A few days ago, I was enjoying lunch at one of our Lake Norman restuarants while catching up my reading on the week’s events. Two people settled into the booth behind me and were having a very engaged conversation about business. Actually, one was complaining about their business in particular. I overheard as this individual ticked off all the reasons the “store” was experiencing problems. While I’m not making light of their troubles, I think we all know times have been tough for all of us. With each positive suggestion, the despondent retailer would point out all the reasons they could not do that – cost too much, didn’t have the staff, they had tried it before, not quite their market. At one point I wanted to turn around and tell them I thought the biggest reason for their lack of success might be the face they saw in the mirror each morning when they got up! They dripped in negativity.
It reminded me of a story my Granddaddy Russell told me a long time ago. Granddaddy didn’t go to college and I’m not sure he ever owned a copy of any leading business book of its time. But he did have a heck of a career. He drove a taxi, worked in a textile mill, spent most of his liesure time, if you call it that, tending the farm where he raised cattle and produce, and studied his church “lessons” at night.
My Granddaddy Russell owned a farm in Rock Hill where he raised a couple of dozen head of cattle. He passed away in 1999, but not before he left me with a treasure trove of little stories and a lifetime of wonderful memeories. On one particular weekend, Granddaddy Russell and I were walking through some of the trails behind the house checking the fenceline. I was fresh out of college and gainfully employed at a local office supply and furniture company as a salesman. I was making the sales calls but my commission check certainly indicated my lackluster performance.
After listening to me grumble about how my customers weren’t buying and I wasn’t getting the support I needed from my company, granddaddy looked over and asked, “Doc,” (one of the many pet nicknames he had for me but that’s a different story) “Did I ever tell you about that little bullfrog that fell into the deep, muddy tractor track?” Without waiting for my reply, he began, “A couple of days later he was still there when his other frog friend happened by and found him…urging him to hop out. He made a few feeble efforts, but he remained stuck in the quagmire.”
“Over the next few days, his fellow frogs tried to motivate the little frog to escape the rut, but they all gave up encouraging him and hoped back to the pond. The next day the little frog was seen sunning himself contently on the shores of the pond. “How’d you get out of that rut? ” he was asked. “Well,” said the frog, “as everyone is aware I could not. But along came that big red tractor again and I had to!”
Granddaddy looked over at me as we walked down the road waiting for his point to sink in. “You waiting for something to come along and get you out of the rut?” he asked. I do not know that I ever became the super salesman my manager hoped I would be but the point granddaddy made was not lost on me. The ability to overcome my obstacles and rise to the occassion was within my means the whole time. Most of it was my own personal attitude. The bottom line: you can motivate yourself or wait till outside forces do it for you.
I sure miss the long walks grandaddy and I took together, but I never forgot the lessons he shared. Daddy still lives out on the farm and often we take walks together still checking the fenceline. Occaasionly we will happen on an old tractor rut dug deep into the soft southern clay down by the creek. I might even hear the splash of a little frog as we approach. It brings a smile to my face as I think about all the wonderful times I’ve spent at the farm. Perhaps an old farmer knows best, when there are so many reasons why you cannot be succesful, you succeed anyway. You simply accept nothing less.
Filed under: Leadership Lessons | Tagged: Bill Russell, Family Farm, Granddaddy Russell, Lake Norman, Lake Norman Chamber, Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, Rock Hill, South Carolina | Leave a comment »