The 7 P's

Posted: July 08, 2013

Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

This is one of the many catch phrases of my wife’s 95 year old grandfather Patrick MacDougall.  This man happens to have spent the past 4 days in the hospital, which is not surprising for someone fortunate enough to reach the age of 95, but in his case it is the first time he has ever been in a Hospital overnight in his entire life.

I won’t get into all the amazing things he has done in his life, only to say it has been bookended by being a coal miner in Nova Scotia starting at the age of 10 and ended professionally as the owner of a real estate brokerage firm in Braintree, MA.

It is his incredible ability to prepare himself for the task at hand, as well as the upcoming tasks that amaze me the most.

It is this preparation that I hope to use to succeed myself, and to share with you.  It really boils down to 4 things.

1. Attitude : Pat (or Big Papa as his 12 great grandchildren call him), is the most optimistic person I know.  But his attitude is more than that, he makes sure that his optimistic attitude is not selfishly contained, but he goes out of his way to make sure he spreads it like a virus, passing it out to everyone he comes into contact with.  Not only loved ones, but mere acquaintances that happen to be fortunate to cross his path.

I can’t tell you how many times he gets into detailed conversations with the waitress at the restaurant he is at, or the man he is standing next to in line.  These conversations inevitably end up with Pop finding some common ground with the stranger, or having them laugh out loud at a story he tells them.  Either way, he makes a positive impact on everyone he meets, and it is his natural way to meet lots of people.

Pat is the kind of person, that after a stranger meets him, that stranger will go back to their family, and tell the story about “this amazing old man with the sparkling eyes, and light-up-your-life smile”.   They will extend the things they learned from Pat onto their own family and loved ones, and his amazing attitude will continue to spread like the amazing happy virus that it is.

In the hospital 3 days ago, his nurse happened to be the daughter of a waitress, who happened to serve him a meal 25 years ago.  Pat had spoken with that waitress, and they had found a common bond with a distant relative each of them shared.  And now, in the hospital 25 years later, Pat’s daughter Patsy, enters into conversations with this young woman, and they put this coincidence together.

Here’s the amazing part. The nurse was not even born when her mother had this chance encounter with Pat.  They only met once, but her mother told the story about running into Pat so much throughout the next 25 years, that her daughter (the nurse) recognized the name Patrick MacDougall enough to inquire about him to Patsy.

That kind of positive attitude is amazing – one that spreads outward like a virus over years and years.

2. Physical Conditioning:  Pat never wanted to turn into a “creeper”.  This is what he called those old people who moved slowly, hunched over, treading carefully, afraid of falling.  He never wanted to depend on anyone.  He recognized that a healthy body allowed one to have a healthy mind, and habits he formed would decide how long he was able to maintain both.

He has been a cross training expert for the past 40 years.  Walking around the cul-de-sac where he lives 40 times, riding his stationary bike for 30 minutes, and doing 100 arm curls and shoulder presses with weight are all part of his daily life.  All this besides the gardening, cooking and cleaning that are part of any independent person’s life.  For much of this time he has lived in a “mother-daughter” residence with his daughter’s family, and that has provided him with a lot of company and shared chores throughout the years, but I am sure, even if he lived alone, he would have been able to do it all.

He has eaten fish oil daily all his life, not those little clear pills but the real thing, with church key opening tins full of sardines or whatever disgusting thing is in there.  He has been smart (and lucky) enough to limit his daily guilty pleasures of scotch, ice cream, and cigarettes to limited proportions that have appeared only to enhance his quality of life and not diminish it.  He will get up in the middle of a family event, and quietly leave to take a nap or some quiet alone time, knowing that his body needs a rest, reappearing afterwards refreshed again to join the party.  He knows what his body needs to be healthy and does it.

3. Creative activities:  Pat has always found a way to challenge himself to keep his mind sharp.  Some people play board games, do crosswords, study the stock market, research history or collect things.  Pat has always had his music.  Without any formal musical training he has been able to pick up a fiddle and play any tune.  With his hand held keyboard he can play any hymn on other tune he knows or hears just by sounding it out with one hand.  He is constantly playing that keyboard, to himself, or others.  It is not uncommon for him to play it over the phone to his great grandchildren.  Over the past few years, as his eyesight has gotten worse, his ability to create and enjoy his own music has kept his mine and other senses sharp.

4. Getting it done:  Once Pat makes a decision, watch out.  If you are in the way of it, you will get run over.  He has always been a “do-er” as opposed to a “talker”.   He has never hesitated to leave a country, start a business, take a job, or been afraid to “move on” when the moment is right.  This is not to say he is not committed to his work, family, or obligations.  He is totally committed to these grounding elements of his life.  But he has never hesitated to move forward with a plan, especially when action is required that will enhance these elements.

This day after our country celebrates the 4th of July, makes me think of the beliefs that our country’s founders had, and the actions they took to provide us all today with the country we live in.  Reading back through my thoughts about Pat, it seems that there are a lot of common ideas that Pat’s happy and successful life have in common with the hard work and values our country’s founders had.

Maybe these ideas have meaning for happiness and success on a personal, professional, and national level…

Greg Redington