Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Road Maps - If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Any Map Will Do


 
 
FARNSWORTH'S FIRST LAW OF LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND ROAD MAPS:
If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Any
Map Will Do
 

If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster. Stephen R. Covey  

 


     
   
 
My two most recent Wednesday Wisdom articles have focused on the importance of getting going. But simply pressing forward is not enough. While it is good to be moving, it is better to be moving with energy and purpose toward a clearly defined destination.  

Do you remember the famous conversation between Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat?

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where - " said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

" - so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

For Alice, whose only purpose was to get SOMEWHERE, it didn't matter which turn she took nor what map she used. If YOU don't know where YOU'RE going, any map will do.  

If you want make real progress in your life, you need to figure out where you want to be, design a plan to get there, and then implement your plan. One of the people who taught me this principle was professor and author Stephen R. Covey, who had a knack for teaching obvious but previously unstated truths in a clear and engaging way.  

I was a fan long before his Seven Habits books made him a household name. When I was a freshman at BYU, his classes were so popular that it was impossible to find a seat. I carried one of his earliest books, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, with me to Brazil as a 19-year-old missionary. It strongly influenced my determination as a young man to strive to lead a purposeful and spiritual life and to try to eventually leave a meaningful legacy.

I celebrated when his Seven Habits of Highly Successful People went multi-platinum in 1989. It seemed as though he had finally achieved the world-wide acclaim he deserved. That book solidified his legacy as a catalyst for positive change in the world.


 

Habits One and Two of his Seven Habits were "Be proactive" and "Begin with the end in mind." In other words, the first step to living effectively is to recognize that you can decide your course in life; you can choose your own destination.

Second, once you know where you want to end up, the direction of your journey and your comportment along the way must be consistent with the final outcome you desire. When it comes to leaving a legacy, you must build your life-map based on your chosen destination.

Covey also taught that if you intend to leave a legacy of values and virtues, you must live your life in harmony with that desired legacy. This clever little poem by Benjamin Franklin speaks volumes about the inseparable connection between the way we live and the legacy we leave.

          If you would not be forgotten,
          As soon as you are dead and rotten,
          Either write things worth reading,
          Or do things worth the writing.


   


Living a life consistent with how you wish to be remembered is the ultimate definition of integrity and the perfect recipe for a meaningful legacy. To leave a large legacy, you must live large. To leave a smart legacy, you must live intelligently. To leave a loving legacy, you must live a life of caring, compassion, and service.

The life you lead will be the legacy you leave.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Bicycles - Part Two


FARNSWORTH'S FIRST LAW OF LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND BICYCLES - Part Two
 

It's a lot easier to keep your balance when you're moving forward.  

 


     

My brother Lane has led hundreds of horseback trips into the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado in the past 40 years. He knows the mountains and he knows how to handle horses.  

Lane has found that experienced mountain horses generally work hard and are well behaved as long as they keep moving along the trail. However, if the trail boss loiters too long at the trailhead or stops too long or too frequently along the way, the horses start biting, kicking, and shoving each other. (There's a reason it's called "horseplay.") If that happens, Lane says, the leader must get the group back on the trail and moving forward as soon as possible.

According to Lane, the keys to successfully leading a train of pack horses are to (1) know where you're headed, (2) get moving, and (3) keep moving steadily toward your destination. Even though he's not likely to use or recognize the term, Lane understands and employs the underlying principle of Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Bicycles: "It's a lot easier to keep your balance when you're moving forward."


 

Lane and Scott on the trail in the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado.


This principle pertains as much to humans as it does to horses and bicycles. Individuals, families, and work groups who apply the concept are more likely to be successful, while those who don't do so tend to be less successful.

I once worked with the head of a large organization with 10 divisions and 3,000 members. He had no clear vision of where the organization was going and was not enthusiastic about defining his vision, much less communicating it to the people in the organization.  

He saw his principal role as trouble shooting problems and putting out fires. When I suggested he should step outside his day-to-day tasks to define and share his vision for the organization, he resisted. How could he stop and do that, he asked, when he was already overwhelmed wrestling with problems and putting out fires?  

As it happened, there were always plenty of troubles and fires for him to handle. It seemed to me that by focusing on problems, he attracted more of them.  

At the same time, the lack of forward momentum caused the energy of the organization to be dissipated on petty internal concerns. Without direction and a forward-focused vision, the organization languished and the people in it were constantly squabbling, getting into mischief, and spawning emergencies. Dealing with these issues took even more of his time and made it even less likely that he would ever establish a clear vision of where they were going.

I have observed that heads of organizations who lack "that vision thing," as George H. W. Bush described it, have a difficult time rallying their troops or keeping them out of trouble. King Solomon wrote that "where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29: 18. Usually they die from marching in endless circles, from starvation, or from constant infighting.

Such officers may be in charge of organizations, but they are not leaders. Being a leader requires purpose, vision, direction, and forward movement.

The concept that it is impossible to keep a non-moving bicycle upright is not very complicated. As a former student once derisively described it, this principle is "stupidly simple and 'duh' obvious." "Everybody knows that!" he said.  

I fully agree.

And yet, knowing that, how often do we find ourselves in a swirl of crises because we don't have a clear vision and purpose?  

How often do we get bogged down in a swamp of minutiae and trouble because we forget to focus on our primary objective?  

How often do we allow interruptions and distractions to divert our attention and throw us off balance, draining precious energy and resources away from our main mission?

Sometimes, even if we don't yet know all the answers to how we're going to get to where we want to go, we simply must put one foot in front of the other and start moving.  

Often the answer is to just "head 'em up and move 'em out."  

When we do, we often find that forward momentum itself resolves or makes irrelevant the nagging issues that previously kept us paralyzed.  

Forward momentum itself gives us the energy to break through barriers that once seemed insurmountable.  

Forward momentum itself takes us to a place where we can see clearly how to reach our ultimate objective.  

Sometimes the solution to our quandaries is to get on our horses and start riding toward our destination.

Or as Lane would say: "Mount up and let's get moving!"


 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Bicycles


 
 
FARNSWORTH'S FIRST LAW OF LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND BICYCLES


Momentum begets momentum, and the best way to start is to start.
Gil Penchina 


 





Sir Isaac Newton figured it out in the world of physics over 300 years ago. His First Law of Motion states:

Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

The same principle applies in life and leadership. It requires a lot of energy to get moving; staying in motion is much easier. Once achieved, forward momentum in the right direction is a precious commodity and must not be squandered.

Momentum in life and leadership is an amazing thing. It dramatically magnifies our forward progress and makes huge objectives possible.

It also produces significant side benefits. Just as in riding a bicycle, forward motion in life prevents us from wobbling and tipping over. It eliminates wasted energy and makes it easier to stay on track. It reduces distractions and helps us stay focused on the things that matter most.

Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership and Bicycles:

It's a lot easier to keep your balance when you're moving forward.

Momentum in the right direction is a beautiful thing. It can infuse a ho-hum life or a so-so organization with power and purpose. Here's a word to the wise: With all your getting, get going. And then keep going!