I don’t ever recall a time when my mother didn’t scrimp and save when I was young. She stretched every dollar as far as it could go and then some. We lived within her income and never, as she put it, had “big eyes” for things we couldn’t afford.
My brothers and I learned about work at an early age. We picked peaches during the summers back in Georgia, earning a robust twenty-five cents per basket, and I took a paper route almost as soon as we reached Indiana in 1971. Uncle Horace also had a side business hauling away people’s junk on the weekends, and sometimes he’d pay us five dollars to ride along and help.
On the weekends and during the summer, we typically were my mother’s sidekicks cleaning motel rooms until 1974, which was when she got a job as a janitor at a high school and I got a job at a Burger Chef.
These experiences during my childhood and into young adulthood began to inform my ideas about the future. Seeing my mother’s work ethic and that of other adults in my life taught me firsthand the direct link between my effort and opportunity, my effort and options, and my effort and the quality of life I could provide for my loved ones.
Later in college and early in my career, I was soaking up every interaction I could from teachers, coaches, and mentors. These were people I admired and watched so I could adapt for myself what worked for them.
“Adapt” is an intentional word because we can’t simply mimic what we see in leaders we admire; we have to make leadership our own. Our collection of memories—positive or negative—make us unique. That’s why we should draw on our own experiences to lead.
Think of the great leaders you know who are shaped by their one-of-a-kind formative histories. Activist and politician Nelson Mandela was famously resilient because he tapped into his past. Later in life, he was known for saying, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”
Here are three ways to fuel your success by channeling the past:
What positives are gained from reframing tough lessons? Small mistakes, epic failures; we’ve all had them. The important part of our misses is how we rebound from them. A helpful strategy is reframing. Rather than pick apart all the awful aspects of a tough memory, try to step back emotionally and look for what can be gained from it. One of my popular posts was about getting fired. That turn of events is actually one of the best things that happened to me because of what I learned from it!
What can you glean from positive experiences and repeat? Channeling your great memories is very powerful. When you’re feeling anxious about a task or want to reinvigorate yourself if your efforts are lagging, spend time recalling when you put the effort into a goal, and it came out great or when you collaborated with someone and enjoyed working with that person. Reliving it mentally or—better yet—writing it down helps cement that positivity and reinforce the benefits of a great effort and attitude.
What practices or behaviors did you exhibit in your positive recollections that merit reiterating? This strategy helps you take one more step in the positive direction. What language or behaviors worked for you in the past? The practice of reiterating is about mining those experiences for the future. Maybe you approached a difficult situation with a family member in a way that worked out well, or perhaps your coworker responded openly to something you said. Try to capture these moments and use them again.
In the spirit of Nelson Mandela, consider adopting the philosophy that we’re never losing if we only look for opportunities to win or learn.
Live your why,
P.S. Right about this time of year, statistically many people are flagging on their New Year’s resolutions. If you read my last post, you might have decided on a headline for the year. Use today’s strategies to reinforce your path to success.
Need some visual inspiration related to achieving your goals? Download my Seven Pathways to Success.