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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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Only Your Best is Good Enough
Harvey MacKay

February, 2006

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he would build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work his employer came to inspect the house.

He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "My gift to you!"

The carpenter was shocked!

What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have made sure it was all first class.

So it is with us. We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the construction. Then with a shock we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we'd do it much differently. But we can't go back.

Will Rogers, the famous American humorist said, "We are here for just a spell and then pass on. So get a few laughs and do the best you can. Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead."

Many people are aware of Mother Teresa's quote, "The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway." But there is more to the quote: "Give the world your best anyway."

Charles M. Schwab, the American industrialist (not the investment leader), had 10 business commandments. Number ten read: "In all things do your best. The man who has done his best has done everything. The man who has done less than his best has done nothing." Growing up, my parents were constantly telling me to do my best. In addition to doing my best all the time, my parents also taught me how my actions would have consequences in the future. They would say, "Just remember, you sleep in the bed you made." My mother died within months of my graduation from the University of Minnesota, so I lived with my father for five years. He would preach to me that one wrong action, one misstep, could tarnish my reputation forever. I've never forgotten that.

A friend was so touched by the following poem that he shared it with me. He didn't know who wrote it, but the message really spoke to him.

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the the end.
He noted that first came her date of birth, and spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. (1900 - 1990)
For that dash represents all the time she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters is how we live and love, and how we spend our dash.
So, when your eulogy's being read with your life's actions to rehash;
Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

The famous Jewish rabbi and teacher, Hillel the Elder said: "Watch your thoughts; they become your words. Watch your words; they become your actions. Watch your actions; they become your habits. Watch your habits; they become your character. Watch your character for it will become your destiny."

We are all carpenters. Each day we hammer a nail, place a board or erect a wall. Life is a do-it-yourself project. Your attitudes and the choices you make today, build the "house" you live in tomorrow.

Mackay's Moral: Do your best and build wisely in 2006!

Reprinted with permission from nationally syndicated columnist Harvey Mackay, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive."


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