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Volume 41,   Issue 1      January 2006

The Unfinished Assignment

by Lyle R. Hill

When I first started writing for USGlass … and believe it or not, my very first article appeared a little over 13 years ago in the December 1992 issue … I wasn’t allowed to pick my own topic. Typically, I was given an assignment … the subject … that I was to write about, as well as quotations, statistics and other general information that was to be worked into any given column. For instance, one month I was assigned to write about an impending glass shortage. I was given key production figures for the various suppliers and then some anticipated demand calculations as well as a list of alleged industry experts from whom I was to solicit unique and original comments. The articles were usually buried somewhere in the middle of the magazine and I doubt very much if anyone read them. But it was simple. It was safe. And it was incredibly boring. In fact, it was so boring that I had decided to quit. But before I could turn in my resignation, Deb Levy acquired the publication. 

Shortly after the acquisition by Ms. Levy and her team, we had a heart-to-heart conversation about where the magazine was headed and how I may or may not fit in. Deb’s career had started in the newspaper business … a much more direct, hard-hitting, take-a-chance kind of a business than the trade publication one. She was a reporter at heart. Liked a good story. Wanted to give the reader something that would hold their interest. Maybe even create some controversy from time-to-time. So we agreed that I would get my freedom … to be a little wacky … to introduce the reader to some of my friends like Jungle Jim, Johnny the Mooch Rago, Koziac the Polish accountant and even my childhood favorite, Mr. Vitucchi. And while I’ve had a few articles slashed up a bit, Deb has let me go my own way and I have had a lot of fun with these monthly musings over the past several years. 

A couple of weeks ago, while I was cleaning out some stuff from my early days in the column-writing business, I came across some data that I had been handed, about which I had been asked to develop a column—an assignment, if you will. The suggested title for the article was “What It Takes to Be Successful” and I had been provided with a list of five important people from within the industry whom I was to call and get comments from regarding their rise to the top of the ladder labeled success. In other words, I was to ask them what their secrets were to a successful career … how had they done it … and what advice they would give to the rest of us? So I did as I was told. I gathered the information and the comments from the people I was to call and started to complete the assignment. But for some unknown reason … although I think I could guess … it was never finished and has been lying in a file cabinet for more than 12 years. 

What is particularly interesting is the fact that of the five people who were on that list, I haven’t heard any of their names mentioned in years … at least not in a positive way. I do know that one was convicted in a price-fixing scheme, two others went bankrupt and another left our industry after bouncing around for a few years as a consultant, but that’s about it. The article, had it been written, would have been a shallow one if for no other reason than the fact that the people I had been given to interview were shallow. 

Now I’m not about to try to tell anyone what to do to be successful, although I do believe that a healthy dose of good luck will help tremendously. Besides, most of us probably have our own definition of success anyway. But now, after these many years, I think I do know some of the things that will prevent success. And now that I’m this deep into the matter … and so are you if you’re still reading along … let me tell you what I believe are the primary inhibitors to success … in any field of endeavor. 

Ego. Call it pride, call it arrogance, call it whatever you want. I believe it is the number-one obstacle to success … and maybe true happiness as well. Egotism breeds defensiveness and inflexibility, which will drive people, including those you really need, away from you. Worst part of all, a lot of egotistic people don’t recognize the flaw. 

Lack of discipline. The inability to exercise self-control. Personal problems, whether it’s drinking, gambling or whatever, can rule and ruin a person’s life. Disorganization, defensiveness and withdrawal ultimately render this person useless. I’ve seen a number of unbelievably talented people succumb to this.

Lack of integrity. The ability to be honest with others, as well as with yourself, is at the center of all successful people and all successful ventures. 
Resistance to change or risk. The desire to keep things as they are creates an impermeable wall. No chances ever get taken, no new ideas are ever truly explored and the paralysis of analysis sets in and the individual, and sometimes the organizations that they lead, slowly wither. 

Assignment completed … kinda!

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