April 17, 2009 | by Thomas J. Finan, Publisher
“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…”
“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”
In the photo of me resplendent in spandex accompanying this column I’m displaying what is probably the broadest smile I’ve shown in any photo ever taken of me, dating back to childhood.
I began the day the photo was taken in bone-chilling desert cold and finished it in beating Tucson, AZ sun. I had just ridden a bicycle 110 miles. The professional riders had completed their ride hours before me. But I had not given up. I had finished.
Right now you may be struggling to stay in the race. Even if you’re holding your own you may feel some days like you’re running out of gas. In bicycling that’s called “bonking”. Riders who have trained for distance pay careful attention to their intake of liquid and food while riding. Allow yourself to become dehydrated and your muscles will cramp; forget to eat and you’ll “bonk”— run out of energy and be completely unable to continue.
Attending to the family, spiritual, physical, business, financial, social and intellectual parts of our life and keeping them in balance are particularly hard in times like these. But they were never more important than they are right now. That balance is critical to our attitude. And attitude, backed by the right amount of fuel in all aspects of our life is what enables us to finish the race.
I recently attended a half-day seminar presented by national sales coach Tom Hopkins. Early in his career Hopkins was taught that whatever kind of day, week or month he was having, the proper response when people asked how things were going was “Unbelievable.” “Either way that pretty well covers it,” Hopkins said. Tom Woodcock from Seal the Deal, whose column runs in CNR, encourages his clients to do the same.
I was sharing stories with a group of folks during cocktails at a Midwest Council American Subcontractors Association meeting. The question went round the group about how business was going, prompting a lot of eye rolling. I was just a couple of days out of the Tom Hopkins seminar, so I told the group about Tom Hopkin’s suggestion.
That exchange led to a dinner conversation between myself and Dave Behlman, one of the fellows in the group. The Behlman family owns Behlman Builders, a large finish carpentry and framing, firm, plus drywall and crane companies. I have worked with the Behlman brothers on some projects and we have become friends.
At dinner Dave and I found out that our stories were very similar. We both grew up in families of seven children with contractor dads. We both remembered that when things were lean in construction growing up it had meant day-old bread stores and powdered milk. We talked about understanding what it takes to get through tough times in business and in life.
Dave recalled a few years back when his mom was still alive they were sitting at the kitchen table talking about the time when Dave and his siblings were growing up. Dave’s son was listening and his jaw began to drop. “Grandma, were you poor?,” the boy asked. Dave’s mom thought about the question and said, "I guess we WERE poor. But we didn't know it."
Dave asked me if I had heard the latest news about his brother Greg, who is vice president at Behlman Builders. Last July Greg was diagnosed with cancer that a spread to a large mass pressing the kidneys on his back. He went through 12 weeks of chemotherapy, which lasted through November.
I had seen Greg around the first of the year and he looked great. But on January 31st he went to the emergency room with a high fever. An infection, which perplexes his doctors to this day, had attacked his lungs. It was probably some vestige of the weakness caused by the chemo. For a while it was touch-and-go. But day-by-day Greg has come back. When Dave talked to me his brother was scheduled to go to a rehab center.
Dave’s pride for his brother was obvious in his eyes as he told me the story. “My brother is determined to be there for his family,” Dave said. “He may end up needing to walk with an oxygen tank, but he will walk down the aisle when his daughters get married.”
That’s what finishing the race is all about.
If you'd like to see how Greg's doing or drop him a note, visit his web page at CaringBridge.com.