business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

No doubt many of you have heard and used the phrase “hoisted on one’s petard” without knowing the origin of the saying. Based on the Middle French word for flatulence, it relates to building a bomb to harm one’s enemies and getting blown up by it yourself.

Yet, it best refers to those of us with too many opinions who occasionally (or frequently) have to eat our own words. Well, dear readers, allow me to start mealtime.

I cannot possibly count the times that I have talked about the importance of being pro-active. Years of speeches, articles and even the book I did with Kevin all repeat this lesson again and again. Plan ahead and honestly face the facts I always say. Failure to do so never, ever works out well unless you are stunningly lucky; which most of us simply are not.

(Get ready, the petard is ticking...)

Six weeks ago, I wrote about my own lack of planning in failing to get my snow thrower tuned prior to the winter. But living near Washington, DC, snow is really something we don’t worry about all that much. Usually we get a couple of inches, panic and move on. My snow thrower spends most winters getting as much action as my New York Mets World Series bunting. So I figured this would be another winter where getting the snow thrower ready was simply a waste of time and money. And I passed on doing it.

Of course, just before Christmas it snowed like crazy and despite my prayers and best efforts, my snow thrower never lurched into gear. Instead of walking behind it and watching it do magic, I shoveled load after load of snow mixed with regret. Of course, I didn’t rush to fix the thrower in the subsequent weeks. After all, what were the odds that Washington would get a second big snow storm in the same winter? I mean, that never happens.

Assuming you saw any news this weekend, you know Washington got a Buffalo-like snowstorm. It was such a big storm that it got its own logos on the news and names like “Snowpocalypse,” “Snowmageddon” and “Tsownami.” And guess what: my snow thrower didn’t use the six weeks since the previous storm to heal itself. So once again, I grabbed my shovel, averted my wife’s annoyed glance and headed out time and again to try moving the endless snow falling from the sky. (In truth my wife helped each time and remained mute on the snow thrower. My daughter was a different story however. She sat by and reminded me to wave to the idle snow thrower each time.)

So, yes, my petard blew up right underneath me. Countless words spent urging action before, not after the problem. Countless time reminding people that problems rarely cure themselves. Countless articles and speeches on the danger of denial as a strategy. And countless times my wife and daughter reminded me this weekend that I was supposed to take care of the snow thrower weeks ago.

Well, no pain, no gain. Right?

In my case, it meant some sore muscles, some cold digits and lots of time spent digging out. For business, the result is rarely so simple. As my lesson suggested, luck is never a strategy. Get the snow thrower tuned when the sun is shining because while you can’t prevent the snow, but you can clear it so much easier. There’s a fabulous metaphor for meeting the challenges early, isn’t it?

This time I promise to heed my own words. Although, what’s the chance of another storm in Washington this year? It has to be small, right?

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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