My father was a child of the depression. His occupation for as long as I remember was that of a painter, but not like Rembrandt, Picasso, van Gogh, or da Vinci. He worked for a variety of different businesses, with his longest tenure at the end of his career for a manufacturing organization. When he wasn’t working his “day job”, he always had something else he was working on an improvement around our house or helping someone else. Other than an occasional nap, I don’t recall him resting much, nor did he celebrate.
While I never said, “I want to be like my dad”, in this aspect I became very much like him. I inherited that same drive and work ethic. Throughout my adult life, the day after any significant accomplishment, personal or professional, I’m ready to ask two questions:
- How can we improve upon what was just accomplished? – There must be a way to make it better. With my team, we’d schedule time to do a “postmortem” review to talk about everything. We’d ask ourselves lots of questions like, what went well, what happened that we didn’t anticipate, what went wrong and what did that teach us, or what do we need to fix.
- What’s next? – There is less to this question other than wondering what the next challenge will be. What will satisfy my desire to be occupied with the next challenge. To do more.
In many ways this was fuel for me to keep driving. Yet I wonder how this fuel might have limited me over the years. How often did my family or team mutter under their breath about slowing me down. More than I probably want to hear about.
We are given only one life to live and it’s not good to have regrets. While I don’t regret how I behaved (it’s who I am), I believe I would be in a different place today if after each significant accomplishment I had asked two different questions first, and then my asked my two questions.
If you are at all like me, maybe these will help you.
- How can we celebrate this accomplishment? – Yes, really make a big deal out of what was successful. Party hardy! Celebrate those who were responsible for making it happen. If you’re a leader, remember it was never you, it was your team. Make sure everyone stops, takes a break, and enjoys. “Smell the roses!” Rest for a while and rest from work, maybe take a day and do nothing.
- How far have I come? – The root of dissatisfaction begins with a comparison. We compare and say, “look how far we/I have to go…” What if we celebrated how far we’ve come before we figured out how to close a gap. In 2023, the Baltimore Oriels won 101 games, which is 18 more than the year before. That’s a huge increase for any baseball team and they made the playoffs for the first time in 7 years. Yet much of the fan base is focused on what do we need to do next year, instead of celebrating the heavy lifting it took to get back to the playoffs.
My two questions are important, but those questions will be there a week or two later. First pause and celebrate the accomplishment and how far you’ve come. You’ll be happier you did.
The Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. But when the Egyptian chariots with their horses and drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought the water back, and it covered them. The prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took her tambourine, and all the women followed her, playing tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:19-20 (GNT)