Published on: December 22, 2009by Michael Sansolo
Life has a way of handing you lessons. While shoveling 24 inches of snow off my driveway this weekend, I had plenty of time to contemplate the importance of preparation. Had I taken maybe five minutes in November to check if my snow thrower were actually working, I might have enjoyed this weekend a lot more.
But I didn’t, and shoveling was my penalty.
I’m betting I’m not the only one who makes mistakes like that. Especially in business, we all too often forget one of the great lessons from the Bible: that Noah built the ark before it started raining. No doubt, I would have missed out on that too, but then again Noah didn’t have the NFL on HDTV.
So as I moped my way through the snow it got me thinking about the small things that trip us up. I could reflect on the great experiences I had in the past year because of a small kindness provided by a single individual or, sadly in greater number, the headaches caused by those who found a way to make things harder.
And that got me thinking about George Bailey. You no doubt know by now that Kevin Coupe and I just released a new book on the lessons easily gleaned from movies. (If you haven’t, trust me: there’s an ad for “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies” below.) The reason those lessons strike us as working so well is that stories or narratives simply help us say things better. Consider how easy it was to relate to the point on Noah up above.
George Bailey tells us a great story. If you don’t get the reference, George is the main character of It’s a Wonderful Life, the timeless Christmas classic, directed by Frank Capra, about a man who discovers the value of his own life by seeing what the world would have been like without him. (To be honest, this isn’t my favorite seasonal movie. I can watch hours of Ralphie trying to get his BB gun in A Christmas Story, but one viewing of George Bailey is more than enough for me every few years.)
But the scene from It’s a Wonderful Life that gets me is this: It’s when George sees his brother’s tombstone in a cemetery and says that just can’t be. His brother, Harry, has to live because he wins the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II for a daring aerial attack that saves troops on a transport ship. But because George wasn’t there to save Harry from drowning in childhood, Harry wasn’t in that plane and all the men on the transport died. One life impacts many, many others.
In short, everything we do - good and bad - has consequence; it’s just that often times we don’t know it and unlike George Bailey, we won’t ever get the chance.
So as we close the door on 2009, a year destined to be remembered for tough times, slow sales and dwindling profits, keep George Bailey in mind. Keep in mind that small steps and small gestures may be even more important this year to associates, customers, family and whoever else. Those small steps, especially taken proactively, could mean the difference between success and failure next year.
So have a great holiday no matter what you celebrate. And let’s hope the New Year brings improvement in everything we do.
Oh, and if you know how to fix a snow thrower ... Give me a shout. Quick!
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
- KC's View:
- Michael likes A Christmas Story, as do I. But for me, the movie I cannot get through Christmas without seeing is Love, Actually.