by michael on November 19, 2010


          I had lunch yesterday with Richard Oppenheim, a most intriguing man. I met Richard through the good offices of David Nye, a mutual friend. Richard handed me his business card. It had this poignant quotation:

“One who lacks the courage to start has already finished.”

The quotation prompted this blog. The phrase resonated. The message harmonizes with many themes pervading my book, The Good, The Bad and The Difference.

We are all aware, of course, that clever phrases are easier to say or to put on bumper stickers than implement. But the overarching message is as solid as Mount Rushmore: if you don’t try, you have committed yourself to failure. You have no chance. You have refused to take a risk and you have refused to assert your inherent human capacity to achieve.

If you try, of course, you may fail, ultimately. There are no guarantees of success. But such failure would be the result of work and risk and effort. Those actions and attitudes may hold lessons for future success on the next try.

Borrowing from my book, I note that Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motors, came from a family so poor that malnutrition took the lives of five of his siblings. He dropped out of eighth grade to fix bicycles.

Years later, upon receiving an honorary doctorate from University of Michigan, he said, “Many people dream of success. To me, success can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the 1 percent of your work that results from the 99 percent that is called failure.”

Richard Oppenheim coaches people to escape from what he refers to as “the mud holes of confusion, conflict and chaos.” When stuck with a job search or seemingly paralyzed from indecision, the obstacles, Richard points out, can be overwhelming. “The key is reframing issues,” Richard told me. Reframing mean s seeing issues in a new way, a different light, a fresh perspective.

Richard gave me his book titled Getting Past Go, one of several he’s published. It’s as much as a self-implementing workbook as it is an informative and inspiring text. I found this paragraph particularly alluring:

“Seeing is an essential component of the GO principles. Your sight has to be able to see as far ahead as is necessary for you to make plans for what to do and which road to take today. When the view is obstructed by clouds, fog, sun glare, hills, etc, this is a good time to be even more alert. In addition to your care in proceeding, this may be an opportunity to engage someone with experience.” (p.40)

Richard writes metaphorically of glare and hills, of course. But they lead to reframing.

His words remind me of a brilliant passage from one of Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes and Dr. Watson had walked up the flight of stairs to Watson’s apartment. Holmes asked Watson how many stairs they climbed. Although Watson had climbed the stairs hundreds of times, he didn’t know their number. Holmes commented, no doubt dispassionately and with a hint of acid in his words, “Watson, you see but you do not observe.”

Part of Richard’s message is the importance of observing. It is not enough to see. Indeed, it is not enough to observe. The observing must be done in a context. Components of the observation must be given values, probabilities, in essence, a life. What is seen today might not be seen tomorrow.

Thus, Richard engages fundamental premises of my book. Observe, apply values, examine contexts, ponder consequences, reflect and make choices. These are skills the capable parent would want to teach its child.

Check out Richard’s websites:

Links to podcasts are also available.

More later

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