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Lesson: Organizational hierarchies prevent leaders from getting essential truths and candid opinions, especially if they contradict opinions contrary to what followers think the leader wants to hear. We struggle because we get told only a portion of what we need to know. We must demand, “Look, I need to hear what I’m missing. Tell me what you’re not telling me.” And then we must listen, pivot, and most importantly, never punish or ostracize bearers of bad news.


The below lesson is an excerpt from my recently released Amazon #1 Best Seller, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Books. 


As we have learned before, it’s never easy to shift one’s perspective. It’s even more difficult for successful and powerful people. As we also learned earlier, a CEO never tells a great joke but that everyone always laughs.


As a CEO, I knew two things with certainty. I was never going to get handed a cold cup of coffee and I was never going to hear the whole truth. Moreover, the personal paradigms that led to my success were rarely challenged. Consequently, I had little or no incentive to change my views and adopt others. But all perspectives have a limited shelf life. The world is changing too fast for even the most effective viewpoints to remain fixed.


Now, I had the additional problem of being incarcerated. The more limited your options, the more difficult it is to change one’s perspective. After all, one of the conventional strategies for adopting a new paradigm is to reframe a situation from “I Have To” into “I Get To.” Well, in prison there are hundreds of “I Have To’s” and almost zero “I Get To’s.” Still, I found some.


Changing the words we use has the power to reveal agency we didn’t know we had. When greeted by a fellow inmate with, “How ya doing?” I would respond with a chuckle and a hearty “Fabulous!” Or “Fantastic!” They were constantly laughing at what they considered my naivety.


What I believe they missed is that reality is constructed by how we see the world. For example, when I spoke about my goals, I would always express them in done terms or acting as if they had already been accomplished.  Sometimes it’s called fake it till you make it. By whatever term, the practice contradicts hopelessness, activates agency, and increases the odds that I will actually accomplish my goals, as impossible as they may be.


So, I would repeatedly state things like, “After the Fourth Circuit reverses my case, we are going to have one incredible party at the Bistro!” I actually did manifest that one into existence!


I also stated constantly, “Right after I rebuild MICG #2 and restore our team and shareholders, 60 Minutes is going to love that story!” I am working crazy hard on this one today, and I now I want it to be on Tucker instead of 60 Minutes.


I constantly reminded myself that speaking success into existence, even when appearing nearly impossible, had worked over and over for me in my life: Division 1 basketball scholarship at 5’9”, building a billion-dollar investment firm from scratch in a blue-collar town, and then reversing the court decisions 5 times and removing 2 federal judges, all handled pro se (without attorneys).


We just need to figure out the truth, shift our perspective, and repeatedly tell ourselves we will win.


Have a great week!


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