Walking in the Footsteps of the Master
A certain man came home after a long day’s work. As he approached his front door, he noticed fading footprints leading out of the garden area up to the door, but not away from it. Fearing a home invader had gotten in and may still be there, he called the police. They surrounded the house and entered through the rear. Room by room, they cleared the house making certain that no one was there. The police asked if anything had been disturbed or if anything was missing. He could find nothing amiss. The investigating officer and the man went to the front stoop and looked down at the prints together, studying them very carefully. It was then that the officer noticed that the footprints were those of the very shoes being worn by the homeowner, himself.
If someone were to show you pictures of a dozen shoe prints, would you be able to recognize your own? If you’re like me, you would have no clue what your shoeprints look like. You might be able to distinguish them from sneakers or stilettos, but recognizing your own particular print is very unlikely unless you’ve taken the time or have had a reason to examine them and commit them to memory. But this story, as you may by now have guessed, is not about the marks you leave on the ground with your shoes. It’s about the mark you leave on other people and events in which you participate.
In several of the classes I teach and the keynotes I present, I emphasize what I call “nine words to live by”. They read as:
You always get a result from whatever you do.
As a result, you always leave your mark whenever you do anything. That mark may be deliberate or intentional; but, all too often, the mark we leave is one we not only did not intend to leave, it is one we regret leaving.
Today, we all, or almost all, shall interact with other people. During that intercourse, we will leave some mark or representation of who we are, what we think is important, our value system and some reflection of our conscience. If you were in a public bathroom behind a closed stall and others came in describing the person (you) they just spoke with, do you think you would like what you hear about the impression you’ve left—the footprints you’ve made?
You can usually manipulate someone’s opinion of you in your first meeting. You can impress them with your words and smile. You can sound very connected to what is important to them and convince them you are the very person they’ve been hoping and waiting to meet. But after you’ve been with them for a while and they get to see more of you than your first impression, they begin to see the shoes you’re wearing and the footprints you leave more clearly. In other words, over time, people come to know us less by what we promise and more by what we deliver. That is the true mark of a person--not what one promises, but what one delivers.
If you really care about how you affect others and the events in which you participate, you will want to become very aware of the impressions you leave and how closely those impressions reflect the true nature of what you want (and may claim) to be. If, for example, your life is fraught with people who dislike you or argue with you, you must begin to see this as the footprint you leave behind. If you want fewer arguments and for people to like you more, you must be willing to examine yourself and be willing to “change your shoes” to create new and different footprints.
Start by asking yourself what impressions you want to leave; define the kind of person you want to be or become. That definition becomes your plan. Since your world is in many ways a reflection of yourself, if you follow your plan, you again become the master your own reflection. If, for example, you curse at someone or make a rude gesture, others will more likely respond with a similar action. If you are honest, people will usually respond in a manner congruent with that. If you smile, accept the give and take of relationships with grace and dignity, you more often will receive similar treatment.
Alas, others can still choose to treat you as they wish and may continue to treat you badly regardless of how well you treat them. But even if they do, you can still bask in the knowledge that at least you’ve done the right thing by being the conscious, deliberate and intentional you that has decided what kind of impressions—what kind of footprints—you are going to leave and wearing the “shoes” to make them.
Winning every fight or being right all the time is not the most important thing in life. It is more important to do what is right and honorable, even if that means looking “bad” to others at times. If it is important to you, keep a reminder somewhere that allows you to see it often and it will help keep you focused on the path to being the person you want to be. Use the following if you wish, and send it as a reminder to those you care about:
May the sun stroke your face, the winds caress your arms, and the rains kiss your cheek… And may you forever bask in the light of knowing what you’ve done is the right thing. ~Phil D’Agostino, The E-Motivator~
You can only do that if you know what that is, and you commit yourself to doing it. It’s the only way to live a life without regrets.
Until next time….
To Stay Afloat
A certain woman, Faith by name, awoke on a Tuesday morning as she has on every previous Tuesday morning. The sun was still shrouded by the lingering dark and mist of the Monday past. She dressed, ate and started on her way to work.
As she drove, her mind drifted momentarily to what lay ahead at the office when she was greeted by the sudden pierce of a horn. She looked to her left and saw a fellow traveler passing her while grimacing in her direction and making gestures involving his arm, his hand and some of his fingers.
As his presence became little more than the steam of his exhaust pipe in front of her, she began play back what she had done and how the world is full of jerks…and perhaps she is one. Her stomach began to burn. Maybe she had had too much coffee and too little toast.
Upon her arrival at work, Jim was already waiting for her at her desk, a sheaf of paper in his hand. In a loud controlled voice, he began to instruct her on the proper execution of her job. While he has no positional authority over her and indeed even works in a different department, his harangue was deemed most enlightening…at least by Jim.
Once this training moment came to an end, Jim left in what must have been a hurry, because when he opened the door to leave, he pulled it so fast it hit the wall behind it and he didn't have the time to close it behind himself. Faith began to notice that her left eye lid was moving without closing. How odd, she thought. Oof, there goes that coffee again.
Around mid-morning she was walking down the hall to deliver a report, two days early she was proud to note, when she met her supervisor coming out of her office. Evidently this report wasn't as important as the boss had led her to believe and her being early was a sign that she had her priorities wrong. Having been relieved of the report and given what her priorities would be for the next three days, Faith turned and walked back to her desk, where she sat and noticed that her left eye was not only moving, but leaking now as well.
As it was now her lunch hour, she decided that she would go to see someone about this eye thing and how it is that her coffee seems to be talking to her more and more these days. She went to see the local giver-of-advice-and-counsel, ThePhil.
When she explained to ThePhil what had happened and how she had reacted to it, ThePhil told her to read a page which he kept in his knapsack:
To Stay Afloat
We are born to live on the lake of happiness. We are made to walk upon the water. Guilt, shame, and criticisms are pebbles we find along the shore. If we pick them up, examine them, feel them, then skip them along the surface, all is fine. If we keep them, own them, take those of others and collect them in our pockets, some day we will find that not only can we no long walk on water, but that we are doomed to drown in what becomes a sea of sadness.
As she walked back to work, she took a closer look at her day and how she had taken the judgments of others about herself as truths about herself. She had taken the criticisms of others about her as facts about herself. And then she noticed that she had not only filled her pockets with the guilt and shame handed her by others, she had been collecting them so long that they were as boulders in a sack slung over her shoulder and she was inexorably sinking under their weight. But then she also noticed that she now knew it.
When she arrived at work she wrote a few lines on a card and hung it on the door, facing her desk. She took another and placed in on her car's visor. In fact, she took many and placed them all around her work and home and read them often. They said:
Just because someone says it's so doesn't make it true
Just because some says you are, doesn't make it you.
That is when she emptied her pockets of the pebbles of others and what was left was simply…Faith.
Until next time…
Are you a bag of grass seed?
While working in my back yard the other day, a grizzled old man in bib overalls pulled up in a beat up old pick-up truck. (I think it used to be red.) He removed his straw hat, wiped the tobacco stains from his chin and asked me for directions. After spending about two minutes giving him explicit information on how to get where he was going, he nodded toward my open garage.
"Mind if I ask you question?"
I said, "No, of course not."
"I noticed you're working out here in your yard and there's a big ole' bag of grass seed in there. What's it doin' in there?"
I told him I was saving it. He looked at me and said, "Mind if I give you a little advice?"
"No, please do."
"No grass seed never did no body no good sittin' in no bag. Whatcha waitin' for?"
"Well, I planted most of it and thought I'd use the rest if this doesn't do the trick."
"So, in other words, you think that plantin' the rest of it later if this don't work is better'n plantin' it now and bein' more sure it will? Like I said, no grass seed never did no body no good sittin' in no bag."
He then thanked me and drove off.
As you might imagine I was quite perplexed. After all, it made so much sense to me to hold back my reserve and use it if needed. But then I thought, why did I plant what I did? The answer is that it is the best of times to plant grass, so keeping the rest is a little like holding back some opportunity until a less than optimal time. And if the seed I did plant grows, then what will I do with what is left in the bag? Keep it…for what? For it to rot in the bag or become too old to germinate at all?
Then the wisdom of what that old man said to me struck me like touching wires while fixing a light with the power still on (ever do that?). "Beware the cautious man."
If you think something is worth the effort, don't hold back. Either do it or don't. An investor once asked me if something we were talking about was under-funded or not. He said that it was silly to put $50,000.00 into something that might fail, when putting $60,000.00 would assure success. Having owned several businesses of my own, I understood the logic very well, but I hadn't really seen how to apply it to life in general until this old man in a pick up truck.
Take a look at what you're doing in your work or in your home life. Are holding back? Are you withholding the very best of what you are and can do for some date in the future that may be too late to do you as much good? Are you "under funding" your marriage, parenting, love relationships, work and personal pursuits because you aren't convinced you'll succeed before trying?
Then think again. You may be sabotaging yourself by being too cautious, too self-protective and hedging your own bets. If something isn't worth your full 100% effort, then it probably isn't worth any effort at all…not if it's an important matter in your life. Evaluate what you're doing, make sure it's something you really want to do and then do it, do it, do it until it's done…or don't. And keep in mind the wisdom of the ages, "Beware the cautious man. No grass seed never did no body no good sittin' in no bag!"
Walking in the footsteps....
To stay afloat
Are you a bag of grass seed
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