Mission-Driven Persistence Pays Off: A Love Story
I recently enjoyed coffee and conversation with a friend. It’s one of the simple joys in life I embrace with far more gusto these days. There’s something life-giving about the human connection that I appreciate more now--especially after the social isolation we recently endured--than I did in previous seasons of life.
I always learn something during these informal meetings. Oftentimes, it’s simply gossip, but I sometimes discover a new business opportunity or am able to expand my network in some way. On a few occasions, I learn something far more profound. That was the case when my friend told me the most amazing story that not only revealed his love for his wife, but also how dedication to a mission can yield an amazing outcome. With his permission, I will share his story here and try to do it justice.
My sixty-something friend has, by his own admission, always had a flamboyant streak. As proof, he removed his cap to reveal the remnants of a bright purple dye job that had faded into a more subtle shade of blue. But, with this reveal, his raffish bonafides were firmly established and he had my attention.
He went on to explain how, several months before his 30th wedding anniversary, he wanted to give his wife a truly special gift--something that she would never forget. My friend knew it wouldn’t be easy, but his desire to please his wife with something truly extraordinary inspired a year-long journey that required planning, persistence, and creativity.
Like many of us, he and his wife are fans of home improvement shows. Their favorite was HGTV’s Divine Design with Candice Olson, and they had often dreamed of having Candice remodel their master suite. That dream, along with his incredible love for his wife, prompted the mission.
He began by writing a letter to the show’s production company. When he didn’t get a response, he wrote another letter, and another, and another. In fact, he wrote a letter each week, drafted over the weekend and mailed on Monday or Tuesday so as to arrive at the show’s Toronto office by Friday, for six months. When my friend was traveling for business or out of the country on vacation, he would write the letters in advance and leave them with his assistant with careful instructions on when each letter should be mailed.
With no responses to his weekly letters and no evidence that they were even being received, he kept writing. After six months, he finally received a response from the production company. It was a fairly standard letter thanking him for being a fan of the show, but because they received many such requests and all of the shoots were in Toronto, it would be impossible to fulfill the request.
Surprisingly, my friend was exuberant when he received the response. As he said this, my mind immediately went to Jim Carrey’s classic line in the movie Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s chance.” My friend responded in a similar way.
He immediately wrote back to the show, opening his letter with the line, “When I hear ‘no’ it means you simply need more information!” He then proceeded to explain all of the reasons why it was not only possible, but also a wise decision, to have them on the show in a new series of weekly letters.
Not satisfied with his own efforts, he secretly enlisted the help of his wife’s many friends. In fact, he convinced dozens of people--all sworn to secrecy--to write to the show’s producers to explain what a wonderful couple my friend and his wife were, and how any episode they were in would, undoubtedly, be the best ever. Before long, there was a thick binder filled with letters written to the show.
Finally, a few weeks prior to their big anniversary, a package arrived at my friend’s office. He anxiously ripped into it to find a DVD and a swag bag from the show. He now had what he needed to make his anniversary truly special.
When the big day arrived, my friend invited his wife to sit down in front of the television and get comfortable. When she was settled, he hit the play button and the cast of their favorite HGTV show immediately appeared on the screen. Candice Olson, the star of the show, greeted his wife by name and told the story of my friend’s persistent pursuit of a home makeover as an anniversary gift--and how so many of her friends had chimed in to voice their support for the clandestine effort.
At that point, my friend presented his bride with a bound book containing the dozens of letters written by friends and family that described what a wonderful couple they were, the lives they had touched over the years, and just how deserving they were. Unfortunately, the show wasn’t able to do an episode in San Diego, but they did invite the happy couple to celebrate in Toronto with a visit to the set and an opportunity to meet the cast. Needless to say, my friend’s wife was floored by the extraordinary efforts he had taken to honor their relationship.
After informing my friend that he had set the bar far too high for mere mortal husbands everywhere, I began thinking about just what fueled this herculean effort over such a long period of time. Clearly, the mission mattered. It mattered so much that he spent a year pursuing it. And though the outcome wasn’t exactly what he had in mind, my friend was satisfied because he had given it his very best effort.
There’s a lesson here for the rest of us: When the mission is tied to something that’s truly important, we’re much more likely to remain committed, work harder, and persist in the face of adversity.
As leaders, are you helping the members of your team make that connection? Do you encourage your people to think about why the mission personally matters to them? Can you clearly articulate why the mission matters to you? If not, why not?
Now, all of us married guys need to begin working on our next anniversary gift. This year, make it your mission to do something special for that person who matters most to you.
Dr. Mike Patterson is an author, speaker, and master facilitator who helps leaders and teams communicate, collaborate, and manage conflict more effectively. He is the author of Mission First People Always: The Definitive Guide to Balancing People and Performance, and he teaches in the doctoral programs at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology and California Baptist University.
© 2021 Michael L. Patterson, Ed.D.