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Leadership Control & Influence

By Orrin Woodward

Don’t let the issues outside of your control, stop you from addressing issues inside of your control.

If I have seen it once, I have seen it a thousand times, a talented person with a willingness to work, stopped cold by dwelling on issues outside of his control. 

This type of thinking takes on many forms, but here’s an example to help you recognize it in your own thinking.

Suppose you are looking at attending a certain school.  Upon learning that one of your friends attended the school, you seek him out to learn from his experiences. 

If he shares that he quit the school because it was too hard,  that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attend.

If you have a dream, and are willing to work, it doesn’t tell you anything about your potential experiences at the school. Education, like nearly all life, is a matter of personal responsibility.  But, if your friend’s failed attempt at school, blocks your dream to even apply, then two failures have occurred.  One is a failure of action, the other a failure of thinking.

How do you control your friends work ethic?  How do you know if your friend was truly committed to the school and his dreams? Why let your friends actions hinder your opportunities?

Leaders can only control themselves and the decisions they make. With others, they have only influence, not control.

There are numerous examples of poor thinking in allowing issues outside of your control to affect the issues inside of your control.

Here are some other poor thinking scenarios:

  1. I don’t attend church because a hypocrite goes there.  Why allow a hypocrite to stop you from learning Truth for you and your family?
  2. I am not a business owner because I had a bad experience with a business person. Why allow a bad business person to deny you of future opportunities?
  3. I don’t go to doctors because I had a bad experience with a doctor.  Why threaten your health because of one doctor’s incompetence.
  4. I don’t read, because a teacher told me that I was dyslexic and would never be able to read. Why allow a teacher’s label to halt your personal growth.
  5. I don’t talk to people because my parents told me that I was shy.  Why allow your parents label, when you were a child, to hinder your future?
  6. I don’t attempt great things for God, because my family has never accomplished anything great.  Why allow your family’s past to hinder its future?
  7. I don’t save money, because I was told that I would always be in debt.  Why allow someone’s poor thinking on money become your thinking?
  8. I don’t dream, because I saw my friend dream and fail.  Why not learn from failures versus become one?
  9. I am not getting married because so many people get divorces.  Why not learn the successful marriages versus focus on the failed ones.
  10. I am not having children because the world is so messed up.  Why not learn how to prepare children for life versus deny them the opportunity for life?

I could go on, but you get the point.  Instead of allowing the things that you don’t control (other peoples thoughts and actions), to create your reality, why not focus on what you do control (your thoughts and actions)?

I grew up in Columbiaville, Michigan, a small village with few, if any, big thinkers.  It would have been easy to succumb to the ‘stinking thinking’ around Laurie and myself, but through God’s Grace, and a ton of effort, we broke free from the mold.

Instead of dwelling on our parents faults, Laurie and I focused on our parents strengths.  We learned work ethic and the ability to think from our parents, and applied them to every endeavor we undertook.

One of the keys to breaking out is majoring on your majors, not the failed minors of others.  Yes, people will let you down, but that shouldn’t stop you from fulfilling your purpose.  Yes, your family may hurt you at times, but that doesn’t stop end your responsibility to love and lead them.

Yes, your vision, like a ship, may take on water every now and then, but leaders understand that it’s part of the journey, rebuilding the ship bigger and stronger.  Your dream cannot be stolen, but through poor thinking, it can be surrendered.

Life is much easier, since Laurie and I decided to press on regardless of the actions of others.  We decided that we were in the game no matter what.

This released the stress and anxiety felt by most people, who are not truly committed to a course of action.  Leaders decide, backing the decision with full commitment, making the decision right by overwhelming passion and effort.

Did we have setbacks? Of course.  Did we have people make promises while not following through?  Many examples.  Did we stay the course?  To the best of our ability and know how, an emphatic yes.

We cannot control other peoples poor decisions, but the last thing we should do, is to compound the mistake by piling on.  Laurie and I have witnessed many people, with more talent than us, sabotage their own success through poor thinking.

Usually, by the time the weeds have ruined their thinking, they no longer are interested in hearing advice to help pull the weeds.  They even get offended at the suggestion that they are growing weeds.

I do my best to help point out the improper thinking, if they are willing to listen.  But, at the end of the day, people are responsible for the fruit, or lack of fruit, produced in their minds.  Pulling weeds when identified is standard fare for leaders.

Thus, one of the biggest weeds that can grow, is permitting issues outside of your control to hinder your attitude and actions on the issues inside of your control.

For example, if you aren’t reading, listening and learning daily in your chosen field, thinking what’s the use, since you aren’t getting the results in life that you want, then you are revealing a huge weed in your own thinking.

It takes time to develop mastery in any field.  In fact, it takes 10,000 hours according to Malcolm Gladwell and Geoff Colvin, both authors who write on achievement.  But most people quit in despair long before this.

By allowing things outside of your control to stop you from building up the 10,000 hours to reach mastery in your field, you ensure that mastery will never arrive in any field.  It truly is that simple, though not that easy.

Success in life, is simply a matter of staying focused on the areas that you control. It is surrendering to God the areas that are outside of your control.  What  a leader discovers is that others, influenced by their example, improve their community through a leader’s influence, not control.

The community, inspired by the leaders courage, make the tough changes in their lives to grow.  None of this would have happened, if the leader dwelled upon areas that he doesn’t control.  It was because the leader stayed the course, even when it hurt, that the resolve of others was strengthened to change their lives.

Are you that type of leader for your family, community, and team?

One of the best decisions that a leader will ever make in life is to be “all in”, in whatever field that s/he is pursuing.  Greatness doesn’t happen to those who dabble or deliberate, but only to those who decide.

Laurie and I are “all in” for our 8F’s – Faith, Family, Friends, Freedom, Finances, Fitness, Following, and Fun.

What are you “all in” for in life?  Life has become so much fuller by learning the secret of sacrifice.  When Laurie and I sacrifice our current conveniences for our convictions, we receive a ten fold return on, not only on our own 8F’s, but also in the joy of seeing others develop their 8F’s.

Look back upon your own life, didn’t you achieve more when you kept your mind focused on the areas that you could control, instead of dwelling upon what you didn’t control?  Today is the day to start thinking like the leader you plan on becoming.


Orrin Woodward is the co-founder of Team, a leadership development and training company, and the New York Times best-selling co-author of Launching a Leadership Revolution.

Named by the International Association of Business as a Top 10 Leadership Guru, he is dedicated to building leaders and entrepreneurs and promoting freedom and prosperity.

Orrin blogs regularly at Orrin Woodward. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and four children.

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