Every year in December we gather about 150 of our employees and do a two-day book study. The idea is to not talk business, but rather to focus on something that we can all benefit from: personal development.
Personal development begins with self-awareness. It’s been my experience that income rarely exceeds personal development. Sometimes income takes a lucky jump, but unless you learn to handle the responsibilities that come with it, it will usually shrink back to the amount you can handle.
Each and every year I watch grown men and women break down in tears publicly at this annual company event and then I watch them take big bold steps to improve their relationships with their families, friends and co-workers. This annual book study has done three primary things for my company. It has lowered employee turnover significantly, we have increased interest to work for us, and we have a very strong company culture.
A strong culture is about strong relationships. These relationships are the glue that keep our company together. It’s the reason we continue to be one of the top employers in Arizona and in the nation based on various employee polls.
When I graduated from school, I honestly believed I was ready for the world. Boy, was I wrong. I was so tired of text books and sitting in classrooms that I didn’t study much for about 10 years after college. What I soon realized is that things were moving fast and I wasn’t. This was mostly because I stopped learning and pushing myself, so in the last 20 years I jumped back into personal development and started with reading books. I never stopped.
I am grateful to be able to share some of these books and teachings with my own employees each and every year like the book I recently finished, Big Potential, by Shawn Achor. My company studied his last book, The Happiness Advantage, a few years back so I was familiar with the author and his story.
In Big Potential, he says, “In a world that thrives on competition and individual achievement, we are measuring and pursuing potential all wrong. By pursuing success in isolation — pushing others away as we push ourselves too hard — we are not j
ust limiting our potential, we are becoming more stressed and disconnected than ever.” This statement defines relationships at their core. What you want is to become a magnet, pulling people toward you and helping them channel their energy toward their big potential. That collective energy will simultaneously provide you with momentum and assistance to reach your goals.
We all know that success doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We spend the first 22 years of our lives being judged and praised for our individual attributes and what we can achieve alone, when for the rest of our lives, our success is almost entirely interconnected with that of others. Our relationships matter.
If you know anything about Ray Dalio, you know he is one of the wealthiest men in the world and author of Principles. He says, “While making money is good, having meaningful work and meaningful relationships is far better.” He goes on to say, “There is no amount of money I would take in exchange for a meaningful relationship, because there is nothing I could buy with that money that would be more valuable.”
I’ve had the pleasure of hiring hundreds of people over the last 20 years. Like anything that you do repetitively, you gain experience and wisdom with each interview, and over that time I have had some incredible people work for me. I always look at everyone with a great deal of wonder as they share with me their own personal journeys.
I remember one young kid that I interviewed named Kyle. He stuck out because of his incredible positive attitude. Kyle seemed to be grateful for his personal situation and was truly appreciative of just getting the interview. He looked at the world similarly to the way I did, with wonder and amazement. Looking back now, I can see that my company was just one small chapter in Kyle’s overall journey. He had a plan all along for himself.
The truth was I didn’t have a position for Kyle, but I hired him anyway because of his great attitude. I knew that no matter where I put him, he would have success in that role. He wasn’t experienced and he certainly wasn’t qualified. During my interview with Kyle, he shared his personal journey which included his relationships with his family and friends, which he valued.
Kyle told me he had plenty of setbacks in his life just like everyone, but he always learned great, valuable lessons from all of them. He had recently lost his father at the young age of forty-eight and this was obviously a huge loss to a young man. What he chose to focus on was how grateful he was to spend most of his young life with his dad. He literally radiated as he spoke about his father and all their adventures.
It should be no surprise that everyone in my company loved Kyle. He always asked what he could do or what he could learn next. Kyle was inquisitive and always asking great questions. From this point on, I started hiring people primarily for their positive attitudes as opposed to just their experience. It has proven to be a formula for success.
No one in my company is at all surprised that Kyle went on to be a financial success. Relationships, attitude and money are definitely connected. I have witnessed it personally on hundreds of occasions. Nearly every entrepreneur that I know in both EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) and YPO (Young Presidents Organization), and I belong to both, have amazing attitudes and value relationships. Money is literally and surprisingly not the primary goal for most successful entrepreneurs.
So this is the lesson. How can a young kid with a below average GPA and no experience succeed financially in a dog-eat-dog world of business? Why was it that Kyle was able to start a business with no knowledge or experience and make it successful? What was it that made people trust Kyle? I believe Kyle has been successful in his life because of the way he treats all of his relationships, and, of course, his positive attitude. His family, his friends and co-workers are all important to him. The not-so-surprising result is that Kyle is important to them, too.
In all relationships, there needs to be an equal exchange. You give and you get back. While it may never be exactly equal, the exchange needs to feels equal. My experience is that when someone feels valued, they typically reciprocate and tend to trust.
That was over fifteen years ago, and today Kyle is a very successful business owner with many employees. We still keep in touch and when we talk, he continues to be grateful for me hiring him with no experience. His story shows that magical things happen to people that have healthy relationships. Things show up in their lives.
Our attitude defines who we are. It’s impossible to have a positive life with a negative attitude. Unfortunately, for many, managing their attitude is a daily struggle. It’s tough for someone to live life battling negativity and even tougher for those around them.
I believe your attitude is shaped largely by the environment and generation into which you were born and your level of self-esteem. Our attitude about any state or condition in our life is always within our power to choose. Attitudes are rooted in one’s own beliefs. They do not form overnight, but rather, throughout the course of one’s life, and they can be modified, if you are aware of them.
Attitude is one of the most important factors in helping you get through the highs and lows of life. Since attitude spells how a person copes, whatever perspective you may hold will invariably have an effect in your performance and the way you handle rejection. It can also determine your personal health.
It is simple, really. A positive attitude produces much more favorable results while negative attitudes only serve to generate failure. Remember that a person whose heart is not in what he or she is doing will never be half as productive as someone who has the right attitude.
We all have within us the power to respond to any given situation in any way we want regardless of the circumstances. According to a Stanford Research Institute study, the path to success is comprised of 88 percent attitude and only 12 percent education. This doesn’t imply that education is of little importance, but it only goes to show how vital it is to foster the proper attitude in regards to success. Once you have achieved the right attitude, it then becomes much easier for things to just fall into place.
I believe that in most cases, people’s attitudes are a result of their own individual self-esteem. However, improving one’s self-esteem is easier said than done. It cannot be improved by just “positive thinking” (although the cultivation of a positive attitude in general will certainly assist the task), and is certainly no overnight job.
I like Steven Covey’s suggestion that we can improve our self-esteem by identifying our weaknesses, then setting goals and establishing behavioral patterns which will allow us to eliminate those weaknesses. As Covey says, we build self-worth by “making little promises to ourselves, and then keeping those promises.”
The great comedian Richard Pryor said, “When you ain’t got no money, you gotta get an attitude.” Now I’m not sure if he meant positive attitude, but you get the point. This is a true statement. It’s funny, too.
In order to become wealthy, your attitude and self-worth have to rise along with your net worth. You must feel you deserve to have money, you must never cast yourself as the victim, you must stop settling (for less) or feeling as if you’re just getting by, and you must make the most of what you have. This is a hard concept for many of us to grasp, for most of us feel as if we’re already doing the best we can — but are we, really?
Only in the last 25 years or so has the world of mainstream finance begun to acknowledge that attitude and human emotions play a part in our investment decisions. They believe, based on the evidence of years of relevant experience, that your attitude directly affects your financial outcome.
I think that Playwright Tennessee Williams said it best: “You can be young without money but you can’t be old without it.” One disability in life you can control is a bad attitude, and developing a positive attitude will pay off handsomely.