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How can your business suffer? Distractions!

Shelburne Ferguson • Sep 10, 2018 at 12:00 AM

I just heard some Richter-rattling news on the radio. The financial community is worried that Donald Trump may have to sell off some of his holdings to meet his loan payments.

The news reporter said the reason was – some of his late acquisitions were not generating the cash flow they were expected to yield.

The newscaster was quick to point out, however, that Trump had not yet defaulted. I suspect there may be another cause to Trump’s problems.

I am told that the human mind can think only one thought at a time. Although our brains can shift from one thought to the next so quickly that we may believe we’ve considered two topics at once… but no, we are lineal thinkers. Our mind has room for only one subject at a time.

What does this have to do with Donald Trump’s financial problems? I can’t prove it, but I suspect a contributing factor to “Trump’s Troubles” is “Donald’s Darling,” who is not his wife.

What I am suggesting is, troubles in business often begin when we don’t keep our concentration on our jobs. Donald may be distracted.

Distractions! Can you name a war in history which was lost because the military leader was distracted? Distractions! Can you think of a politician who allowed distractions to alter his path toward a political office? Distractions! How about any religious, or business, or sports figures whose lives were changed because of a loss of concentration?

Now, I’m not talking about those ordinary, temporary distractions like a child’s baseball game you have to hurry from work to get to. I have in mind those distractions that possess us. They divert out time and our energy away from what we should be doing in pursuing our business interests. Let me give you an example.

Billy Ray heads a 50-employee hammer manufacturing firm. His success has allowed him to purchase a working farm. He loves farming. He’s bought a library full of books on farming. He begins by spending weekends at the farm. Then his whole vacation is given to farming. Next, he begins sneaking out to the farm after only a few hours at the hammer plant.

Supervisors can’t find Billy Ray when they need him. Employees have started making jokes about “Billy Ray has turned to hay.” Customers are given excuses why Mr. Ray will be delayed in returning their calls.

For Billy Ray it is farming that has possessed him. But I’m sure you’ve heard other tragic stories involving even laudable diversions like serving on a city board or handling a civic club project.

All of us must maintain our concentration on our goals.

Now I’m not saying we should never spend time on a mission field or serve as president of the Girls’ Club or run for the Board Mayor and Alderman.

Just recognize that if you do devote time to another project…your business will likely suffer.

The Bible puts it (Ferguson paraphrase) “man cannot serve two masters. He will either hate the one and love the other…”

Others have said it this way:

•”Back to the Basics.” (Unknown.)

•”Concentration is the secret in politics, in war, in trade, in short on all management of human affairs.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson.)

•”Leaving business at the office sounds like a good rule, but it is one that can easily be carried too far because, to my mind, a man who intends to make a success should be collecting ideas and tips, and mapping out programs during every waking hour. Dismissing business after office hours has a nice sound, but I have found that often the business does not come back after the recess!” (John H. Patterson.)

I wish Donald Trump well. My unsolicited advice to him, however, is “Concentrate on your real business.”

This column was originally published in the Kingsport Times News on June 10, 1990.

Mr. Ferguson is a Kingsport attorney. You can reach him at 423/246-3132.

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