`“Wolfgang, Mighty Thor & the Band of Misfits: Out-of-the-Box Leadership Lessons”
Winning Leadership—Then, Now & Forever
2019: Leading from the Front! Part 4
Life’s lessons abound, don’t they? And don’t you just love it when you see an old dog can still be taught–or can teach–new tricks?
In this case, Coach Gary was the ‘old dog’, and the teachers–many of them–were actually real dogs, themselves. I’ll explain, you listen, because this lesson is too important to miss!
It was a beautiful Palm Sunday morning. As I left the building I saw my friend Shirley standing there, which was not unusual. The ‘unusual’ belonged to Wolfgang, a medium-sized dog, currently hopping around and having a ball. It stunned me because Wolfgang was being very acrobatic–on only three legs.
I had to ask Shirley ‘What happened to your dog?’ “Hit by a car”, she said. ‘How long ago?’ “About five years.” I almost wanted to ask…’ He’s so carefree & happy, doesn’t he know he’s missing a leg? Doesn’t he realize he lacks normal abilities that should limit him?’ But I didn’t.
She assured me that Wolfgang not only wasn’t really missing anything ‘mission critical’ because his mission in life had changed. He has become a star in his new role as a therapy dog, a very warm, furry & friendly encourager to those in hospitals struggling with recent changes in their own physical abilities. Obviously, Wolfgang is the kind of critter not willing to let mere circumstances drag him down.
My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically. Stephen Hawking.
Well, as cool as Wolfgang is, Mighty Thor was something else! In fact, Mighty Thor just—flat—blew me away. I first saw him at my vet’s office. I was sitting there in the lobby, waiting for the docs to finish an exam with my golden retriever, Olivia.
Mighty Thor—almost magically—just appeared in the lobby, being carried in the arms of his ‘mommy & daddy’. (Note: pet owners instantly understand this nomenclature!) As his owners checked him in with the front desk, they also placed him on the floor so that he could just be himself, meet, play & be introduced to others. At least, that’s what I was expecting. What happened next absolutely stunned me.
His feet hit the ground: both of them. As in two–only! Now, if you’re as surprised as I was, you might wonder how he got along. I had some preconceived ideas, and I had it all wrong.
Mighty Thor had figured it all out. He actually had four modes: 1. He could lie down, legs stretched out behind him; 2. Sit on his hind legs, balancing in place; 3. He could hop–very kangaroo-like; 4. He could also lower his chest and head to the floor and push himself along using his hind legs. Honestly, he kind of looked like a canine version of a Roomba floor vac!
He moved right along, and the polished floor of Mission Animal Hospital seemed to take on an even, more-special gleam to them. Born that way, he knew of no difference, and to all appearances, he was one of the happiest, friendliest, & best-mannered dogs in the building. Heck…maybe in the city–my own dogs included. Amazing!
I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.
One of my all-time, most favorite human ‘misfits’, if you will, is a general contractor I knew some 40 years ago. Misfit? You tell me: how many blind general contractors do you know? Exactly. (And please, no snide remarks about the GC’s we currently work for!)
Forrest Holly was a builder. At the time I knew him, he specialized in churches. While I never did win any jobs from him–he was tough–I did have a few conversations with him. Once, while doing a takeoff in his plan room, I asked him the obvious question. (You know, the ‘blind builder’ thing.)
Forrest answered the question behind the question, choosing to not even dignify the idea of physical limitation. “Gary, the feeling of standing in a church that I’ve built is a very powerful thing.” You know, I’m pretty sure he could “see” his completed work!
A foreman I often work with hails from South America. During a recent ‘philosophical discussion’ with him regarding some issues we were having on his job, things dumped on him, Nelson reminded me: “It doesn’t matter what happened to you. What really matters is what you are going to do about it!”
“Coach…Coach…” I hear you saying, “…those are great stories, but how do they help me with my job today?” A little patience, please, and you’ll see. Now, check out my takeaway:
There is not a contractor living or dead who hasn’t experienced severe adversity on the jobsite, or on the job. We sometimes overlook that fact, especially when things haven’t been going right, and don’t look like they will ever go right: the client can’t or won’t pay you so you can’t pay your subs and suppliers and it seems like everybody hates you; you paid your guys this week…barely…maybe with funds borrowed or begged, and your banker is beginning to hate you, as well. (And don’t even mention your family by now!)
You see nutty stuff demanded of you and your business by an even-nuttier government entity, and throw up your hands. And then maybe you actually throw up physically, as well. Seems like life itself is unfair–especially to you. You want an even break for a change, right? Maybe it’s time to go back to work for someone else or take a less demanding job on the crew…less headaches. Less risk. (Hmmmm…let’s see now…I always thought it would be pretty neat to be an astronaut. Pretty glamorous. More fun than a contractor.)
This month of July we celebrate a notable achievement in the field of astronautics: 50 years since man first stepped foot onto the moon, brought there by American ingenuity and Apollo 11. Amazing, glamorous, heroic, risky.
Did you know that only 30 months prior to that moon landing, Apollo 1 caught fire on the launch pad during a routine test and three astronauts died in it, strapped into their seats? I can remember to this day exactly where I was as I heard the news. Not ashamed to say I cried.
Contrast that to July 20, 1969, when I heard these words: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!” America and the rest of the world went crazy. I cried for joy.
Fact is, we can easily complain about bad things happening, but stuff happens to everyone, and most people get through most of the bad stuff, and learn important lessons along the way…lessons that keep them on goal and safe in the future.
And you know, as bad as your (and my) problems are on any given day, it’s unlikely we’d be willing to trade them for those of another. Why? Because we know how to best deal with and solve our own problems.
Doubt it? Hey…if Wolfgang and Mighty Thor and the rest of life’s misfits can figure out their problems…surely nothing can stop you.
Coach Gary’s Corner: Gary Micheloni is a construction company marketer, speaker, author, consultant…and a coach. Get Coach Gary to speak for your group. FullContactTeam@gmail.com And be sure and tell him about your story!