“Our thoughts create our reality—where we put our focus is the direction we tend to go.” —Peter McWilliams
A few years ago, I needed some good advice. At the moment, I probably didn’t know it. I was getting a haircut from a close friend of mine, Rodger, who has always been an important mentor to me. Rodger has opened four very successful salons in Denver and has always focused his business on providing a high-end experience for all of his customers, who in return, are loyal fans for life. However, his business savvy isn’t the only thing that impresses me about him. While he is a great leader to his team and rarely has morale issues at work, what makes Rodger so special is his balance. In addition to being a successful businessman, he’s a dedicated husband and father and even though he’s quite successful financially, he believes in hard labor and does many of the day-to-day tasks himself that are required to maintain and improve his home. He is also as wise as anyone I’ve ever met.
On this particular Saturday morning, I was sharing with Rodger that my wife and I were not content in our new home. We were frustrated. We moved for the 4th time in 5 years but were never able to find the perfect place for our family, and our new house was no exception. One house wasn’t modern enough; one house wasn’t convenient enough to the things we like; one house wasn’t close enough to the kids’ activities. Rodger quietly listened and when I was done spilling out my heart, he said,
“You know, Chris, the grass is always greener…” He paused for a moment and then finished, “…where you water it.”
I looked up in the mirror. By now, he had stopped cutting my hair, put his hand on my shoulder, and finished dispensing his advice, “Think of what you could do in your life if you applied the energy you are using to find something better on what you can control and how you can improve.” This was a game changer for me personally and professionally.
How many times have you ever thought, “If I were working on that project, would I finally get noticed for my talent?” Here’s another common one, “If only we had the necessary resources, we could make a huge difference in the company.” Where else is the grass greener in our corporate lives? I’m sure some of us have said, “If I were the manager of this team, I would ensure that guy was being held accountable and our results would be better than they are today.”
Do you notice how these statements are related to Rodger’s advice? By applying your energy to conditions that are out of your control or may never happen, you expend the energy you need to dig in and focus on improvement. Most importantly, you lose the opportunity to enjoy the many assets & gifts that are right under your nose and could be leveraged to make a huge difference in other people’s lives and careers.
Where will you water the grass this week? Will you work on building a relationship with a key stakeholder that hasn’t been happy with your performance? Will you ask a teammate for help on an important task that you haven’t been able to complete? Will you ask a teammate if (s)he needs help? Will you lead with your actions, even if your job description doesn’t call for you to be a manager right now? Will you focus on things you CAN control and will that focus lead to greener pastures?
Our family has lived in our home now for our 3rd year based on Rodger’s advice. It’s not our dream home; we live on a semi-busy street and; some of the 80’s architecture is as bad as it gets. However, we get to walk everywhere from restaurants to grocery shopping, and our kids love the familiarity of the neighborhood. Most importantly, our house is full of love and we’re using the energy that we would have focused on finding something else to dig in, enjoy life and our family, and to make this home the best it can be.
Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a best-selling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.