money to take care of one. What were they to do?

The farmer finally said, “Dear, you are right. This house needs to be rebuilt and I want to give you everything you want. So we will build a new barn with the savings because the barn builds the house.”

The barn builds the house.

A better barn means a better farm. A better farm means they can make more profit. More profit means more savings to build a better house. The barn builds the house.

We face the barn or the house question every day. Do I want to cash in my time to build the house and have a more comfortable life right now? Or do I want to cash in my time to build the barn and live more productively and effectively and have a better life in the long run?

There is the financial part of the Barn Principle that tells us to invest in our lives and future good, instead of mortgaging it in a lifestyle of debt.

There is the leadership part of the Barn Principle that tells us to make sure our organization/team is focusing on what makes us better, more effective and self-sufficient instead of what would make us more complacent and comfortable at the moment.

Most importantly, there is the personal part of the Barn Principle that tells us not to cut corners for the sake of instant gratification, looking good to others, or short-term goals, instead of really deciding and building a better life for yourself, your spouse, your children, and your community.

Figure out what your barn is. Is it the way you need to spend your money, the way you spend your time, the energy you’re putting into your family/kids/relationships, the energy you’re putting into personal growth, or the importance you’ve placed on your faith.

Build the barn because the barn builds the house.

Duck Hunting

For most of us the majority of what we know about duck hunting happened with a plastic zapper hooked into a Nintendo. That’s okay, this life and leadership strategy works even if you are not a hunter.

Picture a duck hunter coming home after the hunt. Someone asks, “How’d it go?”

Does your hunter answer, “Great, I got three,” or does he say “Awful, I missed 50 and only got three”?

Too many of us tend to hear the second hunter in our head. He points out all the ducks we missed, all the times we failed, all the strange comments we made in a conversation, all the flaws we have, or all the ways it didn’t work out the way we wanted.

That second hunter is our critical mind. We need that second hunter sometimes. We want to strive to get better and we want to aim for our potential. I want my surgeon and the lady that cuts my hair to listen to that second hunter when they are working on me. I don’t need either of them to be okay with missing something.

But let’s be honest. Most of the time we listen to the second hunter, our critical mind, when it doesn’t matter and it isn’t important. All he does is ruin an otherwise good day. Most of the time he is the one that is keeping us from being our best and reaching our potential.

The first hunter is our rational mind. The reality of duck hunting has never been genocide. The reality of our lives and our expectation should to be rational. We don’t need to get every duck, we don’t need to have the best comment in every meeting, we shouldn’t expect to never fail or have an off day or bad hair. It is crazy to think that everyone is going to like everything you do. It is crazy to think you aren’t going to react in a less than ideal way with you kids or spouse from time to time.

None of that stuff means you’re a bad duck hunter. None of the stuff means you’re a failure.

Be critical in situations that you need to be critical in, but realize there aren’t so many of them (unless you’re a surgeon or cut my hair).

Let yourself off the hook. Make sure your gun is loaded, aim the best you can, and take the best shot you’ve got every time you go out. Just remember you don’t have to get all the ducks to have a good hunt. Learn to live with missed ducks.