Stop Obsessing About How (Get Your Emotions Going In The Right Direction) (5019) - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM

Stop Obsessing About How (Get Your Emotions Going In The Right Direction) (5019)

“I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you’re emotions going.”   – Jim Valvano

Jimmy V was an NCAA basketball coach for North Carolina State who died of cancer in 1993. He was just 47 years old, likely most known today for that famous ESPY award acceptance speech he gave just weeks prior to his death. It’s 11 and a half minutes you should watch. Even if you’ve seen it before. Jimmy V’s punchline was always, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up!”

The man was known for his enthusiasm and emotion. He didn’t have a stoic demeanor. 😉

He was an obvious extrovert. Stereotypical of his Italian heritage.

I’m neither Italian nor extroverted. Rather I’m an introvert who can often appear like an extrovert. I’m still trying to figure out how all that works. Personality, mind, thoughts – all that neurological stuff fascinates me.

Emotions are easy for me. Always have been. Like so many things that make up who and what I am, I lean into them.

I don’t know if I cry every day, but I will likely cry more days than not.

I laugh daily.

It’s not hard for me to get my emotions going. Mostly, I’m able to do that with ease. I’m even fairly proficient at reigning them in. Somewhat.

I was reading, thinking and doing a bit of writing over the holidays. As I ruminated about my own emotions I had a realization. I’ve never been prone to making decisions – certainly not big decisions – whenever emotions are really going.

I laugh whenever people claim they don’t make “emotional decisions.” Yes, you do. We all do. Well, maybe not if you’re a psychopath. Or is it sociopath? Let’s look up the difference ’cause I always get those confused.

Okay, here we go. This is from

Psychopathy can be thought of as a more severe form of sociopathy with more symptoms. Therefore, all psychopaths are sociopaths but sociopaths are not necessarily psychopaths.

According to the Society for the Study of Psychopathy, psychopath traits include:

Lack of guilt/remorse
Lack of empathy
Lack of deep emotional attachments
Superficial charm
Reckless risk-taking

Psychopaths, for example, are far more likely to get in trouble with the law while sociopaths are much more likely to blend in with society.

The article says that 93% of psychopaths are in the criminal justice system. I suppose that should be a relief, but I worry about that 7 % still out there. And how do they know they’re all accounted for? That’s the really big question.

But let’s hop out of this rabbit hole, back onto our topic of getting our emotions going.

I talking about this because I get sick of folks claiming “being emotional” is a downside. Clear language would help. What they mean is being overly emotional or being so emotional you’re losing control. At least that’s what I think they mean. But that’s not what they say. Which is why I think Jimmy V’s comments are so spot on.

Today I’m focused on the questions that fuel our emotions. I realize questions may not always be the impetus, but the more I think about it the more I’m convinced they often are at the heart of them.

Watching one of those true crime shows on the ID channel late one night the homicide detectives were talking about how hard it is to notify next of kin. It showed them approach the home of a mother whose daughter was found murdered. Her emotions sparked by such horrible news were obvious. She remarked, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” It’s a big question we’ve all asked when bad news comes.

But I don’t want to focus on the devasting emotions of a major catastrophic event. I’d prefer, at least today, to talk about those daily emotions that can sweep over us. The feelings and thoughts that consume us with everyday challenges. It really is an approach to getting your emotions going in a positive direction that can serve us. And it’s about avoiding going down some path that will stick up, derail us and hamper or destroy our chances for success.

Some years ago Psychology Today published an article entitled, Stop Obsessing or Fixating With a Fast Cognitive Technique. The article begins by talking about mindfulness, defined as focusing on your internal and external circumstances at the moment. I’ve always viewed mindfulness as being present because it’s how you think and feel right now. You can read that piece and many others about how to minimize or eliminate obsessing about things.

Many of us – probably most of us – stumble because we obsess about things that don’t best serve us. The biggest of these is likely the one-word question, “HOW?”


The mom whose daughter was murdered asks how she’ll possibly be able to handle this stress. This reality has buckled her knees and she’s wondering how she’ll ever get back on her feet. Maybe she’s wondering if she’ll ever be able to rise again.

The person facing a new challenge is wondering how he’ll ever be able to do this thing.

The person hoping to get that job or opportunity is obsessing about how they can make that happen.

Name the goal and it’s likely people pursuing it, at least for the first time, are obsessing about how they can get it done. They’re not giving nearly as much thought to getting it done because they’re grossly distracted because they don’t yet know HOW they’ll get it done.

The question throws gasoline on the obsession making it burn hotter. And longer.

It also erodes our belief and confidence that we can do whatever it is we’ve set about to do. We begin to question whether or not we’ll actually be able to get it done. Particularly if we’ve never done it before. And doing things we’ve never done before is what growth is all about.

I know that sounds right, but I also know to figure out ways to stop obsessing about how is hard. Really hard.

So I’ll share with you what I’m working on in the hopes it can help you. Because there are quite a few things I’m doing right now – or trying to – that I don’t know how.

Let’s start with what I know about myself. Self-awareness is important, but so is self-acceptance. I’m not talking about accepting my bad choices and bad behavior as just “the way it is.” I’m talking about accepting and facing my present reality. Here’s where mindfulness enters. Being present. Seeing things for what they truly are, not as some fanciful view I hope them to be.

A person can fall into selfishness and lose themselves. It happens all the time. A person fixates – they obsess – on the things that have happened to them. They embrace being a victim. They wake up every day and go to bed each night blaming others for how their life has turned out. They refuse to accept any responsibility that they’ve played any part in it. What they do accept as “fact” is that they’re a victim and they’ve been wronged. They accept as “fact” that they’re entitled to their bad behavior because of what’s happened to them. That’s their reality. That’s not self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance is accepting that my life is my responsibility. It’s up to me to figure things out. It’s up to me to change the direction of my life. It’s up to me to make better choices, to pursue wiser actions and to make more of my life than I may be currently making of it. In short, it’s accepting responsibility for the outcomes of my own life and not blaming anybody or anything. Because we’ve all got stuff. We’ve all been mistreated, suffered wrongly, and had bad things happen to us. Things beyond our control. And yes, these things impact us, but we alone determine how they impact us.

So as I wrestle with and often obsess with the one-word question, “HOW?” – I must come to terms with what I know about myself right now. I must face my present reality in every way possible. And I must accept that my present condition is what I make it. Yes, whatever bad things have happened to me may very well be beyond my control, but the bigger question is, “Now what?”

The mom whose daughter was brutally murdered didn’t cause that deep injury to her life, but she must now deal with it. It’s now her present condition. She has to process this awful event and come to terms that it’s now her reality. She doesn’t know how she’s going to handle it. She doesn’t have to know how. She just has to have faith that she will. That she can.

Part of my self-awareness and self-acceptance has been learning that I can better manage my own obsessions about “how?” with “now what?”

In my professional life I’m currently working to find 7 entrepreneurs from around the country (United States) who are willing to become the first-ever mastermind group or peer advisory group of The Peer Advantage by Bula Network. So permit me to pull the curtain back completely and show you the whole thing because this is a new pursuit, something I’ve never done before.

I’m going to show you why asking “How?” has created more failure than any other single thing I’ve done. I want you to learn from my mistakes.

I won’t bore you with personal details that honestly don’t matter, but I fully intended on having my first groups going already. But I failed. I’m without an excuse.

Last year I allowed some personal tragedy to preoccupy me, to distract me. I was not obsessing about “how?” I’d accomplish my goal, but I was obsessing on what had happened to me in my life. Well, that took time to process. I didn’t give myself permission to take that time. Instead, I began to doubt and fixate on, “How am I going to get this done?” And, “How am I going to get this done NOW?” (given what I’m going through)

I did a common thing. I felt sorry for myself. I felt sorry about the circumstances. I allowed this thing to wreck me. It didn’t help me, but in retrospect, I’d have been better served if somebody would have helped me through the ordeal by telling me it was okay to take some time to process things, come to terms with my reality and then dwell on, “Now what?”

I didn’t have that help. Better yet, I didn’t go looking for or seek that help. That was a major mistake. And it cost me time and success.

Next, when the shock of the tragedy did pass I fostered doubt. People will always doubt you. Not because they don’t love you, but because they don’t see what you see. From their viewpoint you may appear stupid, idiotic even. They would never do what you’re attempting to do. Rather than stop and be in the moment, realizing, “Of course they wouldn’t pursue this, they’re not me” – I fixated on the doubt, wondering if I was indeed being stupid. I wish I could tell you that I’m able to shut out the naysayers and truly care more about what I want or how I feel, but that’s not who I am. That seems selfish to me, to discount or ignore how my life may impact somebody else. I’m not saying I’m seeing that correctly, I’m just making a confession.

As the doubt built momentum, I was more and more asking myself, “How are you going to get this done?” I didn’t know. Oh, I knew some things to try, but I certainly didn’t have some ironclad blueprint. I didn’t get up in the morning knowing that if I did these 5 things today then I’ll be moving closer. Mostly, I languished without a clue about what to do.

The result? I did nothing. Nothing terribly productive anyway. Because I didn’t know what to do.

Here’s the reality. When you foster doubt – and allow the doubt of others to feed your own doubts – then your mind and body work in unison to make that your reality. Fact is, it works. And it works tremendously well.

I’m proof. You can wreck any hope for victory by simply embracing the notion that you can’t do it, or even the thought that you MAY not be able to do it. From there, it honestly doesn’t much matter what you do because it’s not going to bring you victory no matter.

That’s what I did. For months. Worked like a champ, too. “See, I knew that wouldn’t work!” It’s one of those times when being right is so, so wrong!

To jolt myself out of it I did one thing. Just one thing. My work podcast, which was a weekly show, was an obsession. A good obsession.

I decided to make it a Monday through Friday shorter show. I didn’t think too much about it, I just did it. I’m well over 100 episodes into that daily format now. It just happens. I don’t think about how it’ll happen, I just know I’ll get it done. Because I committed to it and I knew I had the chops to figure it out. I found one area where I had confidence that couldn’t be shaken by anybody. Even those who love me. 😉

All in. On just one thing. I knew I had vast experience and knowledge from which to draw on, so creating the content wasn’t going to a challenge. I had vast experience and know-how in podcasting so I knew the workflow wasn’t going to be a hindrance. Not one time did the thought ever cross my mind, “How am I going to do this?”

Doing what you love may be a key, but that didn’t seem to help with my “HOW?” dilemma. After all, I knew I loved podcasting and I already knew how to do it. But I didn’t know how to do it daily in the sense that I’d ever done it before. I reasoned that I had the knowledge though because I felt like I did. So the question of “HOW?” never entered my mind. Even still, I was determined to figure this out. So I put in the work.

I hadn’t yet learned if there was anything I did love about the process of getting this new idea off the ground. So I shifted my thinking and came to terms that two different skills are required. Both are important. One is more important for the long-term. One is more important for the short-term. As I pursued mindfulness I realized that the thing I love most is the long-term skills I have to operate such a group. I’m so perfectly suited for that work it’s not funny. I recognized it right away, which is why I was so driven to pursue this professionally. I knew (and know) deep down that I can make a spectacular difference – a positive difference – in the lives of clients who are able to see the value of being associated with other small business owners. I’m perfectly equipped to help people navigate learning, understanding and growth. I’ve been doing it almost my entire life, just not in a context exactly like this. But it dawned on me that like podcasting, the difference in context between every day of the business week versus weekly isn’t that big of a deal. And I wasn’t making that a big deal with this either.

No, my “HOW?” challenge was in the short-term skills I felt I lacked. Namely, recruiting potential members. Getting paid clients.

My tragedy kept creeping into my life. It wouldn’t go away. It still hasn’t gone away, but I was faced with making myself a prisoner to it, or figuring out the answer to the question, “Now what?”

I admit I’m still in the middle of that quandary. But I’m slowly making progress. Here’s what I’m doing now.

One night late I was reviewing my life. Professionally. If you’ve listened to this podcast much you know a lot about my story already and I won’t belabor it again. But I began as a hi-fi stereo salesperson. Walking in cold to a stereo store asking for a job to do something I’d never done. I just did it. It so happened that the first shop I walked into gave me a job. Maybe had I experienced failure right off the bat things would be different, but that’s not my story.

I thought of my successes and failures. I thought of my skills. I pondered my ability to talk with people. Better yet, my ability to get people to talk with me. I thought about my innate ability, for whatever reason, to elicit deep conversation with people. For as long as I can remember I’ve been able to talk to strangers and they’ve told me things as though I was a lifelong friend. People know they can trust me. I’m not sure what that is, but I’ve got it and I don’t remember ever NOT having it.

As I inventoried all these things that make me who I am I realized I’ve got both the long-term and short-term skills necessary to do this work that I so desperately want to do. Work that I know will be the most meaningful professional work I’ve ever done. I have no doubt.

My emotions weren’t serving me. They were taking me in the opposite direction. Further away from success and victory. Closer to the abyss of misery and failure. I was allowing it. Worst yet, I was causing it.

So during my late night bouts of insomnia, I decided to do something about it.

I would obsess – intentionally obsess – on success. I just began to envision doing the work, this work that I feel I was meant to do. I imagined experiencing it as though it had already happened.

I also made up my mind to think bigger. Much bigger. I began wanting to build just 1 group, maybe 2. The more I thought about it the more I wondered, “Why shouldn’t I be able to serve more people than that?” I had no good answer. Truth is, I’m good enough, smart enough, wise enough, talented enough I should be able to serve many more people than that. It’s not an issue of scale or money. It’s an issue of service. I asked myself why should I limit it to such a small number. And that prompted me to ask those “what if?” questions that spark our imaginations. What if I were to serve 8 groups of 7 entrepreneurs? Is that a completely crazy notion? No, of course not. Fifty-six people isn’t a massive number of people. It’s still a rather modest number, but then I began to fixate on how many other people may be represented by those people. Every entrepreneur has a family. Every entrepreneur has employees, who also have families. They have suppliers and others (like bankers, CPA’s, attorneys). And all those folks have families. They have customers, who also have families. Like ripples in the ocean, one little ripple can go on and on and on and on creating a much bigger thing!

I had to come to terms that I wanted to have a big impact. A bigger impact than the one I first thought I wanted.

My confidence was growing. I wish it grew fast, but it didn’t. It was slow, arduous growth. It was like a little seed that was fragile at first. I had to really nurture it because there was a minute there – actually lots of minutes – where I wondered if the seed might die. But I wouldn’t let it die. The seed was too important. The idea too powerful. My fit for the idea too ideal.

Where am I now?

I’m in the middle of doing whatever I can to make this effort a success. I still have no idea what I’m doing really. I just know taking action is the only path forward.

I’m not focusing on what I don’t know. Instead, I’m focused on what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do. Except for me it started in reverse order really. I concentrated on what I wasn’t going to do. Namely, I wasn’t going – and I’m not going to – give any effort to convince anybody of anything. Business owners and entrepreneurs can figure out for themselves if my proposition is valuable enough or not. My job is to make sure I accurately and conveniently (not taking too much time from the prospects) portray the offer so they fully understand how it will positively impact their businesses and their lives. I’ll second-guess myself all day to improve that, but I’m not obsessing about people turning me down, people who don’t see what I see or people who think I’m an idiot. None of that matters to me now.

Something else happened when I devoted myself more fully to finding the courage and confidence necessary. I began to not care what the people I love think either. What once felt selfish, now began to feel more like the necessary emotions to fuel my success, something I feel my loved ones deserve. They deserve for me to succeed at this, even if they have doubts themselves. Or even if they don’t see what I see. Great leaders see the future first. I gave myself permission to consider that I may be on the path toward greater leadership. 😉

Here’s what life has taught me. It’s another truth that I came to late one night. I had long believed it and embraced it, but here I was at this point in my life when it was now my big challenge.

Everything is hard until it’s easy.

It’s a favorite quote. I believe it. I mean, I really believe it. But in this moment I wasn’t living it. I was ashamed.

So late one night I made up my mind to more fully embrace the truth. I concluded a truth. When I figure it out it’ll be easy, but until then it’s going to be hard. Very hard. And that’s okay.

My story – this most recent version of my story – is a professional pursuit, but it could be anything. I hope you’ve been able to make application to whatever you’re going through.

If you already know how to do it, then it’s not a challenge. It won’t be anything new to you. It won’t be anything that’s stretching you. You’ve already endured the stretching. You’ve learned and grown. Now it’s you at a new level, a level different from when you didn’t know how to do it.

Do you want to stay where you are? Do you really want to stop growing where you’re at? We can. I could.

I’ve successfully run businesses since I was 25. I didn’t really know what I was doing back then. But I figured it out. Today, I’ve seen just about every small business problem imaginable. And if I haven’t, I’m completely confident that I could because I know what to do, how to do it and whom to lean on.

The migration from not knowing to knowing is the name of the game. At my GROW GREAT podcast, I’m constantly using the phrase directed at entrepreneurs, “You’ll figure it out.” Figuring it out is what it’s all about. We don’t figure out what we’ve already got figured out. We figure out what we’ve yet to figure out.

Isn’t that what wisdom is all about? Figuring it out. Figuring out how to get it right in real time?

I’m committed to the effort in this professional pursuit now. I wasted much of last year when I had the opportunity to launch this new, exciting opportunity. And there’s more collateral damage – the clients I could have been helping all this time who I never have been able to serve. Somewhere out there are entrepreneurs who desperately needed my help, but I was in no shape to help them. So I didn’t.

By not evangelizing my offer I knew I was robbing not just myself, but potential clients. I wasn’t giving people a very good opportunity to accept or reject the offer. What was I ashamed of? Answer: nothing. Then why wasn’t I promoting it more? Fear. Anxiety. Knowing I didn’t yet know HOW.

Sounds dumb, right? That’s because it is dumb. Downright stupid. And I’m not an idiot. You know me. I’m a smart guy. You’re smart. We’re not stupid folks. But we can sure behave foolishly sometimes. We can do things that make no sense, make illogical decisions and talk ourselves into and out of things with ease. Head trash can kill any of us. It’s up to us to fix it. Sometimes, it’s best if we lean on others to help us.

The paradox is that here I am urging people to embrace the truth of how other people can accelerate their learning, understanding, and growth. Preaching the message that who you surround yourself with matters. Yet, here I was too ashamed to lean on anybody else. Too ashamed to admit what I’ve just admitted to all of you. It’s my fault.

So now what?

Now we get on with it. We learn from our experiences and the experiences of others. We understand things that before we didn’t understand. We grow as we work to figure things out that we’ve never figured out before. Or things we’ve never tried to figure out before. We expand our lives because we’re taking on new challenges…challenges that we don’t yet know how to conquer. But challenges we will figure it out if we’ll do the work, deploy some patience and give it time. Challenges we’ll figure out if commit ourselves to the effort and believe in ourselves, and in what we’re doing.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

It’s been a lifelong favorite of mine. Once attributed to the German philosopher Goethe, it’s now attributed to Scottish mountaineer and writer William Hutchison Murray.

Let me end with one final point, another truth I’ve known a very long time, but one I tend to forget. One that I did forget during this ordeal. I can only control my thoughts, my emotions, my decisions, and my actions. I can’t control how others feel. Their emotions belong to them. Ditto on their choices, decisions, and actions. All those things that belong to them have no impact on me unless I allow it. For my enterprise – this professional pursuit – that means other people have the right to feel however they’d like, do whatever they’d like and it needn’t impact me one little bit. I’m determined to give greater effort to making sure I do what I must to fulfill my own commitment to myself. But my commitment is honorable and that’s important. I’m not committed to dishonesty, immorality, unfairness or selfishness. I’m committed to my personal improvement, growth and transformation.

You’re likely somewhat committed to those things, too – else you’d have no interest in a podcast entitled, Leaning Toward Wisdom.

Let’s embrace the commitment. Let’s follow the advice of what William Hutchison Murrary wrote. And let’s see how much more we can accomplish.

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