Facing tough choices: Be the bug or the windshield

“Some days you’re a bug. Some days you’re a windshield.” — Price Cobb, after winning a car race, 1988.

Life is an interesting thing. You wake up one morning full of positive energy, ready to take on the day. After a shower, shave, and a healthy breakfast, you’re out the door and on to that first meeting at work.

Guess what? Not only doesn’t it go well, it goes terribly. You’re accused of being late on the project and a poor team player. These accusations take place in front of your peers, as well as the senior leadership team. You walk back to your office and what had started out as a great day now has the potential for a very quick slide into a pit of negativity.

Note that I said “potential” in that last sentence. At these junctures in life, you’re facing a choice: you can either go with the emotion of the moment (self-pity or worse), OR you can figure out a plan to turn your attitude around. I’m not suggesting that the second choice is easy. I am saying that it is both possible AND a much better path to follow. What would you rather be: the bug or the windshield?

Many years ago, when I was a commissioned sales guy, I put together a major training initiative with a Fortune 100 company. I conducted extensive interviews at the client site and gathered additional research and survey information. After analyzing the clients’ needs, I put together a structured and tailored process to address their needs. This process was discussed with a team from the client company and very well received. Ultimately, it led to a signed contract for a significant fee. I am the windshield!

However, about two weeks before the training process was to begin, I received a call from the VP of human resources. He had just received word from their corporate office that any and all training projects that had not already been paid for had to be put on hold. I am the bug!

Even more unfortunate, I had done something I’d never done previously and would never do again. Something that was one of the dumbest things I have ever done and would never recommend to anyone. I had already, very prematurely, spent the commission for this sale that had not been paid for. I found myself in a fairly deep financial hole. I wasn’t just the bug, but a very poor one, as well!

My first inclination was to sue the company. But, wait a minute. Me, a small business guy, sue a Fortune 100 company? I don’t think so.



I went into my office and started to think. What to do? What to do? Ultimately, I started calling my best customers just to talk. I did this for a few hours and these discussions got my head back where it needed to be. I then put together a plan to address the financial debacle that I’d created. After a couple of months, I was back on the right financial track.

There is an interesting end/beginning to the relationship with this client. About two years later, we rekindled a conversation and that led to this same client becoming one of our best customers. I know with certainty that this would have never happened if I had had taken a negative tack with them. The other point here is that things change and never, ever (did I say NEVER, EVER) burn relationship bridges. It is almost impossible to build them back up.

The message here is that you are in charge of the choices that you make. You can be the victim and get into a fight or flight mode. Or you can choose the higher road and keep your attitude where it should be. I’ll end with a quote from Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, one saw the stars.”

Follow the stars!

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