What to Do When Life Sucks? Think or Sink

January 18, 2010


"The greatest lessons in your life come from your failures."

If you're like me, despite various successes, sometimes you tend to screw things up without even trying. I don't wish to stereotype anyone. However, based on my experience, highly creative individuals can be quite skilled at digging their own graves. This may or may not be an off-shoot of out-of-the-box thinking, intense focus, or a sensitive nature. Who knows? I'm still trying to figure myself out much less the rest of the world.

What I do know is that failure can lead to success. In both small and large ways, I've seen it happen in my own life. Over the years, I've become a firm believer in making lemons out of lemonade. Later this week, we'll hear from renowned artist Esther Barend, but today I want to take a detour and tell you about a new book based on the lemonade premise I hold dear.

Gina Mollicone-Long's new book, Think or Sink: The One Choice that Changes Everything, explores the power within each of us to create our own outcomes based on how we choose to think during times of failure. Of course, this applies to everyone, not just creative individuals. However, Think or Sink holds powerful messages and advice for the creative soul. Creative folks are famous for our keen ability to milk self doubt and serve as our own worst enemies. In a highly competitive world that often lacks support for the arts, we need a boost. Let's face it, we crave words of encouragement that help drive us toward success. The more success we celebrate as individuals, the more the arts in general will flourish over time.

Whether you're an artist, writer, actor, accountant, stay-at-home mom, or just some dude who stumbled upon Aberration Nation for the first time, you're the most powerful contributor to your own fate. You're the one and only captain of the boat you're standing in; there's no way out. No way to jump onto your neighbor's. No way to trade yours in for a new model. When storms hit, the only options are to move forward or sink like a stone. Let's hear what Gina has to share with regard to how we might steer our unique vessels in more positive directions.

You're a motivational speaker, author, self-help guru, and personal development specialist. Was there something in your personal experience that led you down this path?

I have always been motivated by the greatness that I see in others. I have always worked to help people reveal this inherent greatness. I have always stood for everyone being the absolute best that they can be. I started speaking when I was young. In fact, I was the valedictorian for both my elementary and high school graduating classes. Likewise, I have been coaching since I was 14 starting as a gymnastics coach. I loved coaching. At one point, I was a certified coach in gymnastics, soccer, diving, swimming, basketball and volleyball. Eventually, these skills transferred to management experience and working with individuals to craft a life they love, Now, I only work with executives, entrepreneurs and high performers coaching them to achieve amazing results. I’m only interested in getting results with my clients. It doesn’t take us a lot of time because of the techniques that I use and my work is guaranteed.

You're book, Think or Sink: The One Choice that Changes Everything, sounds intriguing, and certainly speaks to the underlying concept of Aberration Nation. Tell us about the book.

Believe it or not, whenever anything happens to us, we always have a choice in determining our response to what happens. It might not always feel like that but we always have the choice. It we don’t make the choice consciously then it will get dictated to us by outside forces like the media, our friends and family, etc. This is only a problem if the response causes us to feel additional stress in our lives. Many people like to blame their circumstances, especially when times are tough. Blaming the circumstances might make you feel good in the short term but it ultimately leaves you powerless because you have given your power over to your circumstances. It is not your circumstances that are to blame but rather it is your response to the circumstances that is the issue.

Successful people and great leaders do one thing differently than most people during times of challenge. They think for themselves and choose powerful responses to events instead of sinking into the prevailing negative default response of their circumstances and the people around them. Think or Sink is not a book about what to think. It is a book about how to think for yourself, perhaps for the first time. There are a lot of books that tell you what to do. Sometimes the advice works and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no sure-fire way to tell. This is a different kind of book. This book is about how life works as a process. This book will show you how it works so you can make good decisions about what is right for you. This is not a book about positive thinking; this is a book about positive responding.

What was your inspiration for writing Think or Sink?

I noticed in my own life that I seemed to be at the mercy of my circumstances a lot. I found myself often wishing that someone or something would change so that I could finally relax. It dawned on me one day that this was a very dis-empowering way to live because I had no control over my own life experience. My first book, The Secret of Successful Failing, explores the paradox that your greatest gifts come out of your biggest challenges. This point of view was such a powerful re-frame for anything in my life that didn’t go my way. As I continued exploring the paradox, I found myself noticing that if I took complete responsibility for my response in any situation that I had a great deal of power and choices in those situations. I began doing research and developed a model for retaining your personal power regardless of the circumstances. It has worked amazing wonders in my life. Since employing the techniques that I write about I have enjoyed numerous results in all contexts of my life such as releasing 50lbs of excess body weight, landing the publisher for Think or Sink, increasing the revenue in my business, and taking my marriage to a completely different level (to name a few).

Everyone hits roadblocks in life; it's inevitable. Why do some people learn from them and move on, while others just get stuck?

It comes down to choice. We choose our responses. Always. We either make these choices consciously and with volition and intention or they get chosen for us unconsciously typically led by the prevailing response of people around us. Most people don’t realize how much power they have in every single situation. No one can ever be in complete control of what happens to them or around them but we can always be in charge of how we respond to any situation. If you are stuck then make a choice to get going. If you hit a roadblock then focus your intention to find a way around and the way will appear. Maintain focus on what you want and never never never give up on yourself. Just keep moving.

In your experience working with others on personal development, what have you seen as the top three characteristics that keep people from moving forward?

Instead of focusing on what holds people back, I am much more interested in what successful people do to maintain momentum and get results. Part of my formal training is in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). At the most basic level, NLP is a study of excellence and how to replicate. Therefore from an NLP perspective, I am concerned with understanding the strategies and behaviors that are common amongst the most successful people in the world in all areas of life.

In my experience, these successful people share the following three attributes:

1. They FOCUS on what they want. They never take their eye off the prize. They give all of their energy to focusing on what they want and none of their energy on what they do NOT want. This idea of focus is a key theme in Think or Sink.

2. They are on the CAUSE side of the equation. In life there is an equation that states a certain cause produces an certain effect. Successful people realize that they are the master of their experience and are the ultimate cause for their results. In life, you either get results or you have reasons. Bear in mind that no results plus a great reason still equals NO RESULTS. Successful people aren’t interested in the reasons why they don’t have what they want. They use their results (or failures) as feedback to ensure that they remain powerful and therefore on track to success.

3. They maintain powerful states of Being. Successful people realize that they are ALWAYS in charge of their response to any situation. They understand that their response dictates their mental, emotional and physiological resources at any given moment. They maintain responsibility to keeping themselves in the most positive and powerful states of Being. They do not allow circumstances and people to knock them over.

Although we have countless years of history to draw from, there still remains such a stigma on failure. However, you've said that one of the most notable qualities shared by great leaders is the ability to learn and benefit from failure and setback. Do you coach individuals in the midst of failure, and if so, what are your key messages to them?

My work centers around helping my clients get exactly what they want. I work with people who have enjoyed a lot of success, people that have failed, and people that haven’t even tried yet. In all cases, the clients MUST be willing to do whatever it takes for their dream. My work is a “do-with” process and not a “do-to” process. It is very powerful. It gets results, real results and it gets them quickly.

My key messages to my clients are the same as in #5 above.

1. Focus on what you want (and only what you want)

2. Remain on the cause side of the equation of the results in your life

3. Maintain a powerful state of Being by maintaining control of your responses to situations, circumstances, events and people.

4. Finally, take massive action towards what you want. Do not let up.

We'd love to hear some examples of success over failure that you've personally witnessed in your work. Are there any you can share with us?

It’s not success over failure. Every life experience is worth having. The greatest lessons in your life come from your failures. In fact, I am often quoted in the media on the topic of self-esteem. I always respond by pointing out that true self-esteem does not come from a “failure-less” environment. Rather, true self-esteem comes when you are face down in the proverbial mud and you DECIDE to get back up. In that moment, you discover new resources and realize that you are made of much more than you thought you were. This is the gift in failure. For example, in my own life, a “failure” early on my corporate career to be passed up for a promotion that I really thought that I deserved caused me to search deep within myself to realize that the corporate world was not where my I belonged. My heart wanted to start my own business, write books, teach seminars, and work with people. If it hadn’t been for that failure in my career, I may never have developed the resources that I needed to be a success today.

What would you say are the three most important steps in turning failure into a positive?

This is easy.

1. Treat all failure as feedback. Use the information that you have in the feedback to go back and make a change INSIDE yourself.

2. Keep moving forward focused on what you want. Never never never quit.

3. Recognize that you are always in control of your response to ANY circumstance and ensure that you are choosing the powerful response to what is happening to you.

Comments

Esther Barend

Esther Barend said:

Sounds very recognizable! Since a while I realize that for me it's like Gina describes: the moment I took my life in my own hands (after faillures of course) things began to change in a positive way. Though I never planned it deliberately, it's in my character that IF I do something I do it with all my heart and energy. I'm interested in reading this book, but it's not available (yet) in Europe, so I'll have to wait.
Lots of success to Gina and Penelope!

Di

Di said:

Thank you so much Gina and Penelope. This resonates so much with me.

A few years ago, I loved the work I was doing, running my own business, after pushing myself to get my degree, which I’d always wanted, while also bringing up 2 children on my own. I had some practical life difficulties, but I was happy in my work and my ability to earn money. I then encountered difficulty in my work, I was falling asleep while dealing with customers and putting off much work because of sleepiness, and then a key employee left and I felt overwhelmed and walked away from a vocation and a business which I had loved. I thought a return to a more structured routine in a corporate role with less overall responsibility would suit me better. How wrong I was.

I continued to struggle with sleepiness and this led to my being diagnosed with a neurological condition (narcolepsy, which Penelope has done fantastic work in raising awareness of). The unpredictable and variable effects of the condition did not fit at all well with the scheduled routine, and rules and regulations, imposed on me by my employers, and although they could and should have made adjustments to comply with disability laws, they didn't. I felt they wanted rid of me, but I dug my heels in trying my hardest to hang on to that job, worried that I wouldn't get another. After several months of immense stress, I had a reaction which caused pain all over my body. I was diagnosed with a further chronic pain/fatigue condition, and the last 2 years were the worst of my life, debilitated and virtually bed-bound by pain and sleepiness, and during which time I was dismissed by my employer.

I discovered strategies only a few months ago, many of which Gina talks about using in her coaching, which are working and I am getting my life back. I began by watching a film called The Secret, and I also self-learned a technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). These helped within only a couple of weeks to inspire me into action and bring my pain level down, enabling me to focus and concentrate better on finding more ways to ‘bring me back to life’.

I could then research things like the Law of Attraction easier and follow its guidance, and I began learning more relaxation and meditation techniques.

The most profound difference has been, as Gina says, in the way I CHOOSE to think about situations, and then I have changed the way I RESPOND.

I no longer FOCUS on pain or fatigue, I choose to focus on being healthy, this in itself has helped keep my pain levels down. I don't focus on lack of money; I choose to feel grateful that I have what I need right now.

I choose to stop stressing about so many little things that really are not important when you stop and think about them. I choose to no longer dwell on things that have happened in the past that I can’t change. I choose to no longer worry about the future, because if I have learned anything, it’s that you never know what could happen tomorrow, so it’s a waste of energy trying to predict. A few months ago when I was in a panic about the future, I felt HOPELESS. By stopping focussing on the future, a very strange thing happened; I lost that hopeless feeling too. What I do now is focus on NOW, and at this moment I choose to feel HOPEFUL, so I will continue to focus on that hopeful feeling that I have now!
I chose to stop taking the numerous medications I was prescribed, which were not making me feel better, and in fact the side effects made me feel so much worse.

(cont'd)

Di

Di said:

By making these choices, I do believe that I regained CONTROL, and I have just realised while writing this, that CONTROL was what I had lost several years ago, it was like I had handed over control of my entire to this diagnosis I had got. Prior to this, I had always been very much in control of my life. There were many signs that I had probably had narcolepsy for around 16 years before diagnosis. So, why else would the worst deterioration occur AFTER diagnosis? Perhaps this control issue was the start of the downward spiral, and maybe this is the biggest contributor to my recovery.

I recognise that I could have made other, better choices throughout this period. I could have sought out help or made adjustments that might have helped me save my business. Failing that, I could have been more assertive with my requests for help in the workplace, rather than being defensive and feeling like this condition was my fault. I could have resigned quietly and put more effort into finding a different, less stressful job.

I can now recognise that what I felt were the biggest failures of my life really have taught me the biggest lessons:
I was on the wrong path, the commercial work I switched to did not allow me to be my authentic self, I had always enjoyed being in a helping, teaching, supportive role before;
I have more compassion and empathy for other people with all kinds of disabilities and challenges, and have learned not to judge a book by its cover;
we are not dealt anything in life that we cannot handle, we just need to learn how to handle it the right way;
I am becoming more confident because, just as Gina says about lying face down in the proverbial mud, I really did hit rock-bottom and I CHOSE to get back up;
I have learned I can get far more pleasure from sitting in the local park and appreciating nature, than I ever could from all the material aspects of life I thought were essential, like shopping, partying and drinking alcohol to excess, and having all the latest gadgets;
and I have learned I do not need other people’s approval or to fit in with the crowd, my relationship with myself and approval and acceptance of myself is the most important.

I am grateful to the people who have been involved in helping me to learn these lessons.
I am also grateful that I have learned these lessons at this time in my life, while I have time to put my learning into practice.

While you continue to learn lessons in life, you are not failing!

Sorry this has become such a long comment, once I started writing I just couldn’t stop – you inspired me so well

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.