“In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.
Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.“
Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) from Harvey.
Staying on Track . .
Clifford Stoll describes the first time you do something, calling it ‘Science’. I might also define it as invention. The second time is ‘Engineering’ and the third time he calls it being a ‘Technician’.
Permit me a moment of your reading time to explore this a bit further because his 3 observations cover a lot of territory. They also define the life cycle of a business, marriage or even our life.
In business we hear about ‘startups’, led by ‘entrepeneurs’. Close to that we understand they may have come out with a ‘new product’ or ‘new service’ that we must have. Subsequent follow on, we may hear about a new improved model. Next, if you are following closely you may hear about rapid growth and development along with hiring new employees. Later you may read how new management has been brought on board to either improve the product/service or most likely to improve the bottom line. So lets examine how each phase evolves using what I call the marriage life cycle . .
1 – Discovery: Oh the excitement! (Science / startups / endorsement)
2 – Romance / courtship: we’re still excited! – learning more each day (Engineering / marketing / validation)
3 – Marriage: Now we’ve done it! (Technician / product development / daily operations, planning our future, perhaps even a family)
4 – Long Term Development: Things are a little unsettling right now (Reorganization, rightsizing / downsizing / making adjustments, product improvement, counseling)
5 – Divorce / Bankruptcy: Now we’re in trouble, how did we get here? (More reorganization, changing faces, cash flow problems, full disclosure, guardianship, divorce)
So, what does this all mean? I think there are phases to each of our lives as we face business and personal decisions. Often there are several ways we can deal with a new problem or as some like to call it, opportunity. It’s likely we have quite a few people telling us what they think is best. Some problems as well as some decisions we have made force us into following the guidance of others.
It’s easy to illustrate this through familiar a situation. If for example, you are found speeding, you will receive a ticket and a likely court appearance where the magistrate may give you additional ‘guidance’. Sometimes its easier to make a point through telling a story. Some people help you get through the day easier than others and here is one story recently told to me.
In the retail car business, dealerships hire people to drive vehicles from one location to another. If you go into a dealership to buy a specific car with features that a dealership doesn’t have in their present inventory, they will likely contact another location to bring the vehicle to you. These drivers are called ‘Porters’.
A porter was asked to drive a truck to another dealership. A couple of hours later he came back pushing the truck into the lot. When asked what happened, he explained he ran out of gas. He forgot to ask for a fuel voucher to fill with gas before he started down the road. Then he asked if the dealership would pay for his speeding ticket. The manager asked, why? It seems that as he traveled down the road the low fuel indicator came on. Thinking he had to do something quickly about this new problem he increased his speed. The police officer pulled the young porter over and pronounced his decision as something that needed attention. He was the proud owner of a speeding ticket for traveling at 98 MPH. The manager asked why would he be driving that fast? His answer, “because I wanted to get back before I ran out of gas.”
Our personal lives as well as the solutions we choose mirror that young man. He started out with enthusiasm, knowing he had over a two hour drive ahead. He initiated a plan of action but there were a couple of wrinkles in his planning. Once he faced the first problem, he hatched a new plan. That one didn’t work out so well either. This created a new set of problems. Lastly his lack of knowledge created a situation which not only was humiliating, it reduced his available options and he was definitely headed toward some guidance. I will say this story does have a happier ending than many of us might have faced. Many would have also lost their job, however he continued to work at that dealership. He was well liked but I’m sure an occasional joke was made of his thought process.
So let’s recap and see where this takes us.
1 – Always seek to discover but temper discovery with knowledge from those with a positive outcome in their experience.
2 – Stay excited about what you are doing. If your pursuit teaches you something along the way, you have traded your time wisely.
3 – Continue to improve and refine. A routine is good unless that routine has flaws. Work on the flaws and know long term success is achieved by routine.
If you are active and involved with others understand there will be failures. Don’t let that stop you in your pursuit. Failure should and often does teach us something, go with that and accept things as they are. In other words, don’t accept failure as a permanent condition but know this happens to achievers as well as those that try to avoid it. Don’t be bitter. This is one thing many people walk away with from business failure or divorce. I can tell you from personal experience this isn’t a place to live with in your mind. Let go of the past, accept your new found situation and move forward with what you have learned and set new goals.
“That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it.”
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
- John Quincy Adams
“Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance.”
- Samuel Johnson
“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.”
- Henry Ward Beecher
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”
- Walter Elliott
“If you want to get somewhere you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up.”
- Norman Vincent Peale