If the Pot was Boiling Would You Even Notice?


There’s an old tale that says if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water it would immediately jump out but if it’s placed in a pot with room temperature water that’s slowly turned up it won’t perceive the difference and can be boiled alive.
I don’t know if the story is true because I’ve never wanted to harm a frog just to find out. True or not, it illustrates a common reality that sometimes change happens so gradually we find ourselves in an unintended place before we realize what’s happened.
This is top of mind because over the past month I’ve had the opportunity to spend a day with four different interns at State Auto. I thoroughly enjoy those days every summer because their wide-eyed excitement is invigorating. During our time together I give them insight into our sales coaching, sales training and how to ethically persuade people.
As important as those topics are, I think the most valuable thing I talk about with them is their future. When I do this I always share something I’ve regularly said was one of the most impacting things I’ve ever done – writing a personal mission statement.
Although I wrote about this four years ago I felt compelled to reexamine the topic again. You can view my mission statement here.
When it comes to our careers it’s so easy for us to be like the frog in the room temperature water. Everything starts off okay and slowly but surely things change. Our 40-hour week becomes 45 then 50, but we hardly notice. We begin to work most Saturday mornings and that starts to stretch into Sunday. After all, we’re highly productive so we’re given more responsibility. We know if we keep performing we’ll get that next promotion and we already have lots of plans for the extra money we’ll make. We justify the need for nicer things because we’re working so hard and therefore deserve a bigger house, nicer car, new furniture, etc.
We tell ourselves those good things are for our spouse, kids or other family members. But in the process we start to miss the Little League games, school activities and other important events. In the grand scheme of life they’re not that big a deal – well, maybe not that big to you but that’s probably not the case for your kids or spouse. Sure, they “understand,” but secretly they wish you’d choose them over work.
Then comes the day that Harry Chapin famously sang about in “Cat’s in the Cradle.” Your loved ones decline the offer to spend time with you because they have other activities that are now more important to them. You’re hurt and disappointed. You feel like they don’t appreciate all you’ve done for them. The problem is, you never really knew what they wanted. The water is boiling and you can’t do anything about it.
How does a personal mission statement help? It makes you sit down today and consider the end. What kind of person do you want to become? How do you want to be remembered? When it’s all said and done what do you want out of life?
I told a friend recently how I’d gone to a Christmas party last year at a beautiful home. When I saw the ornate decorations in this huge home my gut reaction was, “What am I doing wrong that I can’t give this to my family?” The good news is, the thought didn’t even last a minute. I quickly came to my senses and realized, where I am in life is exactly where I’ve chosen to be.
You see, my mission statement clearly says my priorities are faith, family, personal wellbeing, then my career. Now, for those who know me, between my day job as a sales coach/trainer for State Auto and my activities with Influence PEOPLE, I work a lot. However, I construct my day so those things don’t take away from my family. As I write this on a Tuesday evening, Jane and Abigail are at work so I’m not taking any time away from them.
I start my weekdays at 4 a.m. because I don’t what to give up other things I love like reading, working out and running. I could use those extra morning hours to climb the corporate ladder but that would mean giving up time I can devote to other things I’ve said are more important.
I encourage you to take a look at the blog post I wrote about “The Value of a Personal Mission Statement.” It might be a trigger for you to do something similar. The strongest thing I can say to encourage you is that writing a personal mission statement was one of the most impacting activities I’ve ever undertaken.
P.S. I thought you’d find this interesting. As I was writing this post Abigail came home and wanted to go for a walk. Rather than choose to finish this post I took a break and went with her. I know most teenagers don’t ask their parents to do things with them and before I know it she’ll be out of the house and I’ll long for these days. A choice like this was easy because I set my priorities more than 20 years ago when I wrote my mission statement.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.


4 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Excellent Brian. You can't be happy in your "work" if you are not happy inside. You are a smart, disciplined man, so I know you well balance the two. With a 17 year old son and a 10 year old daughter, I pull lots of double duty. Thanks for the reminder of what is important. I will work on a mission statement. I know, I should have already done it by now. It won't be hard.

    Your friend,

    James Simpson

  2. Brian Ahearn
    Brian Ahearn says:

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I'll hold you to the mission statement and will ask you about it next time we see each other in Baltimore. Accountability!


  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Great read Brian! As father of two young boys and a rising professional in higher ed, I appreciate your message. The balance of sacrifices we all make are important. The reward comes when your children, in whatever manner it comes, reflect back the values and lessons we hope to share with them as fathers.

    Good luck to you on path!

    Brian Tomlinson


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