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SUCCESS CARD 8: Find the Window

You've probably heard that every cloud has a silver lining or that when one door closes, another opens. Everyone experiences pain, loss, and adversity. It's difficult to see the silver lining and the open door during these times. When your life is cloud covered, it's important to find the window that lets in the sunshine. There is always a window.

A morning television talk show once ran a human-interest story of a small beagle trapped in a culvert pipe with a porcupine that he had unknowingly chased too far into the pipe. After hours of rescue attempts, the beagle emerged, covered with quills. More than sixty caring human rescuers immediately surrounded him. They will never forget the sight of the poor dog, covered with the souvenir prickly quills across his snout, tail, and entire small body. The pain of the dog's situation illustrated that even when you feel trapped while trying to pursue a goal, there is always hope at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, you need to develop the attitude and action plan to get you through. Others can't do it all for you. Life today seems to be filled with tunnels and traps at every turn. If you've weathered six job cuts in seven months at your organization, you're probably tired of holding your breath. If you've been looking for new work for over a year, you'd probably like a group of sixty kind humans waiting at the end of your tunnel. First, you have to examine your own attitude. People who are successful at finding the window share these characteristics:

  • A personal sense of commitment in life.

  • A feeling of control over their life.

  • An ability to let go when the time is right.

  • A strong support system of family and friends.

  • A belief in a higher power or strong value that guides them.

Knowing this, rate your own commitment to what you're doing. Theodore Roosevelt once said, "No man needs sympathy because he has to work. Far and away, the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." Have you won the prize? What do you enjoy doing? What gives you personal satisfaction? What brings balance to your life? How much time do you spend doing what makes you laugh and feel happy and good about yourself? When do you feel in control? With what parts of your support system are you happy? Who can you count on to be there for you? Do you really have a positive attitude? Do you laugh easily and often? How easily do you accept what happens to you and then deal with it?

As you examine your attitude and your sense of commitment, here's a short list to help adjust your attitude:

Things you can't control

  • Traffic

  • The number of hours in a day

  • Your failing eyesight

  • Your age

  • A client's whims

  • A team member's lack of follow-through

  • The number of vacation days the company gives

  • Spilled milk after you've cleaned the kitchen

  • Death and taxes

Things you can control

  • How you treat others

  • When you leave for work

  • How you spend your evening

  • How you talk about yourself

  • How often you exercise

  • When to share your feelings

  • How you let your family know you're stressed

  • How old you act

  • How often you praise your children

Did you find yourself smiling as you read the can't control list? It's a little absurd to realize that we think we can control all those things. The can control list is full of ways to turn attitude into actionable behavior. That's the key to attitude adjustment. Take action. If you're in work transition, get involved with your organizations. Exercise more so you don't end up overindulging in food and drink. If you feel stuck at home with children and all you see is doors—slamming as the children run from room to room—get out and treat yourself to some "me" time. Call others who could be feeling the same way. Host a lunch for nearby parents with children who are home during the day. Start a block club to get to know others in the area. Flip the negatives into positives. Richard Carlson, author of the best-selling Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, stops a block away from his home before arriving at the end of the day to give thanks in his car for having a family and home to come home to. There might not be sixty caring people waiting for you at the end of the tunnel, but you're rarely really trapped. The window is always there somewhere.

You could find your window differently than the people you live and work with find theirs. You will most likely repeat strategies that work, learning along the way. Each day of your life, depending on your background, personality, and environment, you will discover what works best to get you through the day successfully. As you gain confidence, you will also discover how to help others find their window.


"I had an intense fear of failure. I always worried when I fell short; the hardest person on me was me. If I felt uncomfortable with something or someone, I read books and I tried to figure out what it was that they had that I didn't have. I sought approval from peers and people in higher positions and reacted favorably to positive encouragement. I believed in myself and that there was nothing I couldn't do. I thought that running into a brick wall only meant that you could hit it harder next time. I was extremely competitive—always wanting to raise the bar. I always believed that I could figure out a way. Progressing in the organization didn't drive me. I was driven by a desire to accomplish.

"I always had a deep appreciation for others and what they brought to the table; I had the greatest feeling of reward or good when I was helping somebody. To this day if I see one person helping another, I get emotional about it. There's nothing more human than for people to give to each other. It's important to let people know you care for them and that they did an excellent job. As a manager, I would ask around and figure out what was important to them. I would learn to ask them, 'How would you prefer to do it?' and I'd say things like, You can't screw up something we can't unscrew together. That went a long way to having people tell me the truth."

"Leadership is one of the highest forms of giving. I think that people who are stuck are stuck because of their leaders. If you feel you're doing what you were meant to do, and if someone else encourages you to feel that way, you're not stuck."

. . . Jim Despain, former vice president of Caterpillar Inc., now retired, started sweeping the halls at night, went all the way through the ranks, and brought a new leadership culture to one of the organization's largest manufacturing facilities, the Track-Type Tractors Division of Caterpillar headquartered in East Peoria, Illinois. The most innovative thing about his management style was that he believed that everyone in the company had worth, and he treated people that way.


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