Winners' Wisdom
by Jim Stovall

Don’t Wait

Acts of kindness are like a luscious ripe fruit or a freshly-picked flower. They are magnificent in the moment, but will rapidly fade with time.

Recently, I heard about a gentleman who had a friend across the country who was dying of cancer. He was on his way for a visit when he learned that his friend was to have been the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from a national organization of which he had been a member for many years. The gentleman was very distressed, because he feared his friend would not live long enough to receive the award at the national convention in four months.

Then he received some inspiration. He decided to contact the national organization and have them present the award immediately at a ceremony to be videotaped. The tape could be then shown as a part of the national convention. As it turned out, the organization was delighted with the idea and dispatched a film crew to tape the dying man receiving his award.

It was a great experience for all concerned. Unfortunately, after receiving the award, and after receiving guests in his home that evening, the dying man went to sleep and never woke up. Had this gentleman waited even one more day, it would have been too late.

When you receive an inspiration to do something remarkable or significant for those around you, always remember that not only is the idea inspired, but often the timing is inspired as well. If you wait, you may have nothing more than spoiled fruit and wilted flowers. Imagine the sadness this particular gentleman would have felt had he not performed this act of kindness for his friend. He would have stood at the funeral and not only grieved the loss of someone he loved, but also he would have been plagued by one of the worst phrases ever conceived by any person: “If only…”

Never allow yourself to be a victim of unfulfilled inspiration or a victim of bad timing. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing now. You may not have a second chance.

As you go through your day today, be aware of unique opportunities to impact those around you and be very aware that the time to act is now.

You Can't Live at the Beach

I have a friend who built a very large, fabulous home at the edge of the ocean, and then he moved to the beach. You may, then, wonder why I have entitled this column "You Can't Live at the Beach." This is because in my friend's mind - just as many of us would think - living at the beach is a wonderful thing; because we have all had idyllic sunny days and grand star-filled nights with the gentle breezes blowing and the waves rolling in and caressing the soft sand.

If the beach does not do it for you, maybe it's the mountains or the lake or whatever wonderful place you go to get away from it all and experience recreation.

Recreation means to re-create. This presupposes that we have something else going on that we need to get away from in order to refocus and reenergize so that we can go back to that thing with renewed vigor and excitement. After several months at the beach, one can learn that that wonderful, magical place where you were able to get away from it all has become a remote, distant outpost without any friends or family and very little to do.

The "getaway" is only magic because you have something to get away from and, hence, something to go back to.

People who are overworked and overstressed could come to your town or city, live in your house, and experience all the wonderful things around you - parks, museums, etc. - as a getaway and come to feel that where you live is a magical place. In the final analysis, the beach or mountains or lake are more a state of mind than a geographical destination. While it's wonderful to go experience new or different places and do interesting things, it is much more vital to have something meaningful and worthwhile to get back to.

We human beings have a need to rest, relax, and recharge, but we have a greater need that we could identify as the need to be needed. Truly fulfilled people work hard and play hard. They get away from it all and then they get back to that productive thing that makes a difference in their life and the world around them.

As you go through your day today, make sure you are taking time to experience recreation so that you can go back and re-create the work and the vocation you have chosen.

The Shortcut Myth

All you need to do to convince yourself that our society is addicted to shortcuts to success is to watch late night cable television. Within the brief span of a 30-minute infomercial, you will be regaled with the supposed merits of wonderful products that will enable you to make millions of dollars instantly, lose 50 pounds by next Tuesday, or meet and marry the person of your dreams before this weekend.

We have become junkies of this shortcut mentality. We regularly watch television shows or movies that present compelling world crises that are resolved within a time span of a few minutes or hours, and everyone involved lives happily ever after. Naïve people assume that everyone else is already on the fast track, so they are gullible with respect to these shortcut gimmicks.

Beverly Sills, international opera star, noted author, and great patron of the arts, once said, “There is no shortcut to anywhere worth going.” This is true today as it has been true throughout recorded history.

The news is full of stories of people who have experienced “overnight success” in their professional or personal lives. If you will really explore these people’s experiences, you will find that their success is a product of many years of focused intensity toward their goal. I would be the first to admit that after many years of focused intensity, success often arrives wrapped in a beautiful package that seems to have been delivered overnight; but, in reality, the success was an intricate recipe that was long in the preparation stage before it came out of the oven.

You may have heard the story of the Oriental bamboo trees that grow from a seed and only rise a few inches in the first seven years, then, in that next growing season, they spring up dozens of feet in a miraculous fashion. While it seems all of the growth has happened in a few weeks or months, if you really studied the trees, you would find that for seven years, the root system has been growing and preparing for that one season of rapid growth.

What we call “overnight success” is, most likely, an “overnight discovery” of someone who has been performing at a successful level for quite some time. People who have climbed up the corporate ladder have found that the key to success is to perform at the level to which you wish to rise, and then you will be rewarded with that promotion. A promotion is not as much elevating you into a new job as it is recognizing and rewarding the job you have already been doing.

As you go through your day today, be sure that each of the goals you seek are worthy of your talent and efforts, because there is no shortcut from here to there.

Cycling out of the Box

As a blind person, I am forced to adapt many of the normal tasks and activities to fit my abilities so that I can blend into the world around me. You need to do the same thing in your world, but it may not be so obvious to you as your limitations and restrictions may not be as apparent as being blind. In the final analysis, we are only as big as the smallest thing that it takes to divert us from our dreams and goals.

I always enjoyed riding a bicycle until my late teens or early twenties when my rapidly diminishing eyesight made bicycle riding perilous. Bicycle riding then became one of those activities I mentally set aside as something I probably would never do again.

Then, on a recent trip to San Diego to make a speech, I was staying in a wonderful resort. This resort had many activities. Among them was the ability to rent and ride a contraption known as a quadra-cycle. It has four wheels, two seats, and gives two riders the ability to sit side-by-side and ride anywhere they wish. All of a sudden I realized that my cycling days were not over. All I needed was a quadra-cycle and a designated driver. When I returned back to my hometown, I quickly found both a quadra-cycle and a number of designated drivers and, before I knew it, I was cycling again.

While this story would seem to have a totally satisfactory ending, the question that remains is one that may prompt you to think about limitations you have imposed in your own life. Since I have discovered that quadra-cycles have been around for many decades, I am left with the question, "What if I had been willing to think out of the box 20 years ago when I thought I was forced to give up cycling?"

This fall, I am looking forward to many wonderful days of riding along the bike paths in my city. I am also looking forward to spending at least some of my cycling time thinking about other obstacles in my life that I have considered insurmountable barriers and how I might adapt to overcome them.

As you go through your day today, think about the things that you believe you can't do. That door that you believe is closed to you may be adjacent to an even bigger and better door that will lead you directly to where you want to be.

Today's the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at . Visit for additional information.

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2004 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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