I find it interesting how important learnings can come from the most unexpected places. For instance, I learned more about business, leadership, and life from my father on the dunes of Cape Cod as a screaming and crying, six-year-old then I ever learned from the consultants or coaches that I’ve employed since.
We were on a family vacation, and we trudged through the dunes to spend the day in the ocean. It was hot and it was a really long walk. When we were packing up to head back to the car, I looked up and I saw before me what looked, to me, like the Sahara Desert – and I just started to cry. There was no way I could walk back across those dunes. My older brothers laughed at me and headed back across the sand with my mom.
It was at that point that my dad took my hand, he calmed me down. He said, “I know it’s a long walk John, but you can take 100 steps with me can’t you?” Still sobbing, I nodded that I thought I could, and he said, “okay, we’re going to take 100 steps, and then we’re going to look back to see how far we’ve come.” We started out taking 100 steps and looking back, and taking another 100 and looking back, and eventually we 100 stepped it all the way across the dunes to the car.
My dad’s been gone a long time now, but I sometimes wonder if he knew the impact that this single snapshot in my life would have. Through it, he taught me focus and to have manageable goals, and that having perseverance is the core of overcoming anything you might find difficult in life.
I think about this the most when we are in dire need of giving ourselves what I call the gift of perspective. Like that day on the dunes, we often find ourselves so focused on the journey that is in front of us that what we have accomplished to get to that point is often missed or forgotten.
Having the courage to take those first 100 steps is certainly important but learning to periodically look back to see what that effort yielded, for me and for our company, has been game changing.
Not a bad lesson to pay forward. Coming from a tired father to a cranky six-year-old some 50 years ago.