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Seven Steps to Cultivate a “Whatever It Takes” Attitude

As the 2017 school year began, I was scheduled to speak in back-to-back cities and campuses. Little did I know that this little tour would have some speed bumps.

Our first stop was Georgia Southern University. It’s a four-hour drive to Statesboro from Atlanta, so Matt, Timothy and I rented a car and headed south to GSU. As I sat in the backseat working on my slide deck, I suddenly heard Matt say, “Shoot!” Then, boom! We had hit a deer running across the freeway. We felt horrible, but the deer was gone and after examining the damage to our car, we saw that it was gone too. It overheated and was not drivable. We looked up car rental stores, but most were closed, since it was a Sunday afternoon. We finally found one, but the distance would prevent us from arriving on time. So, I looked up Uber to see if there might be a driver out in the middle of nowhere, between Macon and Statesboro. Believe it or not, there was. Our driver arrived and Timothy and I climbed in and made it to our event right on time. Matt met us later with a new rental car—and all was well.

From there, my colleague, Cody, and I flew to Virginia for two events at Liberty University. We got as far as Charlotte and things went sour. Our flight to Lynchburg was delayed and delayed again. Finally, after a long wait, the flight was canceled. We scurried to a long line of travelers to get rebooked. Nothing else was available—on any airline. We seemed stuck. We then researched the drive time from Charlotte to Lynchburg. Three and a half hours. Long, but doable. We ran to the car rental counter to grab a car. Nothing doing. None of the companies had any available cars at the airport. So, we once again contacted Uber. A driver came and we asked him to take us to a nearby car rental location. In route, we discovered there were no cars anywhere in the entire state that day, thanks to the eclipse. Evidently, tons of people had traveled to Charlotte and rented a car to see the eclipse. So, I sheepishly asked our driver if he’d be willing to drive us to Virginia. He replied he didn’t think his car would make it that far; plus, he had to be home early in the morning.

We seemed to be out of options.

But then our driver looked back at us and said, “Well, there is a U-Haul Truck Rental in town.” Smiling, I placed a call and sure enough, there was a U-Haul truck available. Not a small truck. A big one. Yet, it was our best option. In short, Cody and I rented the truck, tossed our small carry-on bags in the back and drove for hours up to Lynchburg in a moving truck. I’m sure we looked hilarious.

Whatever It Takes

I share this to remind you of the attitude good leaders learn to embrace. It’s not new, but it is rare. It’s a “do whatever it takes” to get the job done mindset. Be creative. Be tenacious. Be unconventional to achieve the goal. On that trip, I was reminded of the ingredients that go into such a recipe for accomplishing a goal:

1. Swallow your pride.

You can only adopt a “whatever it takes” attitude if you stop caring what you look like in the process. How many times do we stop short of a goal because we think if we tried something (especially if it’s different) and it goes wrong, we’ll look stupid.

2. Think function over form.

This is a second cousin to the first item on the list, but I’ve found I can think better if I purely focus on what has to get done, rather than how we’ve done it in the past. We were able to consider using a U-Haul truck when we asked: How do people transport “stuff” on a road trip, rather than: How have we traveled in the past?

3. Invite people into the thought process who are outside of the process.

Outsiders can almost always see solutions that insiders cannot. Reed Hastings got the idea for Netflix when he found himself continually returning late video-cassettes to Blockbuster Videos. He knew there had to be a way to do this without a physical store for rentals. Blockbuster did not see the vision. Reed benefited. They lost.

4. Throw away the “box.”

Usually, we fail to see creative solutions because we get stuck thinking the way we have in the past. We use old “paradigms” that constrict our options. What if you tossed out all your “boxes” and started with fluid paradigms? For example, Johannes Gutenberg lived in a day where every book or manuscript was hand-written. Mr. Gutenberg had worked in a wine press, and asked himself: “What if we could press words, not wine?” The printing press was the result.

5. Celebrate your goal, not your role.

Too often, people get caught up on the specific role they’ll play in the solution, and they become trapped into small thinking. What if I don’t play a significant part? What if someone looks smarter than me? Instead, focus on the end goal, the big picture, then it won’t matter as much which specific position each person plays. Further, this gives you a sense of drive and ambition you don’t get otherwise.

6. Consider the cost-benefit.

Ultimately, every leader must weigh out the pros and cons of a decision. When you come up with an “out-of-the-box” solution, wise leaders consider the following questions: Is it worth it to try this? What do we give up? What do we gain? And finally, does the price outweigh the benefit? If so, stop now. If not—give it everything you’ve got.

7. Commit to the outcome.

Part of the “whatever it takes” mindset is about exertion. Once you’ve looked at the challenge from a new angle, come up with a creative solution and determined that it’s worth it, you must commit to the end result you’re after—regardless of the price tag.

That crazy week ended with a long trip to Redding, California, where I spoke at an event. It happened to be the day before our Growing Leaders and Growing Leaders Initiative board meeting, which was an all-day event. So I had to take a red-eye that night to make our 8:00 a.m. meeting the next day. I landed, rented a hotel room for an hour to shower, and was bright-eyed and bushy tailed for our meeting. You gotta do whatever it takes.


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