Forward thinking: The bookends of success

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I am not a NASCAR fan.

I never have been and probably never will be at my age. I would be hard pressed to tell you the names of the various races and their locations. I could not tell you the names of more than a few of the drivers and not a single race sponsor.

What I can tell you is that NASCAR drivers understand the bookends of success, and they learn very quickly. They know the importance of starting in the right place. Before a race even begins, they compete with one another in the hopes of earning the best starting position.

At qualifying runs, held the week prior to the official race, each driver speeds around the racetrack in a timed performance. The driver with the fastest time earns the pole position – or the right to begin the race in the front of the other cars. A driver in the pole position doesn’t have to be concerned about passing anyone in order to win the race. All he or she must do is hold their position in order to win.

In contrast, a driver who does poorly in the trial run must begin the race in the worst possible position – at the very back of the pack. Stuck behind the other race cars, the disadvantaged driver has virtually no chance of winning. To finish first, he or she would have to pass every car on the track during the course of the race.

However, in addition to starting strong, a NASCAR driver understands that his or her performance also depends on finishing well. In a 500 mile race, leading for 499 miles is meaningless if a driver isn’t in front at the checkered flag. Regardless of a driver’s skill at maneuvering the car early in the race, if he or she crashes or loses focus towards the end, the driver will forfeit the lead and lose the race.

Nobody wins points for their position in the middle of the race; rather each driver is assigned a place on how he or she finishes.

STARTING AND FINISHING

I have come to believe that so-called “successful people” understand the bookends of success: STARTING AND FINISHING. We generally think about them in terms of doing a task or project. However, what’s true in our approach to projects is also true in our approach to each day. How we spend our mornings and evenings has a tremendous bearing on the course of our life over the long-haul. At least it has proven to be so for me.

I am an early riser – 5 a.m. or so. I spend the first part of my day getting myself presentable. A few of you know that I set my clothes out the night before. Then, I am off to have breakfast at a local coffee shop while it is still peaceful and quiet. The next time segment is critical.

I set about to review my days activities and scheduled meetings. The focus is primarily on the next 24 hours. I attempt to determine what I hope to accomplish in each – yes, I do better some mornings than others. I place a premium on each day. I try to make it a masterpiece. It is not easy being a perfectionist – trust me.

During the evening, I spend some time reflecting on my day. By reflecting, I translate my day’s experiences into learning opportunities. This helps solidify what I have learned or discovered. Reflecting also gives my space and time to access my progress on goals during the morning.

Relaxation is another important part of my evening routine. I strive to put leisure time into activities that replenish me by refueling my energy. Reading books, studying Scriptures, sending notes of encouragement to friends and loved ones put me in a good emotional station of mind, lifts my spirits, and
reminds me of the joys of life.

I should add, however, that one exercise in particular, does wonders for me. As I go through the day, I jot down the blessings that I experience. It may be an encouraging word from a stranger or a random act of kindness from a friend or colleague. Or it may be some way that I am able to help or assist a friend, co-worker or someone that I do not know. Sometimes I can be a blessing and other times I am the one that is blessed. Those happenings truly enrich life.

SOME LESSONS LEARNED

When I neglect to carve out time in the morning to plan my day, I notice adverse effects. First, I do not live my day on purpose. Instead of choosing where to invest my time, I cede control of my schedule to whatever circumstances happen to arise. Second, I squander my energy. That is increasingly important the older I get. I float from one activity to another without getting anything done. And finally, when I skip my morning planning time, I feel overwhelmed. You read it correctly – overwhelmed! Since I am ambitious, I have a propensity to bite off more than I can chew. If I don’t focus my attention, the weight of my numerous involvements begins to drag me down.

When I am not intentional about setting aside evening time for relaxation, I encounter negative symptoms too. First, I get uptight. My times of reflection and relaxation act like valves that release stress from my life. If I don’t guard those times, I get tense, my thoughts are more negative, and my health suffers.

Second, I lose passion. My leisure times fuels me. If I am not intentional about putting time into my favorite activities, then life loses its luster. Third, I miss chances to grow. When I don’t reflect on meaningful moments from each day, I rob myself of the benefits of experience.

SUMMARY COMMENTS

Years ago, one of my mentors reminded me that every day is the best day of my life. I was curious enough and naive enough to ask why that was so. He gently and calmly said to me, “Loren, yesterday is gone forever, and tomorrow may never get here.”

That’s why today matters. People who value each day know the importance of starting well and finishing strong. In the morning, they focus their energies on key tasks, and in the evenings they replenish themselves. By mastering the bookends of success, successful people position themselves to make an impact every day.

Until next time…

Loren (1)–By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 35 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years and is currently a member of the Lynnwood Civil Service Commission. Loren works as a consultant, writer, speaker and trainer. He is currently a member of the Lynnwood Parks and Recreation Foundation.

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