By John Kmitta
“Nobody else is the authority on your potential. You are the only one who defines your limits.”
– Ben Saunders, polar explorer
I’m typically not one for motivational quotes. I don’t have any cat posters hanging in my office. I don’t go out of my way to find inspiration. However, the quote above stood out to me when I heard it.
The person relaying that wisdom, Ben Saunders, is a polar explorer who was a guest speaker at last year’s Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) Annual Meeting in Kohler, Wis. Saunders is known for skiing solo to the North Pole, and for his human-powered Antarctic journey (on foot) from Ross Island to the South Pole and back.
At the OPEI meeting, Saunders shared stories of his adventures, and relayed the lessons he has learned from facing such harsh and demanding physical and mental endeavors.
Saunders is not an OPE industry expert, yet, amid my copious notes from throughout the meeting, his story and his quote stood out to me (my apologies to the other speakers). Following last year’s meeting, I continued to follow Saunders as he blogged during his latest expedition – an attempt to cross Antarctica solo (you can read his posts at bensaunders.com).
It is not rare for organizers of industry events to include motivational speakers from outside the industry as part of conference proceedings. Through the years at various events, I have had the pleasure of listening to artists, photographers, actors, a Hall of Fame baseball player, and, yes, a polar explorer.
Attendees know these folks aren’t going to have insight into outdoor power equipment, and they might not even share tips for running a business. There are usually other speakers at the same events who can speak to such topics – or at least experts who can provide economic or legislative forecasts.
Non-industry-oriented speakers are there to share their unique stories, what they have learned in life, and, yes, provide a motivational nugget or tidbit that might stick with the audience and be applied to any business model or to life in general. Show organizers know that is what attendees like. While we want insight that sheds light on the industry, we also want to hear from people of interest, learn from them, take inspiration, and hopefully apply some of their wisdom to our own endeavors.
I know it has been a while since last summer’s OPEI Annual Meeting, but I thought of Saunders’ quote and the topic of potential and sense of achievement yesterday. My 9-year-old son was talking about the recently completed Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. He asked me, “Why do the people who won the silver medal seem so sad?” He pointed out that the person who wins bronze is typically happy, because he or she made the podium; the gold medalist is happy, well, because they won gold, of course; but the silver medalist is often sad. I told him the silver medalists are disappointed because they feel that they lost gold rather than won silver.
Then, in his wisdom, he added, “Maybe if they didn’t expect to win a medal, and they were losing and moved up at the last minute to get silver, then they are happy with silver. It’s all about their expectations for themselves.”
He makes a good point. It’s all about perception and perspective. I’m guessing there are dealerships out there that made $200,000 in revenue in 2017 whose owners love their business and woke up happy with life today; while, at the same time, there might be some with $2 million in revenue whose owners are unhappy with their current status.
Our perception of our success or failure is often based on the expectations we place upon ourselves. Unfortunately, we often measure success based on expectations that others project onto us. To paraphrase Saunders, be the authority on your own potential, and be the one to define your own limits. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve what you have set out to accomplish, but also know yourself and take pride in what you have done.
Good luck with your goals, and have a great month.