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CW Ep. 37: David Hopkins

David Hopkins discusses how the battle of success and failure is won or lost in your mind…before it even begins.

Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m David Hopkins. Happy February, everybody. I’m so excited to be sitting down and chatting with you for a little bit. And one of the words that seems to be on everybody’s mind these days, is doubt. Self-doubt, particularly, we all have it. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t either way you’re right.” So let’s dive into self-doubt. Let’s see if we can’t find what is the root cause of this and how do we stop it? And how do we overcome it? Self-doubt by a definition is a lack of confidence in oneself, but the antithesis is self-belief confidence in your own abilities. It’s funny. When I looked up those two definitions to get the exact wording of it, the only thing that is the same in both of those words is self. So by all intense purposes, the self can either believe or doubt.

Most of the time people say the battle is won in the mind before it even begins. Sometimes we have outside influence. I’ll tell you I was a 10th grade US history student, and my professor had called me to his desk in the middle of class. And it was getting towards summertime and we were getting our assignments for the following year. Going into my junior year of high school, my history teacher told me, Mr. Hopkins, I’m going to drop you down to the slow learning class of history next year. I was mortified. Stood there on trembling knees and didn’t understand what was happening. Now, I never had the best grades in school, but I certainly tried and I really enjoyed his class. But for him to lack the confidence in me that I couldn’t handle the normal school was devastating. I remember my palms getting sweaty.

I can tell you the smell of the air conditioning that was blowing through the room. I can tell you how quiet the rest of the class got as they listened intently to what he was going to say next. With not much in my mind, except, “Oh my, I don’t understand what’s happening.” I asked him if there was anything I could do to get bumped back up. He slowly shook his head and turned and looked at me and peered over the rim of his glasses. And as clear as day, 35 years later, I still hear his words. “Don’t worry, Mr. Hopkins, somebody has to run the car wash.” The self-doubt I carried for the next summer into the next school year was overwhelming. But that was my summer for an epiphany as well. Through some mutual friends and teachers, I found out I had a learning disability. Worked on some strategies and behaviors and techniques to change that.

And in junior year in the slow history class that I was in, I made honor roll for the first time. Every quarter, I would go back to that history teacher and show him my A in history. He still replied, “I knew it was the right class for you.” So as a 15-year-old boy, growing up, going to high school, managing everything that we feel and think in high school, that one act still resonates in my brain today. I can still hear the words. I can still feel my palms get sweaty. I can still feel my knees go weak and myself willing them to keep me standing. One impactful statement of Mr. Hopkins, “Don’t worry, somebody has to run the carwash.” The self-doubt that played into my head at that point in time was overwhelming. Only much later would I learned how I could utilize that statement as a motivator because the biggest asset in the world is your mind.

How many times as administrators and leaders do we show up knowing today is the day I have to terminate somebody, or I have to have a hard conversation, or have to talk to a family about a resident and it’s going to be very uncomfortable. The battle is already won or lost in your mind. Whether or not you shaped that in a positive experience or a negative experience, most likely that outcome will be the same. So let’s learn. How do we change that? How do we make it a positive experience? Even though we might be fearful and scared and trepidatious about having a conversation. My friend Jack Canfield has a great formula for this success. I use it with my kids and they rolled their eyes every time at me. But it’s still true. The simple equation is event plus response equals outcome. You do not have to be a math major.

You do not have to pass algebra to get this one. I promise you with the event, plus the response that will equal our outcome. But there’s only one thing in this formula that we can control. And that is the response. Every event will be different. Every outcome will be different. The only thing that we can use to affect the situation or the conversation is our response. We have a choice as leaders, do we choose the positive or do we choose the negative? Sometimes we have to choose a negative and it’s a very difficult decision. But choosing the positive can always affect our outcome for the better. Same as our internal choices. It becomes about what do we worry about? What keeps us up at night? Is it staffing? Is it census? Is it financial? Is it residents that are going on hospice? And they happen to be your favorite one?

And you know, the end is imminent. You’re going to sleep dreading that 2:00 AM phone call from the nurse to tell you that your favorite resident passed away. And as leaders, this affects us greatly. But it’s also affecting our employees. And as leaders, how do we help the employees with their internal choices? How do we help them navigate that minefield of their mind? We have to model that behavior and we have to model the behavior honestly. I think so many times people are looking for their leader or their supervisor, to have all the answers, to be perfect, and to always supplement what is needed. In reality, we know that is not the case. We know as leaders that we’ve been in the same situations and they’ve turned out much differently because of the way we responded. Modeling behavior to our employees of honesty and telling them that I’m really scared about this conversation, or I’m having a difficult time processing a conversation I need to have with a family member.

I remember the first time that I had to sit down with a family member and discuss some inappropriate behavior their father was having with the daughter who was the power of attorney. That was very difficult to see the look on her face. For her to turn and say, that’s not my dad. And we knew that. We know it’s a progression of the disease for dementia, but it’s still never the less a difficult conversation. When we talk to employees about this and we discuss our honest feelings about fear and trepidation, being scared, fearing that this is not going to go well. We can find the positive antithesis words that we’ve been using with our employees. Most of the time, they can point out that this person’s going to most likely react this way. And you have a strategy session of how to approach that. Now don’t get me wrong. This is exhausting.

When you have conversations much like we have had to have this past year, I still feel like I should have majored in social work instead of health administration. The constant communication between residents, families, employees, trying to meet needs and listen to their concerns to offer viable solutions has become exhausting. And self-doubt quickly creeps into our mind at that point in time. I could have done this. I should have done that. Those statements are so prevalent and I’m here to tell you, stop. Stop shooting on yourself. As leaders, we have been called for a higher purpose to lead people, to take care of some of the greatest generations this country has ever seen. When we shoot on ourselves and we allow self-doubt to creep into our head, we can then start believing the negative statements about ourselves.

Did you know that back in the late eighties, Cindy Crawford was on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Magazine? It was the highest-grossing magazine that year for that issue. Cindy Crawford being a supermodel, sent the sales through the roof, and everybody looked at her saying how beautiful she was. But you hear Cindy Crawford talk about it later in interviews, and she said, “I did not look good at all. I did not like the picture. I did not like how I was portrayed. And I don’t feel like I did a good job.” So you have the most successful selling magazine of the year and the person who drove those sales has self-doubt.

You have to give yourself permission to acknowledge that self-doubt. Call it out for what it is. If you have to write it down on a notecard or a piece of paper, and then rip it up because you can destroy a negative thought in your head and replace it with a positive one. This is natural. It just takes practice, just like working out or running. You don’t go out and run a marathon the first day, you have to start out increments by increments. You don’t have to change this behavior overnight as well. You can start with just one small instance. One of the things that I love about being in leadership is most people can always solve your problem for you very quickly. If you just did these quick 17 steps or these four habits, but change comes from small changes. Supplementing a glass of water instead of soda. Supplementing, walking up the stairs, instead of taking the elevators once a day. Looking for those easy changes and behaviors so that it’s not overwhelming.

What do you think you can’t do? I want you to take a minute and think about that because if you ask a four-year-old class, there’s nothing in the world they can’t do. If you ask the four-year-old class, who’s an artist? All the hands are going to go shooting to the sky. Who is good at soccer? All the hands are going shooting to the sky. Who’s good at math? All the hands go shooting to the sky. Why? Because they believe in themselves. Now, if you took that same class, 40 years later and put a bunch of 44-year-olds in those tiny little chairs. Think about your nursery school or your pre-K or even your kindergarten class. And sit back in that tiny chair. And I asked you, are you a good artist? Are you a great soccer star? Are you good at math? Chances out of that same class, we’d have far less hands raising at that point in time, maybe one or two at best and artists, “Oh no, I’m not good at it.”

Why do you enjoy it? Does it bring you joy? When you see your drawing on a piece of paper, are you the only one who understands it, then that is the benefit. That is the positive thought we need to replace your negative thought with. So I want you to do an exercise for me and it’s going to be tonight. So if you’re out running, listening to this podcast, or you’re on your drive into work, when I listen to them, I want you to go home tonight and I want you to stand in front of your bathroom mirror. After you get done, brushing your teeth and you’re getting ready for bed. I want you to stand in front of the mirror and look at yourself in your eyes. And I want you to appreciate yourself. Now, I know you’re saying, “David, this is so corny. I can’t do this.” Yes, you can, because there doesn’t need to be anybody else around. And nobody even needs to know you did it.

Look at yourself in the eyes and tell yourself all the things that you appreciate about yourself. Acknowledge the things that maybe your spouse or your kids don’t appreciate. Your coworkers, your leaders, other family members, but say, I’m really good at this. And you did a great job today, David. And I want you to list out four or five things, not just one to say I did the exercise and I got away with it. Four or five things that you appreciate about yourself, and then I want you to appreciate for what you accomplished today. Now, listen, there’s days that we don’t feel like we dig out from the hole that we’re put ourselves into, whether it’s from email or reports or conversations that we need to have or evaluations we need to give, but that’s okay. We did accomplish something today and you need to call that out. Even though I have 12 evaluations to do, good job on getting that one accomplished. And then as the last thing I want you to say, looking directly in your eyes in the mirror, I want you to tell yourself I love you unconditionally because when we love ourselves, it makes it a lot easier for others to love us.

Now, some people are going to say, “David, that is so conceited. I can’t believe you’re telling people to tell themselves that.” It’s not. You know, Dr. Amen has a rule the 18-40-70 rule. At 18, we think everybody is looking at us and judging us. At 40, we stopped caring what other people think about us. And at 70, we realized nobody was watching us in the first place. Taking care of ourselves and loving ourselves will eliminate self-doubt in our mind. Try that exercise for a week for me, see how your mental attitude changes the next morning. When you walk into work with a can-do positive attitude, that even if I get three things done today, they were, three great things. And I appreciated myself for getting those done. And slowly over time, you will see that change. Believing in yourself is hard.

Believing in a friend is a lot easier. If you have a close friend say, “Hey, I’m thinking about owning, opening up my own business. Do you think I could really make it in the landscaping business?” Are you going to be negative or are you going to be positive and encouraging? What would you say to them? How would you support them on that journey? I have a friend that wants to earn $200,000 a year by 40 and she’s well on her way of making it happen. Making strategic moves in her career to be a leader, be a regional leader and grow her income. Believing in yourself, transcends any job and any situation that you’re in. The famous hitter, baseball hitter, Ty Cobb was asked at 70 years old, “If you were playing today, what do you think your batting average would be?” Now for those of you who are not baseball fans, Ty Cobb batted 347.

It’s a great batting average. And his response to the reporter at age 70 was, “I think I’d be around 290 to 300.” And the reporter asked, “Is that because there’s different pitches and there’s night games and a lot more travel?” And Ty Cobb looked at him straight in the face and said, “No, it’s because I’m 70.” He wasn’t answering the question as a 20 something-year-old playing in the major leagues, he was answering it as a 70-year-old thinking he would only drop down to 300. What is it that you need to believe in? What is it something that you can do when you believe in yourself and the things that you can do, it becomes much more enjoyable and you do a better job at. So believe in yourself that you can do stuff. What did you stop doing? Because you didn’t think you could do it.

I gave the example of painting. I’m not a great painter, but I sure enjoy it, and it brings me joy. My daughter was painting a couple of weeks ago and she asked if I wanted to join her. Typically my quick answer would be no, and I’d move on to something that I was needing to do. And I stopped. And I said, absolutely. I sat down and painted an Island with a sunset and a pink flamingo on it. I laughed and hung it up. It brought me joy. Now it’s not going to sell like a Picasso would, but that’s not who I’m looking to impress. Painting brought me joy with my daughter. It brought a bonding experience that we now have, and there was no self-doubt. What is it that you want to do? What is that big dream that you said it’s too late in life. It’s too far away. It costs too much.
You know what that dream is because it just prickled up the back of your neck. There’s a way to do that. And it begins in your mind. So eliminate the self-doubt, hold onto that dream, and one by one, start making steps and advances towards it. Cause you know what? I believe in you. I believe you’ve got the power in your head to make it happen. And you do too. And now is the time and permission to give to yourself to say, I can do it.

I want to thank you for listening to this week’s BTG Contributor Wednesday. Please connect with me on I’d love to hear your comments on this segment. Thanks and have a great day.

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CW Ep. 37: David Hopkins