Winners' Wisdom
by Jim Stovall

Out of the Box

Success in life, both personally and professionally, is often a result of thinking of old problems in new ways. Corporate America has become so bureaucratic that quite often the same mistakes are repeated over and over, or the current level of mediocrity is maintained because it becomes the pattern of expectation. Everything remains the way it has always been. If you want to move ahead in your life or your career, examine every element of what you do, and ask yourself, “Why do we perform this particular task in this particular way?”

Please remember that the answer, “Because we have always done it that way” is always the wrong answer. No policy, procedure, habit, or pattern should be maintained simply because it is the way things have always been done. From time to time, you need to re-examine every element of your life, keeping the ones that serve you well and eliminating those that don’t. Even if a thorough examination of every element brings you right back to where you are, this is a positive exercise as it confirms you are on the right track. It’s kind of like having fire insurance when your house does not burn down. It’s still a very valid thing to do.

Every once in a while, from the most extraordinary sources, you or someone around you will come out of left field with an utterly unconventional but totally creative new idea. These are rare in our world today, because familiar things are labeled “right” and unfamiliar things are considered “wrong.” In reality, familiar things are only familiar and unfamiliar things are only unfamiliar. It doesn’t make them right or wrong. When you think of all great inventors, writers, and thinkers, at some point in their life, they questioned conventional wisdom and got out of the box.

Recently, I heard a story about the country music star, Reba McEntire. It seems in her poverty days, long before her great success, she was in the market for a used television. She went to a pawn shop and found that all of the used televisions were still far out of her budget. Then, over in the corner, she spotted two televisions. One was marked $10 and the other was marked $15. Since all of the other TVs were priced at well over $100, she investigated. She discovered that the $10 television had sound but no picture, and the $15 television had picture but no sound.

Conventional wisdom would tell us that she couldn’t buy a working TV within her budget. But Reba got out of the box and, for $25, bought both televisions, set them up in the corner of her home – one atop the other – and used one for sound and the other for the picture. Conventional wisdom would never tell you that if you can’t afford a TV you should simply buy two. When you think you’ve thought of everything, you probably haven’t.

There’s a lot more room outside the box than there is inside the box.

Rich as Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller will always be remembered as one of the richest men of his time. In my opinion, he should be remembered for a statement he made late in his life. Rockefeller said, “Every right comes with a responsibility. Every opportunity comes with an obligation. Every possession comes with a duty.” These ideas do not simply apply to billionaires, but to each of us regardless of the size of our wallet or bank account.

In global terms, all of us are truly rich. We come to understand the power and significance of financial resources when we think beyond ourselves. Every time we receive something, we should not only consider how it improves our lives, but how it can be utilized to improve the lives of people around us. This is a talent and a skill that can improve your life.

Many of Rockefeller’s descendents came to be known as philanthropists. In simple terms, they spent their lives giving away a portion of the fortune amassed by John D. Rockefeller. While on the surface it seems fairly simple to give away money, it becomes more complex when you think about the responsibility, obligation, and duty that Rockefeller referred to. Making sure that the fruit of our labors not only benefits us but those around us brings new importance to the work we do and the return we receive from that work.

One of my mentors once told me, “The best thing you can do for poor people is to not be one of them.” What he meant by this is that some wealthy people help poor people and some do not, but no poor people help poor people. Only when we have met our basic needs and gone beyond that point do we really come into an understanding of what finances can do for the world around us.

Always remember that very few problems can be solved by simply throwing money at them. It takes thought, planning, and dedicated people to solve problems; but these dedicated people generally need tools that are supplied with money. In our society, with the myriad of opportunities before us, it is incumbent upon us all to meet our own needs and find an area where we feel a passion toward meeting the needs of others. This continuous cycle of give-and-take will leave you satisfied and give you the feeling that you are as rich as Rockefeller.

Who Thinks You’re Crazy?

We live in a society that applauds and rewards achievement while, at the same time, we seek to be normal if not obscure. We teach our children to conform and not to stand out. Achievement is the end result of extraordinary and unusual behavior. We all admire the Wright brothers for opening the door to air travel. I wonder how many people who applauded them after their achievement were encouraging to them as they were struggling through failed attempt after failed attempt.

It’s safe to say that if everyone thinks you’re normal in every area of your life, you are probably not on the path to extraordinary achievement. One of my favorite financial authors is a gentleman named Dave Ramsey. Dave encourages his followers to sacrifice today so they can prosper tomorrow. He says, “Live like no one else so that one day you can live like no one else.”

Often, a better barometer of your potential success would be those who criticize you as opposed to those who applaud your normality. Extraordinary and unusual effort is very popular after you achieve greatness, but while you’re on the road, average people will likely criticize and ridicule you for every attempt to stand out from the crowd.

We would all be better served by focusing our current behavior toward our desired goals not toward the approval of our friends and neighbors. Often, those who criticize and ridicule you do so because they either think you will fail or, more likely, they are afraid you will succeed. Your mediocrity makes those around you comfortable and complacent. Your success and achievement creates the seed of discontent in every one you touch. This seed of discontent can cause them to find their own path toward their own goals and eventual success.

Beware of times in your life when everyone thinks you’re doing okay. Success comes when you’re willing to do the things that normal people won’t do. Great success comes when average people think you’re absolutely crazy.

Seek to create an environment where the 95% of the world we would call normal thinks you’re crazy, but the 5% of achievers think you’re normal.

Worry and Concern

One of the most critical elements necessary in order to have a successful personal or professional life is the proper balance between worry and concern. Balance is the key to this area and most areas of life.

People who never have a concern quite likely have no passion, no goals, and no motivation. They are those on the sidelines simply watching life go by if, indeed, they realize that life is going by at all. On the other hand, with the evermore hectic pace of life creating more demands on our time, effort, energy, and attention, the proper amount of concern is often buried in needless, useless, and often destructive worry.

Worry goes beyond the normal activity of being concerned. I like to define concern as proper attention to details that matter along the path toward a meaningful objective. Concern deals with the elements over which you and I have control. I like to think of worry as the needless stress that presses into our lives, dealing with areas over which we have little or no control. Undue worry can rob you of the happiness and joy that surround you both in your work and home life.

One of my favorite 18th Century philosophers once said, “In my life, I have dealt with and struggled through a thousand tragedies. A few of them have actually come to pass.” Most of the things we worry about never happen and those that do happen are seldom, if ever, improved by our needless worry.

When you start feeling a sense of anxiety toward a situation, the answers to the following questions may help you strike a balance between normal concern and needless, harmful worry.

  1. Is my anxiety at all valid, or am I worrying about something that will never happen?

  2. If the issue over which I am feeling anxiety is, indeed, valid, is there anything I can do about it now?

  3. Is this a situation that I can monitor and deal with later without giving up any of my positive options?

  4. Are there people I know who have dealt with or who are dealing with similar situations who might give me insight?

  5. What is the worst thing that can happen, and would it be more detrimental than the worry and anxiety I am putting myself through in the meantime?

As always, I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I do hope to give you a few questions so that you will discover that you have all the answers.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at . Visit for additional information.

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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