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  April 1, 2016
Leading a Horse to Water...


"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person." 
                                         ~Fred Rodgers

This past weekend found me traveling once again, this time to visit my mother and sister, both who live in the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.

Due to the remote location of their rural town, I was forced to fly to Sacramento and drive the remaining two hours by car.

As it so often happens, my flight was significantly delayed, meaning that I would arrive into Sacramento late that night. So instead of traversing treacherous mountain roads late at night, I wisely decided to hotel it in Sacramento and head out the following morning.

Trying to make lemonade out of lemons, I called Don, a good friend and mentor to see if he and his wife Diana might be available to get together for a late night drink.

Unfortunately, Don and Diana had plans that evening, but they begged me to come over to their house the following morning for some breakfast before heading out to my mom’s.

This was a great second option, so I showed up at their house early the next morning excited to see them both.

I originally met Don in September of 1975 when I was a sixth-string tailback back on our high school’s freshman football team, weighing 85 pounds and slow as a truck while wearing 20 pounds of protective gear.

Don was 24 and fresh out of college with his teaching credential.  He was hired that year to assist the school’s golf coach in taking over the freshman football program.

Our football team finished 0-8.  That season, our team allowed our opponents to score approximately 500 points while we scored a measly 6 points (on a trick play none-the-less).

At the end of the season, Don gathered a bunch of the smaller players together and told us that if we really wanted to get revenge over our tormentors, that we should consider joining the wrestling team the following week.

As it turns out, our high school was absolutely horrible at football... but in wrestling, our school was undefeated in 13 years.

The wrestling team was rife with seniors at the upper weight classes... but it needed some scrappy lightweights to fill in the lower weight divisions and this is where the freshmen came into the picture.

After a highly successful high school and college wrestler, Don was recruited to return to his alma mater to take over the program from the retiring head coach.

Over the course of the next five years, he continued the school’s winning tradition never losing a meet until they closed the school due to declining enrollment.

After the school closed, Don continued coaching wrestling at various schools, going wherever there was a need.

With a young family to support, Don finally ended up taking a teaching assignment at a junior high school near Sacramento while creating one of the area’s top youth wrestling programs with over 80 kids participating each year.

Although we lost touch for a short time while I was away at college, we have now maintained a friendship for over 40 years so when I find myself in the Sacramento area, I always try to find a way to spend some time with Coach.

To say that he has made such a positive impact on my own life as well as thousands of kids would be a complete understatement.

As we ate breakfast and sipped our coffee last Saturday, we reminisced about former teammates and recalled several "teaching moments" where life lessons were illustrated through example.

I shared with him, many of these lessons that he taught me... many of which I still practice today in my life and business.

Asking for permission

At the beginning of each season, Coach would gather the team and publicly ask each wrestler what his goal was for that season... making notes beside each wrestler on the roster.

Later, he would meet privately with each of us to discuss our goal.

At the end of the short conversation, he would tell us that our goal was fairly ambitious (even if it wasn’t)... and then he would ask us for our permission to allow him to drive us to achieve our goals.

Later in the season, when things got tougher... he would remind us that he was only doing what we ourselves had asked him to do... drive us to succeed.

Today, I am responsible for the overall success of OptiFuse... but more than that, I believe that I am responsible for each of our team members’ individual success. It’s up to me to make them better at their jobs and help drive them to become successful.

Each year, I sit down with members of my team to discuss their individual goals... upon the conclusion of our meeting, I ask them for their permission to help them achieve their goals.

With their permission, I now have the responsibility to push them toward their goals... which makes them better and OptiFuse better.

No one wins all the time

There are times when we have diligently prepared ourselves for success, but for whatever reason, our success doesn’t come.

We did all the work.  We practiced and practiced some more.  We studied and prepared ourselves for the upcoming challenge.

When it came time to execute... we gave it our all... yet at the end of the day... we came up short and lost.

These things happen.

Sometimes we do everything right... but we still fall short of our objective.

This happens to entrepreneurs with great ideas... skilled athletes... writers who penned riveting novels... and sales people with great products, service, price, and value...

There are talented people who go join up with companies. For no fault of their own, these companies fail... or are downsized due to a corporate restructuring... or are consolidated after a merger or acquisition...

Good and bad outcomes occur all the time... we can’t possibly control everything... that’s life.

Coach would consistently tell kids, "You can only control two things in this world... effort and attitude... "

With the right attitude and effort we will always put ourselves in position to win... but it doesn’t guarantee success.

You can lead a horse to water

A coach, mentor, parent, or manager will often see something special in a person.

It might be some innate talent. It might be some bad breaks that the person experienced along the way. It might be a disadvantaged home life. It may simply be that we love them so much, that we so badly want to achieve success in their lives (like our kids).

The problem is that no matter how bad we want them to succeed... unless they want to succeed by doing the hard work... we are wasting our time and energy.

We can extend our helping hand out... but it’s up to the other person to grab it.

After many years leading people I have found that I can really only do three things to help others to succeed. After that... they have to take responsibility for their own life and their own actions. 

  1. I can help these individuals to visualize the future. By helping to paint a picture, hopefully I can inspire them to do the work necessary to achieve their goals and find success.
  2. I can help them to find their "why" or inner purpose. By helping them to define success, they can hopefully find their own path in this complicated world.
  3. I can give them my encouragement and belief. It’s important that others feel as though you believe in them and personally care about them.

Coach never did the work for us. He just painted the picture of what we needed to do in order to find our own success, no matter how we defined it for ourselves. This ideal of success was less about winning matches on a mat... but learning to navigate life.

We all learned that no matter what our goal was... we alone needed to do the work... we could ask for help... but the work couldn’t be delegated to others... it was up to us.

I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to have people like Don and JimDon in my life to teach me life lessons and help me to live up to my potential and be the very best person I could become.

His belief in me, allowed me to believe in myself...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse where it is our goal to always lead by example and inspire others to be their best.

Jim Kalb

Jim Kalb President

Email - jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Twitter - @OptiFuse

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