Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Always on the Right Track

I recently received a text message from one of my former students who lives in New York City. He was letting me know he was ok after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area. We exchanged messages on other topics, including his business pursuits. He ended our chat with an upbeat message saying that his life is now on the right track. I’m familiar with the expression, “On the right track,” and I’ve used it before. It implies that sometimes we are not on the right path and when we become aware of this, we should do something about it.

I remember that when my wife and I decided to move to Atlanta we weren’t sure if it was the right decision. After all, we had both grown up in New York, and our families and friends still lived there. I vowed that we would visit New York often so our son, who was three when we moved, could experience the wonders of the city we grew up loving. On one visit, we introduced him to Italian Ices. For those wondering, Italian Ice is a refreshing dessert usually made without milk, yet it still has a creamy texture. Popular flavors include lemon, chocolate, and coconut, but in New York you can find stores that sell hundreds of flavors. Watching my son devour his first Italian Ice was priceless.

When we returned to Atlanta it wasn’t long before my son asked for more Italian Ice. I told him I would do some research and find a local shop that sold it. The next night at the dinner table he asked if I found a place. I told him I couldn’t find any local store that sold authentic Italian Ices and I thought this would end the conversation. Then he smiled at me and said, “Maybe there’s an opportunity for us to sell it.” My wife looked at me and said, “Oh great, now he’s talking like you too.”

I had no interest in selling Italian Ices, but I recognized an opportunity to teach my son some valuable lessons. So my response was simple, “Perhaps we should do some research to see if it’s a good idea.” Research to a kid meant visiting local ice cream shops every day after school. We ordered ice cream and asked the owners questions. He loved the research, but after two weeks, he was ready for something new. However, I became interested in the subject and opened several restaurants. Five years later I sold the restaurants to do something else. Was I on track or off track?

Then there’s the story of Harry. When he was in high school he wanted to become an actor. He moved to Hollywood and was fortunate to get a job that paid $150 a week so he could be an extra in movies. He believed this would help him become a full time actor. He did this for three years and never had any real breakthroughs.

Harry was so broke that he needed another job. He was good with carpentry, so he started to build cabinets and outdoor decks. He was making more money doing this than acting, but he didn’t give up hope. Instead, he found carpentry work in the entertainment business. He was hired to remodel the office of Francis Ford Coppola, a famous director. While doing the work, Steven Spielberg came to visit Coppola and thought Harry had the right look for a movie he was casting. He said it was too bad he was a carpenter and not an actor. Harry explained he was an actor, and after reading for the part, he got the role of Indiana Jones. You guessed it…Harry is Harrison Ford.

So was Harry on the right track when he picked up a hammer to help pay his bills? Perhaps when we keep our dreams in mind we are always on the right track. It’s our responsibility to figure out why the path we are on is the right track. That’s easier done with hindsight, but my suggestion for this week is to trust the path you are on knowing that at any time, you have the power to change directions.

Until next week…

Live Your Dreams

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