I wonder if some of the most famous American innovators ever spun their wheels.
I imagine Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, diligently working away in his laboratory devising various mechanisms to see what worked best at bringing his inventions to reality. I can’t really imagine him just toodling around his workshop idling meandering from one thing to another and not completing a darn thing.
I think about people like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford and countless other famous inventors. As they tinkered, designed, contemplated and planned, I wonder how they handled days when they didn’t accomplish much. They surely must have had “one of those days” when they didn’t achieve what they set out to do that day.
Great minds like theirs must have been sharply focused. How else could they bring their ideas to fruition? Alexander Graham Bell once stated, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
Focus wasn’t one of my strong points today. I just spent several hours at my job and I felt like a whirling dervish – spinning around and around but not really accomplishing much. Days like today really grate on my nerves. I’m one of those task-driven individuals. I like lists and I really like crossing things off the lists.
I don’t know who said “A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it” but I wholeheartedly agree. That’s why days when I get easily distracted or sidetracked leave me feeling irritated. I don’t like aiming at nothing. I want to place the target in my cross-hairs and blast the thing. Boom. Done. Finished. That’s how I roll.
My aim on my target was off today. Too many distractions, too many interruptions, too much activity going on in my office, too much to accomplish. I’m not sure on which to hang the blame for my inability to focus today.
Motivational speaker and writer Denis Waitley says, “Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.” That seems like sound advice to me.
I’m pretty certain my husband is working on that theory at the present time, moving forward trying to find an answer. He says he’s still looking for his pony. If that statement totally confuses you, I’m not surprised. Allow me to enlighten you.
My husband once met the late Ronald Reagan, two-term President of the United States. A picture of them shaking hands graces a wall in my husband’s office. So, according to something my hubby recently read, the pony idea comes from a story Reagan loved to tell.
Peter Robinson, Reagan’s speechwriter, wrote a book entitled, How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life. The following is an excerpt from his book:
The Pony In the Dung Heap: When Life Buries You, Dig – Journal Entry, June 2002. Over lunch today I asked Ed Meese about one of Reagan’s favorite jokes. “The pony joke?” Meese replied. “Sure I remember it. If I heard him tell it once, I heard him tell it a thousand times.”
The joke concerns twin boys of five or six. Worried that the boys had developed extreme personalities — one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist — their parents took them to a psychiatrist.
First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. “What’s the matter?” the psychiatrist asked, baffled. “Don’t you want to play with any of the toys?” “Yes,” the little boy bawled, “but if I did I’d only break them.”
Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”
“Reagan told the joke so often,” Meese said, chuckling, “that it got to be kind of a joke with the rest of us. Whenever something would go wrong, somebody on the staff would be sure to say, ‘There must be a pony in here somewhere.'”
No doubt, Ronald Reagan loved to tell this story because he was such an optimist. I think it’s a great story to personify focus as well. When life hands us manure as it often does, we’ve got to keep looking for the pony – the very thing that makes going through the manure worth the effort. That must be our focus.
And that thought reminds me of scripture. So today as I near the end of Chapter One in my book of Opportunity, on this 27th page, God reminds me: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-15 (New International Version)
Even if I feel like I might be just spinning in circles, when my focus is on God, He has a better reward than a pony.