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Long-term goals worth the investment

As I See It

On July 4th of last year, my wife and I began a home project that would take us through June 21st of 2003. We wanted to build some flowerbeds, remove some huge pine trees that endangered our house in bad weather and build a big dog pen. Sounds innocuous enough on the surface and surely could be done within a few months. No sweat.

Our first task was to take up the grass between our sidewalks to make room for a flowerbed. I had forgotten how very hot it gets here in July. But we managed to lift the sod and move it to some barren areas without suffering heat stroke though at times I felt my health was in danger.

Next, we hired a timber man to come in and remove the trees closest to our house. He persuaded us that all mature pines should be cut since they were “stressed” and vulnerable to bugs and disease. As he began “logging” my yard the rains came and became a nemesis to our progress. When the logger was finished he left behind mountainous piles of limbs all over the yard. Then the stump grinder came and left 60 piles of sawdust for us to contend with.

My faithful nephews and I began burning limbs. My son said that my yard looked like a tract of cutover. We burned and we burned. At one point we had five fires going at once. Yes, enough diesel fuel will make even green pine limbs burn like newspaper.

Next came the dog pen. We have two dogs and felt guilty about the small pen where they were incarcerated. So, in part to assuage our guilt, we laid out a three-acre dog pen and began to build. From by humble beginnings on the farm I knew what was involved is building a wire fence. I was ill prepared for the work required to build a wood fence, particularly one encompassing three acres. A mere three months of mostly weekend work and the job was done.

Now all that remained was to smooth out the ground where the logs had been dragged. Again, my nephews and their tractor were the ticket to ride. Several more weekends and more diesel fuel and we had the place in pretty good order.

It will take years for the sawdust to decompose and grass to grow. I still have one pile of limbs that I will either dispose of or leave to nature. And, gradually, ever so gradually, we will get some good grass sodded around the yard. It will take time but I plan to be around awhile and I’ll get it done eventually.

My purpose in recounting this long, drawn-out experience is to say how good it feels to undertake a big project and see it through to completion. In these days of 10-second sound bites, fast food and, in general, fast living, it’s refreshing to commit to something important that will take a long time and stay with the program till the end.

I remember feeling that I would never finish college. Back in those days, college was a four-year proposition; not six years or more that many youngsters today spend getting a four-year degree. Admittedly, the military draft was a strong motivator.

Studying for the CPA exam was arduous and consumed time with a ravenous hunger. My year in graduate school was almost totally dedicated to school work and CPA exam study.

Was it worth it? You bet it was. College education and a professional accounting designation was my ticket to opportunity that would not have been possible without it.

Similarly, developing the spiritual side of my life has been a long road. Passage through periods of self-sufficiency and arrogance culminated in the realization that success cannot be based on the approval of other people. Earnestly seeking the approval of God is all that really matters. I regret that it took so many years to arrive at that place; however, I fear that many people never arrive at all. The journey was long, but the reward is worth it.

The yard project reminded me that doing something meaningful often requires years of effort. Without goals that extend beyond the immediate future we wouldn’t undertake the heavy lifting that brings the deepest satisfaction. Many of us oldsters know the importance of setting long term goals and working hard to get there but many young people don’t have that perspective. Maybe we should tell them.

Thought for the Moment — For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted. — Luke 14:11

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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