Inspiration to Meet the Fears of a New Year

What risks and challenges will you face in the new year, and how will you respond?

Like all of us, my colleague Pat Griffin has been broken several times in his life. The hardest might have been seven years ago when he moved his family from Iowa to Montana to start a consulting practice and purchase the license to represent Dale Carnegie Training in that area.

Like many courageous entrepreneurs, Pat made an educated wager on the future success of his business, using much of his life savings. The stakes couldn’t have been higher, and the environment was difficult, to put it mildly. I remember him messaging me late into the nights as he battled the Great Recession, competition from his predecessor and life’s personal challenges. Imagine starting a company that provides performance training and coaching (which is too often viewed as a luxury item in difficult times) in the third least populous state in the U.S. just as the unemployment rate doubles.

It didn’t work. Pat lost everything.

Many would flounder in defeat or self-medicate away the pain when faced with a similar situation. Not Pat. Instead, he moved to his hometown in Iowa to give back to the community while offering to take on a more specialized role doing performance training and coaching with our team.

Pat told me that one of the most difficult tasks in moving back was relocating his entire woodworking shop. I recently toured the massive machines in his garage, and he showed me this:

wood with fungus

“It’s a piece of wood that was infected with a fungus while it was growing and is now stable and polished. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Not only was I stunned at the beauty, the metaphor was inescapable.

Because the value Pat is creating is dramatic.

He works and thinks like an owner. He elevates the play of all of his teammates. He handles with excellence the most complex and high-stakes client work that we do. He was broken, but he has emerged more intensely then ever before.

The metaphor applies to you and me, too.

This year will bring risk, challenge and heartache. It just will, because it’s life.

Rather than fear it, worry about it or avoid it, what if we embraced it?

Seeing Pat in action each week is a reminder that everything broken, rotten and lost can be redeemed into something indescribably beautiful.

What is your greatest fear for 2015? Are you ready to embrace it?



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  • Pat Griffin
    January 7, 2015 at 1:56 am

    Thank you for your ability to see the best in situations and in people. Your very gracious description of my situation is appreciated (and probably a bit more glowing than I deserve). Suffice it to say there is still some “fungus in the wood” and I’m grateful each day for the opportunity to keep working on the “polish.” Being on a team that supports each other and sees the value in our challenges as well as our successes has been a large part of the healing process for me. I’m grateful to you and to the whole Norman team for creating that space.

  • Eileen B
    January 7, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    This is such a good read. . .again. Matt and Pat, thank you for sharing the “real deal” and giving everybody something to ponder and hopefully a new way to approach things in this new year.

    • Matt Norman
      January 7, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      Eileen, thank you for affirming the “reality” of Pat’s story and how it can influence how we all approach challenge this year!

  • Glen Kopperud
    January 7, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Pat – In my final football game as a HS senior, behind by 6 points late in the game, I had this incredible feeling that a flat pass was coming my way. We needed something to happen to have a chance at winning the game, but instead of taking a chance, sticking out my neck, I played it safe, the receiver caught the ball, and I tackled him immediately. I looked good, but didn’t do what I knew needed to be done, and we lost the game. Sometimes I think that is how I have trained, always turning in good evaluations, good feedback from class members, running a fun class, but always playing it safe. When I think about how effective I have been in helping others , I’m not so sure. After reading Matt’s letter about your journey, I get it now, you have experienced some tough times that have given you the courage to do the things as a trainer that make that extra difference in people’s lives!
    My challenge to the Carnegie Organization, as a trainer nearing the end of my career, is to find ways to help trainers like me to be more effective like Pat, without having them go through what Pat experienced.
    Thanks Pat for living the experience, and Matt for sharing it with us.

    • Pat Griffin
      January 8, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Glen, I admire your ability to look beyond the surface of a situation and find the insight that can help others. I am absolutely convinced that the people who are fortunate enough to interact with you have benefitted greatly from the experience. Thank yo for commenting on the article and thank you for being an inspiration to others!

  • Mike Norman
    January 8, 2015 at 2:45 am

    Thanks for using Pat’s example as a challenge for all of us to stay focused, stay positive, and resilient in the New Year. Having personally worked with Pat for several years, I can attest to all you have said about his character and commitment. The other interesting part of this story is that Pat was very successful in a secure role in our company before he made the move to Montana. How many people would leave that level of comfort and security to pursue their dream? I believe all of us who know Pat can attest to the fact that he is stronger and even better at his craft having gone through this traumatic experience. Thanks for giving us this great perspective moving into another interesting year ahead. Mike

    • Pat Griffin
      January 8, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      You are the epitome of the leader who grows people. You had such a major part in teaching me our business and then were “the real deal” when it came to living your mantra of “creating a world where everyone succeeds on their own terms.” Thank you for your unwavering support through all the phases of my journey.

      There is a metaphor I think is a good one for describing you as a leader: a strong tree with deep roots so that we have stability to be confident combined with welcoming branches where we can take off to fly knowing there is a safe place to land if we need to return. Thank you for being that for so many.

      • Mike Norman
        January 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        Thanks Pat. I appreciate your comments. Take care. Mike