September 2012

“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.”

-Sir Antony Jay

When problem-solving, it’s so easy to fall into the rut of uncreative thinking. We can focus so much on answers and solutions that we lose sight of the question. And if we’re asking the wrong questions, we’ll often end up with the wrong answers.

How creative is your thinking? When faced with a problem, do you immediately turn to the tried-and-true solutions that you’ve always used? Or do you open your mind to new ideas? A good way to do that is to start asking some right questions, like these:

  • Why must it be done this way?
  • What is the root problem?
  • What are the underlying issues?
  • What does this remind me of?
  • What is the opposite?
  • What metaphor or symbol helps to explain it?
  • Why is it important?
  • What’s the hardest or most expensive way to do it?
  • Who has a different perspective on this?
  • What happens if we don’t do it at all?

You get the idea—and you can probably come up with better questions yourself. Physicist Tom Hirschfield observed, “If you don’t ask, ‘Why this?’ often enough, somebody will ask, ‘Why you?’” If you want to think creatively, you must ask good questions. You must challenge the process.

From How Successful People Think

Over the past few weeks I’ve written a lot about personal growth. That’s because it’s so important to me – I believe personal growth is a crucial part in anyone’s journey toward success and significance. But this week, I want to talk about an area of personal growth that we sometimes forget: helping another person grow. And specifically someone else outside of work.

Whenever I write or speak on the subject of leadership, I share that the best leaders are always on the lookout for opportunities to help people in their organizations grow. Helping team members grow is a great way to enhance your own growth and develop together as a team.

But as I’m sure you know, life is about more than work. And influence is felt in more places than the office. Opportunities exist all around to encourage growth in the people we care about outside of work. That means your family, your neighbors, and people in your community can grow as a result of your influence.

What are the keys to encouraging growth in the people you care about?

1. Be Quick to Listen

We live in a world that is clamoring to be heard. Between social media, blogs, video journals, podcasts and traditional media, a lot is being said, but not many are listening. So when you go out of your way to listen – to your children, your neighbor, or that person in the grocery store – you are communicating two things: one, that the person speaking has value, and two, that you want to add value to them. The better your listening skills, the more others will seek you out for just that purpose. And often, people will discover their own path to growth without your having to say a word.

2. Be Quick to Laugh

Comic pianist Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” Nothing helps a person more than someone willing to share a laugh in times of stress, or times of trouble, or times of joy. That’s because laughter creates positivity. And positivity is essential for anyone trying to grow. After all, personal growth often comes with mistakes, bumps, and bruises, so it’s especially helpful when we have someone to help us laugh our way through the rough patches.

3. Be Quick to Encourage

The other day, I heard a wonderful story about a woman who recently passed away, after a nine year battle with a rare form of cancer. At the woman’s memorial service, person after person stood and shared stories about how she had always been quick to listen, quick to laugh, and quick to care for the people around her.

After the service, as her family received visitors, one visitor approached and said, “I want you to know what this woman meant to me. Whenever I saw her, she never failed to tell me I have a good heart. She always said that – ‘You have a good heart.’ She’s the only person who ever told the truth to me about who I really am. For that, I’m grateful.”

Sometimes, we forget to encourage others. Not because we can’t see good in them; usually it’s just that we don’t think to mention it. But it’s important to remember that we often see positive things in others that they don’t see in themselves. They may suspect these truths, but to have someone else come along and honestly point them out is a difference maker in ways we can’t imagine. When someone else sees and says the truth about who someone is capable of being, it goes a long way toward encouraging them to grow into that potential.

Helping others grow is a process – often a slow one. But just because the process is slow, it doesn’t mean that every aspect of it is. You can be quick – today, right now – to listen to, laugh with, and encourage the people you care about. This doesn’t always mean standing at the front of a room; sometimes, it means leaning across the neighbor’s fence. Or kneeling down by the side of your child’s bed. When you are quick to encourage the people you love to grow, you begin to unlock not just their potential, but your own as well.

As a reader of my blog, you’ve probably noticed that growth is something I talk about almost all the time. That’s because I believe intentional personal growth is the key to reaching your potential. And no one grows to become a better leader or entrepreneur by accident. Everything worthwhile is uphill. I love nothing more than to help people like you travel up that hill to become all that you can be.

To make it up the growth slope, we need to figure out the best route and make steady progress on the way up. That often means removing obstacles that are in our way. And today I want to talk about three huge obstacles that might be found on the path to your potential. Leaving them there will slow or even stop your growth progress. Removing them can free you to run toward your growth goals.

What kind of obstacles are these? They have to do with what you believe. I want you to think about this: While it’s true that belief alone rarely gets you where you want to go, belief usually does determine whether you even try to get there. And again and again, I’ve seen the following three negative beliefs stop smart people in their tracks and limit their growth.

As you read these descriptions, ask yourself if you hold any of these beliefs. If you do, you’re being limited by them. When you replace them with positive beliefs and assumptions, you’ll remove limitations and free yourself to grow.

1. Scarcity

How do you view options? Resources? Opportunities? A person with a scarcity mindset believes that those things are limited. That we’re all competing for a finite number of resources or options. As my friend Kevin Myers put it, they see the world as a pie with only a certain number of slices, and everybody is competing to get some.

For some people, this belief motivates them to be their best in order to grab their fair share of the pie. But for many, a belief in scarcity demotivates them, because they believe the odds of winning one of only a few slices simply aren’t in their favor.

2. Insecurity

If scarcity says the world doesn’t have enough, insecurity says I’m not enough. Insecurity is a minimizing of one’s self – it’s seeing your abilities, talents, and strengths as deficient in some way. When you believe you’re not good or talented enough, that’s an obstacle to growth. After all, why pursue any goal if you don’t think you’re capable of reaching it? Insecure people may recognize chances to advance and grow, but they don’t believe in their ability to seize those opportunities.

3. Powerlessness

A belief in powerlessness comes out of the assumption that we have no ability to affect our world. Powerlessness often begins with a wound – perhaps from someone in authority ignoring or dismissing your voice – but it hardens over time into a mentality that cannot recognize personal responsibility for anything that happens in life.

For the powerless person, there’s always someone else who should have acted, someone else who should take the blame. This passive way of seeing the world can lead to a victim mentality. If someone else is always in control, then the victim is always at the mercy of those in charge. People who feel powerless are less likely to pursue growth because they believe their growth ultimately won’t matter - that their skills will never be recognized by the people who hold all of the power.



The good news is you don’t have to live with negative beliefs. In fact, just by recognizing them within yourself, you are in position to take the first step of growth. And that is to choose to believe differently. This is something you can right now, today. Your beliefs are your choice. So consider these strategies:

If you struggle with a belief in scarcity, choose instead to practice abundance thinking. Instead of seeing only limited options or resources, choose to believe that they are abundant. In other words, if you see others grabbing all the pieces of the pie, you don’t need to panic – just bake another pie! Believers in abundance choose to focus on possibilities, and this enables them to pursue them.

If you struggle with insecurity, practice confident thinking. Choose to believe that you do have something to offer. Every life is unique; you are the only person on earth who brings your skills, talents, and experiences to the table. That’s worth something! Believing in your abilities empowers you to use them – to succeed and to grow.

If you struggle with a feeling of powerlessness, embrace responsibility. That means owning what you can do and releasing what you can’t. No one can control everything, but with the things you can control, take full responsibility. Or, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, do the best you can with what you have, where you are.


Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” The difference between the life you have and the life you want is often just a matter of how you think and what you believe. If you confront and change your beliefs, you’ll clear the way on your uphill journey of growth.