I recently attended a small group business meeting, and the presenter mentioned that when he experiences challenges in both work and personal matters, the approach he uses to stay afloat and overcome them is based on action.

He said, “For me … it’s important I keep the oars in the water.”

Action Matters

In a separate meeting I attended this past week, a conflict arose between two people that went something like this:
Myra: I’m not sure why we can’t find the solution to this problem. It’s clear the customer is upset about the quality of the product. I recommend someone pick-up the phone and call them directly.”
Marco: I think you know the customer better than most, Myra. Also, I am not sure what you mean about a quality problem. I think the real problem is the customer.”

Myra: Let’s not blame the customer! This attitude will not help us solve the problem. Let’s stay focused on how we can make things better from this point forward. I understand there is a problem here, and we are unsure where it originated; however, I think it’s best we focus on the solutionLet me take the lead and call the customer immediately after this meeting.”

I like the approach taken by Myra because it avoided blaming anyone. Further, the focus is on action and how to solve the problem.
Keep the Oars in Water

In 1995, I decided to start a publication business where I would provide news and information to referees and umpires in Texas. During this time, the internet was still relatively new, and most people were connecting via a modem.
Therefore, I designed the monthly publication, delivered the file to the printer, and mailed them to the 1,000+ subscribers. I was working full-time as a clinic administrator, which meant I had to do this work in the evenings and weekends.

After one year of doing this manual-intensive work, I decided to take the publication online – a smart decision! I no longer had to physically print and mail the journal.

Eventually, however, the cost-benefit analysis showed I was in the red. It was time to abandon this business.

Did I fail?

While this business would no longer operate, I did not consider it a failure. Instead, I learned the value of hard work, dedication, and creativity that I could use on future endeavors.

I kept the oars in the water. I kept moving forward.  

Focus on Direction
A mentor stressed the importance of knowing whether I was heading in the right direction. There are times when the water is murky and unstable, which is expected.

In my case, I had a strong sense I was heading in the right direction, even though I experienced pitfalls along the way. During these times, I focused more on taking actions that kept me moving forward, and I cared little about the speed I was moving.

It’s important to know that, for most people, success does not happen overnight.
Instead, each pull on the oar moves us one step closer to realizing the life we want to experience.