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Posted: August 20, 2013

Best of CoBiz: Stop toxic brain waste

Try following the $2 rule

TC North

Most people whine, complain and make excuses. Here's an excerpt from my conversation with Gary, a typical company owner, about a high-performance coaching program for his sales team:

TC: "Gary, there are some specific guidelines for participants in this program, including no whining, complaining or excuses during the coaching period."

Gary (grabbing his head with his hands just above each ear as if in pain): "TC, if my salespeople can't whine, complain or make excuses, I'm gonna have a sales team ... that doesn't talk!"

Unfortunately, this is often the situation. Most people - certainly most underperformers - whine, complain and make excuses. It's comforting to those who don't want to take responsibility for their bad results or situations. Conversely, world-class athletes and business leaders and top selling sales professionals take full responsibility for their outcomes and seldom whine, complain or make excuses. When things go badly, high-performing individuals and high-performance teams look in the mirror to figure out what to change to improve things.

Whining, complaining and excuses make you a victim of your own negative thinking.

They are also disempowering, and lower self-esteem and self-confidence. In high-performance cultures and high-performance teams and organizations, there's little to no whining, complaining or excuses. People take full responsibility for deadlines, goals and mistakes. This is one of the greatest differentiators of all high-performance culture characteristics!

From 2008 through 2010, three really tough years in the U.S. economy, high-performing CEOs and sales professionals took complete responsibility for their results. They didn't point fingers or blame the economy; they constantly pursued what they could do to thrive in the current situation. During those three years, I know several businesses and three realtors who had their best years ever!

These realtors never whined, complained or made excuses while others did; they put all of their energy into creating opportunities. Of course, there are a significant number of businesses and realtors who went out of business during the recessionary years, lending support to Darwin's survival of the fittest theory. Whining, complaining and excuses make you weak.

So, how do you stop?

1. Make a decision that you want to and will stop.

2. Enlist others to hold you to your commitment.

3. Avoid toxic brain waste. We don't choose to expose ourselves to radioactivity because it can cause mild sickness or even death. But to a great extent, we do choose the people we spend time with, and some people are as emotionally toxic to our minds - and, therefore, our success and happiness - as plutonium is to our bodies. Emotional toxicity is so prevalent in our lives that we usually don't even recognize it; it's as invisible as radiation. Whining, complaining and excuses are all emotional toxic waste (additionally, so are blaming, justifying and shaming). They hurt your self-esteem and confidence and make you think and feel like a victim.

Negative emotions spread like a virus. Avoid exposure and build immunity. How can you help your business team, your family or any other team eliminate whining, complaining and making excuses?

Here's a simple and entertaining technique I've witnessed working with groups of executives, entrepreneurs and sales professionals. It's called the two-buck rule. Everyone involved agrees that anytime they whine, complain or make an excuse, they must immediately put $2 in a pot used only for collecting these donations.

If the person doesn't have $2, he or she writes an IOU and puts it in the pot. Your group decides in advance what to do with the money collected. My preference is to donate it to a charity everyone can get behind, like the United Way. No one in the group should financially benefit; that would be counterproductive.

Does your company culture allow for meeting stragglers who always cause meetings to start late? What if your team committed to starting meetings on time and no excuses were acceptable for being late? If you do, then implement the two-buck rule. It's $2 for every five minutes you're late, with a maximum of $10.

Make a difference. The two-buck rule is beginning to spread through teams and companies and is helping eliminate the emotional toxicity of whining, complaining and excuses - as well as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of meetings. How about starting the two-buck rule with your team or family? How about joining a small group of successful, small entrepreneurs who practice high-performance principles? Go here for more information.

Dr. TC North is co-author of the Amazon bestseller Fearless Leaders. For 28 years, he has been a high-performance executive coach and speaker who helps individuals and organizations identify and attain their visions and dreams. He also has coached professional and Olympic athletes in the art of creating thoughts and emotions that maximize success. He’s a professional speaker on “Fearless Leaders” and “Master Fear.” Dr. North’s work has been featured on TV and radio and in business and scientific journals. Learn more at Contact Dr. North at 303-665-8920 or, or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.





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Readers Respond

Thanks, James.Yes, this simple change is both easy and life changing when applied continually. By TC North on 2011 06 16
Great stuff. Eliminating whining and complaining not only makes sense business-wise, it also improves quality of life for everyone in the company. And, the $2 rule is a great practical way to make it happen. By James Wall on 2011 06 16
Garry, you are so right about procrastination. Procrastination itself is a fascinating study ... there are a variety of reasons for it, many of them are fear based (fear of failure, rejection, selling, etc...). By TC North on 2011 06 16
Yes, whining is toxic waste, what a great metaphor! And it is also a symptom of procrastination. Anyone who is really unhappy with a situation will take steps to change it. Either a change in themselves or externally about what they are doing. Their willingness to whine instead of taking action is the excuse to procrastinate. How many top sport franchises have tolerated a distraction on their team for any length of time? I love the $2 idea. Journaling, done correctly is another way to fix toxic thinking. By Garry Duncan on 2011 06 16
Thanks, Liz. By TC North on 2011 06 15
Thanks TC for another great article. We all get to choose where we expend our own valuable energy. Complaining and whining verses making money and thriving. Excuses only keep you right where you are! Liz Wendling By liz wendling on 2011 06 14
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