Perspective is Everything
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"
A living legend turned 100 in May. He's W. Clement Stone, founder of Combined Insurance Company (which is now a part of Aon Corp.) and author of one of the best-selling motivational books of all time, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude. The book is based on the concept that what the mind can conceive and believe 'the mind can achieve.
I first learned of W. Clement Stone in 1977, when I attended Interlochen Arts Academy for my senior year of high school. Mr. Stone had given money to the school to fund some scholarships, and I was one of the recipients of his generosity. After I graduated from high school, I decided to write and thank Mr. Stone for enabling me to attend this prestigious academy my last year of high school. I was quite surprised to receive a lengthy handwritten response from him, in which he thanked me for taking the time to write and encouraged me to follow my dreams.
Several years later I encountered Mr. Stone's name again in a book that told about how he used positive mental attitude to achieve his goals.
W. Clement Stone was a self-made man. His father died before he was 3 years old, and he was selling newspapers on street corners at the age of 6. By the time he was 13 years old he had his own newsstand. He read Horatio Alger novels, picturing himself as the youngsters who overcame adversity.
Stone's mother worked for an insurance company, and he started selling insurance at the age of 16. He dropped out of school to work full time, finishing high school in night classes. During the Depression, when others believed that insurance would be impossible to sell, Stone saw tremendous untapped possibilities. Soon he signed up salespeople to work for him, eventually building his own company. By 1979, Stone's insurance company exceeded $1 billion in assets. He later took his business principles and packaged them into a second career, promoting success through a positive mental attitude.
Although W. Clement Stone has not been a central figure in my life, his philosophy clearly permeates my thoughts. I recently heard a story that paralleled Stone's own success story. As the story goes, two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa. The first reported a problem -- all of the natives went barefoot -- and thus he believed that there was no market in Africa for shoes. The second salesman reported an opportunity -- all of the natives went barefoot -- and thus he believed that Africa held a tremendous untapped market for shoes.
Problems vs. Opportunities
"Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress."
We live in an interesting time with corporate downsizing, restructuring, and the increase in global competition. Some view these times as problematic; others see the incredible opportunities created by such change.
In the last decade there has been a huge growth in home-based and service-industry businesses. These businesses have been started by individuals with the courage to pursue their dreams while fulfilling unmet needs they've identified. Yet, for every idea that is implemented, thousands of ideas never get beyond the conceptual stage...from the imagination to a plan of action.
What holds people back from pursuing their dreams and acting on their great ideas? I believe it's fear of failure. Someone once said "there are a lot of ways to become a failure, but never taking a chance is the most successful way." I've also heard it said that "people don't plan to fail...they fail to plan."
Companies these days must be willing and able to change constantly. Sometimes companies change course to survive, and sometimes they do so because an opportunity is too good to resist. I know of a small company that provided a messenger service several years ago. A sudden major increase in corporate use of fax machines nearly put this small company out of business. Fortunately, the owner of the company was astute enough to realize other global corporate trends happening at the same time. As those companies were acquiring fax machines, square footage of office space was decreasing, generating a need for more offsite storage space. The owner shifted gears from offering a messenger service to providing an offsite records storage service, and soon business was booming once again.
I coach fellow professional organizers who are starting their businesses or wanting to move their business to the next level. Many have been in a panic about the downturn in the economy, because clients have less discretionary income to spend. As I have worked with these clients, I have asked myself, "What would Mr. Stone say about this downturn and how it positively affects our industry?" There's no doubt in my mind that he would see plenty of opportunity.
Are you wondering how one takes an economic downturn and creates opportunity for a professional organizer from that? Consider the costs of disorganization (http://www.orgcoach.net/whatitcosts.html). Then imagine the benefits working with someone who can facilitate an increase in productivity. In other words, these challenging economic times actually accentuate the need for such services as leaner staff search for ways to work smarter rather than harder.
It all comes down to perspective. I could say to myself, "This is terrible! With the downturn in the economy, nobody will have a budget for my services." OR... "This is great! With the tightening of budgets and the loss of support staff, there's an even greater need for executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs to be more productive and effective, which is precisely what I'm here to help them do!"
As important as positive mental attitude is, Stone says that "there is something more important than believing: Action! The world is full of dreamers, there aren't enough who will move ahead and begin to take concrete steps to actualize their vision."
Seizing the Opportunity
"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."
--George Bernard Shaw
Timing certainly plays a factor in our successes and failures, but action is ultimately required. Most of us are exposed to many opportunities, yet few recognize the opportunities when they come along. Even fewer actually act on them. One good idea implemented is worth 1000 that are just talked about.
Have you ever had a great idea, and several years later you saw that idea show up in the marketplace? Was that person "lucky" to be in the right place at the right time? Or did they create the "luck" for themselves by translating their idea into a plan of action?
Are you ready to seize your own opportunities? Ask yourself:
1. Do I have a clear vision? Am I clear about what my product or service looks like and who my target market is?
2. Do I have passion for working to get this idea to take flight? Does my idea encompass a mission that matters to me?
3. Do I have an action plan that will move me toward making this vision become a reality? What's the next step I choose to take?
About the Author
Kathy Paauw, a certified business/personal coach and organizing/productivity consultant, specializes in helping busy executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs de-clutter their schedules, spaces and minds. Contact her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at http://www.orgcoach.net and learn how you can Find ANYTHING in 5 Seconds --Guaranteed!