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Saturday
Jul142012

The King of Wishful Thinking

 The King of Wishful Thinking 

It had been a long week.

The planeload of people arrived a full day earlier than planned and I had to scramble to make sure everyone had a room and that I had enough staff to work an extra day.

There would be more rooms to clean, more meals to prepare, more "activities" to organize. Each and every guest came with the expectation of a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was up to me to deliver.

I just had less time to accomplish that little feat; that's all. No big deal; it was just business as usual.

But as I said, it had been a long week.

Tonight would be our last night with this group and as usual, the chef planned a little something special: Roasted cornish game hens - seasoned with jalapeño peppers placed under the skin  - turned slowly on the large upright grill alongside fresh ears of corn.  Cool, crisp caesar salad, fresh garden-grown vegetables, and homemade blackberry cobbler to finish the meal. Chilled white wine, gallons of fresh-brewed coffee, and a selection of adult beverages were placed within easy reach.

One thing was for sure, folks always ate well when they came to the ranch.

After dinner, most of the guests scatter to get a chance for one more hike, a last river run, or final jeep trail before dark.

The depth of the darkness here always takes City People by surprise.

They come half-expecting streetlights to guide them back to the relative safety of the lodge and the warmth of their beds. There weren't any, of course.

It was, as my grandmother used to say, "country-dark". And more than a few times, we've had to round up a few "strays" before they got themselves too lost or in too much trouble.

Out on the porch, wineglass in hand, the leader of this group pulls his chair over a little closer to mine and moves it around so we both face the river below.

"Nice place you've got here," he said.

"We like to think so."

"You've really got the life, you know it?"

"It is pretty good sometimes. I have to admit." I said.

"This is what I should have done. I should have been a rancher instead of ..." His voice trails off.

I'll let you fill in the blank because I've pretty much heard it all.  Sometimes it seemed that everyone wanted the life I had. Didn't matter whether they were doctors, lawyers, or indian chiefs. I even had investment bankers offer me cash money to trade jobs - and they were only half-joking.

Over the years, we entertained a whole procession of CEOs, COOs, CFOs and CIOs and nearly every one of them said the very same thing.

And all of them were guilty of wishful thinking.

What I mean is they "thought" they wanted the life of a rancher, but the fact is they didn't.

Not really.

My days consisted of dealing with bankers, escalating costs and equipment shortages, labor issues, workman's comp, inventory and supply problems. Not to mention logistical issues, health and safety concerns, and client relations.

All of the headaches of running a nature preserve, an agricultural enterprise, combined with a boutique resort hotel and restaurant.

You can bet that none of those things appeared in their version of the job description, of course.

Not a one.

To be honest, they didn't really want the job of a rancher. No, what they really wanted was to be a cowboy.

Who doesn't?

You work outdoors most days instead of being chained to a desk or cubicle. And compared with all the pressures that come with modern-day multitasking, the ability to focus on only one or two tasks at a time and see them to completion is pretty great.

As a bonus, you get to ride horses and enjoy the wonders of nature.

What's not to like?

Nope. I think it would be safe to say that bankers, paperwork, and labor unions don't exist in the life they picture.

Not at all.

I'm also pretty sure that it's the same way everywhere. People see a successful business and they think, "If only that business was mine."

When the nice car pulls up outside the restaurant, they make assumptions about the lifestyle of its occupants - right then and there.

That's just the human condition. We wish. We want. We desire.

It's just not often that we actually "do". You know, as in "take action" on those wants, wishes, and desires to make something happen.

And as much as we might hate to admit it, the fact remains that life really isn't about wants and wishes, it's about choices.

All too often, we put up artificial barriers to keep us from ever having to make a choice or take action. We talk ourselves out even making an effort; allowing our dreams to die within us unrealized.

It's getting late. A full Texas moon - what the old-timer's once called a "Comanche Moon"  - rises above the hilltops and shines down on the river bottom reflecting off the surface of the moving water.

Even though they've had a very full week and still have to pack for the jet ride back home tomorrow morning, many of the guests linger outside the dining hall on the wide rock porch. Relaxing in chairs, lounges, or just dangling their feet off the rail, they listen as the darkness comes alive around them.

Earlier in the evening, in a clearing on the far side of the river, we watch as a flock of wild turkeys head up river to find a suitable roost for the night.  Several deer browse down by the water and just behind them came a group of Javelinas, the small babies looking like little furry watermelons with legs; all scampering around.

Now that it was dark, you couldn't see them, but you knew they were there. You could hear the wild pigs rooting around down in the rocky riverbed.

A great horned owl swoops silently down from a large live oak tree on his nightly search for a meal. He glides close enough to us to startle some of the guests and then disappears into the darkness without making a sound.

Just before packing it in for the night, my guest leans over and thanks me once more.

"Wish we didn't have to go home. Wish we didn't have to get back to work," he said.

"Everybody says that," I said.  But I was already thinking about the next group, this month's fuel budget, the next financial report.

In a way, I was doing the very same thing he was.

His wish was for his work to be more meaningful, that he could spend more time with his family, and that he might always enjoy the kind of peace he experienced at the ranch.

My wish was that I could get on with my life and do exciting and important work.  I couldn't wait to move on from this place.

But neither of us were likely to get our wish. Not unless we actually made an effort to do something about them other than "wishing".

How many of you do the same?

You want to be your own boss?

Own a business? Found a startup?

Wish you could stop letting your life run you instead of the other way around?

Wishing isn't the answer.  Wishing won't make it happen. You have to do more than that.

In the morning, I ran my guest down to the airstrip and made sure he and his group were safely away in the jet.

He went back to his desk on Wall Street.

I went back to my pickup, my horses, and my cowboys.

But within a year, that ranch was in my rearview mirror. And looking back now, hundreds of miles and dozens of years later, I have to say I miss it.

Don't misunderstand me, like my Wall Street friend, I don't miss all the hassles, headaches, and heartbreaks that came along with the job.  Like him, I just want the lifestyle.

I should know better.

These days, I understand it's up to me to make something happen. I no longer wait for permission.

I know that for many, stepping into the unknown is scary. But you know what it is scarier still? It's wishing and waiting for your "break", for the right opportunity, or for someone to help out with your dream.

The only mindset that works is to just "do".  And if you fail, the first word out of your mouth should be "Next?"

Learn from it and move on.

How do I know?

Because I was just like you.  For years, I waited for somebody, something, or some lucky event to help me get to where I wanted to go.

Don't get me wrong. I was great at standing on the sidelines. I was masterful at outlining detailed dreams - in my head.

In fact, I became so artful at the craft of procrastination, that I could teach a course on it - if I ever get around to it.  I was the ultimate armchair quarterback - never taking the field, but absolutely certain of my strategy.

No longer.

Here's a bit of advice for you: Start small.

Learn to execute well.

And do something today. Right now.

For those who still feel the need to make yet another detailed plan that you'll never implement, a product you can't ever deliver, or study a market you won't serve, I have something for you too.

I'll have to scramble around to find it, but I'm sure it's here somewhere. It may be bit dusty and battered, but it's still as useful as it ever was.

It's something a friend gave me many years ago; it's what finally got me moving.

I guess you could call it a nameplate or something. It's the thing you put on your office desk to tell the world who you are. You know, like the ones that say "Vice-President" or "Executive Director". That sort of thing.

It's yours if you want it. I don't need it anymore.

This one says, "King of Wishful Thinking".

 

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