“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” Henry Ford
Less than two blocks from my home, Harrison Park is hosting a neighborhood youth day of fun and games. One of the contests is a two-person potato sack race. My best friend David and I join together as a team.. Each team member is required to put one leg into the same potato sack, and then the pair holds the sack up while racing to the finish line.
As David and I huddle up for the race, my friend strategizes aloud, “Robert, the key to winning this race is to not hurry. Everyone who tries to go fast always trips up along the way. We will take our time and make sure that we never fall.” We then practice a few steps to get our timing down.
If you have ever participated in or watched a potato sack race, you observed contestants often falling along the way. And, when trying to get back up, they may also fall again, which makes the game a lot of fun. Laughter fills the air as contestants fly airborne, attempt to recover but fall again. Teams that go fast at the beginning look like they cannot be beaten. But then, they fall and other teams catch up.
As inexperienced youth, most of us never thought about ‘potato sack race strategy.’ Lucky for me, David Hicks, my team member and long-term neighborhood friend, actually took the time to ‘think’ about how to win.
That race was a long time ago. David and I triumphantly ‘walked away’ with that victory. While all the other contestants fell at least one time on the way to the finish line, we did not fall even once. Our pace was moderate and deliberate. Not slow, but not excessively fast. Just right. It was a winning strategy.
What does a potato sack race have to do with the ‘Mondays are Great’ message and success? It reminds me of a simple success principle that I have used throughout my life. For lack of a sophisticated term, I call it the ‘think strategy.’ It is all about taking the time to think things through.
In the business world in which I have enjoyed much success, and in the inevitable problems of life, my ‘think strategy’ is a very simple process. I close my office door, sit at my desk, take out an 8.5 x 11 writing pad and start thinking. Is there a method to my thinking? Yes . . . and extremely simple. Habitually, I write a few questions and answers. Here are some of the questions I ask:
What is the problem? How did this happen? Why did it happen? What are the challenges I face in trying to overcome this situation? What are the opportunities? Finally, and quite importantly, is the question, what is the resolution, and what tools or people could help me to implement a solution? And then, I act. I implement the elements of my decision.
I can imagine that many of you are thinking, “this stuff is obvious!” “Way too simple!” Why then do we often see so many people taking immediate action—in the middle of a major problem – without applying any thought. Doing is important – vital. Thinking and doing is a better way.
This week, I get to do something for which I have great passion. As part of the training team for the corporate training program of Hackbarth Delivery Service, I will spend a day talking to a group of new team members. Culture, management and basic company values will be part of my message.
In one important presentation, I will make a deliberate pause to get everyone’s attention. I will then emphatically say the following words to the newcomers to our company:
“I will pay you to think.”
It is a meaningful and pivotal point in my training presentation. As I continue, I remind our new team members of one important fact: they will always be busy. The daily tasks in our business are demanding. I tell them that the toughest part of the job will be finding quiet time to sit down and think through the problems that they will face. And finding that time to think about a better way is a proven strategy for succeeding.
What we do each day is often what is required. It is our agenda. It is our routine. It represents survival. Is there anything more to life than this? I think so. I know so.
All of us face challenges, and at lightning speed. The invitation is always to “do.” To act. Like in a potato sack race, we want to win. We hurry. The finish line is in sight. We are lured by the potential victory. We often act without thinking.
My friend’s wisdom pulls us aside for a moment. I can hear David saying to all of us: “Let’s huddle up. Let’s think about this.”
Today, I am faced with . . .
I will act.
Before I act, I will think.