Here is my challenge to each of you. For the next 45 days, I want you to join me in an exercise that will transform your life.
My grandfather taught me a valuable lesson. He taught me that “you get what you focus on” and he taught me to make a list every day of what IS working.
A simple exercise that is life altering.
That lesson not only saved my life, but it helped me to create amazing abundance, and a life worth living.
So, for the next 45 days, here is what I ask:
Make a list of what is working in your life. Personally and professionally.
Danielle strutted into the gym. It was an important playoff game and at 17, she loved being the starting point guard. During the first half, Danielle played her best game all year. Her team was much faster in the open court and ran up the score using a fast break that allowed Danielle’s speed, athleticism and ball-handling abilities to shine.
She delighted in the cheers from the crowd and the praise from teammates each time she led a play that resulted in a score. By halftime, the 11th grader was on top of the world. “Game on!” she said as she waltzed onto the court for the second half, cocky and ill prepared for what was about to happen.
The other team had made a major adjustment at halftime, having paid close attention to how Danielle’s team moved the ball down the court.
At the start of the second half, Danielle grabbed the ball and drove down the court. Two opposing players waited as she crossed half court on the right side and quickly moved into a formation called a “trap.” Danielle lost the ball to the defenders, who in turn quickly scored.
She was furious! Danielle took the ball and this time ran straight toward the defenders, convinced that if she was a little faster she could get past the defenders who were again poised to set a trap. This time, instead of driving toward them, Danielle made the mistake of stepping backward after they had formed the trap. The referee blew the whistle. She knew better than to step backward across the court because it was an illegal move, resulting in the ball being turned over to the opposing team, which then scored.
Danielle fumed. “I’ll try harder this time, I’ll show them, I’ll get by them,” she thought. This time she ran even faster down the court, and as soon as the defenders stepped up into the trap, she ran straight at them, but failed to squeeze between them before it was fully set.
The referee blew his whistle, charging Danielle with an offensive foul, which again put the ball into the opposing team’s hands.
These same patterns repeated themselves numerous times, and each time the defenders either stole the ball from her in the trap, or she fouled a player or dribbled the ball out of bounds. Danielle ignored the directions being shouted by Coach Miller and refused to pass the ball to her teammates.
For some reason, she returned to the same right side of the court, with the same two players blocking her from advancing toward the goal. Danielle and her team watched their lead dwindle and then disappear completely. Suddenly they were behind!
With Danielle in meltdown and unable to lead the team effectively, the coach took her out of the game and put her on the bench. She was incensed! If only she’d had a few more tries, she believed she could’ve beaten the defenders.
The game ended with Danielle’s team losing. “It’s Coach Miller’s fault!” she declared as she slammed out of the gym. During the first half, she ran her game and they were winning. “The second half, the coach takes me out, and we lose!” she lamented. Danielle couldn’t believe he had taken her out of the game.
That weekend, Danielle drove over to her grandpa’s house, certain he’d let her vent about the loss. Danielle talked and talked about her coach. “He was mean. He was unfair. He took me out of the game!” The angry girl was convinced she could’ve turned the game around if only she’d had more opportunities to try.
Grandpa listened quietly and then smiled with an all-knowing look on his face.
Finally, he said, “Let me ask you a question. As you were driving down the court the first half, what were you focused on?”
“Scoring,” Danielle said haughtily.
“And in the second half, what were you focused on?”
“Well, getting past those freaking defenders!” she answered irritably.
Her grandfather smiled and said softly, “Danielle, you get what you focus on.”
Danielle sat there, not knowing what to say. “What the hell did that mean?” she wondered.
He continued, “You get what you focus on. In the first half of the game, you were focused on scoring. As soon as you became fixated on the obstacle in your way, in this case the defenders, you could no longer see the goal, scoring. You took your eye off the goal, and focused on the obstacle. Guess what happened? You got more obstacles and they eventually led to defeat.”
Danielle was confused. Her grandfather was talking about her focus, rather than blaming the coach. Sensing her feelings, he asked another question. “Why, after failing several times, didn’t you change your focus back to scoring?”
“Well, because I was doing what had always worked!” said Danielle, frustrated.“Yes, but they changed the game. They changed how they played you. Why did you remain focused on the defenders, and not refocus on scoring?”
Danielle was beginning to see his point, as much as she hated to admit it.
He continued, “This situation is a perfect metaphor for life. When things are working in our favor, God sometimes changes the game to help us grow into all that we are capable of becoming. The key to navigating life’s curve balls is to remember that you get what you focus on. When the game changes, don’t beat your head against the wall trying to do it the way you’ve always done it. Focus on your goal, and find another way.”
Danielle’s mouth fell open. In this particular game, when the defenders started to block her on the right hand side of front court, all she had to do was shift the ball from her right hand to her left and go to the other side of the court.
It wasn’t any more complicated than that. She could have easily shifted the ball and dribbled down the left side of the court, or passed the ball to her teammates before the opponent set the trap on her. Yet she didn’t see any of these options because she was focused on the obstacle, not the goal.
His words repeated in her head. “You get what you focus on. Focus on the goal, not the obstacle.”
As he let Danielle absorb the message, he also wanted her to understand how broadly to apply its wisdom. “Do you know where I first learned this valuable lesson? I was a young man in a Wisconsin community hit hard by the Great Depression. I noticed that about 80 percent of the people in our town – well, their lives got worse as the depression wore on. But for the other 20 percent or so, even in those difficult times, their lives got better.”
He added, “I was fascinated and wondered what the difference was between the 80 percent and the 20 percent. For the longest time, I couldn’t find a difference. They came from similar backgrounds, some had jobs and some didn’t, some had kids and some didn’t. Some were single and others were married. Some went to church and others didn’t. They were the same kind of people in the same situation, but some fared well while others didn’t.” He looked off to a different time and place, nodding.
“Finally I figured it out. During one of the worst times in our nation’s history – a time that was incredibly scary – most people focused on their fear and anger. But those 20 percent, well those people…no matter what happened, they looked for the good. They focused on their goals, and how they could take advantage of the difficult circumstances and leverage them to good. That’s when I realized that we have to be careful what we focus on, because that’s what we get.”
Grandpa reached over and gave Danielle a great big hug, the kind that only a grandpa can. “Danielle, life has already thrown you several obstacles and there will be more. Remain focused on what you want and be careful, because you will get what you focus on.”
A few months later, Grandpa’s advice returned not only to save Danielle, but also to transform the course of her life.
It was the end of her junior year and something unusual had happened. There’d been an armed robbery at a local restaurant and one of Danielle’s friends, Pam, was held up at gunpoint. Pam and a coworker had been marched into the freezer before the robbers took off with the cash.
Danielle was worried and sought Pam out at school. When Pam saw Danielle, she pulled her aside and said, “Hey girl, I need to talk to you. I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think one of the gunmen was your brother Jimmy. I couldn’t see his face because he had a mask on, but I recognized his voice and he knew my name.”
Danielle was stunned. Even though her brother was involved with drugs, she’d never seen him with a gun. Armed robbery?
Danielle thought about it all afternoon. Maybe Pam was right. Jimmy seemed to be flush with cash lately. She felt she had to do something. If he had really committed armed robbery, someone could have gotten hurt. So on the way home from school, she went by the police station to tell what she knew.
The officer asked a few questions about her brother. Then he sat her down in a chair and said, “Based on what you’re telling me and the evidence we found at the restaurant, it’s a strong possibility that your brother participated in this crime. However, because you’re a minor, we need permission from your parents to take your statement.”
Danielle drove home with incredible sadness in her heart. Although going to the police was the right thing to do, she couldn’t believe her brother would participate in armed robbery. If it were true, he had to be held accountable for his actions.
He waited for her parents to come home. As her mom walked in the door, Danielle told her about her trip to the police station. Even though she didn’t know exactly what to expect, she was unprepared for her mother’s angry reaction.
As she finished explaining that the cops wanted her mom to sign a form so they could use Danielle’s statement, her mother flew into a rage. “Why’d you do that?” she roared.“Because someone could have gotten hurt,” Danielle stammered, “And what Jimmy did was wrong.”
Danielle’s mother was livid. “You care more about your stupid friends than this family! I can’t believe you did this to us!”
The day’s drinking fueled her mom’s rants. She continued to throw out ugly and hurtful comments at Danielle…-You are stupid-You are terrible-You only care about yourself-You ain’t no good
As Danielle listened to the poisonous words hurled at her, she felt caught between the part of herself that believed her mom’s mean words, and the part that knew she had done the right thing and didn’t deserve this tirade.
Danielle didn’t know what to believe, but she knew it was a no-win situation and started to walk away. This time her mother followed her, not yet ready to quell the fight between them.
“Get back here!” She grabbed Danielle’s face as she spewed obscenities at her daughter. “You didn’t answer me. How could you do this?” she screamed.“Because it was the right thing to do, Mom! Someone, including Jimmy, could have been killed!” she retorted.
As the words left her mouth, Danielle saw her mom’s fist coming toward her face. As the fist connected with Danielle’s jaw, the teenager’s body flew across the room and landed against the wall. She was stunned and dazed.
Danielle touched her face, and wiped off the blood that was trickling down from where a ring had torn her skin. Every cell in her body called for her to get up and slug her mother as hard as she could. She’d never hit either parent before, but she was ready now.
Seconds later, she started up off the floor. Fists ready and gritting her teeth, Danielle set her body to launch the attack. Immediately, her mother bent down in a perfect fighter’s pose, waiting for Danielle to hit back and unleash the rage that had loomed silently for years.
As Danielle started toward her mom with a burning, shaking anger, a familiar voice inside her heart cried out: “You get what you focus on, Danielle. Focus on your future. This is another obstacle. You are better than this.”
She knew it was Gramps. His gentle voice caused her to pause.
Danielle slowly took a step back, with every bit of effort she could muster. All of the anger, pain and hurt were begging to be unleashed in a way that would be irreversible. Astoundingly, she lowered her clenched fists and turned her attention away from her mother, looking upward and then closing her eyes.
Knowing that her future rested on this very decision, she thought carefully about her next move. If she fought her mother, she would not stop. It would be a fight to the death. This was a defining moment in her life.
The choice became clear. She had to leave. It was her only hope of accomplishing her goal of building a better life. Danielle walked past her mother and into her room, hurriedly packing as many clothes as her gym bag would carry. As the girl walked out, she turned to her mother and said, “I don’t deserve to be treated this way. I won’t be back.”
Danielle had no plan for how she would survive. But she knew there was something better out there and it was time to find it. From a payphone at the corner store, she called Gramps. She told him how his words had saved her that day, but it was like he already knew. He told her, “You can stay with me, honey. You made the right decision.”
For the rest of the year, he helped her put her life together so she could graduate high school. Every day he would ask, “Danielle, what are you focused on?”“Graduation, Gramps!” she’d say. “And then what?”
“College,” Danielle would say.
“That’s my girl,” the elder wise man would say, his love showing for his beloved granddaughter.
Danielle vowed to never forget her grandpa’s words and how they had led her out of a life of violence and eventually to college with a future filled with hope.Although she believed in her own inner strength and no longer felt like a victim, she still carried a sense that there was more to do: mountains to climb, challenges to face.
As she packed her car to leave for college, opening a new phase in her life, she felt in control of her destiny for the first time. “You get what you focus on,” she said as she hugged her grandfather goodbye and jumped into her car.
Silently, an angel gently pushed the young girl’s car forward with a blessing and whispered into the old man’s ear, “Well done.”
With the soulfulness of Wayne Dyer and the entrepreneurial spirit of Richard Branson, Terri is a world-class business growth expert, social impact investor, and serial entrepreneur whose purpose is to inspire potential. With her own money, Terri built a portfolio of purposeful companies, Share On Purpose, Inc., and now invests in and creates mission-driven start-ups.
In a career that spans more than 25 years, Terri has launched, owned, sold, rebranded or turned around more than 40 companies. She is known for her game-changing business models and personal transformation frameworks.
Everything she built came directly from a wellspring of perseverance and soulful resiliency, which she openly shares through her first purposeful brand, Succeed On Purpose.