The Positive Man

Is it really possible to change the course of our lives just by thinking?

One of the best bits of running a storage operation such as Admiral is the huge range of people I get to talk with.

Not that I bother or hassle them, you understand.   Many have important business matters to attend to and don’t want to sit around having a natter with me for a few minutes.  They come in, put in or remove something from storage, and they are on their way.

Of course I utterly respect this, but some people do welcome the chance to sit down and talk.

Thus it was that I found myself talking with a long term client who I have watched change and grow over the years.  Not grow in terms of height (obviously), but rather in terms of personality and, if I can put it this way, “style”.

It’s not so much that he wears sharper suits or has his hair cut more often, but rather that he seems much more assured in his life and much happier with himself.  Plus I also know that his business has thrived over the years.

So when the opportunity came along for me to talk with him recently in a relaxed way, towards the end of the working day, I slipped in a comment about how well he was looking, and how good it had been to see how his business has grown.

He thanked me for the compliment – although that made me feel a little guilty for I had meant it as much as an enquiry as a compliment – and then he agreed that yes things had gone well for him over the years.

“Tell me,” I ventured, “what do you put your success down to?  I mean, I see lots of people in business using our facilities.  Some do well, some don’t, some always seem to stay pretty much the same.  Do you have a secret for your success?”

“Actually I do,” he replied, somewhat to my surprise – for normally if I ever try and ask people about their success they tend to be very vague, or put it down to luck, or simple hard work.  “But if I tell you, it is going to sound very weird, and you won’t believe it.”

Now that did intrigue me and I certainly wanted him to continue, so I assured my customer that I would certainly take whatever it was that he was going to tell me very seriously, and I would not doubt a single word he said.

He nodded, thought for a minute, and then continued.

“People get success in life through various different routes,” he said.  “Some are lucky – they are in the right place at the right time.  Maybe they win the lottery.  Maybe they happen to have one idea that just works perfectly.    Likewise some people are unlucky, and suffer a terrible accident which could have happened to anyone but happened to them.

“But a few people believe that it is possible to create your own luck.   And that is what the philosophy of ‘positive thinking’ is about – creating your own luck.   The trouble is ‘positive thinking’ is now a phrase that is often laughed at, because the notion that you can change your luck just by thinking seems ludicrous.

“Curiously though it does work – and it has worked for me, and for many other people I know.”

This really did interest me, for my customer is certainly not a man that you would associate with some vague generalisations or half-baked pseudo psychological mumbo jumbo.  He is a successful businessman.  So was he saying he had achieved all that he got simply by thinking positively?

“It is slightly more than that, but positive thinking is the key.  What many people who don’t understand positive thinking do, is say, ‘All right, I don’t believe it, but I will try it.  I want to win the lottery.   Then they don’t win, and they say, ‘I knew that positive thinking was a load of rubbish’.

“What they should be doing is three things.  First, taking a much more general point, second really believing this is going to work and third giving it time while staying positively focussed on the idea.   After all, if positive thinking gives you what you want in six months, it is still better than never having it at all.   And it hardly takes any effort just to think about it.

“May I ask,” I then said, rather hesitantly, “what sort of things you use positive thinking to get?”

“I focus on the vaguest improvements of all.  I think when I first started, I tried specifics, like ‘I will get this job’, or ‘we’ll sell more than ever before this week.’  But then I read a book on positive thinking and realised what I should be saying to myself was ‘Something good will happen this week.’  Gradually I changed that to ‘Something good will happen today’.   And finally, I got to ‘Something amazing will happen today’.”

“And does it?” I asked, trying to keep the incredulity out of my voice.

“Most of the time, yes.  The something amazing can be different each time, but yes it happens.”

“But how can that be?” I wanted to know.

“Search me,” said my customer.  “Maybe because I do positive thinking, I have a positive demeanour or a positive look, or a I remember to smile more, people find me a nicer person to do business with, so I get more business.  Maybe the positive thinking encourages me to go out into the world more, to listen to people more, to do different things, to take on new experiences, all of which give the option for something amazing to happen.  Maybe it gives me an open mind, rather than a closed outlook on life.

“What I really think is that it just makes me a nicer sort of guy, the sort of guy people like to do business with, because the positive thinking makes me appear more open.

“But here’s the real point.  I don’t mind telling you this, because I know that 99 percent of the people I tell, will never do anything about it.  They won’t change their lives, and so they don’t give positive thinking a chance.   So I guess positive thinking only works for a small number of people – the people who are willing to change their lives by thinking something wonderful will happen, and then allowing themselves to accept the ‘something’ and benefit from it.

“So telling people about it makes no difference because most of them won’t take up the option, thus leaving the tiny minority of us to benefit.

He put down his coffee, and stood.  “I leave it with you.  As I say, only one in a hundred do it, but by and large they are the one’s having a great time.”

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125


The secret

What is the secret of being a brilliant painter, and what’s the easiest way to annoy such a person?

One of the great benefits of running a storage facility is that one gets to meet so many different people.

Of course, I suspect this is true in terms of lots of different lines of business, but over the years I really have felt this is a great bonus in my line of work.

For example, one of my clients is an artist.  As such he draws hundreds of sketches as preliminaries for the art that he finally exhibits in galleries, and, as he explained to me, for many years he just kept them in his studio attached to his house.

That approach was disrupted when he had burglars. They weren’t after his creative works, it seems, but they did turn everything upside down and knocked over various items, destroying a valuable collection of original work.  Not his best works, of course, which were in galleries or had been sold, but still important elements in the development of these works.

As a result he decided to store his sketches, bringing in a new collection of items every few months and adding them to the store.

I have been watching this continue for some time, but it was only recently that I was able to talk to him about his life as an artist. Indeed I had feared that my questions would be horribly naive and might upset my customer through being the sort of thing that everyone asks all the time, but in fact he was most happy to answer me.

“The point,” he said, “is not that people ask how I work, but rather they tell me that they have done some painting or drawing.  Here am I earning my living as an artist and they imply that they could do it, but haven’t really bothered.  As if I were to tell the garage mechanic that I have used a spanner.

“But they are not the worst. The worst ones are the people who tell me their aunt or their grandmother or someone has done a few paintings, and would I like to see?  It drives me mad.  When I go to see someone else’s pictures I go to the Royal Academy exhibition in the summer.  I don’t go and look at the work of a person’s grandmother.”

I sat quietly for a moment and allowed my customer to calm down.  I was interested – but first and foremost he is my customer, and I didn’t want to say the wrong thing which might make him remove his work from my facility.

But then, as is my wont, I pushed on. “I’ve often wondered,” I said, “how an artist like you works.  I mean, how do ideas come?  How do you decide what to paint and what treatment to give it.  I guess above all, my real fascination is what you do each day.  Do you get up at 7.30, have breakfast and settle down to a day’s painting?  Or do you wait for inspiration?”

He looked at me with a quizzical half smile on his face, and I wondered if despite my efforts I had gone too far with my questioning, but eventually he said, “You want to know what the life of an artist is like?”

I said that, yes, by and large that was the question I was stumbling towards.

“Artists,” he told me, “are people who wear funny hats and go to unusual places.”

I looked at him bemused, but then a broad smile broke across this face.  “It really is true – the choice of headgear is not obligatory although most people working in the creative arts do tend to have their own style of clothing.  But going to funny places helps.  And really it is a symbol – we are interested in things beyond the everyday.  Even if we paint the everyday we paint it in a different way with a different vision using different lenses.

“What most artists do – and this applies to poets, painters, writers, actors, composers… what we do is keep our eyes and ears open while everyone else stops seeing the world.  Most people don’t look, in order to get through each day without being worn down by the humdrum nature of it all.  What artists do is look at everything – even pieces of dirt.

“And to do this we go to unusual places, which means above everything else, we go somewhere and then admit much of the time that we are totally and utterly lost.  Some artists then struggle against the situation, but most of us (those who tend not to chop off bits of our anatomy or drink ourselves to death) accept being lost, and then explore the strange country we are lost in.

“I can go for a walk across the fields near my house, where I have been a thousand times before, and still be lost because I see something I have never seen before.

“I have a musician friend who can play the same few bars of music over and over and over.  It drives everyone else in the house round the bend, but I know he is lost in that sound, and eventually out of it will come something new.”

“And is that the key to becoming an artist?” I asked as he paused for breath.

“That and flying in the face of expectation, because if your art gives people what they expect, then it is no longer art.”

And with that he thanked me for the coffee and bid me good day, leaving me perhaps a little wiser, and certainly a lot more bemused.

Admiral Document Storage
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125