Win the Big Ones – Let Go of the Rest!

The most common problem faced by the very successful executives I meet is wanting to win too much. Winning is, of course, not bad thing — quite the opposite. But the desire to win can become a problem, especially when the topic is meaningless or trivial.

To gauge my clients’ “addiction to winning,” I present them with the following case study:

You want to go to dinner at restaurant X. Your spouse, partner, or friend wants to go to dinner at restaurant Y. You have a heated argument. You end up at restaurant Y — not your choice. The food tastes awful. The service is terrible.

Option A – Critique the experience. Point out that your partner was wrong. Explain that this terrible mistake could have been avoided if you had made the decision.

Option B – Shut-up. Eat the stupid food. Try to enjoy it. Have a nice evening.

What would you do?

Seventy-five percent of my clients “fail themselves” by saying that they would critique the food. What they should do is shut-up and enjoy the evening. There’s nothing to be gained here by critiquing and complaining.

How do you take a more thoughtful approach to such situations and keep your desire to win in check? Before speaking, take a deep breath and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. “Why am I trying so hard to win this point?” Our excessive need to win is often driven more by our personal need to prove how smart we are than our altruistic desire to help others. In the long run, no one is ever impressed with our need to display our own brilliance.
  2. “Is this debate worth my time and energy?” You are probably already too busy. Is this argument the most efficient way to help you achieve your goals? If so, go for it! If not, drop it.
  3. “What is more important, the point that I am trying to win or my relationship with this human being?” In many cases it will become obvious to you that the benefit of winning small points is less important than the cost of damaging valued relationships.

Win the big ones. Let go of the rest.

In the series of video blogs that accompany these articles, I’ve been interviewed by Nathan Lyons. Nathan is a high potential from Gen Y who sought my insights on a number of topics from my book Triggers with the critically important angle of “advice I might provide to the younger generations”. I’m excited to share this series of short interviews with you and of course I hope you enjoy my written thoughts on the topics as well!

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Do You Choose Your Arguments Wisely?

The #1 bad habit of successful people is winning too much. It is easily the most common behavioral problem I observe in successful people. You might think this is okay. How can winning too much be a problem? Isn’t winning too much why people are successful?

No, not really, it’s oftentimes in spite of it. Winning too much is the #1 challenge for many of us, because it underlies nearly every other behavioral problem. For instance, when we argue too much, it’s because we want to win!

Some arguments are a waste of time and don’t accomplish anything, but there are some issues worth arguing over. The key is to know the difference.

Let me share with you a personal story about a time I engaged in a perennially pointless argument trying to fulfill my desire to win.

I have always taken some foolish pride in the humble nature of my upbringing. For many of us, it’s part of being an American: reveling in how poor we were and how much we had to overcome to achieve our current status in life.

Since Horatio Alger wrote his stories of characters heroically pulling themselves up by their bootstraps to “success,” this has been part of the American Dream. It’s the reason parents still lecture their children with memories of their childhoods that begin with “When I was your age …” There’s nothing wrong with a little of that if the lecture imparts some useful instruction — and the children aren’t rolling their eyes thinking, “Dad’s at it again.” However, in general, this is a waste of time.

While “I had it so tough!” is bad at home, it can be even worse at work. When we do this, all we’re doing is trying to elicit other people’s admiration for our having had it rougher than they did. It’s pointless, almost perverse bragging — and what does the “winner” of the argument really win?

I embarrassed myself when I got into a contest with a client about which one of us was poorer growing up. After laying out all the necessities of modern life that we lacked in Valley Station, I tossed down my trump card: “The first three years in grade school,” I said, “we had an outhouse.”

My adversary countered, “In West Virginia, all we had were outhouses. What’s the big deal? And by the way, we had dirt floors in my home!”

“You know what?” I said. “You win. I can’t top dirt floors.”

I felt like a fool afterward. And I suspect that the winner didn’t feel any better. That’s what happens when you try to glorify your past for all its deficiencies and all the suffering it brought upon you. It’s no different for any debate about details in the past, even the good times. All you’re doing is creating a contest of competing memories. Except for its limited self-entertainment value, what’s the point of that?

The lesson here: If we argue too much, it’s because we want our view to prevail over everyone else’s (i.e., it’s about winning) – the result is that no one really wins.

In the series of video blogs that accompany these articles, I’ve been interviewed by Nathan Lyons. Nathan is a high potential from Gen Y who sought my insights on a number of topics from my book Triggers with the critically important angle of “advice I might provide to the younger generations”. I’m excited to share this series of short interviews with you and of course I hope you enjoy my written thoughts on the topics as well!

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Are You Using Your Genius to Improve Things?

Like many young Ph.D. students, I was deeply impressed with my own intelligence, wisdom, and profound insights into the human condition. I consistently amazed myself with my ability to judge others and see what they were doing wrong. I thought I was more than good enough, and everyone else was not quite up to par.

Dr. Fred Case was both my UCLA dissertation advisor and boss. My dissertation was connected with a consulting project that involved the city of Los Angeles. At the time he was a professor at UCLA and head of the LA City Planning Commission. He had done a lot to help the city become a better place. He was also doing a lot to help me. I sincerely respected him.

Although he was normally in a very upbeat mood, on that day Dr. Case seemed annoyed. He looked at me and growled, ”Marshall, what is the problem with you? I am getting feedback from some people at City Hall that you are coming across as negative, angry, and judgmental. What’s going on?”

”You can’t believe how inefficient the city government is!” I ranted. I then gave several examples of how taxpayer ‘s money was being wasted. I was convinced that the city could be a much bet­ ter place if the leaders just listened to me.

”What a stunning breakthrough!” Dr. Case said sarcastically, ”You, Marshall Goldsmith, have discovered that our city government is inefficient! I hate to tell you this, Marshall, but my barber figured this out several years ago. What else is bothering you?”

I then pointed out examples of favoritism toward rich political benefactors.

Dr. Case was now laughing. ”Stunning breakthrough number two!” he chuckled. ”You have discovered that politicians may give more attention to their major campaign contributors than to people who support their opponents. My barber has also known this for years. I am afraid that we can’t give you a Ph.D. for this level of insight.”

As he looked at me, his face showed the wisdom of experience. He said, ”I have been working at City Hall for years. Did it ever dawn on you that even though I may be slow, perhaps even I have figured some of this stuff out?”

Then he said, ”Marshall, you are becoming a pain in the butt. You are not helping your clients, me, or yourself.

I’m going to give you two options: Option A: Continue to be angry, negative, and judgmental. If you chose this option, you will be fired. Option B: Start having some fun. Try to make a constructive difference in a way that is positive for you and the people around you. Life is short. Start having fun. Which option will you choose?”

I laughed and said, ”Dr. Case, I think it is time for me to start having some fun!”

He smiled knowingly and said, ”You are a wise young man.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that things are not always as efficient as they could be; or that people tend to be more interested in their own advancement. Most people have figured out this one as well.

Real leaders are not people who can point out what is wrong they make things better. Dr. Case helped me become a better consultant, and have a better life.

Think about your own behavior. Are you communicating a sense of joy and enthusiasm to the people around you, are you using your genius to improve things? Or are you spending too much time in the role of an angry, judgmental critic who thinks that no one is good enough? Second, do you have any family members, friends, or co-workers who are acting as I did? Are you just getting annoyed at them or are you trying to help them? If you haven’t been trying to help them, give it a try. Perhaps they will write a story about you someday!

In the series of video blogs that accompany these articles, I’ve been interviewed by Nathan Lyons. Nathan is a high potential from Gen Y who sought my insights on a number of topics from my book Triggers with the critically important angle of “advice I might provide to the younger generations”. I’m excited to share this series of short interviews with you and of course I hope you enjoy my written thoughts on the topics as well!

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9 Tips for Hi-Po’s to Start Their Careers Off Right!

First, it’s tough out there and it is probably only going to get tougher. Job security is a thing of the past. The days of the “company man (or woman)” are gone. Like it or not, even if you start out in a large corporation, you need to think like an entrepreneur.

Why I realize we cannot all be entrepreneurial in the sense that we can’t all start our own companies, I believe we can all be entrepreneurial in terms of how we approach our careers. Below are a few suggestions for demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit that we can all implement:

  1. Pick a path. This is critical! Don’t worry too much that you might take the wrong road. You can always change your mind along the way but you have to make a decision first! Your path comes from the inside, so read, research, and reflect on what you want to achieve in life. Personally, I found my path as a university student in Indiana. I was 19 and had spent all night thinking about what I wanted to with my life. Dawn came. I looked out of the window and saw people waiting to go to work. I realized I didn’t want to be do that. I wanted to become a university professor but through my course of study and jobs I took, I found my passion was in helping people become better leaders. I didn’t start out in life thinking I would become an executive coach. I didn’t even know there was such a job. In fact, I don’t know if there was! It’s evolved through the years as I’ve followed my path and sometimes changed directions.
  2. Love what you do. Years of hard work (which generally precedes success) don’t seem so hard if you are doing what you love. My friend and mentor, Dr. Paul Hersey, upon receiving an honorary doctorate, shared one of his secrets for success with graduating students. He beamed at the hundreds of young people in the audience and said: “Looking back on my career, I don’t feel like I have ever worked a day in my life. If you really love what you are doing, it all seems like fun!” Finding what you love to do may take some effort, but it is worth it.
  3. Be curious. One of the greatest entrepreneurs I have ever known is Mr. G.M. Rao. He is the founder of GMR Infrastructure, which is now a large infrastructure company in India. When I asked his colleagues what Mr. Rao was doing right, they all marveled at his constant curiosity. One commented that “he travels through life, constantly observing. He makes notes on all kinds of potential opportunities, which most people might not even notice. He doesn’t just observe – he acts! He immediately follows up with messages to staff that say, ‘please check this out.’ While many of his observations do not turn into business opportunities, some do. This is one of the reasons that he is so successful.”
  4. Find your own market niche. In the same way that successful entrepreneurs provide innovative solutions to market opportunities, you can work to develop a special competency that differentiates you from everyone else. Be creative. Look for market needs that everyone else may not have considered. Anyone can do what everyone else is doing. Great entrepreneurs provide products and services that are better or different than what everyone else is doing. You can also do this at your present job: What should be done that isn’t being done?
  5. Become a world expert. As intimidating as this sounds, achieving serious “world-class” expertise may not be as daunting as you might believe. If you pick a reasonably narrow area of specialization, focus on it, and learn as much as you can, you will start to accumulate serious knowledge within a few years. While you can never become the world authority on everything, you can definitely become a world authority on one thing.
  6. Learn from the best. As you ponder your career options, ask yourself: “Who do I want to be like in 10 years?” or “Who are the world’s experts in fields that are related to my desired area of expertise?” Try to learn from these people’s lives. You may be surprised. Some may even go out of their way to help you.
  7. Do your homework. While the role models you look up to may be willing to help you, respect the fact that they are very busy people. Their time is valuable. For example, if they have written books on a topic, read the books before you ask them questions. If they are executives in your own company, study their history – read their bios – and learn from their co-workers before you ask them to invest their very limited time in helping you.
  8. Build your own brand. Peter Drucker once told me that companies should be able to “put their mission statement on a T-shirt.” The same can be true for individuals. For example, my own mission is to be the world authority in helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. Your customers (or employers) will respect you more if you do not pretend to know everything about everything but instead have a unique brand. My friends, David Ulrich and Norm Smallwood have written about how this same process can be applied to corporate managers who develop their own brands as leaders.
  9. Pay the price. It is possible that you may just get lucky and become incredibly successful without having to work very hard. Don’t count on it. Most successful people work very hard. The “luck” that they experience is often impacted by the years of effort that have prepared them to take advantage of fortuitous opportunities.

In the series of video blogs that accompany these articles, I’ve been interviewed by Nathan Lyons. Nathan is a high potential from Gen Y who sought my insights on a number of topics from my book Triggers with the critically important angle of “advice I might provide to the younger generations”. I’m excited to share this series of short interviews with you and of course I hope you enjoy my written thoughts on the topics as well!

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Are You Triggered Toward Success or Doomed to Failure?

This is an incredibly important question to answer, and it holds significant and long-term ramifications for those who are just starting out in their careers.

Being triggered toward success means that instead of blocking you from your goals, you are propelled toward them. It may sound impossible, but it’s not. First, let’s clarify the term trigger so you know what to look for.

A behavioral trigger is any stimulus that impacts our behavior.

Within this definition, there are six distinctions that will help improve our understanding of how triggers influence our behavior.

  • A trigger can be direct or indirect. Direct triggers are stimuli that immediately and obviously impact behavior. There are no steps in between the triggering event and your response. For instance, a child chases a ball into the street in front of your car. You slam on the brakes. Simple. Indirect triggers take a roundabout route to influence our behavior. For instance, you see a family photo, it triggers thoughts and memories – and you remember to call your sister.
  • A trigger can be internal or external. External triggers come from the environment. Our five senses pick up on them, as well as our minds. Internal triggers come from our thoughts and feelings and are not connected with anything on the outside. Have you ever heard that “little inner voice”? That’s what I’m talking about here. It’s not prompted from the outside, but if it stimulates behavior, it’s as valid as any external prompt.
  • A trigger can be conscious or unconscious. Conscious triggers require awareness. Hot plate – withdraw hand! Unconscious triggers are beyond our awareness. Most people are oblivious to how much the weather influences their moods. Respondents to the question, “How happy are you?” claimed to be happier on a perfect weather day than respondents to the same question on nasty weather day.
  • A trigger can be anticipated or unexpected. Anticipated triggers are visible a mile away. For instance, we know right now that the National Anthem will be played at the Super Bowl next year. Unanticipated triggers take us by surprise, and often stimulate unfamiliar behavior, possibly even a drastic desire to change!
  • A trigger can be encouraging or discouraging. Encouraging triggers push us to maintain or expand what we are doing. They reinforce us – like the finish line for a marathon runner. Discouraging triggers push us to stop or reduce what we are doing. Chatting in a theater and hearing a barrage of “Shhh!” is one such discouraging trigger.
  • A trigger can be productive or counterproductive. This is an important distinction. Why? Because productive triggers push us toward becoming the person we want to be. Counterproductive triggers pull us away from that goal.

So, now that you know the six distinctions of behavioral triggers and how they influence your behavior, try this exercise. It will make you smarter about specific behaviors and help you connect them directly to your behavioral successes and failures.

  • Pick a behavioral goal you’re pursuing: losing weight, being more patient, calling your parents once a week, etc.
  • List the people and situations that influence the quality of your performance / progress towards these goals. Stick to the trigger or two that relate to one specific goal. Define them. Are they encouraging or discouraging, productive or counterproductive, etc.?
  • Chart the triggers to see if you are on the positive or negative side of your goals.

While this exercise may not solve the puzzle of achieving behavioral change, it will point you in the right direction. And, starting off in the right direction will put you that much closer to success!

In the series of video blogs that accompany these articles, I’ve been interviewed by Nathan Lyons http://www.spotoninterviews.com. Nathan is a high potential from Gen Y who sought my insights on a number of topics from my book Triggers with the critically important angle of “advice I might provide to the younger generations”. I’m excited to share this series of short interviews with you and of course I hope you enjoy my written thoughts on the topics as well!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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How to Make 2016 Your Best Year Ever!

To make resolutions that matter, don’t look forward. Look back.

By February, half of all New Year’s resolutions are broken, a thing of the past, a distant, abandoned memory. You know this. So, why not take the time now to visit your goals and think about what you really want to change. If you do, you will make 2016 your best year ever.

Wondering how to start? Try this exercise. It one of my favorites and I teach it in most of my classes.

First, take a deep breath. Now take a deeper breath.

Imagine you’re 95 years old, on your death bed. Before taking your last breath – you’re given a great gift: the ability to travel back in time – the ability to talk to the person who is reading this column – the ability to help this person, you, be a better professional and, more importantly, lead a better life.

The 95-year-old you understands what was really important and what wasn’t, what mattered and what didn’t, what counted and what didn’t really count. What advice would this wise “old you” have for the “you” who is reading this page?

Take a few seconds to answer this question – personally and professionally. Jot down words that capture what the old you would be saying to the younger you that is here now. My next suggestion is simple – just do whatever you wrote down! Make that your resolution for this year and next.

A friend of mine interviewed people who were dying and asked them what advice they would have had for their younger selves. The answers he got provide wonderful advice for all of us.

One recurring theme was to “find happiness and meaning – now,” not next month or next year. Many older people said they were so wrapped up in looking for what they didn’t have that they seldom appreciated what they did have. They often wished they would just enjoyed life as they were living it.

Another common response revolved around friends and family. You may work for a wonderful company, and you may think that your contribution to that organization is very important. When you are 95 years old and you look at the people around your deathbed, very few of your fellow employees will be waving good-bye. Your friends and family will probably be the only people who care. Appreciate them now and share a large part of your life with them.

Older people offer other valuable advice: “Follow your dreams.” Figure out your true purpose in life, and go for it! Old people who pursued their dreams are always happier with their lives. Few of us will achieve all of our dreams. Some will always be elusive. So the key question is not, “Did I make all of my dreams come true?” The key question is, “Did I try?”

So do this year, to make 2016 the best year ever, reverse your New Year’s resolution. Don’t look ahead. Look behind. And, most importantly, be happy now – enjoy your friends and family – and follow your dreams. This is great advice for everyone who wants a fulfilling career. It’s also great advice for everyone who wants to live a meaningful life!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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How to Tell a Phony from a Professional

Randy was a wonderful coaching client, the CEO of a large service firm and an incredibly cheerful guy. Having dinner with him was usually great fun, but it wasn’t on this particular night.

Randy approached the table and greeted me with a weary smile. He looked exhausted.

I asked, “How was your day?”

He replied, “Which part? I was six different people today.”

He went on to explain:

“The morning got off to a good start. I am the mentor of one of the brightest, most enthusiastic young leaders in our firm. With her I was in the role of a positive and supportive coach – helping a great young person on the way up. It felt great.

My next meeting was with one of the top analysts in our industry. I need to be positive in projecting the future of our firm, but very careful to be realistic and not over-promise. With him, I was in the role of a serious communicator to our present and future stockholders.

My next interaction was fun. One of our divisions made record numbers. I had the pleasure of getting to thank them for all of their contributions. With them, I was in the role of a motivational speaker.

Then things got serious. I met with the Board and one of the members disagrees with me on a key element of our strategy for the future. I think that he is wrong on this one, but I respect him, both as a person and as a representative of the ownership of our firm. At this meeting I was largely in the role of good listener.

The next one was really tough. Harry has been with us for twenty-five years. He has made a great contribution to the company. His performance has taken a huge dip in the last couple of years. To be honest, I have been avoiding having the tough discussion that I had with him today. With him, I was in the role of a manager who had to point out the painful potential consequences on non-performance.

My final half hour was even harder. Janet, who was one of everyone’s favorite marketing leaders, died unexpectedly at age 48. I just finished writing a letter to her family, communicating what a great person she was and telling them how much we will miss her. I was in the role of a mourner who was communicating his and his team’s deep sadness and loss with respect.”

Randy is a very thoughtful and caring leader. He said, “To deal with all of these scenarios every day, I have to learn to block out ‘where I have been’ and to be fully engaged in ‘where I am’. This is a lot easier in theory than in practice. In my world this takes incredible effort and can be exhausting.”

Randy is a great professional. This short narrative reveals how difficult it is for us to be positive and upbeat in one moment and then sad and reflective a few minutes later. As a leader, this is your job. You have to be a pro and you have to be authentic. Being the person that you need to be, when you need to be that person, does not mean that you are a phony. It does mean that you are a professional.

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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“Make Every Day Your Masterpiece!”

This is a great quote by John Wooden, one of the most loved and respected coaches of all time.

Let’s think about it. How does it apply to triggers? If every day were our masterpiece, we would undoubtedly be very aware of our environment. As masters of our days, what if we could control our environment so it triggered our most desired behavior?

 This would mean that instead of blocking us from our goals, the environment would propel us toward them. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? It also sounds far-fetched.

It’s not.

First let’s clarify the term trigger:

A behavioral trigger is any stimulus that impacts our behavior.

Within this definition, there are six distinctions that will help improve our understanding of how triggers influence our behavior.

  • A trigger can be direct or indirect. Direct triggers are stimuli that immediately and obviously impact behavior. There are no steps in between the triggering event and your response. For instance, a child chases a ball into the street in front of your car. You slam on the brakes. Simple. Indirect triggers take a roundabout route to influence our behavior. For instance, you see a family photo, it triggers thoughts and memories – and you remember to call your sister.
  • A trigger can be internal or external. External triggers come from the environment. Our five senses pick up on them, as well as our minds. Internal triggers come from our thoughts and feelings and are not connected with anything on the outside. Have you ever heard that “little inner voice”? That’s what I’m talking about here. It’s not prompted from the outside, but if it stimulates behavior, it’s as valid as any external prompt.
  • A trigger can be conscious or unconscious. Conscious triggers require awareness. Hot plate – withdraw hand! Unconscious triggers are beyond our awareness. Most people are oblivious to how much the weather influences their moods. Respondents to the question, “How happy are you?” claimed to be happier on a perfect weather day than respondents to the same question on nasty weather day.
  • A trigger can be anticipated or unexpected. Anticipated triggers are visible a mile away. For instance, we know right now that the National Anthem will be played at the Super Bowl next year. Unanticipated triggers take us by surprise, and often stimulate unfamiliar behavior, possibly even a drastic desire to change!
  • A trigger can be encouraging or discouraging. Encouraging triggers push us to maintain or expand what we are doing. They reinforce us – like the finish line for a marathon runner. Discouraging triggers push us to stop or reduce what we are doing. Chatting in a theater and hearing a barrage of “Shhh!” is one such discouraging trigger.
  • A trigger can be productive or counterproductive. This is an important distinction. Why? Because productive triggers push us toward becoming the person we want to be. Counterproductive triggers pull us away from that goal.

These six distinctions of behavioral triggers will help improve your understanding of how triggers influence your behavior.

Now it’s your turn. Try this exercise. It will make you smarter about specific behaviors you do every day and help you connect them directly to your behavioral successes and failures.

  • Pick a behavioral goal you’re pursuing: losing weight, being more patient, calling your parents once a week, etc.
  • List the people and situations that influence the quality of your performance / progress towards these goals. Stick to the trigger or two that relate to one specific goal. Define them. Are they encouraging or discouraging, productive or counterproductive, etc.?
  • Chart the triggers to see if you are on the positive or negative side of your goals.

This little exercise will put you on the path to making every day your masterpiece, because no matter how extreme the circumstances, when it comes to our behavior we always have a choice to make it better!

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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Amazon Giveaway of Triggers

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Triggers: Creating Behavior that Lasts – Becoming the Person You Want to Be.  NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  See Official rules http://amzn.to.GArules. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/38df35222a5a4962#ln-en

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A Valuable Lesson in Gratitude

I love my job! The only tough part of my profession is that I travel constantly. On American Airlines alone, I have over 11 million frequent flyer miles!

Have you ever seen the movie Up in the Air, starring George Clooney?  If you have, you will know what this means – I have the card!

Not only do I travel in the United States, I travel around the world. I have over 1 million flyer miles on British Airways. You know you travel a lot when you have over 1 million frequent flyer miles on an airline from country that you don’t even live in!

If you travel as much as I do, you cannot let the day-to-day tribulations of life on the road get on your nerves. If you do, you will quickly go crazy!

The airplane is a fascinating place to watch people become agitated, upset, and angry in a manner that is completely useless – over environmental factors they cannot impact.

I’ve learned a few simple lessons in my travels. For example, I cannot make the plane take off and I cannot make the plane land. I have almost no control over anything that happens.

One environmental trigger that makes a lot of people crazy is the announcement that the airplane is going to be late. I’ve seen so many people upset themselves, get angry, yell at flight attendants, and act like fools because the plane is late.

I have found simple way to turn this negative trigger, the announcement that the plane will be late, into positive trigger.

Every time I hear the announcement that the plane will be late, I remember a picture in my library – a picture of me on a volunteer trip to Africa with the Red Cross when I was about 30 years old. The picture shows me with many starving children. Their arms are being measured. If their arms are too big they do not eat. If their arms are too small they don’t eat. Their arms have to be just the right size – meaning they are not too hungry to survive and not too well fed so as not to need food – their arms size determines if they will eat that day.

This was an eye-opening experience for me that I never want to forget. It reminds me how fortunate I am. When I feel “justifiably” upset, I remember that photo and those beautiful children. I repeat this mantra over and over in my mind: “Never complain because the airplane is late. There are people in the world who have real problems. They have problems you cannot even begin to imagine. You are a very lucky man. Never complain because the airplane is late.”

Next time that you board an airplane, and you hear the announcement that the airplane is going to be late, say to yourself, “I am such a lucky person.”

I hope someday that this story helps you turn a moment of pain and anger into a moment of gratitude and joy.

Triggers is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller! Order it at Amazon. See The Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog for more of this video series.

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