I was an entrepreneur from a young age. No…I didn’t know the word. But even when I was young, I loved the idea of owning my own business.
One day when I was 14 or 15 years old, I got a call from a neighbor who lived up the street. They were out of town and needed their grass mowed and they wanted to know if I was up to the challenge. Of course, I agreed.
“Just one thing,” they told me before hanging up. “It’s quite high. The person that was supposed to mow it did not show up. Sorry about that!”
“No problem,” I told them. “I got this!”
Then I headed to the garage to borrow my dad’s mower and head up the street.
When I got to their house I realized that the grass really was “quite high!” They were not exaggerating. The lawn looked thick and nearly knee-high in most spots. I looked at the yard, then down at my little 20″ mower, and shook my head. “Okay,” I thought. “I better get to work.” I spent the next 2 or more hours stalling out my mower, starting it again, backing it up, slowly pushing it forward again until I finally finished the job.
Frustrated, hot, sweaty, and tired, I walked back down the street to my house. I was not home long when my home phone line rang (remember those?). My mother answered it and after a few minutes came to tell me that Mr. Richcreek had just called to talk about me.
My eyes got wide initially for two reasons. First, Mr. Richcreek was an older businessman that lived next door to the yard I was mowing. Second, at that age in my life, when adults called my house to talk about me to my parents…it was never good. Never.
Honestly, I figured he had called to chastise my mother on the colorful language I was using each time the mower stalled out!
Instead, he told my mother something totally different. He told her that he had sat on his porch on that hot summer day and watched me. Sipping iced tea he smiled as he watched me stall out the mower, only to start it up again and keep going. He called to give me a compliment that I have never forgotten.
“He just would not give up! Most kids would have given up and walked away. He just kept going. You should be proud.”
I was stunned. It was one of my proudest moments growing up.
I was reminded of this story the other day when running my little mower through some tall grass. Even now, it made me proud and brought me a smile. But I decided there really are some lessons that you can learn from mowing the tall grass.
Slow And Steady Finishes The Race
When you are mowing the tall grass (or taking on any really tough project) progress can be frustratingly slow. I find this especially true in the middle. (Seth Godin talks about this in The Dip). During this phase, it is tempting to look around and start to compare. “Look how fast everyone else is going!”
But when you are creating a new path, going too fast can actually stall you out. You might miss obvious opportunities or cut corners. This is not about winning a race against someone else. It’s about finishing your own the best way you can.
People Are Watching Your Struggle
The saying goes “Integrity is what you do when no one is watching.” That is true. But I am fascinated how often, when we least expect it, people are watching how we react in tough situations. When we least expect it, we are showing people our true colors. When we are sweaty and tired and frustrated…there are no filters. What do you do then? Do you keep going? Or do you give up?
The Power of a Kind Word
A simple phone call from Mr. Richcreek helped to shape me. He took just a moment out of his day to call my mother and share a positive thing about her son. Sure, he brightened her day! But when he said to her “He just would not give up,” he gave me an identifier that I was very proud of. I was a person that “would not give up.” That has served me in sports, business, parenting, and life.” The next time you have a nudge to give someone a kind word…do it.
Just Keep Going
It seems to me that when it comes to tackling a big messy project, like mowing the tall grass, there are 3 types of people. The first group will look at it and say, “No thanks.” They have no interest in taking it on. The second group is interested. They like the idea of seeing the job finished. But the moment the mower starts to stall out, they give up. They like the “idea” of the project but are not willing to get dirty and see it through. The third group is the one that just keeps going. They understand it will be hard, and frustrating, and messy. But they want to result bad enough to see it through.
If you have decided that your goal is worth it, I encourage you to be in that third group…and to keep on “mowing the tall grass.”
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Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing, a full-service marketing agency located in Ohio. Learn more about Hasseman Marketing here. And if you want to “level up,” now is a great time to check out Better Business University.