Success, and the many over-simplifications of its elemental substance.

I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with those of you who may have an interest. I have developed a love for writing and I enjoy this venue and the open arena for discussion and criticism.

I read, too. I have read many posts describing the “balance” of work and personal life. I believe that to be a valid and interesting discussion. In many of these, the authors discuss the need to balance various elements of life and project this “balance” as a key to success in business.

My background includes many years of management. Some of those were the management of turn-arounds of troubled companies with significant issues and universal failure. Always, the environment was one of excuses. Always the failing company was full of individuals with “balanced” lives.

When someone had to stay to complete a difficult task that required late night work those who chose to respect their obligation to the company did so as others left promptly for grade school soccer or a party or whatever. I was left with the few who chose to remain to pick up the pieces.

The eventuality, of course, was that I chose to surround myself with those who I knew I could rely on – no matter what. The person who I saw working all night so that our client was given what we promised as a company, or even what I promised for our company. These were, inevitably, those who rose to the top of the heap. I heard, so many times how unfair it was that I promoted X when Y had more experience, education, etc.

I did not promote those who were most capable. I promoted those who I could trust most deeply. A brilliant marketing man once told me “Scott, if it wasn’t for my friends, I would be a complete failure” He said this to me in answer to a compliment that I gave him. He always cared deeply for the experience of our clients, those who chose to trust us (and him). He made himself always available to them and he always was, indeed, their friend in every respect of the word.

I reflect on my own success and I readily admit that all success that I have found is the direct result of my trusting friends, men and women who knew that if they called me at midnight, I would be there before morning. People who knew that I would do anything to not let them down. People who I genuinely cared for, and who genuinely cared for me.

We serve as examples to our children. They have playmates. What they perceive as normal is what they see us doing. For myself, I would rather tell my beautiful daughter that I am sorry that I missed her recital and take the time to explain honor and obligation and the personal contract between business people when they put their trust in one another. It is a sacred thing and it is a great measure of the value of a man – if his word, or his contractual responsibility is subordinate to a soccer game, he is not the man who I would choose to handle my project.

Scott Cahill

What Truly Motivates

I attended a meeting last night of the Sustainable Opportunities Development Center, a local non-profit supporting industrial development in north east Ohio. Jim Tressel, the president of Youngstown State University, spoke.

As a man with a great background in coaching, of course, he spoke of motivation and what it takes to meet a goal. The talk and the meeting was entertaining and on point to the task that we face in our area.

I spent the time as the speakers spoke to the slides of a Power-Point presentation  thinking. What motivates men? What single elemental need drives men to achieve in spite of the insurmountable or the impossible?

At last it came to me, Desperation! Yes it is that simple – Desperation.

Reflect on the greatest odds – the insurmountable that were overcome – things that never should have happened that happened. The settling of North America, The civil rights movement, World War II, The immigration and nationalization of our forefathers. The challenge met had one common denominator, Desperation.

So many times companies are built by great men, only to be squandered by their sons or grandsons – what is missing? So often companies grow bigger and bigger, driving markets, only to flounder and to fail. What has left them? Desperation

Martin Luther King stepped onto that balcony so many years ago. He knew that a bullet awaited him. He knew not the time nor the place but he knew that, perhaps, he must die. He did die on that balcony. A bullet took the life of a great man, a man who put others before himself. Like Gandhi, a fool’s hatred ended his life. But his legacy lived on. All too soon, J.F.K. and Bobby would fall, too. Each knowing the threat, each knowing that they could hide, each knowing the cost. Each stood, each endured, each refused to be marginalized, and each became greater even in death, than in life. That, my friends, is desperation.

A family huddles around a fire in a tenement of New York CIty. They are cold and skinny, and tired, a man sees his children and he knows that even if it kills him, he will work his way out of this and he will find, for them, a better world. That is desperation.

A free world looks to the east and sees everything that they stand for at risk, a mad man is swallowing up nations and the freedom that they had gained, and enslaving them to falsities. Young men, like my father, lie about their age to go to war, to spill their blood on distant shores. The only option is to stop them there, or stop them here. There is no plan b. That is desperation.

A young man sits on the bench. The game is almost over. He looks in the stands and sees his girl, his parents, his friends. It is time and he takes the field. He will run like he has never run before with one thing in mind – the goal. In his head there is no failure, there is no threat of pain, there is only the goal and the cheers and the win. That, too, is desperation.

Jim Tressel refers to it as selflessness, I call it desperation. It is the absolute commitment to a task or goal that you believe in so deeply that you put it before comfort or safety, or anything else. When you find that thing that you can believe in so deeply, you will be capable of perusing it no matter the difficulty and you will achieve true greatness. If comfort, or ease, or communal acceptance exceed that thing in your soul, you will fail. Great things are achieved by those who believe absolutely in them, and who subordinate themselves to the achievement.

Scott Cahill