Letter from John: July 2015

Some of you may remember a bleak confessional in these virtual pages way back in late 2012. Four years into the business, and every turn of the wheel invited a new ditch. Realizing that there are some chapters in life that call for competent co-pilots, I scheduled lunch with Jim Parker, the retired CFO of Luck Companies. He spent the next year on the periphery of the business, providing me with good counsel and challenging my approach to the financial side of Floricane's practice.

We had lunch last month. As I got Jim current with the state of the business, and regaled him with heroic stories of hard decisions, near misses and a slow, but steady, crawl toward a sustainable structure, he struck.

"So," my too-wise mentor and friend said to me, leaning forward, "it sounds to me like you're exhibiting the same behaviors -- you're just working with bigger numbers now. If we get back together a year from now, what's going to be different?"

This, my friends, is why you don’t let people smarter than you play with your stuff.

One of the most challenging aspects of personal development is the sobering recognition that you are who you are. Self-awareness, coaching and mentoring, training and development -- in most cases, they help us see the gaps. Sometimes, they even help protect us from the gaps. In rare, and usually finite, moments, they help us change behavior and close the gaps.

But our gaps, almost always, remain our gaps. Wherever you go, they say, there you are.

Jim's point wasn't to tell me, "Great job treading water, John!" (Or maybe it was and I've missed the point. Again.) No, Jim was reminding me that I have gotten better at paying attention to what Benjamin Zander calls "the long, long line from B to E" -- from the present reality to the future, aspirational vision. And he was warning me that in my persistent rush to the more majestic notes in the symphony of Floricane, I can gloss over the workmanlike moments that hold the entire composition together.

How's that for stretching a metaphor?

Jim and I talked after lunch about a set of targeted financial goals we've established for the business, and what it will really take to reach them in the balance of 2015. We chewed on some emerging solutions to managing the workmanlike corners of the business differently. And we acknowledged that I've already taken steps in that direction -- for instance, hiring Terri Andrus, the bookkeeper who has pried my fingers from the tactical corners of Floricane's financials, and expanded my view of the business rhythms from weekly cycles to quarterly cycles.

But what Jim really did was reassure me. Blunt, but caring, confrontation has a way of doing that.

By every measure, Floricane is a successful company seven years into what should be a 25-year journey. By most measures, I have learned volumes -- about myself, others, our community. By some measures, I have grown and strengthened my personal capacity for ambiguity, change and challenge.

But in the end, given the choice between the future and the present, between the big idea and the workmanlike task, between acting and investing, I'll almost always pull the cart the same direction. Which is why some carts have drivers, and others have teams. And maybe why Google is now inventing driverless vehicles.