Carl Mays: Do you need to change anything?

Jan. 05, 2013 @ 12:14 AM

During this first week of 2013 is a good time to conduct some self-inspection regarding what we do and why we do it. In our personal lives, jobs or careers, we sometimes become slaves of routine. We develop a tendency to forget that the mere fact something has been done the same way for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean it has always been the right thing to do or that it is the right thing to do now.

Sometimes we may be like the army sergeant who was put in charge of maintaining a plot of grass in front of his camp’s administrative headquarters in a particularly dry area of South Texas. The sergeant promptly delegated the job to a private and told him to water the grass every day at five o’clock. The private conscientiously did his task.

One day, however, when there was a terrific thunderstorm, the sergeant walked into the barracks and saw the private. “What’s the matter with you?” the sergeant bellowed. “It’s five o’clock and you’re supposed to be out watering the grass!”

“But, sergeant,” the confused private said, “it’s raining. Look at that thunderstorm.”

“So what!” the sergeant yelled. “You’ve got a raincoat, haven’t you?”

Rain or shine, some people, like the sergeant, go about their routines the same way every day of the week, every week of the month, every month of the year, with never a thought regarding the possibility of doing something differently when conditions or situations call for it. In business, this can happen to employees and executives on all levels, just as it can happen to any of us in family, community, school, sports or any area of life.

Years ago, I heard the “example” story of how a woman and her teenage daughter had a ritual of making meatloaf together. They always cut off the end of the meatloaf right before putting it in the oven, leaving a space on one end of the pan. The teen finally asked her mother, “Mom, why do we always cut off the end of the meatloaf?” The mother was taken by surprise, and began to think. She had no immediate answer except that was the way her own mother made the meatloaf.

When the woman and her daughter asked the woman’s mother why she cut off the end of the meatloaf, she said, “Because my mother did.” So the three went to the nursing home to ask the oldest living family matriarch about it. When asked, she said, “I cut it off to perfectly fit the small pan I had.”

Why do you do what you do? Why do you do it the way you do it? Does it still work as well as it did at one time? Would something else work better?

Of course, we need not change actions, procedures or tasks merely for the sake of change. The change should be to make things better, more efficient or more proficient. Such productive changes, done for a good reason, can contribute to fulfillment in business, sports, family and life.

© 2013 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his “A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view