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Think About It

January 10, 2011

Think About It.

How often do you speak before thinking, or take action before considering the consequences?  This isn’t a problem per say, unless of course the words spoken or actions unfavorably impacts you or others.

When you hear the words ‘Think About it’….  What comes to mind?  Do you start with your reference being in the past, present or future?   I have no documented evidence to support my thesis, but based on personal interactions & experiences with family, friends & business acquaintances…  I am of the opinion that a majority of people initially reference the past.

Shucks, are not past experiences what many folks & even companies base their future choices on?  When you look at the profiles of your friends, or even well -known people,  isn’t there a direct correlation between one’s willingness & adversity to risk with how they have played or made decisions in the past?  I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but it does limit one’s realm of thought.  It’s kind of like rolling up a piece of paper to make a play telescope then looking through it. You have limited sight based only on the experiences you know, assume or see.

There are definite lessons to be learned from past experiences.  I know if I had thought long & hard about some decisions I’ve made over my life, I definitely would have done things differently.  I have only a very few regrets, but again, that is like thinking & looking in the rearview mirror. When I make a mistake, I try to learn from it & be a better person, Okay move on. (It is never that cut & dry, but really… “let’s not cry over spilt milk”.)

Where do you do your ‘daily thinking’?  We often hear about quality time with the kids, & needed time to spend with your significant other, but when is your time to ‘think’?   I realize in business, we are making decisions all the time & thinking on our feet constantly, but that is essentially reactionary tactical maneuvers.   The ‘thinking’ I am referring to is the mix of lessons learned, feelings hurt, strategic opportunities & risks, as well as, considerate & grateful thoughts we should have daily.  Maybe it’s on the drive to work or in traffic headed home.  It could be a thoughtful time at lunch, or before you go to bed at night. Hopefully you can find several times a day to embrace this thought principle.  What kind of distractions do you have?  Maybe that quiet time is when you are doing yard work or going for a run, or even 10 minutes by yourself in the bathroom – good multi-tasking there!  I have four children & an awesome wife. For me personally, that ‘Think About It’ time is in the shower every morning & when I lay my head on my pillow at night.

I admittedly have had too much time on my hands lately to ‘think’.  It is a full time job searching for a new one, but that can’t occupy all my/your time & thoughts.  The last few months have in many ways been a great wake up call for me.  I have constantly been struggling with what I call “Proper Perspective”, (God, Family, friends & work), for almost 20 years.  I throw myself into my work too much.  It almost cost me, my family 15 years ago, when I was juggling a promotion, grad school & my family.  I woke up just in time.  Still sometimes I do not think enough & lose focus.  It is all too easy to do.  This past year I slipped badly!  Why, simply because I did not think until it was too late.  But here is the good news….  I will never forget my mistakes;  I am determined to focus on the present & future and not make the same mistake twice.

Some folks however just can’t get beyond thinking in the past tense.  I personally can’t hold a grudge.  I try not to judge folks.   My wife & kids don’t understand how I can be mad for 5 minutes, then everything is okay.  I am not going to get an ulcer by letting something fester & fume inside me.  Get it out!  It’s gone… move on, know who you love & what is important.  My family lost $100k to a shady contractor over 20 years ago.  Boy oh boy, did it get ugly.  It involved lawyers, time & more money.  Still we saw the same contactor in church every Sunday.   I had the hardest time staying mad at him. I couldn’t listen to my priest’s sermon then go & hate someone, week after week, year after year.  I did learn several valuable lessons from such a loss in both a personal & business perspective.  I‘ll never invite him over for dinner or recommend his work either, but it is not right for me to hold a grudge or hate. God knows what happened in the past & that is all that matters as we look to the present/future. 

There are some people however that ‘Think About It’ and hang on to the past & label others forever.  I personally believe that is unhealthy.  No one should obsess about the past, especially when making judgments of others that impact the future.  I have a friend who is an alcoholic, (his label for himself, not mine.) Clean for 10+ years, but he still considers himself an alcoholic, in order to remember what he was & what he did… so he won’t do it again.  I say, Good for him!  It is not however my place to call him an alcoholic. I know he has changed & is sorry.  I don’t understand how some folks can judge, especially if they were never directly impact nor know the effort or contrition he has made to improve & become a better person for himself & those around him.  Maybe these judgmental folks should ‘Think About It’. What is that biblical verse about casting the 1st stone… (John 8, 7-8)

Sorry, I digress….  Back to my ‘Think About It’ time… I bought a tankless water heater for our home a few years ago. With six family members including 3 women in the house, it was arguably the best purchase & quickest payback I ever made.  Another benefit, is I can take a longer than normal shower myself now.  I find it a great time to think.  I won’t get graphic, but waking up & showering in a ‘thought process’ is like washing away the past, then smelling the rose & lavender of another day.  It’s my chance to sweep away yesterday & focus on the gifts & blessings I have in my life today, as well as considering what I plan to do the balance of the day, tomorrow & the future, which includes weighing options, pros & cons for myself, family & others.  Walking out of the shower, I feel refreshed, hopeful & energized for another day.  My ‘Think About It’ time is present & future based.

I may not be “on the clock” in the shower, but one should not undervalue a daily 10 minutes to ‘Think About it’ when it comes to business too.  I’m going to run the gambit, by referring to the simplest gesture of the way we treat our workers across all levels, (regardless of our positions), to bigger decisions of whether to refinance the corporations long term debt or make a move with the bundle of cash we have been sitting with on the balance sheet these 2+ years of economic uncertainty.  Do we acquire that company or not, what will the impact be on business & the employees?  These 10 minute sessions are for ‘thinking’, not decision making.

How many leaders, make sure their people have time to think or come together to genuinely, openly think, in lieu of merely pushing through an agenda ?!   It is good to have some alone time, but sometimes a friend or partner is “just what the doctor ordered” to help a person think clearly! The key is making time to ‘Think About It’, (alone or with a friend.) The clarity that comes from ‘Thinking first & speaking or acting later can be enormously beneficial at all levels for an individual, family & business!

Chris A. O’Connor

(781) 956-2706

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