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Happy Halloween

    Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. As a kid, growing up on a farm, trick or treating meant getting in and out of the car (often on very cold nights) and wearing coats over our costumes. While I liked the candy, it never made much sense to me.

    As a father, I must admit I have warmed to the holiday, but I still have a problem with all the focus on witches and ghouls and such. A holiday that focuses on scary things still bothers me just a little bit. I've been pleased that my children have typically chosen more wholesome images to emulate through their costumes.

    This year was different though. I've actually been looking forward to Halloween since the middle of June. I planned. I prepared. I thought about and strategized about it. But it didn't go quite the way I had it planned. . .

    The Garage Sale

    Our community has a neighborhood garage sale each June. By planning everyone's sale on the same day more people attend and the event becomes more successful for everyone. For several years my son Parker has had a stand selling lemonade, coffee, muffins and cookies, taking advantage of all of the shoppers who came to our cul-de-sac. Last year, Jim, my neighbor and I added hot dogs and other grilled food to the menu. People could shop and get a meal too! We had so much fun that we did it again this year.

    Only this year, we secretly decided to give the proceeds to our neighbors who have a son with autism. At our annual party after the sale we presented them with about $120 (a lot of money when you aren't selling anything over a dollar!) to give to the autism group of their choice.

    Trying Again

    The mix of the fun we had and the response we received from them led to another idea - let's do this at Halloween. Halloween would be perfect we speculated; lots of traffic (since we always have more than 100 trick or treaters), easy to market (through flyers in the neighborhood), and this year Halloween would be on a Friday. Perfect!

    Every few weeks the subject would come up. We would talk about what to serve and how to market it. Jim, who works in the food brokerage business, got sponsors to provide all of the meat. As the calendar turned to October we got more serious and the menu was set: Hot dogs, Bratwurst, Hamburgers, and homemade chili.

    As I worked on the marketing flyer these foods became holiday-themed: Halloweenies, Beastie Brats, Haunted Hamburgers and Chilling Chili. We decided to sell soda and chips. We added a place for kids to dunk for apples. We would have the candy from five houses for one stop trick or treating. We distributed over 140 flyers. We were raising money for a great cause. In the final week we even realized we were going to have perfect weather - upper 60's by "game time." We had the perfect setup for a successful event.

    Halloween is Here

    Friday morning my wife Lori and I made the chili. After lunch we finished shopping for the final items. I couldn't wait to set up! We got everything out - ran extension cords to the street, set up lights, tables and chairs, blocked off the cul-de-sac and fired up the grill.

    Two other neighbors were manning the candy - to help the trick or treaters get it and inform them of the houses that were empty. Parker, age 11, decided to help with the event rather than trick or treating. He would take money and answer questions. Jim would take and fill orders, and I was grill man. We fed the families around us, ourselves and our kids to get the grill going and they took off to collect candy and good wishes. We were ready.

    It got dark and we had very few trick or treaters, and fewer customers. One mother said she and her son would be back after they were done. We rubbed our hand and prepared for the onslaught.

    The onslaught never came.

    The Results

    By the end of the evening we had probably half our typical number of trick or treaters. We sold a little water and soda. We sold a few grilled items. We made $32 (before expenses).

    It was a tough night for me. In retrospect, I was as discouraged and disappointed as I can remember being in a long time. It was Sunday before I was really back to normal.

    The Lessons

    I shook myself out of my self-imposed funk by thinking back on what we did and what we accomplished. $32. (I didn't even count it until Monday. Truth be told, it was more than I expected at that point.) My reflection helped me realize that several positive things happened:

  • We had fun both planning and doing the event.
  • We strengthened neighborhood relationships.
  • We taught our children a lesson about caring and doing things for others - through our actions , not our checkbooks.
  • We made a memory that we will talk about for years.
  • We learned what might have to change if we do this again on Halloween!
  • I got the subject for this essay.
  • A neighborhood shelter got lots of hamburger and hot dog buns.
  • And we did add $32 to the Riley Children's Hospital autism unit to help them do their work.

    Perhaps the best result for me though, was the lesson of reflection. All of the value that was created by the event was overshadowed in my mind when we didn't reach our goal. (My personal goal? $300.) I lost sight of all of the good, by focusing only on the intended outcome.

    If you had asked me Saturday morning if the event was a success, I would have grimaced and quickly said no. If you ask me now, I will say that we didn't raise much money, but it was fun and we learned a lot. In my book, anytime you can have fun while learning, it is a good experience.

    All of us suffer defeats, challenges and disappointments. Sometimes they are large, and sometimes they aren't. I believe that there is value and learning in every one of these challenges and setbacks. Our goal has to be to find those lessons. We find them by reflecting back looking for lessons.

    Perhaps you find yourself reeling from a setback as you read this. If so, please take the message to heart. Perhaps, instead, the message is more theoretical for you at the moment, that is ok too. Please take this as a reminder for the next time you are discouraged. Lift your head up, reflect on what happened, learn from it, smile, and go on!

    I don't know what next Halloween holds, but we are already talking about the garage sale. We may expand to breakfast. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Yours in Learning,

    Kevin :)

    p.s. to see a picture of Jim and I getting ready for all the customers who never came, go to: Vantage 0711

    Kevin Eikenberry
    The Discian Group
    kevin@vantagepoints.net

    Kevin Eikenberry is a speaker, trainer, author, and President of the Discian Group - a learning consulting company committed to helping Organizations, Teams, and Individuals reach their performance goals through learning. For information about the Discian Group or its products and services, visit our website at Discian.com

    � Copyright 2003, Discian.com. All rights reserved.

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