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Posted: February 11, 2013

Sinking to expectations: The power of the positive

Optimism really works

David Sneed

A tragedy was unfolding at the booth behind me:

Waitress: And what can I get for him, Chicken Tenders?
Mom: No, he doesn’t like those.
Waitress: Hamburger?
Mom: Uh, no; he’s a picky eater. Do you have a kid’s quesadilla?
Waitress: How about a grilled cheese? It comes with carrots or fries.
Mom: No, he doesn’t like crust, and he won’t eat vegetables.

Meanwhile, at another table just across the room:

Mom: Chicken Tenders will be fine. Can we have carrots instead of fries?
Waitress: Sure.
Little Boy: Aw, mom. I don’t like carrots.
Mom: Yes, you do.

Whenever I meet a kid who’s a picky eater, I assume it’s because someone told him he was. Not necessarily to his face, but the kid might have heard mom say “He doesn’t like vegetables” - and believed it.

This isn’t a parenting lecture.  It’s about how we live up to expectations. We also sink to them.

“He doesn’t eat vegetables” later on becomes: “He’s not good at math,” and guess what then? You have a kid who can’t count the calories in a Whopper meal. And he’s learned to say what else he can’t do.

“I’m not good at names” is a common, self-defeating, adult version.

You know why you aren’t good at names? It’s because you say you aren’t. You’re psyching yourself out.

On the morning of a new fence job, I tell the guys: "This is going to be a nice fence" —and that’s what it turns out to be. And when there’s a rocky day ahead I say: "This is easier than it looks." I’m usually right.

But oddly, when I happen to say: "This is gonna’ be hard" —I’m also right.

I read once how to carry a full cup of coffee. If you think to yourself: “don’t spill it” you’re still using the words …spill it and you’re open to suggestion. The real trick is thinking: easy, easy, easy – or something else phrased in the positive.

Be careful is better than don’t slip. Do well beats don’t mess up. Use the affirmative saying when it’s an option.

So if you want a resolution this year, try this: Say optimistic things.  You’ll be surprised how often they become reality.

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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