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Your ATTITUDE Determines Your Altitude


Our thoughts lead to actions. Our actions lead to habits. Our habits lead to character. Our character develops our future.

This is the second in a series of blog posts that talk about success. I had the opportunity to ask the registered attendees for SQLSaturday Philippines to vote for a particular topic that they like best. Since I usually talk about professional development for IT Professionals at the PASS Summit, I provided a list of topics from presentation skills to landing your dream job. This was the one that got the most number of votes: What Your College Education Didn’t Teach You About Success. 

Planes have attitude indicators. Yes, I myself was surprised when I first heard about it. Also known as the gyro horizon, it’s an instrument that informs the pilot of the plane’s orientation relative to the earth’s horizon. When the plane is climbing, the nose of the plane is pointing above the horizon. When it is diving, the nose is pointed below the horizon. Most pilots will say that the performance  of the plane is dictated by its attitude. In order to change the performance of the plane, pilots need to change its attitude.

attitude

This was the second slide in my presentation about what our education doesn’t teach us about success: ATTITUDE DETERMINES ALTITUDE. Unfortunately, our education system is more concerned about test scores and IQ than emotional intelligence (EQ) or even attitude development. I bet that if you ask a lot of successful entrepreneurs, leaders and business people, they will tell you that their attitude has been a major contributor in their success. Our attitude is the only thing that we get to control 100% of the time. While we don’t have any control of our circumstances, we have full control of our attitude. It’s a matter of choosing which attitude we carry around with us that will determine how successful we will be.

I have to admit that choosing the right attitude is not easy. I wasn’t all that positive in the past. I complained about almost everything, saw myself as way better off than anybody else I knew and blamed others for the misfortunes that I experienced. It took me a while to realize how my attitude is affecting my career and, eventually, my future.  My drive to be excellent at everything I do compensated for my bad attitude but it wasn’t long until the bad attitude finally caught up. As I was in the middle of my failed startup, my wife gave me a wake up  call. She told me that unless I start changing my attitude, things will only be heading further south. I had to make a choice. The process was painful. It was like unlearning all of the stuff that I’ve learned throughout the years. But I was determined to go thru it. Years later, I was trying to figure out how I managed to go thru the process so that I can share it with others. It’s not that I was smart enough to learn about a process I followed that helped me overcome a bad attitude. I was clueless back then. But here are three things that I did to help me develop a positive attitude:

  1. WRITE. I wrote down the things that I don’t like about myself. Now, this is a tough exercise. You need to be very honest about yourself  – what you like and don’t like. I knew I was complaining about almost everything so I wrote that on top of my list. I was determined to revert that bad attitude into a positive one. I also knew that I was blaming others for my misfortune. I had that item next in the list. I didn’t resolve all of my attitude problems at the same time (it’s probably the reason why some of them still show up every once in a while.) I just wanted to resolve the ones that I think are that bad. As I wrote them down, I thought of an alternative attitude that would replace the bad ones. The bad ones have to be replaced by good attitudes. I wrote those down as well. You could also type it on your mobile device or tablet if you prefer that.
  2. SAY. I believe in the power of confession. There’s a reason why the Bible talks about the power of our words. Successful sales people understand this concept in that they constantly speak positive words to themselves especially when trying to close a major deal. I practiced the power of confession daily by telling myself the good attitudes that I need to replace the old ones with. It may feel uncomfortable at first but you’ll get used to it. But what’s good about it is that you are now starting to reinforce your belief with your words.
  3. ACT.  I needed to put my belief into action. I needed to practice what I wrote down and told myself. They say actions speak louder than words. I have to act according to my belief. I used to complain about almost everything. I replaced that with gratitude. I felt uncomfortable at first, like the time when I was saying positive confessions to myself. I became grateful even with the smallest things. I thanked people around me. I thanked those who contributed to my success. I still do. Every once in a while, I check my LinkedIn, Facebook (yes, I have a Facebook profile now),  Twitter accounts, email archives, etc. to find opportunities to thank others for what they have done for me. I’m not saying I no longer complain. However, gratitude is now my dominant attitude as compared to 15 years ago.

Having a great attitude is key to success. It’s so important that Dr. John C. Maxwell, America’s leadership expert, wrote an entire book about it – The Winning Attitude. But it doesn’t come easily. I still have to work hard at it every day, choosing to start my day with a right attitude. Now, I’m one of those who claim that having a great attitude has contributed a lot to where I am right now.

You might also want to read:

Question: What one attitude that you want to change today to become a better person tomorrow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Failure Is Mandatory

April 13, 2013 5 comments

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of  failure.”
– Paul Coelho, The Alchemist –

This is the first in a series of blog posts that talk about success. I had the opportunity to ask the registered attendees for SQLSaturday Philippines to vote for a particular topic that they like best. Since I usually talk about professional development for IT Professionals at the PASS Summit, I provided a list of topics from presentation skills to landing your dream job. This was the one that got the most number of votes: What Your College Education Didn’t Teach You About Success. 

If you look at any dictionary, you will find the word FAILURE before the word SUCCESS. I think it was meant for a reason. Real success comes from accepting the fact that one has to experience failure first. I have yet to meet somebody who’s very successful who have not had any failures.

failure

This was the very first slide in my presentation about what our education doesn’t teach us about success: FAILURE IS MANDATORY. The audience was shocked. Indeed, nobody told them that failure is mandatory for success. We all grew up thinking that failure should be avoided like the plague. Our parents have the noblest intention when they told us not to pursue anything too risky. Our teachers penalized incorrect test answers. Our managers confronted us for our mistakes. We’ve been raised, taught, and trained to avoid failure at all cost. Everybody thinks that failure is just that: FAILURE.  And that’s where the biggest challenge is. It requires unlearning all those years of getting used to avoiding failure at all cost. It requires a total change of mindset.

During the presentation, I shared a story about me winning the SQLSentry contest last year. The contest was about convincing SQLSentry why I am worth sending to the SQLSkills Immersion Training. Most contestants will think of the different ways that they can showcase their capabilities, their successes, etc.  After all, nobody ever won a contest because they were failures. For my entry, I decided to do something different. I listed out some of my failures

  • I failed 17 courses while pursuing my undergraduate degree
  • My first startup failed
  • I crashed production servers at work

People who know me understand that I’m not comfortable with failure. I’m very competitive and I push myself to the limit. Yet, at a young age, I realized that I need to embrace failure as a means to succeed. That was a lesson that I learned the hard way. And it sure wasn’t something taught to me inside the classroom (although it was a side effect of being inside the classroom.)  I failed my very first match course in the university. This was despite the fact that I joined math contests during my high school days. I was devastated. I tried to hide all evidences that I failed. It sure wasn’t a good story to tell my former high school classmates who thought that I was pretty cool with math. But then it hit me. The failure experience need to be transformed into lessons learned.

  1. Failures taught me to refocus on what’s important. Failing doesn’t mean one is a failure. We need to separate the activity from the individual. I failed my math course. That doesn’t mean I was a failure. I am more important than what I can accomplish. Far too often that we associate ourselves with what we have accomplished than who we really are. It should be the other way around. We should be able to tell ourselves this: “I’m not a failure. I failed at doing something.” There’s a very big difference between the two.
  2. Failure taught me to redefine what success means to me. We often fall under the trap of someone else’s definition of success. We think that having a big house, a nice car, a progressive career and a stable job meant success. We’ve been taught and conditioned to think that way. Haven’t we all heard the saying, “Go to school, get good grades, find a stable job and retire” from those who are a generation ahead of ours? That’s because it has worked for them. But what worked for them might not work for us. I realized that I need a new definition of success, one that is aligned with my very purpose. It took me a while to redefine what success means to me because I had to understand what my life’s purpose is. But when I did, it was easier to accept failure. I knew that my purpose was to help people grow and develop their fullest potential. I now see failure as a step towards achieving my purpose. As long as I’m fulfilling my purpose, I’m in good terms with failure.
  3. Failure taught me that it’s not what happens during that matters. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sorry for yourself after failing. That’s just human nature. However, what you do after the failure determines whether or not you end up being successful. Most of us feel a sense of fear after experiencing failure that we dare not try again. I’ve had my fair share of fears. I almost quit pursuing an engineering degree after failing my first math course in the university. After all, engineering is all about math and science. At the end of the semester, I was more determined to pursue an engineering degree. It took me another semester to pass that math course. But it did give me some sense of fulfillment knowing that I conquered my fear. I still failed other courses in my undergraduate program as proven by my transcript. But that didn’t stop me from continuing with my degree. It’s not what happens during your failure that matters. What does is how you deal with it afterwards.

Learn to be comfortable with failure. It’s a prerequisite for success. So important that Dr. John C. Maxwell, America’s leadership expert, wrote an entire book about it – Failing Forward. It’s a guidebook for turning mistakes into stepping stones for success.

In case you’re interested, here’s my entry to the SQLSentry contest. You be the judge.