Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Embracing the Not Yet Mindset

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”Henry Ford

In their book Switch: How To Change things When Change is Hard, Chip & Dan Heath tell the story of Molly Howard, Principle of Jefferson County High school in Louisville Georgia.

She inherited a school where 80% of the students lived in poverty, with only 15% of graduating seniors attending college. In other words, “her area was different.”

To change things, Howard implemented a weird grading system. She changed the traditional A, B, C, D, F scale to  A, B, C, and NY. The NY stood for Not Yet.

Under the old scale, when “Sarah” the student received a grade of D or F, she would stop working, believing herself to be a failure. Under Principle Howard, if Sarah’s efforts fell short of the mark, she would be told “Not Yet,” which inspired her to continue.

Have you ever felt like a failure? Have you ever fallen short when it comes to your effort to find the right employees & customers? Embracing the Not Yet Mindset can inspire you to continue.

But first, you must change your self-talk.

Change Your Self Talk

According to research reported by Dr. Shad Helmstetter, in his book What You Say When You Talk To Yourself, at least 70% of an average person’s self-talk is negative.

For example, can you relate to any of the following statements?

  • “I can’t find a good “A” technician!”
  • “I can’t find my replacement in the business!”
  • “I can’t find a new fleet to replace that big account I lost!”

These statements are symptoms of a negative  pattern that I refer to as the “I cant’s.” Here’s why this negative habit is such a problem: Whatever you think about you will bring about.

For example, your 20-Group meeting was six months ago. Has that shop owner in your group who always says, “I can’t find a good ‘A’ technician,” ever found a good ‘A’ technician?  (Are you that shop owner who always says that?)

He has brought about what he’s thought about.

The best way to overcome a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Here’s a critical reason to replace the “I can’t’s”, with  positive self-talk:

It’s physically impossible to say something positive and think something negative at the exact same time.

By changing your self-talk, you can make the shift from “I Can’t” to “Not Yet.” Let’s see how this works in “the real world.”

Ideas to grow your businessWant more tips for how to change your self-talk, increase your bottom-line, and grow your shop? Discover valuable, easy-to-implement ideas and strategies in ATI’s shop owner events. Register today at

A Real World Role Play

You may have thought you were failing as a shop owner. The reality is that your grade is not yet. To clarify my point, you and I will participate in the following virtual role-play exercise.

You are playing the role of someone struggling with the “I cant’s” and I will step into the role of your ATI Coach! Imagine that it’s Wednesday morning and you are on your coaching call.

Are you ready? Places everyone! Action!

YOU: “But Coach, I can’t find a good ‘A’ Tech!” Your Coach: “You haven’t found a good ‘A’ tech yet.

You: “But Coach, I can’t find my replacement!” Your Coach: “You haven’t found your replacement yet.

You: “But Coach, I can’t find the right Fleet!” Your Coach: “You haven’t found the right fleet yet.

As you hang up the phone, how do you feel? You just shifted your focus from the problems to the possibilities.

What’s possible, if you embrace the not yet mindset?


So, there you have it.  The Not Yet grading scale worked so well for Molly Howard, that she was recognized as the US Principle of the Year out of 48,000 candidates!

I know what you’re thinking:

“Nice story Twiggs, but I still feel like a failure. Molly Howard was Principle of the Year, but I’m not the ATI shop of the year!”

My response?

You haven’t become Shop of the Year, yet!

At ATI, we focus on teaching and coaching shop owners on best practices to get the most out of your automotive repair business. Want to learn more? Find an ATI shop owner event near you.

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.