Once upon a time, in an often-quoted fable called The Animal School, written by Dr. R. H. Reeves, the animals decided that they must do something heroic to meet the problems of the “New World.” So, they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying. To make it easier to administer, all animals took all the subjects.
The duck was excellent in swimming, better in fact than his instructor, and made excellent grades in flying, but he was very poor in running. Since he was low in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming to practice running. This was kept up until his web feet were badly worn out and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that except the duck. The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup in swimming. The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustrations in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up, instead of from the treetop down. Due to over-exertion, he got a C in climbing and a D in running.
The eagle was a problem child and had to be disciplined severely. In climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way of getting there. At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well and also could run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.
The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and borrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to the badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.
William Mathews said, “The first law of success … is concentration; to bend all the energies to one point and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left.” The story is told about a young boy who was walking along a road one day when he spotted a copper penny shinning in the dust. He picked it up and clutched it with excitement. A penny it was, and it had cost him nothing!
From that day on, wherever he walked, he kept his head down, his eyes closely surveying the ground for more pennies and perhaps even greater treasure. During his lifetime, he found more money to be sure. In fact, he collected 302 pennies, 24 nickels, 41 dimes, eight quarters, three half dollar pieces, and one worn-out paper dollar, a total of $ 12.82. He kept his treasure safe, protecting it as a “free legacy” of wealth. He delighted in the fact that the money had cost him nothing. Or had it?
In the course of scouting out his treasure, he had missed seeing the full beauty of 35,127 sunsets, the splendor of 327 rainbows, the beauty of white clouds floating overhead in crystal blue skies, birds soaring, squirrels hopping from branch to branch in the trees above the paths on which he walked, and the brilliance of autumn leaves fluttering against a backdrop of autumn sunshine.
Daniel Meacham remarked, “Keep your eyes on the road, and use your rear – view mirror only to avoid trouble.”
A crude little life-saving station once stood on a dangerous seacoast known for shipwrecks. The station was only a hut with one small boat, but volunteers tirelessly kept their watch over the churning seas. Some of those they rescued and others who admired their work began to volunteer. New boats were purchased, new crews were trained. Some of the members raised funds to build a bigger station with newer equipment and better life-saving systems.
Over time, the station began to be less of a life-saving station and more of a boat club, with only a few members actually involved in patrolling the seas and rescuing those in danger. Eventually, so few members of the station were interested in the life-saving missions, they hired professional lifeboat crews to do it, but only when storms arose. About that time, a large ship experienced an explosion in its engine room and began to take on water. Its SOS signal went unnoticed in the life-saving station: the regular members were too busy with other matters. The ship was already sinking by the time a lifeboat was launched. Many people died in that incident.
Scott Red observed, “This one step – choosing a goal and sticking to it – changes everything.” If only they had stuck to their goal: as a life-saving station…
Several years ago, a young university graduate decided to start his own business. With the help of his grandfather, a successful businessman, he thought he would build his own beverage company. After a couple of weeks in the business, the two men met for lunch. The grandfather asked the graduate how many customers he had. The grandson replied, “None yet. I’ve been very busy hunting the proper system.” “Son, until you have customers, you don’t need a computer system. You don’t even need an office or a desk. You need customers.” Ralph Waldo Emerson observes, “The power of a man increases steady by continuance in one direction.”
Some of us are like the audience who saw the black dot on the white sheet of paper, without seeing the paper itself. Or like the audience who saw the hole in doughnut and not the doughnut itself. The five men in the novel, The Mysterious Island, survived because they learned what they could overlook.
The young graduate in the last story, after listening to the advice of his successful mentor, put aside the lessons in “strategic planning” he learned in the university and went in search of customers. Today, he is a successful businessman because according to him, “You cannot sell anything to a desk.”
A lot of people jump from one business to another, just because others are making it there. Concentrate on one particular business and with time you will be known for it and people will begin to seek you out. Don’t be Jack of all trades, master of none. Don’t let your respect for modern technology replace the fundamentals of what will make your business successful. Focus on what generates income, and put your time and effort in this area.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare. The hare got distracted in the course of the race and the tortoise won the race. In the book, Pilgrims Progress, by John Bunyan, Christian never allowed all that he encountered enroute his trip stop him from getting to his destination.
Paul Stern said, “There’s only one way to get where you want to go: that’s to make up your mind where you’re going and then go without excuses and without exceptions.” Part of any leadership is refusing to become distracted. Pursue your goals today, without wavering or hesitating. Keep your eyes on the finish line.
Are you so preoccupied today with what is not important, that you’ve lost sight of what can be? Step back right now and see the bigger picture! When we take our eyes off what is truly important in our lives, we run the risk of losing it. In the process, we are often diverted from critical steps we need to take toward the accomplishment of our goals. To attain the height of a great leader is a journey; don’t allow trivial issues distract you from getting to your destination.