What have you always wanted to do?

Thermal Pools

Wayne Dyer, the motivational speaker, once told the story of going to a spa to deliver a speech. The day before his appearance he decided to try the baths, which were the spa’s big attraction. There were a dozen small pools with water of varying temperatures. Cold was on one end of the pools, hot on the other, with the pools gradually ascending in temperature. He noticed that all the people in the pools were sitting in the two in the center. Dyer wanted to experience the gamut of water temperatures. He tried the 140 degree one and then plunged into the frigid pool for a sauna-like experience. Then he randomly immersed himself in every pool.

I thought of Dyer last week when my wife and I spent seven days at the Chautauqua Institution near Jamestown, New York, where we heard lectures every day and a variety of music we’d never sampled before.

One talk was about the devious behavior of insects. Another was a conversation between Roger Goodell, Head of the National Football League, Mike Slive, Commissioner of the Southeast Conference, and Luke Russert Tim Russert’s son, about ethics in big time football.

Music ranged from Beethoven’s Eroica symphony to K.D. Lang doing country. But the highlight was listening to some of the best young opera singers in the country performing selections in a venue seating 150 people. The singers were students from Juilliard and Curtis spending the summer at Chautauqua, polishing their skills before beginning their professional careers.

In Chicago, frankly, I would never go to the opera – dealing with traveling into the city, parking, a huge theater with big costumes, and the expense – who needs it? But at Chautauqua one weekly fee covered everything, so going to concerts was easy.

I think that the bigger message from our Chautauqua week is the same as that of Wayne Dyer’s spa experience. Don’t be so timid about testing the water, even if you know it’s going to be hotter or colder than you are used to. I’m often reminded of this in business. It’s easy to keep doing what you’ve always done. “I’m a screw machine guy. I’m a grinder. I do heat treating.”  As if that’s your identity. It is possible to re-label what you do, to yourself. Maybe the big opportunity is two pools up or two pools down the line. Maybe the next big break in your business is in 3D printing of components, or something as mundane as starting an apprentice program.

I had learned about Chautauqua 25 years ago and always wanted to go – but never got around to it. It has always been easier to bathe in the tepid pools. Glad I finally made the trek.

Question: What is something you’ve always wanted to do?

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12 thoughts on “What have you always wanted to do?

  1. Kevin Meehan

    Looking back at my career and the journey that is business, it is the willingness and resolve to try something new that leads to progress and success. I loved your analogy of the different pools. Come on in, the water is fine.

  2. Bob B

    I’m approaching retirement and when people ask “Bob, what are you going to do?” I answer “Something totally different.” When I figure out what that is – I’m going to retire.

  3. clayton smith


    Sounds like you had a great time. I almost hate to answer your question but you set me up so I feel compelled. I’ve always wanted to convince a liberal Democrat to think anew and be reasonable enough and correct enough to think the right way…..like me!

    Thanks Duke

  4. Miles Free

    Great post! I’d love to have the chance to take high speed photos at Doc Edgerton’s lab at MIT. The Doc is gone, but the chance to play with his magic speedlights.

  5. Jim

    Thank you, Matt… that’s some funny stuff, I’m still laughing…
    Oh, and what would I’ve always wanted to do? To be the guitar player sitting next to Matt…
    Thank you, Lloyd


    At 5 I looked through a Dumpy Level of a traveling survey crew and decided I would become an engineer. At seven I listened to report of a courageous pilot as he flew to Paris. I would become a pilot. At 11 my father took me up 26 stories on the steel framework of the Cornel Medical Center and NY Hospital. He danced on a 12 inch Hbeam while I embedded my fingerprints in the steel. I wouldn’t become a civil engineer, but i did qualify as a chemical. 1941 came and I got my chance to be a pilot. I got plenty of flying time which ended in a rice paddy in Japan. I remained both a pilot and engineer. Now at 92, I want to develop a super conductive alloy, but I am realistic and will leave that to my Grandson a senior at RPI. It is biblical and I am experiencing it. Young men have visions, the old have their dreams. Matt can you use a base fiddle on that gig.

  7. Steve

    That’s a perplexing question. I’ll state that I always wanted to build a house. Although I wouldn’t know how to do it, I would love the chance to learn it, work right among the crew of builders, carpenters, masons, drywallers, tilers and all the others. I’ve seen it being done how many times but I’ve always wondered what is involved in getting that finished product up and standing. Perhaps I’d forget about being a lathe operator then.

  8. Lloyd Graff

    Steve, get a hold of Tracy Kidder’s fantastic book about building a house over the course of a year.

  9. Nick Bloom

    I’ve always wanted Ferris Bueller’s day off, even before they made the movie. Starting an internet business in the machine tool industry in 1996, which I still run today, was by far, the scariest thing I ever did in business. It also turned out to be the hardest, most fun, and by far, the most satisfying. If I knew how hard it was going to be I wouldn’t have done it and I would have missed out on so much. I didn’t go into it blind or unprepared, but I didn’t over-think it, either. I couldn’t have anticipated all the challenges no matter how much I planned. Luck, the unexpected, weird timing, and serendipity is going to play into it. I think the key to coming out the other end in one piece is being committed to your idea and goals. Then all the twists and turns won’t throw you off the track. Just like Ferris Bueller, I figured it out as I went.


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