I can’t help but laugh when I see an orange juice (OJ) commercial on TV. The 30 second spot usually begins with a shot of a married couple waking up from a restful nights sleep. They stretch, smile, and get out of bed. The next scene is from their back yard patio pouring cold OJ into fine crystal glasses. They are looking into a meadow with a beautiful trout filled stream running through it, and a mare and her foal galloping across the field. There are a lot of chirping birds in the background singing away. The last frames are of them drinking their OJ and heading off to work in their BMW’s.
I can buy into that vision. I’m sure it happens like that somewhere and where it does, good for them.
But here is the more likely scenario. The alarm rings. It’s 6 a.m. A dad gets out of bed alone. His wife is not home yet. She’s working the grave yard shift at the factory and has two more hours before she clocks out.
The dad has three kids to get ready for school, has to make breakfast and get himself ready for his job as the sales manager at a new car dealership. Sales have been slow lately because so many good folks lost their credit during the Great Recession and can’t qualify for a new car loan. He’s behind on his bills and the Regional Director is pressuring him to meet this month’s sales quota. To put it mildly, he is under a mountain of stress.
But he decides to make a choice on how the day will unfold. He starts his day with enthusiasm and the belief that everything will be okay. He sits down with the kids for their morning meal, he pours them fresh OJ, and says a prayer.
“Lord, thank you for this meal we are about to receive, and thank you for the blessings our family enjoys in this great country of America.” A few minutes later, the school bus shows up and the kids climb aboard; dad drives 25 minutes to go 10 miles. But it doesn’t bother him a bit. It’s a sunshine kind of day in his mind.
Here’s the point: Television gives us an image they would like us to believe – the moms and dads in the world live in a completely different reality. It’s a reality of hard work, choosing which bills to pay, and wondering in some cases if they’ll have jobs six months from now.
Elvis sang a song with this line:“The man who can sing when he doesn’t have a thing is the King of the whole wide world.” When faced with problems and challenges, we as humans have a free will to make choices. The choices we make can affect every aspect of our business and personal lives. Do we make a positive “glass half full” choice? Or do we make a “glass half empty” choice, submit to failure and give up?
Senator John McCain was offered his freedom in 1968 while being held captive as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. There was one condition. His friends and fellow prisoners had to remain behind. McCain said if his friends couldn’t leave, he wasn’t leaving. McCain chose to endure five more years of torture in prison instead of abandoning his fellow POW’s. That choice made him a national hero and a legend in our nation’s armed forces. That act alone won the hearts of people around the world.
Randy Pausch wrote an inspirational book on living while he was dying. It’s a motivational piece titled “The Last Lecture.” I’d encourage every one to read it. Pausch chose to seize every living moment with a positive attitude and enter death’s door on his own terms.
While Senator McCain and Pausch are extreme positive examples of choosing to climb one’s symbolic personal mountains on one’s own terms, most of us will never have to choose life or death in our daily decisions. Since that is the case, that should make it easier to not cave in to a victim mentality and become disillusioned, disheartened or depressed when confronted with our own mundane daily tribulations.
Another favorite true story of mine is that of Carrie Underwood. In 2005, she heard auditions for “American Idol” were being held in St. Louis, Missouri. She and her mother drove nine hours from their farm home in Oklahoma where Underwood used to sing to the livestock. Upon arriving, Underwood saw 35,000 other signers waiting to try out. She said to her mother that there was no way she could possibly be chosen and they should just turn around and head back to Oklahoma. Her mother, having faced and overcome her own trials in life, said she had to at least try so she would never wonder “what if?”
Can anyone imagine a world today without this wonderful Superstar? Never ever be afraid to try anything if the passion for something burns within you, no matter how hopeless it may seem at the time.
I want to leave you today with a poem written by Ralph Acosta that I carried this in my pocket for years before giving it to a young man who reminded me of myself. I know how powerful and motivational these words have been through my tough days. This poem, “Words from Zig Ziglar,” and my Bible, have helped me become a success. I hope this message today will be an inspiration to you, your employees and your family.
“Keep climbing. Every mountain has a top that can be reached!”
“When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, when the funds are low and the debts are high, and you want to smile, but you have to sigh, when care is pressing you down a bit – rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”
“Success is failure turned inside out, the silver tint in the clouds of doubt, and you never can tell how close you are, it might be near when it seems afar; so stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit – it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”