"Ways to Get Into Your Zone for Life"
by John Carr
Brain Surgery Worldwide, Inc.
Creating a Successful Journey
I am often asked, “How have you achieved success in your business and life?” My answer is always the same: being passionate about the possibilities you can create, then executing that passion through focus, clarity, being present, owning choices, risking failure, learning from failures, listening from the perspective of others, knowing what you don’t know, and doing what you say you are going to do. There is a lot of truth to the phrase “you can win in life by just showing up,” but when you put into practice these philosophies you will have something to offer that others will want again and again.
My life’s journey has been guided by learning these things and they have become the keys to my own “way of being” or my philosophy. Maybe some of these can help you as you begin or continue on your life’s journey. Of course, having good timing, a little luck, perseverance, consistent preparation, always trying to do the right thing, and tenacity do factor into creating any successful outcome.
The first thing one must realize is that life is a journey; there is no finish line. By signing up for this trip, i.e., adopting this view, you can begin to chart your course, create success and weather the storms.
Getting into your “Zone” will help you create success out of failure, and even greater joy and success out of positive happenings. Possibilities become more apparent and seem more numerous.
What follows are descriptions of these philosophies or practices that could be instrumental in helping you achieve the “Zone” for your life.
First, What is the Zone?
The Zone is the mental and physical place where everything seems right; where you are so focused and attentive that you absorb everything around you; a place where you can do no wrong. This state often occurs in athletics. When players are “in the Zone” they don’t hear the crowd; they only see the goal. Everything else is blocked out. During these times they achieve almost supernatural outcomes: a basketball player scores over 100 points; a baseball pitcher tosses the perfect game at the age of 40; a swimmer breaks every world record against insurmountable competition; a person least likely to achieve a monumental success overcomes and wins. These are people in the “Zone”; they have clarity and focus that drives their choices and actions every second. They are successful.
“Too many minds----No Mind,” from “The Last Samurai”
Being Present to All Things Every Second
Being present involves not thinking about the past or the future, rather, focusing and concentrating on the present or the now. This action of “being present” requires attention, focus and the discipline to only think about what is happening in the moment. Seems simple but it is very difficult to master. You have to make yourself available to the moment and choose to be in the moment. You must set aside future concerns and future thinking along with anything that may intrude upon your mind from the past. Being present allows you to see opportunities that go unnoticed by others and “follow the coincidences” that occur, which can lead to tremendous success. Being in the present shapes your future. In my own life being present has helped me discover previously hidden opportunities. By looking people in the eye and giving them my undivided attention, I have been able to create opportunities from simple conversations. I could see possibilities they could not see, and I knew the actions required to make those possibilities a reality.
When you are present others notice and pick up on your energy. It can turn a disadvantage into an advantage. My success has resulted from a commitment to developing this capability. I am able to recognize choices faster, act faster, build more lasting relationships and create more credibility in both my business and personal life.
The best way to shape your future is to maximize the present.
Recognizing and Consciously Owning Your Choices
Owning and using the power of choice is something you can actively control. Most people go through life making choices unconsciously. They don’t recognize that almost everything they do flows from their own choices. Consequently, they make bad decisions without even knowing it then blame others or something other than themselves for the poor results. In any situation throughout the day you make hundreds of choices, from simple to complex—the choice to go to dinner with a friend, the choices leading up to leaving for that dinner that make you late, the choice to talk instead of listen during a conversation. Choices are all around us; every behavior is a choice. If you can be conscious and can master the awareness and ownership of your choices, you can have a huge effect on your life’s journey. I am reminded of the end of the famous Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” This simple language illustrates that the power of choice can make all of the difference.
My power is that I can “choose to, or choose not to” in any given situation. Therefore, I am acutely aware when a choice is presented to me. When I am pressured by peers to do something I am uncomfortable with, I can always choose not to go along with the group and do it in a pleasant, self-assured way, keeping their friendship. Being aware of your choices and then owning them makes you more responsible. It also engenders respect from others and gives you control. We can’t control others but we can control ourselves by owning our choices. “It wasn’t my choice,” is often the way someone tries to explain away an error in judgment, or “I had no choice but to go along.” This is a popular misconception. In any situation you always have a choice. It may not be easy, but it is your control point. Do not relinquish it easily. By viewing choice as a fundamental right and part of your freedom, you can become more powerful.
When I was working in the advertising business in my late 20s the power of choice was driven home to me by observing the owner of my company turning away a very large client. The client demanded something the owner considered to be outside of the company’s core values. It was a small request but it was not consistent with the core values the owner had established. Therefore, he chose to turn away millions of dollars in future revenues. He felt “if we do this one time then it will be easy to do it again,” and that would undermine the company’s value system.
This sacrifice of significant income had a profound effect on me at the time and to this day I use this lesson in my business and life. If something does not feel right to you, remember your power of choice. If you are present and see something you want, remember it is your choice.
Accept that “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know”
Understanding that you don’t know many things and being comfortable with that notion is an important key to succeeding. It helps you adopt a learning posture toward everything. Having the personal security and confidence to admit to others that you don’t know or don’t understand is difficult, especially when you are trying to prove your worth in a business setting. But it can be a significant point of difference or competitive advantage for you, leading you to more successful outcomes.
One of the keys to being successful is being secure with this idea. I am always admitting that I don’t know things even though I have some knowledge about a subject. I always find out that everything I know comes with more things I don’t know. By trying to learn and adopt a questioning posture in an earnest, respectful effort to understand others (or a situation), I have been able to make them feel good because they are helping me learn, creating a better relationship and giving me the benefit of information I did not have previously.
Early in my career I had a supervisor that often admitted when he did not know or did not understand things. This admission brought people to his rescue because he did it in a very respectful way that showed them he was comfortable in his own skin. Therefore, he created space in situations that gave him more knowledge, which often made a critical difference in his effectiveness.
Now we come to the end of part one. Be looking for part two, which will discuss the rest of these philosophies including: Listening from the Perspective of Another Person, A Problem Well Stated is Half Solved, Using Failure to Craft Success and Doing What You Say You are Going to Do. Also included in part two is a list of optional reading to hopefully guide you as you continue on your journey.
John Carr (JMU ’82) founded Brain Surgery Worldwide, Inc. in 1994 (www.brainsurgeryinc.com), a marketing knowledge firm that delivers emotion based behavioral insight and messaging. He is a current member of the College of Business EAC and was one of the founding members of the JMU Rugby Club in the 70s. John lives with his wife Kathleen and their Collie Dallis in Atlanta, Georgia. They also have a home in Afton, Virginia.