Forgive me for indulging a little parable-style business writing, but my son Andrew is in town for an impromptu visit and I’m feeling a bit paternal. Andrew is 22 and he lives in California now. Seems like yesterday he was 9 and we were in the back yard raking and hauling bags of leaves. We both learned an interesting lesson during one of those afternoon raking sessions.
Andrew and I had spent the afternoon raking and had finally finished the job of loading the piles of leaves into large and heavy trash bags. We were ready to begin the slow process of moving the heavy bags to the curb. I hoisted a bag over my shoulder and started walking. After much effort, Andrew finally managed to pull a bag over his own shoulder. But he could barely stand up with it. It was too heavy. He lurched painfully toward the curb, stopping every few steps to rest and get back on course.
Both Andrew and I knew how hard he was working and how badly he wanted to succeed. I asked him if he wanted help, and he adamantly told me “no, I’m strong enough to pick it up.” And he was right – he could pick up a bag. What he couldn’t do, though, was make real progress getting the bag to the curb. And that was the real goal.
I went behind the garage and grabbed our wheelbarrow. I brought it to Andrew, showed him how it worked, and suggested he drop the bag inside. He immediately saw how much easier the work was using the tool, and he soon discovered that he was actually strong enough to move two bags at a time using the wheelbarrow. He was thrilled, and we finished quickly. He had fun. Andrew had proved he was strong enough to pick up a bag, but only by putting it down did he make real progress moving toward his goal.
My company works with business owners, and they sometimes remind me of Andrew and his desperate attempt to carry by himself an unwieldy bag of leaves. They struggle mightily with their own burdens, striving to show that they can “do it”. But progress is unsteady, goals move further away, and they become tired and frustrated. Sometimes they work so hard doing what they’re doing – usually the way they’ve always done it — that they allow themselves the time or the perspective to consider how much more they could achieve if they did things differently
If you’re a business owner you know how much work it takes to rake your company’s leaves, bag them up, and drag them one-by-one to the curb. You are strong enough to pick up those business bags. Here’s the real question — are you strong enough to put them down?
©JPECA Inc., 2011