By Maria Zampini

The games of the XXX Olympiad in London had more viewers than any other event in U.S. television history, and I was one of those 219.4 million viewers eager to watch. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve absolutely loved the Olympics! I’m glued to the TV to watch favorites such as swimming, gymnastics and track and field, but I also relish learning about little-known Olympic sports as race-walking or trampoline (who knew?).

I think I’m drawn to the Olympics for many reasons: the athletes’ sacrifice and dedication to their chosen sport is inspirational; hearing the athletes’ stories and those of their families or their country; learning the history and culture of the host country. Most of all, I appreciate that it is a positive event and it is a pinprick on the time line when the world comes together in peace.

If you watched the closing ceremonies, you might have seen original Monty Python member Eric Idle singing, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” As hokey as his performance may have seemed to some (including me), the song did reinforce a timeless characteristic that can too easily be taken for granted: attitude. As Winston Churchill said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

As an industry we’ve been beaten down the past several years from just about every direction possible. I see nurseries, garden centers and landscapers in our industry still grasping at straws, struggling to keep their businesses going and their heads above water.

Been there, done that. So I feel their pain. I know from first-hand experience that you can easily fall in to the habit of dwelling on the negative and missing out on the positive, even when the positive is staring you in the face. These factors can affect your attitude – and not in a good way.

When my family business fell on hard times a few years ago, it drove me into what I refer to as my “big black hole.” It took me a couple years to climb out of that dark place that surrounded me 24/7. People often say, “When God closes one door he opens another.” When you’re in the thick of things, though, it can be difficult to see through that door to the other side. It is easy for me to look back now and see how the change was actually a blessing in disguise.

I’m currently reading a book by Neale Donald Walsch, the bestselling author of Conversations with God. It is called When Everything Changes, Change Everything: In a Time of Turmoil, a Pathway to Peace. I’m only one-third of the way through, but it is definitely interesting reading. The main thing I’ve taken away is that it is all in the way you look at things. Change can be the end of something but, by definition, it is also the beginning of another.

Our natural inclination is to resist change. It is my belief that those in the green industry who welcome change, or are at the very least willing to work with and adapt to change, will survive. Those who seek change and embrace it are the ones I believe who will thrive in our industry.

Not everything must necessarily change, but you have to be willing to look at the processes in your business and evaluate them: Question what you do, and how and why you do it. Just because you started a particular process for one reason doesn’t mean that that reason still exists. Or do you do it because that is the way it’s always been done?

Since I took a new career path in 2009, the road hasn’t been an easy one for me. While I may be working and traveling more than ever in my career, I’d like to think I’m actually working smarter, not harder. By the same token, I’m learning to take the time to do things for myself, such as yoga, going to the beach or walking my dogs. And you know what? I deserve to do those things! The way I look at it, they’re helping to keep me sane and healthy, and they’re helping to reinvigorate my positive mental attitude. So, what’s your stress relief?

Take a tip from the greatest Olympic athlete in history, Michael Phelps, who said, “I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.” And he ought to know!

It’s important to feed your mind, which, in turn, will feed your business. Are you familiar with the Olympic creed? It states: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

We all do well when the going’s easy. Facing the challenge despite the odds is what makes us winners.

As printed in the September 2012 issue of American Nurseryman magazine.



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