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?