Winners Keep Winning, in Both Good Times and Bad

April 2, 2015 Updated: April 24, 2016

Reality check: Are you going out of business? Are you giving up? Do you believe that Canada and the United States as we know it is over?

If your answer is a resounding yes, you could be right. The fact is, you could be right, or you could be wrong. Nobody really knows the future, nor can anyone accurately predict what will happen.

Remember that economists have predicted seven of the last two recessions. Henry Ford said, “Success comes in cans. Failures come in cannots.” If you think you’re beaten—you are. It’s over for you.

Here’s the dirty little secret about positive thinking. Given a choice, it makes sense to focus on the bright side of life. But there is a tradeoff.

Some owners, executives, and managers represent reality to themselves and their staff as worse than it is. (Some politicians are famous for this kind of fear-mongering.) Their underlying belief is that if people do not “get” how bad things are, they won’t be motivated to take action.

We realize our dreams through the ‘magic’ of persistence, determination, commitment, passion, practice, focus, and hard work.

This is the ill-advised “burning platform” theory, i.e. light the platform on fire to force people to jump to a higher platform. It is highly manipulative.

Other executives attempt to make reality seem better than it is. Their contention is that if people see how bad things are, they will become discouraged to the point of being frozen by fear.

Both views have one thing in common: They believe what the Jack Nicholson character said in “A Few Good Men,” “You can’t handle the truth!”

The facts in the famous water glass analogy are that the glass is both half-full and half-empty. In reality, what you have is a half a glass of water, period.

If you are looking for a particular store in a mall directory, first you look for the red dot labelled “You Are Here.” Imagine if someone played a joke by moving the red dot. Similarly, we see a frightening number of businesses that seem to have lost their bearings and have bought in to a distorted view of reality. Don’t get bluffed out.

Turning Vision into Reality

High performers develop a keen sense of reality. They separate fact from worldviews, editorials, hypothesis, and conjecture and keep themselves focused on the contrast between their vision and current reality.

We suggest relating to life as it is, not as you wish or hope it should or should not be. Dusty Springfield sang it best, “Wishin’ and hopin’ … thinkin’ and prayin’ … plannin’ and dreamin’ … won’t get you [to where you want to be].”

Olympic athletes do not earn gold medals by wishing and hoping, nor do they delegate to others the hard work and practice required to win. Great musicians, actors, architects, teachers, salespeople, and successful business people do not wish and hope their way to success.

Dreams can, and do, come true in good and in bad times. We realize our dreams through the “magic” of persistence, determination, commitment, passion, practice, focus, and hard work.

Planning, visualizing a clear result, connecting to current reality, making mindful adjustments, and taking focused actions can, and often does, turn dreams into reality.

If you didn’t see your company’s name in today’s obituary, it means you have the opportunity to do remarkable things. Don’t spend one nanosecond thinking about excuses. Focus your attention on specific and written action steps to help you reach your goals. Forget about thinking how tough it is. So what!

Look out over your playing field, take in what’s there, make adjustments, focus on the here and now, and make a play—any play. Learn from your mistakes and build on your success. Life is too short to spend any time looking backward. Learn from the past, anticipate the future, but live today.