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Improvise When You are Confronted by Obstacles

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Apr 2nd 2018
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The tax busy season is upon us, and you’re scrambling to help your clients prepare their returns as the April 17 filing deadline approaches. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were no impediments to your progress?
Dream on. Something will emerge that, at least temporarily, hinders your efforts. So, how will you carry on, hopefully, without breaking your stride? Let me tell you a story that helps illustrate the value of being able to improvise.

One afternoon after school, I accompanied my father to the indoor community swimming pool on Bloomfield Avenue, just over the line in West Hartford, Connecticut. Several days a week, he was head lifeguard from late afternoon to evening. I have to tell you it was cool as a youth, to have the run of the pool as I often did.

When the Lights Go Out 

I was in the lifeguard office playing around with the lights while my father was watching the pool several dozen yards around the corner. One of my juvenile games was to flip the lights on and off so quickly that no one in the pool could tell that anyone had tampered with the lights. My father was sharp, however, and after a few times, he yelled out from afar, "Jeff, stop playing with the lights," and I immediately stopped.

No more than three minutes later, the lights went off in the entire pool area and only a small light from an independent power generator was lit. My father yelled out again, "I told you to stop playing with the lights." I came out of the office door and looked down the length of the pool. I said, "It wasn't me."

Way Beyond the Pool 

We looked outside to the parking lot and saw that no lights were on. I went up the stairs, opened the door, and looked at the rest of the facilities, and all of the lights were off except for, once again, some small lights powered by emergency generators.

The lights remained off for several more minutes, and my father was forced to close the pool. We got a hold of some flashlights and ushered people into the locker rooms. Other staff from around the center assisted people in gathering their belongings and leaving.

On the drive home, we immediately noticed that all street lights in Bloomfield and all lights that we normally would see from houses along our path were also off. We learned from a local radio station that the entire city, and perhaps the entire regional area, had gone dark.

By the time we got home, we heard a newscast which stated that the entire Northeast had gone dark. This was the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965. It was the first time this had ever happened in the U.S., and it was stunning. Until that time, one had always assumed that flipping the switch would result in your lights coming on.

Making the Best of It

During the blackout, families retrieved the flashlights, candles and transistor radios, and they made their homes as comfortable as possible. It wasn't too cold that November evening, so I imagine most places in at least our geographic region were comfortable. With no television, families members actually spoke to each other. People listened to the radio, took walks, or camped around the kitchen table and found what they could eat safely before it might spoil. Such a time! Positive outcomes arise from a temporary setback.

To this day, I succinctly remember my father directing me for a second time not to play with the lights when, indeed, much larger forces were at play!

Back to your quest. What could you assemble right now, and have easy access to, in the event that some unforeseen development hinders your productivity during tax season or any other time of the year for that matter? A little forethought can make a huge difference when the stakes are high.

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