Keeping your head screwed on straight

Apr 30, 2023

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Firm leaders have to stay optimistic, or their ability to fully function and meet their responsibilities will be compromised.

In the age we live in, it’s easy to be negative. Let’s face it, the world has no shortage of problems. But we all have jobs to do – as leaders of our firms, as teachers, as husbands and wives, as parents and/or step parents, and even as children if we are lucky enough to still have a parent or parents who are still alive (my mom is 102, and still lives in my childhood home!).

I could not fill all of the roles I have to fill if I was negative and depressed. We have to stay “up,” or our ability to fully function and meet our responsibilities will be compromised.

As an older guy who has seen and been through a lot, here are some of the ways I have found that help me stay optimistic and motivated:

  1. Limit your news intake. Don’t get me wrong – you need to stay informed. But because there is so much negative information in the news, the more successful people I know have come to the realization that too much news intake will make them negative, so they limit it.
  2. Use social media for work purposes only. Between the news and how you will see that “everyone else” is living a better/richer/more fun/more exciting life than you are, social media can be depressing. My suggestion is to remove all those apps from your phone so they are inconvenient to get on. At this point, I only use LinkedIn to find and share business content, and Facebook to buy and sell stuff or learn about someone I meet. That’s it. It helps keep me positive.
  3. Associate with other successful people. They say we become most like the five or six people we hang out with regularly. So make those five or six dynamic, successful, and positive people, and you will be more like them yourself! Most of my real friends are either entrepreneurial business owners or people who teach for a living. They are positive people who believe they can be successful.
  4. Teach young people. Young people tend to be more optimistic. Why shouldn’t they be – they have a lot to look forward to! As a teacher in a growing, successful college of business, I get both ideas and inspiration from those I teach. That helps keep me positive!
  5. Be a mentor. Being a real mentor to someone is super gratifying. It really is just another form of teaching, but as a mentor you get more immediate and personal feedback from the people you are mentoring. Seeing them be successful is going to help you stay positive.
  6. Go to bed early and get up early. A good night’s sleep is crucial to your mental health and positive state of mind. And the morning, with its limited distractions, is a great time to get stuff done – something that always helps me stay positive.
  7. Read positive stuff and watch uplifting shows and movies. It dawned on me yesterday that I don’t like any form of entertainment where I can’t get behind someone and root for them. It makes me feel good when they succeed. It’s the difference in Ted Lasso versus Succession, both popular shows today. While Succession is about business, and I like business, there is not a single character in the show I want to see succeed. They are all despicable; that’s not uplifting.
  8. Celebrate successes at work and home. Celebration is a time to feel good. That’s why Zweig Group bangs a gong with every new project or closed M&A deal, and why we like family get-togethers for birthdays and other important life events for family members. They help keep you positive!
  9. Do stuff for other people. It feels good to help out a friend, or the children of friends, or to do something that your elderly neighbor needs done for them – especially when you aren’t even asked to do so. Helps keep you positive!
  10. Work a “do” list. Seeing that you are accomplishing things and scratching them off your list will help keep you positive. It feels good to get something done and off your back.
  11. Have hobbies. Hobbies also give you a sense of accomplishment. Lord knows I have many of them, and they constantly change over time as well. For example, I have redone four air-cooled Volkswagens in the last 12 months, with a fifth project underway currently. It feels good to see the progress on a car and then sell it at a profit when it’s nearly perfect. Helps keep my spirits up!
  12. Have meditative time. For me, that’s cutting the lawn, riding a bicycle, or riding a motorcycle. Those are solitary activities that force you to think. Concentrated, uninterrupted thinking is how you solve your problems.
  13. Pick the right life partner. I have a lot of experience in this department. The right life partner is encouraging and positive. They will always help you figure out what you can do to make things better. That kind of input is invaluable. If you are in a bad situation, fix it. It may prove expensive, but it’s worth it.

You will never be able to keep other people optimistic and productive unless you are optimistic and productive yourself. Little things add up. Try some of my suggestions above and see if they don’t make you feel more optimistic and motivated. I would be shocked if you told me they didn’t help!

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.