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Thanksgiving as a business practice

Happy ThanksgivingA young man from Korea recently taught a training class at our Georgia facility. At dinner that evening we asked him about the Thanksgiving holiday, and what he knew about it. He knew almost nothing about that, but then said, “tell me about this black Friday.” He even went so far as to say, that he’d like to delay his return so he could participate.

That’s amusing, and as a businessman, I am certainly not opposed to sales and shopping days. On the other hand, it is a bit sad, that one of the most American of all holidays, has become known worldwide as the harbinger of “black Friday.”

In 1620, 102 Pilgrims came to this continent to escape religious persecution. By the fall of 1621, 56 of them had died due to disease and privation.

The 46 remaining Pilgrims, along with 91 Indians, met together to give thanks to God for a bountiful harvest and for preserving their lives.

You can imagine the tendency to be depressed. Their introduction to what we now know as a prosperous nation had been mostly backbreaking work and heartbreaking loss. But, as we all know, that’s not what they did. Instead, they joined together, and gave thanks, giving birth to a truly American holiday, Thanksgiving.

In the old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk wrote this poem..

Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

A thankful heart, is a treasure.

I’ve actually never met a person worth much of anything that wasn’t thankful. I honestly think the opposite of thankful is not thankless, but rather arrogance.

For many years the prevailing thought was that successful business people were self centered egotists. Jim Collins shattered that myth with his ground breaking book “Good to Great.” Collins discovered through meticulous research that the most common trait among the people that led Good to Great companies was humility.

Collins wrote a followup book, “How the Mighty Fall” where he stated that the first step to failure, was “hubris born of success.” In other words, arrogance.

Others have noted this. Author Malcomb Gladwell says that overly confident people (arrogant) are incapable of learning from the world around them. Hence, they are often blinded to the realities that everyone else could see.

We talk often on Driven to Business about the need to stay constantly aware of your market, your company, your finances, and your health. We’re most vulnerable when we have experienced success, because if we aren’t careful, we allow pride in our accomplishments and successes to isolate and blind us.

This isn’t to denigrate drive, confidence, and leadership. To the contrary, Collins specifically says that his humble leaders were highly motivated, confident and driven people. They just couched it in an overall attitude of humility. They didn’t assume they knew everything, or that others had nothing to teach them. They were ever investigating and learning their business and market.

Learning is requisite to wisdom. The apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” The book of Proverbs says “pride goes before a fall.” That’s not just church talk, it’s real life (and business).

The antithesis to arrogance, is thankfulness. Because, being thankful, grows from humility. It’s an attitude, a way of life. And, it’s a trait that others can see clearly.

Who would you rather have a relationship with: a self serving arrogant know it all, or a humble person that values you, and is thankful for your business?

Your customers, colleagues, and employees want the same.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Eddie Mayfield

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