Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Why" is a Big Word

"He who has a WHY to live, can bear almost any HOW."
                                                     ---Friedrich Nietzsche

"Why" is a small word with a big meaning.

A word that can determine if you succeed—or quit.

Each person’s “why” is unique.

But what’s  not unique is the size of the “why.”

It has to be big—no room for sissies here!

Because each person’s “why” has to big enough to motivate when there’s no more motivation.

To provide that swift kick in the butt and get you to do what you said you would do---when it’s no longer fun.

And when it hurts.

Especially when it hurts.

A big “why” will get you out of bed to lace up in the middle of February when it’s cold, dark and an inch of snow on the ground.

A big “why” will force you to open your Accounting book instead of watching the Bronco game.

A big “why” will force you to press on with that fledgling business —even when it’s tough making payroll.

Especially when it’s tough making payroll.

A big “why” will force you to send out more resumes and continue the painful job search—despite the  rejection letters piling up on the kitchen counter.

I think a big “why” trumps brains and even talent.

Because brains and talent don’t provide the inner strength and mental toughness to keep going when it gets tough and you want to quit.

Because it will get tough.

And you WILL want to quit.

So here’s the deal: this week, before signing up for that marathon you have always wanted to run, or are about to quit your day job to launch that new business you have dreamed of opening, or are about to enroll in that degree you should have earned a long time ago.

I say wait.

That’s right, wait.

And don’t contemplate HOW you will achieve these goals—at least not yet.

Focus on the “why” first.

Make sure it’s big enough.

And strong enough.

To provide you the strength for when it gets tough--and it’s no longer fun.

Because it will get tough and no longer be “fun.”

Because you will want to quit.

But here’s the good news.

If your “why” is big enough.

And strong enough.

You WILL find the strength to keep going.

Even when it gets tough.

Especially when it gets tough.

Because a big enough “why” makes the impossible-looking how become possible.

Revealing the path to victory.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Great running gear can only be considered "great" after it has been tested in the field.

And I mean tested.

A 31-mile round-trip hike up 14,000 foot Mt. Evans in pouring rain will let you know if that "water-proof" jacket is as waterproof as the fancy ad in the running magazine clams it is.

An 8-hour march up and down the stairs at Red Rocks Ampthitheater in the 90-degree July sun will test just how "breathable" that breathable shirt really is.

In other words...

Great equipment is only great if it performs when TESTED.

I think this is true of people.

The Roman poet Horace said: 

"adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which in prosperous circumstances may have lain dormant."

I agree.

Adversity often brings out the best in us.

I teach accounting at a community college.  When hiring new accounting faculty, the candidate is required to perform a 20-minute teaching demonstration to a NON-accounting search committee.

At the end of the teaching demo, if the committe is confused and unimpressed, the candidate is rejected--no matter how impressive the resume and interview.

The premise is that no matter how many ivy league degrees are on your resume or how slick your interview skills, you gotta be able to teach.

In other words...

Great teaching becomes TRULY apparent when TESTED.

I joke with my colleagues that the best pre-marital counselling for young prospective newlyweds may not be in a pastor's office.

I say have the smitten couple do a two-week, cross-country road-trip in an un-air-conditioned 1979 Chevy Chevette--with two small children!

Nothing like a family road-trip to strip away the thin facade of civilized humanity!


Great relationships are only great if they survive when TESTED.

Indeed it is human nature to avoid pain, yet, at Horace said, it IS often through adversity that we  discover our true talents.

This is why I agree with US Olympic psychologist, Dennis Waitely, that the biography section is the BEST place in the library.

For it is the biographies that hold the answers on how to survive any adversity the universe tosses our way.


Cancer survivors, POW survivors, plane-crash survivors, bankrupt business men, couples lost at sea.

It is the biography section where you find the PRACTIONERS who survived such feats.

Those whose lives became defined by their heroism when they were TESTED.

And wrote how they did it.

Shackleton, Lincoln, Churchill.

Just three of literally thousands of surviors who penned guides on how they found strength when tested.

My wife and I celebrated out 19th wedding anniversary last week.

We have had a lot of great times and have seen a lot of wonderful places together.

We have also, metaphorically speaking, traversed some really tough roads...

In that metaphorical 1979 Chevy Chevette I just mentioned.

Some of those trips hurt.

Especially when the air conditioning failed...

And it got hot.

Really hot.

But we have survived.

Although I wouldn't want to repeat some of those trips, I am thankful for the strength we derived because of those journies.

Strength that I would not have been able to muster going solo.

So here's to 19 more years and beyond Honey!

And also a "thank you."

Thank you for the drive--especially when the road got rough.

And we were tested.

And for not getting out of the car.

Happy Anniversary.