Saturday, March 26, 2011

Are You Locked In By Your Own Thinking?

The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.
– Arthur Koestler

The last surviving stage assistant of illusionist Harry Houdini died last week at the age of 103. The Associated Press reported that Dorothy Young was an accomplished dancer who joined Houdini’s company as a teenager after attending an open casting call during a family trip to New York.

During her year with Houdini’s stage show in the mid 1920s, she played the role of “Radio Girl of 1950," emerging from a large mock-up of a radio and performing a dance routine. Young went on to become a professional dancer, performing in several movies in addition to writing a novel about her career.

In his book, Houdini, author Harold Kellock shares a story about Houdini on one of his European tours when Houdini found himself locked in his own thinking. After he had been searched and manacled in a Scottish town jail, the turnkey shut him in a cell and walked away.

Houdini quickly freed himself from his shackles and then tackled the cell lock. But despite all his efforts, the lock would not open. Finally, ever more desperate but completely exhausted, he leaned against the door- and it swung open so unexpectedly that he nearly fell headlong into the corridor. The turnkey had not locked it.

Henry Ford said, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.” And this is the challenge for leaders today – not to allow their thinking to hold them back. Houdini was not locked in a cell by a key but by a belief. Is your business or organization being held back by wrong thinking? Here are three observations to help you identify wrong thinking and turn it around for your good.

Wrong assumptions lead to wrong actions. Houdini assumed the door was locked. Because his assumption was wrong his actions were wrong. When your business or organization is working with faulty information it is a prescription for disaster. In this economy it is more important than ever to make informed, intelligent decisions that will position you for the best possible outcomes.

Wrong actions based upon faulty assumptions will not only impede your progress but will have negative consequences on the morale of your organization. When actions are based on solid facts you will move forward with the confidence and strength that will see you through tough times.

Wrong outlook leads to wrong conclusions. Because Houdini believed the door was locked, he worked tirelessly to open it. Imagine if you will his reaction when he leaned on the door and it opened, needlessly working to solve a problem that did not exist. And this too is the challenge of your leadership – not to spend time and energy solving non-existent problems when your time could be better invested in more profitable ventures.

Hanna More said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” Smart leadership distinguishes between real obstacles and perceived ones and keeps everyone focused. When your business is focused on real challenges it can channel its creative energy so that everyone benefits.

Wrong thinking leads to wrong beliefs. Houdini’s beliefs were mirrored by his conclusions and actions. As long as he believed he was locked in the cell he worked to free himself. Understand this: leadership requires right thinking, and when it is wrong, your actions will be also.

Richard Whatley said, “Everyone wishes to have truth on his side, but it is not everyone that sincerely wishes to be on the side of truth.” How you see yourself, your business, and the circumstances you face must have its roots based on truth. Until your thinking is right you will be like Houdini trying to escape from an unlocked cell that has no power to hold you back.

Are you locked in by your own thinking?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson

No comments:

Post a Comment