Project Practitioners > Get Your Mind Right

Get Your Mind Right

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


“Get your mind right.” This motto got my team and me through a lot of difficult days. It would be a hot summer day in the 90s with humidity to match. Our goal was to stay ahead of the paving crew. Once the paver lands on the job, everyone loses their minds.

We had to adjust concrete structures to a height to match the final pavement grade. Three adjustments per hour would keep us in good shape. “Get your mind right” was a reminder to stay positive and keep trudging ahead no matter what. Get it close enough and move on. Do not let anyone interrupt with casual conversations. We had a job to do, and this motto kept us on track.

The following quotes are meant to do the same. They get your mind right to produce and progress. Each one may impact you differently than the next person. That is fine. The goal is to get you thinking.


“A person will use his thinking to keep himself right…Thinking is no longer used as an exploration of the subject area but as an ego support device.” – Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono, the originator of the term ‘lateral thinking,’ is most notably known for his book Six Thinking Hats. The six hats are a variety of colors signifying different roles. Each role brings about unique ways of thinking about the problem. De Bono is a proponent of teaching thinking as a subject in schools.

In the quote, de Bono notices a trend of thinking. Instead of exploring ideas and reaching breakthroughs through thought, people are using their minds to defend their knowledge base.

Best practices are a topic that comes to mind. People love using this term to feel better about themselves. If you are using best practices, that must mean there are no other ways to solve the issue. Therefore no testing of your knowledge and you can remain comfortable.

In this environment, creativity is dormant. The search for the next best practice no longer exists. You now defend your current best even when evidence may show otherwise.


“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.” – Daniel Hillel

Hillel is an adjunct senior scientist at Columbia University who received the World Food Prize for his work conceiving water-saving methods that increase crop production on arid lands. He is most well-known for micro-irrigation, a technique involving steady, calibrated drips or trickles of water onto crops rather than flooding and drying methods.

One of Silicon Valley’s mottos is “Fail fast. Fail often. Fail forward.” Daniel Hillel explains the third portion of that quote beautifully. Failing is never easy and is inevitable. Throughout your failures, continue to dance and enjoy the journey.

Without the joy of dancing, quitting becomes all too real. Your project is behind schedule and over budget. Most consider that failure. If you allow this failure to take over, your project has zero chance of turning around and becoming successful. You must be able to accept failure, fail forward, and continue to dance.


“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Kay

Alan Kay is a computer scientist and President of the Viewpoints Research Institute. He has worked for companies like Apple and Disney in their research and development groups.

This quote puts the power back into your hands. Instead of relying on fate or someone to reach out to you for an opportunity, you create the opportunity. No one is going to help you more than you are.

How useful would predicting the future be to you on your projects? Invaluable. You see problems coming from a mile away and already have the solutions in place. You know someone is going to call in sick, and you have a plan in place. No more surprises.

Of course, you cannot predict the future. Kay gives you the chance to increase your probability of knowing what is next. Rather than reacting to changes, you are the change.


“Bullfight critic, ranked in rows,

Crowd the enormous plaza full.

But only one is there who knows,

And he’s the man that fights the bull.” – Anonymous

Anonymous has some of the best quotes in the world. He or she always has wisdom unmatched by most.

This quote gives a perspective on people doing the work and people who watch the work being done. It is easier to sit in the stands and critique. You could be doing this better or eliminating that. Monday morning quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. How many NFL quarterbacks are there? 32 starters who put their livelihoods on the line every week of the season.

The people critiquing them have not played a down in the NFL yet can somehow do their jobs better. The same goes for project managers. You are the face of your team. You take the blame for bad and the praise for good. People will always have a better way to do things, yet when given the opportunity, find out for themselves how difficult the role is.

Notice how the critics are ‘ranked in rows’ while there is only one fighter. For every person putting their reputation on the line and trying to be uncommon amongst the uncommon, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of detractors and people who wish they could be in the position of the bullfighter yet are too afraid to even try.



Quotes are a fantastic, quick source of motivation or inspiration. Like a jolt to the system, they provide a source of energy when necessary.

Working on your state of mind is as important as learning techniques. You can have a sizable toolkit to access when problems arise, yet a terrible mindset can derail any attempts. The internal debate becomes half empty or half full.

Half empty inevitably leads to poor attitudes, lack of trust, and eventual failure. Half full sparks creativity and a will to get the job done. Quotes become a great source for generating a positive mindset. Stoicism and Taoism are fantastic philosophies to embrace.

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