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Forged in the Fire

The same metal that is forged into a tool, can also be forged into a weapon, or a bowl, or a hammer. Without the fire, there is no possibility of reshaping the hunk of metal into the desired result. Men & women, are also shaped in the “fire” of life. There is no way around it and no possible substitute.

The success we enjoy, is a direct result of the challenges that we have gone through in life and likely persevered; due to a deep rooted commitment and resolve. Likewise, the failures in our life are usually the lack of a deep rooted commitment to succeed and ultimately an unwillingness to go through “the fire”. Why? Because it hurts, and too many people don’t like it when it it hurts.

Commitment and involvement are two totally different things. It has been said that you can clearly see the difference between commitment and involvement on a bacon and eggs breakfast platter — The chicken was involved but the pig was committed.

Everyone wants to lose weight, but few are committed. Most people want a strong marriage, but it is only the ones who are committed to see it through, that endure for decades. Some want to have a successful career, but many are simply not willing to sacrifice to the extent that is needed to rise in the ranks. Religious people want to stand strong but seemingly fade away when persecution arises.

Spoiler alert: the sacrifice, pain, sleepless nights, disappointment, tears, set backs, persecution, and more, will always hurt and always be harder than we could ever imagine. But in the midst of these battles, our character is built. Most importantly, after the battle has been fought, the victory is sweet: and nothing can take the place of the feeling you get when you have overcome adversity due to your resolve and commitment to to your core beliefs. Some of the battles we lose BUT we do not quit. Instead we learn and this helps us immensely in winning our next battle.

So, make a decision to stand your ground and to be all-in in your commitment. When you do, some will call you “lucky” or “blessed”. Truth be told it will be because you were forged in the fire.

Featured

I love our people!

“Once you get to the point to where you see your people like I see the Citgo sign, you will know exactly what I am talking about.”

Okay, work with me here (all of you that are not from the greater Boston Area). There is something about that sign (and every city has its own landmark). When you see the Citgo sign, you know you are in one of the greatest cities in the world and right around the corner from the legendary Fenway Park. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy, brings back great memories, and is just simply awesome. Ever since I was a boy (my wife might argue that I still am one), this sign has been a back drop for the home runs over the Green Monster. Somehow that backdrop also brings good summertime memories, and for anyone who loves Boston in general, the sign has huge value.

Some of you may not be as fortunate as I am in regards to employees. My employees are probably some of the best people in the business. Both personally and professionally. They have a bounce in their step, have tremendous integrity, are hard-working, like their job, and generally are happy to be alive. Sometimes I wonder if this was orchestrated or if is just by chance that this caliber people are working side by side with me every day. Either way, I’ll take it.

I challenge all of you managers, supervisors, and executives alike. Get out of your office. Say hello to all of your people daily. Call them by name. Get to know them. Carry their burdens (to an extent) and share in their victories. Trust them. Train them. This will help you keep them. You might find this to be a secret weapon, as many employees don’t quit companies, they quit supervisors, managers, and executives.

Once you get to the point to where you see your people like I see the Citgo sign, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

Fork Use

Many times, people wish they could be more successful in their career. They might even wish that they could just have a simple breakthrough. The problem is; wishing is a poor business strategy.

Imagine if every time you ate, you ate with your fingers. Then, someone showed you a fork and how to use it. Instantly your eating experience would be improved greatly. But then, at your next meal, you ate with your hands again until someone had to point out that you can use a fork, which you already have been made aware of. You thank them, use a fork but on your next meal you repeat again eating with your hands. I know this sounds ludicrous. But that is exactly what stops most people from getting to the next level in their career.

It happens every day in corporate America. Millions of dollars are spent on training, sharing the newest tips and tricks of the trade, and mapping out the processes that lead to a desired result. The people attend, take notes, and return to the workplace only to be told in time that they can use a “fork.”

They hear and see good ideas but do not implement a system in their daily routine to do the very things that they just learned that lead to success. I always say that I might not be the smartest person in the room but I am second-to-none at hearing a good idea and implementing it in my daily routine. Yes – it has to be daily. I once heard someone say that a person does not control their earthly destiny but they do control their habits and their habits will in fact control their earthly destiny. The ones who implement good business practices daily, seem to be further ahead than the ones who don’t.

The quicker you learn to use a “fork”, the quicker you will get to your goals. Stop starting and stopping — and starting and stopping again. If you have been shown how to get the job done, don’t be in the place where you have to reminded again to do so. Or worse; again and again and again and again to do so. Get out of your own way and use a fork would ya!

Not Much Snake Oil Being Sold

Recently I had a well-meaning individual tell me that he knew someone who might want a job in sales; and that they could sell snake oil. It did not hit me until I hung up the telephone, but I do not hire people who can sell snake oil.

To be great in sales role, you do not need to be a slick talker, a conniver, or someone who strong arms someone into making a decision. That is manipulation.

What you do need to be great in sales is quite the opposite. You need to be good at asking questions that matter to the guest. Why are they interested? What need will it fill for them to buy your product? What is it important to them? What is their timeline to make a purchase? What is their budget? Who will the product be for?

The salesperson needs to be a good listener. Listening to the guest’s response to the questions, and truly understanding the guest, will assist them in making a good decision or avoiding a bad decision. Some people only listen on the surface and can’t wait to say what they want to say. These types don’t make it in a professional sales role.

A great salesperson needs to be ethical and genuine. Ethics are a deal breaker for me. You might be “great” but if you are low on ethics, I am not interested. When a person stands on solid ground ethically, they cannot be moved by bribes, spiffs, or anything else that may be in it for them — or by bending the rules or worse – the law.

Lastly, the people who work for me aren’t busy trying to be someone else. They are genuine. Because they are comfortable being themselves, the guests that they serve are also comfortable with them. There is a refreshing authenticity to a person who is genuine and they are able to build trust very quickly. Once they have built trust, the guest gives the salesperson the freedom to be creative. When a salesperson is creative, they find solutions to the guest’s needs that might not have been on the surface. A guest who does not trust their salesperson will never be free to allow the salesperson to creative.

So, a great salesperson leads people in the way they already want to go by asking questions, listening intently, being ethical, being genuine, and being creative. In doing these things, there is not much snake oil being sold.

Stand Alone

Every single person in the world is a one-of-a-kind. Remarkably unique. There are no two people exactly alike. Even identical twins differ. The fact that everyone has their very own fingerprint, is an extraordinary differential, setting everyone apart from each other. If we would stop there and realize that we are unique and that we were made by design, we could accomplish so much and be happier in the process.

The danger comes crashing in when in comparing and coveting become an everyday occurrence.  

When we compare ourselves against another human being, one of three things will likely happen. First, we may feel superior because after all of our comparing against a particular individual is completed, we will see that (in our mind) we are further along, more talented, have more money, live in a bigger house, or a host of other things that will puff us up. This breeds arrogance and many other attitudes and habits that are not justified. They are not justified, because comparing our strengths to another’s weaknesses is absurd.

Second, we may feel average after comparing ourselves to others and this can seem to satisfy us because we don’t feel too weird, too tall, too short, too fill-in-the-blank. This is a very dangerous place to be because mediocrity never really accomplishes anything. Ever. It is also fertile ground for apathy. Apathy is ugly and one of the highest dream killers of all time, because it keeps people from action.

Lastly, we may feel we have less after comparing ourselves to another person. Less successful, less good-looking, less outgoing, less friends, less life experiences, and the list goes on and on.

The world is full of imposters. It is full of people trying desperately to fit in, only to find themselves depressed and full of anxiety while they chase the very things that they were never designed to catch. When we covet someone else’s position, looks, spouse, bank account, and more, we can quickly get on a hamster wheel trying to catch “them”, trying to be more like “them”, wishing we were “them”– and everyone has a “them” if we were honest with ourselves. But “them” is for them, not you. Desiring what others have ultimately leads us to a place where we are not satisfied (and probably where most mid-life crisis originate from.)

If you will learn to walk in your own skin, run your own race, and win your own battles, you will find yourself much happier. I liken it to a key to a car. The key is programed for a specific VIN number and it will not start any car in the world except the one it was designed to start. No one would be angry that their car key is not starting the neighbors car but on the same token they will get upset that their life (key) isn’t exactly like or better than their neighbor’s.

Everything made has a purpose. But everything made is not multi-purpose. Everything made was made intentionally. That includes you. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. You were intentional, even if someone has told you were an accident. There are no accidents in human creation. The secret is being content in what you were created for. You were not created to be a failure. However, in success lies many setbacks that look like failure. Failure is not final unless you stay there. It is a temporary setback and once you overcome the setback, be sure more “failures” will follow. Keep pressing forward. You will succeed when you realize that you must walk in the footsteps you were created for. When this happens you will realize you can stand alone and succeed in your own endeavors – not duplicate someone else’s.

Don’t Rust Out!

I once heard it said — of trying to find the right person for the job — that it is easier to give birth than to resurrect the dead. Meaning; it is easier to replace someone on your team (or the leader of your team) than trying to get a person who is not interested in changing their ways, to change their ways. Getting someone motivated is very simple if the person is teachable and hungry for success. The problem is, once a person has resolved to hang on yesterday, they will seldom desire to change, even though they know that the world is moving forward all around them and they are no longer doing so.

Sometimes a person spends years growing and reaching but then they plateau and stay there for a period of time, or worse – forever. When everyone else is moving forward, the person who has decided to plateau stands out – and not in a good way. When it happens to be a leader in the organization, their plateau can become contagious and that will breed apathy in the team below. We must be fair and give that leader every chance to charge their “weak battery” before they become a “dead battery.” But after you have given the leader several chances to change, given them opportunities for training, given several action plans, recommended books & podcasts, and finally included HR in the process; it is time to replace the individual.

I have spent years trying to help people grow; and more specifically trying to pour into leaders who simply would not receive the gesture. Only to find out that they were pretty satisfied with mediocrity. Mediocrity is the Achilles heel of success. You can never want it more for someone than they want it for themselves. One of my personal strengths is also one of my weaknesses – believing the underdog will rise up, fight back, and win. Most of the time, they will not.

Finding someone new is hard. It has been said the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. This is one of the reasons why organizations don’t move from good to great. Simply said, they get used to “good” because “great” seems so far out of reach. Keeping the same people and hoping they will change doesn’t have good odds. It can happen. It has happened. But not as many times as the demise.

After struggling to find a replacement, if you are patient, you will eventually find the right fit and you will be elated and wonder why it took you so long to act when your organization was stuck in neutral for so long. I can tell you from personal experience that the results are sweet and synergy that come from replacing Mr. or Mrs. Mediocrity is wonderful. Many times in the process, you will not only find a new leader; you will meet a friend, a confidant, an ambassador, and a game changer all in one. You’ll know the right person when you see their eyes dancing. I can work with someone who is ambitious and wants more out of life; and who is not afraid to put in the work. But if I look into a set of eyes and see flat eyes —  like a taxidermy has gotten the best of them —  it is highly unlikely any sort of change for the better is coming any time soon. That does not mean that someday they won’t get their eyes dancing again. It simply means for now, we need some new blood. New blood shows up early, stays late, puts the effort in, thinks “I can”, invests in themselves, believes in themselves, and is worth pouring into.

After you have given a period of time for change, training, and results; act quickly and decisively. Once you determine you do not have the right person in the right position – act. Find your new team and bring your organization/company/team to the next level(s). But be careful not to wait too long, as you might just rust out in the meantime.

Humility is on Life Support

*Disclaimer – This post is meant to cause a pause — and get people to think. It is not political. If you get infuriated, you need to read it again and reflect on the last sentence.

It seems that society has become like a bunch of misbehaved children with no parent to correct them, put them in a time-out, or to give them an old fashioned spank to wake them up. Society has removed the people that can speak into their lives and encourage correction. If your Pastor or Priest tells you where you have missed the mark, you immediately think the Pastor or Priest is the problem and justify it by recalling their errors in their life. If a boss does not give you a favorable performance review, in your eyes the boss is automatically incapable of doing their job.

You may know one or more of the people that are saying things out loud or posting derogatory phrases, put-downs, or the like somewhere for the world to see. They could be part of the problem. Calling people names creates a bigger divide and reveals an enormous ego that is not easily quenched. Calling the President or President Elect an idiot (or orange or a dementia patient, etc.), is really just an exercise to artificially inflate personal intelligence; and it is ugly for all to see. The problem is, they have systematically unfriended, deleted, and/or disassociated themselves with anyone who thinks differently than themselves and certainly anyone who disagrees with them. In their bubble they seem to be right. After all, their news channel, their friends and associates and social media feed all serve up the things they believe — so it must be true.

Even in the church. And it should be the church that shines a Light. Not a flashlight on their favorite candidate or civic movement. We are called to reflect Jesus only. I have painfully watched church-going Christians post on social media (until their fingers must have hurt) who is right, who is wrong, and who God wants in the White House. And I might add it didn’t seem to be done in love. In the Bible, the book of Second Kings is full of righteous kings and more so full of wicked kings. And in the same Bible, the Apostle Paul teaches us that the leadership over mankind is God’s doing (Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God). The Apostle Peter exhorted us “honor the king” with a small k. Meaning honor those who are in authority over us (Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the king.) Simply put; Submit to Trump even if we do not agree with him. Submit to Biden even if we do not agree with him. Submit to the police even if we do not agree with them. Submit to parents, pastors, priests, bosses – anyone who has authority over us: not just the ones that tickle our fancy.

Sometimes the people that name-call and wag their finger, have never really accomplished anything in life. Some that have accomplished something in life, truthfully believe they are superior. I can hear it now – “I am superior” some will say. That is because they have not really given themselves an accurate self-appraisal.

Until we as human beings learn that we should not think too highly of ourselves and consider others more than ourselves, our society will continue to decline. Most people are too concerned with being “right”, that they are willing to die on that hill at all costs. They simply compare other’s weaknesses to their strengths. When they look at their own weaknesses, they are full of excuses and justifications. Many times false excuses and false justifications. Some argue those in power are narcissistic as they themselves post on social media and run back to their post to see who has liked it. The old saying it takes one to know one still rings true.

In 2020 I did a lot of listening an very little talking or writing. It was a time of self-reflection. Here is what I found; I do not know everything: I am not the most important person in the world (even though I might think so:) My opinion is just that – opinion. Keep your opinion to yourself is still good advice: When your mouth is open it is possible your brain is on parade: What I think in regards to hot topics doesn’t matter to everyone else: I need to listen more: I need to love much more: I need to forgive more: I need to understand more: It is likely no one will change their mind by hearing an opposite view screamed at them. As Dale Carnegie stated “ A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still:” I need to connect better and look to understand others more.

I do not have it all figured out. My hope is that some will pause and consider the principles. Circumstances are many; principals are few. Circumstances always change but principals never do. I am confident that if we look to change ourselves first, we will see we are flawed (maybe more than those we think need to change.) This self-assessment should shine light on how far we have drifted and drive us to have more compassion, grace and love to others – not hate, discord, & judgement.

Simple Advice for Achieving Your Goals

I highly recommend setting goals for 2021. But not only setting them; also mapping out a plan to achieve them. You must set the big-picture goal and then break it down to what you need to do monthly in order to achieve the goal. Then you will need to break it down even further to map out what you will need to do daily to hit the monthly goal, which will allow you to hit the yearly goal.

Most people come into the new year like they were shot out of a cannon and then lose steam by the middle of January and subsequently, never hit their goals.

This can happen for many reasons. Usually, people confuse wishing with planning and hoping for achieving. Hoping and wishing are a poor strategy. Think about it, if you needed to go to the grocery store, hoping you have gas in the car does not produce any gas in the car. You must have gas, or get gas. It is intentional. Wishing you had money in your account to pay for the groceries does not give you money in you account. It must be planned and executed.

But for some reason many people feel that when it comes to things that matter, no amount of planning is necessary. They simply “wish” and “hope” this year will be better than the last. It typically will not.

I recommend setting goals for Five key areas of our lives — Faith; Family; Finances; Fitness; and Career. Maybe two or three things in each category. Once you become more experienced at hitting your goals, you can increase the number of goals you can focus on in any given year. Even if you only have one goal this year and you plan and execute and make mid-course corrections and actually hit the goal or come close, that would be a better strategy than many goals unachieved.

Faith – This could include attending, reading, praying, giving, serving, etc.

Family – This could include date nights with your significant other, vacation plans, quality time, activities, reconciliation, listening, etc.

Fitness – This could include exercise, diet, healthy living, fat loss, muscle gain, blood pressure reduction, medication reduction, sugar count reduction, etc.

Finances – This could include saving money, paying off a debt, learning more, investing, 401K, etc.

Career – This could include training, getting to the next level, better attendance, better attitude, being a mentor, learning, selling more, CSI, etc.

Whatever you set as your goals and priorities for 2021, do not set-it-and-forget-it. I recommend looking at your goals at a minimum once per month. Make an action plan that will get you there. Then, if you find yourself behind as it relates to the achievement of a goal, you will need to make a midcourse correction and step on the gas for the remainder of the year.

Make sure your goals are in reach and realistic. It is nice to dream big but if you cannot achieve the small stuff, the big stuff will also be unattended to.

 Cheers!

The Power of Thankfulness

Being thankful can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. It may be hard to get started, but once you do get started and it becomes a part of your daily life, you will find that for the most part you will have a new outlook on life. You see, when we are truly thankful for something, we are instinctively placing value on the very thing we are being thankful for; which allows that very thing to become more important to us. And it is hard to be disappointed in something we value. Thankfulness also shows our maker that we can see a blessing, even in the midst of problems and concerns.

When I wake up, I am thankful to start a brand new day that no one has ever lived in before; in the entire history of mankind. It is something liken to a blank canvass, that has never been painted on, no matter what yesterday’s canvass looked like. I am not necessarily a morning person, but because I wake up thankful, I become optimistic for what the day will bring. One benefit is that I am starting the day with a greater outlook than most, all because my outlook matches my gratitude.

As I was leaving work the other night, I could smell garlic from a restaurant across the street from where I work. It smelled amazing! I instantly found myself hungry and thanking God that I could smell this amazing aroma.

When I see the sunrise in the morning I am thankful that God is faithful and on-time every day! Even when it is raining and I cannot see the sunrise, I am reminded that it is still faithfully there each day — even though the storm is in the way. The storm does not mean the sun is absent: it just means that I cannot see the sun visually.

It is hard to complain about your country when you are thankful for the freedoms and opportunity it provides. It is easy to have gratitude in seemingly mundane situations, when we come to the realization that it can always be worse. It just takes a conscience decision to do so.

My daughter took time to smell the roses and took this lovely picture of a butterfly on a beautiful flower. I was thankful for her eye and thankful that we still have people in this world who are willing to put the selfies away and focus on something that adds value to their life.

Do you want to see your boss/pastor/priest/spouse/children/neighbor/job/house/career/town/country in a different light? Are you interested in how to feel differently about these specific things? Are you wondering how you can draw closer to God? How can you get through another day? It might not be easy but it sure is simple; BE THANKFUL.

In order to be thankful, we MUST take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on the very things we are thankful for. And this is the hardest part as we are naturally self-centered. For without the little things that add value to our life that we should be thankful for, we can become pitiful and poor in attitude and spirit. But because of them, we can become more at peace and richer, far more rich than silver and gold can provide.

Actions Have Consequences

Hit your thumb with the hammer, and it will surely hurt. Eat well and exercise, and you are likely to be healthy. Cheat on your taxes, and you will likely be prosecuted. Sir Isaac Newton stated; “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Being in the automotive business, I hear thing like “it wasn’t meant to be . . .” or “the interest rate is not fair” or “I expect top dollar for my (beat up) trade-in.” The truth is, actions, words, and decisions have consequences.

The person who thinks that they can wait to make a decision to buy something, whether a vehicle or a roll of toilet paper: and then due to their inaction the item gets sold to someone else, then states “it wasn’t meant to be”–  is flat out wrong. Their decision to wait caused the desired item to still be available for others to buy. Their indecision is the reason that they did not get the opportunity, and this indecision has nothing to do with — “meant to be.”

The person who is irresponsible financially with high credit card balances and late payments, and spending more than they make is directly responsible for their credit score and the interest rate that a bank will extend. This rate is completely fair considering the individual has proven to possibly default on payments, overextend themselves financially, and overall not be a good steward of their personal finances. The bank is required by law to treat the customer fairly based on their personal credit history, which is direct reflection of either good decisions or bad decisions from the consumer, not the bank.

When a person does not take care of their current vehicle (physical body, home, or otherwise) and allows it to be damaged, smoked in, windshield cracked, rims scuffed, maintenance neglected, excessive miles, and worth MUCH less than they owe because they rolled negative equity from a previous bad decision, their actions create the value of the car, not the person presenting the information.

We have become very comfortable not taking personal responsibility for much of anything in our current society. Personal responsibility breeds good decisions and good decisions will ultimately give birth to good results. Conversely, neglecting personal responsibility breeds poor decisions and poor decisions give birth to poor results. Actions have consequences and the only one to blame is the one looking back at us in the mirror.

What You (Diligently) Sow is What You Grow

Sales is hard enough on its own. Nevermind the fact that most salespeople can’t get out of  their own way, which hinders them from achieving success. Keep in mind — everyone is a salesman. You’re selling your mate on getting married, selling your coworkers how much you love football, selling your congregation on giving or the Gospel, selling your friends on the latest Netflix series, etc. Although this blog is written for those who are in a career revolving around commissionable sales, everyone can get something from it if we are willing to apply the principles.

Picture this — summertime is the time for gardens to be bearing the fruit of your labor. Some plant a garden early in the season. They spend time tilling the soil, adding manure, compost, coffee grinds, putting up a fence to keep the animals out, and more. They water diligently and pick weeds every day. This garden will have a crop producing too much for one household, causing the homeowner to give away tomatoes and cucumbers by the basketful. On the contrary, another person plants a garden by simply adding plants to the ground. Some days they water, and some days they do not, and it just doesn’t seem like their garden really produces much of anything.

Many people that are in a sales profession liken it to the lottery; they think if they put in $1.00 worth of effort, they will quickly become a millionaire. Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, it is more like a garden. There is planting and much caring as well as a lot of sunshine that is required. But the most painful thing is time. Most people give up before a crop is yielded. In sales, it will be harder; take longer; cause more grief; and disappoint, so much more than most expect. It takes lots and lots of hard work.

The garden analogy is just like a sales career. The one who does more than is expected bears a bigger crop. If you work on having a good product demonstration, study your market, know your product inside and out, want to help someone to buy and not just wanting to sell, have diligent follow-through, are polite, ask for referrals, update your notes, ask for the sale, fight for deal — you will have the proverbial baskets of tomatoes and cucumbers to give away. But if you attempt to have a half-hearted approach you will get a half-hearted crop because what you diligently sow is what you grow.