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CHASING THE VASE

THE MOST REMARKABLE STORY
ABOUT TOTAL COMMITMENT

The first time I heard the story of William Peck and the Blue Vase was when I was a small child. It took place inside a locker room. The team was being coached by Coach Avianantos, Ken Giovando and my father, Jim Bevell. The team was experiencing a high level of success and the vibe in the community was that of excitement. It was a warm Saturday night in Scottsdale and the S.C.C. Artichokes were winning. I followed my father and the team into the locker room. This moment was epic for a youngster and it allowed me into the inner circle of college football. Coach Avianantos was at the helm of the conversation, when he called the players into the center of the locker room and shared a version of “The Blue Vase.” As he told the story, I was moved by the power and passion in which he shared the story.

For those of you who have been inside a locker room, you can mentally picture the speech! My faculties were awake! I felt a thrust of power encompass my body and I remember being in awe at the resolve and dedication William Peck possessed and demonstrated. It was forever etched into my brain. At that moment, I remember telling my young self, “Self, you need to be like William Peck.” That story made sense to my little brain.

Years later, the story still fuels me; it keeps me grinding and focused on “the mission” or “Securing the Vase.”

I have been in possession of the written narrative of the Blue Vase since 1980 and I have the video of “The Go Getter.” I have been sharing the philosophy of the Blue Vase for as long as I can remember. Because of my passion for being absolutely intentional in all we do and say, I decided that the best way to discuss this is to share, break down, examine and implement the principles created by a World War I veteran named William Peck. Here you go -- take notes and enjoy the ride. (This has everything to do with Addiction Recovery.)

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This story takes place in the 1920s (100 years ago) in San Francisco.  Let me share the scene with you:

Sitting next to me is William E. Peck. He is deceased. This event occurred when he was in his twenties. He was a World War I veteran. While fighting in the war, he was injured. He lost an arm and his right leg was crippled. He used a crutch, which caused him to walk with a noticeable limp. His sleeve on his right arm was safely held back with pins. Peck applied to a large lumber company and secured the job. His first task was to sell “Skunk Spruce Wood.”  It didn’t matter what Peck was selling, he was a standout. He worked hard and demonstrated integrity. Because of his resolve and tenacity, his boss called him into the office and told Peck that he had an assignment for him. He asked Peck if he was up to the task. Peck responded in the affirmative. He told Peck the following:

“I need you to go down two blocks of a certain street in San Francisco and on the corner of the street, you will find a store that has a blue vase in the window. You will need to buy the vase. The vase is very inexpensive. I need the vase for a friend of mine who is celebrating his anniversary.  The blue vase goes with a set of vases I purchased for him last year. I want you to meet me at the train station, on a r train going to Santa Barbara, which leaves San Francisco at 7:55 p.m.  I’ll be in Car 7, Stateroom A.”

Everybody talks about goals. They are not new to us. It appears that the objective was very specific: The goal was to secure and deliver the blue vase!

After reading the objectives again, what were the specifics of the objective?

Specific Destination:

Specific Time Frame:

Delivery Destination:

 

Purpose:

The Boss asked Peck, “Can you do it?” Peck’s response was, “It will be done and I will do it!”

Picture Peck hobbling down the street with one good leg and a crutch in search of the vase. He arrived at the corner of the predetermined street. He was unable to find any store with the vase in the window. He stopped, thought for a second and said, “My boss was very specific about the location—this is where I am supposed to go. Maybe I misunderstood the directions.” So Peck walked two blocks in each direction: North, South, East and West. Two hours later, Peck located the store, but realized that he had wasted two hours of time in the search. When he arrived, the store was closed.

If you were in Peck’s position, what would you do? Your job is to get the vase. You gave your word. You told your boss you would deliver the vase to the train station, Car 7, Stateroom A by 7:55 p.m.

Before you move on

Answer this question: What would you do if you were in this situation?

Building on Extreme Ownership, how do you accomplish this task? Remember, your word is on the line. You said, “It will be done and I will do it!”

Based on your answer, determine: Do you live your life the way you answered the question? Or do you give good advice but fail to live it?

Here is what Peck did: He saw, in the window of the store, the owner’s name, “B. Cones Art Store.” He devised a plan to look up Mr. Cones—call and explain the situation, then have him come to the store and sell the vase. Remember, Peck told his boss, “It will be done and I will do it.” Peck did just that. He looked in the phone book and saw 19 “B. Cones” listed in San Francisco. Each one of them answered and none of them owned the art store. Peck thought, “Well, this is downtown San Francisco. Maybe Cones lives in a suburb! So Peck decided to call all the “B. Cones” in the various suburbs in San Francisco. Here are the cities that Peck called: Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda, San Rafael, San Mateo, Sausalito, Mill Valley, Redwood City, Palo Alto.  Nine cities and no luck!

 

Now what would you do? Honestly, right now in your life… what would you do? How do you perform under stress?

His next thought was to return to the store and break in, leave a note, then pay for the vase and damages tomorrow. He thought, “I need to deliver the vase. I told my boss, ‘It will be done and I will do it.’” Peck left the phone booth and hobbled back to the store, preparing to break in.  But as he arrived, he saw a police officer standing in front of the door. He thought, “That rules that out.” As Peck stood in front of the store, he noticed that he had misread or misspelled “B. Cones’” name. The last name began with a K instead of a C. He could not believe it. What a waste of time! Peck was totally frustrated; he returned to the phone and found there were nine Kones in the phone book. He called all of them and none of them owned the art store. He then proceeded to call every Kones in the suburbs that I mentioned.

Ok… Stop!!

Ask yourself again: How far would you go? Would you give up, quit, run away from this challenge?

This was 100 years ago in San Francisco! He did not have a cell phone with unlimited minutes. No texting capabilities, no Google or MapQuest. The only resources he had were grit and loose change. 

You see, Peck was a very special and unique individual. Even though he had tremendous physical limitations (one arm and a crippled leg) he had great personal pride in following through with an assignment. He understood the word “commitment.” He told his boss, “It will be done and I will do it!”

Through a series of phone calls, Peck found the “B. Kones” he was looking for, but Mr. Kones was on an island having dinner. Peck was elated! He asked Mr. Kones to come to the store and sell him the vase. Mr. Kones’ reply was, “You’re insane. It’s the middle of the night and I’m having dinner. No way I’m coming down. But I have a man that works for me that lives in San Francisco. His name is Herman Yost. Maybe he’ll be able to help you out.” Kones gave Peck Yost’s phone number, and Peck called him. Yost was not in; he was at a party at a country club in San Francisco. So Peck did what Peck did best: He called every country club in San Francisco. No Yost. So, he called every country club in the suburbs. Yes, all nine of them. Finally, he found Yost! Peck got him on the phone, explained the situation and somehow convinced Yost to come to the store. Mr. Yost arrived at the store with two police officers, figuring Peck was crazy for wanting to purchase the vase so late at night.

Yost let Peck into the store and Peck asked, “How much for the vase?” Yost responds, “Two thousand dollars.” Peck fell to one knee (100 years ago, $2,000 was a lot of money.) Peck didn’t have $2,000 on him or in the bank. He did remember that he had some valuable gold pieces he acquired while he was in the war. They totaled approximately $1,500, enough to let Peck have the vase. Peck had it! He secured the vase, but it was late at night. Remember, the train left at 7:55 p.m. and he was behind, but he had a plan.

Now what would you do? How do you get the vase to your boss?

He had a good friend who owned a small plane. Somehow, Peck convinced his friend to fly him to catch the train. They felt they could catch the train somewhere between San Francisco and Santa Barbara, and they did! The plane landed in a field in Monterey. Peck exited the plane and hobbled onto the tracks. He rolled up a newspaper, lit it on fire and flagged down the train. The conductor was in such shock that he came to a screeching halt. Peck spoke with the conductor and he granted Peck permission to board. Peck found Car 7, Stateroom “A” and knocked on the door. His boss was awakened by the knock, and in shock and surprise opened the door to Peck and the blue vase. 

The boss could not believe his eyes! He said, “Peck, you have it! You actually have the vase. I can’t believe you got it!” Peck handed the vase to his boss and his boss said, “Mr. Peck, this has never happened before.”

Peck apologized for being late with the delivery and said, “At least you have it to deliver to your friends in Santa Barbara tomorrow.”

 

The boss responded, “I’m not worried about the vase. It’s only worth a dollar.”

Peck said, “A dollar? I paid $1,500 for it!”

The boss replied, “Oh, no, that’s what we told them to tell you, and we put the police officer in front of the art store to keep you from breaking in. We changed the sign on the door and altered the spelling from Cones to Kones to make you think you misread or misspelled his name. We thought for sure that would have stopped you.”

By now our World War I veteran is furious, realizing it was a trick, a cheap joke. He was set up! Peck asked his boss, “You mean you played a trick on me?”

His boss replied, “No way was this a trick, this was a test! We give this test to everybody we hire who we are interested in promoting. We call it the test of the blue vase.” Peck was bewildered, as the boss continued, “Every time we see a talented young man in our organization, we give him this test. Nobody—nobody ever gets it done. The police officer stops him from breaking in, the millions of phone calls the guy has to make, the change of Kones leading to another million phone calls. Then the guy we have on an island having dinner, making excuses about why he can’t come down and open the store. Mr. Peck, how did you do it? Why did you persevere, why didn’t you just give up?”

With tears running down his cheekbones, Peck gently replied, “When I was a soldier in the Army, I had a sergeant who told us that whenever we were given an assignment our reply was to be, ‘It will be done and I will do it.’ That is how I was trained and that is how I perform.”

After sharing the story with you, I hope that you keyed in on the valuable lessons learned from Peck! These lessons can become building blocks for our lives. I understand that life is not always difficult and that some of us have it figured out, but I am a firm believer in never saying, “I got this.” I can promise you that more men and women have been seriously injured, relapsed, lost relationships, lost money and died with the words, “I got this” as their mantra.

 

Homework and action item:

 

Please understand that the Blue Vase was not only about securing the vase. It was about the journey to secure the vase. It took a relentless pursuit. Peck never gave up. We are all chasing a vase!

 

To do:

In your journal or in the box below, answer the following questions.

 

Take time to evaluate your current performance with tasks and difficult situations.

 

In narrative form, answer these questions:

 

At what point would you have quit chasing the vase?

 

In narrative form:

 

Provide an example from your life where your grit and resolve was equal to William Peck!

 

In narrative form, answer the following question:

 

Explain in detail a time in your life that you quit too early!

 

In narrative form, answer the following question:

 

What regrets do you still carry that could have been handled with a little more grit and tenacity?

 

In narrative form, answer the following question:

 

Provide an example from your life where your resolve was not equal to William Peck.

 

In narrative form, answer the following question:

 

What qualities do you and Peck have in common, and how do you use them as a benefit in your life?

 

Once all of these questions are answered, please send the results to: chasingthevase@gmail.com

 

Like William Peck, we all chase a vase. Identify, document and share what your Blue Vase will be. (Examples: Successful marriage, lose 50 pounds, work out every day for 50 days, successfully start and complete a diet, start school, get your degree, gain a meaningful relationship with your kids, maintain long term sobriety!)

 

Create a plan showing how you will secure your vase and share it with your sniper/sponsor.

 

Document when you will start the chase and when you will have secured it. Create deadlines.