Taking the First Step

July 15, 2019By Views

By Dave Wendland, as seen in HealthCare Distributor magazine, “Out of the Box” column, May/June 2019

As I have watched my children grow, my co-workers gain increasing levels of responsibility, and reflected on the number of transitions, changes, and advancements I have made in my own life and career, I have often thought of Dr. Martin Luther King’s timeless encouragement, “You don’t need to see the entire staircase to take the first step.”

Too often I have observed — and been personally affected by — paralysis from fear of the unknown or the enormity of a task that may be faced. I believe that it is this inaction that causes opportunities to literally become little more than fleeting moments with growth stymied by an inability to take a leap of faith.

When I was about 10 years old, my brother, my best friend, and I set out to “build” a neighborhood golf course on vacant land that my parents owned behind our Green Bay, Wisconsin, area home. The very idea of creating this masterpiece consumed our spring as we began to prepare for the land’s transformation. I fondly remember list after list developed of what needed to be accomplished and which of the three of us was going to take responsibility for each task.

At first, perhaps because my brother was a year and half older or that my friend would later pursue a career in politics, I left much of the decision making of who was going to do what to the two of them and then I would blindly jump in when asked. Our enthusiasm was definitely over the top and I recall my parents being very supportive.

Reality hit when my brother was given permission to use the gas-powered push lawnmower to mow the overgrown grass. At age 12, this was a BIG deal. My father said he would donate the gasoline for the mower but if it became damaged, it would be our responsibility to pay for repairs.golf ball on tee

My friend, Randy, and I had a big job of our own. We had to walk down each “fairway” ensuring there were no rocks, stones, sticks, or other objects that could potentially harm the mower. Looking the size of a toddler behind the orange-colored mower, my brother made the decision to cut each fairway at three different heights rather than try to cut down the tall weeds in a fell swoop. Not dissimilar to Dr. King’s immortal words, my brother knew that attempting to cut all 10+ inches of weeds to reach the desired grass height was too much for the little orange machine. He decided, instead, to start with smaller steps.

Another “staircase” decision was made by the three of us when we began thinking about the proceeds we would surely accumulate during our successful first year as golf course owners. It was my mother who reminded us to think realistically to avoid disappointment while still setting our sights high. So, after some debate, we decided if we could generate $36.00 after expenses, we would be able to attend the Green Bay Packers’ annual game in support of the Shriner’s organization. Tickets were $12.00 apiece at that time (cost of living was far different in those days) and my father agreed to be our chauffeur. The other ideas certainly would have required far more funding  and, mom was right as usual, we would have been exceedingly disappointed. So, although we set a far-reaching goal, we didn’t establish an unrealistic pipe dream that may have stopped us in our tracks.

The course, Southwest Country Club, indeed made its debut that summer and all six holes had fairly steady play each weekend at 50 cents per round ($1.00 for 18 holes — playing the six holes three times). It was obviously a slow news cycle because the local Green Bay Press Gazette newspaper actually ran a  full page story on its opening. The course was short with the longest hole a whopping 80 yards but we required players to tee off with a whiffle ball — which proved a brilliant decision to protect neighbor’s windows. At the end of the summer we had generated $31.00 profit and a friendly sponsor (a/k/a my father) donated another $5.00 so we were able to attend the Packers-Lions game.