Can versus Should
Meet Mr. Can who wakes every day thankful for the blare of the alarm clock, because it means he is alive and able to get dressed for another day at work. Mr. Can also does not mind rising just a little earlier to get to the gym because he remembers the time when his foot was broken and he could not move without assistance. And, regardless of the tasks he has to complete that day or the contentious personalities he will meet, Mr. Can knows that he has earned his title and position by believing that he could, by making it look easy because of his agreeable can do attitude, and by making everyone else believe it, too.
Mr. Should, on the other hand, works for Mr. Can. Mr. Should is a good employee who arrives promptly at 8:15 A.M. every morning and does not leave a minute before 5:30 P.M. Mr. Should does exactly what he should, no less and no more, and without thinking too hard about what else could be done. The one thing Mr. Should does give a lot of thought to, however, is why he still works for Mr. Can. Mr. Should has completed his share of tasks, has dealt diplomatically with his share of cantankerous colleagues, and has met a majority of his deadlines. Not all on time, but close enough.
The primary difference between Mr. Can and Mr. Should is really more about attitude than aptitude. Mr. Can sees himself as a winner and commands that respect from others, while Mr. Should spends too much time whining. Mr. Can sees himself as a victor in his own mind, regardless of the adversity that faces him, and thus ends up in a self-fulfilling prophecy of victory. Mr. Should has a defeatist attitude, and his perception is his reality.
Some people are just programmed that way: I lose, you win. Someone with the lose/win mentality (aka Mr. Should) essentially has no personal standards, no demands, and no vision for himself or herself. (13) And that is the unfortunate bed in which they lie. Instead of channeling their choices and focusing on their forte, they simply give up before their feet touch the starting line. In their mind, they are the existential nice guy who finishes last when, in fact, they have never even bothered to truly enter the race! They view their world as one tiny microcosm in a macrocosmic universe, replete with go-getters and constant competition, against which they stand no chance regardless of how hard they work. However, most of life is not a competition; at least, not a competition with or against others but perhaps, yes, a competition with yourself. (14)
In athletic competition, participants are not graded against their own capacity and results; rather, they are scored relative to the other competitors. Winning is synonymous with beating. (15) This scoring system may make sense in order to claim a winner, on the field or in a true game. Conversely, competition on the martial arts mat is synonymous with streetwise fighting and self-defense. The end goal is to master your own strength, thereby defeating your opponent and coming through alive, the victor.
Similarly on the corporate track, one's own potential maps the path, and the realization of concrete goals is the prize. Attitude toward challenges and performance on these challenges signals who will be a winner and who will lose. In this sense, success has little to do with the others in your league, apart from how you treat them in order to get things done, and more to do with how you position yourself to achieve results. Results are the carriers of corporate success.
So being a task and results-oriented person myself, completion at the highest degree possible was always my goal - hitting the ball outside of the park, if you will. The pressure was on, and on me, to be exact. I was often caught in a catch-22, when a project with unrealistic deadlines and mis-set expectations hit my desk. I was unwilling to enter into projects that compromised the integrity of my work and my ability to deliver one-hundred percent, yet I believed in always portraying myself with a team-player attitude and at least giving it one-hundred percent, whether or not I truly thought I could get that much back in results. An inevitable catch-22. Yet even when I felt I was getting an eighty percent return, I reminded myself that my eighty percent was more valuable than someone else's one-hundred percent. Simply put, I packed more value in. Valiant efforts, optimism, and work ethic weighed more than wordiness and self-promotion. Although I did not say much, and at times what I did say was unpopular yet necessary, those around me who talked the talk to inflate their position had little more to show than empty results at the end.
A is for attitude. Realize that you can make a difference if you have the courage to work diligently and not lose sight of your purpose, allowing your motivation and atti