Have you seen that famous photograph of Jean Guichard’s where a giant wave looks like it’s about to engulf a lighthouse? 

In the photo, Jean catches a uniquely timed image of the lighthouse keeper, Théodore Malgorne, seemingly stepping out for some fresh air. Actually he was not. He was awaiting a rescue from the life-threatening storm in 1989.  He and his colleagues had to take refuge in the lighthouse tower after waves the night before had smashed through the lower windows of the tower, causing the structure to flood and washing away everything in its path, including the television, table, chairs, coffeemaker and even the refrigerator.  When Théodore heard the helicopter, he stepped out, anticipating rescue. But it was Jean Guichard there to snap the timely shot just before another massive wave hit. The keeper made it inside just in time, the lighthouse held, and Jean Guichard got his award winning photograph.

Thankfully the rescuers did arrive and everyone was brought to safety.  I don’t know what eventually happened to the lighthouse, though my guess is that it is still there, like many others, holding true to their place against nature’s fury.  Some give, but most don’t. And that might make a good metaphor for our time management philosophy moving forward.

Imagine that level of steadfastness applied to our plans, strategies and priorities– plans for our business or career, our health, our relationships, our finances.  You’ve heard it before, “plan your work and work your plan”.  It’s the “working your plan” that gets most of us. We plan to; we intend to; we sometimes even want to – but the waves get in the way.  Some are self-inflicted waves and others are not.  Either way, they’re waves and they’ll destroy our plans, unless we hold firm like that lighthouse did.  

What do you have planned this year? What priorities need your undivided attention? What strategic elements of your life and work are being neglected?

Let’s make our plans, with purpose and vision in mind; then protect those plans much like the lighthouse did for the Keepers amidst the nasty storm.  Imagine what we’ll get done. Imagine our progress. Imagine our sense of confidence and fulfillment – actually doing exactly what we said we’d do.

Be the lighthouse. Be steadfast in your plans. That’s personal integrity. And that’s worth it.

Chicken or Pig

A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor's office.

After his checkup, the doctor called the wife into his office alone. He said, "Your husband is suffering from a very severe stress disorder. If you don't follow my instructions carefully, your husband will surely die.

"Each morning, fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant at all times. For lunch make him a nutritious meal. For dinner prepare an especially nice meal for him.”

"Don't burden him with chores. Don't discuss your problems with him; it will only make his stress worse. Do not nag him. Most importantly, make love to him regularly.”

"If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, I think your husband will regain his health completely."

On the way home, the husband asked his wife, "What did the doctor say?"

"He said you're going to die."

So much for commitment.  At least she was honest. Right?

But what if you are committed…that committed?

Think about it this way, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed! At least in terms of a ham and eggs breakfast. 

What can you achieve with commitment?   Commitment to your workout plans, your nutrition goals, your sales numbers, your marriage vows, your reading plan, and even those commitments you have yet to make, but know you should.

You can do what the wife did – don’t commit and simply be honest about the outcome.

Or you can commit fully. You can be the pig. 

A Walk To The Elevator

Many years ago, at the height of my sales career, I remember witnessing a classic and devastating sales mistake.  And if you’re in sales, you’ve likely made this mistake as well.  Maybe you still do.

I was with my Sales Manager on an appointment with a very strong prospect. A prospect is one who has shown qualified interest in your product or service, and this guy was definitely that.  There we were, engaging in a good discussion, discussing how we were going to provide effective solutions and the excellent partnership we would make. We left the prospect’s office having had a good, solid, solutions-focused discussion and with strong rapport established.  This contract would have been by far my largest single client, likely doubling my annual sales revenue. 

As we walked to the elevator, my Sales Manager basically congratulated me on this tremendous success. We got it! It’s a done deal!  Those were not the exact words, but they might as well have been. I was not so convinced. My thought…before speaking it as a public success, I need the proverbial money in the bank. 

My trepidation was dead-on, as the commitment never came to be. He walked out with “happy ears” – hearing what he wanted, not necessarily what was said, or in this case not said. Here is what was not said: “You have the contract.”

Ultimately I’ve become much more cautious in my optimism.  I guess that might mean I’m more realistically optimistic. I need proof of my confidence when it comes to something beyond my control. 

Too many people, sales for sure, figuratively spend what has not yet been granted.  When it comes to your future, are you projecting with your heart or your mind? I suggest if you go with your heart, at least back it up with your mind.

That level of realistic optimism will keep you honest.

Diminishing Returns

Our son is now into Rock Climbing.

Which means I am, too.

Plus, for those who know me, I love mud running, and the best ones have some level of rock wall obstacles.  So – added bonus to improve.

Mitchell wanted me to join him at the local rock climbing “gym,” Climbnasiam, in order to learn and experience what he has been enjoying so much lately.  Hey, a shot of exercise, challenge, obstacle improvement and time with my son – I’m in.

What a neat set up! And what a difficult and unexpected challenge! I learned a lot that day as Mitchell consistently preached the “conserve energy” and be “fluid” gospel of rock climbing.  Specifically, for those who know this world, we were Bouldering. This involves free climbing specific pathways up to 14 feet – no rope – and with varying difficulties.  The floor is heavily cushioned, so there’s little danger of any major physical damage.

After an hour or so of gaining a new appreciation for grip strength vs muscle strength, as well as the impact of hesitation and delay on the climb (major fatigue), I found my nemesis course. It was a relatively challenging “newbie” climb I conquered earlier in the day. Well, doing it toward the end was the challenge. You see, after all that climbing – gripping, pulling, swinging, etc. – my strength was clearly in a state of diminishing returns. So each time it actually started getting harder, especially when I tried to muscle through this climb.

It occurred to me that this is a great life lesson. We put our shoulder to the wheel and nose to the grindstone and wonder why we are having so little success, at least for the effort put out. Simple – too much time in that position leaves us with a dislocated shoulder and not much left of our nose!

Research I’ve seen says we begin experiencing diminishing returns mentally after about 90 minutes. We’re all slightly different, but none of us is immune to the concept. 

We all need breaks. We all need downtime. We all need to get re-energized.  Take lunch, go for a walk, do some stretching, read something worthwhile, call your spouse or kids, or maybe…go home.

By the way, I did end my day with success on that last climb. With more finesse than strength, some good coaching and a short break, we made it happen!

Mr. Smiley

Think of a profession that has the happiest people. A role someone plays that, as you experience them, you come away feeling good. An overall happy person job.

What did you come up with?

I know, it’s obvious, isn’t it?   A traffic cop.

Well, that’s what my wife would say. And she’d tell you his name is Mr. Smiley.

Of course we don’t really think that’s his name, but it might as well be. Because that’s what he does, all day – always smiling and encouraging walkers and drivers alike with “Enjoy your day!”

Go ahead, picture a traffic cop. Isn’t that the happiest person you’ve ever seen? Not likely. But you might change your mind when you come upon the heaviest traveled cross walk on Dickinson College campus – especially around lunch time. Mr. Smiley makes it fast, efficient, and fun for his customers.

Plenty are not like Mr. Smiley, which is why you didn’t likely pick a traffic cop for your answer. In fact we might come up with a few other, often deserved, but better unsaid, names about traffic cops – or most professions for that matter.

What’s the deal with you, Mr. Smiley?

I don’t really know… but I’d go with - perspective and choice.

Perspective:  I think Mr. Smiley knows the relevance of his role, even while others in the exact same role, even the same crossing space and different time, don’t know it. He knows who he impacts and how. He knows people’s lives are at stake. And he knows he can make it fun and efficient, and very safe all at the same time. When we know what difference we make, we are more focused, in-tune, and engaged. A perspective of relevance helps us feel what we do has value. Mr. Smiley knows being a traffic cop is very relevant.

Choice: I’m thinking Mr. Smiley has the same troubles we all have. He likely sees and hears his share of rude people along his journey. He’s been in some nasty weather, that’s for sure.  He’s got plenty of redundancy, and we could certainly argue he has plenty of stressful situations.  Yet, there he is – smiling, laughing, and just having a good time – whether we are or not.  Thankfully, when we’re paying attention – we are having fun because Mr. Smiley takes us there.

What if we all acted like Mr. Smiley? We might enjoy the journey a whole lot more.