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Prime The Pump

When I was living in Boston 20 something years ago I used to go to the racetrack with a coworker. We would go to bet on the horses.


One of my favorite places to go with him was Rockingham Park in Salem, NH. It was just over the Massachusetts border and would take us about 40 minutes to get there from where we lived. I liked going to Rockingham because they ran the races there in the summer and they had a nice picnic area about halfway up the track where we would sit in the sun and watch the races.


Some days if we were not having any luck with our gambling, he would say that we would need to make a show bet on a big favorite to prime the pump. He thought if we won the bet, even though it wouldn’t pay very much, it would get us on the right path.

I think about that now sometimes when I am struggling to start something. I think back to my friend Dan and decide that I need to prime the pump of whatever it is that I need to start.

Recently I had to put together a 2021 action plan for work. I had to come up with ideas around five different topics that would hopefully help us be better partners to our customers. I stared at the worksheet for a couple of days before Christmas and then decided I better not start it until I had opened all of my presents on Christmas morning.


After Christmas morning came and went, I continued to stare at the worksheet. I knew I had to get started but I didn’t know how. Finally I decided that I needed to prime the pump. I need to put one idea down on the paper. It didn’t matter if the idea was a good one or a bad one, I just needed to get it down on paper.


I wrote down one idea. Then I wrote down another idea. Soon I had filled the worksheet with a bunch of ideas about how we can be better partners to our customers in 2021. I had primed the pump with that one idea and the rest of them just started to flow.


Some days the pump doesn’t need any priming and as soon as it is turned on, the pump flows. Many days I need to figure out how I am going to get started on something. Sometimes that thing is easy and sometimes that thing is hard. It is when that thing is hard that I really need the pump primer. The thing about the pump primer that works for me is that I know it doesn’t need to be any big thing. It can just be the first step up that steep mountain.


I have not turned in my 2021 action plan for work. I have another week until it is due. I don’t know if the ideas are good or bad. My boss with be the judge of that. All I know is that I need to write down that one idea to get the rest of the ideas flowing.



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