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March 06, 2009

Mind Control

If you listen to the network news (I don’t recommend it) you will hear that the economy has ground to a halt.  You will also hear about how all of the auto makers have seen their sales cut in half.  But did you hear about the automaker that saw sales increase 14% in January over the same period a year ago?

While the auto market had their worst January since 1963, Hyundai actually increased sales.  I heard the CEO of Hyundai on the radio a few weeks ago and mentioned it to TC North.  TC’s written about “taking the fear out of buying” in his Weekly Encouragement email

TC (aka Dr. North) has a long bio, including sports psychology research and consulting with Olympic and professional sports teams.  Somewhere a long the line, he realized that CEOs and sales people are like athletes in that a big part of the game is mental. 

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years talking with TC about entrepreneurship.  When Jim and I started Gold Systems, I was completely unprepared for how the business would affect my attitude, and how my attitude would affect the business.  Thankfully, Jim and I were rarely in-phase – when he was down, I was often up, and when I was down, he would pull me up.

Over the years I’ve learned how to control my attitude most of the time and now I’m more of an optimist than ever.  One thing TC taught me was to catch any negative thoughts quickly and to replace them with positive thoughts.  I know, it sounds like pop psychology gobbledygook, but it works most of the time.  Here’s how it works:

My brain catches sight of a TV news program announcing how bad the economy sucks.  I’m hardly conscious of it, but almost instantly a part of my brain plays the tape of “Look, there’s proof that bad things are happening!  All is lost!”  The conscious part of my brain, which is now on the lookout for this sort of negative thought, grabs control and says, “Not so fast, we’ve seen bad things before and survived just fine.  Things are not as bad as the talking heads on TV want to make them sound.  They are just trying to sell advertisements and suck us into watching more.  Be thankful for all that is going well, and show more compassion to the people who really do have it bad and stop worrying about your own problems.  Oh, and one more thing – good job at catching that negative thought and throwing it out so quickly!”

Now tie this back to the athlete.  When a pro basketball player misses a shot, do you think they run down the court saying to themselves, “I’m a terrible basketball player, and I’m probably going to miss the next shot too and look like an idiot on national TV, and then I’m going to lose my contract and my big fancy house and extravagant lifestyle.”  I don’t know any professional basketball players myself, but I’m guessing that’s not the tape they play.  The good ones shake it off and start telling themselves how they are going to hit the next shot and they keep their mind in the game.

I don’t believe that a good attitude is all that is needed to be a successful entrepreneur or a professional athlete.  Hard work, ability and luck are necessary ingredients.  But to quote TC again, you only have control over two things in life, your actions and your thoughts.  If you don’t get control over your thoughts, everything else is a lot harder.

Here’s a link to TC’s archive of Weekly Encouragement.

Have a great weekend!

March 6, 2009 in Current Affairs, Entrepreneur Essays | Permalink


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