The great Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, once said, “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” Robinson certainly wasn’t content to be just a spectator, and neither should we. Wouldn’t you much rather be playing than watching?
As 2014 winds to an end, it’s good to reflect on all you have accomplished this past year. Think back across the last 12 months and consider all you have done both personally and professionally. Consider the goals you set for yourself that you have crossed off the list. Examine the work you have done and the contributions you have made to your organization’s success. Look at the impact you have had on the lives of others and how they are better off for it. Give yourself credit for what you have done—not what you have left undone.
I often talk about the characteristics of the people with whom I want to work. In their book How Google Works, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg talk about the type of people they had at Google. And the two of them should know—Schmidt is the executive chairman and ex-CEO, and Rosenberg is a former SVP of products. Both came to Google after its founding and had to adapt to an existing culture that was very particular and reflected the principles of the founders.
Fall is my favorite time of year. The weather cools, the leaves turn a beautiful array of colors, and the holiday season is here. This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, gathering with friends and family to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. It’s more than just turkey and football or another paid vacation day. It’s an opportunity to reflect on all the wonderful things in our lives that are worthy of thanks.
“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” I came across that question in a book the other day, and it really got me thinking. I firmly believe there are many things we don’t try because we’re convinced we won’t succeed. The thinking goes, “Why even go down that road if I know it’s not going to work?” We’re beaten before we even start.
Respect and appreciate those who help you succeed. For my birthday in September, my wife gave me tickets to a James Taylor concert, which we attended last night. It was fascinating to watch a man whose career has spanned my entire lifetime perform the classic hits he penned decades ago. With his quirky sense of humor and what appeared to be a genuine sense of enjoyment, he played for two hours, bantering with the audience as he went. But what struck me most was the recognition and appreciation he showed for his band.
At the end of the year, BLR’s founder, Bob Brady, will be retiring from the company he started 37 years ago. Last week we celebrated Bob’s achievements with a party attended by friends, business associates, and current and former BLR employees. It was a wonderful tribute to a man who has touched the lives of so many during his successful career.
The other day, I was driving through a small town and saw a sign on the side of a building that read, “Nobody ever regrets buying quality.” That got me thinking about quality. Did the proprietor of this business have it right? Does no one ever regret paying for a quality product or service?
It’s not uncommon for me to say, “I’d rather hire someone who will ask for forgiveness than someone who must ask for permission before taking action.” If you’re going to accomplish anything in life, you must be willing to act. And when you do, things don’t always turn out exactly as you would like. Sometimes you must step back, alter your course, and try again. But give me the person who is prone to action. It’s like the great race car drivers say, “To finish first, you must first finish.” And to finish, you must get off the starting line.
I recently wrote about servant leadership, mentioning that it has long been a concept that intrigues me. I used as an example—in part because of his recent passing—Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A. My choice for an example wasn’t universally embraced by those who read the entry. Many of the negative comments I received about the article referenced either Cathy’s politics or his religious beliefs. I had written about neither.