One does not live to gray-haired maturity without accumulating a fairly long list of regrets, both things we wish we had done and, alternatively, wish we hadn’t done. For instance, I believe that some of the comments at the recent Republican national convention will haunt the speakers for years to come. However, what’s done is done. There’s no closing the barn door after the horse is gone.
Politics aside, living is all about making choices and choices have consequences. Business leadership is also all about making choices. Some seem important at the moment and prove unimportant later and vice versa. Some decisions impact the course of our lives, and we don’t realize their significance at the time.
In recent years I have found myself overwhelmed with volunteer commitments. It’s like gaining weight — just adding a commitment here and there mounts up over time. Though I believe in the mission of every organization that I support, I got spread so thin that my effectiveness was severely compromised, as was my performance at my day job. However, I felt so blessed by the opportunities that have come my way that I was ridden with guilt at the thought of declining service to any of these worthwhile groups.
It was inevitable that one day I would say enough is enough and begin cutting back on volunteer commitments. That day came and gradually I have extricated myself — somewhat. I now find that I’m able to concentrate more effectively on fewer projects and make a bigger impact than before. I wish I had made that decision years ago and avoided the stress of indecision and over commitment.
I have known thousands of people over my 30+ years in the business world. Some I served as CPA, others were customers, vendors or advisors to some business venture while others were social acquaintances. Many I would have enjoyed getting to know better but I’m shy and worried that people were too busy for idle chatter and weren’t looking for more friends anyway. In recent years, I have made a point of getting to know more people and have found that in many cases, people welcomed the opportunity to get to know me. I wish I had made the transition to socialite sooner.
Tough decisions too long delayed
Hiring and firing are distasteful aspects of business management. The responsibility of offering a job to someone that may or may not fit the job is heavy. Terminating their employment when it becomes apparent that things are not working out is a sad, but necessary, part of running a business enterprise.
I have a tendency to put off firing people too long. It doesn’t make things any better or any easier, however, it is part of my nature to keep hoping that, perhaps by magic, a sow’s ear will become a silk purse. I wish I hadn’t drug out so many ill-fitting relationships over the years, agonizing over what had to be done. By prolonging the inevitable, I have caused morale problems with other staff members and needless stress for me personally and for the person being discharged.
Following my instincts, but…
I know the power of goal setting and have spent a fair amount of time working on setting goals and objectives. However, in spite of all my planning, I tend to operate on instinct and frequently lose sight of goals and make reactionary choices rather than following the game plan. Some of this type of choosing is OK and is natural for entrepreneurs. However, leading with consistency based on goals is more effective for a maturing organization, while shooting from the hip is more appropriate for start-up companies.
It’s difficult to change from instinctive to goal driven decision-making, but I’m slowly making the turn. I wish I had started sooner. Not just in business, but in personal matters too, my track record would be better if I had been a little more traditional and conforming and a little less of a cowboy. Not that it hasn’t been fun, just less effective.
I went straight to graduate school as soon as I got my bachelor’s degree. I figured the job market was lousy and, after having been in school for so long, what’s another year anyway. So, I got my master’s degree, passed the CPA exam and went to work.
I planned to work awhile, go back to school and get a Ph.D. and then teach college in my waning years. With all my youthful energy and such a long future ahead, I expected to find an opportune time to take a break from making a living and return to school, but it never happened. I wish I had stayed with the plan and gotten my doctorate. Funny, now I can’t remember what I was doing that was so important over these past 30 years that prevented me from finding a way to get it done.
I have enjoyed a blessed and enjoyable career, so I’m not whining about spilled milk. I just think it’s helpful sometimes to reflect back on what I might have done differently if I had known then what I know now.
The fall season is a time of dramatic changes in nature. The green of summer dies away to the brilliant colors of autumn. Animals begin preparing for winter and the air turns a little cooler. It’s a good time for reflection and renewal. All of us have our own list of things we wish had been different and things we wish we could change. Now is a good time to eliminate some future regrets by making some tough choices today that we know need to be made but lack urgency.
Thought for the Moment — If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. — African proverb
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.