With a current world picture that includes tsunamis, unrest in the Middle East and a struggling economic recovery, it might be tempting to say that the Mayans were right and we’re approaching the end in 2012. Maybe the Mayans were just good at math, which we all know can be helpful but won’t necessarily get you a date. (We tend to remember Olympic champions but rarely sing the praises of a mathlete.) Just because an ancient civilization did not outlive its own calendar doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world for us.
We like to think that these unstable conditions around the world are new and shocking events never before seen. But the truth is that the Japanese invented the word tsunami, which means clearly this is not their first rodeo. (I’ve actually seen a Japanese rodeo, and it definitely appeared to be their first.)
Likewise, rebelling against governments is absolutely nothing new; it’s the foundation of the United States. Those of us who think our economy is really bad have never ridden the chicken bus in Mexico. (You know, that bus you’re on when you realize all the native riders are holding farm animals … and somehow you get the idea their economy is a little different from yours.)
The reason a series of unfavorable current events can intrigue us so much is simply this: We like bad news. As a culture, Americans tend to fan the flames of panic. From the post-earthquake and -tsunami videos, you might conclude that the Japanese don’t seem to be panicking. Don’t be fooled; they’re panicking – their panic just looks different from ours. Their panic does not give the appearance that Godzilla has come to town. That image of panic is one that the Japanese created for us, an American film audience that enjoys that stuff. We feed off it.
But sometimes we also let it bog us down. No matter how bad things get, circumstances do not create the quality of our life. We do. How we think and feel about what goes on and the belief systems that we hold create what we think of the future.
Worry is not the symptom of a problematic life. It is, in fact, the problem. Worry that does not create an action pretty quickly is useless. As you may have heard before, action creates opportunity. Fear creates action that we probably should have thought through a little better first.
We are concerned about a younger generation that doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency; they don’t seem to be worried about the things we think should cause them worry. But maybe these young people are proof of the latest evolution of the human condition. Maybe we’re evolving to the point we’ve finally realized that chronic dread is just not helpful enough. It’s like a 50-year-old person dealing with a technology problem. He’ll see it as an all-day problem, whereas the 25-year-old is just looking for one of many solutions that he actually knows exist. It’s easy to say that this new generation may lack the efficiency of the previous generation; after all, we worked hard to make sure they didn’t have to work as hard as we did. But the truth is, as usual, we all have a lot to learn from each other.
Concern (which is nothing more than worry conveyed with a more effective expression on your face) is important because it drives us to make plans and prepare ourselves for the future. For example, seeing a glass as half empty can help a lot of us to consistently keep our glass full. But critical thinking is not the same as a fatalistic outlook.
My ultimate point is to stop worrying so much about things we can’t do anything about and to take specific action on the things we can actually influence. To that end, here are six things we can do to be more effective about how we think.
- Quit talking so much about how bad everything is, because ultimately you’re using your charismatic influence to lower the performance of the people around you.
- Watch television news a little less and the History Channel a little more. (Don’t take this to mean that you should stay up until 4 a.m. watching Hitler documentaries.)
- Focus on making the people around you feel valuable, because people who feel valued make fewer mistakes, are more loyal to you and have a better outlook on life. It’s why corporations and associations spend money on motivational speakers.
- Adopt modern business practices. Communication has changed, and social media is having a dramatic effect on everything from brand awareness to customer service to generating big revenue. Social media is simply word of mouth on steroids; it’s the natural progression of technology-aided communication. First came tribal drums, then smoke signals, then the telegraph (although I think there may have been a few things in between smoke signals and the telegraph), then the telephone, then the computer/Internet, and now social media.
- Remember that, when dealing with younger people, you need to let them know that “now” means now. With their
With their lack of a sense of urgency, they sometimes don’t understand that “now” means “Stop what you’re doing and focus on this other thing pronto!”
- Use all the effort that you put into worrying about the future into creating your own future.
The value of worry is that, in small, well-applied doses, it motivates us. The problem is we are not a culture known for our love of moderation!
Whatever hitches and hiccups we might experience right now, we are probably not the first ones to face them, nor are we the first ones to solve them. Frankly, it doesn’t take genius to succeed. Throughout history, we humans have achieved through persistence and resilience. In fact, our research shows that when a high percentage of top performers were asked about how their brilliance created success, they simply said that (1) they were not as smart as they were relentless, and (2) a more intelligent person would have quit long before they did.
Motivational Speaker – Author – Consultant – Garrison Wynn