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February 20, 1998

Making Evaluation

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The Power of One is the booster vitamin for relationships, the sweet spot for personal ambition, and the strike zone for individual achievement.

For the last three years I have had the chance to take my son to a place called Lost Valley Ranch. It is a five-star Dude Ranch that sits in a valley surrounded by three sides of a national forest. I was invited to speak to a group of businessmen from Denver and Colorado Springs. It has become such a highlight for us. The first year we started a tradition that we have looked forward to each passing year. It was riding our horses at full gallop in the snow down untouched trails of white powder as deep as the horse could possibly run through.

Something happened a year ago that changed everything. A fire burned the forest surrounding the ranch. You might remember hearing about the Colorado Forest fires. The ranch itself was spared. A small strip of green grass and a few lodges are all that survived. But everything else was scarred and black. I had prepared my son for what he would see. As we rode through there were still patches of snow, but the sight was completely different.

The head wrangler who is a close friend of our family told us there was a burn zone that simply rode with the wind and destroyed everything in its path. Trees hundreds of years old were brought to the ground as a result of the fires.

The burn zone was sobering. Later that evening we watched a video clip that the Forest Service had prepared on the fire. Watching that video was sobering. There could not be a more striking opposite to think of the Golden Zone. The Golden Zone is a visible slice of life when someone is doing the good, the tight, and the true with rhythm and regularity. Unlike the forest fire, the harvest of such a life is constant growth, life, and health. It is simply the zone when there is an ethical momentum.

Doing right can be addictive. We always hear of bad addictions, but doing good in life can also be addiction—and a healthy addiction. Behaving ethically develops a sense of moral rhythm in our lives.

Make good habits and they will make you.—Parks Cousins

Have you seen the movie “Sandlot?” It’s the early 1960s, and fifth-grader Scotty Smalls has just moved into town with his folks. Kids call him a dork—he can’t even throw a baseball. But all that changes when Bennie Rodriguez, the leader of the neighborhood gang, recruits Smalls to play ball on his sandlot team. It’s the beginning of a magical summer of baseball. Smalls’ first day on the sandlot is awkward at best.

Halfway through practice, Rodriguez calls Scotty in from the outfield. He sees something in Smalls the other guys on the team fail to see—a desire to learn, a love to play. After receiving some tips on how to throw a baseball the same way you throw a newspaper, Smalls wants to know how to catch a ball. Rodriguez coaches Smalls to hold his glove open above his head and assures him, “It’ll do the rest.”

Once everyone is in position, Rodriguez steps to the plate with bat and ball in hand. Confident that he can strategically hit the ball in close proximity to Smalls’ glove, he calls to the rookie centerfielder, “Smalls, throw it to second.” He hits a precisely placed fly ball to center. There Smalls stands with glove in the air, eyes closed, whispering, “Please catch it, please catch it, please catch it …”. The catch is made. The team is astonished. The throw is complete to second and Rodriguez and Smalls have just found The Golden Zone.

The Golden Zone is where everyone seeks to be and do their best. It the place where it is more about “we” than “me.” It is the place where young emerging players want to stay, and seasoned veterans don’t want to leave.

What makes the zone golden is the application of the golden rule. We enter the zone when we treat others as we would want to be treated. Bennie Rodriguez applies it on a sandlot, Jim Blanchard applies it in a holding company. The net effect is the same: optimum performance and maximum growth.

How do you transform your business, your home, or the little league team you coach, into a Golden Zone?

It starts with a little recognition…

Recognize it is not about you.
Your personal desires and achievements are not the end goal. How your achievements are made and how you treat others are a big measure of success. At the heart of living right is recognizing that we are not the center of the universe. The world does not revolve around us. We enter the Golden Zone when we live to see others succeed in life

I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility.—John Ruskin

By humility I mean…a prudent care not to overvalue ourselves.—Nathaniel Crew

Recognize that all people, regardless of position or role, deserve to be treated well.
Often we have no problem treating well those who can add benefit to our lives. Sometimes we tend to treat those below us in rank, financial status, or importance as second-class citizens. We enter the Golden Zone when we treat everyone with dignity regardless of their impact on us or our desired outcomes.

Wherever there is a human being there is a chance for kindness—Seneca

Recognize that helping others win is a win for you.
The Golden Zone takes us to a different level of success. Succeeding on your own is one thing, but enabling others to succeed is off the charts. As a manager or co-worker, we are in the Golden Zone when we find joy and fulfillment in helping others succeed.

Dedicate some of your life to others. Your dedication will not be a sacrifice. It will be an exhilarating experience because it is intense effort applied toward its meaningful end.—Dr. Thomas Dooley

1. Can you identify someone in your life story that has affected your success through inspiration, teaching, or modeling?

2. What was this person’s main mode of impact?

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