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We’ve all been there; we are human after all. Each of us has this inner-voice, our moral compass that guides us; and, depending on the circumstances and the opportunities that present themselves, just about every single one of us has been tempted at one time or another to cross over to the dark side — especially when we’ve lost our self-confidence and lost belief in our own ability to achieve. We begin to question everything we’ve ever been taught, everything we thought we knew was right with the world. Yup, been there, done that!

Well, at moments like those, I say, go ahead, “desperate times call for desperate measures” . . . when in doubt, lie, cheat and steal — do whatever it takes to win!Hold on, now, don’t judge me quite yet; it’s not like it sounds.
It’s easy these days to lose track of our priorities and our values. Stress can wear on a person, and we can easily forget who we are when we are constantly being pressured to perform, provide, or produce results. Anthony Robbins has been known to say: “In life you need either inspiration or desperation.” For most of us, it’s not until we’ve been met head on with the one or the other that we are really prompted to make a change — to get off our proverbial arses, so to speak. Few things such as these motivate us to leave the status quo behind and aspire to greater goals.

But, quite often when desperate situations present themselves, our natural survival instincts kick in; and, this is when we have a tendency to rationalize our poor decisions. We justify our bad behavior by telling ourselves things, such as: “they’re not smart enough to figure it out, chances are pretty good I won’t ever get caught”; or, “they have plenty of money, the little bit I’m taking will never be missed”; or, “they’re so careless with their things, they’re just begging to be taught a lesson”.

I quote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who said: “In athletics, there’s always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you’re not cheating. I think that’s just a quirk of human nature.” Not only do I agree with Kareem’s theory, but I believe it applies to all walks of life. There are always going to be crucial moments in our lives that define us; they can either make us or break us based upon how we decide to proceed. I say that it’s okay to take desperate measures, but that term doesn’t necessarily carry with it a negative connotation. There are certain circumstances when it’s actually okay to lie, cheat, and steal.

Wait for it . . . I’m almost there. Before you go ballistic, give me just a minute more to explain.

Lie! A little bit of self-deception isn’t always a bad thing. We all practice it to some degree. Tell yourself over and over again that you have what it takes to make it – even if you think it’s a lie in the beginning. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else is going to. Giving yourself positive affirmations will gradually build up your self-esteem. Eventually, you will start to believe it, and then, you will begin to live it. Many of us have used this method to help us improve our performance or persuade others to think as we do. People will tolerate a lot of things, but one thing that they despise most in others is self-doubt. Make others believe you are confident in yourself and they will become confident in you, as well.

Cheat! Toss conventional rules and thinking aside. Imagine things that seem unimaginable – imagine without boundaries. Use your lateral thinking to solve problems that seem insurmountable. I can’t think of a better example of “thinking outside the box” than during the then-impending potential disaster of April 13, 1970. Astronauts and Mission Control faced a formidable task. They had a very limited amount of time to write and test completely new procedures in the simulator before having to provide them to the crew members for implementation on board Apollo 13 — floating 200,000 miles from Earth; and the crew’s lives depended on them being successful.

Astronaut, Commander, James Lovell, accounts, “We would have died of the exhaust from our own lungs if Mission Control hadn’t come up with a marvelous fix. The trouble was the square lithium hydroxide canisters from the CM [Command Module] would not fit the round openings of those in the LM [Lunar Module] environmental system.”

The three-member crew struggled to breathe while carbon dioxide built up to dangerous levels. Feverishly, those on the ground worked to figure out a way to literally put “a square peg in a round hole” using only objects they knew the astronauts had available to them. Nothing short of miraculous, they created a way to attach a CM canister to the LM system by using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape — all materials on board the spacecraft. “The contraption wasn’t very handsome,” said Lovell, “but it worked. It was a great improvisation — and a fine example of cooperation between ground and space.”

Even after all these years, I’m still in awe of this story. There’s no doubt, those astronauts cheated death at that time due to the collective ability to solve a problem through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that was not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not have been obtainable if they were to have used only traditional logic and conventional wisdom.

Steal! I’m not suggesting you take someone else’s belongings, or that you take credit for someone else’s work; that’s just wrong. But, it’s okay to use common knowledge and proven methods for your own sake. “Imitation is the best form of flattery.” Let others inspire you. Study, observe, and take suggestions from those who have achieved their greatest accomplishments. Steal or borrow ideas from others that have brought them obvious successes – it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel.

I am approached hundreds of times a year by those who believe they have created the “next best restaurant concept”; or, have an idea for a restaurant “that’s never been thought of before”; or, have brought a “new menu item” to the table that’s going to rock the world. I hate to keep bursting their bubble, but I always tell them that there is very little in the restaurant industry that hasn’t already been thought of. What’s wrong with taking something simple that already exists and making it the best it can be? You don’t need to open a fast food joint that has the next “secret sauce”, just make a really good burger! I promise you, if it’s good, they will come!

Look, the bottom line is that temptation is out there and nothing about that is ever going to change. But, you can prepare for it. You can take control. There’s only one decision that you truly get to make in life that nobody else can make for you and nobody else can take away from you — unless you let them, and that is: “What kind of person am I going to be?” Once you’ve made this decision, once you’ve taken the first step in defining who you are and presenting yourself to others the way you want to be seen, everything else will fall into place.

I’m not promising that success will happen overnight. It won’t always be easy to keep the faith; but, if those desperate moments should arise once again when you begin to experience that dreaded fear of failure or slight lack of self-confidence (and, take it from me, those feelings are bound to come creeping back in from time-to-time), you’ll be ready for it if you just keep in mind what I have told you: When in doubt, lie, cheat and steal! Trust me, it’s okay — really!


References:
Proverb by Charles Caleb Colton, 1820: “Imitation is the sincerest of flattery”; www.phrases.org.uk
“Lateral Thinking”; the term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono; www.enwikipedia.org
“Desperate times call for desperate measures”; this phrase likely originates with a saying of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates; www.enwikipedia.org
Apollo Expeditions to the Moon; Chapter 13.1; “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” By James A. Lovell; http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-350/ch-13-1.html

 

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