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Published:March 27th, 2007 10:09 EST
How Successful People Deal with Frogs

How Successful People Deal with Frogs

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

As I sat in the examining room waiting for the orthopedic surgeon to come in, I kept wishing he would hurry up and just give me the verdict. My sweaty palms served as a distraction from the seasonal allergies affecting my nose. I got a paper towel for my nose and considered washing the sweat off my hands before shaking hands with the doctor. Then I thought if I would just read a book and relax my palms would dry. I'd hardly read one sentence when the doctor walked in.

As longtime acquaintances, we chatted for a few minutes before he began an examination of my left shoulder and the wear from years of barbering. (Lest someone think my problem is just age, let me hasten to say my right shoulder is the same age as my left and it is just fine.) “The good news is," he said, “the MRI shows no tear, just an impingement. With an injection and some physical therapy you should be fine."

When I winced and groaned, he assured me that the cortisone injection was necessary to reduce inflammation, and that his assistant was a master of the procedure. It would be virtually painless. Knowing how “virtually painless procedures" and “some discomfort" generally hurt like the dickens, I had my doubts. She was fabulous, however, and successfully brought to an end six months of anxiety.

Yes, six months! Can you believe that for six months I put off treatment and put up with pain? Not only that, but I also put up with an overactive imagination. At one point, I actually thought I might have bone cancer, and then I downgraded the condition to one requiring rotator cuff surgery. Yet, though the pain distracted me in nearly everything I did, I kept telling myself, “Oh, it’s starting to feel better." I finally decided enough is enough.

Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened." Whether it involves our health, our business or our personal lives, problems left unsolved are fertile ground for the imagination. And, as you may well know, imagination is the strongest nation on earth.

How many times have we done similar things to what I did with my shoulder? How many times have we all let a problem distract us, while imagining all sorts of horrible outcomes? There is really no substitute for finding out all we can about a problem and then acting as soon as possible.

Mark Twain also said, “If you have to eat a frog, don’t look at it for too long." How I wish I had taken his advice. For years I’d heard all sorts of negative things about cortisone injections. And, to quote W.C. Fields, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia." Yet, it was really no big deal at all, and the assistant was wonderful. The procedure certainly didn’t warrant all the anxiety, sweaty palms and procrastination in getting treatment.

Similarly, there are those who get all worked up over presentations, reports, job interviews, encounters and confrontations only to discover they wasted a lot of time and energy worrying about a frog they should have eaten immediately instead of trying to stare it down.

By the way, the book I took into the doctor’s office to read as a diversion from my anxiety is called Success Built to Last, and I highly recommend it. When I picked it up off the table in the examining room and headed for the exit, I couldn’t help thinking of the necessary link between success that lasts and common sense problem solving.

BARBER-OSOPHY: Successful people don’t stew on a problem long enough to give the imagination time to work, or time to distract them in their work.

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