We’re All Prophets

With a look of resignation and defeat, Tom uttered those pitiful words to me in early spring.

Failing Business Closed

The future is undetermined. If you talk about your future negatively, you prophesy your own downfall.
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By summer, it had become a reality. His business had failed. He was down to his last few dollars and looking for work.

According to him, it had “been failing” for two years, since the economy made a turn for the worse.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tom was speaking prophetic words. He was speaking future events into current reality.

Saying “my business is failing” is, in its essence, a prediction of future events. It is no different from saying, “I am going to eat.” That is a predictor of future behavior and activity. Hours later I “will have eaten.”

To suggest “my business is failing” is to declare that at some point in the future it “will have failed.”

“My marriage is failing” is no different than saying “I’m going to be divorced.”

“My child is failing math” tells me that the end result will have been an “F” in math.

If Tom were to tell me now what he told me then, I would respond much differently than I did then. Here is how the conversation might go today:

Tom: My business is failing.

Me: It is?

Tom: Yes. Our sales are down 70%. The bills are piling up. I had to lay off all but eight people last month and I can’t even make their payroll.

Me: The mere declaration that it “is failing” sounds to me like you have already given up. Failure is inevitable in your mind. It’s the only option. So you have two choices and neither involves delaying the inevitable. One, quit right now. If the ship is sinking, get off. Cut your losses. Two, stop prophesying that it is failing and re-build your business.

Tom: C’mon. This pop-psychology stuff isn’t going to work with me, Matt. I mean I can’t even pay…

Me: Listen. I’m not suggesting you look at this through rose-colored glasses. You have a current reality that is not what you want. But the future is yet to be determined. I am telling you the first step…the very first thing you must do that will determine all of your future success…is to stop talking about the future negatively. Stop prophesying your own downfall.

You, World Changer Book

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I said that you need to re-build your business. Start all over today, but with years of lessons built up. Are you better off financially today than you were on day one?

Tom: Yes.

Matt: That’s right. You have more money, seven insanely loyal people on board, and years of knowledge stored up. Not to mention all of your contacts, equipment, and other resources. So with that in mind, start where you are and go where you want to go.

Do you remember when you first started your business?

Tom: I do.

Matt: You always spoke in future positives didn’t you?

Tom: Of course.

Matt: You had no money, no team members, no clients, and everyone thought you were crazy. Would you have said then that your “business is failing?”

Tom (laughing): I definitely wouldn’t. All I could see was the light at the end of the tunnel. I was blinded by it.

Matt: Then get that back. Get back your swagger. Get back the attitude that nothing and no one is going to stand in your way. Stop speaking negative words over your future and get back to what will be…a successful business with a great leader.

Your words have immense power! And I want for you to use that power wisely.

Tom represents all of us. His business is our businesses. It’s our children, our marriages, our relationships, and our health.

And like Tom, we must change how we speak about it.

Question: What have you been negatively declaring about your future that you need to stop? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Kush A.

    Thank you for the golden post, it’s all about the attitude!

  • Self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • Sometimes I think of a dream (project, business idea, job) and right away say “But, that will never happen…” Sadly, it’s also what I hear around me a lot. I’ve told people of certain decisions we are excited about for our family and they come up with 20 reasons why they won’t work. It’s easy to predict failure and then say “See, I was right”. Better than owning up to our actions and say “I did everything I could to make this work”. Negative thoughts become negative actions. Shocking post today Matt!

    • There is a fine line between wise counsel to talk you out of irrational decisions and people just trying to drag you down. I think you know the difference though.

      Choose those with whom you share your life wisely.

    • I think most people around us are, sadly, secretly hoping we fail. Because our success points out the lack of success in their own lives. Those we are around everyday also have the misfortune of knowing us intimitely. They see all our shortcomings and therefore come up with those 20 reasons.
      That has been the huge benefit of you and the others i’ve met on the blog. You take me at my face value, you judge my words, my thoughts without the bias of my past failures and are therefore are able to be much more positive and encouraging. (Though matt has done well at somehow deciphering my past failures, haha)

  • Your attitude going into challenges like this or day to day challenges definitely affects the outcome. Too often people say it can’t be done, but it is the ones who say I can do it and give it their all that are successful. It may not be perfect on the first try but keep going at with the right attitude and you will succeed. Thanks for the post.

  • “Your words have immense power” so very true matt…so here it goes…
    “This blog will crash, Matt’s blog is going to fail.” –and now we all sit back and watch!! Popcorn and soda in hand! :) #winagain
    In all seriousness though, its so true! I’ve had a real hard time NOT being negative about my work and financial positions. I’m no where near where I thought I would be. It’s tough to not let those negative feelings and thoughts come out of my mouth, but I’m getting better. Thanks, in large part, to the awesome friends I’ve made (yes, I’ll grudgingly include you in that list matt…)
    Great post…

    • I’m not “only a 2.5 out of 10” in doing this right.

      I am 25% of the way to being a 10!

      I still do speak negatively more than I don’t but I get better every week.

      • Ya, Im probably a 2.5 too. Lets start the “2.5 Club: For people who suck, but are trying really hard to suck less…” Whatcha think. I’ll let you be the mascot and spokesperson??

        • HA! I give up.

          • give up?? why?? we’re onto something there!! This club could be huge!! we could make millions, er…or tens!

  • Wonderful reminder about the power of our words. James 3:5 says, “The tongue is also a small part of the body, but it can speak big things.” It has the potential to bring life or death into our situations and circumstances. It must be controlled if we want to move forward.

  • I’ve probably been more negative than necessary regarding the success of my writing. I know the future is promising, but it can sometimes be a challenge to prioritize time for writing with my other responsibilities. Thanks for the reminder, Matt!

  • This is very true, Matt. Just not sure why the guy had to be named “Tom.”

  • Lulu

    Hmmm… believing in something doesn’t make it true. Acknowledging that there is a problem is often the basis for a new start. A child failing in math doesn’t mean an F. It means that the child needs help with math – extra time, extra homework, tutor, different teacher. Some times God wants us to fail – yes, it is true. In our weakness He is made strong. Maybe a change of vocation is in the works. Maybe your focus is off. Declaring that there is a problem is not always a negative thing. Just ask Alcoholics Anonymous. There indeed is power in positive thinking, and an element of self-fulfilling prophecy in constant negative thinking – but all needs to be stated in truth. Only the truth will set you free – free to succeed or free to move on.

    • No doubt Lulu.

      What I have found that separates positive thinkers from delusional thinkers (i.e. “I haven’t worked all year but if I just picture a Ferrari in the driveway tonight in my dreams, it will be there in the morning.”) is how they use their words.

      It’s important to realize that Tom was setting himself for failure. Certainly, he could have factually stated, “Matt, my business is having problems. Sales are down and marketing costs are up. Our number one competitor is overly aggressive and stealing clients.” Then we can address those specific problems.

      But it’s hard to address a declaration of failure. What he needed in that moment was a pep talk and a positive vision and then to roll up his sleeves to make that vision a reality.

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  • “I’m getting old.”