Keep Smiling

Root canal.

What visions do those words bring to mind? Pain. Inconvenience. Terror.

I just returned from my twice yearly dental cleaning. When the hygienist asked, “Are you having any discomfort,” and I responded, “Yes, the second tooth from the back on the bottom is really sensitive to cold,” she looked in my mouth and replied, “I can see why, you have three cracks in that tooth.” After she finished cleaning and polishing the other 23, my longtime dentist came in, peered through his über-magnifying glasses, and said, “Well, David, looks like I need to refer you to an endodontist.”

This will be my fifth root canal in the past 24 years. That’s plenty for anyone in a lifetime, yes?

The first one came when I broke my two front teeth in a fall. (Trust me, it wasn’t as painful as it sounds and you wouldn’t know the replacements aren’t real.) The next two – as with this one – were the result of teeth dying. Other than the discomfort from the deadening process, having a root canal is more or less a non-event. Except for the two-weeks of antibiotics to knock out the infection. Except for having to reschedule clients. Except for the anxiety that comes with sitting in that chair under the bright light.

Exceptions. That’s really what success in business is all about when you think about it. You’ve got the regular stuff figured out. That’s being a professional. It’s the things that pop up you’re not expecting that take time, get in the way and distract you. Of course, you wouldn’t be successful, if you didn’t know how to navigate speed bumps and turn detours into opportunities for learning, growth and new direction.

So the next time something appears that steals your focus, take a deep breath, consider your options and complete the steps necessary to get back on track. You’ve been there before and everything worked out. This is just another chance for a crowning improvement.


I’m Just Saying

Recently I decided to disengage from some of the community involvement in my life. I’m not re-upping for a board position when my three-year term is up in May, and in the past week I turned down two new requests to join committees. The reason is simple, if self-centered: our two kids remaining at home are teenagers who participate in sports, and I don’t want to miss any more of their games.

Interestingly, saying ‘No’ is one of the hardest things for many people – and occasionally a challenge for me. That’s why my business partner (who’s also my wife) will sit me down every so often and say, “So tell me again why you agreed to do that.” The reasons for this inability to decline, at least in my case, are based on: 1) wanting to please; and 2) not wanting to miss out on something that could ultimately lead to more revenue.

Over the weekend I facilitated the recurring quarterly meeting of one the focus groups I lead. As the seven business owners presented their financial statements and “Rocks” (read: 2011 goals), half of them spoke of things they need to stop doing. They, too, struggle with knowing when enough is enough – or recognizing when less becomes more.

My recent decisions were made easier by the response I received from one of the folks who asked me to be on his committee: “David, your desire to be with your family at this critical time during their youth is respected and understood. We will indeed miss your wisdom and intuition about institutional dynamics. Please know that even though you may not be formally involved, your input is ALWAYS welcome.”

There will be more opportunities to serve down the road. Keep that in mind the next time someone asks, and your instincts are shouting, “I need to pass on this one.” Go with your gut. You’ll come out ahead in the long run.


It’s A Thriller

Butler’s run to the Championship game of the NCAA Basketball tournament – a reel-life “Hoosiers” sequel – captured the nation’s hearts. Although Gordon Heyward’s last-second launch from half-court bounced out and the Duke Blue Devils escaped with the title, the Bulldogs proved little guys can compete with the big boys.

Yes, America still loves an underdog… and that’s good to know during these times of fledgling economic recovery. While bailouts and government programs seem to be helping Wall Street and other giants, Main Street and small entrepreneurs continue to struggle. That makes it tough to get up in the morning and keep a positive attitude… tough to continue believing a new day is around the corner.

In the locker room minutes before the opening tip last night, Butler’s youthful coach Brad Stevens, calmly said these words to his would-be giant killers: “It’s about being a great teammate and being accountable. If you do tough things, if you stay together, you’ll not only attract that what you want, you’ll attract that what you are.”

As an advocate of the Law of Attraction, I’m convinced great results arise from great attitude. Regardless of how difficult things appear right now, your positive vision of believing you will be the David that overcomes Goliath is essential.

Thank you, Butler and Duke, for a great game. Thank you for reminding us great things happen when you believe.