Inside Dental Assisting
Jan/Feb 2009
Volume 5, Issue 1

Will You Freak-Out or Hunker Down?

Robert Evans Wilson

Sometimes motivation is forced upon us. We are thrust into the Uncomfort Zone. And, whether we sink or swim depends on how we respond to the situation. How do you react during a crisis?

The following stories, based on a true story by Somerset Maugham, detail how two men, when faced with a crisis late in life, dealt with their circumstances. One man was a restaurant owner; the other man a janitor. The former went into bankruptcy at an age when most people retire, and the latter was fired from a job he'd had for nearly 20 years.

The restaurant owner enjoyed a successful business in a small town at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains in a great location along busy US Route 25. Because he offered the best food and service in the area, his eatery was jammed from sun up to sun down. But it wasn't to last.

The janitor started his job at St. Peter' s Church in London as a teenager. Over the years he married, raised a family, and enjoyed a perfectly predictable profession with solid job security. Then, the new vicar came along.

Over the course of 26 years, the restaurateur was honored by the state governor for his recipes, and was praised by famous restaurant critic Duncan Hines in his column "Adventures in Good Eating." Then in 1956, the new super highway bypassed the little town. It' s amazing the difference just a few miles can make. Two years later, the restaurant was closed and the property auctioned off to pay creditors. At 64 years of age, the restaurant owner was broke. Unable to afford the cost of opening another restaurant closer to the highway, he reviewed his assets. All he had left was his knowledge and the delicious recipes that made his food so popular. So, he got into his car.

Around the turn of the 20th century a new vicar, a stickler for decorum, took over St. Peter' s Church. When he learned that the janitor could not read, he gave him 3 months to learn. Quite depressed by the news, the janitor thought he might feel better if he smoked a cigarette.

Town by town, the former restaurant owner drove, stopping at every eatery along the way. He told the owners they would be more successful if they served his secret recipes under his brand name and paid him a royalty. Two years later, in 1960, he had 400 restaurants serving his food. By 1963, he was making a profit of $300,000 per year. And, in 1964, Colonel Harlan Sanders sold Kentucky Fried Chicken to investors for $2 million, plus a lifetime salary of $75,000 per year.

As he walked home, the former janitor searched for a tobacco shop. There was usually one on every block, but there were none near the church. He walked block after block without finding one. By the time he reached his house, he knew exactly what he was going to do. With his meager savings, he opened a tobacco shop near the church. It was an immediate success. His profits went to open a second, then a third shop. Before long he had thriving tobacco shops all over London . Ten years later, he met with his banker about investing his earnings. The banker gave him some papers to sign. The man asked the banker to read the papers to him, explaining that he didn' t know how to read.

Shocked, the banker exclaimed, "You are so successful, just think where you' d be today if you could read!" Albert Edward Foreman smiled and sighed, "I' d be the janitor at St. Peter' s Church."

Did you know that in Chinese, the symbol for the word crisis is the same symbol used for the word opportunity ? Two sides of the same coin. In other words, it's all in our perspective. Will you find the opportunity in your next crisis?

About the Author

Robert Evans Wilson
Jumpstart Your Meeting!
Atlanta, Georgia

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