Degrees of Separation

The sun is setting on a backyard in Cleveland. A man stands with his arms around the back of his five-year-old son. They are both clutching that same baseball bat.

As they simultaneously trace the slow motion response to an imaginary but wicked fastball, the bat completes its course with four arms fully extended and the “stick” behind the ear of the future slugger.

Across “the pond” in Toronto, a maintenance man shouts to an eleven-year-old girl that the rink will be closing in ten minutes. Time to get off the ice.

He turns half the lights off to emphasize his point. In the shadows she sets her determined jaw and races towards the far end of the ice. Building steam, she takes flight and lofts up high, into an air-borne spin that lands perfectly. She spins out of her landing with Olympian foot placement and with an ear-to-ear grin she scurries off the ice to the front door where her parents’ car is waiting.

“Mom, I did it!” she shouts, and her announcement fades as the door slowly closes. The maintenance man, watching from the darkness, draws deep on his cigar and looks to heaven as he exhales. “Stay with her, Lord,” he whispers as he punches his time card and shuts off the rest of the lights.

Further north into Alaska, a pickup truck stops in front of a battered home. A dusty young man leaps from the bed of the truck, pounds the tailgate twice and waves a “thank you” to the driver who speeds off and honks.

Weary and tired from a day of landscaping chores, he opens his mailbox and finds an envelope embossed in gold lettering. He tears into it and retrieves the fine, onion skin paper, blinking away tears as he reads that the past six months of studying have finally paid off in outstanding test scores and he has been accepted to law school this fall.

London, England, 7 a.m. in a musty hallway lit only by daybreak and the muted light emanating from a glass-framed classroom door, a middle-aged mother of three sits on a rigid wooden bench in the tiled and echoing lobby. The muffled sounds of the piano stop as Big Ben chimes “seven” and a white-haired man opens the door ushering out his young student.

As the girl clatters down the hall to her waiting parents, he looks at the woman on the bench and recognizes a one-time protégé who chose to have a family instead of making a career of music. He smiles and she explains that she heard he was retiring today and that she came to say good-bye and thank you.

A tear in his eye, he embraces her knowing that the difference he made in her life was everlasting with or without a career in music.

Ten lives making up four stories, all with one common thread… following through. Following through with your swing, following through with where and how you land, following through with your dreams, and following through with those who have made a difference in your life.

This is not an article about the 10 steps necessary to launch a successful project. This will not include the six stages of becoming highly effective and indispensable to your superiors and staff. It’s not about managing up or managing down. It’s just a simple premise — successful people are typically those who have developed a lifetime habit of following through.

What it Takes

To follow through — to really follow through — is more than just seeing something through from the very beginning to the very end. It’s a matter of vision and a matter of knowing what the end result will look like within moments of the original idea being conceived. It’s about preparing the path and tending to the accomplishment long after it is done.

Following through is habit forming. It is the habit of multi-taskers who understand the importance of doing something right the first time so that the other tasks can be completed without having to revisit those that should already be done.

Following through adds confidence as you go. It is the reward for recognizing that life has consequences and those are derived from trial and error.

It is what made world-renowned golfer, Tiger Woods, the owner of so many trophies today. It is the factor in medical minds that answer press conference questions with words like “yes” or even “no” instead of, “We are not able to say at this time.”

When Ohio State Football Coach Jim Tressel sees success in a play run in practice, it is following through that makes him say, “Run it again.”

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