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Thee Before Me

Early in my career, I learned lessons that continually pop up during certain times, specifically, to help me see through blurry or foggy situations. This is helpful because throughout life, you may work on businesses, non-profits, community organizations or family situations, and sometimes that can start to feel like you are pushing water uphill.

This recently happen to me. After three years working with a global NGO that has been doing incredible, consolidating work around the globe for a good cause, I dug in and gave it all the energy I could muster, to help and support the executive director get needed funding. And more importantly, implement a structure that could assure that the NGO would not just survive, but thrive.

It was constantly much more work than expected. It inevitably become so much more complex over just a few days, that I was baffled as to why this NGO couldn’t get to a place of peace and harmony with funders, board members and collaborators. It was a constant revolving door of people with different perspectives, and always seemed to be foggy, blurry, and difficult.

There was only one other individual working on this project, and meeting him was a great gift. He, at least, made us able to laugh through this process. He was involved as a favor to a friend and after almost a year, he was running out of gas, too.

Before we totally ran out of gas, we thought we should give it one more concerted effort, only this time we would drop in the Code Blue Innovations group (a seasoned group of executives who have done turn arounds and built quite a few companies) to see if they could help flush this out. We thought maybe we where too close to the situation and too worn-out over time. We felt it was worth the effort, and the Code Blue Innovations team agreed to spend the time and money to support the project. After over 100 hours of effort, the team also ended up in the same wobbly space.

I asked myself, how could this be? We where all contemplating on the dynamics, and then I remembered what a mentor, early in my career, taught me. I will never forget that moment… It was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at a major poultry farm. I was the young son of a fisherman, who knew nothing about land-based businesses, and I asked “Tom”, the president of the region, for some advice.

He said, “Anthony, don’t worry about knowing the business, only know one thing, and practice it, and everything will work out.” I asked him what that one thing was, and he said, “It’s a very simple rule… “Thee before Me”. I repeated it to myself, “Thee before Me”.

Then, while on the last call with the team that was trying to figure out what we were going to do next on the NGO project, I immediately thought of that farm scene, and I relived it… Over 25 years later, like it was today, ”Thee before Me”, I thought —that’s the problem. “Thee before Me” kept ringing in my ears.

I got off the phone, I really hadn’t said too much because I wanted to process. Now, it was very clear to me. The mud, fog, and blurriness started to clear. The executive director of this organization was about “Me before Thee”, so no matter what was done for the good of the organization, if it didn’t suit him, it wouldn’t happen. This quiet, passive, “Me before Thee” attitude was what continually crumbled all the work.

Now, I am really happy that this happened, because it was such a great reminder of how important and powerful this simple three word saying is for all of us to live by. I appreciate that in that moment, I was hit over the head with one of the most important business lessons I’ve ever received, and I wanted to share it. How simple! “Thee before Me”.

How many of you truly live by “Thee before Me”? If you did, starting today, would your day be brighter, happier and more fulfilling? Are you in situations where your partner or leader is definitely “Me before Thee”? Once you recognize it, you can take the time today to explain what it is like to be “Thee before Me” instead of “Me before Thee”. It’s probably not going to change things in one day, but you can appreciate that they are helping you learn how important it is to live by “Thee before Me”.

Net, you might not be able to control anyone else, but you can control yourself. So start today and appreciate people that don’t. Use it as your reminder to get on it and start living “Thee before Me” —and watch the world, and all of your situations, become light and have clarity.

Chop away—


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