Soldier On …

I recently had a heartwarming conversation with a woman who runs a commercial construction company. I had some background in this area from years ago, and I asked if it was still a sexist environment and whether that was a problem. She said something like, “I don’t think about it. I just move forward.”

To be clear, I don’t condone a “put up or shut up” atmosphere for women who work in discriminatory environments—and there is still discrimination in many forms. However, what I loved about this response was her “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” approach.

Too often we excuse our poor performance by blaming external circumstances as if we have no options. The weather is bad. It’s too hard to sell in the holiday season. There are too many customers on vacation in the summer. The competition has an unfair advantage. I can’t win because I don’t have the right training. I’m too young. I’m too old. The economy sucks.

I’m sure you can add your own to the list. I certainly have my own self-limiting thoughts that I occasionally wrestle with!

However, we all know people who soldier on regardless of the circumstances. They don’t make excuses for themselves. They’re as resilient and focused as a dog in hot pursuit of a bone. Like Louis Zamperini, Margaret Thatcher or John McCain, they refuse to be broken.

There’s no magic pill to develop this mindset. Though I coach executives and sometimes have to give a “buck up” speech, I don’t have a three-minute drill to stiffen someone’s backbone or give them the will to get off the canvas when they’re knocked down.

There are, however, two things that I know work for me and my successful clients. First, call “bull hockey” on the little voice that says, “It’s too hard! You should quit!” It’s well-known that self-affirmation and changing your self-talk can have dramatic impact. Identify the self-limiting thought (sometimes this can require help), examine it and turn it into a winning statement. Make that little turd who’s sitting on your shoulder telling you “no” eat his words!

Second, just take one step. And then another. Make the call you don’t want to make. Start writing the blog you don’t think you have in you. Pick the ugliest task on your list — you know … the one that keeps getting moved on your calendar — and just start! If you fail, begin again!

Most often, the problem is not “out there” but rather within us. So is the solution.

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