What we can learn from a fortune cookie, Larry the Cable Guy and the Midland: T-Bar Ranch Project

By Jim Whitt

After eating my Vietnamese Salad Rolls I popped open my fortune cookie to see what words of wisdom it contained. For those of you who know me, you’re still getting over the shock of me eating something called a Vietnamese Salad Roll. But, as you also know, I am forever preaching change so occasionally I veer from my red meat diet just to prove that I do practice what I preach.

Those of you who know me also know how little tolerance I have for defenders of the status quo — those who give all the reasons why something can’t or shouldn’t be done. So, I smiled when I read my fortune, “The simplest answer is to act.”

Or, as Larry the Cable Guy would say, “Git-R-Done!”

Whichever version you prefer there is power in taking action. Evidence of just how powerful arrived shortly after my lunch in the form of an email from my friend, Jeff Kugler, who is CEO of STEPS, LLC. STEPS (Servi-Tech Expanded Premium Services) was birthed out of the need for new water technologies to help Servi-Tech fulfill its purpose of making the planet more productive.

Jeff’s email was a forward from Todd Larson who is an Associate Vice President with Black & Veatch, a company that worked on the Midland: T-Bar Ranch Project.

The email had a link to a short video (less than 5 minutes) that describes this project, which was birthed in 1965.  It was designed to deliver water 67 miles via pipeline from the T-Bar Ranch to the arid West Texas community of Midland but sat idle for nearly half a century. Then, due to the extended drought in recent years, Midland couldn’t wait any longer. They were on the brink of drying up and blowing away. The simplest answer was to act and act they did. The entire infrastructure including drilling the wells and building pipelines, storage tanks, pump stations and everything else needed to deliver water over those 67 miles was completed in less than 12 months.

This is a lesson to all of those who defend the status quo, those who give all the reasons why something can’t or shouldn’t be done. “Managers are pessimists because they’ve seen it before and they believe they’ve already done it as well as it can be done,” writes Seth Godin in his book, Tribes. Pessimism always results in inaction. Inaction devolves into stagnation. Stagnate water doesn’t move. It’s an incubator for bacteria, disease and a breeding ground for parasites.

Notice Godin said managers are pessimists. There’s a big difference between managers and leaders. “Initiating is really and truly difficult,” says Godin, “and that’s what leaders do.” That’s why they are leaders. Leaders initiate. They push. They take action.

Motivate means to stimulate to action, to move, to motor — as in moving water. Moving water is dynamic, healthy and life sustaining. The root word of motivate is motive. To be stimulated to action we must have a motive and the most powerful motive for the human species is purpose. In the words of W. Clement Stone, “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”

The tagline on Todd Larson’s email signature caught my attention — building a world of difference. I use four criteria in the process of helping my clients identify their organization’s purpose. It must be positive, powerful, simple and serving. I’d say building a world of difference passes the test. The people who work at Black & Veatch can be proud of the fact they aren’t just building things — they are building a world of difference. And the Midland: T-Bar Ranch Project is an amazing testimony of what happens when people partner for a purpose — and take action.

So, what are you waiting for? Git-R-Done.

Leave a Comment