Thumbs Up or Down

Life is a Business – Chapter 19

A series of essays on the past, the present, and the future

One day, when I was around 28 years old and building the display division of American Manufacturing, I waved around a half million dollar purchase order and a $250,000 deposit check from Hanes Hosiery. My euphoric bubble was burst when our conservative owner, Jim Robinson put his hand on my shoulder and said: “Will, things are never as good nor bad as they seem”.

On another day a few years later, when we lost our most profitable customer, he lifted my spirits by placing his hand on my shoulder and saying: “Will, things are never as bad, nor as good as they seem”.

What’s the moral of that story? What’s the point?

When we think we have conquered the world, we haven’t…when we think things will never get better, they will…it’s always somewhere in between- that elusive place where reality resides. You will never be at more financial risk than on the days you think you are on top of the world, or the days you think the world is on top of you. We all make poor decisions at the extremities of our emotional ranges; this is why the best poker players and golfers appear to be stone-faced, no matter what hand they are holding or shot they are facing. They have to play on with what they are dealt to the best of their abilities, just like we do in life. You can win with the worst hand in the deck…if you play it right and catch a little luck by having the other guy choke with aces when you went “all in” with nothing.

Life and business are casinos that stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The only difference between them and Las Vegas is the fact that you don’t have a choice whether or not to place a bet in life: every moment brings another heads/tails choice! Once you get into business, the choices compound and often conflicts arise between personal and professional choices. The “Fifty Shades of Gray” in real life are not so sexy, but are the multitude of qualitative decisions you will make in life that stretch your sense of right/wrong, or fair/unfair, or success/failure.  Life’s choices rarely come in stark black & white, but rather, in “10,000 Shades of Gray”.  From experience, there will be times you must choose the least bad, bad choice.  If you ever are the leader, you will understand what makes our Presidents turn gray so very quickly, sitting in that chair, deciding life or death for someone each day, even as they try to vacation or play golf…there really is no time off for them as they carry the burden on our behalf. I learned long ago to ask the critics and political naysayers at work to take my keys and be President for a few minutes and pick a route of action. Those who griped the most never had a solution, only platitudes to protect their position, no matter how things turned out!

“Failure is an orphan; Success has many Fathers…”

Whether you are on a winning or a losing streak, the last hand is irrelevant and the odds are independent on the next deal (unless you’ve counted the cards like a smart boy or girl!). Move tables or change games if you must, to change your luck.

In the end, just remember this: “The Sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time…sooner or later, the Sun or the Dog will move…”

I prefer to move on my terms, not wait on the Sun!

By Bill Hewgley