How I Started Applying The E+R=O Mindset to Personal Development

This is the second post in a series on The E+R=O Mindset. Links to other posts are at the bottom of this page.

The #1 success principle for personal development and achievement is the E+R=O mindset. If you are not familiar with E+R=O, here is a quick review.

The E+R=O Mindset vs. The E=O Mindset.

E+R=O stands for Event + RESPONSE = Outcome.

Most people, however, do not embrace an E+R=O mindset. Instead, they have an E=O mindset (Event = Outcome).

An E=O mindset believes the events we experience determine our outcomes. This is why so many people have a victim mentality. If events determine outcomes, there's not much we can do to positively shape our lives.

But if you add an R to the equation, everything changes!

Those who embrace an E+R=O mindset (Event + RESPONSE = Outcome) realize that most of the events they face are out of their control. However, they also know they can choose their response. And by choosing their response, they shape their outcomes. This means they can take a negative event and turn it into a positive outcome. They can face adversity and turn it into an advantage. This is what I call being Response-ABLE.

How I Was Introduced to the E+R=O Mindset

In my first post about the E+R=O mindset, I shared how being introduced to E+R=O changed my life.

This is not hyperbole.

I was an at-risk kid with a significant learning challenge and zero confidence. Yet when I was introduced to the essence of the E+R=O mindset, I felt a glimmer of hope. Even as a young teenager, I started to recognize a pattern. I could shape the outcomes I experienced if I took ownership of my response. Instead of being a victim, I could choose to be Response-ABLE.

With that in mind, below are 3 stories of how I started to apply E+R=O to my life as a young person.

The 7th Grade Experiment

As stated in the previous post, elementary school was a struggle for me. Academically, I had a significant speech impediment and by the time I reached third grade, my teacher informed my parents that I basically couldn't read. There were many other issues as well, but suffice to say my confidence level was zero.

In 7th grade, I did something unexpected. I tried out for the middle school basketball team. I ended up being the last player of 15 to be picked for the team. Coach Vaught told me I probably wouldn’t play much. However, he also said that if I worked hard, next year could be a different story.

Through a series of events that again, I described in the previous post, Coach Vaught taught me the crux of E+R=O. But even more, he provided an experiment for me to test this success principle.

At the end of the season, Coach said to me, “I think you could get significant playing time next year if you work hard this summer. I really do!” He gave me a simple practice routine to follow. He stated that if I spent one hour practicing this routine three times a week I'd be a better basketball player next year.

Now, even though I was only in 7th grade, this ended up being a turning point in my life. Here's why:

  • I was realistic. I loved basketball and wanted to be a good player. However, I also knew I wasn't nearly as athletic as the other team members.
  • I was also a dreamer. I was into visualization before it was a thing. As a kid, when I shot baskets, I always pretended I was hitting the game-winning shot. I'd even talk aloud as if the announcer was announcing my moves and then pretended the crowd went wild when I hit the game-winning shot.
  • I was willing to work. In fact, because a coach that I looked up to actually encouraged me, I went above and beyond. I practiced every day for hours. Additionally, I went to a local gym 3 days a week to play lunchtime pickup games with grown men. (As a side note, Coach Vaught was the first childhood coach who encouraged me to work. All the others squelched my dreams, not directly or even consciously, but unconsciously with their words and actions.)


Amazingly, when the next season rolled around, not only was I starting, but I also led the team in scoring. And at the awards ceremony at the end of the season, Coach Vaught stood in front of a packed gym and said something along these lines: “I want to recognize one player this year. Kent Julian was the last person picked for the team last year. This summer he dedicated himself to practicing four to five hours a day. Because of his efforts, he is our most improved player, our leading scorer, and our most valuable player.”

You might be thinking: Nice story, but what does this have to do with the E+R=O mindset?


  • Event = Remember, I was a realist. I knew I was not as athletic as most of the players. Not even close.
  • Response = Yet I was also willing to work. And even as a 7th grader, I realized that most of the guys on the team would not practice basketball during their summer break. This meant if I chose to work hard, I might get some playing time.
  • Outcome = For the first time in my life, I experienced what it meant to move from DREAM to DO. The outcome of getting significant playing time became a reality because I choose to respond to an event that was out of my control.

What's amazing is during all those hours of practicing I didn't realize how much E+R=O was working for me. I didn't know how much I had improved.

The first time it dawned on me was months later just before the season started. I played a one-on-one pickup game with Troy, a fellow player who was a much better athlete than me. Not only that, but he was also 5 or 6 inches taller. To both his and my surprise, I crushed him. We played again and the result was the same.

This was the first time I risked playing a pickup game with a fellow teammate. One of the reasons I took this risk is because Troy was a nice guy. Unlike other teammates, he didn't cut others down to make himself feel better. Therefore, even though I thought he would beat me pretty badly, I also knew he wouldn't mock me.

It's impossible to express how surprised I was not only to win both games but to win so decisively. And Troy lived up to his character. During both games, he constantly said, “Dude, how did you get so good?!” When we finished, he even said, “You're definitely starting this year!”

That's the first time I even considered that being a starter was possible. Yet once the season got underway a few weeks later, I quickly moved from not only being a starter but to becoming the go-to player on the team.

High School and College

This 7th-grade experiment might not sound like a big deal. I mean, come on, it was 7th grade. And it's not like I went on to have a stellar basketball career. I played in high school and was decent, but eventually, the more athletic players passed me by.

Yet this experience started to sear E+R=O into my mind. Even though I was a kid, I realized that while I cannot control EVENTS (e.g. not being as athletic as other players), I can take ownership of my RESPONSE (e.g. how much I was willing to practice). And by owning my response, I can positively shape an OUTCOME (e.g. moving from benchwarmer to starter).

And here's the key… I started to experiment with the E+R=O mindset in other areas of life.

For instance, I struggled tremendously in elementary school and middle school because I had an E=O mindset.  The negative EVENT was being born with a learning challenge. The negative OUTCOME was believing I was dumb and would never amount to anything. Since I believe there was nothing I could do to positively shape the outcome of this event, I developed a victim mentality and became an at-risk kid.

Yet in high school, I started to wonder if an E+R=O mindset could help me with my learning challenge. Could this EVENT (e.g. learning challenge), which was out of my control,  be positively impacted by my RESPONSE (e.g. studying more and learning how to learn instead of just being a victim)? With the help of several teachers, I began to take ownership of my response and develop my own unique learning style. By the end of high school, my OUTCOME had changed significantly (e.g. I graduated with good grades and was even in the National Honor Society).

Moving forward to college, I faced another challenge. Although I graduated high school with strong grades, my learning challenge was still getting in the way. I couldn't get my SAT scores high enough to be accepted into college. Therefore, after high school, I was required to attend a special school called Development Studies. The requirement for me to enter college was that I had to pass all my assigned Development Studies courses. Once I did that, I was allowed to enroll in college on probation.

Although this was extremely discouraging, to make a long story short, I experimented once again with the E+R=O mindset. Not only was I able to get into college, I eventually graduated college Cum Laude. Later, I went to receive my Master's degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

What Does This Make Possible?

As stated in the previous post, my goal is not to brag. My goal is to share a gift that was given to me. If Jim Vaught had not taught me the essence of the E+R=O mindset, my life would look very different today (and not for the better). I am forever grateful!

My hope is that the E+R=O message impacts your personal and professional life as positively as it has impacted mine. And the goal of these posts is to help you see what is possible when you choose to be Response-ABLE.

Other Posts in the E+R=O Series

This post is the second post in The E+R=O Mindset series. Other posts include:


E+R=O Mindset in Your Daily Life

Go Deeper

Success is easy as long as life goes according to plan. 

But what happens when life throws you a curveball?

It’s easy to live it forward when everything is going smoothly, but when you hit a few bumps, overcoming obstacles becomes more challenging.

Grab this FREE RESOURCE if you'd like to go deeper and discover how to live the E+R=O Mindset in your daily life.