Updated: Nov 6, 2019
With the vast amount of information floating around the atmosphere, there are occasional nuggets that simply connect with you. You’re introduced to it and time stops, like an external force telling you of the moment’s importance in your life. You digest the moment and for an unknown reason, you know this piece of information will change your thought and behavior. The longer you consider the nugget of information, the more you internalize it until you can no longer tell the difference between the tidbit of information and your own beliefs.
This has happened to me a few times in my professional life. Especially early on in my life as an entrepreneur. Information and advice crossed my path daily, forcing me to hone a critical decision-making skill to quickly sort the good from the bad. Unfortunately, I can’t articulate the methodology I used to determine this ranked order. I just know that it “felt” right. Something about the message resonated within me, causing me to pause and reflect. Some would say that this decision was made in the limbic system part of the brain. The part of the brain that influences behavior but does not control language.
This partially explains why certain pieces of information “felt” right, even though I couldn’t explain why. For me, it happened early in my entrepreneurial career and it came from a long-time mentor. After seeing me struggle with starting a business and all of the chaos surrounding it, he made a small comment. A comment that any other time I may have glanced over. But the stress of pouring my heart into the project really connected with the five words he spoke.
“Control what you can control.” Simple, but elegant. He saw that I had been beating my head against a wall trying to solve problems that were outside my control. He saw the frustration that comes from running into obstacles. He saw what I failed to see. I was trying to change my circumstances, not focus on how to operate within them.
These five words resonated with me. They gave me clarity for everything that came next in my professional and personal life. His words cut through the fog of chaos and provided guidance. To him, it was a matter of fact remark designed to make me feel good about my decisions. He didn’t know it would become the best small business advice I ever received.
So as a way of paying it forward, I say to you, control what you can control. Look at the entire situation and spend your creative and critical thinking skills on operating within the limits of your surroundings. This perspective makes every situation easier for me to understand. More importantly, it helps mitigate my stress and grow my success.