"The Man, The Mission, The Passion" Husband, Father, Attorney, CPA, Steward Leader, Entrepreneur, MBA, Author, Builder, HBS OPM 25 Class, Mentor, Teacher

Cold Stoves: Learning the right lesson

hotstove.gifIt is said that a cat, once burned on a hot stove, never sits on a hot stove again. But the cat never sits on a cold stove either. I don’t know if this is true, but I know that there is an important message in the story, which is the importance of learning the right lesson.

We all have had troubles, crises, and pains. We all have had romantic relationships that did not work out. Most of the time, we dust ourselves off, lick our wounds and re-engage with life. Occasionally, we’ve heard a friend say, “I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never love/trust again.” This is a classic case of learning the wrong lesson.

My first out-of-town development turned out to be a painful learning experience, and there was a part of me that never wanted to venture into development again, much less outside the relative safety of my own backyard. Yet even in the midst of the excruciating financial pain I knew that I must learn the right lesson, not the “easy” wrong lesson. The “easy” wrong lesson is to run as fast as you can from anything that comes even close to resembling the source of so much pain––hot stoves AND cold stoves.


Plane to Las Vegas…

postcards.gifLas Vegas can be a nice place to visit. But not if your plane ticket was to Los Angeles.

On occasion, some of my team members will advance the argument that they wants kudos or a bonus for getting “close to” their goals.

My response is generally some version of “Las Vegas is a very nice place, but the goal was Los Angeles.”

The message I am trying to send is that even if you get a project or task 95% done, much of the value is lost when the last bit is not accomplished. Would you want to travel on a bridge 95% complete? Willingly live in a house with the roof stopping 95% of the water? Want electricity that worked 95% of the time? Put up for long with a car that started 19 times out of 20? I know my mortgage holders won’t accept a check that is 95% of the amount due.


“Don’t tell me how rocky the sea is, just bring the darn ship in.”

lighthouse_storm.gifWhen I was building my organization, I had a lot of young people working for me who had tremendous potential but were not yet seasoned.

Occasionally, some would come to me with a tale of woe, such as

  • how tough the market is, or
  • how difficult the project is, or
  • how rough things are going

…and would I please

  • amend their financial plan, or
  • allow them to renege on their goals, or
  • somehow make things easier for them by lowering the bar.

While I am always happy to be a sounding board, and my full resources of advice and counsel are always there in my role as mentor, I have never been comfortable lowering the performance expectation bar.

Our mortgage holders have a decided preference for cash over tales of woe, our vendors are more interested in timely payment than in stories about how tough the market, and our customers expect us to deliver the quality housing we promise no matter how rough things are.

One day I found this quote from legendary football coach Lou Holtz: “Don’t tell me how rocky the sea is, just bring the darn ship in.”