Fifteen years ago I attended a special service at church. There was to be a guest speaker on Sunday night. The sanctuary was packed and I ended up sitting on the front row. It was a blessing.
A man named David Black walked to the podium and introduced himself. He was born without arms. He shrugged off his jacket and somehow draped it across the back of his chair. He did it so fast I can’t tell you how he managed.
Next, he sat down, slipped off his shoe, picked up a pitcher of water with his foot, poured a glass, sat the pitcher down and took a drink. He slipped his shoe back on and stood up. He walked to the microphone and said, “Tonight I want to talk to you about focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have.”
I was totally dumbfounded. For the next ninety minutes he talked about working, driving a car, using telephones and computers. He explained that he is married and has children. He’s a successful businessman and public speaker. The time passed at light speed. When his time was up it seemed too soon. The entire audience was mesmerized.
Another inspiring character was my very good friend Jim Pipkin. Jim is gone now. He died several years ago in the west. He was traveling in his RV seeing America. He had already seen the seven seas.
Jim was the victim of a boating accident. He broke his back and did irreparable damage to his sensory nerves. His motor nerves worked fine. He just couldn’t feel things he needed to feel.
Let me describe how this influenced his daily behavior. Jim could barely feel his feet and hands. He described it as the way we all feel when our foot or hand falls asleep. The tingling and numbness were with him 100% of the time. There was no relief…ever.
I watched Jim burn his feet while walking barefoot on hot pavement. I watched him tear up things he was trying to handle because he couldn’t tell how hard he was squeezing or pressing. It caused him to limit his driving to short trips and reduced his work day to less than three hours. Everything that depended on delicate touch and agility was impacted.
Now…Jim was a printing salesman. He was also a boat captain. He taught me how to repair my boat and drive it. That was no small task. It was big (60 feet) and very heavy (54,000 pounds). That’s a lot of weight with no brakes. It takes a sense of touch…a sense Jim no longer had.
I mentioned that Jim sold printing. He sold a lot of printing. He sold enough to earn six figures. He did it in three hours a day. He managed to grow when he couldn’t go.
His accident was just that. He didn’t let it own any more of him than it deserved to own. He just couldn’t and wouldn’t make that excuse or waste that time. He insisted on being happy, funny, productive and…on the water.
I remember having to repair my marine toilet. They’re complicated devices and not everything you encounter is…glamorous. I made every excuse in the world for putting it off.
Jim cornered me and said, “Billy…how long have you been this way?” He made me stop and address the repair. He sat with me and watched every step. He told me what to expect and what each turn of a blade should feel like. I was the hands and he was the brains. He taught me to do something he couldn’t do himself. In the process he inspired me. I miss him every day.
These two guys had it right and had something in common. Neither allowed their circumstances to win. They refused to let their disabilities define who they were. They refused to make excuses for being mediocre. Because they refused…a new standard was set and obtained. They dictate the rules. They control the results.
Now what does this have to do with us? What is my point this time? Why am I parading two people you don’t know in front of you now?
Because I want our industry to make a difference. I want each of us to see limits as exactly what they are…excuses…lies we tell ourselves to allow the comfort of being mediocre to continue. I want us to resolve to change that…today.
I wonder what David Black would say about a “price problem.” I’ll bet he would kick off his shoe, dial the phone and talk to the client about what it would really take to win the business. I’m guessing he would share the answers with management and insist that we step up and earn the work.
I wonder what Jim would say about any employee’s comment that “I don’t have time to manage my work.” I’m fairly certain he would address them the way he addressed me about the toilet. I think he would find it interesting that the tools and technology available today don’t empower us to do more than ever before. I don’t believe he would be sympathetic to excuse makers. I’m confident he would borrow a phrase from Nike and say “Just do it!”
That’s what we should do. Just do it. Make a difference. Commit yourself to asking more of yourself. Throw out the rule book and write your own. When needs change…throw that one out too.
I’m getting out of the excuse business. I’ll mange my weight by pushing back from the table and my sales by dialing the phone. My work will be as promised because I’ll make it be. These things are under my control…as they are for you. Excuses are just excuses. They’re nonsense.
Jim would let me have it. He would say, “Billy…how long have you been this way.” My answer would be lame so I’ll keep it to myself. I pledge to simply get busy and do it! Join me please! You’ll like what happens.