I was working hard every day and every night when I was in my family business years ago. Each day was a battle not unlike what you probably face at your own company.
I would tell myself, “If I could just find good people. Things would be less stressful.”
I would tell myself, “I don’t have to be the go-to-guy and that others will pick up the slack.”
I would tell myself, “One of these nights I’m going to be able to sleep the whole night through and I won’t get a call from a Tech who was stuck on a call.”
All of this showed on my bottom line and taking a physical toll on my mind and my body.
Now, there’s a scale to tell me the indisputable answer as to how I’m doing with my weight. There are accountants who tell you if you’re making a profit or not. There is your nagging spouse who tells you that you’re never around because you’re always working and when you’re home you’re still thinking about the business.
Know that I had goals in mind on what I wanted for my business and my life. They were in my head. Sometimes, I had good days and felt I must be on the right track. But then there were miserable days that left me feeling crushed and hopeless.
I finally choose to commit to making a real change in my business and my life. And when I did I found there were places to go for help. One of those places was Dale Carnegie®. I took the 12 week class despite it being hard to tear myself away from work each week to attend and do the homework. Boy, I’m glad I did, It started me on a new path.
Also, I joined a gym near my office. And I signed up with a personal trainer. He was a 300 pound former championship wrestler. You can bet I never missed those appointments!
These couple of real commitments began to move the needle in the right direction. That’s because I had let myself off the hook too many times to count when it comes to reaching a measured goal and maintaining it…whether it was related to my business or my life.
What I learned is that until a goal is a written goal it’s nothing more than a wish. Until, I was willing to be accountable to myself and others by tracking it in writing whatever I was doing was never really going to change.
This confession about how easy it is to lie to yourself or let yourself off the hook for failing to make a real commitment to change is important.
Why? Because the same applies to you, your business and your life.
As contractors, we can become delusional. We tell ourselves next year will be different than the last by saying things like:
“Next year I’ll actually make money and be able to pay my bills.”
“I’ll grow my business by investing in my business next year.”
“I’m going to take a real vacation one of these days.”
“I will finally spend time working on my business and not just in it.”
But, we make no real commitment, real planning, real execution of any written plan filled with stated goals that are in writing and coupled with significant mileposts that tell us where we are or are not in the process.
Deep in debt? Working crazy hours for no money? Working crazy hours and making money but have no life or downtime?
All facts of life for all too many contractors.
That is unless you pull back from the day-to-day and invest in not just being a fire-fighter but rather a fire preventer nothing will really ever change. Well, that’s not exactly true. You’re probably going to get older and what you could overcome with energy and hustle of youth will disappear along with possibly your life savings.
It’s a crime that so many good people work in our trades with no real end game and prospect to ever putting the tools down and enjoying a well-earned retirement. It’s no fun to be out there day after day turning wrenches well into your 60s, 70s or 80s just to make ends meet.
Now if you love the business and you want to stay active well into your 60s, 70s and 80s, I applaud that. What I’m speaking to is having to keep doing this versus loving to do this well into your sunset years.
How do you change this cycle?
First you have to know what you want and write it out. Otherwise, your reasons of going into business for yourself like giving yourself and your family a better life was just a fantasy and it will always remain so.
Be careful to start your journey by really examining what you think and believe deep down in your heart because the thoughts in your heart and head either help or hurt your chances for real success.
When I do Leadership Power! with clients, I do an exercise in which we write down all the negative thoughts we tell ourselves….all day long…and sometimes all night long. These thoughts you think are in reality are not really you since most of them have been learned by you. Just know that those thoughts control you and your chances of having a successful outcome.
So to help my clients with these unspoken thoughts, I have them spend five minutes dumping these negative thoughts on to the page and I coach them to do it very fast so they can’t censor themselves.
When they’re done, they’re amazed at what they put down on the page. It has finally allowed them to bring forth what they had been thinking, sometimes unconsciously, into the light of day. More times than not it was what their parents programmed into them, or teachers or their bosses along the way. These old hurtful thoughts were in control more than they ever realized. Finally, they could see how these unspoken thoughts were controlling the outcome of well-intentioned actions in their business and their personal life.
The next thing we do is spend five minutes rewriting each of those negative thoughts and statements in a positive way.
Example of my negative thought: “I’ll always be needed to put out the fire that one of my employees set.”
Example of making that a positive thought: “I can recruit willing people and train them properly so they can minimize mistakes and be able to overcome adversity as it arises.”
Then, we walk over to the shredder and watch ourselves shredding the page with the negative thoughts and we type up the positive thoughts so we can refer to them at the start of each day.
Try this exercise. It can be personal. It can be business related. It can be both.
Only by writing can we hope to set ourselves free from either fantasizing about what we want the future to be instead of making them real as a goal must be.
Now, mileage markers are important on this journey. Dipping into a well-worn cliché, “Every journey starts with a single step.” We need our mini-victories and they are best served by breaking our written goal into mini-goals so we can win along the way.
Do this and start to achieve one goal after another and finally achieve the success you so richly deserve.