After 45 years of hard work, the grizzled old rancher decided it was finally time to sell the ranch, retire, and really enjoy the rewards of his toil and sweat. So he called a real estate agent to list the place for sale. The agent spent most of a day with the rancher, riding the range and getting a feel for the ranch he would be selling.
A few days later, the agent returned to finalize the listing and get approval for an ad he’d prepared. It was written to attract a city dweller from the large metropolitan area less then 100 miles away. The ad described the freedom of the open range. It talked in poetic terms about the river that happily babbled to the lush green hills as it meandered by. The ad described heartbreakingly beautiful sunsets that painted the big open sky with an awesome array of reds, oranges, and crimsons. It spoke of the deep satisfaction and contentment of sitting on the big front porch and watching the young colts play in the corral.
After reading the ad, the seasoned, old rancher walked over to the huge picture window and silently gazed out. A few minutes later, he softly whispered, “This ranch isn’t for sale after all.” As the rancher turned to face the agent, a tear ran down his wrinkled, leathery cheek. “All my life I’ve dreamed of a place just like this. Now I finally realize what I’ve got here.”
The relentless drive for ever-higher performance and reaching our next goal often leaves us too numb and exhausted to enjoy what we have achieved. Rather than pausing to appreciate what we have accomplished, we become narrowly focused on what we haven’t yet attained. Dale Carnegie once observed that “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon — instead of enjoying the roses that bloom outside our windows today.”
I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone. By not slowing down to savor successes along the way, each accomplishment becomes less fulfilling. When I have paused to savor and celebrate, life becomes richer and much more satisfying. I also find that it’s a great “battery recharger.” Savoring and celebrating is highly energizing. Paradoxically, it’s when things are darkest and our goals seem farthest from reach that a focus on what’s gone right and what we have to be thankful for can be the most invigorating.
Radical change and aggressive breakthrough targets are often quite daunting. Continual change and constant improvement can be exhausting. That’s why effective leaders break the endless improvement journey into a series of short exciting trips. A key element of that is celebrating and savoring successes. It’s how effective improvement leaders reenergize everyone to strive for the next goal.
Energizing leaders employ a multitude of creative ways to foster appreciation and recognition, giving among all team and organization members. They also find numerous ways to hike energy and enjoyment levels by marking and celebrating milestones along the way. Energizing leaders constantly search for ways to make change and improvement fun and rewarding. They know that the Laughter Index is a key indicator of the health and vitality of a team or organization.
Taking on this important leadership role means you’ll need to overcome deep conditioning that business is very serious stuff. Tom Peters has speculated on the cause of this energy-sapping view of organizational life. He claims that over the entrance to most business schools there’s a giant stone lintel with these words deeply inscribed in it, “All ye who enter here shall never smile again.” If suppressed laughter does spread the hips and produce gas, that may explain a few things.