The Right Thinking Matters!!
Do bad things ever happen to you? Yeah, me too.
Yet when they do, something good often comes out of them, right? That could be considered serendipity. The dictionary defines serendipity as “finding valuable things not sought for.”
Here’s what I said about it several years ago in my book Living in the Black (see below for a free download):
“The whole idea about the powerful concept of serendipity is to look for the good in happenstances and change.”
You truly do get more of what you expect. So whether you think you can or can’t, you’re usually right. You really have to watch your self-talk, because what you say to yourself often becomes a reality.
We have all had curve balls we didn’t expect. When unexpected happenstances came along over the years, I focused on seizing the opportunities and employing positive self-talk, and the results have often been beyond “wow.” Let me share a few examples with you.
I met Zig Ziglar years ago at his home because of a positive mistake. Someone in his office thought I was in his Sunday school class, so they invited me to his home for a dinner he was hosting for his class. Years later, we met a second time, by chance, on a business flight to Detroit. During that flight, I also met a man who changed my life as much or more than Zig did. That man was Jim Norman, Zig’s son-in-law and, at the time, the president of his company. As we talked, they discovered that my focus was on growing businesses, and that just a small portion of my offering was to help people grow personally. Zig’s focus was turned just the opposite; he had chosen to mainly help people grow personally, with less emphasis on businesses. They ended up hiring me to help them use Zig’s many strengths to more strategically gain entry into business clients.
A year passed by, and Jim resigned. That was really a disappointing turn of events for me. I begged Jim to become my president; yet he turned me down. However, serendipity kicked in, and he became my coach. A decade after I persisted year after year to convince him, in 2006, he agreed to become my president—with a caveat. He wanted to interview our firm’s clients to find out why they were flying into Dallas from all over the globe to meet and work with me. He did just that, and he discovered that for years our strength had been helping people with three key pieces to the success puzzle: clarity, focus, and execution. The Jim, Zig resignation turned into so many incredible opportunities from that point, including working with the US Senate.
Somehow, the Sergeant at Arms in the Senate came across the booklet Jim and I had published called The Passport to Strategic Acceleration. (It was the precursor to the full-fledged book Strategic Acceleration that was published in 2009.) The Sergeant at Arms called me and asked, “Would you come and speak to our management team on your methodology, because we really need the whole clarity, focus, and execution strategy.”
I did, and that engagement opened my eyes to the need for clarity, focus, and execution in organizations everywhere.
I came back from Washington, excited and told Jim, “Hey, I think we’re on to something!”
Jim’s reply was, “Well, you know, I’ve been telling you that’s what you do for people—you help them get really clear on what they want and help them identify the activities they need to focus on to get there.”
We turned that little pamphlet into a best-selling book that has helped thousands around the globe get more of what they want—better results faster.
There were so many happenstances that led to this wonderful vocation I have enjoyed for the last three-plus decades:
- the “mistake” that allowed me to meet Zig at his home,
- the “chance encounter” on the plane with Zig and Jim,
- Jim agreeing to be my coach,
- the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms’ ending up with the Strategic Acceleration booklet, and
- the change of heart of Jim agreeing to become my president.
Here’s another example of a wonderful serendipity in my life: I missed a flight from San Antonio in 1990 because I was talking to a guy at the airport. I had never missed a flight before, and I only missed this one because we were talking intensely and just neglected to board. Once we realized we had missed the flight, we continued talking. The relationship that came out of that chance meeting was with David Boden, my CPA, financial advisor, friend, office mate, and partner of over three decades. He opened a door for me with HD Vest, and that turned into a long-term partnership. Herb Vest eventually sold his company to Wells Fargo for over a hundred million dollars. During that time I helped Herb launch a strategic book way before I launched any of my own books. That assignment became instrumental to my brand at the time. I missed a flight, and yet that experience turned into a series of events that dramatically and positively impacted my life.
Here’s my final example: I put my former estate up for sale a couple of years ago in preparation for our move into our condo just a few blocks from the RESULTS Center. A couple from California was going to buy it, but they didn’t follow though. My self-talk kicked in in the form of a prayer. I said, “God, it seems those people were not who we were praying for—a family that wants to raise their family here and enjoy it as much as we have. I believe you have the perfect family to buy this estate.”
A few months later, my neighbor called and said, “My friends from California asked me to look up your property, without even knowing it was right next door to me! They want to look at it. I told them they should buy it, because I was even considering it!”
Come to find out, these people were looking for a family estate where they could both run their business from and raise their family, just like we had raised ours; and we ended up selling it to them. Then, because we wanted to slowly move out while we were moving into our condo, we leased it back and made the timing work for both of us. We became good friends; in fact, we recently received an invitation to their kid’s graduation party at their home (our previous home).
Related to that story: Our estate was composed of three buildings; and ten days after they took possession, the middle building burned down! Our friends who bought it called and said, “Tony, we’re watching the house we just bought from you burn.”
Thank goodness, no one was hurt. They discovered later that a squirrel had gotten into the air conditioner and chewed some wires, causing it to catch fire. The good news is their insurance company came through and took care of them. They were able to rent a house while they were rebuilding theirs. There were a few things they wanted to update, and they were able to do that because of the fire. I’m not sure what self-talk they employed; however, they had the right mindset. They didn’t complain, and now they have our former beautiful estate, totally updated just the way they want it.
Every day things happen to all of us that aren’t planned.
Some are insignificant, and some are large, even monumental. You could miss a flight, lose a business deal, have your home burn down, have a car accident, meet someone, forget an appointment, and on and on. Most people are not strategic to the level they could be about the self-talk they employ when something happens.
A huge part of my world consists of looking for ways to help people win more. If you are a true winner, you’re already open minded about seeking out and embracing things that will help you be better. And since you’re reading this article, chances are you’re either part of my inner circle or part of my network. So I want to push your thinking on serendipity and give you a strategy with this article that a lot of people don’t have, perhaps because it may be a blind spot for them.
These four steps may be the best way to allow serendipity to come about:
- Pay close attention to your self-talk. When things happen unexpectedly, is your self-talk positive or negative? Reflect on what you are saying, and keep it positive.
- Keep an open mind to a better outcome. Seek the positives and think: Since this business deal didn’t go through, there must be a better one coming up. Or, When I missed my appointment, maybe I avoided making a mistake. Or, Something really good may come out of this.
- Be curious. Take your self-talk even farther and ask, What could this mean? What are the possibilities?
- Be on the lookout for making connections. You might say, If my flight has been delayed, there are others around me who are waiting as well. Could there be someone here I need to meet? Play out what could be a possible win from your circumstances.
Most people have never studied serendipity. Thinking is a big part of what I teach. How we think and how we respond have a far greater capacity to alter our lives than any challenges we face. How quickly and responsibly we react to adversity is far more important than the adversity itself. Once we discipline ourselves to understand this, we will finally and willingly conclude that the great challenge of life is to control the process of our thinking.
If you want to get better results, and we all do, perhaps along life’s journey you should deploy more strategic thinking, including positive self-talk, when unexpected curve balls come at you. Happenstances come about every day in your life—whether they are small, medium, or large—and you have to be willing to reflect on them.