1,000 Steps Back

I was recently asked by someone I admire greatly:

“What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?”

That’s easy. My dad is a super-hero and always has been. He’s always had his <ahem> together. He’s a mighty leader at home and in the workforce:

“Take 1,000 steps back and look again.”

Or lose site of it all. He never said that part, but that was always what he meant, and why his voice would get so quiet and so stern…

It came from his 24 years serving in the military – an adaptation of the 1,000-yard stare (he’s a tall fella who takes very long strides, even when stepping back). He’d only tell me this when I was frustrated or upset that things weren’t going as planned – that is, when things weren’t going my way. To be honest, as a child and young adult, this wasn’t something I ever wanted to hear. Didn’t he understand? My way was the best way, the right way, the only way.

If I were to do what he said, I’d have to divorce my intentions – and especially my ego – from what I thought was a desperate situation that was slipping or being wrenched from my grasp. I’d have to give up my control over it, entirely. Control. Give that up? The one remaining thing I had, that I was losing already? Giving up control meant giving up hope for my intended outcome, and allllll of my great plans for what would surely come as a result. Rarely was I willing to do such a foolish thing. 

Of course, life has a tendency of happening, with or without my express permission. I grew older, more experienced, and I earned my share of bruises and scars – some I’d bombastically brag and boast over, some I hoped would remain forever hidden, that I’d never, ever, have to explain. Those – the ones that shamed me the most – were the ones when I hurt other people for the sake of what I thought I understood better and wanted.  Others paid dearly for my… schooling.

I did eventually learn: If things aren’t going my way, then either I am misunderstanding the situation, or it wasn’t mine to direct and control in the first place.  But – every time – I had to take 1,000 steps back to even see that this was so.

We’ve now seen one full year of the effects of COVID-19…a year of friends and loved ones sick and dying.  One full year of panic, of people trying to police each other, of self-righteous behavior – of less than our best as a People.  We’ve seen a year of small businesses – temporarily or permanently – disappearing from the marketplace, with grief, sadness, and loss as a result of all of this.

Since you are reading this, it means you’ve survived so far.  For what it’s worth, congratulations. 

Now what?

Whether you have just begun to learn and sell Work Trucks, or you’ve owned and operated the dealership for years, we’re all in the same boat.  I won’t waste your time with platitudes like ‘We’re all in this together.’  Each of us are feeling the strain of maintaining balance and control over our plans, resource management and motivation, and sacrifices – so many sacrifices.  

What we could have never conceived of is upon us, and has been now for one full year.  Perhaps the best answer is to continue doing what you’ve always done – certainly there are those who always just seem to “make it” no matter what.  For all the rest, who wonder what else there is to come – who lose sleep over what is to be done next – for you, the best advice I can offer is to take 1,000 steps back and look again.  You might find yourself standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who has the answers you seek, or the one who needs the wisdom you have gained.

To cherish your business – large or small – step back from the immediate and pervasive chaos.  Step back, look again, identify your resources for help.  Ask for what you need from those who are there to help you. Give when you can to help others.  There is a certain peace that comes with perspective.  Take 1,000 steps back and look again.