When you’re running a business it’s so easy to focus on the limitations or shortcomings and give up on the dream. Sometimes in life we find ourselves beat up by our past disappointments or failures, or overwhelmed by the magnitude of the journey ahead. Sometimes it’s too easy to give up on the destination when there seems like too many obstacles and potholes in the road… but I believe it’s in this place that legends are made. People who rise above the circumstances and the expectations of others to achieve amazing things. One of these men was Ralph Affleck.
Ralph never finished school. His only experience was 50 years of timber cutting and saw milling. At 64 years of age most retirees cut back their work life and take up a hobby but not Ralph. He had a long-held dream of building his own mill, something he could run solo without the hassle of employees and allow him to work when he felt like it.
Now to common sense, this is a ludicrous idea. How can one elderly man build and operate his own saw mill? But today, 3 mornings a week, 85 year old Ralph Affleck leaves his farmhouse in Lagoon on the New South Wales and Queensland borders of Australia, heads across the paddock into his Saw Mill which he built with his own hands. Ralph had done the seemingly impossible and still does every day.
However, Ralph’s achievements haven’t come without a cost. It took Ralph 4 years and 1 toe to achieve his dreams.
“RALPH AFFLECK: I’ve got nine toes and I’ve got ten fingers. I chopped one off with a pinch-bar one time. Went straight through the top of me boot, my brand-new boots. I went, ‘My God! What a stupid thing to do! Now I’ve ruined a pair of new boots.’ Anyway, I went on working, got the log on the truck and my foot started to get a bit sore, so I thought, ‘Gee, I don’t know. I must have bruised that toe.’ So I took my boots off, took my sock off and me toe fell out! (ABC Interview)”
Ralph’s story teaches us that it’s never too late to go after the dream that you have for your business and your life. Our greatest limitations can be the greatest driver of innovation in our businesses. It teaches us that any dream is achievable as long as we are not willing to let some complications (like losing a toe or two along the way) stand in the way of the dream. (It also teaches us the importance of a great headline).
I don’t know what the dream is for your business and I don’t know what challenges you will need to face, but I do know this: Life is better with only 9 toes and a dream fulfilled, than 10 toes and a dream unfulfilled.
Don’t give up. Our world needs more innovators like Ralph Affleck.