Several months into my first job, I realized that other people around me could easily affect whether I had a good day or a bad day, based on how their days were going. In truth, there were a lot of things that went on around me that could easily distract me from my work —things that at times really brought me down.
Once again, I was hoping my Dad would have some wisdom on how to stay focused. I told him of my concerns.
He thought for a moment, “I think it is time to tell you about the blinders.”
“The blinders?” I asked.
“When you find yourself getting distracted, caught up in the negatives and you are feeling uneasy at work,” he said, “you have to start reminding yourself to get out your blinders and put them on.”
“Dad, what in the world does that mean?”
“Let me explain it to you by telling you what I did when one of my employees started getting all caught-up in everybody else’s business but his own.”
I took a sip of my tea and waited for his story.
“I had been in business for a while,” he began, “and I had been really lucky with the people I had hired. Everyone seemed to get along well until I brought in a fellow named Hank. After a while, I noticed that things were just not feeling right at the market anymore. There seemed to be a lot of side conversations going on all over the place, and a few of my most devoted employees started confiding in me that there were ‘some people’ getting pretty unhappy with me and the way I was running things.”
“Oh-oh!” I said sympathetically.
“I told Hank I wanted to talk with him. I told him that I grew up on a farm and I remember asking my dad why he put blinders on the horses’ eyes. It was because he wanted them focused on moving forward, not distracted by what was happening to their left or to their right.”
Hank wasn’t sure what this had to do with him.
“Put your blinders on, Hank. If you’ve got a problem with me, I’d appreciate you talking to me about it. I’m making the best decisions I can and if you see a problem, I’d appreciate you telling me because maybe you’ve got some ideas that would help me. But you’re not helping me by talking about me to everybody else, getting everybody second-guessing what I’m doing here.”The concept of “putting on your blinders” really helped me throughout my career. By not getting angry or defensive, but instead asking for Hank’s help in rectifying the situation, my father put his own principles in action.
Once again, I learned something from a man who I wasn’t so sure initially could teach me anything about surviving and thriving in the work world. The blinders principle was a good reminder for me to focus on what was most important, and it also helped others to perceive me as a “doer” rather than someone who would allow herself to get all caught up in office drama.
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