Conversations in Management

Doug Larson


     Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.


Spring, as the saying goes, has sprung. (At least it has in this corner of Texas.) Though slush is rare in these parts, Doug Larson captured the springtime spirit perfectly. It’s no mystery that the sight of blooming redbuds, dogwood, oleander and a profusion of wildflowers can put a tune on anyone’s lips. The mystery, it turns out, is about Doug Larson. Larson’s insightful one-liners cover the web like cherry blossoms cover the park after a stiff breeze. Larson is typically identified as a British middle-distance runner who won a gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics. It turns out, however, that there wasn’t any British runner by that name in the 1924 Olympics. A fellow named Douglas Lowe won a medal, but he didn’t pen any witty aphorisms between races.  Other sources identify Larson as an American cartoonist. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any cartoonist of that name currently plying the trade. Some have suggested that Doug Larson is actually Gary Larson, the creator of The Far Side cartoon. But Gary Larson declines the honor. A bit more sleuthing reveals that Green Bay Press-Gazette newspaper columnist Doug Larson might be the man behind the myth. Beginning in 1980, he’d been knocking out a syndicated column under the title, Senator Soaper. It was the continuation of a feature that had been running in the Kansas City Star since the 1920’s. The column used a style of writing called “paragraphs” in the trade. In the tradition of Kin Hubbard, a paragraph is a sentence or two that contains a highly compressed bit of wisdom and humor. Here’s one attributed to the mysterious Doug Larson, “The only nice thing about being imperfect is the joy it brings to others.” This is another that most of us can relate to: “Accomplishing the impossible means only that the boss will add it to your regular duties.” You get the idea—a single sentence somehow manages to communicate a paragraph’s worth of thought. None-the-less, neither the single sentence paragraph nor the more traditional kind can explain the mystery surrounding quotes by Doug Larson.

But Doug Larson isn’t the only mystery. Spring brings its own sense of mystery and wonder. So much of our experience seems grim, serious and gray that the colorful excitement of spring appears jarringly out of place. Just where do all those wildflowers come from anyway? And why am I always pleased to spot the first stand of bluebonnets along the highway? It may be a puzzlement, but it’s a satisfying one. That’s probably because there are just some things in life that are inherently good. With the seasonal rebirth there’s no commercial message, no hidden agenda, and no cost of admission. It’s just a fundamental reminder—perhaps a wake-up call—that there’s always hope. There’s always the promise of a spectacular future no matter how bleak the past.

It’s easy to be so freighted with care that a wildflower becomes nothing more than a weed. Yet the tug of spring is strong. You have to work hard not to enjoy the temperate weather. You have to deliberately turn a blind eye to the brilliant greening of the recently naked trees. So don’t fight it. Moving beyond the slush of winter is a delightful mystery of life. Enjoy it. Just put you lips together and whistle!


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The Capitol in Spring

Texas Wildflowers

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