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R emember that overused line, “Happiness is wanting what you have”? Funny about how some of these old saws hang around for so long. I suppose it’s probably because there may be a grain of truth in them.
I remember in my 20s asking my dad, who was in his 60s at the time, how he defined success for himself as a businessman in Oklahoma City. He told me that no matter what he was doing, he always considered himself to be the luckiest guy in the world – in business or in anything else. He called it “the May Luck” after our family’s last name. In fact, people marveled at his enthusiasm about almost everything and everybody. So he told me that with a tiny bit of skill and practice, coupled with copious amounts of this enthusiasm, he just naturally gravitated to the next level of responsibility. And I told my son, Nicholas, and my daughter, Caroline, the same thing. Guess what? Same thing happened to them: “The May Luck.” Right…
If you think about it, having what you want is a neat kind of phrase to keep you grounded in the reality of the present. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more of something or a promotion in the profession, but a certain sense of satisfaction at every level along the way actually paves the way for reaching the next step of a particular goal.
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Firefighters are in the enviable position of being what they want as they do what they want. Recently, I met with a fire chief who has more than 30 years in a department with a consistently great reputation. I could see the satisfaction in his eyes as he described some of the challenges he continues to face and the issues he deals with daily, but the overall sense I got was one of pure love.
I remember reading an article by the management and leadership guru Gary Hammel (“The Hole in the Soul of Business,” The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 10, 2010) in which he spoke of a cartoon in The New Yorker magazine showing an office worker slumped against a wall, clutching his chest. As worried associates rushed to aid the stricken employee, he mumbled: “Don’t worry; it was just a fleeting sense of purpose.”
Hammel goes on to cite a survey that found only 20% of employees are truly engaged in work – heart and soul. He notes that the respondents laid much of the blame on uncommunicative and egocentric managers. However, Hammel wonders “if there is not some deeper organizational reality that bleeds the vitality and enthusiasm out of people at work.” In a content analysis, he notes phrases in so many annual reports of businesses – words like superiority, high-performance, leadership, differentiation, value, focus, discipline, stockholder equity, accountability and efficiency. These words are just fine as far as they go, he notes, but such platitudes do not “quicken the pulse.” This is not a ding on corporate America. There are so many fine companies with great missions and roles, no question. They are the life-blood of our economy. Finally, Hammel notes, “A noble purpose inspires sacrifice, stimulates innovation and encourages perseverance. It transforms great talent into exceptional accomplishment.”
In the fire service, these are not just words. Firefighters must live them every day. This means remembering who you are and what you represent, coupled with what you do.
The world of marketing is shrinking every day as communication becomes cluttered beyond all recognition. The average American receives approximately 4,000 marketing messages daily, according to the America Advertising Association. If you consider the draw of our Blackberries and iPhones, we have come to the point of having the attention span of a gnat. When you add the attention the Internet commands, you can see there is a crisis in communication for marketers because the receiver is overwhelmed with messages.