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Jan-14-2009 00:33printcomments

What Are You Prepared to See in 2009?

This is the fifth in a series of Management Moments by Doug Dickerson, a weekly column designed to bring inspiration to those in the workplace and beyond.
Is your glass half empty or half full?

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) - I know many people are pessimistic about the economic forecast in 2009. A recession looms large, people are losing their jobs, and times are difficult for many.

Behavioral scientists have discovered that we usually see things that we are prepared to see, and that this is all centered in a network of nerve cells called the Reticular Activating System.

The Reticular Activating System works like this- once something has been brought to our attention and we have been prepared to see it, we’ll see it virtually everywhere we go.

For example, if you decide to buy a new car and you make up your mind that you are going to buy a certain brand, a certain body style, and a certain color; all of a sudden you’ll see those cars everywhere.

You’ll see them on roads, in TV advertisements, in newspapers, and magazines. They’re everywhere. What has happened? They were always there, but the moment you were prepared to see them, your Reticular Activating System kicked in, and suddenly you saw them everywhere you went.

We see what we are prepared to see. Psychologists tell us that if we see ourselves as successful, if we see ourselves as strong, and healthy, chances are that’s what we’ll be.

In the midst of challenging economic times, it’s hard to divorce yourself from the realities that exist. Bill Easum observed wisely, “Realistic leaders are objective enough to minimize illusions. They understand that self-deception can cost them their vision.”

Yet, the attitude we choose to have during these times will make the difference in surviving or going under. We can’t always choose the things that happen to us, but we do choose how we will respond – every time.

I would like to share with you what I call the three E’s for a healthy outlook for your organization.

First, your expectation determines your plans. It reminds me of the story of the two shoe salesmen from Chicago who went to an island to sell shoes. After arriving at the hotel on the tropical island, one salesman called back to Chicago and said, “I’m coming home, no one here wears shoes.”

The other salesman called back to the home office and said, “No one here wears shoes – send more!”

The difference between success and failure for these two men was in what they were prepared to see.

They both saw the same thing. One was prepared to succeed by what he saw, the other chose to fail.

Yes, economic realities are grim, but in order to stay strong, leadership in the organization has to remain positive. Don’t allow the current economic forecast to deter you from your expectations to succeed. What you are prepared to see today will be your reality tomorrow.

Second, your experience guides your future. If you’ve been in business long enough, chances are you’ve seen and been through challenging times before. During times like this, your experience will anchor you during the rough ride.

On a recent flight from Costa Rica to Atlanta, our plane experienced heavy turbulence as we approached. Our descent was as bumpy a flight as I have ever been on. I was glad to safely disembark the plane later and see the distinguished, not- so- young pilot standing calmly at the exit.

Your expectations coupled with experience can cause you to see with confidence what others do not. Confident leadership will see you through tough times when everyone on the team comes together prepared to see the same thing.


Power Point: Life is not simply holding a good hand. Life is playing a poor hand well. -Danish Saying

Power Thought: How many times have you or your organization been dealt a bad hand? If we’ve been around long enough, we all have. Being dealt a bad hand is not what holds us back; it’s what we do with it. Regardless of the hand you have been dealt, stay focused and positive; you are one good hand away from success. -Doug Dickerson

Power Surge: Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close to success they were when they gave up. -Thomas Edison

When Disney World in Orlando, Fla. was dedicated in 1971, Walter Elias “Walt” Disney had already died. As his wife was being introduced, the speaker said that he had only wished that Walt Disney had lived long enough to see it. As she took to the podium, Disney’s wife remarked, “He did see it.” He may not have lived long enough to see it come to pass, but he did see it! What are you prepared to see today?

Finally, your execution determines your success. Your expectation determines your plans, your experience guides you in the right direction, but the way that you execute the plan determines your success.

The best plan in the world is of no value to you unless you are prepared and capable of executing it. Are you prepared to see your team succeed? Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, they won’t be worth a dime.”

During the Great Depression, times were tough, much worse than anything we know today. During the 1920’s, Fords were outselling Chevrolets by 10 to 1. In spite of the Depression, Chevrolet continued to expand its advertising budget and by 1931, the “Chevy 6” took the lead in its field and remained there the next five years.

Chevrolet could have easily succumbed to the bad times. Instead, they chose to see themselves as successful, and executed a plan that propelled them to the top.

During these challenging times, choose to see them as opportunities to do something no one else has done. Have an expectation of success, rely on your experience to guide you, and execute your plan in such a way as not to fail.

What do you choose to see in 2009? I choose to see the best year ever!

* * * * * *

Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association, having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at

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