Playing Fetch

I recently stopped by a friend’s office to see him. He was dog-sitting for his daughter, and Bo was hanging out in the office for the day. Bo had a rubber ball, and he really wanted to play fetch. There was a problem, though. Bo didn’t want to let go of the ball. He would nudge me with the ball in his mouth, but when I tried to take the ball from him, he would refuse to release it.

As Bo and I did our new dance, it occurred to me that I have watched many humans, including myself, play this same game. We often desire a future that is more exciting and fulfilling than our present, yet we often fail to move toward it. Like Bo, we really want to chase the future ball, but letting go of the present ball is very difficult.

Fear of failure is one of the reasons we don’t pursue our dreams. When we project our doubts and fears onto our dreams, we create a situation where moving toward our goals also moves us closer to our worst fears. Amazingly, the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies is pretty much spot on. If my subconscious is constantly telling me that I’m not good enough, I won’t be. If I’m convinced that perfection is the only acceptable result, I will avoid progress to avoid failure.

Another reason we remain static is being too committed to our present situation or too comfortable. Both these situations will prevent me risking letting go of the ball I have for the chance of a better situation in the future. Like Bo, I can say I want to fetch the future, but I must be able to let go of the present for that to be possible.

Procrastination is also a behavior that limits my ability to achieve my goals. When Bo got tired of not giving me the ball, he lay down with the ball in front of him and intently watched it. I cannot claim to know what was going on in his head, but he really seemed to be waiting for the ball to move so he could chase it.

Many people say, “Someday, I’m going to do this or have that,” yet they have no plan of action to arrive at that future state. Like Bo, they are just lying there waiting for the future to magically move to them. Bo eventually fell asleep like so many people seem to do. Putting a big goal or dream on your to-do list isn’t the answer either. “Write a book” is not an actionable item.

To move my dreams from an unrealized future state to a present reality, I must break them down into achievable steps. My dreams and goals are vision. How I get there is strategy. My vision must be inspiring but also strategically achievable. By reducing the journey into shorter trips, I can motivate myself to get something done that moves me toward my goal.

Companies and organizations can act like Bo, too. It is easy for a company with a lengthy history to be afraid to change things that have been in place for so long. There is a solid comfort to the “way things are” that magnifies the natural fear we have of change. As long as Bo hangs onto that ball, he will have it, but he won’t have the experience he really wants, and he knows it, which is why he kept nudging me.

Organizations often have vision but won’t let go of the things that are preventing that vision from becoming reality. There is risk associated with achievement. There is a chance of failure, but that failure is the proving ground for a better strategy for the next attempt. Each success proves we can move forward. Each failure educates us so future efforts are more efficient. It is in progress, not perfection, that our dreams are realized. My willingness to let go of the ball of today to fetch the dream of tomorrow creates the opportunity for our success, and it is The Kimray Way.