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“If Benjamin Franklin had picked someone to teach the lessons in self-mastery that he used in his life, he would have picked Bob Burg.”

~ Vic Johnson, Founder AsAManThinketh.net

Focus Only On What You Can Influence

September 26th, 2011 by Bob Burg

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged
to change ourselves.”

~ Viktor Frankl, Concentration Camp Survivor and author of
Man’s Search for Meaning

There are situations we can control and those we cannot. But, one thing we can always control is ourselves and how we respond to situations.

Having lunch with Mike Benton the day before my recent program in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, I got to learn a bit more of his story. Now the co-owner of a large and very successful real estate firm, as well as one of our Certified Go-Giver Coaches, years ago he experienced hitting rock-bottom.

Bankrupt and homeless (though he insisted his bankruptcy would include paying back his creditors which he eventually did — every penny!), he fought his way back. He is now married to his beautiful wife, father of a new baby boy, and once again a business success. Life, for Mike Benton, is again truly pleasant.

“How did you do it, Mike?” I asked. “You lost everything, yet managed to climb back up.”

His response was clear and direct: “I focused only on those areas that I could influence.”

Profound, really. When it comes right down to it, that’s about the only thing one can do, regardless of whether at the top, the bottom or somewhere in-between.

For example, Mike related the following:

  1. I could not control how someone reacted to my situation, but I could influence their response by how I approached them.
  2. I could not control whether my calls, networking and studying would ever get me out of debt, but I could influence my success by how and what I did.
  3. And, when rebuilding my credit and also a new company, I could not control whether or not the banks and business people would ever trust me again. But, I could influence their decisions by how I acted and how I stayed positive regardless of how many No’s I received.”

Of course, it benefits us to be aware of that which we cannot influence or control. After all, some of the things we cannot influence set the context for what we can influence. Let’s be aware of them; not focus on them.

When we focus on that which is within our influence and pour our energy into that, desired results are much more probable.

Let’s focus only on what we can control. Sometimes, it’s the situation. It’s always us!

18 Responses to “Focus Only On What You Can Influence”
  1. Wow….a powerful story and great reminder!

  2. Deb Krier said at 8:10 am on

    Excellent advice! I think we too often get caught up in things we cannot control that we think a situation is helpless. While I may not be able to change someone else’s behavior, I can definitely change my part in it. Sometimes the best thing is to know I can’t do anything and move on.

  3. Kim White said at 8:36 am on

    Once again, we find ourselves witnessing the importance of focus in our lives. Great story! Thanks, Bob.

  4. Linda Ryan said at 8:39 am on

    Exactly what Rich said!
    What an inspiration, as well as great advice. I have the pleasure of knowing Mike Benton NOW and I had no idea what he had gone through in the past. Reading this makes me think even higher of him than I already did, which is saying a lot. Thanks for sharing this Bob. And thanks to our friend Mike for letting you share it. A true inspiration to start off my week :-)

  5. [...] And this morning, I found another gem from Bob: Focus Only On What You Can Influence. [...]

  6. Bob Burg said at 10:28 am on

    Rich, Deb, Kim and Linda, thank you for your kind comments about the article. Yes, Mike is indeed an inspiration and just a truly terrific human being. While I knew he’d been through some significant challenges, I had not realized the extent of them until we had that conversation. And, he presents it very “matter of factly” with a lot of class and grace; never making excuses and taking full responsibility both for what happened…and for what he could control. Really a great human being! Linda, I agree with you; I had always thought very highly of him. Now, even more so!

  7. Mary Silva said at 12:06 pm on

    Thank you so much, Bob. I was on the phone with Linda this am and she told to read your inspirational blog. I have been in the midst of re-building and climbing back up…. and Mike’s story as well as your wisdom were just what I needed to start my week! I look forward to our 5pm call today.

  8. Bob Burg said at 12:48 pm on

    Thank YOU, Mary. And, I KNOW you can do it…and WILL do it!!

  9. Great message Bob, I would guess there are many out there who had a challenging year. It is powerful for them to understand they are not alone!

  10. Bob, thank you for sharing this story. When our lives are disrupted by such events as bankruptcy or homelessness, it allows us the opportunity to stop and think seriously on those things we can change on our way back to success. With laser focus on our top priorities, we become what we set out to do or become. We must stay focus on those things we can influence that will bring us closer to achieving our dreams.

  11. Bob!
    Good morning and yet again I visit and see you’ve hit one right out of the ball park – I often reflect how the genius of Mozart is within his simplicity – a simplicity which cradles depth and nourishing complexities hidden inside grace and elegance – like a garbanzo lovingly cradled in its pod – and when people hear it, they know, absolutely, the truth of what they hear. Well, that’s pretty much how your writing seems to me -the message is deep and real at the same time, no soft shoe dancing about the floor – Pertinent to me just now this blog.
    Useful it is. (Is that Yoda echoing there?)
    Have the best day of your life and I know I don’t have to tell you: Keep communicating.
    Wayne

  12. Such an amazing story about Mike. It is great reminder that no matter how unfair life may seem at times, it is ultimately your decision on how to handle it. You are your own writer of your destiny…why not give it a happy ending

  13. This article brought to mind a piece of wisdom I read a long time ago; alas, I can’t recall the author, which is par for the course more and more these days for this senior citizen. The piece of wisdom goes like this: “You can change your environment or you can change your thinking; guess which one is easier?”

    My congratulations and admiration goes to Mike Benton! He’s a Class Act and would that there would be more like him for all of us to emulate. I feel fortunate to have heard his story; thanks, Bob! Mike, if you’re reading this, call me sometime–I can’t get enough of people like you!

  14. Bob Burg said at 7:34 pm on

    Mark, Karlene, Wayne, Christie and Robert, thank you very much for your kind and insightful feedback. My apologies for not responding directly to your comments but please know I have read them, enjoyed them, and value them greatly! Wayne, thank you for that personal compliment. I’ve never before been compared to Mozart, and truly believe I never will be again. :-) On the other hand, I’ve often been equated with simplicity. Or, was the word they used, “simple”? LOLOL!

  15. Brian said at 7:23 pm on

    Wow Bob what a great blog, you are surely no longer simple LOL! Its something I say all the time in reference to world events, news and politics. I used to be a news junkie and political junkie until I heard someone say once that the news companies make money delivering news that scares people and is generally everything wrong with the world. All things I can do nothing about for the most part…

    What I can spend my time and effort on instead of those things are the people and circumstances I can influence like my friends and family. I stopped reading the news and listening to C-Span and all other political/news stations in December 2009. Since then I have a new perspective and a much more optimistic outlook of the future! That and the Serenity Prayer help me keep things in perspective. Thanks for the post Bob!

  16. Amy Wells said at 3:04 pm on

    Viktor Frankl and Mike Benton, have been blessed.

  17. Powerful.

  18. So many powerful lessons here.

    I think we often forgot that by definition free will means we cannot control how others will react, respond or behave. The closer you are to someone, the easier it is to forget this or take it for granted.

    Someone I know recently was thrown from and stepped on by the horse they’ve been riding for some time. Fortunately, she walked away with only a major bruise (body and pride). She had allowed herself to take a number of small risks in hindsight were not wise; lessening her influence on the situation.

    The takeaway from that incident with respect to this post is that influence is something that is best applied consistently and well to those things that matter.

    Great post Bob.

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