A scrawny old man wanted to get a job at a nearby lumberjack camp, so he approached the boss, who politely tried to talk him out of the idea.

“Give me a few minutes of your time, and I’ll show you what I can do,” suggested the man.

When the two arrived at a grove of trees needing to be cleared, the old man picked up an ax and proceeded to chop down a huge tree in record time.

“That’s incredible,” the boss said. “Where did you learn to fell trees like that?”

“Well,” said the old man, “you’ve heard of the Sahara Forest?”

Hesitantly the boss replied, “Don’t you mean the Sahara Desert?”

The old man smiled and said, “Sure, that’s what it’s called now.”

Achievement is one of the desires that drives us. Why do you think we have various awards like Grammys, Emmys, Oscars and Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes, not to mention numerous halls of fame?

Outstanding efforts, great courage, heroic deeds, superior commitment and innovative accomplishments all deserve acknowledgment. But recognition shouldn’t be the primary motivation for achievement.

Finding the motivation to achieve is sometimes a challenge. You know what you can achieve; it’s the getting started part that inhibits results. When you feel stuck, you can pull yourself up with an attitude adjustment. The Success magazine website offers some ideas on how to make the change.

• Rely on yourself first. You will have to ask others for advice, assistance and support, but remember that in the end, your success is your responsibility alone.

• Have a plan. Don’t go off in all directions at once. Work out a solid, detailed strategy for getting from your starting point to the result you want.

• Focus on commitment. Are you really committed to your goal?

• Concentrate on gaining knowledge. Don’t expect instant results. Work on accumulating the knowledge you need to get to where you want to go.

• Have some fun. Don’t make the work all drudgery. Set a goal you will enjoy working toward, and look for opportunities to have fun along the way.

• Spark your imagination. Be open to anything, no matter how wild it seems at first. Generate ideas through brainstorming with others.

• Challenge yourself. Don’t wait for the perfect moment to take action. Take chances, get out of your comfort zone and be realistic about your mistakes.

We all have the potential to be great achievers. It may not come with a trophy or a job title, but achievement is measured on many fronts.

Gretchen Alexander refused to allow her blindness to limit her life experiences. She mastered archery, golf, softball, sailing and water skiing — activities her sighted friends had yet to learn.

Speaking to a group of high school students about her achievements, one student asked if there was anything she wouldn’t try. “I’ve decided not to sky-dive,” she answered. “It would scare the heck out of my dog.”

Mackay’s Moral: Getting something done is an accomplishment; getting it done right is an achievement.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.