“Never tell your problems to anyone...20% don't care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” -Lou Holtz
It was a Saturday morning back in 2005 when I first learned to think like a lion.
I was the tight end on my high school football team and we were in the red zone on offense, close enough to score on 3rd down. The quarterback called a play designed to get me the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, everything you could hope for as a tight end.
I got to the end zone, and as I turned around to look for the ball, the quarterback had already thrown it. I jumped to catch it, but the ball sailed over my outstretched hands and out of bounds. 4th down.
Running off the field, I was really frustrated that we didn't score. I was wide open and he missed me!
One of my coaches approached me on the sideline after the play. I expected him to say, "great route!" or "we'll run that play again and get you next time!"
Instead, he started coaching me on my jumping technique, and how I didn't give myself the best opportunity to go up and get the ball.
I was shocked.
"What was I supposed to do? It wouldn't have mattered, the ball was too high!" I initially thought in my head.
But as I thought more about it, he had taught me one of the most important lessons I will ever learn. One that fortunately was reiterated over and over again throughout my high school football career.
The quarterback threw the pass too high. No question.
But did that impact my ability to jump as high as I possibly could, and give myself the best possible opportunity to catch the ball?
No. The answer is no.
The question I should have asked myself was:
Did I do absolutely everything in my power to positively impact this decision, action, or outcome?
That moment has stuck with me for 12 years, and I'm not expecting that to change.
How to think like a lion: develop the Ownership Mentality
"You shouldn't give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don't care at all." -Marcus Aurelius
Alternatively, in these situations you can ask yourself:
What would a lion do?
I'll tell you what they don't to: they don't blame external circumstances for their problems. They do something about it.
- If a lion outside the pride challenges the pride leader, he either fights them off or he's removed from his pride.
- If three lions challenge him in the same week, he doesn't complain about his luck or the sun being in his eyes. He fights off three lions.
- When it's time to eat, lions have to go find food, so they hunt.
- What if they can't find food? They keep looking.
But most people don't think like a lion. In regards to the unsatisfactory situations in our lives, most young professionals:
- Want to blame outside circumstances
- Don't want to accept responsibility for our actions, let alone our outcomes
- Put off making a change until someday when "we'll have more control"
We blame our boss, our family, our education, our backgrounds, or even the President. Anyone or anything other than ourselves.
The problem is that this assumes our outcomes are outside of our control. This makes us feel powerless, delays or prevents action, and makes us way more likely to give up.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Think like a lion, and you simplify everything.
Think like a lion, you give yourself permission to solve problems.
Think like a lion, and you gain incredible power to make change happen.
Don't like your body? Get in shape- move more and eat better.
Don't like your job? Make it better or change jobs.
Don't like your financial situation? Earn more and save more.
If you were firing off objections and excuses as you read through those questions, you can just stop reading here.
But if you're game, this ownership mentality will change your life. It's changed mine, and you can apply it to any situation in three simple steps.
1. Check your ego at the door
“Ego is the enemy of what you want and of what you have: Of mastering a craft. Of real creative insight. Of working well with others. Of building loyalty and support. Of longevity. Of repeating and retaining your success. It repulses advantages and opportunities. It’s a magnet for enemies and errors." -Ryan Holiday, Ego Is The Enemy
The first step is the hardest and most critical. Checking your ego for this level of ownership requires incredible humility. You have to fight past your initial reaction to blame anything other than yourself.
You can't hope to do this without checking your ego.
So how can you remove your ego from the equation?
According to the blog The Unbounded Spirit, five ways to do this are:
- Realize your size in proportion to the universe
- Realize that you are where you are only through the help of others
- Understand that everyone is just as important as you
- Realize the inherent impermanence of all things
- Realize that humor is the true currency of the universe
When you stop worrying about hurting your confidence and personal pride, the rest becomes easier.
2. Accept responsibility for the outcomes in your life, even when it feels like you shouldn't
"We often attribute the success of others to luck or circumstances and blame our own poor performance on bad luck, circumstances beyond our control, or poorly performing subordinates- anyone but ourselves. Total responsibility for failure is a difficult thing to accept, and taking ownership when things go wrong requires extraordinary humility and courage. But doing just that is an absolute necessity to learning, growing, and improving yourself or any team." -Jocko Willink, former US Navy Seal, Extreme Ownership
Accepting responsibility for everything in your life allows you to do the brutally honest, creative self-assessment required to practice the ownership mentality.
This includes situations in your life where it's hard to imagine how you could have changed the outcome.
You're not always saying "it's my fault". But you are owning your situation, because without that you can never hope to change it.
3. Do something about it
“What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.” -Maya Angelou
If you can accept full responsibility for your life, you've already done what 99% of people can't do- take ownership.
You've got all of the power you need.
Now go do something about it.
Remember: You have a choice
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” -Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
We either choose to let our circumstances limit us, or we can take the power back and make any change we want by applying the ownership mentality.
Whether it's your job, your finances, your relationships, or your overall happiness, I'm challenging you to think more like a lion.
What would happen if everyone in the world took full ownership over their decisions, actions and outcomes? What problems could we solve together?
Disrupt The Cycle
If work and life feel separate, if you get substantially more excited for life outside of work, it's time to make a change.
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