A positive vision can often lead to success

On Aug. 1, 2011, my wife and I took a whale watching tour in Bar Harbor, Maine, accompanied by a couple of friends from Bangor. I had seen whales on several other trips to Alaska, Hawaii, Tahiti and even Maine. The whales I have been fortunate to see include humpback, minke, orca and blue. Never have any of these excursions been disappointing.

We chose the Puffin and Whale cruise on a day with uncertain weather. That morning a fog bank covered the ocean a short distance from our boat dock. If no whales were seen because of the fog, we were entitled to another trip for free. Unfortunately, our short visit to Bar Harbor may not have allowed the additional trip.

Everybody on the boat was hoping for a miraculous lifting of the fog but instead it thickened. We arrived on Puffin Island and could only hear the eerie laughing gulls in the distance. The island, though a few hundred feet ahead, was blanketed in a thick mist. Around the boat orange-beaked puffins darted through the air and parked for feeding in the water. Terns and razorbills floated alongside the puffins. I had seen the Pacific puffin off the coast of Alaska years ago but the Atlantic puffin was more colorful.

Next we headed about 10 miles farther out to sea. Hopes began to wane as the fog persisted. Suddenly the captain sighted a humpback twenty feet off the bow on our side. The magnificent animal rolled its dorsal fin to the surface, spouted water high into the air and slapped the water with its large tail. Time and again for over an hour, it fed in our vicinity and put on an impressive show. The boat guide was able to identify the whale by the unique markings on the underneath of its tail. It was estimated to be 35 years old and 45 feet long. The humpback, who we were told was named Gemini, seemed rather comfortable with our presence.

Like magic, the fog faded and we could see three dolphins swimming in a synchronized fashion in and out of the water. They seemed to follow us as the ship picked up speed and headed home.

As we left the harbor and headed into the fog, I thought this trip would be my first whale watching tour with no whales seen. My wife calls this “stinking thinking.” With the fog burning off, I realized my negativity was unproductive. There is something to be said for holding positive thoughts for the things you need or want.

Most good leaders I have known tend to have a positive vision and a determined path to success. The night before any session I have with my clients, I go through my agenda and envision myself telling a story smoothly or making a point clearly. Professional athletes are taught to see themselves successfully accomplishing a score or a particular move. Regardless of the challenges, leaders accomplish their goals by believing in themselves and performing mental rehearsals.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s book, “Tons of Stone Above My Head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons,” visit his website, raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.