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“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
I had a very interesting conversation yesterday with a good friend and client. I had recently given him a copy of my life’s textbook “The 4 hour work week” by Tim Ferriss and he was about half way through. He said that the book had triggered the spirit he once had when starting his businesses, but he had one major question.
Perplexed, I asked, “So what’s the question”. He said, “I struggle with this books teachings and work ethic. As a child my father taught me that if you were going to do something that you put all your heart and soul into your work. You gave 110%, you worked hard and good things came to you.” I thought for a moment and responded, “I think we have to redefine what we mean when we say work”.
My grandfather was a welder in a large Chevrolet plant in Muncie, Indiana. Every morning he would get up, head to the factory and weld sometimes 12 hours a day. He worked hard, produced amazing results and fed his family of 4 boys. Grandpa Delbert had a good life.
My father was a small business owner; he got up every morning, went to his office and opened his mail. He looks at every piece, sorting as he opened and then gave the mail to his staff to process. He might leave the office occasionally, but for the most part, my father stayed in the office attending to client needs. My father worked hard, produced amazing results, and fed his family of 2 kids. I’m happy to say my father is still alive and after “retiring” at 55 with my Mom, they have had a GREAT life.
Work ethic was instilled in my sister and I as young children. I had a paper route, mowed yards, ran fireworks stand, and a few other “side” businesses that helped me generate considerable cash flow as a young man.
During college, I took classes, but also worked at the computing services office learning inventory control and a little data base programming. I received a graduate degree in information and communication sciences (I’m still not sure what that means…) in 1992 and immediately joined my father’s small business. I had no idea what I was doing and simply did as I was told.
I quickly found out that I was a failure at many, many, many things. I could not open the mail, my ADD kept me looking at the squirrels outside. So, I gave that responsibility back to my father who agrees to continue to the job as his sole responsibility. I then tried to sit in the office as my father did, but soon realized that I loved working with business owners and very few were walking around my office. My fathers business was mainly business to consumer so his approached worked for him, but it did not for me.
I began coming in the office, working a little with my staff and leaving the office. I began prospecting, meeting with clients, and figuring out how to be an effective salesperson.
Today, I work out of an office no more than 4 hours a week and if you ask my staff, that’s pushing it. My job as an owner of a small business is to get things done. To me that is the new definition of work. How much work or progress can you manage to complete in one day should be the question we ask ourselves. Using the newly found Virtual Assistants, I’m able to accomplish so much more than even 60 days ago. I’m not doing the work; I outline to someone else what needs done and then manage the projects. This allows me to focus on what I am good at which are sales and managing client relationships.
Getting back to my friend. He said this book has really helped me get back to my original mindset as to “why I started this business. I can do in 4 hours what most of my guys do in 8 hours. I am efficient and I seem to have forgotten that. Today I wrote on my white board the word EFFICIENCY and that will be a constant reminder to me to work efficiently”.
I listened, I thought and said, do me a favor “add a + sign, then the word DELEGATION and then an = sign and the word SUCCESS”. He said, “I like that…thank you”. What is work? There are many definitions for work, but yesterday my friend and I took a stance and created our own formula. I highly recommend you do the same.
Let’s talk about how we can review your current insurance needs and see where there are gaps. Click HERE to schedule a free consultation call with us!
The Eatin Towel
About 11 years ago I was on a quick trip with my “gang”. At that time, I would annually take my management crew on a 2 night get away to do business planning, have a little fun, and try and change the world. As we were heading down the road, one of my employees picked up a rather dirty towel and said, “What the heck is this”. The response from Ronald Vaughn Shumaker, “that’s my eatin towel”.
When asked to define “eatin towel”. Ronn advised, “every day I go through a drive through and to save time I eat as I drive. Before I pull out of the drive through, I place the eatin towel on my lap to catch the stuff that falls out of my sandwich”. I thought this an amazing addition to any vehicle and thus the official Ronald Vaughn Eatin Towel was born.
When we returned from the trip, I called a friend of mine and asked how much it would cost to get 500 large golf towels silk-screened with a story. The answer came back pretty reasonable and so I create the story of the Eatin Towel, stole Ronn’s signature from an application he had just submitted to a carrier and had these delivered within the week.
Ronn had no idea and was very pleased to now be part of our marketing lore. Our company for marketing as a point of difference used these towels and we even got a few laughs. We have reprinted the towel a few times and still use it today as one of our many marketing pieces.
Around this same time I was marketing in Indianapolis and ran across a large Internet café. This was before Wi Fi was readily available and thus I was doing a little work and since I’m a sales person, I asked to speak to the owner, gave him the towel, told the story and left. I did a little research with him as to whom he was insured with etc, but at that he had no pain or maybe I was too much a rookie to find the pain.
About 2 months later I get a call from Indianapolis from “Bill”. Bill indicated that he was getting something out of his trunk in his car, saw the eatin towel and decided to call. We met, did an audit of his current program and to this day our firm manages Bill’s risk.
Always be on the lookout for unique marketing opportunities. I’m not sure if this one will be in the hall of fame, but it is a part of a much larger point of difference campaign our company has been creating the last few years.
In addition to the eating towel, we have small zip log bags of rocks with a sticker on the back that states The Thompson Group Rocks. The sticker also has our website. Imagine getting a bag of rocks with nothing but a website, you might just check it out.
Let’s talk about how we can review your current insurance needs and see where there are gaps. Click HERE to schedule a free consultation call with us!
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swaps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. it’s yours.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Are you feeling like a failure? Excellent, quit. Stop what you are doing, simply quit. From one complete failure to another, it’s best to stop trying. It will save you years of frustration, embarrassment, and stress. If you are not a success and you have hit that old preverbal wall, quit.
I’ve failed so many times in my life that if I were to simply focus on my failures, I’d get nothing else done. About 15 years ago, I had a great idea. I would buy an existing sub-standard insurance agency; I would relocate it to an old service station, fix up the service bays and allow area adjusters to use this area for free.
State Farm and Farm Bureau already had these “adjustment shops” and giving Independent Insurance Carriers the opportunity to use this for free seemed like a good idea. We would benefit from the increased traffic and get referrals for our other main company, Thompson Insurance.
I bought the agency, the building, hired an ex-golf pro to run it and do our marketing. After 3 years, 3 managers, and many sleepless nights, I sold the agency for a profit of $10,000. I say profit because on paper, that’s what it looked like I made. However, figuring opportunity cost, I lost my ass. It was another 3 years of school learning lessons that I didn’t take in college.
Fast forward another 3 years, this time it was technology. Our agency had been one of the first in the nation to offer full-blown lending using the new “insurance carrier owned banks”. We were now poised to bring in another leader in the technology field and begin cross selling our commercial insurance clients web sites and technology services.
My partner and I started out of the gate quickly. Picking up our existing clients tech work promising the same level of service we offered on the insurance side. After 2 years, I limped out of that company barely keeping a friendship in tact with the other partner, but again, learning very valuable lessons about what not to do in business. That $100,000 lesson was that we needed to focus on one thing, in our world; it ended up being insurance that served as our most profitable product and service.
It was around the time of the technology company’s demise that I honestly thought about quitting. I was tired, I had steered my ship almost off the side of the earth and I was struggling to understand the impact of these poor financial decisions.
I later lost two great producers due to my over zealous ego, made a $150,000 hiring mistake that almost put me out of business, and then retrenched. Took a long step back, began slowing down and starting building the company that I co-own today.
The lessons I’ve learned have been very painful and expensive, but without these failures, we would not have the amazing company that we have today. Today, I embrace mistakes that my staff make knowing that like me, make that mistake once and there is a high probability that you won’t make it again.
The other day one of my team members made a $600.00 mistake. He said, “Damn it, I’m better than that…I want to quit”. I said, “you can’t quit now, I’d lose my $600.00 investment”. The way I look at it, that mistake just saved our company thousands of dollars in a much larger mistake of the same type. I’ll take those $600.00 mistakes in exchange for the saving of the much larger mistake any day.
Lance Armstrong once said, ““Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.” An ironic quote from a man that just quit defending his “drug free” status. Although there are times in life where it makes sense to quit ala our friend Lance. Quitting 97.987% of the time will not allow you to learn the valuable lessons that you’ll need in later seasons of life.
Quit today, no way!
Let’s talk about how we can review your current insurance needs and see where there are gaps. Click HERE to schedule a free consultation call with us!
Phone Free Nation
“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.”
― Jack Kerouac
Imagine our world without cell phones. Impossible, how would we ever get anything done? I remember as a small child there being NO cell phones. A time when one could have an uninterrupted meal with family and friends and not hear GRRRRRRRRRRR, GRRRRRRRRRRRR, GRRRRRRRRRR.
My solution, put away your damn phone. There is a time and a place to make and take calls. When you are with another human, don’t do it. NO call is usually that important. If you own a business and you are having an issue with a client that needs attention, this rule does not apply, but honestly, this might occur one or two times a month. The rest of the calls most people take are only to tell the other person they are with another person and they will call them when done, very silly if you think about it.
With the 24 / 7 news cycle, we think that we have to be 24 / 7 accessible. Until recently this was me. I was there, you need me, and I’ll be here NO MATTER WHAT! Guess what, no one really needs you that bad. Hate to break it to you, but we are rarely as important as we think we might be. Remove yourself and the world would go on ticking just fine, remember that the next time you are with your family and your phone rings.
Training people to start texting you as opposed to calling you is pretty simple. On your new voice mail greeting that you are going to create today, simply tell folks that you check your voice mail once a day and that if this is an important matter, send you a text and you will return the call within the hour.
But isn’t texting the same as using your phone. Nope, looking at your texts after a meeting or family time is fine. DON’T check your phone for texts during “other human interaction”. It’s just plain rude.
Set your phone to one GRRRRRRRRRR instead of 3 for all texts received and turn your ringer off. YOU CAN’T answer your phone if you don’t know it is ringing. Try this experiment for one week. Go all 1982 on the world and see what happens. You might find out that you have much more free time that you actually thought you had. You might find that your stress level decreases 75%.
As “that guy”, the one that always had his phone handy, making and taking calls at a crazy ass pace, I can speak to both ways of life. My new limited phone life is much more pleasant and I’m pretty sure my coworkers and family appreciate the attention I can now give them.
Look at your co-workers, how many tasks can they complete without picking up their phone? How much more effective could they be if they did not look at their phone every 10 minutes. Think of this, distraction free work. This can be a reality. Managers of people, institute a NO PHONE AM policy for a week, see what happens. Have your employees forward all calls to the office number so if the school calls to tell your employee Mary that their son is sick, that call won’t be missed. You just might see an improvement in efficiency. I promise you, this will not be easy. People are now conditioned that their phone is just as important as their genitals and not allowing them to touch it will result in a very bad day. Work with me on this…. just try it.
“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry
Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that is used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.
The phrase jump the shark comes from a scene in the fifth season premiere episode of the American TV series Happy Days titled “Hollywood: Part 3”, written by Fred Fox, Jr. and aired on September 20, 1977. In the episode, the central characters visit Los Angeles, where a water-skiing Fonzie(Henry Winkler) answers a challenge to his bravery by wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, and jumping over a confined shark. For a show that in its early seasons depicted universally-relatable adolescent and family experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia, this incident marked an audacious, cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry. Initially a supporting character, the faddish lionization of an increasingly superhuman Fonzie became the focus of Happy Days
I was 8 years old when the above episode aired for the first time. I remember it well. Not for Fonzi’s jumping of the shark, but for it was the first time in my young life that I understood things change. I remember getting very sad during the airing of the show and understanding that life is always going to change whether we want it to or not. Pretty impressive for an 8 year-old kid, most kids don’t learn that until 9.
Every time I get sad about something that is ending, I remember that show. This past Saturday my son ran his last high school cross-country race. I’ve watched him run for 4 years, missing very few races, but this was his last…ever. As he crossed the finish line I remembered lying in front of Mom and Dad’s TV and that feeling I got watching that now infamous show. It’s a feeling that I don’t often get, but when I do, it’s a BFD (big freaking deal).
The term jumping the shark has been well documented by the above definition. However, in my life, jumping the shark means the end of something special. No matter the situation, everything has a season. Some are longer than others, but for the most part, every part of our lives run a certain way for a certain time and then things change.
I try and recognize the seasons I’m living and try to embrace the end of each season knowing that there will be other seasons, but some are very special. Raising my kids has been my greatest season followed by the running of my company. Both seasons are about the same length and they seem to be tracking very well together.
My son is a senior and my daughter a sophomore. I look at our company as being in its high school years. We are probably closer to that of a sophomore than a senior, but as I take a look at this specific season, our company is experiencing some amazing growth, profitability, and stability. Our staff is locked in to our vision and as we finish our sophomore year and get ready for our junior year, our class is poised for greatness.
I think that as we end our senior year, I might start thinking about that damn Happy Days episode. I’m confident the next 3 years are going to be nothing short of amazing, but then things will change. I’m not sure what those changes will be, I think we will have some amazing opportunities and I am confident that it will be a time of celebration, but in my mind, we’ll be jumping the shark.
For now, I’m enjoying this ride, watching my children grow into amazing adults and our company blossom into a culture rich, personal responsibility driven, creative thinking managed organization.
My aunt and uncle used to claim that the 30’s were the best time of their life. My 30’s were good, but my 40’s have been great. The sadness of my son’s last cross country race will be short since my daughter has two more years to run and I expect her to have the same success as her older brother. My son will soon be off to college and that will take a little adjustment as well.
Although the seasons change and the shark is jumped, by keeping aware of the various seasons of your life allow you to have a much more amazing life ride.
“Visualize this thing you want. See it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blueprint and begin.”
― Robert Collier
Some people see it, others hear it, and some people feel it. Which type of person are you? Many years ago I learned about VAK, which stands for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
To help explain, I’ll take some information from my friends at one of my favorite sites: www.businessballs.com. This site also offers a simple test to help you determine if you are a V A or K.
The Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic learning styles model or ‘inventory’, usually abbreviated to VAK, provides a simple way to explain and understand your own learning style (and learning styles of others).
‘Learning style’ should be interpreted to mean an individual mixture of styles. Everyone has a mixture of strengths and preferences. No one has exclusively one single style or preference. Please bear this in mind when using these ideas.
Alternatively the model is referred to as Visual-Auditory-Physical, or Visual-Auditory-Tactile/Kinesthetic (or Kinesthetic). Some people also extend the model to VARK (Visual-Auditory-Reading-Kinesthetic) or VACT (Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic-Tactile), and you can decide yourself about the usefulness of such adaptations.
The Visual-Auditory-Kinesthetic learning styles model does not overlay Gardner’s multiple intelligences, or Kolb’s theory, rather the VAK model provides a different perspective for understanding and explaining a person’s preferred or dominant thinking and learning style, and strengths. Gardner’s theory is one way of looking at thinking styles; Kolb is another way; VAK is another. The more perspectives you have, the better you see and understand your own personality and learning styles, and the learning styles of employees, colleagues and staff.
If you think about how you absorb information, you must admit that you absorb information in one of the above 3 ways better than the other two. I’m a big reader and always have been. My Mother was a elementary and middle school librarian and thus if I didn’t have a book in my hand at all times I was beat with a belt made out of leather and nails (this is an exaggeration, although, reading was very important in our household).
As I stated my professional career and found the wonderful world of audio books, I started to realize that I could learn much faster or as my son’s friend stated recently “more better” if I first listened to the information. If I want to become a “master” of something, I’ve learned that if I can listen to the audio book, pod cast, or online tutorial two times and then study the material, I can pretty much lock anything into my tiny brain.
No one likes to complete forms; I would rather have a chopstick shoved up my urethra than complete a form. But today, we have so many forms that must be complete. Think about a mortgage, an insurance transaction, your taxes, forms dominate society. As a company our approach to these dreadful forms is to offer a “form completion service”. While many of our competitors ask their clients to complete the forms, we simply send them a copy and then set up a time that they can vocally answer the questions and we scribe the information on the form and at the end of the conversation, they sign our scribed copy. This approach leads too much quicker turn time of our needed information and saves our clients the headache of completing yet another form.
Technology allows for all types of learning with seminars, audio books, pod casts, Itunes University, video pod casts from Stanford University are simply amazing. Once you identify your preferred way of learning, goggle search a topic and be amazed at the sheer amount of data you will find on that topic.
Lifetime learning is a gift that many people fail to take advantage of. Understanding your learning style might just help you plug back into to the wonderful world of knowledge that surrounds us all.
For many years I’ve been teaching and preaching a philosophy called the “my guy philosophy”. The basis of this thought is that for ever vendor provided service people always have their guy or gal and as long as they are providing even average service at a competitive price; they will continue to utilize the services of that vendor. Another ideal that I’ve bantered about has been that of the “bench philosophy” which states that once a salesperson find a prospect with their guy or gal, they should keep in constant contact via various means to position yourself first on their bench or make yourself or company their next logical choice. While these two ideals sound fine, they are wrong. They are so wrong that if you follow these “rules” you are limiting yourself, your company, and doing a disservice to every prospect you have ever or will ever call upon. Let me explain…
There are many problems with the my guy philosophy. First, think for a moment about your own client base. How many of your own clients truly love you? I mean, would go to war for you. The clients I’m describing are the clients that if a competitor calls will say no thank you we’re happy, don’t have time, busy, my current vendor is a family member, etc. Would you guess half, seventy five percent? With all due respect, depending upon the quality of your services, you probably have no more than 25% of your client base that is truly in love with you and your company. The other 75% will say they have their guy…but if called upon by a professional sales person in your industry, they can be converted from prospect to client for this “new guy”. Now, think about that, if 75% of your clients are always out on the market, would it not seem reasonable that 75% of your competitor’s clients are on the market as well?
Another problem with the guy philosophy is that clients have a hard time telling the truth when it comes to answering a sales persons questions. In an initial qualifying interview when asked about ones current vendor, it is very easy for a client to simply say, they are doing a great job. It’s easy, it’s painless, and it’s an easy way to get this salesperson out of their office. Usually during the initial interview, a few surface questions are asked, the prospect says “just fine, they are great, no problems…etc”. If one’s mindset is “the my guy philosophy” they will quickly deem that this prospect has their guy and end the sales call by explaining the bench philosophy. They will tell the prospect that over the next few months they will receive propaganda from their company and a call every few months to make sure that they are still happy with “their guy”. The sales call quickly ends and the prospect moves on with their day and the salesperson is happy that they have positioned themselves firmly on this client’s bench.
The truth in the above scenario is that the salesperson was probably weak in identifying the prospects pain and blew yet another opportunity to gain a client. Let’s replay the above. Salesperson starts the appointment with the all important rapport. Once comfortable they begin asking questions that traditionally are issues with the salespersons service and the prospects industry. Since NO relationship is perfect, if enough questions are asked, soon the client will identify a pain, BUT this is not the real pain, this is only the sneeze that indicates a full blown flu. In order to diagnose the fact the prospect has the flu; the salesperson must begin asking a series of questions that lead the prospect from sneeze to realizing they are sicker than they have ever been. Let me be clear, this process is not enjoyable for a prospect. It’s painful for the prospect, they will at times get very upset, they will get emotional, and they may even curse. Realizing that you are sick when you thought you were well is very uncomfortable, but if the medicine for that sickness is sitting in their office, they will quickly realize that making a change will make them well again.
The my guy philosophy is a wimp’s approach to professional selling. It is a philosophy that will allow for a decent living of any sales person in any industry, but will not push that person to excellence and into the top performers of their industry. The my guy philosophy is based upon the fact that people buy intellectually when in fact, people buy emotionally. People don’t buy ones proposals, product knowledge, or even price; they buy the feeling that what the new person offers heals their pain. They key to the “non my guy philosophy” is finding a prospects pain, healing that pain, and then showing them love until the next professional comes along and identifies the fact that you’re not so perfect either!
Once a year my company’s management team spends 2 days out of the office. Amazing you say, they leave the office, they go away? Well, let me be more clear. We go on our annual sabbatical and we change the world. You see we travel about 2 hours away to a small rural community around Bloomington, IN called Nashville. It is there where we rent a chalet and “hunker down” for 2 days of intense scrutiny of all operations, markets, policies, procedures, etc. We just returned from our seventh and I am again amazed as to the impact of this “company tool”.
Our sabbatical usually starts on a Wednesday afternoon where our management team all meet to pack one vehicle and travel south. On our journey, we always stop for a nice meal and reconnect on a personal basis and try and avoid “shop talk”. We arrive at our chalet about 7:30, relax and get ready for a long day of intense conversation and work. Usually we might play a game of pool, have a glass of wine, or do some other “team building activity”, but knowing the work that must be done; we make it an early night.
On Thursday morning, we’re all up early to drink the strongest coffee ever made. We usually work in the living room due to comfort so it’s at this point where we all “get our spot”. It is important to note that the majority of our management team wears “jimmies” during our work day. Usually there is one laptop used that contains the agenda and each person has brought “their agenda” and supporting documentation. We start our work about 7:30 and the world begins to change.
The first issue we tackle is why we are here. What does each person want to accomplish from this meeting. What are the main objectives? Next we complete an annual SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis for our company. It’s always interesting to compare this years SWOT with previous years, we are definitely in a changing environment. The next item of business is the most important item, the creation of our Action List. This is the list that all “to do’s” are placed upon and it is this list that will be implemented once we return. This list is referred to the rest of the day and items are added as issues are solved.
Since this is our seventh sabbatical, we’re now at a position where we are merely “righting” the ship. Years ago, we did things like changed the name of our company to get us more in line with the products and services we offered, changed our mission statement, etc. The more sabbaticals your company has the more one will see the emphasis change from the big stuff to the smaller more “tweaky” issues we all face as independent insurance agencies. There is always about 3 main issues that must be tackled, but it is the “tweaky” stuff that seems to take the most time.
Our “tweaky” issues this year included late pay process; update our personal lines new business procedures and a review and update of our accounts receivable policy. Our big issues were an update of our stock purchase / perpetuation plan, annual producer / agency goal setting, and pending personnel changes. There were many other things there were discussed, but this is an article, not a book.
To start each and every discussion there is an agenda sheet that is used. We prefer to use power point and a heading with bullet points that must be reviewed, but once we get going, it is a free flow of information. As an example we started talking about producer goals and our lack of accountability when producers do not hit goal. Our solution after about 30 minutes was not to punish the producer, but created a system where by at the end of the month if the numbers needed by each producer were not hit, the management staff (comprised of all producers and operations manager) would take the producer out for a cup of coffee and look at our five key components of our sales process. We plan review each key and help the producer realize why their numbers are the way they are.
So what are our five key components? During this years review we tried to break our sales process down into behavior steps and review numbers that impacted our process. By combining these numbers we realize that we can get a great estimate as to how a producer will perform in any given month, year, etc. Our components analyzed were: average commission income per account, number of new sales calls per year, number of accounts that qualified, close ratio on those qualified prospects, and retention of ones book. If you compute using that system it will give you an accurate idea of what a producer can do for a company. Using this formula, each producer agreed to a realistic goal that must be hit or they will be killed at the end of the year.
We usually end our day about 4:30 where a ceremonial bottle of wine is opened and a few of us partake. After that it’s usually quick showers and off for another great meal where again, the focus is not shop talk, but great conversation about life, love, and happiness. If you think that last sentence was hokey, our mission statement is “find the pain, heal the pain, show the love”. We return to the chalet about 9:00 to play cards, pool, or yet another team building exercise and retire at ummmm, well that’s not important.
The next morning, we pack up and return to the office to start implement our action plan. During the next weeks staff meeting the changes are reviewed and any major items are discussed. Our staff was relieved this year to find out that we didn’t change the name of the company and that no one lost their job due to sabbatical group think downsizing. As we move through this year, our sabbatical notes will be reviewed and updated based upon the actual workings of the world. Next January when we leave for our eighth annual juncture these notes will be summarized and reviewed at the start of the work day.
John Summers is a good ol boy. Born in Tennessee, John was raised on hard work, meat and potatoes. So as John began building a concrete business in Muncie, Indiana, it was no surprise to anyone that knew him that it was a huge success. Until the age of 62, John worked every day, managing his concrete business and helping his employees set the forms and work the concrete, John was a “working owner”. Once evening, about 2 months after John’s 62nd birthday, he began having chest pains and thus he drove himself to the hospital. Along the way he stopped and asked one of Muncie’s finest for some help but was told “I’m not an ambulance?”, so John proceeded until he reached his final destination, Ball Memorial Hospital. When John was checked in, the prognosis was grim; the Doctors didn’t think he would make it through the night. However, John did make it though the night, but his heart took a beating. When the attack had finished, the doctors estimated that he had lost 80% usage of his heart, but John was still alive determined to get back to work and that is where this story begins.
When John was released from the hospital, he could barely walk. After 62 years of not even a cold, this robust “superman” was confined to a bed, only able to get up to use the bathroom. Soon, John’s body began to recover and he began to be able to get back to his normal life, helping his wife Betty around the house, visit his office, and manage his employees. But, the fact that John could no longer “work” was driving him crazy so after 43 years in the concrete businesses, John decided to sell his company to some of his employees. After the sale, John took a few weeks to relax; he could finally settle down and enjoy life. It was during this time that John began to notice that his back was hurting a little. Well actually, John’s back was killing him, 43 years of working with concrete will take a toll on ones back and so as soon as his strength returned, John was back in the hospital for major back surgery. The surgery was a success and John again found himself at home recuperating. Again, Johns body began to recover and John got a cane to help him walk around the house, go to the doctor, just help him get around. One day while getting off the couch, John felt a slight pressure in his stomach. During his next trip to the doctor the doctor informed him that he had developed a hernia and it was going to require surgery. Over the next 6 months, John found himself back in the hospital 2 more time, once for the hernia and the next for a knee. Johns knees had been fine for 63 years, but since the rest of his body was going to hell, it appeared his knees had a meeting and agreed one of them would “go out” so they wouldn’t be left out of all the fun.
John, now 64, is “fully” recovered from all his surgeries. He begins an exercise program that includes light weight training, walking every other day, minor medication, John is feeling GREAT. He begins working on his rental properties, mowing the yard, helping Betty with the groceries. John’s next visit with his doctor was scheduled for next week and so John decided that he would take some time and ask the doctor a few questions. He entered the doctor’s office that next week feeling great, he had not felt this type of strength for months. As the doctor began his examination, John said Doc, can I ask you a few questions. The doctor smiled and said, sure John. John began with this list, “Doc, can I mow the yard?” Doc replied no John. Ok, but can I work on my rental properties? No John was the response. Doc, can I help Betty with the groceries, you know carry them in once she gets in? At this point, the doctor looks John dead in the eye and said “John, you have the same Damn heart you had the day you walked out of the hospital. If you continue doing these things I know you are doing you’re going to die of a heart attack. Now, I am aware you have many grand children. Why don’t you go home, take off your shoes and relax. Watch TV, take it easy, hire all those jobs out that you should not do and enjoy the next 20 years of life?” John smiled and left to go home thanking the doctor for his advice. When he got home, Betty asked John, “Honey, what did the doctor say?” John replied, the doctor said it was time for me to decide weather I wanted to die with my boots on or my boots off. John continued, “Honey, do you remember that movie Shawshank Redemption?” There was a part of that movie where one of the characters looks at the other characters and says “you know there is a time in ones life when we all have to decide weather we are going to get busy living or get busy dying.” I’ve been thinking about that and I’ve decided I’m going to get busy living and make darn sure I die with my boots on. John wakes every day, completes his 2 mile walk before leaving to work at his rentals, mow a yard, or help Betty with the groceries. John might live 2 days or 20 years, but when it’s John’s time, he’ll have his boots on!
Author’s note: I wrote this years ago, John has now passed. John passed a couple of years ago and yes, he was wearing his boots.
Football, Football, Football!!! This is the season, this is the time most hover around the TV on Saturday and Sunday watching their team, crying for a victory, and usually sharing a beer or two. As you watch the game notice the breaks that the players get. Although they are pushing hard every play, at some point in a short interval, there is a time-out called and the players get a rest.
Now, think about your day. Every day you wake, you get up; you do your routine and then begin your tasks. We go from one thing to another, task mastering every item off that list until it’s time for bed. Throughout the day, every human is given multiple time outs. Most people think, I can’t get everything done, I don’t have time, I’m tired, but what they fail to understand is that every day has timeouts. You just have to recognize them and take them.
Tomorrow you will be doing something and you will complete a task. It might be a proposal, it might be getting the laundry put away, and it might be fixing that damn broke washer. But at the end of every one of these tasks you have a time out. Most people look to the next item, they move on not enjoying the break that they just earned.
In 1957 there was a study called the “No trill kiding Analysis” conducted on college students who were following a strict study schedule 4 days a week and then not studying for 3 days, the days were spaced so that they were between all study days. For example, Monday was a Study Day as was Tuesday, but Wednesday was a non –study day. No matter what, the students could not study on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday were deemed study days, but one could NOT study on Saturday or Sunday no matter the upcoming schedule of tests on Monday.
The control group had their normal study schedule of every day. Students were tracked as to how much they studied, rated on quality of study, alone or with friends, and measure against each other. The remarkable thing about the No trilly kiding study was that the students that followed the study schedule improved their grade point by and average of ½ grade, the control group stayed the same.
The No trilly Kiding analysis is a story I just made up. I mean not really kidding analysis is not a real study. But I use it to illustrate the fact that what I have been doing for years might just work.
Let’s try a little exercise, tomorrow, begin looking for a few time outs. Time where you can catch your breath, look around and see what is around you. The blur of life is overwhelming at times and I find these 10-minute rests, observance time-outs are one of the favorite parts of my day.
If you can think about it, you have a lot to be positive about. Thinking about all the great things going on during those time out periods make all tasks a little easier. Try it, you’ll see. If you begin recognizing the time outs better the tasks will become and your life will improve dramatically.
Having trouble figuring out when the time out occurs. If you don’t batch work, start batching work. Do the same thing for about 45 minutes or batch small 10-minute jobs by 4. This is a task; it’s now time for a break.
As I sit here today I am on a nutritional program that forces you to be strict with your nutritional intake 6 days a week. But for that one-day, the day of bliss, there are no restrictions. If I want to eat 12 pizzas, I eat 12 pizzas. A keg of beer is no problem nor is a greasy bucket of KFC’s finest (the restaurant, not the Catholic group of the same name). I eat like a king and even over do it.
That one-day is great and gives me the power to plow through those other 6 “normal” days. Use that same principle during your day. Take 45 minutes to be strict. Do a task, work on a project of some sort or batch your projects, work for 45 to 50 minutes. Then, take 10 minutes and don’t do a damn thing. Don’t talk, sip your coffee, look around and see how amazing your surroundings are at this very moment. Take a walk, get up from your desk, walk outside, inside, find a quiet place in the office and relax.
Take 10 minutes, not 9, not 15, take 10. Set your Iphone if you have one, if you don’t have an Iphone, get a damn Iphone. Your mind will regenerate, you will be more relaxed, and able to work much more efficient on whatever the heck you are working on. Oh and of course, this time might be a great time to use the bathroom. BUT don’t use the bathroom during your 45-minute task time. No matter what, even if you have to use the bathroom in your pants, do not use the bathroom.
This is obviously a joke, if you think I’m serious please quit reading and take a time out. You need a time out! If you must use the bathroom during the 45 minutes, do it, but try and limit that time only to task completion.
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