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August 18, 2017

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Winning at Working

When faced with catching a fly ball, Lucy missed again. "The past got in my eyes," she told Charlie Brown, "I thought I had it, but suddenly I remembered all the others I'd missed."

In two decades in management, I've known hundreds of workplace Lucys. People who let their past get in the way of their future; who self-determine what they're going to do, can do, or might be able to do by what they didn't do, haven't done, or even failed at. They stay aligned to their past like a Peanuts comic strip philosophy.

Past-focused people sabotage themselves with yesterday\s mantras that become today's expectations: "Yeah, we tried that before and it didn't work;" "I got rejected once already so I'm not going to make that mistake again;" or "No one listens to my ideas."

What they miss is this: that may have been true yesterday, but they're in charge of deciding if it's still going to be true for them tomorrow.

While people can't change their past, life is about the choices we still get to make. It's only too late when we give up, stop trying, or believe our negative self-talk press releases.

People who are winning at working know that what happens tomorrow is affected not by yesterday, but by today. They follow a philosophy akin to my refrigerator magnet's counsel, believing "Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life."

They don't dwell on their mistakes, less than optimal performance or occasional missed balls. They accept them, learn from them, and move on. Then, they do whatever they need to do to make sure those mistakes don't happen again.

People who winning at working are focused on what is to come. Their energy is spent figuring out how to do better, not tearing themselves down for yesterday's results.

If you want to be winning at working, don't allow yourself to be hijacked by what promotion you didn't get, the increase you're disappointed in, what potholes slowed you down, which boss didn't like you, or what opportunities you missed out on. Let the past be the past. Focus instead on what you can do now to impact your future.

People who are winning at working drop balls, have less than optimal work occurrences, and make their share of mistakes. But they handle them differently. They decide to do better, taking ball catching lessons if need be and practicing, learning, and growing their skills so the next time the ball is thrown to them, they'll confidently catch it.

Want to be winning at working? Don't listen to Lucy. Be about your future, not your past.

- Nan Russell

(c) 2011 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell's latest book, The Titleless Leader (Career Press, 2012). Other books include: Hitting Your Stride and Nibble Your Way to Success. More about Nan and her work www.nanrussell.com

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