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I don’t know…

We’re in the midst of revising and retooling our sales training program; a periodic ritual all companies go through, you know?  The process we’re following might sound familiar.  Leadership has announced the strategic changes.  Now followership is being asked if the new direction will “fit” our sales constituents.

Naturally, we need to make the new direction “fit”, even if it doesn’t actually “fit”; the change has already been announced.  Though our change management process might sound backward, I’m optimistic the outcome will be favorable.

“Fit” is an often-debated concept in the sales (and sales training) profession.  Ask for input and there seems no end to opinions.  But “fit” is important:

Not a good fit’ is a great conclusion, if arrived at early.  It is a horrible miscalculation if arrived at late. 

Mahan Khalsa

We are late in our process, but it should be OK.  After all, our constituents won’t know the difference.  They only go through our sales training activities once, so they won’t be making comparisons.  Even if we suck going forward no one will know; keeping in mind we may not suck – we may have something better.  I am comfortable saying I don’t know.

He who knows most, knows how little he knows.

Thomas Jefferson

Although I’m change-adverse (like many in my profession), I’m keeping an open mind on the new program.  Philosophically, I’m in alignment with the strategic intent of consistency across all sales channels.  Others smarter and more successful than I have led their companies to greatness based on the principle of consistency:

I wanted to get the ‘creativity’ out of the sales process.  If you want to be creative, go write a novel. 

Larry Ellison

But to be fair, I believe there is a big difference between pronouncing a strategic change vs. developing and delivering the multitude of tactical details that go into the execution of such strategy.  I don’t know… but I’m think the key word here is execution.

We followers are supposed to be domain experts; we’re expected to execute on the plan.  What’s the military saying about battle plans – “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”  (Here’s background on that quote.)

Helmuth von Moltke the Elder knew last century that the complexity of war prevented any one leader from grasping the entirety of details necessary to win battles.  The writer (Sean Newman Maroni) offers cross-over connections to the business world.  His cross-over has agreement from at least one famous business leader I know:

‘What do we need a sales guy for?’  I smugly replied, ‘To sell more of our software, perhaps.’  That’s an inside glimpse of our top management team at work discussing the expansion of our distribution capacity.  I knew we needed to build a sales organization, although I certainly had no idea how one worked. 

Larry Ellison

Even though Larry Ellison said he didn’t know (as published in the book Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle©), that didn’t prevent Oracle from achieving tremendous business (and sales) success.

When we launch our revised sales training program I’ll be a bit nervous about “surviving first contact”.  But I “know” we will improvise if necessary in the short term and adapt in the long term to insure success.

However, if in reality I don’t know, I’m comforted by titans of military history and the technology industry – if they don’t know; then it’s probably OK that I don’t know.  On the other hand, if you know – please let me know, OK?

GAP

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2018 – A year of Fulfillment?

Welcome to the New Year!  Will it be our best year yet?  …

When preparing for an excellent year, I always recommend starting at the beginning; in this case writing our 2018 Annual Achievement Plan.  Planning our year is more than simply thinking about a few goals.  Unwritten goals without corresponding milestones are just “hope”, and as the business book title suggests, Hope is not a Strategy©.

Nonetheless, our 2018 Achievement Plan should start with a point of reference:

The first and most important thing about goals is having one. 

Geoffrey Albery

Then, to advance our Plan we should write down our goals.  And when writing our goals, I believe it’s wise to incorporate the “Principle of Balance”:

At work, many of us write business plans thinking only in terms of the Financial Success quadrant, true?  Yes, financial success is important.

I remember while leading top sales teams, I would occasionally hear one of my Producers say that being family-oriented was more important than sales success.  I agree.  However, I believe one of the best ways to care for my family is to be successful in sales or whatever endeavor one selects.  Money may not buy happiness, but it’s harder to be happy when you’re poor.

The Financial Success and Family quadrants are connected and I believe in establishing personal goals for my family role, too.  Writing down goals for our family is quite personal – but just as important as any other quadrant in our Annual Achievement Plan.  It could be takin g a family vacation; committing to time each day with the kids; simply “unplugging” while at dinner with our spouse; calling Mom and Dad each week.  It’s all of those “little things” that make a big difference to our family.

Go on – take a moment to write down your 2018 goals for the role you will play with your family; we’ll wait.

The importance of the Personal Development quadrant in our plan is another key to success – as the business book title suggests, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There©.  Personal Development is, well, personal.  Yet writing goals in our Personal Development quadrant reinforces the Principle of Balance.

Leading us to the Fulfillment quadrant.  Our favorite, Unknown Sage puts it this way:

Life is measured by the number of moments that take our breath away.

Although I advocate writing an Annual Achievement Plan; with measurable goals; corresponding milestones; striving to make each year my best year yet…  I also believe in the power of imagination; the presence of magic; and the purpose of fulfillment.

The idea came from a former colleague of mine, Peter Goodwin.  He believed in the annual planning process too, but added a unique twist to his that I have since incorporated into mine.  Each year I write down lifetime fantasies that if I could be so blessed, I will achieve.

And when I do realize the fulfillment of one of those fantasies, I don’t check it off the list.  No, it remains on my Annual Achievement Plan with the date of the fulfillment; serving as a milestone, a constant reminder of the power of fantasy; the presence of magic.  And it reinforces the Principle of Balance.

Go ahead – update your list of fantasies in the Fulfillment quadrant of your 2018 Plan.  And please “DREAM BIG!” James Collins in his book, Built to Last©, called them:

Big, Hairy Audacious Goals!

So here’s to 2018– may it be our best year yet!

GAP

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Mediocre…

My colleague and I were arguing recently.  I thought a training class we delivered was mediocre.     He thought we did a great job.  Further he offered anything that was sub-par was not actually our fault because we were just delivering materials created by others.

Besides, our class attendees were multi-tasking on their phones and PC’s and out of the room to the point that they weren’t really “present” anyway.

The best that could be said about the event was, “No one quit; no one got hurt.”  That’s a low bar to set; I agree.  But did meaningful knowledge transfer take place?  Not a chance.

In summary; he felt our efforts in spite of others’ shortcomings made the class excellent.  We tried our best.  I felt we are responsible for the class.  Mediocrity is mediocrity – regardless of effort.  So here we were, expending more energy arguing about a class neither of us was proud of to begin with.

Perhaps such energy would have paid more dividends were it invested in improving the class – it would likely have been the same amount of effort:

Why should I try to build a great company?  I believe that it is no harder to build something great than to build something good.  It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity. 

Jim Collins

I understand.  Not everything can be done with excellence.  Sometimes; somedays; we have all had one of “those” days.  Things simply don’t go right. And it’s bothersome for us all to suffer through perpetual mediocrity; many of us take it personally; take pride in our work.

We have been struggling to get this class perfected for several months now with only mediocre results to show for it – so far.  But mediocre is not what we stand for; we will get it right.

Only the mediocre are always at their best. 

Jean Girandoux

True; my colleague and I are mere mortals.  We make mistakes.  It’s hard to excel – that’s why they call it “excel”.  And I’m not so fanatical that I try to spoil everyone’s day (although sometimes I worry that I come close):

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. 

Harriet Beryl Braikes

So, after longer than a sprint but shorter than a marathon, I abandoned the argument.   My friendship and our working relationship are more valuable to me than trying to convince him.  But he knew I would not capitulate – that class was neither acceptable nor close to our team’s standard of excellence.

Maybe it is best simply to accept the fact that excellence upsets some people.  It always has and always will.  Live with it. 

Larry Bossidy

Where do we go from here?  I mean it’s the classic tree falling in the woods matter:  If we delivered a mediocre class; attended by people with a mediocre desire to learn; absent any quality check from our company’s executives  – indicating a mediocre level of interest in the class to begin with; does anybody hear it?

Perhaps after the class we should have enjoyed a nice dinner; imbibed in adult beverages; and invoked one of the blessings of my wife’s forefathers:

Irish Blessing:  May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is worth forgetting. 

Unknown Sage

If I am right and our last class was mediocre; it isn’t worth debating and certainly isn’t worth remembering.

The next class?  We will get it right; or “die” arguing about it I suppose.

GAP

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Memorable…

Today of course, is Memorial Day; begging the question, what makes it memorable for you?

When we google the origin of Memorial Day:

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

2017 finds some wishing to eradicate the memory of those men and women who died on the confederate side of the Civil War.  Is that the best way to honor what was at stake; what was gained; and what was lost 150 years ago?

2017 finds us all “drafted” into a twisted type of military service.  Our foes don’t pitch their armies against ours anymore.  Now it’s fanatics terrorizing innocent civilians.  Is this worth memorializing?

2017 finds a special election in Montana in the headlines as the statesmanship (or lack thereof) of a United States Representative is called into question as he chose violence over tolerance in a stressful moment.  Is that the government, “of the people; by the people; and for the people” our Founding Fathers had in mind?

2017 finds our extensive and seemingly ever expanding media continuously pounding “we the people” with everything that’s wrong with our way of life, true?  Violence; dishonesty; greed; disgraces of every kind – even involving celebrity media members themselves – nothing seems off limits to the shock value needed to compete for citizenship followership.  Memorable?

As we celebrate Memorial Day I am torn between what is worth remembering and what I’d sooner forget.  In 2017 one has to “effort” to stay focused on the positive things in our world in the face of unending bombardment of negativity, don’t you agree?

A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness. 

Elbert Hubbard

2017 finds us at this crossroads of what to remember and what to forget.  I mean, there will always be evil; wrong-doers; and negativity surrounding us.  In the history of humankind, there always has been.  2017 is no different.

So, in 2017 the real challenge becomes what do we do about it?  I came across this Monday Motivation that stimulated me to reflect on meeting the challenge; thanking those that positively influence my life – thought I would pass it along in case you didn’t see it:

https://twitter.com/MotivatorMonday/status/866536815913820160

2017 and Memorial Day reminds me to reflect on those who died in the cause of defending our way of life, to be sure.  I’m adding to my Memorial Day time to reflect on those who live and make my daily challenges easier to overcome.  Those are memorable and worthy of thanking, too.  And yes, you are on my list of those to thank – well at least most of you:

People who read me seem to be divided into four groups; Twenty-five percent like me for the right reasons; 25 percent like me for the wrong reasons; 25 percent hate me for the right reasons.  It’s the last 25 percent that worries me. 

Robert Frost

2017 and Memorial Day is our opportunity to stay positive; hopeful; grateful; civil; in the face of it all.  And our favorite, Unknown Sage reminds us of what “all” likely is:

Law of Probable Dispersal:

Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

Distribution aside; in 2017 we have a choice over what is memorable; positive or negative.  What do you choose?

GAP

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Keys to success…

The History Channel recently telecast, “The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us” the documentary stated the key to financial success in the 1980’s was greed.  Individual greed no matter what the impact; no matter what the collateral damage; no matter who was stepped on; the Michael Douglas line in the movie Wall Street surmised, “Greed is good.”

Is that the key?  I certainly hope not.  But what makes one person super successful while others struggle through life?  What makes one cause successful while other causes fail?  Or a business; or a sports team; or medical research?  What are the keys to success?

Of course, let’s not to get too carried away with the sound bite, “keys to success”.  It seems to oversimplify things.  Besides, keys are kept on key chains – and key chains make me nervous:

A key chain is a gadget that allows us to lose several keys at the same time.    

Unknown Sage

Perhaps one key to success is confidence.  Here’s an excerpt from “Critical Things Confident People Won’t Do” (see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/critical-things-confident-people-wont-do-dr-travis-bradberry ) by Dr. Travis Bradberry:

In The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda is training Luke to be a Jedi, he demonstrates the power of the Force by raising an X-wing fighter from a swamp. Luke mutters, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda replies, “That is why you fail.”

As usual, Yoda was right — and science backs him up. Numerous studies have proved that confidence is the real key to success.

And who doesn’t believe Yoda was successful?  Talk about not being able to judge a book by its cover!  But that occurred, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

OK, success sits on a foundation of confidence.  But we’ve all witnessed some pretty kooky confidence from time to time,

Even though we have admittedly fallen behind on the engine development, I feel confident that we will have the airplane’s engine there for the first flight.  

Norman R. Augustine

Not exactly the underpinnings of a successful airplane manufacturer.

Dr. Brad emphasizes another key to success we probably all can agree on – to be successful, we must believe.  Believe in what we’re doing; believe in our product or service; believe in our company or cause; believe in our team.  Most importantly, we must believe in ourselves; especially in the face of adversity.

Our self-belief is a powerfully positive influence on others too.  But we must lead the way for others:

Gentlemen, enlisted men may be entitled to morale problems, but officers are not. 

General George C. Marshall

So far confidence, good morale, and self-belief are keys that will contribute to our success.  However, we might need a few more keys on that key chain, yes?  Let’s keep looking.

How about this key offered by another thought leader:

Success, real success, in any endeavor demands more from an individual than most people are willing to offer- not more than they are capable of offering. 

James Roche

Hmmm…  James Roche suggests we all are capable of being successful but the degree of success we realize boils down to our individual will.  What do you think?  Can one will oneself to success?  Well, do you know of anyone who succeeded without a strong will?

I guess I can’t simply list the specific keys to success.  I confess I don’t have the key chain.  But if the keys to success needs to include confidence; self-belief; positive morale; and a strong will; then I believe there’s hope for you (and me) yet.

GAP

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Turn up the music…

2017 is starting out with lots of challenges for us.  Dramatic change is in the wind (and all over the news), yes?  As Americans, the Executive Branch of our federal government is provoking great change.  At the corporate level, employees of my recently acquired company are feeling the impact of significant change.

The Co-CEO addressed our sales organization in January in an effort to help quell our jitters.  The gesture of his in-person address was impressive (and appreciated).  He was very clear on his vision of our collective future, however.  And change is a big element of his vision for a great future:

Comfort is not the objective in a visionary company.  Indeed, visionary companies install powerful mechanisms to create discomfort – to obliterate complacency – and thereby stimulate change and improvement before the external world demands it. 

Jim Collins

He asked us to embrace the discomfort of change and contribute to our company’s future success.  Many felt it was a big ask.

Change can be very difficult for us to deal with, true?  For me, it’s especially ironic to see how change affects those of us in the sales profession.  I mean, here we are the sellers of change when our clients buy our new products or services to replace their previous products and services.  Sales and change are synonymous, yes?  And yet, I find sales people in particular to be extremely change adverse.

My company has lost several people since the acquisition just because of impending change.  So far, there’s really been nothing materially wrong with our new parent company’s approach to things.  For most of us, our daily routine is the same today as it had been previously.  There are procedural differences; pay and benefits differences; internal systems differences to be sure.  But these changes aren’t really material to the valuable roles we all play.

Nonetheless, some of my colleagues simply won’t embrace the change.  Now it’s not my place to judge whether they’ve panicked or not.  It simply seems to me that they have chosen to depart before giving the new environment a chance.

When faced with uncertainty, where do we turn?

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. 

William Arthur Ward

OK, but while we are adjusting the sails how do we sooth our worries about change; how do we avoid panic?  In my case, I like to leverage music to seek peace of mind.

On the America front we’ve seen civil unrest in the face of change before.  This 8:43 YouTube clip is one example of music; change; and civil unrest: http://youtu.be/VhX3b1h7GQw

To me, music is a powerful reminder of change.  And it’s a reminder that throughout my lifetime change can be fun, too.  (We called our first band The Neighbors’ Complaint!):

So when faced with the possibility of panic in the face of change, I turn to music.  I was recently reminded by my Great Niece of the importance of music in our lives:

Whether we are faced with changes at our company or changes in our country don’t panic – instead consider the words of E.B. White:

I wake up every morning determined both to change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning the day a little difficult.

And when in need of a little help to calm the jitters associated with change in order to have one hell of a good time; turn up the music!

GAP

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Authenticity…

A lot has been said and even more has been written about being authentic.  I attended a social media marketing for business MeetUp where the topic was Google’s plan to rank authenticity highest in their search; threatening that posers risk being bypassed in searches altogether.  Not sure how that applied to our recent Presidential elections; but I digress…

Dr. Travis Bradberry is one of my favorite and authentic bloggers.  His recent post, “10 Unmistakable Habits of Utterly Authentic People” caught my eye.  I particularly liked his Oscar Wilde reference:

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” Wilde made it sound so simple, but living with authenticity is a real challenge.

To live authentically, you must own your actions and ensure that they align with your beliefs and needs. This can be a difficult thing to maintain when external forces pressure you to do something you’re not comfortable with or to be someone you’re not.

External forces… Beliefs and needs… be someone you’re not…  hmmm.  Check it out: http://www.talent-smart.net/10-Unmistakable-Habits-of-Utterly-Authentic-People.php

Dr. Travis’ reference coupled with my recent trip to Toronto reminded me of an authentic experience of my own.  In 2008, I interviewed for a Sales Rep role in Denver.  One of my interviewers was the local Sales Manager, Chris (affectionately referred to as “The Bear”) followed by his boss.  Chris now works in our Toronto office.

After the customary resume review and phone screening, I was invited for an in-person interview.  Sitting in a conference room Chris rumbled in; dramatically plopping my file down on the table.  He started the conversation about my application this way:

“Pokorn, what are you doing here?  You’ve done my job; Hell, you’ve done Danny’s job.”

In a moment of authenticity I reacted, “It’s because I have done your job and I have done Danny’s job.  At this stage of my career, taking care of just me seems like a pretty good option.”

That was good enough for Chris and his boss Danny – I got the job; turned out pretty well, too.  Over my career, I was an excellent sales manager; but I was an even better sales rep – one of the rare breeds – a “Hunter”.

Like many sales reps, I had spent a significant part of my career trying to play that Corporate Ladder Game.  Stephen R. Covey wrote about it:

Avoid the ladder against the wrong wall syndrome:

Meaning, we climb the proverbial ladder of success only to find that it’s leaning against the wrong wall.

So, in 2008 I (finally) had the opportunity to be authentic and returned to my roots of “Hunting”.  Not that such a role is a panacea.  One of the best Sales Hunters I know recently lamented:

Gary, I am done with hunting the proverbial whale only to have the villagers at my company drag off the carcass for a feast leaving me no other choice but to go back out on the hunt. 

John Kleinhenz

It’s OK – Such a moment of complaint wasn’t authentic for the John I know.  Everyone is entitled to vent now and then.  John is as authentic as they come; and Dr. Travis addresses that, too:

They don’t complain about their problems.

Complaining is what you do when you think that the situation you’re in is someone else’s fault or that it’s someone else’s job to fix it. Authentic people, on the other hand, are accountable.

Ah yes – “accountability”.  Lots has been said and lots has been written about that too… but I digress.

GAP

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Football and life…

Football season is here – hooray!  Did you watch the opening games?  How ‘bout my Broncos!  Were they good?  Lucky?  Did Carolina blow it?  All of the above!

I love football (much to my wife’s chagrin).  Which is interesting because the sport of football remains branded in my mind and in my life as the one time I literally gave up and quit.  Yes quit. And worse, I let my Mom down.

Oh, I’ve failed in sports; failed in many things over the years.  That doesn’t make me unique; we all fail from time to time:

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. 

Truman Capote

But quitting?  That’s another matter altogether.  It was my junior year in high school.  I originally had planned not to go out for the varsity team.  Coach Fischer had been my coach freshman year; he had just been promoted to varsity head coach.  He had brought my sophomore coach, Coach Trolliet up to the varsity as an assistant.

I was a starter freshman and sophomore years; played offense, defense and special teams; was a co-captain.  I suppose Coach Fischer simply expected me to continue playing junior year.  Problem was, I had a bad experience my sophomore year.

I wanted to play well, but I required more coaching than Coach Trolliet was willing to offer.  I think he expected me to be a stellar player based on my raw, athletic talent alone.  But that was the problem – “raw”.  I never learned techniques; didn’t really understand my positions; was mostly guessing.  And when I “guessed” wrong – well, there came the boom!  I was even benched once because my confusion was viewed as a lack of effort.

Public ridicule, in front of my teammates; in the classroom; or any other setting, was never motivational for me.  Had the opposite effect – it shook my confidence.  And in football (and in all of life’s pursuits) confidence is a critical element to success:

Confidence is an important element in business; it may on occasion make the difference between one man’s success and another’s failure. 

Alfred P. Sloan Jr.

So I simply planned to be a fan my junior year.  Coach Fischer got wind of it and called me at my home; asked me to reconsider; wanted me to play.  I agreed (but I probably wasn’t committed).

The first few practices went well.  I was motivated not to let Coach Fischer down.  Though still raw, I had enough athleticism to run fast; hit hard; catch; kick; stand out. Trouble was Coach Trolliet had different plans.  He thought assigning me to the 3rd string would be motivational.   It wasn’t; I quit.

I didn’t tell anyone ahead of time; kept it to myself.  After practice, I went in to Coach Fischer’s office and said I didn’t want to play anymore. Football wasn’t fun.  I turned in my equipment; left in shame.

The worst was to come – when I arrived home my Mom was surprised to see me; said she expected me to be at football practice.  And then she found out that her son had quit.  Of all the people I have known in my life, my Mom was the one person furthest distanced from “quitting”.

But I learned from that high school experience.  Turns out Coach Fischer and Coach Trolliet were “educators” after all.  And today I can enjoy being a football fan because football taught me the lifelong lesson that no matter how bad circumstances get – quitting is never, ever, ever an option.

GAP

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Time off…

I’m reminiscing about my just completed, 2-week vacation.  It was time:

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, “Can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.” 

The woman below replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.” 

“You must be an engineer”, said the balloonist.  “I am”, replied the woman, “How did you know”? 

“Well”, answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is, technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip.” 

The woman below responded, “You must be in Management.”  “I am”, replied the balloonist, “but how did you know”? 

“Well”, said the woman, you don’t know where you are or where you’re going.   You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air.  You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to help. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my fault.” 

Unknown Sage

So, I’m following Steven Covey’s advice:

It was the final of the lumberjack competition, only 2 competitors remained, an older experienced lumberjack and a younger, stronger lumberjack. 

The rules were simply – he who felled the most trees in 24 hours was the winner. 

The younger lumberjack was full of enthusiasm and went off into the woods; set to work straight away; working all through the day and all through the night.  He felt more and more confident with every tree he felled that he would win; because he knew that he had superior youth and stamina than the older lumberjack that he could also hear working away in another part of the forest. 

At regular intervals throughout the day the noise of trees being felled coming from the other part of the forest would stop, the younger lumberjack took heart from this thinking that this meant that the older lumberjack was taking a rest, whereas he could use his superior youth and strength and stamina to just keep going. 

At the end of the competition the younger lumberjack felt confident he had won, he looked in front of him at the piles of felled trees that were the result of his superhuman effort. 

At the medal ceremony the younger lumberjack stood on the podium still confident and expecting to be awarded the prize of champion lumberjack.  Next to him stood the older lumberjack who he was surprised to see looked a lot less exhausted than he did. 

When the results were read out the younger lumberjack was devastated to hear that the older lumberjack had chopped down significantly more trees than he had. 

He turned to the older lumber jack and said, “How can this be?  I heard you take a rest every hour whilst I worked continuously through the night, and I am younger, stronger and fitter than you old man”! 

The older lumberjack turned to him and said; every hour I took a break to rest and sharpen my saw.”

I love it when the old guy wins!

GAP

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Doing alright…

“How are you doing?”  A common greeting these days, yes?  Our response often depends on our mood, true?  For many, we have a choice over our moods; a degree of control; at least a consciousness of why we are in the mood we are in.  But not all of us…

Dedicated to those amazing people who unlike me, face each day “doing alright”; which means so much more:

Like Eric.  I have known Eric for 40 years today – his birthday.  Over that period Eric’s Mom and Dad have shared some of his most joyous occasions; and some of his most upsetting events; and in between these highs and lows Eric would tell you that he has been doing alright.  And for Eric, doing alright shows how amazing he truly is.

You see, Eric is the strongest person I know.  I’ll give you an example.  Close your eyes and return to the happiest day of your life – feel how you felt during your most exhilarating moments.  OK, now think back to how you felt on your saddest, darkest, most depressed day ever.  Just set those mental bookmarks in your mind’s eye.  There is an unbelievably wide and powerful range of human emotion, yes?

For most of us, we migrate from our highest highs and our lowest lows slowly; with long, “recovery” spans of simply feeling average in between.  Unfortunately, Eric is different; his mood swings back and forth, between euphoric highs and debilitating lows in a matter of minutes – multiple times – every hour!  Now picture your life with his type of mood swings – as if our other challenges aren’t enough to deal with.

Rapid Cycling – that’s the technical term for Eric and others who suffer from Bi-Polar Disorder.  And Eric lives every day with this unwelcome guest.  Medical science is not much help.  Bi-Polar Disorder is an affliction of the brain; and very difficult to properly diagnose and treat.  Trial and error, mostly.  That means people with Bi-Polar Disorder typically wind up dealing with this on their own.

Most can’t hold down a steady job.  Eric can – and he has consistently been a “go to” person for his company.  He is a skilled tradesman; good with customers; dependable; hard working; shows up no matter what; a positive attitude that no job is too tough; that’s Eric.  Most people with Bi-Polar Disorder can’t live independently.  Eric does – and if you met him, you would never know the internal turmoil he is living with.  He has a pleasant personality; a great smile; a nice sense of humor; knowledgeable of current events; just like the rest of us.

But Eric isn’t really like the rest of us.  Just getting up and facing the day; every day; takes enormous strength.  And he offers no excuses – never has.  Eric has earned success and experienced failure.  No matter; Eric treats each day anew, the best he possibly can. And when you greet him saying, “Hi. How you doing?”  you will almost always hear him say, “I’m doing alright”.

If Eric does alright each and every day even though feeling these uncontrollable mood swings – should we do any less?

No, I don’t have Bi-Polar Disorder, but it lives next door. And though I don’t have it, I can see first-hand the strength Eric has as he lives with it.  I’m very proud to say that Eric is my son.  And one day I hope to learn the source of his amazing strength so I too can be, “doing alright”.

GAP

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