Trying to stay positive

Mar 13, 2022

If you are a leader in an AEC firm, it’s crucial that you stay positive in spite of all the bad news we’re seeing these days.

I’m trying to stay positive right now in spite of all the bad news constantly coming in. After paying $4.39 a gallon to fill up my very large and thirsty car this morning, I stopped in Walgreens on the way to dropping my 15 year-old off at high school. There I grabbed some 9-volt batteries for our metal detector (what fun we had with that this weekend!) and was blown away by the $22.95 price. That’s crazy!

Then there’s the war in Ukraine, which is just awful. My heart goes out to those people who were living completely normal lives like the rest of us just a few weeks ago and are now huddled in basements with no heat, no power, and maybe even no food. Terrible situation and I’m worried it could spread.

But in spite of all these things that are well beyond my control, I have so many other things to be thankful for in my life and I don’t want to take anything for granted. My highest aspiration is to appreciate every single day for the good it brings.

If you are in business, it’s crucial that you stay positive. Yes, COVID-19 showed us that you must be prepared for the unexpected, yet you should also always hope for and expect the best. To the extent you can do this will determine your willingness to invest in your business, invest in your people, and keep everyone motivated. So it is super important!

Here are some strategies I have learned that can really help you stay positive:

  • Lower personal overhead. You may not think this is crucial, but it is. Keeping your personal overhead as low as possible and having some cash in the bank is going to reduce your stress and help you keep a positive state of mind. Simplify, sell off unneeded assets, and don’t buy anything at all on time if you can avoid it.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Some people are basically negative, and some positive. Don’t spend too much time with the negative ones if you want to keep yourself positive. We just visited with a neighbor yesterday who is super negative about some of the improvements planned for our town. My wife said it affected her for hours afterward.
  • Go for little victories every day. Set yourself up for success with small goals that you can achieve. Break up big overwhelming projects into small tasks that you know you can complete. You will be more likely to feel like you are making progress. It’s more gratifying. And that will help keep you positive.
  • Diet, sleep, activity. There is nothing new about the importance of these three things. Technology helps. I have found the Apple Watch my wife gave me as a present a couple years ago has been invaluable when it comes to keeping me moving. It tracks my exercise, steps, and how much I stand every day. My wife and I compete with each other to complete our activity “rings.” The Oura ring she got me more recently is fantastic for tracking sleep. It tells you when you need to go to bed and gives you all kinds of information about the quality of your sleep. I highly recommend both.
  • Limit your intake of negative information. That means you may want to shut off the news, spend (a lot) less time on social media, and, as I stated earlier, watch who you spend time with. The more negativity that goes in, the more likely it is that you will become negative yourself.
  • Input positive information. That means watching movies and TV shows that are inspirational or make you feel good, reading books about people who have succeeded at trying whatever it was they were trying to accomplish, and seeking out positive information wherever you can find it.
  • Do something tangible. We were stuck in the house with bad weather for a few days recently and I focused on doing things that needed to be done inside the house. I went out to my shop and grabbed my bench grinder with a new fine brass wheel and put it in the dungeon-like basement of our Victorian-era house. Then I took off painted over door hardware – knobs, latches, strikers, lock covers, and more, one door at a time – in our more than 120-year-old house, cleaned them up on the wheel, and reinstalled them. It was very gratifying to see everything working and looking so much better.

None of these things in itself is enough. I think they are each important and each crucial to maintaining a positive mental state. And THAT – if you are a leader – is essential for you to do your job! 

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.