Simple, But Powerful Advice

18 February 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I was saddened to learn that someone that I had worked with many years ago when I was a sales associate at Foley’s Department Store, one of the first jobs that I had worked while going to college, had passed away of bladder cancer.  When I started at Foley’s, Ralph was an older gentleman who had previously taken early retirement from a middle management position back East and had decided after moving to Tucson that he was not ready to be completely retired.  So, he embarked on a second career at Foley’s and I was fortunate to have him be the one to show me the ropes when I started my position there.  Ralph was a pretty amazing fellow in that he always saw the bigger picture.  Thus, when we he went to train me to be a sales associate, he took time to not only train me on what I needed to know to do the job at hand, he also took it upon himself to impart wisdom that he had learned over the years that he thought would be useful to me way beyond this sales position, which he knew I wasn’t planning to make my career.

 

As I reflected back on my friendship with Ralph after I had learned of his passing, one piece of advice that he had given me came to mind.  This was a piece of advice that I had used constantly throughout the 25 years since I worked at Foley’s and it was Ralph’s mantra.  The advice was “plan your work and work your plan.”  Oh, how simple that advice seemed at the time it was given to me, but that simplicity is very deceiving.  Almost every time that I have screwed something up over the course of my career, it can be traced back to a failure to follow this simple piece of advice.  It is not enough just to have a plan; you have to make sure that you actually follow it.  How many times do we have processes or checklists that we fail to follow because we think we know how to do the work faster or we think we know the process by heart only to have that come back and bite us because we left something out.  This advice has become golden to me over the years and constantly keeps me from doing stupid things.  I still find it amazing today that sometimes the simplest advice that we are given can be the most prolific.

 

In honor of Ralph, I wanted to share this story and bit of advice in the hope that someone might reap the benefits from it that I have. 

 

Rest in peace old friend, you deserve it.

 

Ralph Pennacchio 1930-2013