Succeeding in this world depends on how we prepare and how we respond. It is assumed, before entering any type of situation, that we enter it prepared. We go grocery shopping with coupons on hand, go on a date with plenty of cash and wit, and we go camping with blankets, water and first-aid equipment.

It is once we are in these prepared-for situations that we then revert to response. How we respond is based on how we prepare. If we bring a first-aid kit camping, we're prepared when that whittling knife slips and slices the index finger, and we respond by utilizing that kit.

Of course, these are common-sense scenarios. The more vague and difficult scenarios to prepare for are emotional scenarios. An angry customer, someone of differing political or religious opinion, an impatient bill collector ... there is no first-aid kit to soothe the emotions others can provoke. And no matter how much we promise to maintain a tranquil tone in the midst of such provocation (attempt at preparation), inevitably, if we feel passionately enough about something, our emotions will surface (how we respond). The question is, when do we grin and take it, and when do we take a stand?

Amidst trade-show season, as we are now, we get to meet our readers-contractors, manufacturers, distributors ... even architects and other tradespeople. I am thrilled to say that we get positive and enthusiastic reports from them about the content of W&C.

I am not so thrilled to learn that good contractors must continue to struggle to stay in business. They must continue to deal with low bidders, erratic employees, trunk slammers, mold, insurance, changing codes, lawsuits, contracts ... I better stop or we're not going to have any more readers! Certainly, those are the challenges and we all face them respective to our professions. But there's an old saying I love: If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.

Without getting political, we're seeing injustice daily: Injustice to alleged "enemies," injustice to the poor, to us, to children and animals. There's injustice that's just reality and there's injustice that's the result of others. It is against these injustices, one must take a stand.

Imagine a business with only the minimum "injustices," having eliminated the ones caused by others and faced only with the remaining "reality" challenges. List these challenges. The list is not infinite. That means if one addresses each issue at a time, changes can be made. I'm not a contractor but I've certainly had my ear bent by a few in the last seven years, in many trades. The contractors I've met are the good men and women who make this country great: People who achieve success as a result of merit. Of course, the contractors who happen to come to the shows and meetings we attend are obviously not slackers but successes, or they wouldn't be attending shows in the first place. Still, if I could distill success and its obstacles it would be as follows:

Success is the result of quality work, customer satisfaction and organization (preparation); reacting positively to the unexpected as it comes up on a project to the satisfaction of the customer and without incurring loss (response); and maintaining a full and doable future workload for continuing success. Whatever opposes these basics must be softened. Failure is the result of poor preparation, disorganized staff and inadequate skill.

The contractors I meet may be the successful ones but they never run out of horror stories. By recognizing which thorns can be removed, contractors can strengthen their effectiveness. It's like weight loss: As long as one keeps eating fattening foods, one is going to be fat. As long as one keeps spending money, one is going to be short of cash. But by recognizing the ingredients of success and disciplining ourselves to stay on success's path, we will save money, lose weight and succeed in business.