Missing The Point
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6 August 2013 - 0:12, by , in Leadership, No comments

“The Three Wise Men went to Bethlehem with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus. Of course, the next day the Virgin Mary returned these items for store credit, because she was a low-income mother with a newborn, and as the old saying goes, ‘You can’t diaper a baby with frankincense.’” (1)

The point of Dave Barry’s satire is to prompt us to give thought to our gift purchases. Were the men unwise to bring gold, frankincense and myrrh instead of a gift card to Baby’s R Us? No, they were in fact perfect gifts. Gold acknowledged the child would become King of Kings. Frankincense implied that Jesus should be worshipped and the burial perfume myrrh foretold Christ’s destiny to die for our sins.

Unlike wise men that rarely make mistakes, we are prone to miss the point. Not only in gift selections, but everyday situations. A recent hospital experience is a case in point:

It’s 7:00am on Wednesday. My wife and I are in the Medical Center of Arlington emergency room. Her 83 year old mother, who had been waiting to be admitted for 24 hours, tells us in frustration “Just take me home”.

Tired of waiting for someone to come to our aid, we go looking for an ER nurse, clerk or doctor to help. The first group of staff we approach are talking about golf clubs. Another is overheard asking payroll “Is the extra money in my direct deposit my longevity pay?” A nurse is overheard explaining the order-in food menu to a new doctor while another restocks a supply cabinet. And everyone else I see is staring at a computer screen. No one asks “Can I help you?”

I want to scream and I’m not even the patient in pain! Take your eyes off the computer screens. Put away the lunch menu. Quit visiting with coworkers. Don’t answer your personal cell phone. Help my mother-in-law!

But it’s pointless, and finally I get it: We’re an interruption. An irritation. They’d prefer we weren’t in the building. According to the mission statement prominently posted on the wall, their purpose is not to restock supplies, order lunch, audit their paycheck, surf the web, or visit with one another. It’s to care for the customer. At 1:30pm, we get processed and released.

What causes me, you, or the hospital employees I encountered to miss the point and lose sight of our purpose or mission? Distractions cause some to lose focus. Others are simply stubborn or lazy, determined to do it their own way, even if it’s not on point. Or some of us weren’t taught what the point should be in given situations.

“Most of us are much sterner with others than we are in regard to ourselves; we make excuses for things in ourselves whilst we condemn in others things we are not naturally inclined.” (2) As a result, I used the hospital experience as an impetus to create a list of points I didn’t want to miss. I share this list in case any of them may apply to your personal or professional life:

  • If I’m experiencing disappointment, the point is to “Concentrate on what I have left, not just on what I have lost.”(3)While it cannot be Biblically confirmed, Rabbi Harold Kushner believes Moses lovingly picked up the fragments of the original Ten Commandments to replace his disappointment in the Israelites.
  • If I’m lacking energy, the point is to find a passionate cause, not a can of Red Bull. I’ve never met a lazy person with a passion or a passionate person without energy.
  • If I’m a parent, the point is to prepare my children to leave home, not stay. By watching me, my daughter learned how to be an entrepreneur. Now she runs a very successful eBay business as a stay-at-home mom.
  • If I’m implementing Lean Manufacturing or Six Sigma, the point is to reduce non-value added costs, not solely cut cycle time and defects. Eileen Morrissey, president of Six Sigma for Growth LLC and future VP of Program & Change Management for EDS says, “You can’t do process improvement with Lean or Six Sigma tools without knowing your beginning and ending process costs!” To learn how Value Stream Costing supports Lean and Six Sigma, read Lean Monetary Index (icms.net/lean_money_index.htm).
  • If I want to be happy, the point to remember is that I hold the power to decide how I feel, not someone else or something else. “Celebrate the small things, not just the big ones. If you save all your celebrations for getting married or becoming vice president, you won’t celebrate very much.” (4)
  • If I’m interviewing for a job, the point is to be transparent, not flamboyant or illusive advises Myron Ullman, CEO of J.C. Penny. “If you get the job, then you know it’s for all the right reasons.”
  • If I need to quickly assess the quality of a person, the point is to ask “What impact do you have on people?” not where they work or live. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, used $200 micro-loans to enable millions of people in Bangladesh to start their own businesses.
  • If I’m a board member, the point is to ask lots of questions, not be intimidated to remain silent and not rock the boat. Author Jim Collins says “Good boards get along well, great boards don’t.”
  • If I’m truly determined to be a winner, the point is to focus on my strengths, not my weaknesses. “If you spend too much time working on your weaknesses, all you end up with is a lot of strong weaknesses!” (5)
  • If I’m Christmas shopping, the point is to monitor how much I spend, not how much I save.

Signs proclaiming The Reason for the Season are intended to ensure we don’t miss the point at Christmas. One of our most important responsibilities as adults is to make sure the main thing remains the main thing… in our family, in our business, in our community, in our schools, in our church and in our country. Not just once a year, but throughout.

Don’t miss the point this Christmas. Keep the main thing, the main thing.


(1) Dave Barry’s Annual Holiday Gift Guide, Dave Barry, McClatchy Newspapers, November 26, 2006
(2) My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, Barbour, 1935
(3) Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, Harold S. Kushner, Random House, 2006
(4) The Pursuit of Happiness, Professor David Schkade, Wall Street Journal, December 6, 2006
(5) The Power of Focus, Jack Canfield, Mark Hansen & Les Hewitt, Health Communications, 2000

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