To succeed in life, you should be more tolerant of the conflicting beliefs and behaviors of others while being less tolerant of your own.
This past week I delivered a presentation in Southern California. Because I push myself to cover a new and relevant topic at my speeches each year, I chose to deliver a new talk on how to create a winning culture. While doing my research to develop the talk, I was enlightened by this quote from education experts Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker: “The culture of an organization is shaped by the worst behavior the leader is willing to tolerate.”
During the presentation, I gave everything I had and presented with passion. After the speech, many of the attendees waited to talk to me. I must have hit a certain nerve with the crowd because instead of asking questions, many of the people chose to discuss the areas of their lives in which they were unhappy. Whether it was a lack of money, excitement in his or her career, or fulfillment in a relationship, each of these people were compelled to share their challenges. After the event, I thought about the conversations and realized that many of the people weren’t looking for solutions. They were just looking to vent. And that venting took the form of complaints.
The only thing complaining does is waste both your time and mine.
The complaining didn’t stop at the event. Because it had rained for two straight days, a number of people at the hotel afterward were complaining about the weather. Then a couple of California natives at dinner complained about the taxes and high prices of gas and housing in the state. At the airport the next morning, a few of the women working at the counter were complaining about their new uniforms. Then on the plane, passengers complained that there was no coverage of the Super Bowl.
These experiences reminded me that people complain a lot and about a lot of different things. The root of the complaining, however was the same: there was something that either made each person upset or angry. As I thought about the quote above about culture, I had a breakthrough: the things they were complaining about were all things they could control! But instead of changing them, they chose to TOLERATE them instead!
If you can agree an organization’s culture is defined by what it tolerates, you should also be able to grasp that your personal life will be shaped by the irritating things you tolerate too. Although my use of the word tolerance may seem contrary to how it is often used today, my goal is to challenge you about how the concept of tolerance applies to your personal life. In order to do that, I have to make sure you are clear on what tolerance means. Here is a working definition I put together to help myself understand it better:
Long version: Your tolerance is your willingness to put up with something with which you do not necessarily like or agree. The greater your tolerance, the larger your capacity and longer your ability to endure continued subjection to that something without a reaction to change that something.
Short version: You put up with things you don’t enjoy for a long time and do nothing about it.
Notice there is one thing missing from both versions. Neither ends with, “and then you spend a lot of time complaining about it.” Tolerance means you permit the thing that upsets you. You allow it without any interference. To mimic Tom Hanks from the movie, A League Of Their Own, “There’s no complaining in tolerance!”
Is there an area of your life you don’t like yet you control whether it exists or not? If your answer is “yes,” instead of doing something to change it do you just complain about it? Hopefully you see how crazy complaining sounds because allowing an upsetting situation to continue and then complain instead of figuring out how to change the situation sounds crazy to me too. After reading this, you will no longer be able to “turn a blind eye” on the real source of why you complain. And as a result of deciding what you will and won’t tolerate, your complaining should actually stop. Forever.
Excluding lactose and gluten, sometimes a little intolerance can be a good thing.
When it concerns movements like anti-discrimination, there is a call today for people to be more “tolerant.” When it comes to the beliefs and backgrounds of other people, I agree. But, there are other movements that rightly ask you to practice intolerance too. Anti-bullying, anti-drug and anti-harassment are great examples. In addition to those, in terms of beliefs and behaviors that are holding you back, I think you should develop your own zero tolerance policy. In order to get you thinking in that direction, here are 5 areas in which I would suggest practicing a little intolerance would be a good thing:
5 Areas To Practice Personal Intolerance
1. Unworthy Effort
Don’t allow a mediocre or bad use of your talents
2. Unhealthy Lifestyle
Don’t put up with poor diet, sleep patterns or a sedentary lifestyle
3. Unfulfilling Job
Don’t permit years to tick off on something you don’t love to do.
4. Unhappy Relationships
Don’t endure poor choices of associates or treatment from others.
5. Unwealthy Finances
Don’t accept low pay or escalating debt.
In order to “level up,” you may need to turn your tolerance level down.
If you became intolerant of the list above, you would remove both the “un” from the front of the words and also some poor behaviors and beliefs from your life. So, in order to stop complaining and live the life you desire, you have a simple choice: TOLERATE or ELIMINATE. Not happy or fulfilled with some things in your life right now? You can either keep putting up with it or do something about it. Below is a list of things you can either continue to endure or remove. In the case of tolerance, just keep doing what you are doing. In the case of elimination, you will need to discover the root of the problem and remove it:
To TOLERATE or ELIMINATE
Will you tolerate or eliminate a bad diet?
Will you tolerate or eliminate being overweight?
Will you tolerate or eliminate being tired all the time?
Will you tolerate or eliminate people you don’t want to be around?
Will you tolerate or eliminate negative conversations?
Will you tolerate or eliminate abusive remarks or treatment?
Will you tolerate or eliminate a job that doesn’t inspire you?
Will you tolerate or eliminate lower pay than you deserve?
Will you tolerate or eliminate long hours or a longer commute?
Will you tolerate or eliminate wasting money?
Will you tolerate or eliminate increasing debt?
Will you tolerate or eliminate zero savings?
Want to stop tolerating not having seen me in person? One way to surely improve your tolerance level is to join me in New Jersey on March 2nd for my live, full-day mentorship Coaching Greatness. Over 4,000 people have improved their lives at the event. This is my last trip to NJ and spots are limited so get yours here:
Either eliminate or tolerate. Your choice. But either way the complaining should stop.
The thing you don’t want to tolerate is not there to annoy you; it is there to make you better. It is a sign that something needs to change. You need to be inspired by your own intolerance for the situation and do something about it. Find the source of the issue and you can either tolerate or eliminate. If you choose the former you will complain. If you choose the latter, you will be forced to change.
Successful people are less tolerant…of lower level thinking, habits and relationships.
Be tolerant with others. Just don’t be tolerant with yourself. With your lack of wealth, health, time or effort. It’s your life. Be in charge. You are in charge of what you tolerate. Pride yourself on your intolerance. Standing up to your issues is standing up for yourself. In the face of whatever it is that is bothering you to the point of complaints say, “I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Writing this reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
What do you complain most about?
What can you do about it?
Your life is exactly where it is supposed to be because of what you tolerate. Either recognize your situation is your fault and stop complaining or do something about it to remove the irritating stimulus. Either way, you will be clear and in more control. Stop tolerating your old ways holding you back. Pass the torch, not the complaints.
Tolerate or eliminate. It’s all up to you.
P.S. Want two more great ways to let me help you?
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