One of the amazing takeaways I’ve had from my experience in the Oklahoma chapter Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a saying I’ve heard often:
Carry Your Own Bags
The idea is … what you get out of the experience is what you make of it.
Your experience, happiness and fulfillment is your responsibility. Period.
It’s particularly appropriate within a group of successful entrepreneurs, but it applies to the rest of life as well — from your career, your business, traveling, or doing anything new or novel in your life.
And the effect of this advice has been profound for me — revolutionizing my life and business as I’ve actively employed it.
It forces me to say in any experience:
How will I make the most and best of this?
For instance, we have two toddlers. At one point, they were both in diapers. Sometimes, saying no to a toddler is an experience in hostage negotiation.
It’s tough, physically draining, emotionally exhausting work at times.
One would start sleeping through the night while the other was waking up. Or one would get sick. And then the other would too just as the first was getting better. Or it would rain and we couldn’t let them out in the backyard to burn off some energy. Or [insert every excuse to have a bad day and blame it on someone or something else here].
(Right now, if you’re thinking I was acting like my toddlers, you would be correct.)
And through it all, my wife Lindsey would often say … they are only this small for this time, let’s enjoy it.
To be honest, in the midst of a tough day, I didn’t want to hear that. Instead, I wanted to wallow in the misery of it. And ultimately, deep down, I wanted someone else to carry my bags, my responsibility and fix everything instantly so I could be happier.
But slowly I started realizing how right she was … and I said to myself: I must own my experience. I must make the most of it. Indeed, one day they will leave our nest and I’ll crave having them sit in my lap while I read a book to them.
My thinking, my attitude changed. For the better. And so did my experiences with them.
Now that doesn’t mean we don’t have bad days still. But it totally reframes my experience of it and seeks to move the needle from negative to positive.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty says, “Your thinking is your experience.” And she writes that experts claim 30-40 percent of our experience is what we think about it.
With a slight tweak, this is how I think about Carrying Your Own Bags now:
Your Attitude Is Your Experience.
I’ve done numerous things with a poor and negative attitude and made it worse for myself. I clouded my thinking to only see the bad. And in turn, I’ve spoiled countless experiences in my life as a result.
Bring a terrible attitude into the experience and the likelihood of you having a bad experience is pretty high.
You get what you put into it.
In fact, I’ve written before about how I changed my thinking and approach to attending an annual conference for WordPress entrepreneurs changed from terrible to awesome in one year.
It was all my attitude and approach.
It was completely my responsibility and fault that I previously had a bad time. No one could (or should have) made me happier, because that was totally on me.
So I took a step back, realized if I was going to keep going (my choice by the way), I needed to make some major adjustments.
Since doing that, now I thoroughly enjoy the event and it’s on my “Don’t Miss This” list every year.
Night and day difference … just by my attitude and approach.
So now with any experience (new or otherwise) I seek to switch my attitude from negative to positive. I try to reassess how I could be happier in the midst of a formerly bad time or event. I seek to be more open and flexible. I set aside my bias, past bad experiences and frankly, crankiness, and look to the brighter side and be productive and positive with my time in any experience.
I say to myself: “This is my day. This is my time. How do I make the most of this?”
This is my life. This is my time. And I’m going to carry my own bags through it.
What experiences are you expecting others to carry your baggage through?
What attitudes and approach could you change today to make your experiences better?
And then think how changing just a one thing — your attitude — could drastically make everything look and feel better.
It’s a better way to live.