Making the Jump Without Crossing
by Lyle R. Hill
She was gaining speed with every stride. Jaw firmly set
... eyes wide and focused straight ahead ... every muscle in her 11-year-old
body straining from the effort. In the crowd, made up mostly of teammates
and coaches, her father watched ... his heart beating almost as fast as
hers. She was almost there now ... almost to the edge of the jump pit
where she was to launch herself as high and as far as possible. But something
was wrong. She was slowing down ... she dropped her head ... her eyes
frantically began to scan the ground in front of her.
Then suddenly, as her pace slowed almost to a walk, she jumped awkwardly
and landed in the sandpit only a few feet from where she took off. Her
coach shook his head from side to side as only a disappointed coach can
do. A few of her teammates sighed; a few from the opposing team snickered.
Her father quickly pushed through the small crowd and made his way to
her. He knew that the long jump was a new event for her and that she had
been particularly worried about how she would perform. That’s why he had
left the office a little early to make sure he would be there to give
“What happened, honey?” the concerned father asked detecting a tear or
two running down his little girl’s face.
“What do you mean, Dad?” she replied.
“Well, it looked like you were really doing great but as you approached
the jump pit, you slowed down and almost looked lost out there. Did something
“No, Dad, not really. It’s just that the coach said that no matter how
fast you run or how far you jump, you’ll be disqualified if you step over
the foul line. So you gotta be careful when you get close to the pit to
look for the line and make sure you don’t go over it. I know I need to
run hard to have a good jump, but I’m afraid I am going to step over the
line and be disqualified. I can’t run fast and look for the line at the
same time. And I’ll really look stupid if I get disqualified.”
Her father was aware of the problem. In fact, in many ways he faced similar
situations in his business dealings every day. Goal conflicts ... or what
the MBA instructors might call ‘Goal Incongruence’ ... two desirable goals
or tasks that are being pursued simultaneously that are actually in conflict
with each other. Perhaps it’s when growth and expansion are desired, but
debt reduction and belt tightening are just as needed. There’s also the
ever-present conflict of keeping the bankers happy with acceptable levels
of earnings in the short run while trying to deal with moves that will
strengthen the organization in the long term. Much needed equipment versus
much deserved year-end bonuses ... hiring a super star when they are available
at a time when you haven’t got enough work for the people you already
have ... or buying that much-desired piece of equipment which ultimately
will cut costs at a time when you really can’t afford it. And of course,
often the simple fear of failure or of looking stupid keeps us from striving
for certain risk filled goals.
“OK,” he began as he knelt down to get to her eye level, “we’ve gotta
think about what’s most important. Is it better to not be disqualified
or is it better to win the jump?”
“Gee, Dad, they’re both important.”
“OK, but one is about trying to win and the other is about trying not
to fail or look stupid. Do you see the difference? So in the end, which
one is better?”
“I guess making a good jump, Dad. Otherwise, why am I even here?”
“Good girl. Now this time, when you run down to the pit, don’t worry about
the line. Remember that it’s there and remember you have to jump before
you hit the sand, but don’t look for the line or worry about it. Just
go for it!”
Soon, it was time for her second jump. Remembering what her father had
said, she ran as fast as she could and when her last stride before the
sand came down an inch before the foul line, she threw herself into the
air. Her momentum carried her farther than anyone would have thought possible.
It certainly wasn’t a pretty jump ... she landed on her face ... but it
was a solid performance ... one that would win her a second place ribbon.
Her eyes searched for her father as she spit sand from her mouth. He ran
up to her and gave her a hug.
“You were right Dad. I forgot about looking stupid and only thought about
jumping as far as I could and it worked.”
Her father smiled at her and said, “It usually does, Sweetie, it usually
Lyle R. Hill is the retiring president of MTH Industries
of Chicago. Mr. Hill’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily
those of this magazine.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.