When people die, their weighty words do not die. When you count, make sure that you count what really counts, in a currency that matters. Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. The luxury of majoring on minors is an expensive game. Priorities are not what you say, but what you do and how you allocate resources, time and attention. Unless you can clearly define the line you are following you cannot talk of alignment. Being busy is not the same as being productive because mere sweat is not an evidence of work. Living long does not mean you lived well. It is therefore better to measure life by its depth and not its length. Content matters. Some stories, stow much wisdom.
The late, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) is an eminent British politician, military officer and writer who served as the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. He is known for his brutish tenacity, blunt speeches, brazen stories and brilliant witticisms. I came across one of his stories that moved me.
Churchill once told a story of a British family that went out for a picnic by a lake. In the course of the afternoon their little son who was five years old accidentally slipped and fell into the lake. Regrettably, none of the adults who were there could swim and help the drowning boy. As the little boy was bobbing up and down and everyone on the shore was in helpless panic mode, a passerby saw the situation and was moved with empathy. There was no time to lose and the boy’s life was at stake. He acted fast to save what mattered most. At great risk to himself, he dived into the lake fully clothed and managed to reach the child just before he went under for the third time. It was a brave act.
This good hearted stranger was able to pull the boy out of the water and present him safe and sound to his mother. The next thing that happened was unexpected and illustrates the importance of counting what matters. Instead of thanking the stranger for his heroic efforts and personal sacrifice, the mother clasping the boy, snapped irritably at the rescuer: “Where’s Johnny’s cap?” Somehow in all the commotion the boy’s cap had gotten lost but his life saved.
Instead of the mother being overjoyed that his son had been rescued and delivered, she found the one special thing to gripe about, something to be critical about. To her what mattered the most was Jonny’s cap! This story sounds so familiar and there are many people yelling about Johnny’s cap.
It is so easy in life to be so shallow and critical. It is all too easy to major on what does not matter at all. It is easy to put egos ahead of mission. It is not the critic that counts but the doer. It is easy to count what does count at all and make that the real deal. When little things became heavy in our hearts, strategic thinking eludes us and we become become petty and absurd. Do not lose the strategic plot and start driving where there is no road. Keep asking: “Am I counting what really counts?”
The Arena Factor
What you do matters and it is important to know who counts and what counts. Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 while on tour in Paris delivered these immortal words: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Stop adopting the unofficial observer status. Get into the arena. It better to fail, then not to try at all. There is no shame is trying. Those who have a clean record never did anything. Greatness happens when you move from failure, to defeat, to embarrassment without losing your enthusiasm. Do not count the number of times you fell, count the number of times you got up. Do not count the number of shots that you missed, count the number of baskets you shot. Do not count the number of kicks you made or the number of times you were fouled, count the number of scores to made. You victory is in what you choose to count.
The Time Factor
Look at what is causing you to be worked up and stressed at the moment and ask if it will matter 10, 15 or 20 years from now? There is a time for everything, but it is a waste of time to carry for a long time what does not need to be carried at all. Change the posture of your life. Work on priorities and think strategically. Always keep in mind the big picture.
In thinking strategically ask yourself questions like: What is most important at this time? Things that matter are those that give you the greatest leverage in the future. Ask: “Where will we play?” Choose your arena carefully. Chose where you will play and who you will date. You cannot play everywhere and hope to win every time. However, you can define your arena and choose to play to win. It is not enough to play in order to be said you played. Play purposely in order to win what matters. Always ask who ultimately is winning? Run for a cause and do not fight battles without a cause.
The Tomorrow Factor
Procrastination is a thief of opportunity, and killer of dreams. Some people have too much “tomorrow” peppered all over their conversations and calendars. Do not put off to tomorrow what can be done immediately, today. You have all that it takes to become whatever you dare. In many cases, poverty is an issue of mismanagement of resources, poor strategy thinking and blinkered values. There is no need for you to postpone what matters simply to score points and massage egos. Greatness is a different game. There is never a need to keep other people waiting unnecessarily in order to make a pointless point. Greatness is a different currency.
Be a do it now person. Put action behind your words. Work in the time you have, squeeze all that this moment offers. Always checking the mental models that you are carrying. When you procrastinate you are putting off progress needlessly. Time will not change anything if you are not willing to change. Time alone does not change anything. It just makes you odd and old. It is what you do with the time that you have that matters the most. Choose to count what really counts. Some battles are to be fought, others are to be avoided and some are not to be fought at all. Knowing the difference is wisdom.
Committed to your greatness.