Last night, our dog Kramer very literally ate our kid's homework.  Dillon has been working on his science project for weeks.  Yesterday was the day he was supposed to put all the planning into action.  He put food in baggies and the baggies in a box and he was going to take them to school to watch them and track their moldy progress for the next month.

He didn't put into his plan that a feisty puppy (and probably with the cat as a lookout) would enjoy the little treats in baggies.  So, this morning when I got up to go to the gym, I saw lots of empty baggies, one happy dog and felt the weight of the unhappiness that would follow.

Dillon, who generally doesn't see the positive first in anything (hello, he's a teenager) is like  a lot of us.  It's difficult to stop and enjoy what is positive when there are so many problems yet to be fixed.

In our world, when you can turn on one of a dozen devices and see the problems everywhere, how do you make yourself a positive force in a negative world?

  1. EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT TO SOMEONE -- BUT FEW THINGS ARE THAT IMPORTANT. While we should be passionate about our professions and engaged in the best outcomes, sometimes it's best to take a second and put your problem in a larger perspective.  How will this negative situation impact my life in six months?  If the answer is:  it won't, then it's a good idea to just manage the problem and move on without pushing so much negative focus into the issue.
  2. EMPATHIZE BEFORE YOU REACT.  You can diffuse a lot by just empathizing.  Empathizing takes listening and listening takes patience.  I empathized with a co-worker last week who had made a pretty big error.  The error was the result of having a really, really bad day and the error was just the cherry on top.  A little empathy kept it from being a stressful encounter and became a productive meeting on how to fix the problem and make sure it doesn't happen again.
  3. DON'T BE PASSIVE, DON'T BE AGGRESSIVE, BE ASSERTIVE.  Yeah, I said it.  If you're always passive, you'll always be following someone else.  If you're too aggressive, no one wants to work with you and you'll stop productivity.  Be assertive.  Speak up when it matters, be strong in your conviction, but keep the the company's best interest in mind and, when you've won or lost the point, get on board and make things happen.
  4. SAY THANK YOU. OFTEN.  Even when it is something small.  Say thank you.  Did you get a report a week early?  Say thank you!  Did someone do something good without being asked?  Recognize them and say thank you. If you don't have a habit of being thankful, do yourself a favor and schedule a 'thank you' break in your calendar.  Spend 5 minutes a week sending thank you emails, notes, texts or calls to people who have helped you.
  5. I'M SORRY IS A MIRACLE PHRASE.  I hate (and I mean hate) people who try to explain away mistakes.  The cosmic forces of the universe did not conspire against you and force you into a bad situation.  When a mistake happens, take the lump, make a plan to fix it and say I'm sorry.  Give me fixes, not excuses and I'll never think less of you.