The Choice is Yours: Are you Making the Right One?

Culture, Strategy

It’s a Friday morning in late September and I’m making a 2.5 hour commute to Deerwood for a conference. I’m not happy about it – and here are all of my reasons why:

  1. I fell extremely behind at work because I was out of the office for 4 days the previous week for a conference. The last thing I needed was another Friday out of the office.
  2. My wheels were already spinning from my week at INBOUND in Boston; I didn’t need another day full of learning and inspiration.
  3. Two and a half hours (both ways) is a long way to drive for an afternoon-long conference.
  4. I assumed the quality of the speakers wouldn’t compare to the quality of those I just witnessed at a national conference.

Long story short, I felt like I was wasting my time.

Then, a series of awesome things happened that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, completely change my perspective.

  1. Minnesota FallIt was the most beautiful drive of my life. Every shade of gold, orange and red could be seen on the trees lining the long windy roads into the North woods. It happens quickly, but some of nature’s most glorious moments happen in Minnesota in the Fall – and, if you don’t take time to appreciate, you’ll miss them completely.
  2. The conference’s kick-off keynote reminded me of the awesome-ness of the industry I chose to build a career in. Stefan Mumaw shared some of today’s most inspiring and successful ad campaigns, reminding me once again that I am where I am supposed to be.
  3. Willow Sweeney, the 2nd speaker on my agenda, was someone I had never heard of, but her topic, Creating a Top 20 Workplace Culture: Discovering the Power of Choice, intrigued me. The hour or so I spent soaking in her teachings is one I will never forget.  

    THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT! If #3 wouldn’t have occurred, I am confident I wouldn’t have recognized numbers 1 and 2 above as “awesome”. I also wouldn’t have realized that reasons 1-4 above were bullshit – seriously, one of the worst cases of “Poor Me” I’ve seen in a while. I also wouldn’t have written this blog.

Live Above the Line

live above the lineShe began by introducing a concept she called Top 20s and Bottom 80s and the line that exists between them – above the line are your Top 20s, and below the line are your Bottom 80s.

Top 20s: When you are in the top 20s your thinking is working – it’s serving your best interests. Here are some of the adjectives used to describe how you feel when you are in your Top 20s: energetic, passionate, productive, patient, confident, optimistic, happy and fun. Time goes by quickly and you enjoy every minute of it.

Bottom 80s: Your thinking isn’t working when you are in the Bottom 80s – and it’s unhealthy. People – you and me both – tend to be more pessimistic, tired, whiney, sensitive (why are you looking at me like that?) and think people, businesses and the system are all out to get us. Things aren’t fair and we are ready to complain or lash out at any moment.

Now, you won’t be above the line all the time, and that’s okay. The trick is to start knowing where you are. Why? Because where you are affects how you live your life. It affects how you think, respond, learn, communicate, love, and so on. Plus, and this is sort of scary, your mental habits develop above and below the line – so where you spend your time is where you build your habits.

The beauty of all of this is, we get to be in control. So, once we know where we are – above or below the line – we can make a conscious effort to change. Plus, the Universe is going to continually throw us invitations to go above or below the line – and it is up to us to decide if we are going to RSVP.

Then I Got to Thinking…

After Willow blew my mind, I got to thinking. I bet there are things I could do/use to invite myself to an “Above the Line Party”. So, I started a list. And my plan is to hang that list up at work, or have it tucked in my purse so I can reference it whenever I catch myself below the line. If you believe in the Power of Choice, I’d encourage you to start a list too, and I’d love to hear what you put on it! I’ll go first:

(the following are in no particular order)

  • Talk Dirty – by Jason Derulo, feat. 2 Chainz
    Music is actually really powerful for me, so I’ve created a playlist that I can turn to when I fall below the line. But, this is my #1.
  • Cup of Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, with a few large Marshmallows
  • An intense run – long or short, but one that makes me exhausted
    I use this one mostly when I want to punish myself for being below the line.
  • An extra-long, 2-armed hug from my mom, my dad or my Ben
  • A snuggle session with my Toby (ideally in front of a fire with Harry Potter, NCIS or Law & Order: SVU on TV)
  • This YouTube video of a girl blaming a ghost for drawing on a fish tank:
  • This YouTube video of a girl not afraid of monsters:
  • This YouTube video of Kid President:
  • Harry Potter anything – audiobook recording, the real book, or a movie
  • Chocolate chip pancakes, chicken dumpling soup, DQ blizzard or Heavenly Treats Cookies
  • A live concert
    (Preferably Hanson, but many other talents will work.)

Which item I pull from the list depends on how far below the line I am, and the circumstances I find myself in.

Closing Remarks

I’ll leave you with this final thought: You have to look out for your day, because no one else is going to for you. So, go – live your life above the line and see what happens, I bet it will be amazing.


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