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Posted: March 01, 2009

On management: Learn to dance in the rain

Sometimes the only choice turns into the best choice you ever dreamed of

Pat Wiesner

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be doing what we were about to do. Everyone aboard the boat, a sailing cruiser with about 130 souls who had paid to be here along with half again as many crew, were gathering on the sea-level deck preparing to get into a canoe-like craft that was going to take us from the ship to shore.

The ocean wasn’t seriously rough, but things were a bit bouncy, and it seemed to be getting dark because of the thickening clouds. Also, it was beginning to rain, and the shore seemed to be getting farther away. Was this really the best time to do this?

This took place in the year 2000. We had just come through the Panama Canal on the last day that the United States had owned it. It was exciting for Panama to get ownership of the canal, and it was exciting for us on the boat to go through. But here we were now, looking at the murky black water with a light misty rain blowing across, being urged to get into these boats of 30 each. My second thoughts were quickly forgotten when the canoes were finally parked alongside a native Indian village somewhere along the coast of Costa Rica.

The Indians did a really nice job of presenting themselves and their products to us. And there was a lot of fun had by all. Lots of gestures, smiles and laughs, although not much English was spoken. They were most pleasant and very accommodating but also very Indian. The Indians lived in tent-like structures in dense forest with mud paths in constantly wet conditions, no electricity, no cement and no running water. We were told that they much preferred their lifestyle to that of the cities and that we were invited because tourists liked to buy their crafts and it provided a source of income.

As the chief announced that the children of the tribe would now dance for the visitors, it began to rain quite hard. He turned his hands over the way we all do when it starts to rain and said, “When you live here, you have to learn to dance in the rain!” And the kids began with great gusto, and everyone had a good time and seemed to forget about the rain. About a half hour later the rain quit. We got back in the canoes and went back to our tour.

That brief lesson on attitude has stuck with me for a long time. Our attitude controls how we feel about everything. I was reminded about it the other day when I saw a sign hanging on an office wall in Honduras (the poorest country in our hemisphere behind Haiti) that said:
Nothing has changed, except my attitude. Because of that, everything has changed.

In these days of difficulty with the economy, jobs, school, kids, etc., let’s remember that it’s not things that dictate our lives and our happiness … but our attitude about things that makes us happy or unhappy. It is all within our control always.

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Pat Wiesner is the retired CEO of WiesnerMedia, publisher of ColoradoBiz. He still leads sales training for the company. E-mail him at pwiesner@cobizmag.com.

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