Leaping Before Looking


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do… Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”     ~Mark Twain~

As a child, I often heard it said:  “Curiosity kills the cat.”  This proverb was supposed to instill in us the notion that exploring and getting lost are not at all virtuous behaviors. It is better to play life close to the cuff.  I beg to differ.

We all make mistakes, and those of us who make the most mistakes the fastest have the greatest likelihood of success and unstoppable self-confidence.

This morning for me was a case in point.  I am very uncomfortable working with computer technology.  Yet when I read a report from a reliable source today which told me I could tweak my computer and increase the speed of it in five easy steps…well, curiosity got the best of me.

I followed the instructions to the T, yet when I rebooted my new laptop I had no Windows after the initial logo flashed.  Something was happening inside my machine because the lights of the operating system were flickering, but no matter what I did or tapped, the OS was inoperable.

I quickly dispatched a message to the frickin guy who sold me the manual to ask for urgent help, but I got no response.

I then figured out how to go to Safe Mode, but that was like a novice opening a circuit board to try to find a shorted circuit.

Next, I pulled out all the manuals and disks for my computer, but they were all written in Japanese (which is a challenge).

Oh well, I thought, I’ll reformat the hard drive.  The notion was daunting because I’d have to spend half my day adding software and copying files from my old desktop to the newer laptop.

So I went back into Safe Mode and perused my options a final time. Aha!  There it was:  “Go back to the last working configuration.”  Presto, two wasted hours brought a victory at last.

The moral of this story:  Our dumb mistakes are always learning experiences in disguise.  They teach us how to work out difficulties and become empowered.

For those of you who are technically-challenged or know someone who is that way, share this story.  The only thing which separates us from our dreams is the willingness to try new things and the unwillingness to take failure or obstacles personally or fatally.

Stop being intimidated by technology or people.  Everything in our world is put there to make us better and stronger.  Face up to challenge and embrace it.

Uncovering Opportunity

wells“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.”     ~Orison Swett Marden~

I have a brash, maybe painful, question to ask of you?  Are you ready?

Yes, I am, Richard?  What is it you want to know?  Imagine – if you will – that life can bring to you whatever you wish for most.

Yeah, I’m with you, Richard.

And supposing that you wish to be rich beyond all imagination.  Let’s say, $10,000,000 in the bank and growing.

Sounds great, Richard.

So now you have your dream and you set about learning what it takes to be so rich.  You read the books, attend the seminars, listen to motivational messages, and write down definable goals.  You feel certain that in time your dream will become a reality.

That makes sense, Richard.

The trouble is that none of your ideas gel and the thousands of dollars you are investing in your future glory seem to be flushing down the proverbial toilet day by day.

That could happen, Richard.

But one day a stranger in front of the general store tries to light a cigarette with a match and the flame blows out over and over again before he can light up.  You are on your way to meet a man about your newest idea, and thus give scant attention to the man with the unlit cigarette.

I’m following you, I guess.  Continue Richard.

You call that busyness, but I call it a missed opportunity.  Your life will probably go on uneventfully and without that $10,000,000 in the vault.

A former metal worker and high school dropout, George G. Blaisdell, however, rakes in enough cold hard cash to buy ten yachts and five vacation homes from a depression-era driven company, Zippo Lighters.

Hmm, that scenario does happen all the time, doesn’t it, Richard?

Yes, it does.  If you become so obsessed with the theory of wealth that you develop a tunnel vision, then opportunity will pass right under your nose time and again, unknown and underutilized.

Information Please

(Written anonymously; no author attributed to the piece.)

“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”       ~Confucius~ 

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighborhood. I remember well the polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother talked to it. Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person–her name was “Information, Please” and there was nothing she did not know. “Information, Please” could supply anybody’s number and the correct time.

My first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbor. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible but there didn’t seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy.

I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway. The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the footstool in the parlor and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlor and held it to my ear. “Information, Please,” I said into the mouthpiece just above my head.

A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear, “Information.” “I hurt my finger,” I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience. “Isn’t your mother home?” came the question. “Nobody’s home but me.” I blubbered. “Are you bleeding?” the voice asked. “No,” I replied. “I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts.” “Can you open your icebox?” she asked.

I said I could. “Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger,” said the voice. After that, I called “Information, Please” for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk, that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called “Information, Please” and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child, but I was inconsolable. I asked her, “Why is it that birds should sing so beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?”

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, “Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in.” Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone. “Information, Please.” “Information,” said the now familiar voice. “How do you spell fix?” I asked.

All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. When I was nine years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much. “Information, Please” belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialed my hometown operator and said, “Information, Please.” Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well, “Information.” I hadn’t planned this but I heard myself saying, “Could you please tell me how to spell fix?”

There was a long pause. Then came the soft-spoken answer, “I guess your finger must have healed by now.” I laughed. “So it’s really still you,” I said. “I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time?” “I wonder,” she said, “if you know how much your calls meant to me? I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls.” I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

“Please do,” she said. “Just ask for Sally.” Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered, “Information.” I asked for Sally. “Are you a friend?” she asked. “Yes, a very old friend,” I answered. “I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” she said. “Sally has been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago.” Before I could hang up she said, “Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called. Let me read it to you.”

The note said, “Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He’ll know what I mean.” I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.

Never underestimate the impression you may make on others. Whose life have you touched today?


The Popeye Response


“Stubbornness does have its helpful features.  You always know what you’re going to be thinking tomorrow.”      ~Glen Beaman, author~

Far too many people – especially men – like to justify their being by using what I call The Popeye the Sailorman response: “I am what I am.”  This could also be called “The Cop Out, I-don’t-give-a-hoot” answer of losers and wannabes.

Unfortunately, lots of businesses are run with this same inflexibility and stubbornness.  When someone makes a diplomatic suggestion inside or outside of the business to the owners or management, the latter make one hundred million excuses and justifications not to listen, not to learn, and not to change their business approach when warranted.

In my neighborhood, for example, just this past week the fourth store in a six-month span closed due to lack of business.  Duh!  That’s what happens when you open the same-old same-old type of establishment.

I live in a middle-class setting, but the business acumen of many shopkeepers in my neighborhood is insular, lacks vision, and depends on attracting business solely by their location, signs and newspaper inserts…all of which most people in our information-overloaded age tend to ignore.

The paradigm shifted long ago.

Truth has it that in today’s world we build our reputation and business by becoming an expert and an information disseminator.  Many traditional physical businesses think that an online presence is only a “buy buy buy” storefront for their product and services.  Nothing can be further from the truth.

Whether you are operating in a 3000-square-foot location or out of a an attic guest room, in the modern age we are each information centers.

We need to earn the respect of our customers by providing information and insights – sometimes free and sometimes not – through ezine newsletters, ebooks, uploaded “How to…” videos, and online webinars and teleseminars.

The stores in my neighborhood which closed had no meaningful information to share with the customer base and had lame websites in three cases and no website in another.

The next time you are tempted to use the Popeye Answer, “Information products are irrelevant to my business” song, try giving that response a needed rest.  Information products – no matter which business you are in – are virtually pure profit.  The jewelry or eyeglasses in the physical showroom or store usually have profit margins of less than 30 percent.

Which is better for your bottom line – product, information, or a combination of the two?  Though each situation is different, most businesses would opt for the combination.

Even mom-and-pop shops must understand and embrace the Information Age in order to have a fighting chance in the highly competitive world we live in.  If Popeye was a real character, in today’s business environment he’d have written an ebook on the benefits of spinach.