Little decisions, big results

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I have long been a fan of strategic planning and a fan of the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, with the famous closing line, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

It was only recently that I recognized that some of the most significant effects in our personal and business lives are not the result of strategic plans and long-range goals, but the aggregate result of little decisions made on a daily basis.

What led me to this realization? It became apparent when I read the obituary of a friend and realized how her decisions had affected my life.

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Our family has always vacationed Up North. My parents enjoyed fishing and relaxing in northern Wisconsin. We kept the same tradition with our children. To this day, when we ask our kids for their favorite memories, they inevitably return to the cabin on the lake. With the background for this narrative, now I return to the friend who passed away…

I read Nora’s obituary, and it said that she and her husband, Roy, honeymooned on a lake in Wisconsin where she fell in love with cabins, lakes and fishing. Both of them loved it so much, they bought a resort in northwest Wisconsin.

Nora, her husband and my parents were members of the same church in Chicago. Since my dad was a big fisherman, Roy suggested that our family vacation at their resort because the fishing on the lake was phenomenal. Vacationing at their resort represented a significant change for our family. At the time, we had always vacationed with another family with kids of similar ages in the Boulder Junction area. Testing out this new lake meant an end to the joint vacations we had with the other family and brought us to this new lake in northwest Wisconsin.

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Sure enough, as Roy had mentioned, the fishing was phenomenal. Shortly after that, my mom and dad were able to buy a small cabin on the lake. We have lost and rebuilt the cabin due to a forest fire, and it has become the second home for many in our family.

As I read Nora’s obituary, it dawned on me that if Nora and Roy never vacationed in the Northwoods and fell in love with the lakes and fishing, we most likely would not have a family presence on that lake to this very day. Now it’s very true that my folks could have found a different lake and there could have been an entirely different past, present and future for all of our family.

The essential point is that Nora and Roy’s decision affected our family’s vacations for many years and will do so in the future.

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As I reflected on this idea, I began to look at other parts of my life and recognized that they, too, had been influenced by smaller decisions in the past that I would not have recognized.

What is the significance for us today in our personal and business lives? We need to make all decisions in light of the potential impact they can have. The profitability of your company three and five years from now may not be influenced by the strategic plan you have created as much as by the people you hired several years earlier. The characteristics and skillsets those individuals brought to your organization may be the most significant influencers to achieve your future profitability.

In that light, look at your current position in life and determine what decisions in the past helped bring you to this point in time. It just may highlight areas where similar decisions are needed this very day.

Through the loss of a friend, I have recognized another gift from her. Thanks, Nora and Roy.

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