As you plan your business strategy, probably one of the most difficult decisions you may have to make is to change course. If you make a plan give it time. If it doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to backtrack – just don’t burn your bridges. At times, we feel we have so much time and effort invested in a new process, that we must go forward. Keep in mind, if you run the show, you are the one who gets to decide. Bury the baggage that you are inclined to carry, called inertia, and move on.
A True Story
When I was in 7th grade, certain Friday nights were special to me. I was allowed to stay out till dark because we didn’t have school the next day. Often, I would play basketball on the playground hoops right near our house with friends. One Friday night, my friend, Claude, called me over to the grade school building adjacent to the basketball hoops to tell me that he saw some girls over at the school.
As a seventh grader, I was past the point of girls being a nuisance and began to see them as special and better than my male classmates. In fact, Claude and I would regularly cruise the neighborhood for “girlfriends”. It was innocent enough. But hormones were awakening in us and we found the opposite sex to have some appeal. So, when Claude alerted me to the fact that there were GIRLS at the school, I was very curious what was going on.
Claude explained that he had encountered one of the girls standing outside the backdoor of the school. She didn’t attend our school. She was there because her father was attending AA meetings on Friday nights at that location. She said she would be there on a regular basis. So, Claude introduced me to her, and an added bonus was that her friend also came with her father to the meetings. That meant there was one girl a piece. Claude and I decided that I would adopt Cathy N. as my official “girlfriend” and he would get the other girl for his “girlfriend”. From that point forward we could announce to the world that we had paired up and had “girlfriends”.
We decided that we liked our new found companions. But since their meetings went late into the night, we had to figure out how to justify staying out past dark so that we could spend more time with our girlfriends. In the end, we decided to tell our parents that were offering to be alter boys for Novenas which was a Catholic ceremony conducted on Friday nights. Of course, we did no such thing. This excuse gave us cover to stay out late the nights when Cathy and her friend were at the school.
Our plan worked perfectly. In fact, for several weeks we met Cathy and her friend and found we enjoyed their presence. After about four meetings, Claude and I decided it was time to see if we could “kiss” them. We plotted and decided that the perfect venue would be the dark stairway leading up to the second story of the building where the classrooms were located. The meetings were held in the basement and lasted about an hour. We met as usual and instead of meeting them at the back door, we escorted them to the stairway and sat on the steps in the darkened stairwell.
All was going just the way we planned when suddenly, Cathy’s mom came around the corner and climbed the stairs in our direction. To this day, we don’t know how she knew how to find us. Maybe by chance, she was looking for Cathy and discovered us that way. In any event, she went into a rage asking us if we had any idea what we were doing? I can’t imagine what she was thinking, but she was angry. She chased us out of there. In the process, she clearly told us that we were too young to be “dating” and not to approach these girls until we were old enough “to date and to drive”. Believe me, that is an exact quote. With that, Claude and I decided that we needed to find new “girlfriends”. Also, during our four weeks of meetings, we obtained their phone numbers and addresses. That was the last of our “Novenas”.
Several years later, the day I turned 16, I got my license and already had a car. I had remembered Cathy and the statement that her mother made and decided that would be the day that I visited Cathy and took her mom up on her offer. On November 1, the day of my birthday, I drove to the north side of Fort Wayne to where Cathy lived. I knocked on the door and her mother answered the door. She didn’t recognize me, so I told her who I was and recounted the story of our time at the grade school. I don’t know if she really remembered me or saying what she said, but she yelled up the stairway to Cathy. Cathy answered and her mother told her there was a “very nice young man” there to see her. Cathy asked that I wait while she got dressed and after a few minutes she descended the stairway.
I didn’t take Cathy on a date that day or any day. I didn’t even take her for a root beer as her mother suggested. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Cathy was not as I had remembered her. To be fair, it wasn’t her appearance that bothered me, it was her demeanor. She “locked on” and wouldn’t let go of my hand. She talked about going places and doing things together and dating. This was after her mother told her about how I recounted her statement that I was now old enough “to date and to drive” her places .
I made some excuse about having to leave. As I got into my car and departed, I thought about young love and how I had taken her mother up on her challenge and met it. This is not unlike challenges you undertake and time you invest in processes that, in the end you find are not really working out. I couldn’t wait to prove to Cathy’s mom that I had more substance and persistence than she might imagine. The glow of the original encounter with Cathy clouded my thinking. We are often presented with a process or change which sounds great and clouds our thinking. In the end, you need to be honest. If it just isn’t a good match, it’s time to change your strategy. You don’t even need to find an excuse – just change your plan, but change it.