It just doesn’t seem like a year since I wrote my last column for 2003. But, alas, the time did pass, and now we’ve come to the end of yet another year. It’s a good time for reflection, both on the good and bad of the past year and, probably more importantly, on life in general.
I spent last week in the Hill Country of Texas chasing deer, turkeys, hogs and aoudads — that’s a wild sheep from Afghanistan for those unfamiliar with exotic Texas game animals. While trying to arrange an encounter with a big buck, I was also trying to avoid scorpions that love to come inside and sleep in your boots when it’s cold outside.
Hunting is an important, as well as time- and money-consuming, pursuit for me. Aside from the thrill of being a predator, there are the hours and hours of sitting quietly and waiting for a trophy to come by. Then there’s camp life, which consists mostly of conversation with hunting buddies since we don’t have a TV, radio or newspaper to connect with the outside world.
Just think — a week with no war in Iraq, Scott Peterson trial, the state’s pending budget shortfall or the latest murders in Jackson! None of it. Half of President Bush’s cabinet resigned while I was gone, and I didn’t even know it. I missed a week of CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Don’t even know who Larry King interviewed while I was gone.
What does one do during those long hours of sitting in a deer stand and watching and waiting and watching and waiting some more? In my case, I read paperbacks, snooze (yes, I can sleep sitting up!) and think about things that might otherwise go unconsidered in the normal hustle and bustle of life.
I spent some time thinking how lucky I am to have a great staff here at the Mississippi Business Journal who carry on so well in my absence that I can take week-long hunting trips. They never miss a beat. I’m not at all threatened by the prospect of working myself out of a job. In fact, I see the organization functioning so well in my absence as validation of my hiring acumen and philosophy of employee empowerment. Hire good people, tell ‘em what you want them to do and get out of their way and let that pony run. That’s Joe’s personnel management principle 101.
I also thought some about what a great country we live in. A country boy, not born to advantages, can get a good education, work hard, get a few lucky breaks and enjoy the American dream. That would be me.
Absent the uniquely American opportunity to climb the ladder to success I would be less worried about self-actualizing and more concerned about paying the rent. You couldn’t drag me away from this country without a tractor and a log chain.
Why don’t more Americans seize the opportunities available here to improve their own destinies? With no scientific data to support my conclusion, I believe that many people fear failure so much that they avoid getting out on the playing field. The routine of the familiar is somewhat boring, but safe. After all, what if I lose? What if things don’t work out right and I get hammered?
If I could have any influence on Americans, I would use the opportunity to tell people that it’s all right to fail. After all, failure isn’t so bad as long you don’t start believing that failing at a thing makes you a personal failure. Nothing could be further from the truth. Trying some things that don’t work out makes you experienced rather than a failure.
What about the failure that comes with never trying, never giving it your best shot, never even getting on the playing field? That’s real failure! That’s a life that didn’t live up to it’s potential.
So, for a Christmas present this year, I give you permission to fail. Dream a big dream, use some common sense and give it a shot. If, by chance, it doesn’t work out, get up and try something different until you get it right. It’s shameful to live in this land of opportunity and sit quietly on the sidelines, watching life go by.
As an additional gift, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes. President Theodore Roosevelt was a man who encountered lots of obstacles in his life. He persevered and went on to become president and lead our country through a difficult time in our history. I hope you find his message as inspiring as I have.
Thought for the Moment
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
— President Theodore Roosevelt,
from his speech, “Citizenship in a Republic,”
given at the Sorbonne in Paris, April 23, 1910
Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.