• 17th December 2009 - By greg

    How many times in your life have you been able to say that you were actually looking forward to meeting with an auditor? I presented my Keynote address to the Institute of Internal Auditors yesterday at the Palliser Hotel here in Calgary – I was really looking forward to it, and it was a blast. They were a superb and gracious audience.

    A lovely young lady approached me after my presentation and with tears in her eyes, wanted to let me know that I had possibly changed her life. What??? Wow! She explained to me that just that morning she woke up and made the decision to quit her accounting course because it was too difficult. As she fought back the tears, she told me that during my speech, she became inspired and has now decided to stick it out and complete what she had set out to do.

    I can’t tell you how much that meant to me! In fact, that’s really my only objective with my speaking career – to have that kind of positive effect on someone. And to change someones life for the better – well, you just can’t ask for a result better than that. It was an early Christmas for me this year.

    Here is one of the stories that I tell:

    25 years ago, after I graduated from college , I worked for an oil company for a few months and then was laid off from my job as an engineering technologist. So, I started my own graphic design company. My business cards said “freelance graphic designer, and photographer, and sign maker” And t shirt maker. And aerobics instructor. And I even delivered fliers on the odd weekend.

    A friend who owned a printing company came to me with a new business idea to make recall cards for Canadian dentists so they wouldn’t have to import them from the US. Ya right. Imagine designing a card that would make people WANT to go to the dentist. “We’re keeping a nice, comfy chair ready just for you… and your root canal!”

    firstcardsSo of course I said yes. We agreed to set up a partnership. I would create the designs and he would print them. So, we each worked away for a couple of weeks producing our first set of cards. And then, we watched them gather dust as they sat on a shelf in the back of the warehouse for the next YEAR as each of us very quickly forgot about this great idea and we got busy with our other businesses. And we’ve all been in that boat haven’t we?

    That really bothered me. This was something that I agreed was a good idea, and with all great intentions of following through, I just sort of gave up on it all. I think that the many challenges that lay ahead of us were truly formidable, and faced with all of those unknowns, we instead chose to just do the safe, easy thing, and quit.

    But, my subconscious mind didn’t let me forget about my earlier commitment, and was busy nagging me about how we had taken the easy road.

    Finally (mostly I think just to appease my subconscious nagging), I decided that I would take a Saturday and do what ever I needed to do to complete the NEXT step to what we had set out to do and put together a brochure advertising our cards and mail it out to some dentists. If there was a response, then that might provide us with the kick in the butt we needed to continue with our idea.

    So I did. I went in on a Saturday, spent the entire day producing the best brochure I could. I used my B&W photo copier to make 500 brochures, hand-folded each of them, stuffed them into 500 envelopes, licked 500 stamps – yes, I LICKED 500 stamps. And I hand-addressed all of them with a list of dentists that I copied out of a bunch of phone books. On Monday morning I dropped the brochures off at the post office on my way to work. I had at least completed the next step of what we had set out to do, and if nothing else, I felt I had at least avoided the temptation to quit.

    One week later I was stunned when I opened my mailbox, it was jammed full of orders!

    sharperFlyerWell, 13 years later, that little card company became the largest supplier of recall cards to the Canadian dental market and the 2nd largest in the US. And in fact, we sold that little card company to our largest American competitor who felt threatened by our rapid growth into his market place for an amount of money which allowed both Helen and I to retire.

    Thomas Edison said “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”. Never, ever quit because you’ll never know what could have been.

    I’m so glad I didn’t quit – you know… my life today would be completely different if not for that fateful Saturday where I went into the office to start the next step on our journey.

    You know,¬†Goethe says “What you can do, or dream you can do BEGIN IT”. and I think he means to go ahead and be bold and just take your first step – what ever that is. Just start your journey. For me it was just getting some brochures in the mail.

    I’ve completed a couple dozen marathons and this summer, I spent the summer pursuing a dream I have to complete a 100 mile ultramarathon. And after two attempts at the big 100 miles, I am sad to say that I am still NOT successful, and I learned – or should I say, RELEARNED a very valuable lesson.

    Are there any marathon runners in this group? I think what any marathon runner knows, is when you run a marathon (or an ultramarathon for that matter), you never think about the 26.2 miles. You think about your first step – your first mile, then your next mile, And before you know it – you are looking at the finish line. That was my problem this summer – I couldn’t stop thinking about how far I still had left to go! Instead of being in the ‘here and now’, focusing on my next mile – my next step, I became discouraged by the incredible distance I still had left to cover and I quit.

    When you take your next step, in a way, you are BEGINNING your journey. It doesn’t matter how many steps you’ve already taken, because each and every step you take, can be viewed as the very FIRST STEP in the REST of your journey. Basically, you are ALWAYS beginning your journey.

    Can you think of one recent dream or a goal or challenge that you quit? Were you focusing too much on the enormity of reaching the end result, instead of simply YOUR next step? What IS your next step?

    If you can identify what your next step is, I challenge you to BEGIN IT. Go lick some stamps!

    In all fairness to my wife Helen, who was really the driving force behind Sharper Cards eventual success, I really need to add that I was just the initiator of this business. I started the company and got it off the ground. Basically, I came up with the product idea and our unique marketing method which was catalog mailings. After a few years of getting the company rolling, Helen graduated from University of Calgary and I talked her into working for me and running Sharper for me. She took the bull by the horns, and through the years, built the company into this incredible success story.

  • 7 Comments to “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”

    • Ross on December 17, 2009

      I worked there for a couple years, in my early days, Sharper has become a reminder to me what perseverance and dedicated hard work can accomplish – Greg has also been an inspiration to me, work wise, his conquests, i love reading about the latest updates from Greg, i have now also accomplished IM Canada and several marathons. It was Greg that set me up on my first road bike into a more Time Trial configuration – and i haven’t looked back since!!!

      Greg and Helen have touched the lives of far more people then they will ever know, i’m sure of that.

      Thanks Greg and Helen and good luck with all the endeavors currently keeping you both busy, “the crossing” and Boston Marathon and of course, Christmas.


    • Fred on December 17, 2009

      Just the shot in the arm i have been needing. i have two projects i have started and not followed through on very well. i childrens book i wrote a few years ago and then rewrote but never got published and i idea i have had for awhile for a new joist sytem that i have not pursueded very well.

      thanks Greg fr the inspiration again!

    • DPE on December 17, 2009

      This is just what I needed.

      I too am training for a ultramarathon, and I will admit that I have put many business ideas on the shelf, never to test them, or begin them for that matter.

      It is far to easy to accept failure and speak about what could have been.

      Thanks again, by far the best thing I have read online this month.

      I love this: “If you can identify what your next step is, I challenge you to BEGIN IT. Go lick some stamps!”

    • Stewart on January 15, 2010

      Thanks for the inspiration I have just been told I have Ross River fever. I am damned if I’m going to quit, keep up the work and enjoy the trip.Calling from Australia.cheers Stewart

    • sherryl-annette snyder on April 8, 2010

      I am 70, living in the middle of 1000 acres. After a lifetime of poor health and most of what I did was sleeping or reading. Then I moved here. Not knowing what was to be done I spent the mornings throwing rocks in a water logged crossing on the road. I got most of it flat and people who came to visit could cross without sinking in the mud. I lived in a tent and moved around the acres often. I started. Stacking rocks and mud for a living space. I quit when I got the rocks from knee high to waist high. It was winter time. The following year I got a large army tent with no floor. It got way to hot so I dug a pit to have a cool place and to have a tornado shelter. It didn’t work out because when it rained I had 5 ft of water. Had to move the tent to the top of the hill. But I started to combine the weed cutting with the dirt from the hole, added water and started building a small hut. This year I am going to finish the hut and haul the rocks over to build a sturdy dog shelter. But I had no inspiration to start again until readin your thoughts.

    • Randall Smith on April 9, 2010

      I’ve been working as an electrician for the last 6 years, and was recently laid off. I’ve been taking the time to really focus on what I *want* to do, not only what I know *how* to do. Thanks for sharing your success story. I look forward to following your efforts in Pedal The Ocean.

    • Lisa Key on April 13, 2011


      I apologize. I do see where y0u referred to Thomas Edison in your article as the author. However, you do need to put his name after the quote at the very beginning of your article.

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