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GUEST COLUMN

How do you stay motivated when you're surrounded by idiots?

It's an age-old challenge. Whether it's catty coworkers, lackluster employees, incompetent supervisors or directionless higher-ups, sometimes it seems like the whole world is conspiring to bring you down.

You want to be a superstar, and you know you have the potential. But every time you show up for work, you get drawn into everyone else's negativity faster than you can say, "Time for another two-hour meeting."

Staying motivated in the face of adversity and/or apathy is a problem that has plagued wannabe winners since the dawn of time. Even Noah got depressed when he couldn't get people excited about his boat project.

When it comes to work, nothing can suck the life out of you faster than being surrounded by people who just don't care. Or worse, people who do care, but who get worked up over all the wrong things. You know the kind. The ones who spend more time worrying about who took the last package of Equal than they do about their job.

We've all had our fill of bad work environments. And it usually has more to do with the people around us than the actual job itself.

As a former corporate flunky, I'm well acquainted with the "These People Are Stealing My Soul" syndrome. I remember many occasions when I came home in such a dither over what so-and-so did that it took me three gin and tonics and two hours of mindless TV before I could calm down.

In hindsight, I'm amazed I let other people derail my enthusiasm for my own career. But sometimes you get so mired in the muck, you don't even realize you're turning into one of the drones.

If you're flailing around in a sea of negativity, basically, you have two choices: Give yourself over to the tide, or start swimming against the current.

When the words and thoughts of the people around you start to feel like cement shoes, you've got to replace them with something more positive or you'll drown.

Some people like to give the self-help and motivation industry a bad rap. But, I've found that the wisdom of experts is often the best way to counteract negativity from the people around you.

In other words, if Marge in accounting is dragging you down with her constant complaining, get a few insights from Stephen Covey or Wayne Dyer, and you'll be more likely to remember their words than Marge's endless harping.

Yet, while there's tons of great advice and uplifting messages out there in the book stores and on the Net, many people think it's downright hokey to pay attention to that stuff.

My husband says, "It's a machismo thing. People think if you're in a bad spot, you ought to be able to tough it out. You shouldn't have to read some woo-woo book or listen to some rah-rah tape to be successful. You ought to just know."

Yet, as the owner of a small business, he's come to realize his attitude sets the tone for the entire office. So instead of rocking out to the Morning Zoo crew every day, he's started listening to books on tape during his drive to work. The abridged version of Jim Collins' "Good to Great" may not get his fingers drumming the dash like Keith Urban, but it does get his thoughts moving in the right direction.

I know I can't be objective about this, since I'm in the self-help business myself. However, when you can purchase everything business guru Peter Drucker knows for only $14.95, it seems kind of silly to flounder around alone.

So if the dolts around you are bringing you down, just ignore them. There's a whole team of smart people out there who would love to throw you a line.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com.

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