One of my favorite TV shows as a child was Leave It to Beaver. In one episode, Beaver Cleaver accepts a dare from a friend to climb atop a billboard. This was no ordinary billboard. Part of it was a tremendous bowl of soup resting in the hand of a mother’s outstretched arm. Steam wafted generously out of the bowl giving one the impression that all you needed was a spoon. Curiosity and pride got the best of Beaver and he quickly scrambled up the billboard. Upon peering down into the bowl, you guessed it! He slid right in. Of course, there was no soup in the bowl and no easy way to get out of the stew he was in.
“The Beav” was in a real bind. To whom should he turn for help? If he chose his brother, Wally, his brother would surely laugh at him. If he chose his father, Ward Cleaver, his dad was certain to yell at him. Beaver’s decision to save face and not to ask either was ultimately the worst decision. Eventually, the entire town including his father, his brother, the fire department and a passel of peers witness Beaver’s humiliating rescue from the soup bowl. When he finally gets down from the billboard, a cute little kid rushes up to ask Beaver for his autograph and Beaver quickly cracks, “Don’t be a wise guy!”
The episode ends with Beaver and his dad having a father/son talk. Beaver admits that he was wrong to accept a dare to prove something to someone else. Ward Cleaver provides the moral of the story by telling Beaver, “As you go through life, it’s important to try to improve yourself instead of proving yourself.”
That’s great advice for the workplace and for life. When you attempt to prove yourself, you ultimately fall into a similar soup bowl and become trapped into competing with and comparing yourself to others. One of the biggest mistakes employees make is minding their co-workers’ business instead of paying close attention to their own. How many Olympians win medals by looking back to see how their competition is performing in the race?
Winners formulate personal goals and win races by competing against those goals. Similarly, in the baseball game of life you won’t make it to first base or home plate by standing around to see if the outfielder drops the ball. In either case, whether you spend your time focusing on your performance or critiquing your neighbor’s, you will reap what you sow. Seek to improve yourself and run YOUR race. Your life’s example will serve as proof enough!
~ From the desk of Becky Morlok
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