What sort of Thinker are You?

Posted by David C. Forward on Jun 19, 2017
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an airline pilot, but after my flight instructor put the airplane into a spin during my flight training, causing me to throw up as I found myself looking straight down at planet earth spinning ever-closer towards me, I decided upon a career based on terra firma. I sometimes think about that as I’m sitting alone, stuck in an open house on a beautiful sunny afternoon. My wife Chris wanted to be a teacher, but a college internship in a class of misbehaving kids took care of that aspiration. I’d wager that most of us today did not end up in the career we dreamed of as children.

Monster.com ran an ad during the 1999 Super Bowl that featured beautiful children expressing their career goals:
“When I grow up, I want to file—all day,” said one.
“When I grow up, I want to claw my way up to middle management,” said another.
Another child, with a perfectly sincere look, said, “I want to be replaced on a whim.”
Yet another said, “I want to be a yes man. Yes woman. Yes, sir; coming sir; anything for a raise, sir.”
It was a remarkable ad, one which Time magazine said was part of the best television of 1999. You may still recall the ad, 18 years later, and it was the single biggest reason Monster.com was boosted from a little-known startup to the colossal job-matching company it is today.
But after our chuckles die down, we are left with a sobering thought: what a disparity there is between the job aspirations most children have today (to be President, doctor, astronaut, etc.) and the submissive outlook for their future that the children in the Monster.com commercial espoused. And then we consider the paths our own lives have taken—the paths that differed significantly from the ones we once dreamed of taking—and we wonder, “What caused me to take that different path? Did I, like those kids in the ad, simply resign myself to an easier route?”
Gary Keller, who started Keller Williams and turned it into the largest real estate firm in the world, says there are two types of people: Probability thinkers and Possibility thinkers. In his book, The Millionaire Real Estate Investor, Gary writes, “Probability thinkers base their view of their future financial selves on their past history and current capabilities. They say to themselves, ‘Based on who I’ve been and who I am, this is probably what I can financially accomplish in the future.’ They use words such as ‘realistic’ and ‘likely,’ when they discuss their financial potential. As a result, when they are presented with a new opportunity that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of their financial potential, they often conclude that they simply ‘can’t do it.’
“Possibility thinkers, in contrast, rarely utter the words, ‘I can’t do it.’ They set aside any limiting notions they might have about their financial potential and base their view of their future financial selves on what they imagine themselves to be capable of accomplishing.”
Gary’s book focuses on investing in real estate as a part of one’s wealth-building strategy. But when I read those words, I thought back to the past two years when I have been privileged to serve as your District Governor. I asked club leaders to set high goals and promised to support them with a wonderful district leadership team that would help them achieve those goals—which, of course, would help their clubs.
Some Rotarians responded as Probability thinkers, “reasoning,” as one president told me, “All the young people have moved out of our town and nobody else wants to join Rotary.” Can you guess how many members her club has inducted in the past two years? Another club president told me, “Our members have no interest in participating in district events or RI programs.” That club has fewer than 8 members and will likely not be around a year from now.
On the other hand, people like Mike Bucca saw the new flexible membership guidelines and never thought once about what Rotary used to be, but crafted an innovative new set of membership categories that has helped his Central Ocean Rotary Club become one of the fastest-growing clubs in the state. Asbury Park, Forked River, Red Bank, Bordentown, Moorestown—all of these clubs had Possibility thinkers in their leadership teams and as a result have grown their membership numbers to record levels.
In two weeks, we will have a fantastic new District Governor. If anybody is a Possibility thinker, it is Diane Rotondelli. I am asking each one of you to think about those kids in the Monster.com commercial for a moment. Now reframe their statements through the lens of your membership in Rotary.
“I want to belong to a sub-par Rotary club next year.”
“I don’t really care whether my club grows or fails.”
“The less-fortunate people of the world are not my problem.”
“I don’t see why I should support The Rotary Foundation. When I die, I’m taking it all with me.”
Now imagine how truly awesome your club, your community, and our wonderful district would be if we started this new year committed to being Possibility thinkers, each one of us saying,
“Bring in a new members? I can do it!”
“Increase my commitment to our Foundation? You bet I will!”
“Help my club be more active in solving a need in our local community? Let me volunteer to lead that project!”
We start a new Rotary year on July 1st. I’m committing to being a Possibility thinker and to helping make it the best year in the history of our club and District 7500. Will you join me?