“The vigour of the human mind quickly appears when there is no longer any room for doubt and hesitation, when diffidence is absorbed in the sense of danger, or overwhelmed by some resistless passion. We then soon discover that difficulty is, for the most part, the daughter of idleness, that the obstacles with which our way seemed to be obstructed were only phantoms which we believed real because we durst not advance to a close examination; and we learn that it is impossible to determine without experience how much constancy may endure, or perseverance perform.” — Samuel Johnson, From The Rambler, No. 129, Tuesday, June 11, 1751 [The Need for Enterprise]
Now that’s something I can use. The above quote comes from a collection of Johnson’s works that sits in my car. On my way to work, I listened to A. Lincoln: A Biography, by Ronald C. White, Jr. Last night, I read from Bismarck, A Life, by Jonathan Steinberg. I’ve also started Ike: An American Hero, by Michael Korda, and (as many of you know), just finished Truman, by David McCullough.
What’s important to note is that the above reading isn’t the kind commonly referred to as “pleasure,” but, to me, deadly serious. Driving my appetite for learning is the desire, near need, to ingest the wisdom which can be derived by the study of lives fully lived. From every book, I extract at least one principle that can be applied to the challenges confronting me. This is practical reading; this is the development of a “how to” book for the journey of life. We would never assemble the most modest piece of Ikea furniture without a set of instructions, yet so many are willing to navigate life without reviewing the bested tribulations of those who’ve achieved on a grand scale.
But not all lessons need come from history. I recently received a slightly out-of-the-box request from one of my long-time sponsors. The company in question is one of those that “does it right” — puts customers first, has a tremendous reputation, and is a pleasure to work with. Interestingly, almost intuitively, I asked myself, “How would this company respond to a request like the one they are making of me?”
Answer: “They would do everything possible to accommodate the spirit of the request, even if they could not embrace the method suggested.” In short, they would work with their client to find a solution. Somehow, someway, everyone would be happy when the discussion ended. So that’s exactly what I did. Importantly, here are the things the solution did not (could not) involve:
- Compromising our company’s ethical values (ad/editorial separation, for example)
- Setting a precedent that could not be scaled to other sponsors (the dangerous one-off)
Often, when faced with decisions, I try to channel the most relevant historical figure I can think of. In this case, there was a model much closer to home.
While there’s a touch of the Golden Rule here, it’s not sufficient. More than treating others as you wish to be treated, treat others as you’ve seen the best service providers treat you. Channel those practices into everything you do, and you’ll soon have your customers (the doctors and nurses) referring to your department as that which sets the standard they most wish to emulate.