Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Are you Stuck in a rut?

A few days ago, I was enjoying lunch at one of our Lake Norman restuarants while catching up my reading on the week’s events.  Two people settled into the booth behind me and were having a very engaged conversation about business.  Actually, one was complaining about their business in particular.  I overheard as this individual ticked off all the reasons the “store” was experiencing problems.  While I’m not making light of their troubles, I think we all know times have been tough for all of us. With each positive suggestion, the despondent retailer would point out all the reasons they could not do that – cost too much, didn’t have the staff, they had tried it before, not quite their market.  At one point I wanted to turn around and tell them I thought the biggest reason for their lack of success might be the face they saw in the mirror each morning when they got up!  They dripped in negativity.

Granddaddy Russell with my cousin Chris at the farm - 1982

Granddaddy Russell with my cousin Chris at the farm - 1982

It reminded me of a story my Granddaddy Russell told me a long time ago.  Granddaddy didn’t go to college and I’m not sure he ever owned a copy of any leading business book of its time.  But he did have a heck of a career.  He drove a taxi, worked in a textile mill, spent most of his liesure time, if you call it that, tending the farm where he raised cattle and produce, and studied his church “lessons” at night.

My Granddaddy Russell owned a farm in Rock Hill where he raised a couple of dozen head of cattle.  He passed away in 1999, but not before he left me with a treasure trove of little stories and a lifetime of wonderful memeories.  On one particular weekend, Granddaddy Russell and I were walking through some of the trails behind the house checking the fenceline.  I was fresh out of college and gainfully employed at a local office supply and furniture company as a salesman.  I was making the sales calls but my commission check certainly indicated my lackluster performance.

After listening to me grumble about how my customers weren’t buying and I wasn’t getting the support I needed from my company, granddaddy looked over and asked, “Doc,” (one of the many pet nicknames he had for me but that’s a different story) “Did I ever tell you about that little bullfrog that fell into the deep, muddy tractor track?”  Without waiting for my reply, he began, “A couple of days later he was still there when his other frog friend happened by and found him…urging him to hop out.  He made a few feeble efforts, but he remained stuck in the quagmire.”

“Over the next few days, his fellow frogs tried to motivate the little frog to escape the rut, but they all gave up encouraging him and hoped back to the pond.  The next day the little frog was seen sunning himself contently on the shores of the pond.  “How’d you get out of that rut? ” he was asked.  “Well,” said the frog, “as everyone is aware I could not.  But along came that big red tractor again and I had to!”

Granddaddy looked over at me as we walked down the road waiting for his point to sink in.  “You waiting for something to come along and get you out of the rut?” he asked.  I do not know that I ever became the super salesman my manager hoped I would be but the point granddaddy made was not lost on me.  The ability to overcome my obstacles and rise to the occassion was within my means the whole time.  Most of it was my own personal attitude.  The bottom line:  you can motivate yourself or wait till outside forces do it for you.

I sure miss the long walks grandaddy and I took together, but I never forgot the lessons he shared.  Daddy still lives out on the farm and often we take walks together still checking the fenceline.  Occaasionly we will happen on an old tractor rut dug deep into the soft southern clay down by the creek.  I might even hear the splash of a little frog as we approach.  It brings a smile to my face as I think about all the wonderful times I’ve spent at the farm.  Perhaps an old farmer knows best, when there are so many reasons why you cannot be succesful, you succeed anyway.  You simply accept nothing less.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , | Leave a comment

Address to the 73rd Annual United States Junior Chamber of Commerce Meeting Delegates

Address to the 73rd Annual Meeting Delegates
United States Junior Chamber of Commerce
Wednesday, June 16, 1993
Greensboro, NC

This speech was given during the annual business meeting of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce by National President Bill Russell asking the delegates to approve a $5 dues increase per member, an alumni membership, and a blue ribbon commission to create a plan for the future of the organization.  All three initiatives were approved later that day.

Delegates to the 73rd annual meeting, there is a word that keeps popping up time and again when we talk about the Junior Chamber and that word is leadership.  You have heard it this year.  I hope you come to understand it better.  Leadership is our chance to create a stronger organization.  An organization that will be there for your children and your children’s children.

delegatesYou can define leadership many different ways but in the Junior Chamber we know leadership is the key to everything else we do.  Without leadership, we become just another fundraising organization like so many other groups out there.  We lose our credibility, we lose our history, and we cut our roots.  While community service is the best work of life, we must not lose sight that our community development projects are just one slice of that work. The entire pie is created with leadership as the pan that holds it all together.  Leadership that understands where it is going and how to get there.

Jaycees, we have an obligation to prepare for the future.  Today we have that opportunity.  The opportunity to return our organization to financial stability, to tap resources previously turned away, and to create and implement a plan for the future.  I am asking for your support of the much needed dues increase, our alumni membership, and the proposed blue ribbon commission.blue-ribbon0001

Robert F. Kennedy, a young person who left us 25 years ago this month said, “Progress is a nice word but change is its motivator and change has its enemies.”  I believe in the American Dream because I believe in Jaycees.  You and I stand on the threshold of a new America…a new Junior Chamber…and America and a Junior Chamber filled with opportunity, challenges, and change.

Let us not be enemies of change.  The progress we seek in the Jaycees is not for personal gain, influence, or power.  It is change for our organization.  It is changing our way of thinking…thinking of leadership training and preparing our members to go out in their communities and lead.  It is change that is required if we are as a viable organization are to once again obtain our position of national prominence.  And its change we must have if we are to continue to call ourselves the organization of choice for today’s young people.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the 1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King stood at a podium in the deep south and reflected on where the civil rights movement was going when he said, “The measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at the times of challenges and controversy.”  I ask you today….where do you stand?  I stand on the side of change.

Change not for the sake of doing something different, but progressive, enlightened change. Change that will make our organization strong…and remain strong…year after year, in chapter after chapter.  It is taking a leadership stand.  Let us all stand against mediocrity. Let us take a stand against the status quo and business as usual.  Let us go somewhere we have not been.

Let us today…in this moment in time…go somewhere…we have not been.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment