Before You Pee Into the Wind, Make A Plan
Have you ever seen those Calvin and Hobbes stickers, usually on the back of a lifted Chevy truck with large tires and an American flag in the window that depicts Calvin peeing? I had a kid like that - tussled blonde hair, grape jam at the corner of his mouth, freckled face - or was that dirt from his latest creation out in the flower patch? And this kid would pee anywhere at any time. Any. Time. I remember one particular time standing out on the sidewalk talking to the neighbor while the kids ran in circles around us, playing happily. Their squeals and laughter were a testament to childhood bliss. I was recounting the latest story of the trouble my son had gotten into when her furtive glance to the scene unfolding behind me caught my attention. Her eyes widened as she pointed just past my left thigh. I turned to look and there was my 4 year old man-child, shorts around his ankles, standing right in the smack middle of the sidewalk, golden stream splashing widely enough to find my pant leg. "Ethan!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing??" "I got too busy and I had to pee!" he stated matter-of-factly.
A few years later, we had taken a day trip to the coast to be in the crisp, Washington air
and surrounded by the smell of the sea. Even though it was early June, it was windy and still a bit chilly, but still so beautiful. We had been busy exploring the shoreline, searching for flotsam and jetsam and finding colorful shells to collect for our memory boxes when I noticed Ethan darting back and forth with his pointer finger stuck high in the air. The tight grasp with his other hand near his pant's zipper told me we might have an emergency on our hands. "What ya doin', buddy?" I asked. With a focused glare and without skipping a beat, he said, "Checking the wind. Making a plan." "What plan is that?" I pushed. "Dad said, 'before you pee, always check the wind'." At that, he dropped his drawers and proceeded to relieve himself, wind at his back. Lucky for us, we were also upwind or it may have been a very unpleasant ride home!
In business as in life, we can often get so busy and so focused on what's happening at that particular moment that we forget to work our plan. Or, we're just so busy that we make no plan at all! The outcome of either situation can be a bit messy. I got caught peeing into the wind once. I needed to get a marketing piece out in a hurry. Things had been crazy at the clinic and if I didn't get it out ASAP, the saved time slots on the schedule for the patients I hoped would see my amazing message and respond would all have to be rescheduled. I'd also have to re-do the entire piece since the message was centered around Valentine's Day. "Love Your Hearing" was a great message for February but not as poignant in March. So, I sent my final mock-up of the advertisement to the designer and it came back to me quickly. I looked at it for all of half a second and said, "Great! Approved!" I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd dodged a bullet! It was done and I could move on to the next project that loomed on my schedule. The mailer soon went out to 5000 people. I reminded all my staff to be ready for all the phone calls I was sure we'd get. For the next 5 days after it should have been received, there was nothing but radio silence. Nothing. Not one phone call. I couldn't believe my design wasn't getting any traction! I love designing marketing pieces and generally they get a great response! What the heck happened? Then a chill ran up my spine. A black hole developed instantly in the pit of my stomach. "Oh no...PLEASE tell me the tracking phone number got tested!?" I always test the tracking numbers. In my haste to get done, maybe I hadn't? How could I not have tested it?! I grabbed the approved mock-up and dialed the phone number. And the tell-tail sign of my failure blasted into my ear. "The number you have dialed is no longer in service. Please hang up and try your call again." I hung up. I dialed the number again, pounding on the keys. My failure was there in person in that female voice..."The number you have dialed...." I slammed the phone down. I couldn't believe I had done that! I have a checklist for marketing pieces to make sure nothing gets missed! But in my push to "just get it done," I had missed a very crucial part of the plan. It was an expensive mistake. I learned from it and I'll never miss that step in the process again! What a mess. And what a humbling experience.
Don't get caught peeing into the wind. Make a plan. Stick to it, even when life gets busy and overwhelming! You'll be less likely to make a mess of things if you simply stop and take a breath, put your proverbial finger in the air and take note of what's happening. Don't let busyness cloud your judgement. And then, when the wind comes, you'll know which direction you'll need to face.
I love to tell stories and I love sharing them with you. If you've enjoyed this parable and learned something from it, I'd love to hear your story, too. Leave me a note in the comments or feel free to send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.