Greatest Hits 11 – Michael J. Fox and the Wood Industry

So in the last blog I mentioned how a quote from Jurassic Park has stayed with me for years, influencing how I look at the world and the choices I make. This week, I want to discuss another quote that has stuck with me for years, ever since I first heard it. This comes courtesy of Michael J. Fox. He was talking about the public reaction to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He said

“People always ask me if I say to myself ‘Why Me?’ and I tell them, ‘Why not me?”‘

What a terrific attitude! I keep it in mind regularly when I get frustrated about something happening in my life, big or small. You can’t take everything the universe throws at you personally and you need to really “count your blessings” rather than “count the curses.”

And as a practical matter, this quote is also is a call for action. We all see problems in the world today, be it in our industry or in the greater scheme of things. Trying to fix them seems to be so much trouble. But if everyone said “why not me?” and buckled down to try to make something better, I think we could; and the ripples each action could have are often completely unexpected and amazing.

After all, apparently one of the reasons that I’m in this industry is because I moved a stick out of a busy street.

You see, I got started in wood in Japan. I was an English teacher over there and one of my corporate classes was with a wood importer/distributor (Maruhon) who ended up hiring me full time … Anyway, one of several reasons Maruhon’s president apparently hired me was because I moved a stick. See I had been out driving with a metal friend. Traffic was slowed down because there was a big fallen branch in the road and everyone was taking turns maneuvering around it. When I saw what was causing the delay, I got out of the car, dragged the stick out of the road and we all went on. Truth be told, I don’t really remember doing it—it didn’t strike me as a special moment in my life. What’s amazing about the story is not that I did it, but that not only did my friend find it so remarkable that he told others about it, but that it struck Maruhon’s president so strongly that he felt it should be a major reason to hire me. He was impressed because I took action to fix a problem that I didn’t cause.

I often use this blog to ask people to “participate in the process” in one form or another: to send comments to the EPA, to call a congressman about a Lacey amendment, to attend a convention and tell your associations what you need. I always say if you don’t, you have no right to complain about the situation. Sure, I ‘get’ that someone else created the problem. It’s not your fault and why should you try to fix it? Well, instead, try asking yourself: Why NOT you?

Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. In her 25 plus year career in the wood industry has visited over 70 countries and hundreds of facilities of all sizes and types. She describes herself as a “jack of all wood trades.” Familiar with jungles of all sorts–having camped out along the Amazon and walked the halls of Congress–she blogs for the NWFA on both environmental and regulatory issues for educational and informational purposes only. Her blog is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB, TSCA, the U.S. Lacey Act or any other law, regulation, or compliance requirement/claim should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.

2 thoughts

  1. Thank you for the observations. This reminds me of a saying in the animated movie “Robots” that has stuck with me. Rodney Copperbottom wants to meet his idol, Bigweld, a wealthy industrialist who also did a tv program about inventions where he always said, “See a need? Fill a need!” Rodney’s attempts to meet with Bigweld opens up an opportunity for Rodney to be that robot that “fills the need,” which eventually gets him to actually meet Bigweld. The movie came out in 2005.
    Now I find myself at work, noticing something needs doing, and I go through my mental list of who should know or who do I tell. If I come up empty, I do it myself. I also end up using the phrase when talking with the warehouse workers about things that need doing.

  2. Thank you for the comment and I’m going to hunt down that movie! I like the catch phrase for sure.

    FYI, the owner of the Japanese company also often said that he said Japanese and Americans worked differently. He said that in his impressions, if two US workers were cleaning a room, he thought the room would have an unclean line down the middle, because both workers would stop short of the middle just not to do more work than necessary. But if two Japanese were doing it, the middle would be extra clean, because each would overlap in the center… that was his impression. We should certainly always try to a little bit more to make sure it’s done right.

    See a need! Fill a need!

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