June 14, 2011

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can

Attitude equals success. Is it really as simple as that? Not exactly, but I think it"s close.

I recently got a new bike, as you may know from my previous blogs, but there was a problem. My average speed on the new bike over several rides was slow and no better than I had been achieving on my old bike. I was extremely discouraged. I thought, "I know the bike"s lighter, I should be faster " am I just getting old?"

Then I realized that my new bike had a different tire size (25cc versus 23cc). Because my wheel had a greater circumference, my computer was off. I adjusted the computer before a recent ride and quickly noticed that my average speed improved. I thought, “That’s more like it!” I came home, did some calculations, and my average speed was 4.2% better. Then I looked at the percentage adjustment I had made in the computer for the circumference. It was only 0.4%. I had ridden the exact same route as the weekend before under similar conditions and my actual gain was 10 times better than it should have been by just adjusting the computer. Why? My attitude was much more positive. I felt faster, therefore I was faster. You could say I just tried harder, and I’d say we’re saying the same thing. I try what I believe is my best every time out. But the positive attitude naturally affects the effort.

It’s easy to translate this analogy to a business situation and see how an individual’s attitude affects his or her success. Sales is the easiest application to think about and measure, but the concept really applies to everyone. Let’s say sales calls average a 50% success rate. That’s not equivalent to flipping a coin, where you have a 50% chance of success on each new flip. The success on the previous sales call (or maybe the success rate on the previous few calls) will be a strong predictor of the success rate on the next one.

This is not speculation. I did it myself for many years and directly managed the sales folks, so I’ve seen this time and time again. Why would success (and lack of success) go in streaks? The answer is the effect that success has on the salesperson’s attitude. A positive outlook affects the approach and increases the chance of success. A negative outlook does just the opposite.

It’s easy to see how an individual’s attitude affects his or her success. But what’s even more interesting is, this also translates to teams. Let’s look at the negative side of this in a group situation. Let’s say there’s a group of five people, but two of them don’t believe that the project, sales initiative, or whatever it is they’re working on will be successful. Those two people might poison the group with their negative attitudes, and then the whole thing fails. Another scenario is the three with the positive outlook might attempt to isolate themselves from the other two. This may allow them to remain positive and have individual success; however, what if the input or assistance from the other two would have helped get the project accomplished, or in a sales situation, close the deal? The two naysayers are in the group because they bring skills, knowledge, or expertise, and because of the avoidance of the other three, the results are sub-optimal. 

This is not a new concept. Successful people, especially in sales, have long known the importance of a positive mental attitude. A lot has been written about this, whether it’s old-school guys like Zig Ziglar or Earl Nightingale, or New Age teachings like The Law of Attraction from Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret

There’s an old adage that says, “Success breeds success.” Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right." Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” These are very cliche, but do you know why they became cliche? Because they’re true.


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