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

This is the third 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 and professional development 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.

Applying the E+R=O Mindset Professionally

In the first two E+R=O posts, I focused on:

These posts focus on my middle school, high school, and college years.

As I launched into my professional life in my early 20's, I realized E+R=O wasn't just about personal development. It is also the #1 success principle for professional development.

However, I had to learn this truth the hard way.

Learning E+R=O the Hard Way

Believe it or not, my first true career was lifeguarding. Now, before going all Baywatch on me, let me explain.

What started out as a typical summer job eventually led to managing multiple pools, leading multiple staff teams, coaching multiple championship swim teams, and being offered a VP position at a large management company.

But none of this would have come about if I was fired… which almost happened.

During my first year of lifeguarding, I learned the hard way that even a positive EVENT can lead to a negative OUTCOME if you don't take ownership of your RESPONSE. Here's what that looked like:

  • The positive event — being hired by a great company to do an important job with lots of responsibility
  • The negative outcome — the owner of the company pulled me off the lifeguard stand and almost fired me on the spot
  • Why this happened — I was operating from an E=O mentality instead of an E+R=O mindset

As already mentioned, an E=O mindset (Event = Outcome) believes the events we experience determine our outcomes. And while negative events can lead to negative outcomes, positive events can do the same IF we forget to be Responsible-ABLE. And that's exactly what I did!

I was hired to pay attention to what was happening in and around the pool. But instead of owning my response, I let the “bells and whistles” of the event control me. I focused more on getting a tan and flirting with girls than doing the job. So even though the EVENT was positive, the OUTCOME I experienced was negative because I was operating from an E=O mentality.

A Wake-Up Call

Honestly, I have no idea why Mr. Legg, the owner of the company, didn't fire me. Here's how bad my performance was:

  • I was lifeguarding at one of the biggest pools in the Atlanta suburbs — it was not unusual to have a couple of hundred people in the pool.
  • Community board members complained to Mr. Legg about my poor performance.
  • The complaints were so numerous that Mr. Legg came out to see for himself.
  • He sat at a table and watched me for 30 minutes.
  • I was so clueless that, even though I saw him sitting there, my behavior didn't change.

When he pulled me off the lifeguard stand, he laid into me. The conversation was intense but professional. What angered him most, and rightfully so, was I never once looked over to the shallow end of the pool. If you know anything about lifeguarding, the vast majority of accidents and rescues occur in the shallow end.

During this excruciating exchange, I had that “deer in headlights” look. Until then, my poor performance hadn't dawned on me. Neither did the fact that I was daily allowing children's lives to be in danger.

Again, I have no idea why Mr. Legg didn't fire me on the spot (which was his reputation). But that conversation scared me straight. I knew instantly he was right and from that day forward, I decided to attack the job with an E+R=O mindset. And just like with middle school basketball and my learning-challenge experiments, I got a front-row seat to seeing how an E+R=O mindset can positively shape an outcome. Here's what happened:

  • I was on “probation” when I started my second year of lifeguarding, but during that summer, Mr. Legg saw so much improvement that he promoted me to head lifeguard at the largest pool in the county.
  • The next year, I was promoted to manager of that same pool and became a swim coach as well.
  • At the end of that year, our pool won the first of 3 consecutive “Pool of the Summer” awards. This contest was between all the pools this company managed. Amazingly, the same board members who reported me to Mr. Legg just a couple of years earlier were now voting strongly for our team to win this award.
  • By year four I managed multiple pools, hired and led multiple staff teams, coached a championship swim team, and certified all new lifeguards for the company.
  • When it came time for me to pivot and start in the career I had prepared for, Mr. Legg offered me one of the company's two VP jobs. It would have paid significantly more than the non-profit job I took, so it was tempting. But I knew I didn't want to hear Baywatch jokes for the rest of my life 😎.

Don't Miss the Point

I hesitated to share this story as the example of how E+R=O shaped my professional life. The reason? Since it's about lifeguarding and pool management, some people might not view this as a story about a “real” profession.

Yet, unlike any of my other early jobs, working for this company introduced me to every type of professional role I've held going forward in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds. As I moved up through the ranks of this company, I learned lessons about leading teams, hiring and firing employees, managing facilities, cultivating corporate culture, employee engagement, sales, customer service, working with board members, and more.

But more importantly, this experience once again showed me the power of E+R=O. Realizing that an E=O mentality almost got me fired and put people's lives in danger impacted me deeply. It woke me up! Then, to experience how much better the outcomes were once I applied an E+R=O mindset — the contrast was so vivid it has stuck with me for my entire career.

What probably made the biggest impact was what Mr. Legg told me when I finally left the company. In his direct, matter-of-fact manner, he said, “If you would have told me that Kent Julian was going to be the best employee I ever had… that I would try to hire him to be my VP… after what I saw in him during his first year with the company? No way! I usually fire people on the spot for what you did. I have no idea why I didn't fire you, but I'm glad I didn't.”

I'm glad he didn't either!

Other Posts in the E+R=O Mindset 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.