Americans punctuate each year with the Thanksgiving holiday as a way of perpetuating a 390-year-old tradition begun by a rag-tag group of our forebears. That first time, in 1621, thanksgiving day wasn’t the proper noun it became. It was just a day set aside by a few dozen humans who risked everything, actually lost most of it, were hard-by to any number of dangers that could cost them the rest, but still felt compelled to be thankful for what they had.
Regardless of where you live on planet Earth, let me leave you with a list of things to think about. This is not my list. When we’ve published it before in this space with attribution to Anonymous, some of my readers have attributed it to Mother (Saint) Theresa, which suits me just fine. I’m thankful I found it and have the ability to pass it along.
Be thankful for the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means you have enough to eat.
Be thankful for the mess you clean up after a party, because it means you have been surrounded by friends.
Be thankful for the taxes you pay, because it means you’re employed.
Be thankful that your lawn needs mowing and your windows need fixing, because it means you have a home.
Be thankful for your heating bill, because it means you are warm.
Be thankful for the laundry, because it means you have clothes to wear.
Be thankful for the space you find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means you can walk.
Be thankful for the lady who sings off key behind you in church, because it means you can hear.
Be thankful for the alarm that goes off in the early morning, because it means you are alive.
And finally, here is mine: I’m thankful for small business owners - the most courageous and most important modern-day pilgrims I know.
This is Jim’s traditional Thanksgiving column.
As the 17th century dawned, cause-and-effect was merging parallel universes.
In the Old World, a decision by a group of Leiden Separatists put them on a circuitous journey. Meanwhile, in the New World, a manchild named Tisquantum was born to the Wampanoag Indians.
Both the Separatists and Tisquantum became very important to our future, but not before their lives would change and intertwine in ways not to be imagined by either.
Seeking religious freedom, the Separatists crossed Europe and then the Atlantic. On their odyssey they would steel their convictions, which proved handy in the New World.
Incredibly, first as a hostage and later as an interpreter, Tisquantum crossed the Atlantic six times. On his odyssey, Tisquantum learned Old World languages that, combined with his New World survival skills, would contribute to his rendezvous with destiny.
During their journeys, both experienced a name change: The Separatists became Pilgrims and Tisquantum became Squanto. And as the Pilgrims prepared for their first Atlantic crossing, Squanto made his last.
Arriving at his birthplace in 1619, Squanto found that his entire village and family had been wiped out by an epidemic.
On the day after Christmas, 1620, with the Mayflower Compact in hand, the Pilgrims came ashore at what is now Massachusetts, on a place they named Plymouth, after the city where their voyage began.
The Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World was brutal; less than half of the 102 colonists survived until spring. Then on March 16, 1621, an Indian named Samoset walked up to the Pilgrims and said, “Hello, English.” Very soon he recognized that these sad-looking folks needed help from someone who spoke better English.
The two universes finally converged and cause-and-effect met humanity as Samoset brought Squanto to the Pilgrims. In one of the great moments of serendipity, it turns out Plymouth was the very spot of Squanto’s ill-fated village.
Squanto spent the rest of 1621 befriending the Pilgrims and teaching them how to survive in the New World. It’s clear that his contribution was critical to the survival of these important American forebears.
When the courage and convictions of one group of individuals converged with the humanity of two others, something special happened: Part of the foundation of the most benevolent nation in history was born.
This week we give thanks for these individuals and the blessings that have accrued to us 394 years later.
Write this on a rock … One person can make a difference. Happy Thanksgiving.
Nothing I do as The Small Business Advocate is about me–it’s all about you, my heroes, small business owners, regardless of where you live on planet Earth.
Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.
English foxhunters once dragged a red herring in front of their hounds to distract them from the scent of the little furry guy. In time, this practice produced the metaphorical “red herring,” which is an attempt to win an argument by diverting attention from the real issue.
Introducing a red herring in a negotiation can be a handy defensive tactic. But sometimes we use personal red herrings, which is essentially when we lie to ourselves. It’s one thing to use red herrings as a communication tactic, but when we use them on ourselves, it’s unproductive at best and destructive at worst.
Shakespeare addressed this issue in perhaps his most famous play: Act I, Scene III, of Hamlet, Polonius said to his son, Laertes: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
If you can’t be true to yourself, you can’t be true to your dream. And a false dream is an entrepreneurial atomic meltdown waiting to happen.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge is knowing when to continue to keep believing and when to move on. And the dilemma on these horns could range from a small piece of your plan all the way to the actual validity of your vision and viability of your business model.
One of my mentors taught me how to face a “go—no go” decision by asking this question: “Do you have a fighting chance or just a chance to fight?” The key to success in business, and indeed in life, may be as simple as divining the answer to that question.
One way to tell if you’re dragging a stinking fish across the trail of your own dream is by doing something another mentor taught me: checking your position.Here are three examples:
1. Have you conducted enough due diligence to find out if your plan has a chance of success? Just telling yourself things will work out is a red herring.
2. Is your activity resulting in ANY success? If nothing is working, convincing yourself that you just need to work harder may be masking reality.
3. Are your assumptions performing? If you’re only consuming resources without creating opportunity, you must ask yourself: Am I on the wrong trail, or the wrong journey?
When even small successes can be found mixed in with the failures, you may have a vision merely in need of adjustments and worthy of extra effort. But in order to evaluate all of this, small business owners need all the facts they can get their hands on. And they need the truth from all parties — especially from themselves.
Use red herrings for foxhunting and negotiating, not on yourself.
Write this on a rock … This above all: to thine own self be true.