Groundhogs, Timing, and Success


This morning, I posted this poem in my poetry blog:

Groundhog Lies

Snow falls outside.
White, feathery and cold,
it quickly covers the landscape,
winter run late.

The daffodils are still safely underground.
There is no hurry for spring,
no hurry for the first flowers.
The lilacs stand in waiting.

And so do you.

You are old enough
to know there is no power in forcing,
no power in hurry,
in trading time for the natural unfolding
that brings the best beauty,
the most lasting love.

You have learned to wait
caring less for the pace than progress,
knowing spring lies under the surface
and it will arrive in its own time.

So you wait.
You prune.
You prepare the earth when you can see it,
but not today.
Today it will snow,
but still, the flowers are there.
The wind is wild, angry and exuberant.
There will be no planting today,
no bringing the tender shoots and fragile buds to light
too soon;
no winter exposure, white and murderous.

Patience is less a virtue than a survival skill.
This is what you have learned.
A hard lesson followed by an easier one:
that spring always arrives,
no matter the mistakes.

About this poem. 

We all know about the groundhog. On February second, we wake up some poor hibernating groundhog, drag him out of his burrow, and hold him up in the air to see if he will see his shadow. If he does, legend tells us, then winter has six more weeks to run. If he doesn’t, Spring will come early.

It’s fun nonsense of course, but it does have an underlying thought: We are obsessed with the timing of things. We want to speed things up. We want to grow up in a hurry. We want our careers to rocket in a hurry. We want company turnarounds in a hurry. Whatever our measure of success is, as people or organizations, we are in a hurry. Probably the single most asked question I get asked as a coach and consultant is “Can we do this by (Insert date here.).

The answer is always “Yes and No.”

Most any process can be sped up if everyone is willing to do the work, if the information can be gathered quickly, if people are willing to deal with the trauma of a fast change. But it is not the best way.

You see change, even good change, takes time. We are dealing with hearts as much as minds when we change. Change and growth, even in success, requires as much undoing as doing.

We can force it. Of course we can. But there is almost always damage done in the process. Done too quickly, change never ends up as positive and powerful as it could be. Often we end up having to backtrack to complete the process and fix what didn’t work out because of our need for speed. Often, in the long run, hurry costs us more time and more money than letting the process work.

I am far less focused on speed and timing than progress. As long as the progress is steady and constant, I know my clients will get where they want. And more importantly, I know that the change we work together on will be sustainable. In the long run, it takes less time, and less money to let the process work at the speed of soul than some artificial deadline.

This is not the same as dealing with deadlines. Deadlines are about specific work in a specific time frame. But when dealing with change and growth, progress trumps speed every time in terms of every measurable: effectiveness, ROI,  and sustainability.

This works in sales as well. I spent thirty-five years in sales of large scale, complex, high ticket broadcast sales. Most of those same thirty-five years were spent frustrating my sales manager (when I had one), or the presidents of my companies because I always refused to “force” a sale to hit an artificial date like the end of the quarter or month. I believed that if I trusted the process and the customer, once the sale was done, the project would go better, and the customer would be happier that he had not been pressured.

It worked well. I had a cadre of clients that followed me through three companies. Where ever I went, they went. And I truly believe (because some of them have told me.) that a big part of why was that they were never forced. I trusted them, natural timing, and the process.

I don’t know what change you want for you personally, or your organization. I only know this: It is doable.  (OK, I also know I can probably help. But I try to keep advertising to a minimum.).

It is doable, but if you push it too much, it will end up taking more time, more money, and be a far more frustrating process if you don’t trust the process.

If you do trust the process? If you measure success by sustained progress more than artificial benchmarks? Anything can be yours.

Be well. Travel wisely,



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