At this point, it is entirely possible that you recognize most, if not all, of everything we have had to say so far. After all, I began this whole thing by saying there isn’t anything new here. In fact, I hope you are recognizing that this really is common sense, just not commonly applied.
So what happens if you not only recognize much of what has been written here, but also have tried it before? Worse yet, what happens if you have not only tried it, but it didn’t work?
Remember, I told you that I would let you know if something were a trick. There are actually a couple of tricks in play here.
The first trick is about trying, and the second trick is about “it” not working. These two are closely related.
Starting with the second trick first, the basic concept is that nothing works on its own – the key is how you work it. This may sound like doubletalk or worse to you. I assure you, I am not being cute here.
If you have ever played a sport, especially one like golf or tennis that relies so much on individual execution, then you have probably heard someone say something like, “Oh, I tried that before; it doesn’t work for me.”
Even more frustrating is hearing that from someone you work with, someone you are there to help, coach or otherwise lead. Have you ever encountered that it-doesn’t-work-for-me attitude at work? How about its cousin, we-tried-that-before-and-it-doesn’t-work?
That’s great, isn’t it? It doesn’t work for me. The person might be further ahead and way more accurate if they said something like, “I don’t know how to work that one yet.” Or, “we tried that before and were unsuccessful.”
I am not disputing that people try things and sometimes don’t produce the intended result. What I am working with here is the double notion of trying and “it” working or not working.
Let’s come back to the “it” thing after we take a short look at trying.
Trying is one of those great words – it communicates something about effort and it can also communicate something about being a victim.
How many different ways can you imagine saying the following phrase: “I’m trying as hard as I can?”
Can you say it with an emphasis on the effort you are putting forth? Can you say it as a plea for help? Can you say it as an excuse? Can you say it with a certain whine in your voice?
Whenever I used to say something about trying when I was a little boy, my mother would say something back like: “Trying? You certainly are (trying).” In case you missed it, have you ever had someone “try” your patience? It was that kind of “trying” that my mother was pointing out to me. And it usually came when I was “trying” to do something but not really “trying my best.”
There’s a classic notion of trying that goes something like this: place a glass or mug on a table nearby. Done? Now try to pick it up. If you picked it up, please put it back down and “try” to pick it up. If you picked it up, please put it back down and pay attention this time J – try to pick it up. Try really hard. How much effort can you demonstrate in trying to pick it up?
If you got the difference between trying to pick it up and simply picking it up, then you have a key foundation stone in place for improving your ability to produce more of what you seek.
It isn’t about trying, it’s about doing.
As a little boy, I would get frustrated “trying” and say back to my Mom something like: “But I’m trying as hard as I can; I just can’t do it.” Of course, what I was really looking for most of the time was either an excuse to get out of doing something I didn’t want to do or, even more sneaky, trying to get someone else to do it for me.
So, every time I said “I can’t,” my Mom would say, “Can’t died in the poor house because he couldn’t.”
Now, I had no idea what she was saying at the time. In fact, it took me years to learn the real message in the message. I think it finally clicked when I heard someone quote Henry Ford as having written in one of his notebooks: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
What was he saying here? It occurs to me that the underlying brilliance of this little quote goes something like this: If you believe that you can, you will persevere until you do; if you believe that you cannot, you do not; if you do not, you have not; if you have not, then you have proof that you cannot. Therefore, why bother?
My life has presented me with many opportunities to rediscover the wisdom of this little gem. No matter the obstacle, a real key has been the ability to keep my focus on the desired outcome without undo focus on what is in the way.
Since I’m on a Henry Ford kick, let me share another gem or two of his:
- About the power of focus and clarity of vision
- ”Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal”
- About believing in self
- “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”
- About persistence
- “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
- About complaining
- “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain”
- About failure
- “Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worthwhile achievement”
As we continue to examine what it takes to produce the life and life experiences you truly want, one key will be the ability to distinguish between trying and doing, and between what works and doesn’t work.
I suspect you have the idea about trying down pretty well. The question about what works is another animal altogether. Again, a key distinction needs to be made between something working and me working it.
The tricky part is that just because someone else can make it work, doesn’t mean I can make it work. Sometimes, there really are differences between people that make it more likely for one to be successful with a method while another will struggle and perhaps fail.
Sometimes the question is about skill, experience or knowledge in how to make a method work. Sometimes it may be more individually differentiated.
Hitting a golf ball is one of those areas. If you have ever played the game or watched intently as others do, you will have noticed there are many different swings that can produce equally effective results. Variables such as age, build, flexibility, etc all influence an individual’s ability to produce a swing.
However, there is one aspect of producing an effective golf shot that goes beyond physical ability or physical limitation, one that applies to everyone, and yet is the one variable that I most consistently hear people say the old tried-that-doesn’t-work-for-me-thing. That would be focusing on where you want the ball to land or focusing on a successful outcome.
There have been all kinds of studies on the neurophysiology of performance. In a nutshell, people tend to produce results in accordance with the thoughts they hold in their minds. On a golf course, it means that when you focus on the outcome, your body is more likely to produce the swing necessary to match the outcome.
Of course, it helps to know which end of the club to hold and other basics as well. However, there are startling amounts of data that suggest an important variable is the internal thought process – not the internal instructions about head still, left arm straight, turn don’t slide, etc – instead, it is the visualized outcome that correlates strongly with being able to produce the necessary swing along with the desired outcome.
Lest we stray too far into my favorite addiction (golf), let us return to the notion of holding a positive vision of a successful outcome.
The better able you are to keep a picture of success in your mind, be that of the end physical result or the end experiential result, the more likely you are to find ways to produce the outcome you have in mind.
This is not about your mind giving your body instructions; it is about your mind holding steady on the outcome and allowing your creative abilities to find appropriate ways to produce the desired result. Our buddy Henry Ford was pretty well known for always being on the lookout for people “who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.”
Why? Because these people will keep searching for ways to produce the outcome.
We do need to caution against the “insanity rule,” however. You know the common definition of insanity, don’t you? Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.
It could be that in some instances, the only thing necessary to make the thing work is a better inner attitude, focus or clarity of the desired outcome. It could also be that you need more skill, training or practice. And, it could be that you just need to find a different way.
Now that I’ve set up the basic notion that trying won’t get it done, and that methods don’t work as much as people work methods, where do we go from here?