When I was a young boy, about 13 or so, I decided one Sunday morning to go to church by myself. I did not grow up in a religious family, but I had a curiosity and wanted to understand more. It was an awkward and unnerving experience, I had a hard time following along. Fortunately for me, there was a man I sat beside who helped me find my way to the right chapters and verses as the service progressed. This gentleman, Mike, turned out to be a mentor of mine. I’ll save those stories for another day.
The pastor, a gentleman named Don Williams, was giving the sermon and frankly, my interest was piqued. In a very detailed way, he described his personal journey and then began calling on people to share their stories. I just sat there terrified that he was going to call on me – fortunately, that didn’t happen. It’s funny as a young boy what you worry about; now it’s almost impossible for me to pass on a moment to speak on a subject.
At the end of the service, Don noted that if anyone had any questions, they were welcome to meet with him in his office. Of course, I couldn’t help myself because I had a lot of questions and spent the better part of that afternoon with him. Don was a very well educated and thoughtful man who took me under his wing, and in many ways became a second father to me. Our relationship was very Socratic; he gave me books to read and we met a couple of times a week to discuss our thoughts and ideas. I always had a passion for reading, but Don was the gasoline poured on that fire within me.
I have many stories to share about my relationship with Don; he had a profound influence on me and I am very grateful for my time with him.
Today I wanted to share a story with you about actions. Several years later as a teenager, I was struggling with an issue and I couldn’t quite create the habit that would alleviate my problem. I was young, passionate, and frankly stubborn, so as we meet over a couple of months, my issue continued to surface in our discussions. One day, Don paused our conversation and began telling me about his experience in marriage counseling. He shared with me that he’d often talk with couples about their problems, and every week it was the same issue over and over again. Once he’d reached the point where he observed the ongoing repetition of the same problem, he’d ask the couple “are you in enough pain to make a change?”
Take a moment and let that question sink in. How much time do you spend talking about things that frustrate you, but in reality, you’re not ready to do anything about it? What is your threshold for making a change? How much time do you spend complaining or regretting your circumstance rather than having the ambition to change? As we get older, we build coping mechanisms that actually increase our pain tolerance, making it even harder to change. A goal in life ought to be lowering our pain threshold so that we are quick to react and make the changes necessary to realize our dreams.
Back to counseling… When confronted with a question like that, most people respond reflexively, “Yes… that is why we are here.” As I look back on my life, there are these moments that at a glance seemed ordinary, but turned out to be extraordinary. This conversation with Don turned out to be one of those moments… That conversation became a guiding principle for my life and a measure of personal accountability that will never leave me.
Don went on to explain that when the response was “Yes, we are ready”, he’d continue the sessions and work with the couple. Since this was counseling, there was a lot of talking. Don’s view of counseling was that it was more about actions than feelings. The talking part was to understand the change that needed to take place, not necessarily to spend a lot of time trying to feel better. As the counseling continued to progress, if they were not making improvements, he’d share his final view on the matter, which was to say, “Your actions speak so loud, I can hardly hear what you’re saying.”
Again, take a moment and let that sink in… how often are we deluding ourselves, talking, and talking about our thoughts but not actually taking any real action? How often do you chat with a peer or someone on your team about a problem within Tahzoo, and hear their concern but realize they are just talking? Shouldn’t we hold one another accountable for what we do rather than what we say?
All of us want to be better; I want Tahzoo to be better, I want to do better, I want our company to be full of smart and happy people who come to work every day thrilled that they are making a difference. We have a lot of work to do to make Tahzoo as amazing as it could be… It won’t get better until you start making it better.
So, ask yourself: Am I in enough pain to make a change? If you’re not ready to change you’ll talk about the problem and not likely do much to make a difference. If you have good teammates, good managers, and good leaders… when you talk repeatedly about problems… They will say to you “Are you in enough pain to make a change?”. Then if you don’t make progress, they’ll say to you, “Your actions speak so loud, I can hardly hear what you’re saying.”
You could sum it all up with my favorite quote from Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see.”
Let’s go be great!