As we approach a brand new year most everyone I know is breathing a sigh of relief that the present one is finally over. The year 2001– which started with political turmoil resulting from our presidential election, continued with growing economic travail and finally ended with the war on terrorism–will not long be forgotten.

So, we approach 2002 with expectations for better times and the hope that both the war and recession will be short-lived. But it is just a hope at this juncture.

The new year not only is a time to take stock of where we are and have been but it is also a time for planning and deciding where we wish to go. Typically it is a time for goal setting and planning.

Unfortunately, many people stop at the goal-setting process and never get around to planning how to get there. Planning is the hard part for it entails weighing options and sacrifices that may need to be exercised in order to achieve the desired goals.

I recall an incident early in my selling career when a young metallurgist, on the occasion of starting a new business, told me that he needed to buy a lot of life insurance because he expected to become wealthy and would need the insurance to pay estate taxes. So far as I know, though, I am not aware of anything he ever did to make it happen. As a consequence, now 40 years later, he is hardly any better off than he was then. His was not a realistic goal, rather just another pipe dream or wishful thinking. If I could paraphrase a rebut to a line from a once popular ballad, “wishing will not make it so.”

At a time when J. Paul Getty was one of the worlds richest men, someone asked him how to make a lot of money. He replied that he had never known anyone who set out to make a lot of money who succeeded. However, he said he had known a good many people who had set out to build a business and wound up making a lot of money in the process. Setting goals is a fine exercise, but without planning and execution, goals are worthless.

Thousands of books, speeches and seminars have been committed to the concepts involved in planning, so I see no need to reiterate those lessons here. But there is one aspect of planning that I feel is not emphasized enough and yet is, I feel, an invaluable part of planning and execution. I refer to the ability to be patient.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came from a Chinese fortune cookie. It said, “A handful of patience is worth a bushel of brains.”

Patience is such an important part of planning because our plans almost always entail interaction with others who may not respond as we wish. Circumstances change, the economy fluctuates and all kinds of external happenings (such as Sept. 11) can have an impact upon our best intentions.

I mention this because it seems to me that in this age of instant gratification, patience is declining in popularity. There are so many things that are available to us instantly that we do not have to practice patience as much as in former times. We log onto our computers for instant access to information and communication. Most any kind of food we want is available without wait or anxiety over crop failure. ATMs make cash available 24 hours a dayproviding we leave money on deposit or have good credit.

I thought about this recently when I visited one of the “Colonels” local outlets for some fried chicken. I ordered two three-piece meals with all dark meat. The clerk said that they were sorry but they were out of dark meat, but if I waited about five minutes, they would have more.

As I waited the five minutes, my mind wandered and I considered the absurdity of an apology for a five-minute delay in the preparation of a full meal.

Among other things, I thought about the first time Gladys and I prepared fried chicken. The time was 1945 and we lived on the edge of Santa Rosa, California, where I was stationed in the Air Corps. Gladys bought a chicken from a nearby farmer who did nothing more than kill it. She brought the warm carcass, sans head, home for me to pluck, clean and cut up. The whole process was lengthy and messy and that was the last chicken that Gladys ever purchased on the hoof.

The two incidents, in such stark contrast, made me consider anew how far we have come down the road of high expectations for quick solutions to lifes problems and needs.

So, as we sit down to plan for another year, consider a few “what-ifs,” just in case all does not work out as we hope and we have to exercise a degree of patience.

Its patience that gives us the perseverance to see things through, rather than throw up our arms in despair. And while we are at it, perhaps we can extend a bit of patience to our countrys leaders who are also trying to achieve the best for us and the world. , plan carefully–and patiently.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 24, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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