Knock, Knock — Who’s There?

Every so often, probably more often than we realize, Opportunity comes our way. But, Opportunity is quite the clever one, often teasing us with extra laps around the block and a gentle tap rather than a loud knock. Let me share such a story which began over 13 years ago when Doug Williams of the U.S. EPA introduced me to Geoff Raymond of Sydney, Australia who in turn introduced me to another Aussie named Gary Lear. The connection led to the development of CleanPro, which was based in part on an environmental software tool I helped develop for the EPA. This certainly was an opportunity, but not the one I referred to.

“Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.” — Hugh Allen

About a decade later, Gary dropped by my office during a trip to the U.S. I remember how much fun it was to finally meet him in person, even though I can’t remember the reason for his visit or what we talked about. Being the sentimental person that I am, I took his picture and filed it away. Opportunity was merely making her extra lap that day.

“Opportunity is a bird that never perches.” — Claude McDonald

Because Opportunity prefers tapping to knocking, I’ve learned that it pays to look out the window now and again to see if she’s standing on the front porch. In the late spring of 2008, while sorting through some old papers, I discovered a fax cover sheet with Gary’s name. It was curiosity that caused me to use LinkedIN.com to look up his contact information. There were actually, two Gary Lears listed in Australia. Thinking to myself, “Why not?” I mentally flipped a coin and dialed. With free international calling, I had nothing to lose. “Hello. Is this the same Gary Lear who worked with UDRI to develop CleanPro? This is Clancy Cross.”

“Learn to listen. Opportunity could be knocking at your door very softly.” — Frank Tyger

Since that day, when I reconnected with Gary and discovered Opportunity (better known as Development Beyond Learning) I have been blessed to meet some warm, talented, creative, intelligent, and highly motivated people who are now my colleagues and business partners. One of these is a 29-year old entrepreneur named Josh Mackenzie, who will be touring the U.S. beginning with a week at the NACE conference in Las Vegas, a week in Dayton, Ohio, and short stops in Chicago and San Francisco. I am so looking forward to introducing him to the Miami Valley during the week of June 15-19. (Josh’s itinerary is available here.)

Thanks to that fax cover sheet, LinkedIN, and a little curiosity, we are now immersed in an ambitious international expansion project to bring Development Beyond Learning to North America. Funny how Opportunity behaves, “aye mate?”

“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.” — Benjamin Disraeli

God bless,

— CC

The Finish Line

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

I’ve heard it said, “The fortune is at the finish line.” The best example I can think of is farming. The farmer can plant, water, and fertilize, but these activities mean absolutely nothing unless the farmer harvests the crop. The harvest is at the finish line — success is all about finishing.

“There is no bigger waste of time than doing 90% of what is necessary.” — Thomas Sowell

Swimming champion Michael Phelps is an expert finisher. In Beijing, the Men’s 100 meter butterfly final was decided by a hundredth of a second. Phelps and Milorad Cavic approached the wall both needing a partial stroke to finish, with Phelps still trailing. Cavic coasted. Phelps drove hard into the wall. I believe it was the instinct of a master finisher that caused Phelps to take that extra short stroke and make up the deficit.

“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.” — Mark Spitz (on Phelps winning his 7th gold medal)

While people continue to talk about the photo finish, Phelps actually out-finished his opponents at the other end of the pool as well. World-class swimmers know that the end of each length is actually the start of the next one and an opportunity to build momentum. Phelps reigned supreme in finishing every length, not just the final one. Going back to the race of the century, Phelps was said to be in seventh place going into the turn. Coming out, he appeared to be in fourth. Without two strong finishes, he would not have earned the gold.

So many people never put themselves in position for a strong finish because they never even get started. If I had been born as Yogi Berra, I might have said, “70% of success is showing up. The other half is finishing.” To become an expert finisher, first become an expert starter. As long as you develop the mindset of a starter, you are positioned to finish. Then, as you become a consistent finisher, you can learn to do it faster and better.

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

To finish first, you must first finish.” — Rick Mears

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s satisfaction in finishing if for no other reason than the objective can be crossed off the list.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.” — Arnold Bennett

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” — William James

In other cases, satisfaction is found in the task itself. In fact, rushing through the task can result in missing the enjoyment.

“Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” — Greg Anderson

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

Based on this concept, one would have to conclude that the old adage about success and paying the price is all wrong. Zig Ziglar explains, “You do not pay the price of success, you enjoy the price of success.” Struggles and challenges become part of the adventure. When this attitude connects with a vision, a champion is born.

“Don’t be content with doing only your duty. Do more than your duty. It’s the horse that finishes a neck ahead that wins the race.” — Andrew Carnegie

Your GPS

Keeping promises is an example of finishing. Whether it’s a promise, a small task, or a major goal, the objective needs to be following through to the finish line. There is no integrity without finishing and no professionalism without integrity. To become known as a person of integrity, one must develop the good habit of finishing.

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” — Vince Lombardi

“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” — Frank Tyger

“We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.” — Anonymous

Find that to-do list. Get busy crossing off the artifacts of your procrastination. Don’t worry about perfection. Perfectionism is a stumbling block for finishing. Many times, my late father-in law used the following expression to make this very point.

“It’s good enough for who it’s for.” -– Donald P. Nock, teacher and coach

Fear of imperfection is a poor excuse for not starting and not finishing. Approach every task in four parts: get started, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and finish strong.

“It’s not where you start it’s where you finish.
It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.
A hundred-to-one shot, they called him a klutz,
He can outrun the favorite all he needs is the guts.

“Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop.
It’s not where you start it’s where you finish
And you’re gonna finish on top.”

“It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish)” Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

God bless,

— CC

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