Friday, November 19, 2010

Take Your Foot Off the Brakes

Last week Laura and I attended the NMSS Convention in Chicago.  My next blog entry will be about our travel challenges (airlines and damaged scooters, etc.), but this one relates the introductory convention speech to our other hobby of teaching career networking and management skills with the ETP Network (
Joyce Nelson, CEO and President of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) gave a motivational address to open the organization’s National Convention in Chicago IL on Wednesday November 10, 2010.  She began by relating that her husband, John, was a collector of old vehicles.    
This really means that he still owns nearly every car/truck/motorcycle he has ever bought.  John refers to this collection of vehicles by their year of manufacture.    One of his favorites is the ’76: a Ford F-150 Truck, which was retired after a couple hundred thousand miles to its present home in Minnesota out behind their lakeside cabin.
It still runs, and they took it to a lake neighbor’s Lobster Boil last 4th of July.   The neighbors’ son Dave arrived in his 2010 three-quarter ton Chevy Avalanche, and John was unable to resist throwing down the gauntlet.    “How about it Dave” he said.    “Title for title - I bet my one-quarter ton 76 can out-pull your three-quarter ton.  Let’s chain ‘em together, tailgate to tailgate and see who moves forward first!”  
Dave laughed and turned away.    But John is nothing if not persistent, and the crowd of neighbors who had been washing down lobster with copious amounts of beer joined in.  Finally, in defense of his manhood, Dave agreed to the challenge.   The tow chain was found; the bets placed; the cameras poised.  
There was a countdown from three, and John stomped on it.  Exhaust blew out of the F-150’s tail pipe; dust and small pebbles flew from the road.  The front tires smoked dangerously as they spun on the hard packed dirt, straining to pull the heavy load.  But the Avalanche was strangely quiet. 
Finally, the spinning wheels of the ‘76 dug themselves all the way down to the top of their wheel wells and everything went still.  When the smoke cleared it became obvious what had happened.   Dave never hit the accelerator.  Instead he simply --- put on the brakes.   Game over.    No contest.  Neither vehicle had moved. John was deflated.   All the way home he said over and over again – how could I move when he had his foot on the brake?  He said it so often that it finally got through to Joyce, “Indeed – How can we move if there’s a foot on the brake?”
Joyce then continued by relating this story to the NMSS’s Unstoppable theme, while inveighing against all things that put on the brakes.  She asked us to think of a time when we were moving forward with great enthusiasm and someone, or something, simply put on the brakes,  perhaps without you even knowing it.  Is there anything more discouraging?   Worse, it is all too often the case that it is we, ourselves who self-sabotage by putting on the brakes. 
She said, “I’m not talking about short-cutting thoughtful discussion, debate and consideration of risks, but sometimes we ride the brakes even after decisions have been made.  We’ve set bold goals, and publicly stated our intention to respond aggressively to the brutal facts of life with MS. Now, our feet have to come off the brakes.”
It was an inspiring motivational speech.  I’m passing it along to you, not to ask you to help in the fight against MS (that will come leading up to the MS Walk in the spring), but to ask you to look at your goals as CEO of ME, Inc., and to ask yourself “Who has their foot on the brakes?”  In most cases it is probably you.
Take your foot off the brake.  Get your Board of Directors or Career Coach to help you by giving you the swift kick you know you need.  There are plenty of obstacles; start now by removing the big one down the end of your right leg from the brakes of ME, Inc.
Aaron Cohen
November 16, 2010
Thanks to Joyce Nelson who provided the text of her speech and allowed me to wantonly excerpt from it for this article.

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