(All Photos: The Author)
The conversation began in late July about problems, solutions, everyday challenges and nothing too serious. This was a practical observation by a buddy of mine who is a former member of the National Football League. He began by reaching for a coffee mug filled with colored pencils. What follows was better than a TED talk!
“We all have good days and bad days. I even know of some guys in dark places. So let’s say these pencils are all those experiences combined”, he said.
“If you notice, some of these pencils have an upward trajectory. Others point down. Some are fairly level. When I was recovering from injuries suffered on the field, no question, there were set backs. But gradually, through what I call ‘baby steps’, there is progress. It takes an objective person to see it better than we do. But over time, the pencils change shape.
“And invariably, small progressions lead to larger ones until you feel yourself making strides. And you make adjustments all along the way. Do you know what I call this?” he asked. I told him that I did not. “I separate these pencils and these experiences into two categories: Good Pizza Days and Bad Pizza Days”. I found this simple explanation to be a nice way to present life’s challenges to children or adults alike. Moreover, the concept is universal in its application.
Whether we’re talking about former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ford Motor Company Alan Mulally’s turnaround of the once troubled automaker, Eric Decker’s season-ending shoulder injury with the New York Jets, or the decision to transform Thomas Edison’s decaying Battery Factory in West Orange, New Jersey into pricey lofts, one thing is certain. Decker has experienced his “Bad Pizza Day”. But with physical therapy, he will make a robust return in 2017.
Mulally shrugged off concerns that a former Boeing executive with no auto industry experience might not have the skills to reinvent Ford. Together with Ford’s employees they reinvigorated Ford (and the company did not require any government bail out).
In 1974, demolition experts tried and failed to bring down the old Thomas Edison Battery Factory in New Jersey. They gave up. Vacant and dilapidated, it became an eyesore. But adaptive reuse is converting this 400,000 square foot building into 330 swank apartments with retail space. So much for the doubters. They were all proven wrong.
Every person and every project that is noble has incurred an unforeseen set back. What my friend was explaining on a seventh-grade level that people from any walk of life can understand is that set backs are temporary. There is a way forward from most any situation.
It takes small steps, measuring those steps with patience, and eventually marveling at the progress along the way. Eric Decker is no doubt on the comeback path. If I were a betting man, I’d lay odds that he will be back next year one hundred percent recovered.
Despite the dire manner a number of ordinary and even newsworthy issues may appear at this moment, I sincerely believe there will be “Good Pizza Days” yet ahead!