When I joined a gym about 60 years ago, I met a “man inspired”.
Earl Willetts was a legend. He was in his late 70’s then.
There was a concrete railing around the roof, about 12 inches in diameter.
There was a picture of Earl doing a handstand on that railing with no tie-down or safety net.
There was a picture of Jimmy H., a 76 year old president of a large department store, shorts, tee shirt, and buff in his impressive buff pose.
I asked Early, what was the secret to that success?
He said, “There is no secret it is about habit.”
Jimmy has a schedule that puts him in here at 7:00 AM, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
He went on to say if you want to succeed, you should form the habit of doing the things unsuccessful people choose not to do. (Amazing how often I heard that in those days.)
I said, “What about those mornings when I have been to a scout meeting, or church meeting or business dinner that kept me out late?”
He said, “You come in here, take a stool, at your scheduled time, place the stool against the wall, sit down and watch others work out. You deliver the body!” “Unsuccessful people break the habit! You are not, you deliver the body! You will be a success in here.” He was right.
When I was young, doing the latter part of the Depression, we spent most holidays with my aunt and uncle.
They had no children but included my brother and me in the festive day.
My aunt, my mothers sister and my mother were wonderful cooks. Dinner was always wonderful.
There was no T.V. yet, and no other children to play with. We had radio but it held no communal appeal.
After the dishes, etc., my uncle would bring out the Chinese checkers and the games began. I loved that game. We never played games in our home and I just plain loved to play. Wasn’t so much about winning, just about playing.
Next, if it wasn’t too late, my uncle would bring out a jigsaw puzzle.
My brother and I and 2 or 3 adults had a great time piecing it together.
Looking back on that experience, I now realized the relationship between the puzzle and success in life.
I urge anyone, and especially myself, when I set a goal; write out the reason “why”, find a picture of it in a magazine or someplace. Have an audio tape or C/D of the goal or hand drawn picture. Feed my mind with a visual reinforcement to support the written text, etc.
When we would reach a temporary block to the jigsaw puzzle, one of us would reach for the box, the puzzle arrived in. Study the picture on the top of box and continue on.
So, when working on the goal, have the picture we started with, is often enough to get us unstuck just like looking at the picture of the finished puzzle on the box top.
During the worst of our “crop failure”, I experienced an incredible insight.
We had lost everything, better yet, “sold” everything or had it foreclosed on. Like the small apartment complex, duplex, gun collection, stocks, jewelry, in an attempt to save our home.
When our income was interrupted, the savings and loan holding the mortgage never sent a past due notice and I made a serious mistaking thinking I could sell off items and catch up.
When the mortgage payment became six months past due they made their move. They started a preliminary eviction notice.
I went to their main office and explained our situation.
A Vice President heard my proposal discussed it with their “loan committee” and contacted me.
He said, “If we would pay four months, current, they would take month five and incorporate it with month seven and take month six and incorporate it with month eight and we would be current.
I sold everything of value, gun collection, jewelry, and golf clubs and brought him a check for four months complete with penalties.
When my check cleared he called me and said the CEO had changed his mind and wanted the last two months past due in three days or they would evict us.
My ego was so impacted and, I was so exhausted, I gave up.
We moved into a small rental as we surrendered the keys.
I gave up before the miracle happened.
My ego took over. I became immobilized at the bankers’ betrayal and his perceived lack of character.
I contacted all of our creditors and made arrangements for all of the remaining debt.
It took us 11 years to pay off all the debt.
The banker was doing what his kind do. He didn’t create the mess, I did, but I compounded it when I gave up too soon.
It’s all a wonderful memory, have a different home, we are totally debt free.
I am responsible. What I learned was I gave up too quickly. That is one mistake I don’t need to repeat any time soon.
As we begin to Explore, we also begin to think about setting goals. No one has ever taught me more about goal setting than Lucky McDaniels.
I met Lucky McDaniels years ago, after I discovered that I liked to shoot guns, though I had absolutely no interest in killing anything.
Despite my enthusiasm, I realized that I wasn’t very good at hitting the clay birds used in skeet shooting.
I decided to take a class from Lucky McDaniels, a legendary shooting instructor.
During our first session, Lucky took five clay pigeons in one hand and a semi-automatic skeet shotgun in the other. He threw the five clay pigeons into the air and broke them all with five separate shots before they hit the ground. Because he had thrown the clay pigeons with his left hand, they had not gone in the air very far. I was impressed.
Lucky McDaniels had some simple lessons for shooting:
1. Keep both eyes open.
2. Keep both eyes on the target.
3. Don’t look at anything on the periphery.
4. Don’t get hung up on the sights on the barrel of the shotgun.
5. Don’t get hung up on anything between you and the target.
After my sessions with Lucky, I couldn’t wait to get back on the skeet range. I went from breaking fourteen or fifteen out of 25 clay pigeons to breaking all twenty-five, a perfect round.
His lessons for target shooting are also what goal setting is all about. I learned that I can hit almost any target when I keep my eyes open and focus on it.
My accomplishment was not so grand. These lessons are so simple, that even young children can learn them. When our three children were ages 10-13, I took them out to teach them how to shoot.
On our first outing, I threw the disk, which was about two inches in diameter, into the air a couple of times. Each of our children shot a little under the metal disk using a BB gun: I instructed them as Lucky McDaniels instructed me, “Keep both eyes on the target.”
By concentrating on the disk, we could see the BB passing under it. Within a few more shots, each one hit the disk in the air. They wore safety glasses, all three were excellent shots.
As great a shooter as Lucky McDaniels was, I determined I could even shoot better – provided Lucky had both eyes blindfolded! Just as the principles of good shooting Lucky McDaniels taught me, relate perfectly to what I know about goal-setting, so does the idea that, without goals and objectives, we are no more effective than a blindfolded shooter, no matter how expert he or she may be.
Know what you’re aiming for. When we don’t set our goals or have clear-cut objectives, we are blindfolding ourselves.
I am trying to teach myself to never blame someone else for something that goes wrong in our relationship.
The lesson is, if something goes wrong; and it should be fixed, by the other person, it would probably never be fixed. If it creates consternation on my part, because “it is his fault”, the chances are very good, it will never be fixed. Ever!
The other person may think it is “my problem.” If the person is also into the “blame game;” it could fester for a long time.
I recently purchased something requiring a contract signed by me. I readied the deposit check, signed it and the contract and called the salesperson to pick it up.
When he reviewed it, he said there was minor change which he made, and then he had me initial the change. When I handed it back, initialed, I said, “You may want to check this multiple page contract over while you are here in case I missed something”, which he did, and then he left.
“The next day I reviewed the following email; “You did not sign the pages on the agreement in the packet which I picked up. I did not realize this until this morning.”
If that sale was fragile, or I was uncertain it would have come unhooked when I read his blame sentence. He was the last person to handle it; he reviewed it and then blamed me for his carelessness.
My inclination was anger, but, in my quest to never be angry again, I sent him an email and told him to simply bring the contract by and show me where to sign it.
My quest should always be to complete the task at hand and never to attach blame or anger, as he demonstrated. When one starts blaming someone else for their mistakes, there is no end to the blame, even if it is not warranted. My objective should be, fix it, or have it fixed, without the drama of blame.
While working with a group of managers, I posed the question, “What is the dominant, single greatest motivating force known to humankind?” One participant said, “Well, of course, it was Sigmund Freud who said, “The strongest motivating force is sex.” A few nodded their heads.
Someone else then volunteered that the reason Freud split with Alfred Adler, was Adler felt it was not sex, but the quest for power.
Others suggested that Viktor Frankl got the blue ribbon when he said that, “If you can figure out the reason why you can figure out the way “how to”.
While sex, power, and meaning are great motivators, I’ve noticed that the great need to be right about what we believe is also near the top of the list.
I’ve often wondered why it’s so difficult to change. Many of us feel that “If I am willing to change, it means that I am wrong. It means I’ve made a mistake, that I’ve been living a lie.” This attitude creates a tremendous motivation for us to be right.
Our need to be right is so powerful that:
• We would rather be right than be successful.
• We would rather be right than be happy.
• We would rather be right than have good relations with our children.
• We would rather be right than have a positive relationship with our boss, with our team
members or our spouse.
Looking back on sixty-three years of marriage, I understand that the root of most disagreements or disharmony on my part, was about “who is right.” “Do I want to have a warm, harmonious, peaceful home and a happy marriage, or do I want to be right?” In some cases, it is impossible to do both.
As I studied and thought about Freud, Adler and Frankl, I jokingly started referring to my point of view as “Ralphie’s Law”:
ONE OF THE STRONGEST, MOTIVATING FORCES KNOWN TO HUMANKIND IS THE NEED TO BE RIGHT.
Sometimes we become so conditioned to a certain way of doing things, we don’t even think about changing.
In the 1970’s, Werner Erhard was a very powerful student and teacher of change. In his well-known est seminars, Erhard strove to point out how powerfully conditioning affects our ability to understand and successfully manage change.
In his presentations, Erhard developed a signature story about mice and cheese that perfectly illustrated this difference.
As Werner Erhard told it, a group of scientists conducted an experiment with a mouse. They didn’t feed the little thing for twenty-four hours and then put it in an opening in front of five tunnels.
They placed some cheese down tunnel number three. The mouse could smell it, but didn’t know which tunnel contained it. He went down tunnel one, then tunnel five, and then finally down tunnel three. The mouse got his fill of the cheese, came back out and was put away for another twenty-four hours.
The next morning they put the cheese in tunnel three and the mouse again went down several wrong tunnels before finding it. After seven or eight days, the mouse learned, and went straight down tunnel number three.
After a couple of months, they moved the cheese to a different tunnel. The next morning, the mouse went down tunnel number three. He because frustrated upon finding no cheese, eventually came out, and went down a few tunnels before finding the cheese in tunnel number one.
The scientists continued to place the cheese in tunnel number one. It only took the mouse a few days to realize that they had moved the cheese. It stopped going down tunnel number three and began to go down tunnel number one.
But as Erhard explained, the difference between the mouse and most of us is that even though the cheese has been moved from tunnel three to tunnel number one, we will persist in going down tunnel number three.
If we don’t find the cheese, we become agitated, frustrated and anxious. We feel that if we complain loudly enough, they will move the cheese back to tunnel number three. The truth is, we can gripe all we want; they aren’t moving the cheese back.
I met Jack Dalton on a cold, dreary winter night in 1961 in the maximum security prison in Walla Walla, WA. Every two months, I drove over with a group of men from Seattle to conduct self-help meetings inside the prison. After Jack introduced himself, I told him I felt I knew him because I had read about his case in the newspaper. A prominent attorney, he had been convicted a few months before of grand larceny and sentenced to the Washington State Penitentiary.
He went to the University of Washington and graduated from law school.
Incarceration changed Jack, shifting his focus away from himself. In prison, he spent most of his day in the library, meeting with inmates and doing his best to help them and their legal problems. The men felt their greatest hurdles would be housing and employment.
Two months after I first met Jack, I found myself sitting next to him in the front row of the same old, poorly lit auditorium.
“Ralph,” he said, “I’ve been thinking. There’s a need for housing as well as jobs when inmates are released. I’d like to start a halfway house in Seattle. Will you help me?”
Of course I said yes.
Jack and I, along with other founders, started holding weekly meetings in my office to plan the establishment of the first halfway house of note, in Seattle.
Jack went to work. He talked to a group of missionaries who owned a house at 1102 E. Spruce Street, once used as a way station for missionaries leaving the country by boat. Now that planes had replaced ships, the missionaries no longer needed the house. They gave us a great price, and we purchased the property using money we’d collected through small donations. We were in business.
Jack decided to call his project for housing and jobs Pioneer Fellowship House. His time in prison had transformed him. Instead, he focused on serving others and on the needs of his fellow convicts.
The vision that started Pioneer Fellowship House expanded and became Pioneer Human Services. A component of the program was Pioneer Industries, a manufacturing company that provided training and jobs for former inmates.
In the year 2017, Pioneer Human Services did over $81 million, has three factories, employees over 1,000 and provides housing and training for countless. And, all because Jack followed through with his idea.
I began to formally study change in 1960, after two friends each sent me a copy of the same article from the Harvard Business Review (“Marketing Myopia”, by Ted Levitt, July-August 1960).
The article examined the impact of change on the railroad industry, they had failed to see the challenges to their prosperity and change accordingly.
But change is not just something I study.
In fact, often more than I would wish, it has been a way of life, the path I’ve traveled to where I am today has taken more than enough turns to induce whiplash.
I have been incarcerated, the president of a nationwide company, a millionaire, and later so broke I had to borrow money from our teenage daughter. Well into my 40’s, with a family to support, I had to rebuild a successful career from the ground up.
As I’ve worked to help my clients, I’ve also battled the unexpected twists in my own life. So, I decided to write my second book, “Turning Change Into A Payday.”
I’ve done many things in order to cope with my own demons. To combat a fear of heights, I have parachuted from a plane and climbed mountains. To test my endurance, I began to run marathons when I was almost 50.
I’ve come to believe that the only way to effectively deal with change is to view it as an opportunity. The techniques described in my second book helped me and I hope they will help you with difficult times.
Finding The Good In Everything
I arrived at my Seattle office at 6:20 AM that morning. The phone rang as I was making coffee. “Have you heard about Ralph?”, it was my friend George, calling to tell me that Ralph Palmen, my friend and mentor had been shot in L.A. the night before. Ralph Palmen was – one of the great people in my life, a generous man with an extraordinary sense of humor. He was also an avid golfer, and we played together regularly.
Shocked, I asked George, “Is he still alive?” He said, “I don’t know.”
I immediately called the hospital and talked to the receptionist. I asked to speak to the nursing station for a patient named Ralph Palmen. To my surprise, instead of a nurse, Ralph answered the phone. Flooded with relief that he was alive, I asked, “What happened?”
In a weak voice, my old friend described how he had gone to L.A. the day before to give a speech. As was his custom when out of town, he went to a baseball game.
On his way back from the game, Ralph parked some distance from the motel lobby. As he was making his way from his rental car across the well-lit parking lot, he noticed a man coming up to him on his left. The man said, “Excuse me, sir. Do you have a minute?” Ralph then looked to see another man closing on his right, who said, “Just a minute, sir. Let me ask you something.” Ralph made an instant decision and ran for the lobby. What he didn’t see was a third man behind him who raised a shotgun and fired, hitting Ralph in the back.
Even though he had been shot and wounded, Ralph kept running.
He managed to make it to the motel lobby, where he fell and lay bleeding on the floor. People walked around him, probably assuming he was drunk or high. There is a bit of irony here. Ralph, being the man he was never drank or used drugs.
After about ten minutes, someone noticed that he was bleeding and called 9-1-1. The medics rushed him to the hospital. He was immediately taken into surgery.
He survived the surgery, came out of the anesthesia, and was lying there in a hospital bed, sorting out the details of his experience, when I called.
He explained to me that he had been contemplating his good fortune: at least he was still alive.
Then he said words that have resonated with me ever since: “You know, in all of our years together, you and I have always tried to find the good in everything that has happened to us. After thinking about it for three hours in somewhat of a haze, I finally figured out that this is probably going to slow down my back swing and improve my game.”
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