The Un-Comfort Zone

Robert  Evans Wilson, Jr.

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STOP Bugging ME!

The stench rising off the dead bodies was over-powering. It was so thick you could taste it. Sandy pulled a dust-mask respirator over his face, but the smell still penetrated. To speed up the decomposition process he quickly shoveled manure over the decaying flesh. The manure cut the odor somewhat, that is, if you don't mind the stink of cow dung. Then as he flung each shovelful of waste over the bodies, a black cloud of fat flesh flies would rise into the air. It was a disgusting job that wasted hours of his day, but there weren't many alternatives.

Sandy is a large scale chicken farmer in the mountains of north Georgia, who prides himself on his clean, well-ventilated chicken houses. He even uses top quality feed, yet despite his best efforts, one to five percent of his chickens die every day. Raising hundreds of thousands of birds at a time, leaves him with a big pile of dead ones to deal with every day. He tried burying them, but that took up too much land. He tried incinerating them, but that cost as much as $10,000 a month in propane which destroyed his margin of profit. That left composting, but working with rotting carcasses was so gross and annoying that he was determined to find a better way.

He thought about it for months, but nothing new was coming to mind. Then one afternoon while vacationing in Florida, he took his family to visit an alligator farm. While his kids were squealing in delight at a man wrestling an eight foot long monster, he noticed in another pen that the large reptiles were being fed chickens. Dead chickens. Some of which, in his professional opinion, looked like they had been dead for days. Remarkably these were the ones the beasts ate first. Sandy knew right then how to solve his problem, and he bought a breeding pair of alligators to take home with him.

Within a few years, Sandy had 400 alligators. He no longer had a dead chicken problem. You might be thinking he had another problem instead: that he was literally up to his elbows in alligators. But when those brutes get to be six feet long, he sells their meat and hide for $200. He now has two businesses that complement each other.

When something bugs you, don't you just want to fix it? We have always heard that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. What is annoying you? Things that irritate us are very motivating and also stimulate creative thinking. Is there a task at home or work that you absolutely hate to do? If you can come up with a better way of doing it, you might have a million dollar idea on your hands.

Thomas Stemberg, founder of several successful businesses including Staples office supply stores, is a master of million dollar ideas. He once said that he gets his best ideas for starting a new business from being frustrated as a customer. That statement is a roadmap for finding opportunity. Where have you been frustrated as a customer? You can probably think of a dozen places. I'll bet you can fix it. So, don't just sit there - go do it better, and make a million bucks yourself!

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is a motivational speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Robert's programs please visit

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The Un-Comfort Zone Article # 40

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