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Strategic Discipline Blog

Combat Negativity with Discipline

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Apr 3, 2014

As most of you may know a little over two years ago I was projected to be another statistic of cancer.  With very slim odds (less than 10% initially) through some miraculous events my Acute Myeloid Leukemia found its way into remission. I received a bone marrow transplant from a generous donor in September of 2012.  The road back hasn’t been easy. While my healing may be remarkable, in many ways this achievement may not be as difficult as what each of you face each and every day.  Rather than diminish what was accomplished, this is to elevate what you and every other person on the planet faces as you work to accomplish each day.  

Overcoming a steep mountain may be extremely difficult, possibly seemingly impossible, yet overtaking an excruciatingly long incline can be more difficult and challenging.  Achieving success over One Thing is the pinnacle.describe the image  In most of our day to day work the pinnacle never seems to arrive.  It’s always off in the future, with few celebrations and frequently too little recognition for what each day you accomplish on your journey to something of significance. Most days “significance” feels far off in the future.  It’s enough to make each day feel impotent, unfruitful, and possibly valueless at times.  It’s enough to turn anyone to the “dark side.”

In the Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, the authors point out that while we admire Olympians and sports athletes, the day to day work that most of us do is much more difficult. It’s requires more time and energy than what it requires to be a high performing athlete.  Our day to day grind is more challenging.  Athlete’s often get months off at time.  We are lucky to get a week or two to recharge our batteries.  Too many of us don’t even take any recovery time whether it’s during the course of a day or year.  Going to work each day with no end in sight is exhausting.  It’s no wonder Aubrey Daniels insists that today’s workers rarely receive the positive reinforcement they deserve.

At Positioning Systems we emphasize a focus on ONE THING - for the year, for each quarter.  When you make one thing your focal point, and then build a theme around it, achieving gives you a sense of accomplishment!  Rewards, celebration, recognition follow!  “Yes!  You achieved what you set out to accomplish!” 

Each of us needs to put the end game in sight.  We need have established benchmarks were we look at our progress and recognize our efforts.  That’s what meeting rhythms help to create.  In creating a theme, a series of weekly events to reward and highlight the theme’s intention help break up the monotony of the day to day grind.  They inspire and give time to enjoy work and recover. 

A personal example from my journey:  After five chemotherapies failed to get my cancer in remission, I faced a crossroads.  My chances of survival due to having Monosomy 7 and failing that many chemo treatments were less than 1%.  University of Iowa Hospital doctors allowed me to go home for a short period while we decided what to do.  Do we pursue help from another hospital that specialized in cancer treatment like MD Anderson in Texas, or do we give UIHC another try with a clinical trial.  At an appointment for one of my regular infusions the doctor that worked with me in Cedar Rapids for infusions sat with my wife and I in her office.  We discussed the decision with her.  Probably in the spirit of compassion, empathy, and knowing full well my diagnosis and slim chances for survival, she suggested that at some point you simply decide to give in.  You make a choice to live the rest of days you have left as best you can with your family and friends.  I recall my wife crying, sobbing at this.  My reaction was much different.  I was angry, enraged, and irate.  The thought of giving up, of not succeeding, it never crossed my mind.  Call me delusional, but I don’t ever recall, no matter how desperate it appeared, that I was not going to make it.

That is the Power of One Thing.  I was totally committed to getting my cancer in remission.  My year and quarterly goal was to achieve that.  My activities I measured supported that, and I was convinced I would somehow, some way achieve remission.  The daily disciplines I measured, meditation, exercise, prayer and affirmations held my belief firmly in my mind.

Fear, doubt, and worry are negative goal setting.  In order to achieve success in anything you need to have discipline.  Discipline enables you to look for the good, to believe and imagine what your life will be like when you achieve your priorities.  Discipline fights against the normal inclination of negativity.

In the book SWITCH by Dan and chip Heath they emphasize, “Bad is stronger than good!”  Here are some examples from their book:

  • Physiologist analyzed 558 “emotion” words. The result: 62% negative, 38% positive. 
  • Exhibit A: People shown photos of bad and good events spent longer viewing the bad ones.
  • Exhibit B: People pay closer attention to bad stuff about someone else.  It’s sticker than good stuff. Researchers have a liable for it “Positive-negative asymmetry.”
  • Exhibit C: 17 studies on how people interpret and explain events –  cross multiple domains people are more likely to spontaneously bring up (and attempt to explain) negative events than positives.

Here’s an example close to home possibly.  Your child comes home with her report card.  Imagine it’s one A, four B’s and one F.  Where will you spend your time as a parent?

The Heath brothers note that in times of change you need to ask, “What is the ratio of time I spend solving problems to the time I spend scaling success. 

Switch recommends “Script the critical moves.” 

That’s how I conquered cancer.  Using the same disciplines I teach my clients – Strategic Discipline: Priorities, Metrics, and Meeting Rhythms.  Choose your priority, create a dashboard to measure your success, and then create meeting rhythms that provide a cadence of accountability where the metrics and dashboard is updated to give feedback on your progress.

Why should you set goals/priorities?  Establishing priorities eliminates fear, diminishes time to worry and focus on negativity.

Would you like to learn how to develop discipline in your organization to eliminate the “Fear Monster of Negativity?”  Learn the important disciplines that great companies use to achieve success, download the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits Four Decision Workshop Flyer and Register to attend the workshop on April 29th in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Before reaching the University of Iowa Hospital, my very first blog upon discovering the news of my Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis indicated the doctor said there was a 70% chance of recovery.  He may have been prophetic, however upon testing at University of Iowa the following week my survival changes shifted sharply to less than 10%.  Is there anything you are making decisions on with simple estimates rather than measureable data?  We’ll discuss this and the value of data in good decision making next blog.

Topics: Discipline, Strategic Discipline, Switch, Discipline Plan, positive reinforcement, The Power of Full Engagement

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Positioning Systems Brand Promise

1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

(BRAND PROMISE GUARANTEE): We will refund all compensation if our disciplined coaching and proprietary tools fail to meet your expectations.

Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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