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2019 – 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 2019 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 2019 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 pursues.  Money may not buy happiness, but I believe it’s harder to be happy if you’re broke.

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 taking a family vacation; committing to time each day with the kids; “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 2019 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 2019 Plan.  And please “DREAM BIG!” James Collins in his book, Built to Last©, called them:

Big, Hairy Audacious Goals!

So here’s to 2019– may it be our best year yet!

GAP

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How to have a winning day…

Throughout my career, I’ve surrounded myself with smart, successful, professional people.  At the beginning of my career (starting out clueless) I felt the best chance I had for success was to do what they did – sort of “paint-by-numbers”.

I’ve known several great sales professionals… worked alongside many; managed a few; reported to one; learned from them all.  I even created my own, “Sales Hall of Fame”.  Next to the name of each of these Hall of Famers I have written down what makes them great:

Dan Callahan – Execution

Barb Sadtler – Commitment

Gary Given – Persuasiveness

Rob Mikleson – Competitiveness

Lisa Kwiecien – Tenaciousness

Joy Cox – Professionalism

Jim Robertson – Style

Mike D’Onofrio – Preparation

John Kleinhenz – Determination

Steve Allen – Focus

Nick Ryder – Savvy

Rob Denkewalter – Intellect

These great sales people have many things in common.  For instance, they are very smart; keenly skilled; unbelievably smooth; totally articulate; and quite worldly.  Most are a bit quirky, too.  (Thank God I’m normal!)  Some are more personable than others. (Yes, arrogance can creep into successful, self-made sales professionals.)

And I’m still learning – from them and from others – every day.  Sometimes it’s something new; often times it’s a reminder of the basic principles from all of the winners that came before me.  Why not follow the trail already blazed by the best-of-the-best?

One example comes from Gary Givan, a great salesman I used to work with.  It’s the principle of having a good day.  He teaches us:

Focus on having a good day, every day; and the year will take care of itself.

Sage advice, yes?  Over the years I’ve found extensions to this principle – focusing on the “How” when trying to have a winning day:

How to have a Winning Day:

  1. You have to listen more than you talk…
  2. You have to smile more than you frown…
  3. You have to be fascinated more than you’re frustrated…
  1. You have to believe in yourself more than you doubt yourself.
  1. You have to work more than you whine.
  2. You have to do more than you don’t.

Rob Gilbert

Do more than you don’t – I especially like that one!  When you’re having a tough time one great remedy is to just go sell somebody something!  (OK; easier said than done sometimes; but a great remedy nonetheless.)

Work more than you whine – I have recently wandered off this path; testing the patience of my wife and my friends; let life’s circumstances gain the upper hand.  It’s time to retrace my steps and return to the path of a winning day.

The nice thing about focusing one day at a time is that it’s just one day.  Some days we win; some we lose; and some get rained out; but tomorrow is always another day and another opportunity to succeed.  I guess I should add resiliency; mental toughness; and the ability to try and try again to my list of “Hall of Famer” attributes.  William Feather described it this way:

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.

And while we’re hanging on; one day at a time; we can concentrate our energy around simply trying to make today a good day.  Oh, and one more tip (from our favorite, unknown, pet loving Sage) regarding the “How”:

Wag more than you bark.

Today – I will learn from my dog – she wags her tail – every day!  How about you?

GAP

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Ladders or Jungle Gyms?

I was chatting with a colleague of mine recently.  He was thinking of putting his “hat in the ring” for a management role.  He asked for my opinion.  I’m always up for sharing opinions, although I know that my opinions are not always welcomed:

“What’s your opinion of my idea?” the brash young man asked his boss.  “It isn’t worth anything”, said the boss.  “I know”, conceded the young egotist, “but give it to me anyway.”

Unknown Sage

Nonetheless, we had a nice conversation about the position he was interested in.  We discussed the pros and cons of managing people.  We also discussed the potential “downside” if he didn’t pursue the position; or worse, pursued it at less than an “all in” manner.  Would there be another opportunity in the future?

I believe the way you go after a job is as important as the credentials you have (or don’t have).  He expressed concern over whether this was the right “Career Ladder” move, and if so was it the “right time”.  I don’t know much about “right timing”.  I have never been skilled at figuring out what the “right time” is when it comes to career moves.  But I know timing is important:

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance. 

Texas Bix Bender

In absence of a conclusion, we circled back to his career ladder question.  Which in turn stimulated this question:  Is the concept of a career ladder relevant in the 21st century?  I know people move up in organizations; I see people moving up in my organization frequently.  I also see people leave my organization equally if not even more frequently.  Maybe they believe that to move up they have to move on.

When you look at an org chart, the higher up you look the fewer spots there are, true?  Sometimes it appears the only way people from lower levels can move up is if the higher-ups move on.  And when openings appear, does it have to be some sequential progression up a ladder?

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat.

Eric Schmidt

Do you recognize the name Eric Schmidt?  He was the CEO at Google from 2001-2015.  Talk about a rocket ship!  Prior to joining Google, he led the now defunct Novell Corporation.  I wonder: Did riding one company to oblivion lead to the next rung up on the career ladder at another?

Exactly how does career progression work these days?

The most common metaphor for careers is a ladder, but this concept no longer applies to most workers… the average American has eleven jobs from the ages of eighteen to forty-six… (Bureau of Labor Statistics) …  Pattie Sellers conceived a better metaphor:  Careers are a jungle gym. 

Sheryl Sandberg

Do you recognize the name Sheryl Sandberg?  She is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook.  Prior to her technology career, she was Chief of Staff to the United States Secretary of the Treasury.  Pattie Sellers is the former Assistant managing Editor of Fortune.

I’m thinking this jungle gym metaphor might have some merit.  According to Wikipedia:

Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives!

Maybe it’s time to throw out those ladders.

GAP

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Achievement Drive…

I met with a front-line sales manager recently.  I believe front-line management of any kind is among the most difficult jobs in today’s work place.

He recapped the sales management process he has put in place.  He has confidence in this process; his 1-to-1 coaching interactions; the clarity of expectations he’s set with each of his sales reps.

However, at the team level?  Of his 7-person sales team; 2 are over-quota; 1 is at quota; and 4 are under-quota.  Scary.  I said his distribution was in line with industry research.  Not following the research, he was surprised.

I’m not experienced with other functional areas, but in the sales area teams rarely have everyone over-quota.  I know managers want “A-Players”; but in the real world, most teams have “B” and “C” players, too.

Integrity Solutions (see https://www.integritysolutions.com/) recently provided this research published in Sales & Marketing Magazine©:

Perhaps the most important issue affecting sales performance today is the concern over lagging sales quotas.  According to CSO Insights, only 51% of salespeople across all industries made quota in 2017, down from 53% in 2016, 55.8% in the previous year, and a steady decline from 63% in 2011.

Barely 50% of sales reps are over-quota.  Almost 50% don’t make it!  That catches a sales manager’s attention, yes?  Scary.  Add in the reality that some over-performing reps will turn over every year (either positive, aka “promotion”; or negative, aka “adios”) and the sales manager’s team quota looms even larger.

It’s scary to believe that 50% of your sales people won’t make quota.  It begs the question, “What do I do about it?”  Integrity Solutions offers us coaching; the Germans do too.

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. 

German Proverb

I said to my colleague that he should not invest his time equally with his 7 sales reps.  He agreed, thinking he should spend more time with his under-performers.  I suggested exactly the opposite.

You see, his under-performers have to earn extra resources (including their manager’s time).  Industry research states many of them simply won’t make it.  As a sales manager, I believe the best thing we can do for our people is to help them clarify their understanding of themselves.  Sales is the unchosen profession:

Sales is what we do when we can’t do anything else.

But it’s not for everyone; nor is it easy.  It can be scary.

Integrity Solutions extends this foundation-building advice:

Every salesperson unconsciously asks and silently answers these questions as part of that internal dialogue:

  • Who am I?
  • What’s possible for me to sell?
  • What’s not possible for me to sell?
  • What’s possible for me to earn?
  • What’s not possible for me to earn?
  • What level of people am I able to call on and sell?
  • What level of people am I not able to call on and sell?
  • What level of life rewards do I think I deserve to enjoy?
  • What level of life rewards do I not think I deserve to enjoy?

The sales rep’s musts: Answer these questions before the sales manager can offer support.  Pour a foundation of achievement drive to build knowledge and skills upon.  Start with the right mind set:

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? 

Robert Schuller

The sales manager can help; but research indicates most sales reps won’t commit to, or be able to succeed.  That means the manager’s 100% quota assignment will ultimately come from the achievement drive of 50% of the reps.  Scary.

GAP

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Trust me…

I was reading The Speed of Trust © by Stephen M.R. Covey recently.  A friend of mine shared his copy from a training session his company conducted on trust-building among teams.

Trust is spoken of often in the sales profession.  “Being a trusted advisor” is a common phrase sales people like to say to prospective clients.  But on what basis should the prospect trust us?

In Covey’s book, this customer offered his perspective on trust:

I don’t think you have a full trusting relationship until you are actually at the point that you deliver success repeatedly.  When one of my major suppliers says we want to have a trusting relationship, I think, “What a lot of rubbish that is!”  I turn around and say, “I don’t trust you.  I am not going to trust you until you repeatedly deliver success to me.” 

Peter Lowe

A bit impersonal; arrogant; over the top?  IMHO – just the opposite.

When I first started out in the business my company (ADP) held sales meetings every Tuesday at 5pm (“Roll Call”).  Afterwards, we strolled across the street to a neighborhood “gin mill” (Nancy’s).  Beers, boasts, and war stories of the week were exchanged until closing hour.  That was the setting junior sales reps like me learned the profession from seasoned veterans.

Except one seasoned veteran, Bob Ackerman.  Bob was one of the top sales reps in our office.  Polished; professional; Bob spoke well; dressed well; showed all the evidence of sales success.  And for my first 6 months on the job, he didn’t have a single conversation with me.  If I approached him, he would literally and rudely walk away.  It would have been easy to say he was impersonal; arrogant; over the top.  Turned out – just the opposite.

One Tuesday evening after our sales meeting; 6 months to the week; Bob approached me with two beers (one for me) and said, “Gary, great week – congratulations!”  And from that week forward, Bob trusted me.

I didn’t have the stroke that night to ask Bob, “WTF?”  But after a period of time the opportunity arose, and I asked him why he was so cold when I first started.  Turns out – it was a matter of trust.

You see, Bob was successful during an era when sales rep turnover was even higher than in today’s marketplace.  “Draw vs. commission” was the standard compensation plan back then; no base salary.  Sales results roll called weekly; classic “What have you done lately?” environment.

A modest weekly draw soothed cash flow needs. The draw was deducted from our monthly commission check.  (Trusted – 30 days at a time.)  If we didn’t earn enough commissions to cover our draw, the next month the draw was cut in half.  Two months in a row, and the draw was eliminated.  We never got to month three.  Trust without results didn’t go very far back then – still doesn’t.

Bob had seen plenty of sales reps come and fail.  He told me he used to get to know the new people; he used to coach them a little bit; tried to help them out.  And when they failed it hurt his feelings.  So rather than continuing to feel hurt, he withdrew; he waited.  Bob felt if a rep (like me) could make it 6 months; then he would trust that the rep would make it.

The moral of Peter and Bob’s stories?  To earn the position of “trusted advisor” we must produce.  Trust doesn’t beget results – just the opposite.

GAP

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Jerk…

Now there’s a word used often in our society these days, yes?

During my performance appraisals my manager has given me superior ratings in all but one area.  In my company’s rating scale, the highest level of performance is labeled “Outstandingly Awesome”.  I like that label.

To be sure, I’m as motivated as anyone to have my performance rated outstandingly awesome.  I’m as competitive as anyone to “win”.  I have strived from childhood to adulthood; work and play; continuously reading training and motivational materials to help me earn outstandingly awesome recognition.

I often envision myself on the podium; waving a bouquet of flowers; kissing the pretty hostess; preparing for the glorious interview where the interviewer asks, “Gary, how did you do it?”  And on occasion, I’ve actually been on that podium (albeit sans flowers, pretty hostess or the interviewer).

Does this envisioning make me a jerk?  Am I arrogant and obnoxious?  Well, from time-to-time I would acknowledge – guilty.  My manager has so-noted in that one area on said performance reviews, too.  In my defense – is such an attitude and approach an outcome from how I was coached?

Al McGuire, former head basketball coach of Marquette University, once said, “A team should be an extension of the coach’s personality.  My teams were arrogant and obnoxious.”

Al McGuire

At this stage of my career I have finally accepted the fact that sometimes, I don’t play well with others (aka am a jerk).  Even though I have succeeded in my career by “playing angry” (which I recently wrote about http://thequoteguys.com/2017/07/playing-angry/ ), I’m finally at a point where I agree I could lighten up a bit.

Winning in business and in life is so much more than the podium, don’t you agree?

The most valuable thing you can ever own is your image of yourself as a winner in the great game of life, as a contributor to the betterment of humankind, as an achiever of worthy goals. 

Tom Hopkins

So, to get me headed in the right direction my boss’ boss jumped in and asked me to read Emotional Intelligence 2.0 © by Dr. Travis Bradberry.  You might have noticed I quote him often.  His book starts with a self-diagnostic.  I actually rated much better than I had expected; 74 – which means “With a little improvement, this could be a strength.”  Today, I keep the book on my desk with the pages dog-eared to the sections on addressing conflict with emotional intelligence.

Liking this new path I am exploring at this stage of my career, I next read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There © by Marshall Goldsmith.  I enjoyed one of his foundational points, articulated by the famous management consultant, Peter Drucker:

We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do.  We don’t spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.

After all of these years, I finally have a manager who is helping to teach me what to stop.  Oh he still wants and expects my outstandingly awesome, competitive fire.  He’d just like me to play nicer with others.

So I returned to my recent readings seeking advice for improvement – and found it:

There’s a simpler way to achieve being nicer.  All you have to do is stop being a jerk. 

Marshall Goldsmith

Well, my manager; his manager; Dr. Brad; and Marshall Goldsmith are all pointing me to the solution.

Many receive advice.  Only the wise profit from it. 

Publilius Syms

And only a jerk would ignore Publilius Syms, true?

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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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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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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