In today’s episode, I share seven ways to make sure we are living a life by design and focus on our inside game, which will, eventually, reflect on our outside game. We delve into the importance of being aware that situations are neutral; our attitude towards them matters. You’ll also learn how to use the G.I.G.O model in your favor — Greatness In, Greatness Out.
Rob Shallenberger: Welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is your host, Rob Shallenberger. And I’m so excited that we have the chance to visit together today via this podcast format. Now, this one’s going to be a little different because I realized that over the last two months, we’ve done a lot of interviews, but we really haven’t had this chance to just share some of the things that have been on our mind. So, during this podcast, I really want to focus on some things that have had a big impact in my life. And I’m confident that anybody that applies and does some of these things that we talked about today will also experience all the benefits that come from them. And that’s why if you notice the title of the podcast is to “Focus on the Inside Game.” So, think about that phrase. Because when we focus on the inside game – in other words, when we’re really focused on taking care of ourselves – the outside game will improve. So, maybe think of it from this perspective: Each one of us – as we go through life – is writing our story. In other words, it’s a combination of our relationships, how we show up for ourselves, how we show up in the workplace, what impact we’re having on our neighbors, the community, etc. All of this comes together to make our story. So, every day that we wake up is a gift because we still have a chance to add to our story. And if you’ve been around us for very long, then you know another analogy that I like to use, and that is the dash. So, when we talk about writing our story, we’re also writing our dash. And what I mean by that is if you look at a headstone, you almost always see a birthdate, a death date, and in between, you see the dash. And what I love is that our dash is open-ended. In other words, when we wake up this morning, and hopefully tomorrow, we still have the opportunity to write our dash. And that’s why the mantra “Do what matters” most is that we will either lead a life by design or we will live a life by default – one is very intentional, the other just randomly happens.
So, today I want to share seven ways in which we can write our story, our dash, or lead a life by design by focusing on our inside game. So, number one, to focus on the inside game is to realize that the situation is always neutral; it’s our attitude that matters. My friend, Paul Jenkins just shared this earlier in the week, and I love this thought, that the situation is always neutral, what does matter is our attitude. Let me explain what I mean by that. Any particular situation, good or bad, that particular situation could always be worse and it could always be better. It’s an interesting way to look at situations. Any situation always could be worse and always could be better, what is not neutral is our attitude. And I love this fighter pilot analogy, if you will. If you sit in any cockpit of an airplane, you’re going to notice that the gate that sits right in front of us is called the attitude indicator. It’s the most important instrument in the airplane. The attitude indicator is what orients the plane to the horizon. So, in other words, you can tell whether your nose is up, whether it’s down, whether you’re in the bank to the left or to the right – it’s your attitude relative to the horizon. Now, interesting that they would call it attitude. So, what happens when you push the nose down in a plane? Well, your attitude indicator goes down and you’re obviously going towards the ground. So, if your nose is down, eventually we’re going to hit the ground. Interestingly, if we pull the nose up, we gain altitude. As we gain altitude, we start to see the bigger picture. And I thought, “Oh man, what a great analogy.” What is our attitude? What does our attitude look like in any given situation? Because if we pull the nose up, so to speak, if we have a positive attitude, we’re going to see with a better perspective. If we always have the “woe is me” or the negative attitude, then eventually, we’re pointed towards the ground and we know what happens. I think back to my days in the F16, I would sit in the backseat periodically as an instructor pilot. And every once in a while, when the student was distracted or wasn’t really paying attention, you’d say, “Hey, check your attitude.” Interesting question or interesting phrase, isn’t it? To me, that statement can apply to us in our individual lives. It’s a good reminder that sometimes even on a daily basis, check our attitude regardless of the situation, is our nose pointed up or down?
So, as we talk about focusing on the inside game, well, you just look at a lot of people through history in life, and our attitude can have a huge impact regardless of the situation we’re put in. I mean, let me just give you one case in point here. Take Viktor Frankl – here he is in this war-torn country, the Jewish nation has been ravaged, and he’s in this camp, these awful camps where they’re losing people left and right. Well, he wrote this amazing book. Look it up. If you look for Viktor Frankl, you’ll find his book. He talks about this very point that it was literally someone’s attitude that kept them alive in many cases, kept them going day to day rather than just giving up, which many actually did. So, as we talk about focusing on the inside game, I’ve got to start with that. It’s our attitude that matters because although situations can come and go, regardless of how bad it is, it could always be worse and it could always be better.
Number two, GI – GO. If you’ve been through our eight-week BLC sessions, our Breakthrough Leadership Conference, you’re familiar with this term. A lot of people say, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” But we can reverse that so that it becomes, “Greatness In, Greatness Out.” And we just had a mastermind last week with our VIP coaching clients, and my father was on the mastermind, and he reminded me of this. And this is why I love this discussion that we’re having today because life ebbs and flows; we have peaks, we have valleys. Sometimes we’re doing really good in an area, and then it slipped out of our daily habits. Well, one of the things in the spirit of GI – GO (Greatness In, Greatness Out) that my father reminded us of is the value in the importance of audiobooks and podcasts. And it reminded me there’s this phrase I always used to use but I haven’t used it recently, and that is to “make your car a university.” So, how often are you in your car? How much time a day do you spend driving? Let’s just take 30 minutes as an average, if you’re spending 30 minutes in your car per day, the average audiobook is between three to four hours. So, that means you’re getting through a book a week if you’re using that 30 minutes to listen to an audiobook. That’s powerful. That’s 52 books in a year. And this is one of the most game-changing habits because we are a product of what we put into our minds. Our minds are like a computer, we can only ask for a file if the file exists on the computer. We can only draw on what is uploaded into our brain. And so this is why “greatness in, greatness out” is one of those inside game focus areas is we’ve got to be very intentional about what we’re uploading to our brain. And that comes in the courses that we attend, books that we read, and audiobooks. And the reason I bring this up again here is because I have all these audiobooks but I let that slip out of my daily habits, instead I listen to music and other things like that. Well, just this week, because of that mastermind and because of what my father shared, I downloaded a new audiobook and I’m almost done with it after just a couple of trips down into the valley where we live. And man, it’s been awesome. It’s been such a great refreshment, if you will, as we think about this inside game. So, that’s number two, GI – GO.
As we think specifically about that, I would invite you as I finalize this thought to ask yourself what is your reading goal for this year? Especially if you were to stretch yourself. At a minimum, a book a month. Now, how about when we start including audiobooks? Can you double that? What is your goal? All right, so here we go. Number one: Situation is neutral, it’s our attitude that matters. Number two: GI – GO. Number three should not be a surprise to anyone that’s familiar with Becoming Your Best, and that is pre-week planning. As we talk about the inside game, if you haven’t read Do What Matters Most yet, I’m doing as much as I can to encourage you to read it. These three habits of vision, roles and goals, and premium planning are total game changers, and they’re about the inside game as well as the outside game. I’m just going to use an example. And I’ve been doing pre-planning now for 23 yours and I’ve missed a few weeks along the way, just like all of us have. But by and large, this is a habit I live by. My life would devolve into total chaos without pre-week planning. And that, for those who may not be familiar with it, is when we divide our life into the five to seven roles that matter most to us. And every week, sit down over the weekend and ask what can we do that matters most in that role, and then assign a time to it. Now, the most important role – hence, the inside game – is that personal role. So, this week, just as an example, as part of that personal role, and I’m sitting here on a Friday morning recording this. So, as I look back, as I focused on the inside game this week in that personal role: I’ve done yoga three out of the five days, I’ve ran, walked, and it’s so valuable to be out in nature, read, I listened to the one audiobook that I just got done talking about, prayer and scripture study has been an important part of the week. All of that is within that personal role. And that is why it is the key role in pre-werk planning. Yet, we’re talking about the inside game, that doesn’t mean the other roles aren’t important – they are, they’re very important.
I’ll just give you one example. And I know we’re talking about the inside game but that’s the whole point is that when we work on the inside game, it impacts in a very positive way the outside game. So, yesterday, I took my daughter, Lana, on a four-wheeler ride and we ended up going to Kneaders just to have a little dessert. It didn’t take long. It was a fun daddy-daughter date. It would not have happened without pre-week planning. And I consider that a part of my inside game. For those that have not currently developed the habit of pre-week planning or maybe just do it in your professional role only, I will say this about the habit: It’s a lot easier to put a nail into a post if you have the right tool, such as a hammer or a nail gun. Likewise, it’s a lot easier to do pre-week planning and develop the habit when a person has the right tools, meaning either the Becoming Your Best planner or the online extension, either place allows us and gives us the opportunity to do pre-week planning, online or physical planner. If you don’t have one and would like one, just go to our website becomingyourbest.com and you can get it there. If you want the extension, dowhatmattersmostapp.com. That’s number three.
Number four. This is an interesting one, and I really want you and invite you to think about this. And I’m going to put a little caveat on this statement: “We are not our thoughts –” now, I’m gonna say this in bold letters – “initially.” Eventually, we are or we do become have our thoughts on what we ultimately dwell upon. Let me give you an example. Our results in life do come from the thoughts that we dwell on and spend the time on, but we are not our thoughts. So, let me explain what I mean by that. How often have you had a thought come into your mind and you think, “Where in the world did that thought come from? That is not me.”? I think we’ve all had that, and we have it on a daily basis, don’t we? So, the question is, what happens when those non-productive thoughts come in, the ones that are self-sabotaging, the ones that are negative, where you’re looking at the person in the mirror and saying, “Oh, man, that’s looking a little rough.” Or “I can’t do that.” Or whatever the negative thought is that we all experience on a daily basis. So, here’s what I mean by that statement that we are not our thoughts. It’s not the random thought that defines us; it’s the thoughts that we continue to give airtime to, that ultimately will define us – the ones that we let take the stage in our mind and that we dwell on because now the proverb is correct: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” In other words, we need to be asking what thoughts come into our minds and then what will we do with those thoughts? So, when you have that self-defeating thought come into your mind – because we will, on a daily basis – for some people, it’s health; for some people, it’s relationships; others, it’s money. Whatever it is, ask yourself these questions: Does that thought serve me well? And if not, which, in the case of a negative thought the answer is pretty much, almost always no. If not, what’s the thought that serves me better? Isn’t that a powerful way to approach a thought? When a thought comes into my mind, I put it through that filter that’s there, “Does that thought serve me well?” “Hmm, okay, no.” “So, what’s the thought that serves me better?” And that’s the thought then that I want to dwell on.
For example, maybe a person thinks, “Oh, you know what? This never works out for me.” Hence, why social media is such a difficult thing for so many people, we inherently start to compare. So, there’s the thought, “Oh, nothing ever works out for me.” Now, the question, the filter, “Does that thought serve us well?” “No, that doesn’t serve us well, does it?” “Nothing ever works out for me,” that’s not a statement we want to dwell on. Instead, we might start asking, “What can I do in these particular roles that would have a big impact? What can I do to put greatness in? Maybe I just don’t have that skill set yet, what can I do to acquire or get that skill set?” Can you see how that thought is so much more productive? So, that’s what I mean when I say, “We are not our thoughts.” And then in bold letters, “initially.” When the random thought comes, we have a choice to put it through the filter.
So, we’ve gone through four, we’ve got just a couple more to go. Number five, on this one, because it’s our podcast, I can share this with no shame and unabashedly because in our culture, I feel like sometimes we’re walking on eggshells – we can’t even hardly share what we feel without getting lambasted from every side. We can’t have our own opinion because people just attack and attack. Well, I hope that I can share this one in the spirit of “This is my experience, it’s my opinion.” And I’m just going to invite. Because we’re talking about working on the inner game, how in the world could I not bring that up without talking about a connection to God? And I’m talking about not even per se a religion here; I’m talking about a deep, meaningful, and real personal connection with God. It is the most important thing in my life. It’s what gives me purpose, hope, and direction. It’s hard not to miss it. It seems like there’s this big quest now for enlightenment. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, that’s fine. But I see some of these people looking for all of this enlightenment in these different places without God, without looking up. And that’s their journey. I respect their journey, that’s fine. But from my personal experience, the overwhelming and amazing love and peace that’s there is very real when we have that personal connection to God. And I’ll say this because I know that everyone listening to this is in a different place, you have different backgrounds and perspectives. We all have our own stories. It’s been interesting that there are times where I’ll periodically mention this depending on the group that I’m with. And it’s very frequent. It’s often someone will come up quietly afterwards and say, “How? I quit going to church a long time ago. You’ve talked about this, I can see it. How do you connect with God? Is it going to church? How do you do it?” And there are a lot of ways you could answer that, but my answer simply is this: “Look, start by making it personal.”
One of my favorite scriptures says this, “Learn of me, listen to my words, and you shall find peace in me.” So, I find that reading in the scriptures brings an incredible amount of peace into my life. And second is to pray. Now, for some people, this might be a huge part of your life. For others, maybe this is a totally foreign concept. How do you even do it? Well just start having a real conversation with Him. Start by asking questions. And it’s amazing how the feelings start to come, they will show up. The peace comes. And I don’t know how, again, we could talk about winning the inner game without that connection to God. So, that’s why I put that at this place. And actually, that should be number one on the list, in my opinion. I just happen to have it here is number five.
Number six and seven, and then we’re going to wrap up this podcast. Six is to invest in yourself. Think about this: Who is your coach or your mentor? Michael Jordan had five basketball coaches alone. One specifically for dribbling, another shooting, another for defense, and so on. Do you think that had an impact on him becoming who he became? So, who’s our coach or our mentor? How much more successful can we be when there’s someone there to point out our blind spots or the things that we might be missing? The other question is when we talk about investing in ourselves, it’s not what we don’t know that should concern us; it’s what we don’t know that we don’t know that should concern us. Because if we don’t know that we don’t even know it, we can go out and get it. If there’s something that I don’t know, like, “Hey, I don’t know how to fly fish.” I can go out and get that skill set. It’ll take time, practice, and effort, but I can get it. If there’s something that’s a blind spot I’m not even aware of that I have, then how do I go out and get that knowledge. And that’s why attending different courses, investing in yourself to do that is such an important skill set because it’s putting greatness in, and then we can start expecting greatness out. I love the way our friend, Stephen Covey, described this: Sharpening the Saw. By investing in ourselves, joining a mastermind, a coaching group – it’s very intentional, it’s sharpening our saw. That’s what it’s all about. And finally, number seven, and then we’ll do a quick recap here because I know that numbers can get lost. And for me, I always like summaries – so, we’ll come back and do a summary. Number seven is we’re talking about the inside game, yet people matter. People matter – that’s number seven. We say “inside game,” but others are a huge part of our inside game. In fact, the number one predictor of longevity is meaningful relationships.
So, I was on a walk the other day and I started thinking, “Who are the key influencers in my life?” What would be your answer to that question? Who are the key influencers in your life? For me, it was my father and my mother and my grandparents on both sides, Christ; there are some other people through history that have had a big impact, by reading their biographies; certain friends, they know who they are if they’re listening to this. They’ve had big impacts in my life. And I think what would my life had been like without them? There’s no way I’m succeeding in my inside game without them. I mean, maybe, sure I could pick up the things but at some point, you want to surround yourself with energy givers. These are the people who cheer us on, that want to see us succeed. Stay close to those people when you find them because they’re not easy to find. At some point, my experience has been that we will all appreciate and need that external support as part of our internal game. So, when you find that person that is your cheerleader, that really wants to see you succeed, boy, stay close to that person, it’s an important part of our internal success. And this group I mentioned earlier, these key influencers, maybe consider having a mental internal mastermind. If you were to visualize quietly, sitting in a room with nobody else around you, these people gather at a table, whether they’re alive or not, and you bring to them an important question, what advice would they give you? I remember learning about that years ago, and I’ve done it a few times, and it’s always a powerful experience. It takes 20-30 minutes maybe. It’s amazing the ideas that come when we quiet our mind and actually put it out there and start thinking about that.
So, let me do a recap. These are the seven ways that I shared, and certainly there are more, but these are some of the ones that have been on my mind to focus on our inside game so that, in turn, our outside game will improve. Number one, in the recap – situation is neutral, it’s our attitude that matters. Number two, GI – GO (Greatness In, Greatness Out). Number three, pre-week planning, leading a life by design. Number four, we are not our thoughts, and then with the bold letters, initially. Number five is to connect with God, make that a very personal relationship. Number six is to invest in yourself. And number seven is “people matter.” Look at the relationships of the people in our lives, and especially those people that cheer us on, and stay close to them.
So, I hope this has been helpful for you. This has been on my mind a lot lately. It’s had a big impact in my life. Focusing on the internal game has had a big impact on the outside or the external game. So, let’s come back to where we started. We talked about the fact that each one of us is writing our story. We’re writing our dash, it’s open-ended. Tomorrow when we wake up, hopefully, that’s a gift. So, how do we become very intentional in writing our dash? And again, we will either lead a life by design or we will live a life by default. And I want to end with this quote, many of you have heard this before or read it in one of our books from Ella Wilcox, and she said, “One ship drives east and another drives west by the selfsame winds that blow. ‘Tis the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way they’ll go.”
So, what I hope this podcast has done for us is helped us in some way to set our sails, to focus on that inside game so that we can catch that figurative wind that exists at all of our backs. Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you have a great rest of your day and a wonderful week.
Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father