Have to Vs. Get To

Have to Vs. Get To

At our church a few weeks ago I heard a portion of the Sunday sermon that really resonated with me. It made me think about the business applicability of having a positive mindset and how powerful that can be. I’ve heard many proverbial stories and read tons of “rah-rah” business literature about the subject, but what was remarkable to me was the simplicity of it.

No matter what organization you work for, at some point in your career there will be days where it’s hard to be positive. RIFs, clipped budgets, departure of key colleagues, uncertainty, real or perceived crises, someone just having a bad day and letting other people know it [future blog link to come: dealing with problematic colleagues], or one of a hundred other causes.

In my organization, I’ve gotten the reputation for being the perpetual optimist. My response? Why would I want to be anything else? Sure, when you’re always the one giving the 12-week estimate for the multi-year project, people will figure out your ability to estimate sucks – but should you start by limiting yourself with a “can’t-do” attitude?

The simple difference was substituting two words in your mental picture:

“Have to” with “Get to”.

I have to cook dinner tonight for my five kids and clean the kitchen.

I get to cook dinner for five healthy kids.
I get to teach my kids how to cook.
I get to spend time with my wife and kids doing something other than watching TV.
I get to try a new recipe for that dish I’ve always wanted to try.

I have to work all week on this new feature PBI.

I get to focus on one thing for a while.
I get to practice my craft of software development.
I get to have an opportunity to try new, more efficient ways to solve this.
I get to work on something that my customers / team will appreciate and use later.

I have to get up at 4:30am and fly across the country to my job.

I get to visit with my team I don’t see very often.
I get to receive a paycheck and support my company/team.
I get to learn something new and hear about new things I didn’t know before.

In Dale Carnegies book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” Chapter 17, he tells an amazing story of how each a positive mental outlook can open your eyes to opportunities to improve yourself and your situation. The story was of a young bride who had to move with her husband to rural New Mexico during a World War. The area was hot, dusty, isolated, and mostly inhabited by Native Americans who didn’t speak English. Unlike today where we can live-blog and tweet our dissatisfaction about the Airbnb we just arrived at, this young woman chose to pen her frustrations in a letter to her family.

I can just imagine how eloquently she stated her displeasure with the predicament and the weeks it must have taken for the letter to travel across the country and back. Ultimately her father had some of the best advice in the form of a short saying.

“Two men looked out from prison bars,
One saw the mud, the other saw stars.”

Thelma read the letter over and over until it sunk in. Her turn-around story is nothing short of amazing. She began to embrace the opportunity that was given to her. She made friends with the local natives, learning their language and receiving gifts they reserved for non-tourists. She went on to write books about the Mojave Desert and became an author recounting the experience.

There will always be challenging circumstances and unexpected changes, but I have gone far beyond the “lemonade stands” of life and tried to identify the best ways I can take advantage of them for myself and my family.  99% of the time it has been a challenge of having the right mindset vs. changing the circumstance itself.

So my question to you is:

Are you looking down at the mud today or up to the stars?