Get a Canary

Feb Blog

Funeral service providers have a reputation for reluctance to make changes even if necessary for their own good, are generally slow to adopt pretty much anything new and rarely create from within. What if we took the example of the canary in the coal mine?  You know, a safety net just in case we were to get a sniff of dangerous carbon monoxide and can abandon the mine before coming to harm?  This business is not that simple, however so few ever get to taste the sweetness of success after taking a risk.

Why is that?  If we watch an episode of Wild Kingdom starring Marlin Perkins following the annual migration of wildebeests we can see in real time how we seem to act.  Just keep our heads down, move with everyone else and don’t venture away from the herd.  “Damn that river crossing, I’m staying right in the middle and just trying to survive.” Never mind a new route that may make more sense.

Does the fear of failure suppress risk taking?  Creation of new products or services should be initiated among funeral professionals because that’s where the “rubber hits the road” (more on this particular reference in the next paragraph), but the majority of something new comes from outside, not within.  Is it because everyone is so busy and simply putting extra time into something that may not work out isn’t worth the effort?  Did you know the modern day church truck was invented by Samson Diuguid, a funeral director back in the 1800’s in Lynchburg, Virginia? Because church aisles were too narrow for pallbearers to walk on both sides of a coffin, Diuguid created a much used product that made our job easier and the funeral experience better.

What about taking a risk in the funeral industry that my invoke ridicule and embarrassment?  Oh no, not from fellow funeral professionals!  Back to the Diuguid folks, they actually had the gall to use a rubber wheeled and a motorized hearse to carry a casket!  It’s said that other funeral directors made fun of Diuguid and even coined the contraption “blasphemous to the profession.” We have the same twits in abundance today and you can see them flitting around “busy” at funeral meetings and conventions.  They are easy to spot; usually adorned in full funeral director dress inclusive of suit, white shirt, and not too flashy tie.  Funny, since there isn’t a family to serve in site…impressive huh?  Interesting about this particular sect of the herd is that they themselves have never invested, created or invented anything in their lives however are the first in line with nay saying gibberish ridicule of “my families won’t” or “that will never” and so on. Funny though, when the something new takes hold they follow rest of the herd sometimes too late as the crocks are lurking for the finely-adorned stragglers.

As for me, I’m going deep in the mine with a cage full of canaries and keeping my #FNhustle on to make #FNchange to better our industry. Yep, I’m going to fail at some of my initiatives.  Yep, I’m going to be ridiculed (however not to my face because the before-mentioned finely-adorned, nay-saying eunuchs who literally don’t have the balls to do so).  And yep, I’m going to succeed and just keep mining.

I challenge you to go get some canaries and enter the mine; it’s hard, nasty work, you might fail and get laughed at or you may actually do something to make a difference. If not, please start shopping because the new season of conventions and meetings are starting and you’ll need to be seen.  From behind a thick fog of smoke in the Command Post, Cheers Y’all! #thefuneralcommander



  1. Bam–Out of the park, Great post my friend


  2. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you my friend! Make it happen #FNchange #FNhustle ~Jeff


  3. Bill Forsberg said:


    I know you are familiar with West Point Military Academy’s 11 Rules of Leadership, of which the first may serve useful in commenting on your article.

    Rule 1.
    Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
    Identify your strengths and weaknesses;work to change.

    Change or trying something new begs the question for many: Why expend the time to do it when life is so good already? Sometimes those who inherit their death care businesses suffer from that rare malady of ‘Affluenza’ (like that recent TX student who fled to Mexico with his mother to avoid authorities).
    Why do something to risk a change that could blow it all away if it (read as “I”) fail ?

    An HBR article on “Fear of Success” (instead of the more commonly heard “Fear of Failure”) contends that if I do try something new that will benefit me or my business and it works then it will end up forcing me to work harder (expand my building , hire more staff, etc.). Also, Dorothea Brande’s wonderful book,Wake up and Live, also reasons that some folks have unconsciously worked so hard in their life to maintain a ‘Will to Fail’ instead of trying new things to develop a ‘Will to Succeed’ that they don’t or can’t see themselves as being any more successful.

    Your passion for self development and change is admirable and an example for others.
    No disputing that one.

    I believe that those of us who share that thinking must keep on working to show and encourage others in our business
    the benefits that change and trying new ideas will bring to their lives and to the lives of those around them.

    As mother used to say, “Nothing ventured Nothing gained”.



  4. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you for reading and sharing such insightful thoughts. All of your points are on target. We really need to catch up…Let’s chat soon! Jeff


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