Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tightrope: Don't let bad habits sabotage your success

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recently, on my morning walk through the park, I happened on a woman whom I see frequently walking her golden retriever. Mary (not her real name) also owns a resale shop. We usually stop and chat about the status of her business and the economy.

During that particular morning I noticed that both she and her dog, Cleo, had lost quite a bit of weight. And I congratulated her for it.

She recalled that a little more than a year ago her dog had started to have seizures. The vet questioned Mary about Cleo's eating and exercise regimen. Mary told the doctor that she fed Cleo the same food that she ate. And, as for exercise, she told the doctor that Cleo had no particular exercise routine.

According to the veterinarian, extreme obesity was wreaking havoc on the animal's health. The only way to save Cleo's life was to provide proper nutrition and give the animal exercise.

Mary said that Cleo was her best friend and she couldn't imagine life without him. Mary said that she had always been on the heavy side and it had never been much of a concern for her and therefore she had not recognized Cleo's extra fat as any kind of problem. But whatever it took to save Cleo's life, she was willing to do.

The veterinarian told Mary that Cleo should not eat the same food as she. However, because Cleo had spent his life eating human food, Mary said he wouldn't touch the dog food she tried to give him. That led her to changing her own diet and eating healthier.

She said her next step was to provide an outlet for Cleo to exercise. Mary had an expensive fence installed around her backyard with the hope that Cleo would run around in the space. But Cleo spent most of his days sleeping in the front window at the resale shop and had no desire to run around in the yard at home. Instead Cleo would find a nice, sunny spot in the yard and fall asleep there.

Mary was forced to implement plan B — take Cleo walking on a leash. A magazine article inspired her to buy a pedometer to keep track of steps and miles walked.

She and Cleo set out to walk a few thousand steps a day. She said in the beginning, both she and the dog were exhausted after walking less than a block. The first few weeks she said she barely took 2,000 steps the entire day and Cleo took fewer.

As Mary and Cleo celebrate their one-year anniversary of living a healthier lifestyle she told me the changes in both her business and private life have been too numerous to mention.

She and Cleo now walk four miles a day. She has drooped 50 pounds; she has energy that she refers to as almost superhuman. She applied some of her energy to her business. She has found herself doing promotional things she didn't have the energy to do before. Mary distributes fliers around her community and has staged fashion shows as fundraisers for churches and on-profit organizations. These activities have increased her business significantly.

As for Cleo, he is now a much slimmer healthier golden retriever.

It's easy to drift into a lifestyle of getting up and lying down with no thought of what happens in between. And yet it's what happens in between that makes all the difference in failure or success.

Mary had Cleo to wake her up. Most of us don't have a Cleo in our lives. Use the change of seasons to stop and assess your lifestyle to make certain your habits aren't sabotaging your success.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. Click here for an index of her columns. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds is founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published by Viking. Her website is You can e-mail her at

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