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Where Does it Hurt?

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The homily last Sunday was centered on the theme, “where does it hurt?”. Our priest’s point was that you cannot identify how to fix what ails you until you know what is really causing the pain.

Most humans center on symptoms or what appears to hurt rather than focusing in on disease itself. If we do stumble upon the disease, it’s also natural for us to “refuse the news” if the revelation requires a significant change in our own behavior or habits. My sense was this homily hoped to convince us that money may delay some symptoms but would never cure the human sadness disease.

The message reverberates beyond my spiritual self into every other part of my life.

In the early years of my first business, I targeted the “symptom” of expenses exceeding our revenue to our unprofitability “disease”. I’m a marketing guy so I figured more sales fixes all problems. This was not only frustrating to me but to everyone around me, most of all our bank.

Once I got a good CFO (Jack Zaback) and a peer group (Vistage) to relentlessly point out where “it really hurt”, I began to realize that my optimism about sales had triggered my overinvestments in capital. The source of my problem was a lack of balance. One day in my peer group, after projecting $4 million revenue and falling way short, my friend Bill Carson asked me: “McCarthy, did you ever consider running a profitable $2.5 million business?”

On a personal level, I like to place my frustrations, resentments and angers at the feet of those who cause such sentiments in me. Lousy boss, insensitive wife/sibs/kids, crazy driver – you know the drill. In my early 40s, a counselor said, “harboring resentment is like swallowing poison hoping the offending party will fall over”. In the years since then, I try to look for the source of these emotions within me, first. Notice where my resentment is coming from (my disease), then consider the symptoms.

My father, who was a physician, had many patients who would tell him that their back, hips or knees hurt badly. Their disease was their faulty limbs. When appropriate he would suggest that the extra 50-100 pounds they were carrying might be the root cause for their aching bones.

“Backs, hips and knees are load-bearing devices”, he would say, “and yours were not constructed to carry the load you’re putting on them. Why not consider eating better before resorting to surgery”?

Most resented him for such candor and would seek and secure costly surgery from another doctor in town. It was easier than losing weight, like me in business insisting on more revenue instead of less spending.

Is there a chronic business, personal or spiritual hurt you’ve been unsuccessful in identifying? If so, maybe finding objective counsel regarding what you think is wrong could help you to identify where it really hurts.


Tim McCarthy

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