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“We over-exaggerate yesterday, we over-estimate tomorrow, and we under-estimate today.” – John Maxwell

I was listening to a podcast this morning on the way in to work, and honestly my mind was elsewhere … I wasn’t really engaged in the discussion … until the speaker quoted this little gem from John Maxwell.

For the remainder of the drive in, it was all I could think about. Take each piece independently … how often do we look forward to something in the future only to find our expectations of the event were bigger than the event itself?  How often do we find ourselves reliving past successes (or failures for that matter)?  How often do we miss the near and present opportunities because we are too focused on either the future or the past?

One of the main themes of the podcast I mentioned focused on taking advantage of each and every day … of finishing each day strong. John Maxwell’s quote supports this premise by suggesting leaders create success in their lives by focusing on today.  Here is how John Maxwell describes each element:

  • Over-exaggerating the past – Our past successes and failures often look bigger to us in hindsight than they really were … no matter how badly I might have failed in the past, it’s done, and today is a new day. Conversely, no matter what goals I may have accomplished or awards I may have received, they have little direct impact on what I do today
  • Over-estimating tomorrow – Many people’s expectations of tomorrow are that it is bound to be better, but they have no strategy for making it better. Hoping for a good future without investing in today is like a farmer waiting for a crop without ever planting any seed.
  • Under-estimating today – Benjamin Franklin asserted, time is “the stuff life is made of.” Today is the only time we have within our grasp, yet many people let it slip through their fingers. They recognize neither today’s value nor its potential.

For me personally, this was an important and timely message that I can take and use to put today into perspective.  You see, we just are emerging from one of the worst quality issues I have ever experienced in my career … yet to linger there is not healthy.  While bad, this will ultimately not define our business or my career.  It is merely one event, and it will not be over-exaggerated.

We are also working an extremely compressed timeline of strategic preparation right now.  In seasons like this, it is easy to get consumed by the mountain of work that lies ahead.  And while the end deliverable is important, it is not the be-all, end-all.  We have a good strategy in place, despite the issues. The long range plan is merely another event, and it will not be over-estimated.

And this is where the old adage about how to eat an elephant comes into play.  It doesn’t matter how much of the elephant has already been eaten … and it doesn’t matter how much of it is left.  What matters is what can be accomplished today.  The tasks, but more importantly the people, will not be under-estimated.