Career Success Advice From a Fourth Grader

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that my wife Cathy had shoulder replacement surgery on November 1.  I’m happy to report that she is doing well.  Her rehabbing is ahead of schedule.

Cathy is a volunteer reading tutor at Carson Elementary School here in Denver.  One of her friends volunteers at one of the best private elementary schools in the bay area.   

Cathy loves the kids and they love her.  After her surgery, she received a big envelope full of hand drawn get well cards from her students.  One of them contained some great career success advice – and demonstrated a lot of wisdom on the part of a fourth grader.

The card was a drawing of a three dimensional cube (I was fascinated by those things and drew them over and over when I was a kid) made using highlighters, with these words inside the cube…

Ms. Cathy:
This drawing is made of highlighters to remind you to always looks at all the highlights in life and not the downers.

Wow! Out of the mouths of babes, huh?  The young man or woman who wrote the card forgot to sign it, so I can’t tell you his or her name.  But who cares?  It’s the message that counts.  This young person may grow up to be a career success coach.

Tweet 37 in my career advice book Success Tweets says, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it.  Don’t dwell on the negative, use it as a springboard to action and creativity.”  In other words, “always look at the highlights in life, not the downers.

Successful people have a habit of focusing on the positive and putting the negative out of their minds.  Positive habits like this are an important key to career success.  Habits are like muscles.  The more you use them, the stronger they get.  Dan Robey is the King of Positive Habits.  His eBook, The Power of Positive Habits, is one of my go-to books when I need to give myself a little boost.  You can get a copy at

Dan’s book is based on the idea of cognitive restructuring.  According to Dan, cognitive restructuring is learning to identify your personal cycle of negative thoughts, habits, and routines and replacing them with positive thoughts, habits, and routines that will provide you with lifelong benefits.   Or, as our fourth grader says, “always look at the highlights in life, not the downers.”

Today, I’d like to discuss an important positive habit – proactively managing your stress.  When I was a kid about a million years ago, there was a popular song.  I believe it was a show tune.  A couple of the lines went like this…

You’ve got to ac – cen – tu – ate the positive, and
e — lim — in – ate the negative.

I was thinking about that song the other day because during Cathy’s surgery I was rereading Evelyn Brooks’ book on stress management, called Forget Your Troubles: Enjoy Your Life Today.  Shoulder replacement surgery is a very stressful event.

Evelyn suggests that you get S.M.A.R.T. about managing stress…

• S Smash the negative.
• M Maximize the positive.
• A Act.
• R Relax.
• T Target your next action.

Sounds a lot like the advice in the song.  As they say, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”  And, more importantly, as a career success coach, I agree.  It doesn’t matter if you “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative,” “smash the negative and maximize the positive,” or do a bit of “cognitive restructuring,” you’ll be on your way to managing your stress and becoming a life and career success.

Stuff happens as you go through life; stressful stuff; positive stuff, negative stuff, happy stuff, sad stuff, frustrating stuff.  The important thing is not what happens, but how you react to it.  In other words, smash your negative thoughts; replace them with positive ones.  Don’t dwell on the negative, use it as a springboard to action and creativity.  Maximize the positive in your life by creating positive habits and routines.  When something goes well, take the time to celebrate.  You deserve it.  And, small celebrations when you succeed are a positive habit that will put you in a positive frame of mind, which in turn, will help you create more life and career successes.

I have given away over 3,000 copies of the eBook version of Success Tweets.  Get your free copy at  I mention this because I’m celebrating.  I want to get the positive message in Success Tweets into the hands of as many people as I can.  I’m accentuating the positive, or if you prefer, maximizing the positive.  You might say that 3,000 people choosing to receive a free eBook is not a reason for a huge celebration; but I do – and I’m following my own career success advice by doing some cognitive restructuring – creating a habit of celebrating small successes.  Celebrating small wins is a great positive habit for me.  It will help me manage my stress and not get overwhelmed by the negatives that will invariably creep into my life.  I’m sticking to it.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  As a fourth grader advised Cathy, successful people look at the highlights in life and not the downers.  Follow the advice in Tweet 37 in Success Tweets.  “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it.  Don’t dwell on the negative, use it as a springboard to action and creativity.”  Get competent.  Create positive personal impact.  Become an outstanding performer and a dynamic communicator.  Build strong relationships with the important people in your life.  Positive habits will help you do all of these.  Smash the negatives in your life and create positive thoughts, habits and routines.  Use the negatives that come your way as learning experiences, and positive thoughts, habits and routines to create small victories.  Treat these small victories as a reason for celebration.  Celebrating small victories is a good way to keep things in perspective and build the resilience necessary for dealing with the tough times – and for ac – cen – tu – ating the positive, and e – lim –in – ating the negative.  Take it from a career success coach, positive habits are powerful and will help you become the life and career success you deserve to be.

That’s the career advice prompted by a fourth grader’s get well card for my wife.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site on September 1.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  To celebrate the grand opening, I’m giving away a new career advice book I’ve written called I Want YOU…To Succeed in Your Corporate Climb.  You can find out about the membership site and get the career advice in I Want YOU… for free by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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