Dad’s Upward Path (Part 2 of 3)

Dad on front-end loader

As a boy, just about all I knew about my Dad was that he operated a bulldozer and lived in logging camps more than at home.  I recall getting up very early on a Monday morning to see him off in his Model A Ford.  I didn’t know where he was going or when he’d be back.  Understanding now how dangerous his work often was, I realize that each time he departed, might have been my last opportunity to see him alive.

I was a teen before he occasionally talked to me about his logging experiences.  One account particularly unsettled me. “I was working for old man Beach,” he said.  “He told me to build a logging road alongside the mountain, pretty high up.  At the bottom of the mountain was a river.  I needed to turn the machine many times to push earth and rock to the outer side of the road.  Each time when I lifted the blade, I could see that river a thousand feet below.” I shuddered inwardly at the thought of that big bulldozer going over the edge, carrying my Dad to his death.

Apparently his employer had an enormous bank account.  On another occasion Dad said, “Old Man Beach told me to build a logging road up a different mountain with a very steep grade.  I knew that even for my cat it would be hard work getting up there. I told him no logging truck has an engine powerful enough to make the climb.  He wouldn’t listen.  He just told me to build the road or he’d find someone who would.  I needed the work so I built him this impossible road.  When the trucks arrived at the bottom of the mountain, the drivers looked up at the incline and shook their heads. ‘Too steep’ was all they said and walked away.”  Mr. Beach showed no concern at learning the road was useless. Dad thought he was spending his money as fast as possible so his children wouldn’t get their hands on it.

In time, Dad bought his own machine and obtained a contract to clear agricultural land.  When I was about 14, he decided it was time for me to learn a trade. He began taking me along to his work sites in summer. I’m still surprised that very soon he was instructing me in the use of 20 per cent dynamite to blast huge stumps out of the ground.  Doing it right made it relatively safe, but I always kept in mind Dad’s dire warning.  “If a stump doesn’t fire, don’t go back to it until the next day. One of my customers didn’t have the patience to wait. His head was blown clean off his shoulders.”  My only complaint about blasting was that handling the dynamite brought on killer headaches.

Dad also instructed me in the use of his heavy McCulloch chain saw, operating a bulldozer and backhoe, and later in driving a dump truck with air brakes.

Working with him, I became aware not only of his skill with equipment, but also his courage.  Several times I watched him building a road along a steep hillside.  He had plenty of experience in this from his logging jobs, but sometimes he manoeuvred the big machine so close to the edge, I felt certain it would tip over and he’d be killed.  For me it was terrifying, but he always reversed the machine just in time.

He was physically rugged and extraordinarily resolute. Whether swinging a 12 pound sledge hammer, welding in a hot summer sun, or getting his bulldozer unstuck from a swamp where an operator had left it, he didn’t complain.  As a teen, this won my respect.  My close friends all referred to their fathers as “the old man.”  I could never do that.

Although I wasn’t yet willing to listen to his words, my future path was being shaped by his actions.



















Dad’s Upward Path (Part 3 of 3)

IMG (2)

As my maturity increased, I realized that underlying Dad’s physical attributes and strong will, there was a deep compassion for people in need.  One evening he picked up his large, very heavy tool box.  I asked him what he was going to do.


“John can’t figure out how to replace the clutch on his car,” he said.  “I‘ve done that before. We’ll get the job done in no time.”  Dad hardly knew John, but after that they became close friends.

I came to understand that Dad always put relationships ahead of personal gain.  When he was asked to bid on a large job, he invited his friend Henry to join him.  The contractors told Dad they wanted him to do the work, but Henry’s equipment was too old and he was not welcome. Dad knew Henry would be discouraged if he was left out, so he turned down what would have been his biggest contract ever.

Dad and I worked closely in the bulldozing and trucking business until I was 24.  Although I had enormous respect for him, I did not have the maturity to listen to his words about how to live.  Understanding this, he didn’t attempt to persuade me. In time, it was his example of complete integrity, as much as his courage and skills, that persuaded me to adopt much of his value system. When he lost a valiant battle against cancer at age 95, I said to a friend, “more than anyone else, Dad’s example impacted my life and shaped it. If I ever become half the man he was, I will consider my life to have been a success.” Without realizing it at the time, I had begun to walk on the path Dad walked on.











Hedley’s “Foundation” Years Part I

In 1973 Len and Jean Roberts, founders of the One Way Adventure

Len Roberts at the Colonial Inn
Len Roberts at the Colonial Inn

Foundation, began with a simple booth at the Cloverdale Rodeo.  They offered camping, cycling and canoeing expeditions. A probation officer liked their vision and on behalf of her Surrey office, negotiated a contract with them to operate an extended program for youths on probation.

Soon probation officers were dropping their most recalcitrant adolescent clients off at the Roberts home.  Sometimes it was with the explanation they would be camping, canoeing, or joining a football team. Len had to inform them their PO had actually placed them in a longterm program of rehabilitation. With these often rowdy youths assembling in the Roberts back yard each morning, anxious neighbours spent a lot of time peeking through slits in closed curtains. They were understandably concerned about their personal and property safety.

Desperately needing a larger, more appropriate place as a base, the Roberts purchased  3 acres with a home and small barn in Surrey.  As their reputation for effectiveness increased, probation officers and social workers clamored for more spaces to send youths  out of control in their home, school and community.

Len quickly realized they would have to get some of these hard to manage youths into a more tranquil and secure setting.  The Gold House and Colonial Inn properties on the outskirts of Hedley were derelict and available and he was able to acquire them .

Just prior to the purchase, the inn was seriously vandalized.  At about this time, one of the young vandals was placed in the Foundation’s Surrey program for other unlawful activities.  Not realizing the Foundation had just purchased the property, and wanting to establish a tough guy image, he foolishly boasted to Len about his part in the vandalism. Len immediately sent him to Hedley to help staff with the clean up and repairs.  The building was named the Camp Colonial Lodge

Eventually 4 programs operated out of the Hedley setting.  The youths were assigned to work projects such as fence mending, building trails, cutting grass etc.  In time there were food prep, mechanics, retail and riding courses.  Rigorous back packing and canoeing expeditions, skiing, rock climbing and rappelling were also part of the mix. Most students attended the Foundation school.  Extremely difficult cases were sometimes sent to Upper Camp, part way up the Tram Line.

While Jean ran the office, Len built the organization.  Needing space for programs and storage, he managed over time to buy several buildings, which were for the most part derelict and empty.  Although not charismatic in the usual sense, he was able to explain his vision, purpose and methods in a manner that appealed to individuals eager to devote their lives to a significant purpose.  The work was often arduous and the pay wasn’t great, but workers continued to come and stay. Several youths, after completing their program, were accepted into a one year training course for young workers starting with the organization. Upon completion the Foundation brought them on as staff.


Hedley’s “Foundation” Years Part II


Len Roberts & Art Martens at Colonial Inn
Len Roberts & Art Martens at Colonial Inn

The Hedley operation became both the wilderness and administrative centre of the One Way Adventure Foundation.  Liking its highly effective approach combining work skills development, academics and wilderness expeditions, the government contracted for day programs in Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon.

Possibly it was the organization’s success that aroused the ire of a small cadre of elderly men in Hedley.  For several years they plotted against the organization, hoping in some way to discredit it. In 1986 they complained to the two major Vancouver dailies that the OWAF was a cult.  Always searching for the dramatic, one reporter managed to make the allegation a front page story, based entirely on unproven speculation.

 A government inspection team, consisting of men in dark suits, quickly descended on Hedley.  They spent a week meticulously scrutinizing financial records and interviewing youths, staff and residents.  In the end they determined there was no reason for concern and completely exonerated the Foundation. 

In the early 1990’s, a new  government switched its youth programs from a regional to a community model.  Len chose not to go in this direction and reluctantly folded the organization.
Now, some 20 years later, newcomers to Hedley might be inclined to ask if the Foundation made any lasting contribution to the community.  In response to this question, a  member of the Hedley Museum Society said, “if it wasn’t for the Foundation, some of our larger structures would not have survived.  They did major upgrades on several empty, neglected buildings.”  
The presence of young staff, usually carrying 2-way radios, helped seniors feel more secure. Also, at that time there was no garbage collection and one program provided this service for staff, seniors and the disabled.   Finding someone to replace a door or toilet, or fix a leaky tap was often difficult..  The OWAF developed a service to fill this need.  Using government grants, they were able to provide training and employment for 10-12 local residents.  
Certainly, the most important contribution lies in helping hundreds of young offenders acquire useful skills and develop a more positive self-concept. They returned to their community much more aware and confident of their potential.
Although the Foundation is gone, it still lives on in the memories of people who were here at that time. 

Great By Choice – The 20 Mile March

Cannington Dog Sled Races
Cannington Dog Sled Races
This is the third in a series of posts based on Great by Choice.  Although the book is aimed primarily at the business community, I consider it extraordinarily helpful for leadership in any realm.  I am finding that the 20 Mile March concept is also useful for maintaining a sense of balance in my personal life.  It is a reminder to not become either complacent or overly aggressive in pursuing life objectives.  
As noted in the two previous posts, the authors, Jim Collins and Morton T Hansen, compared a number of highly successful companies with less successful companies in the same industry.  Their purpose was to discover what distinguished the top performers from the others.  They refer to the successful companies as 10Xers because they out performed their industry by at least ten times.
                                                           *     *     *
The authors again help us understand the importance of their findings by comparing the strategies of two South Pole explorers, Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott.  Just as he had been meticulous in planning and preparing for his expedition, Amundsen held rigorously to his strategy and schedule once he was on the trail.  He had determined beforehand that he would be wise to travel 20 miles each day, in good conditions and in adverse conditions.  Undoubtedly he and his men were tempted to hunker down in their tents on cold days when the frigid wind blew in their faces.  And almost certainly, they were equally tempted to keep going longer when the weather favoured them.  By exercising discipline, Amundsen was able to conserve the strength of his men and the dogs.
Scott, however, did not embrace the 20 Mile March concept.  He pushed himself and his men hard on the good days, then took days off when the weather harassed them.  By pushing too hard, he exhausted himself and his men.  Then, waiting in his tents for favourable weather, he fell behind and eventually lost the race to the South Pole.  On the return journey, he ran out of food. He and his men died of starvation only 10 miles from their next food cache.
Collins and Hansen point out the similarities in strategy between Amundsen and Stryker’s CEO John Brown.  When Brown assumed the helm at Stryker, now a leading medical technology company, he set a benchmark to drive consistent performance.  He engrained the 20 Mile March concept (“the walk” as he termed it) into the culture of the company.  If a division fell behind, he would insert himself into it, working almost non-stop, to “help” the division get back on track.  The authors suggest that “you get the impression you don’t want to need John Brown’s help.  He does not tolerate excuses.” 
In spite of pressure from Wall Street to grow the company rapidly, Stryker had a self-imposed constraint never to go too far, never to grow too fast in a single year.  John Brown understood that if you want to achieve consistent performance, you need both parts of the 20 Mile March.  A hurdle you have to jump over and a ceiling you will not rise above.
The company Collins and Hansen used as a comparison to Stryker, did not employ the 20 Mile March concept.  Its CEO was an aggressive risk taker and for a time it grew with amazing speed, much more rapidly than Stryker.  When adverse circumstances confronted both companies, however, Stryker continued to prosper but the comparison company, like Robert Scott did not survive.
Whether in business, community leadership, or in our personal lives, the 20 Mile March concept can enable us to achieve more consistent success.

Lorraine Lance: Still Passionate About Hedley Heritage Museum

Lorraine Lance
Lorraine Lance


Sitting at a large wooden table in the log home of Eric and Lorraine Lance, I felt I had stepped back into an earlier time and a simpler way of life. Built by Eric, the home overlooks the Similkameen River just west of Hedley and allows an extensive view of the valley. It seems an appropriate home and setting for a deeply committed woman who has devoted years and much energy to preserving the area’s history.

As a young woman, Lorraine studied broadcast communications at BCIT. “My goal was to work in news reporting,” she said. When she and Eric moved to Princeton, he worked at the mine and she was employed by the Similkameen Spotlight. She wrote a column on pioneers and recalls interviewing the Rabbitts, a well known pioneer family in the area. She also served as assistant editor for a time.

For her it was “an extraordinarily interesting era.” The mine and mill were both expanding, Princeton was booming and housing was scarce. She remembers vividly living in a 40 foot trailer.

When they acquired the three acres on which they now live, they moved into a small rustic dwelling on the property. Eric began building the log house, at times with her assistance.

Lorraine says it was Ruth Dunham, a longtime Hedley area resident, who encouraged her to get involved with the group that wanted to start a museum. Ruth told her, “everyone can make a difference in the community. It’s your choice.”

Lorraine quickly caught the early vision. When she speaks now of the group’s efforts, it is with a rare passion known only to the totally committed. She explains that the group’s purpose was to preserve the unique heritage of the Hedley area by encouraging and participating in historic building restoration and site conservation. The 1983 Constitution expressed the founders desire to also foster the development of arts and crafts in the community. Initially they named the organization The Hedley Heritage, Arts and Crafts Society. In 1998 the name was changed to The Hedley Heritage Museum Society.

“I wanted to do the museum work,” Lorraine says with just a hint of regret, “but I was always slotted into fund raising.” Although this wasn’t her wish, she believed fervently in the society’s goals and pursued government grant opportunities with a relentless tenacity. She particularly recalls a $20,000 grant, which was used to buy the museum property. Also a Cultural Initiatives grant of $25,000, devoted to constructing the building.

It is evident that Lorraine feels immense respect for the founding group. “It was Helen Moore who gave us the idea,” she says. “She had common sense for what to do. She was the only one who had lived here during the mining days. She knew the history. If anyone can be called the saint of the museum, it is Helen.”

Bernice Hodges, an early proponent, now deceased, was a potter and artist. Vince and Audrey Flynn gave many hours to tracking down photos and obtaining permission to use them. Mike Sanford, a mining engineer, served as society president a number of years. His wife Debra was treasurer during that time. “It was a real team effort,” Lorraine remembers.

Presently Lorraine is dealing with a significant health challenge that prevents her from being active in museum work. Her passion is still evident, however. “The training of volunteers is important,” she says. “They need to understand museums don’t need a lot of heat. Lighting is critical. Pictures can be damaged by light. Only duplicates of pictures should be on walls. Also, water and museums don’t go together well.”

She believes a museum is important because it helps a community retain its sense of history. “It provides us with a better understanding of our rich and vibrant past,” she says.



Outfoxed By Chickens

When we retired to Hedley B..C., population about 300, I suggested to Linda we acquire a few chickens. She disagreed, saying a few chickens really didn’t warrant the expense of building a hen house. But when we visited a friend’s chicken farm, he let us look at his birds. Red in colour with white tail feathers, they were magnificent. Linda said, “They are pretty. I can understand that you would want them.”

With Linda’s full agreement, I bought 3 chickens, plus a pail of organic feed. During the 4 hour drive to our new home, they sat patiently in a box in the trunk.

I had not anticipated Linda’s change of heart so I had no lodging for them and no fenced off area to control their roaming. Fortunately, there is a perimeter fence. The birds were ecstatic when I released them into our back yard, where they could explore at will. For them it was a bonus to tread on grass, not wire. We were delighted with our new family and immediately began affectionately referring to them as “the girls.”

Their industriousness amazed us. With the zeal of men digging for gold, they scratched furiously anywhere they pleased. A healthy kale plant was unceremoniously uprooted. Wanting to be understanding of their need to grub for insects, I didn’t protest. When I installed tomato cages over the other kale plants, the girls eagerly poked their small heads

between the wires and nibbled until only flimsy skeleton stems remained. Our small potato patch soon had the appearance of a scorched earth war zone. When Linda went to the garden to collect basil, she was dismayed to see they had already harvested the entire crop. The next day I observed them contentedly munching on radish tops. The girls, like locusts in the “dirty thirties,” were consuming our garden at a feverish pace.

They did lay their golden brown, organic eggs faithfully, always under the sheltering leaves of the same rhubarb plant. While this contributed to our sense of having achieved a back to the land lifestyle, Linda and I realized we couldn’t indefinitely tolerate their pillaging of our garden. They had become the dominant force in our back yard and I was determined to assert authority over what I considered our domain.

Entering the Hen House
Entering the Hen House

By the end of that first week I had completed a 4 by 5ft. hen house and a 4 ft high fence. I gently deposited the girls one at a time in their new, more constricting quarters. Instantly aggrieved, they began patrolling along the inside of the confining fence, much like somber faced federal prisoners probing determinedly for a weak link. Their shrill clucking suggested intense inner turmoil. We glanced out the back window uneasily all afternoon, anxious that they adjust to their limited quarters.

When we awoke early the next morning, each had already laid an egg. We were pleased at this, to be sure, but disconcerted by the fact that they had not used the laying box I had placed in their new home. Instead, each had laid a lovely brown egg under the rhubarb plant as usual. The rhubarb plant, of course, was outside their fence! The girls were in the garden, munching peacefully, apparently quite unaware they were committing a

cardinal sin. I patiently carried them one at a time back to their designated space and repaired a weakness in the fence.

The next day we awoke at 6 am, and they were again in the garden, having flown over the fence. I affixed another layer of wire to increase the height of the fence to a full 5 feet. We also clipped the right wing of each girl. I held the bird and Linda clipped with scissors. There was no evidence of pain. When I had again returned them lovingly to their compound, they retreated to the hen house. I assumed it was to sulk, but that turned out to be a naïive assumption. Apparently it was to devise a new strategy. It was becoming evident that these girls had a surgeon’s capacity to focus intently, and they were not quitters.

To my dismay, the following morning they were back in the garden. One of the girls had put her head through a hole in the mesh and patiently worked at stretching the wire until she could squeeze through. The others had followed. I repaired the opening and applied a second layer of wire mesh over the original layer.

All this was to no avail. The following morning we were up early enough to observe them squeeze through a new hole they had made in the fence and run like Olympic sprinters to the rhubarb plant. “Maybe,” Linda suggested somewhat resignedly, “they are driven by an inner compulsion to lay. And they are programmed to lay under that rhubarb plant.”

Linda and I needed to be away for three days. Since the feed and water were in the hen house, the girls required access to it. If they escaped from their quarters while we were gone, would their mentality and skills enable them to get back in?

Reluctantly Linda and I agreed the girls had outfoxed and outlasted us. I created an opening so they could enter and leave their compound as they pleased. When we return, I decided, I will put up a high fence around the garden, and if necessary, we’ll do another clipping. They are good girls so they can have the yard. We will have the garden and the eggs.

The Gift Of Mr. Loeppky

I was quite unaware of it at the time, but looking back over the years now, I realize I was fortunate as a teen to have two men to observe at close quarters. By their attitudes, their thinking, their lifestyle and values, each set an example that would play a determining role in shaping what I valued and how I would live. In many respects, they were virtual opposites. One showed me a path leading upward to constructive significance, the other showed me a path leading downward to unhappiness and futility.

The first was my father, the second was our next door neighbour, Mr. Loeppky. I loved my father and, although I certainly didn’t think in those terms at the time, I suppose I also loved Mr. Leoppky. To this day I place a high value on the time I spent with each of them.
* * * *
Mr. Loeppky lived almost next door to us. Only an empty lot separated our home from his. We referred to him as “the bachelor”. He was a bachelor not by choice but by divorce. His wife had divorced him many years before I got to know him. His fortunes had deteriorated badly since then and his home now was a two room shack, which he had constructed himself.

IMG_0280It was evident that no paintbrush had touched the exterior walls in many years. Inside it was equally rustic, with little more than a kitchen table, an old green fridge, a woodstove and an aged chest of drawers. There was no indoor washroom, but he did have cupboards and a sink with hot and cold water in the kitchen. A sheet hung in the doorway to the bedroom. His bathroom was a one-seater out house.

Mr. Loeppky’s surroundings had not always been so sparse. In his earlier, better days, he had owned and managed a successful GM dealership in a small prairie town. A skilled mechanic, he had at first done much of the service work himself, always as he volunteered to me one day, “with a flask in my back pocket.”

He was regarded as one of the elite in his community, a man people looked up to at least in part because of his business success. His home was one of the finest in the town. When I met people who had known him then, I noticed that they invariably spoke of him with a trace of awe, as someone they respected and admired.

Mr Leoppky had money , then, and he loved to party. In conversation he was engaging, and people clamoured to be around him.

Somewhere along the way a fondness for strong drink had apparently overtaken his earlier good judgment. His business acumen began to slip and his wife, possibly
aware that financial ruin might be approaching, entered into a romantic relationship with a local lawyer. Listening to him over more than half a dozen years, I concluded he had not understood the harm he was doing to his marriage and his family. He had not seen the divorce looming.

When I began visiting him as a teen, he had already lost everything, his wealth, good standing in his community, his family and also his sense of self esteem and respect. Still, even at age 65, there lingered about him more than a trace of his earlier good looks and outward refinement. But the total loss of his former life had exacted a bitter toll.

Even now I have only a vague understanding of why a 14 year old kid was drawn to visit this once proud, successful man, so completely fallen from his former high position and no longer esteemed by society. Possibly it was his doughnuts, and maybe his pies. He made them only occasionally, and I understand now that he may have continued to make them only because he knew I delighted in them. It is possible that I experienced some compassion for this lonely man whose only other visits were from a sister and brother-in-law who came now and then. He didn’t like his sister’s husband.

Sometimes when we were sitting at his kitchen table and he was talking, my lungs rebelled at the thought of taking in one more breath of the smoke from his cigarettes. I don’t think he ever consciously decided to tell me his life story. Certainly he didn’t take me back to the early years  and  lead me through a logical sequence of events to the present time. Rather, the story came out like pieces of a puzzle put in place over the years.

An episode or a bit of information might slip out when he had a bottle of gin on his table, after he had collected his pension cheque at the end of the month. While his trembling fingers rolled clumsy smokes from a fresh can of McDonald’s tobacco, his mind  slipped into the past. If he had doughnuts, he’d place the large tin can before me and say “eat.” Sometimes they were no longer fresh and his many cigarettes had tinged them with the flavor of tobacco  smoke. I ate them anyway. While he talked, I watched those faded blue eyes as they remembered scenes from a better time in his life.

In the end, his breathing became laboured and one day he said, “the doc told me I have lung cancer. Guess it won’t be long before the Grim Reaper comes to take me away.”  He continued to smoke.

Occasionally he still made a batch of doughnuts.  “I make them just for you,” he told me one day, turning away to cough into a large polka dotted handkerchief. Because he  had stopped eating the doughnuts  himself, they lasted even longer and I was increasingly aware of the taste of cigarette smoke.  I knew it was important to him, so even though they had lost their appeal, I continued to eat them. His cough had become harsh and frequent, and it troubled me.

In all the years he was our neighbor, his two daughters stopped in once for about 10 minutes on their way to an appointment. His son came for only one short visit. During his last year as he grew progressively weaker, his children never visited.

He passed away in spring and I notified his son.  My family organized a memorial service for him at the local funeral home. We had told our friends about Mr. Loeppky, and many of them came to join my parents and myself to bid him farewell. I was surprised and pleased when the son and two daughters arrived.

At the end of the memorial service, his son came to me and asked, “do you know what my father died of?”

When I could slip out I walked around to the back of the funeral home, because a deep sadness was overwhelming my emotions. My friend Henry, a local photographer was already there,shedding his own tears. I had introduced him to Mr. Loeppky in the last year of his life.

Even before Mr. Loeppky passed away, I had already begun to understand that I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of this man I had come to care about deeply. Standing beside Henry now, I knew I must do everything possible to ensure that my life would not end in despair and futility. It was Mr. Loeppky’s gift to me.

Fanatical Discipline

Great by Choice

 #2  Fanatical Discipline

Victory awaits him who has everything in order. Luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time. This is called bad luck.” Roald Amundsen, South Pole explorer.

The authors graphically make their point by comparing the fanatical discipline demonstrated by Roald Amundsen in preparing for his South Pole expedition to the considerably less rigorous preparations of Robert Falcon Scott.

Amundsen rode his bike 2000 miles to condition his body. He lived with Eskimos (Innuit) to learn from them how to survive in extreme cold weather conditions. During this time he ate raw dolphin meat because he knew he might have to resort to an unaccustomed diet in untoward circumstances. To pull the sleighs, he decided to use dogs, knowing that if food ran short, he might have to kill some of the weaker animals to feed the strong ones.

Scott elected to use ponies and motorized sleighs. The ponies gave out under the strain of hard work and extreme cold weather. The engines cracked on his motorized sleighs. Consequently, he and his men had to pull the sleighs themselves. Scott brought only one thermometer and it broke. Amundsen brought four. The authors say “Amundsen and Scott had different behaviours, not different circumstances.”

Like Amundsen, the 10X companies chose to be risk averse. Understanding they would almost certainly encounter difficult circumstances at some point, possibly unexpectedly, they prepared with fanatical discipline for these potential “Black Swan” events. Like Amundsen who took plenty of extra food, the 10X companies built buffers that would enable them to survive, and even thrive, in the difficult times.

They understand that “it’s what you do before the storm arrives that determines how well you will do when it comes.” Collins and Morton found that 10X companies had 3-10 times the ratio of cash to reserves. They managed well in good times to do well in bad times. It is this approach that made Southwest Airlines the only airline to turn a profit in 2002.

Collins and Hanson say that leaders in the most successful companies know they face continuous uncertainty, but they reject the idea that outside forces or chaotic events will determine their results. They accept full responsibility for their own fate. They realize unanticipated adversity may strike at any moment. They exercise fanatical discipline so their company will be strong when circumstances turn against it.

Note: I recommend that you read “Great by Choice” to learn about the other 2 core practises of 10x companies: Empirical Creativity and Productive Paranoia. I will deal with the 20 Mile March concept soon. For our personal lives or in leadership roles, this is a good one.


The Lesson Of Leona’s Commitment

 free_18764562Several years ago my cousin Leona was told that her husband Vic showed early indications of Parkinson’s, plus another equally debilitating condition for which as yet there is no cure. Vic had worked for BC Hydro and had also built a number of homes after retirement.  They are now living in the most recent home, a well designed structure that speaks of a master builder’s wonderful attention to detail.

With her buoyant personality, sense of humor and  capacity to commit, Leona has also experienced a good deal of success.  In an earlier career as a realtor, she was easily in the top ten percent in listings and in sales.  To help their sons get started in business, she entered into a partnership with them and they opened an eye glass outlet.  Based on a bedrock of integrity and excellent service, the business did well. Before long they expanded to other centers and into the hearing aid field.

Then came the diagnosis that caused Vic to lay down his hammer and saw and hang up the ladder in his garage for the last time.  Leona’s participation in the business venture with their sons didn’t cease entirely, but she resolved to make Vic her #1 priority.                                                                                                                                

 Under her fun loving, quick to laugh exterior,  there abides a deep commitment to her husband.  He isn’t someone to be discarded when difficult circumstances arise.  She thinks of him as her life partner.  “We are going to ride this out together,” she says.                                                                                                                          

“I’m going to keep him at home as long as I can manage.  If it becomes necessary, I’ll mortgage our house to keep him here.”  Vic’s condition presents some difficult challenges and she has already hired live in help.

When we visited at their home recently, Linda and I were impressed by Leona’s total commitment to him.  “I won’t sell his pickup truck or his work trailer,” she said.  “And I won’t get rid of his tools.  That is all part of who he has always been.  I won’t take them away from him.”

Leona’s determination to maintain a comfortable, undisturbed atmosphere in the home is proving to be helpful to Vic.  When we were there, he appeared relaxed and seemed to be enjoying life.

A week before Leona’s recent birthday, he began each day by wishing her a happy birthday.  Each day she said, “no, it’s not my birthday yet.”  When her birthday did arrive, she responded to his happy birthday wish by saying, “yes Vic, today is my birthday.”  He said, “I just didn’t want to forget.”

For Linda and me there is a valuable lesson in Leona’s unswerving commitment to Vic. 







A small town perspective on people, community, politics and environment.