Success Strategies - January/February - 2021

How’s that Working for You?

“Dr. Phil” McGraw is famous for asking his TV show guests what they’re doing about a particular problem in their life. Then when he hears their reply, he asks, “How’s that working for you?” That’s his way of illuminating that the approach they’ve persisted in taking is not working.

Do you ever feel like that? You hit a brick wall or get lame results from your efforts that don’t justify your hard work, but then you keep taking the same path.

It’s like the old joke about the rednecks who opened a watermelon business with one pickup truck. They bought watermelons for $2 and sold them for $1. When they realized they were losing money, one of them suggested, “Looks like we need to put on another truck; so, we can make it up in volume!”

So, what’s your issue? Is it your profit margins, people problems, safety problems, damage, waste, loss, taxes, fees, regulations, work-life conflicts, competition taking your customers, reworks, or customer complaints? What’s bugging you? OK, now what have you been doing about it? How’s that working for you?

If you’re digging a hole that isn’t going where you want it to go, what’s your first best step? Correct! Stop Digging! Until you stop, nothing is going to improve.

What do you need to stop doing, at least for now, so you can recognize better ways to achieve what you want?

For example, let’s say you habitually meet with someone for coffee, and that person has a pessimistic, negative attitude. Every time you meet with them, they introduce cloud into your day. Even though they may be a longstanding relationship, or you feel sympathetic toward them, if they’re bringing you down or taking you off the path to your best, maybe it’s time to reduce your contact with them and increase your time spent with someone who’s more positive.

Many years ago, my sister Kathy spent a lot of time with an extremely negative friend. She invited her friend to my house on a few occasions. One night, I told Kathy, “You are, of course, always welcome here. But I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring your cynical friend around anymore.” “Why?!!” she challenged. I replied, “Because your friend always takes the worst-case, most pessimistic view on things, and I end up debating her to preserve my positive mindset. I don’t enjoy that, and I’d rather not be around her.” Kathy said, “If you reject my friend, then you reject me.” I replied, “No, if you insist that your friend is more important to you than I am, then it is you who has chosen to reject me. You are still welcome here.”

We should take proactive action when choosing the types of people we spend time with because, by default, our mindset will become a reflection of them. I recommend being proactive, not reactive.

The same is true with other habits. Do you tend to let your paperwork accumulate, justifying it as a way to only deal with it once? But it grows into an all-consuming workload that eventually forces you to come in early or spend a whole day catching up with it? If that’s you, you know that it’s not affecting just that entire day, but it’s affecting every day. As you see the growing workload, you grow a corresponding nervousness and anxiety inside yourself. Clearly, anxiety and dread won’t make it better or reduce your guilt. This process doesn’t work. In fact, it increases your problem. How’s that working for you?

A healthier process for dealing with paperwork is to separate it by type: Work Orders, Bills, Parts Lists, Inventories, Legal or Regulatory Reports, Payroll, Correspondence, etc. When we divide things into categories, we can then make better decisions about which item is most urgent and which is most important. Never spend $100-time on a $1-activity. Save the less important ones for times that aren’t otherwise productive.

Have you been a long-time member of a group that no longer fits your needs or goals? Maybe it’s time to rethink the level of your involvement. Loyalty is one thing, but the value it has to you or your shop is also important. Maybe you should join a different group that will better fit your current circumstances? In or out, there should be a reason that makes sense for you.

What about the next generation? Who have you been betting on to step up and be your next great leader, problem solver, fixer, or expert? How’s that working for you? Did you choose the right candidate? Have they shown evidence that “it’s in there,” and your energies will soon pay off in profits or improvements? Don’t keep betting on non-winners. But be sure to hedge your bets by spending some time with those you haven’t yet bet on.

What information sources do you look to most often? If you’re seeking the truth, you’re going to need more than one point of view. Do you tune into a news channel that is primarily a cynical criticism-fest? Some of the major news sources tend to be more like late-night talk shows that play a perpetual game of “ain’t it awful?” If you watch that kind of channel every day, your attitude and your moods will reflect it. Broaden your inputs and notice which is angry and which is thoughtful.

In short, I’m asking you to take control of your habitual patterns and, therefore, your life. You need to be continually asking, “How’s that working for me?”


Jim Cathcart is a business growth mentor. He helps achievers and success-seekers to streamline their lives and invigorate their businesses. A long-time friend of ATRA and contributor to GEARS, you can reach Jim at jim@cathcart.com. Based in Austin, Texas, and on the internet, almost everywhere you look!