Friday, September 04, 2009


from one of my favorite authors:

Coasting toward apathy

When you're very comfortable in your job, and things seem to be going pretty well, you may be tempted to ease up—coast a little. Resist that temptation!

Jane Goodall, the famous naturalist, relayed a fable that her mother used to read to her and her sister when they were little, about a competition of birds to see which could fly the highest.

"The mighty eagle is sure he will win, and majestically with those great, strong wings he flies higher and higher, and gradually the other birds get tired and start drifting back to the ground. Finally, even the eagle can go no higher, but that's all right, because he looks down and sees all the other birds below him.

"That's what he thinks, but hiding in the feathers on his back is a little wren, and she takes off and flies highest of all."

That's the danger of coasting, not giving it your all. We get in a comfort zone and don't challenge ourselves. Always doing your best should be your goal.

I'm sure almost everyone remembers the fable about the tortoise and the hare. They bet on who was the fastest to run a certain distance. The rabbit was way ahead and stopped to take a nap, while the turtle kept chugging away and crossed the finish line first. Everyone knew that the rabbit was faster, but he coasted—took things for granted—and lost.

Even in winning, people can coast. For example, I remember being at last summer's Olympic Games in China at the men's 100-yard dash final. Usain Bolt from Jamaica blew away the field and won in a world-record time. However, I couldn't help but think how fast he actually could have run, had he not coasted at the end and looked around at his competitors. His record will be broken one day, but we'll never know how fast he could have run that race.

Several years ago at one of Lockheed Martin's electronics facilities in Orlando, Fla., complacency from past successes started to infect one of its manufacturing processes. Occasionally, parts were omitted from component kits prepared for assembly and inspection at another factory. Each missing part disrupted the assembly process and frustrated the workers assembling the products.

Norman Augustine, chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp., said: "I borrowed an idea from an automobile dealer in Dallas I had heard about. The dealer received few complaints from customers because he gave them the home telephone numbers of the mechanics who worked on their cars. I arranged for workers to include their names, work phone numbers and self-addressed postcards in the kits they prepared. Complaints dropped precipitously."

I can tell you from personal experience that Mr. Augustine is 100 percent correct. When you put your name on a business, as I did, you have nothing to hide behind. The buck stops here. Maybe I'll squeeze in a round of golf, or a short vacation, but that's as far as I let myself go. It's easier to stay motivated than to get motivated again.

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life so he and his wife could enjoy their extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he would build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work his employer came to inspect the house. He asked, "Are you satisfied with the house?" When the carpenter said that he was, his employer said, "Good, because the house is yours. "My gift to you!"

The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have made sure it was all first class.

So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the construction. Are you cutting corners and squandering time, commitment and effort?

Mackay's Moral: Coasting can lead to a big downhill slide.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: