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The Ant Philosophy

One of my mentors, Jim Rohn, has often told the story of The Ant Philosophy.  It’s an intriguing four-part story that lays out, in simplistic terms, what every human being can learn from these tiny, industrious creatures.

Today, I want to take you on a little deeper journey into this story to show you how it can impact both your business and personal life forever.

The first lesson from the story is that ants never quit.  As a kid, I remember playing on the sidewalk in front of my grandmother’s house in western Pennsylvania.  My friends and I often watched industrious black ants as they went about their business.  Try as we might, we could not dissuade these tiny creatures from their destinations.  If we put something, any kind of obstacle, in their way, they always found a way around, over, or under the obstacle and always got themselves back on course.  For them, failure was not an option!

What about you?  If you own a business, what about your employees?  Have you set the “never quit” example for everyone in your personal and business circles?  Do they have the combination of belief and drive to stay focused on a goal?  On a daily basis, do you, and they, systematically remove the obstacles in your way and continue marching forward until your goals are reached?

The second lesson is this:  ants think winter all summer.  They instinctively know that summer won’t last forever.  As a result, they gather food for the winter during the summer.  They plan ahead!

In the economic recession of 2008 and 2009 here in the United States, how many personal fortunes were lost as people saw their investment portfolios evaporate when the stock market plunged from 14,000 to 8,500?  How many businesses closed their doors forever because they didn’t have an emergency fund to keep them afloat?

Everything we do, both personally and in business, has to contain three critical ingredients:

  1. We have to focus on and live in the present;
  2. We have to look back and learn lessons from the past;
  3. We have to look toward and plan for the future.

Like the ants, we have to think winter all summer.

The third important lesson we learn from the ants is that ants think summer all winter.  They know that summer is coming and that the food supply they have won’t last forever.  They look expectantly for the first warm days of spring so that they can get out, get back to work, and start gathering food again.

I was self-employed in 2008 when the recession hit.  I knew that it was coming sooner or later, and I watched as the economic summer sky faded into the cold darkness of winter.  Fortunately, I had gathered “food” to last me through the recession and I used the time wisely – to begin planning for the future.  I knew exactly what I was going to do when the “warm weather” of the fertile economic environment returned once again.  As a result, I survived and my business prospered.

How did your business, or the company you work for, fare during those lean years?  Did you survive and thrive?  Or did you go through several years of nail biting as you wondered, both on a personal and business level, if you were going to make it?

The final element of the ant philosophy is contained in the words all you can.  During the summer gathering process, an ant never says, “That’s enough.  I’ve got all I need.  Time to relax by the pool and have a beer.”  The ant works tirelessly, from the first warm day of spring until the first snow, gathering all that he possibly can.  That mentality is wired into his system.  He would never think of doing anything less.

Once again, what about you?  Do you have a gather all you possibly can philosophy?  Have you instilled that value in your family members, your co-workers, and your employees?  Are you helping both yourself and others reach levels of success and prosperity that will allow them to live securely and to weather any storms that lie ahead?

What a great philosophy the ants have:

  1. Never give up
  2. Always plan for the future
  3. Stay positive and work hard
  4. Do all that you possibly can

Sounds like a great formula for personal and business success, doesn’t it?

© 2013 Gary L. Smith.  All rights reserved.

Hope

It’s hard to imagine, but “hope” wasn’t always considered a good thing.  In the ancient world, poets and writers dismissed the concept as a cruel joke of the gods.  To them, it was a vice that lured gullible people to believe in a better future, only to let them down.

Hope was just another word for disappointment – a kind of glitter, according to the Greek poet Euripides, that “beckons many men to their undoing.”  Generations later, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called hope “the evil of evils” because “it prolongs men’s torment.”

In our current world, hope carries a more positive meaning.  Still, for many people, it is not the empowering word it could or should be.  Frequently, hope is more closely associated with the word “wish”, a kind of uncertain yearning.  We want something to happen but really don’t believe in or hearts that it will.

Let’s see if we can develop a better approach to the word hope.  In my recent book, “The Shepherd and the Princess,” I said that “there is always hope and there is always reason for hope.”  I believe that with all of my heart because I have seen it work in my own life.

To me, hope contains three essential elements:

The first is expecting the best.  We all need to work to achieve the best possible outcomes in our lives.  To do less than this is to admit defeat before we begin.  Those who expect the best of themselves and others release a positive energy that other people feel and respond to because it communicates, “I believe in you, in your abilities, and in the business, project, or endeavor to which we’ve committed ourselves.

The second element is planning for the worst.  I know that, on the surface, it seems like the opposite of the first essential, but it’s not.  Planning for the worst means “doing our homework”.  It means looking at any endeavor, no matter how simple, through the eyes of someone who is honestly trying to understand where things might go wrong.  If we understand the potential pitfalls in any worthwhile project we undertake, we can plan for how to address those pitfalls.  Through planning, we can then respond to them, rather than reacting, if they arise.

Finally, the third element is never giving up.  We create a good measure of our own hope and perseverance when we simply refuse to quit.  We press forward, sometimes against some formidable odds, but we keep thinking, working, and hoping until we reach our goals.

Is hope alive and actively working in your life to drive you toward the achievement of your dreams?  If not, let us help you re-ignite that spark of hope within you.

What Is Time Management?

Proper time management is critical to your success, but have you really grasped the surrounding principles that enable your time management efforts to produce the maximum fruit in your life?

I’ve been around this planet and the business world for a lot of years now.  As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to study, learn, and apply many interesting and life-changing concepts in my personal, family, and work lives.

In my work as a consultant and coach, one of the hardest concepts to get people to understand and apply in their lives is that of Time Management.  Nearly every success program taught around the planet talks about the need for it, but having attended many of these programs, I’ve found the subject of time management ineptly dealt with the vast majority of the time.

Perhaps people struggle with the concepts of time management more than other success-related principles because time management is a bit of a misnomer.  When people talk about “time management,” it somehow leads some to believe that we need to learn to control time – our time.

A number of years ago, I was doing my daily thinking routine, and I was focused on coming up with ideas for solving a particularly vexing problem in my business.  I still am unclear about how my mind bridged the gap between working on a problem and the subject of time management, but I do know that all of a sudden, I had a flash of clarity as I realized two very important things:

  1. Successful people have twenty-four hours in every day.
  2. People struggling to achieve success have twenty-four hours in every day.

I am sure that you are now saying to yourself, “Well, DUH!  That was profound!  Of course – everyone has the same twenty-four hours in every day!”

You’re absolutely right.  But what was profound to me was the answer to the next question that I asked myself:

If everyone, the successful and the unsuccessful alike, have the same twenty-four hours in every day, what is it that makes some people more successful than others?

The simple answer to this question lies in what it is that they do – how they choose to spend their twenty-four hours each day.  So when we talk about time management, we aren’t talking about managing time.  What we are doing is talking about controlling where our time is invested – what activities we choose to spend our time pursuing.  So time management is not managing time – it is controlling the events in our lives and proactively deciding where and how to invest our time.

So – if time management is really controlling events in our lives – then the next question that should naturally pop into our minds is:

What life events do successful people invest their time in that others don’t?  What is it that separates the men from the boys, so to speak?

As I pondered this question, a list began to form in my mind – a list that is the pathway to the proper, productive, and most beneficial use of our time.  Consider the following:

Successful people know what they want.  Those who are successful realize that clarity is power.  They have dreams that define the overall pictures of their lives.  If you ask them what they want their lives to count for, they can tell you in a couple of sentences without batting an eyelash.  In both individual and business coaching sessions, I help people create powerful, laser-focused mission statements that clearly define who they are and what they intend to become.

Successful people know the power of dreams.  They know that dreams are not the ethereal visions that float through our minds as we sleep.  Dreams are a vision of the future we wish to and plan to create for ourselves.

Successful people create a passion for their dreams.  In addition to creating their dreams, successful people have learned to infuse their dreams with a strong desire, a passion that literally propels them forward toward success.  Their dreams may lie among the stars, but the passion surrounding their dreams is the rocket fuel that will take them there.

Successful people understand the power of goals.  With their dreams as their destination, and passion as the fuel for the trip, successful people know that goals are the vehicle, the rocket ship, that will take them to the achievement of their dreams.  They break their dreams down into manageable, achievable chunks (goals), and then use the SMART principle to define, prioritize, and set completion dates for each goal.  The acronym SMART stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Time Based 

In the goal setting process, dreams are boiled down into long-range, medium-range, and short-range goals.  Then, each short-range goal is further refined into a set of daily tasks that must be completed, day by day, in order to accomplish that goal with a completion date several months down the road.

Successful people apply the principles of time management to their daily tasks.  Time management becomes the process by which successful people remove daily interferences, obstacles, and other hindrances so that they can focus on completing those tasks that will enable them to reach their goals.  In this capacity, time management serves two powerful purposes:

  1. It creates a laser-focus on those activities that matter most to the achievement of our dreams.
  2. It helps to filter out tasks and other activities that will take time away from the achievement of our dreams.

The following flow chart illustrates where time management fits into the success process.

 

 

 

This is a simple chart to demonstrate both the position and magnitude (importance) of time management in the overall process.  In my coaching and consulting sessions, each block in the process is expanded so that the precise details can be studied, understood, and applied – and most importantly –internalized for life.

Time Management – event control – is where the rubber meets the road for all of us.  In my years of working with people, I have seen many who are experts at planning – but few who are experts at consistently executing the right tasks – those tasks that will lead them to wealth and greatness.

I encourage you to become a student of time management.  Your future achievements and greatness lie in becoming a master of investing your time productively.  Feel free to email me at gary@optechs.com if you have comments, questions, or to schedule your FREE consultation.

© 2013 Gary L. Smith. All rights reserved.

 

Take Control of Your Life

I was speaking to a group recently and I gave them this scenario:

Have you ever been on your way to work one morning when, completely out of the blue, the driver of another vehicle pulled out in front of you, almost caused you to have an accident, and the other driver sped away like they never even noticed what they’d done?

Most of us have had this kind of experience at one time or another.  But let me ask you a question:

Two or three hours later, when you were standing at the water cooler or coffee pot at work, talking to one of your co-workers, did you relay the story about what happened to you, and were you still angry or upset about it?

If you answered yes to that question, you’re not alone.  We’ve all been there.

My next comment is a little bit “tongue in cheek” but it contains a lot of truth and illustrates a very important point, and that is:

As you are standing by the coffee pot, still fuming over what happened to you earlier that morning, for that short moment in time, the driver of the other car is in control of your feelings and emotions – and he doesn’t even know who you are!

If these kinds of things happen to us in obvious ways, as in the car example I just gave you, we can be sure that they happen to us in much more subtle ways, ways that we never even notice or think about.  And when they do, they can negatively impact relationships with other people in our lives – our spouses, children, friends, co-workers, and employees.

Sometimes our reactions show up in the form of words, when we have a brief tirade over something or snap at someone who doesn’t deserve it.  But just as frequently, we give non-verbal indicators, like when a child asks an innocent question and we roll our eyes at him.

So what are we to do?  The first step is that each and every one of us has to realize that we, and we alone, are responsible for both our actions and our reactions.  Until we do that, no solution to our problem is possible.

Usually, when I get to this point in my discussion with a client, they say, “Well, I just need to work on my self control!”

When someone says that, I usually respond by saying, “Really?  Can you please tell me what that looks like?”  Most of the time, the response to my question involves words like discipline, grit, and determination.  The problem with these kinds of solutions is that, for the most part, we only think about them after it’s too late – the proverbial cat is already out of the bag.

Instead of the conventional approach, I think there is a better solution, and that involves fundamentally changing how we think about problems and difficult situations.

Let me suggest that you take the following three steps:

  1. Take apart and understand the word “responsibility”.  Responsibility is made up of two words: RESPONSE and ABILITY.  So responsibility means that we have the ability to choose our response in any given situation.  Make the word “responsibility” a key operator in your life.
  2. When you are in a difficult or tense situation, never respond to anyone with your gut, or initial reaction.  Take time to think about it.
  3. Don’t just focus on addressing the immediate issue.  Think about the long-term outcome that you really want or need to achieve.  We have to live and act in the present, but it always has to be with an eye for the future.

I challenge you to take these three simple steps, and then watch as the relationships in your life begin to change and blossom.

Is Your Business Producing?

Renowned professor and economist Thomas Sowell has said, “No society ever thrived because it had a large and growing class of parasites living off those who produce.”

Many individuals and groups have politicized this statement in order to point the finger at those who favor a larger government structure that will attempt to solve our nation’s problems.

I prefer to look at this cogent quote in a much different light.  Rather than dwelling on the parasites and the potential political impact, I am focused on those of us who produce.  In the United States, small businesses, the cottage industries, are the backbone of our economy.  Small “Mom and Pop” convenience stores and laundries, and manufacturing companies with fewer than 100 employees are the foundation of the free enterprise system in this country.

So, with that in mind, how would you describe your business?  Take a few moments and ponder the following questions:

  1. Is your business serving your customers in the best way possible?  Are you meeting all of their needs and as many of their desires as you possibly can?
  2. Do you have a steady stream of new products or processes filling your creativity pipeline?  Are you actively engaged with your customers to identify potential needs that you can fill through new product and service offerings?
  3. Are you a student of your competition?  Have your purchased and analyzed their products utilizing a keen eye to find ways to differentiate your business and make it better?
  4. Does your business serve your employees?  Are you actively developing the skill sets of your “associates” so that they become more valuable to themselves and the organization?  Are all of your employees part of the creative process when it comes to developing new products, making older products better, and improving every aspect of your business?

At the heart of every successful business venture are two critical elements:

The first is customer service.  In his original store in Norwalk, Connecticut, Stew Leonard had a sign prominently displayed.  The sign said:

Stew’s Rules

Rule #1: The customer is always right

Rule #2: If you ever think the customer is wrong, read Rule #1

In these simple words, Stew Leonard was telling his employees, “Serve the customer!  Serve the customer better than anybody else!”  He was also telling all of his customers what they could expect in the way of customer service from his organization.  Is it any wonder that Stew’s operation has continued to expand and that he is wildly successful and profitable today?

The second element of every successful business is a finely tuned, dedicated group of employees who work together as a team.  Successful business owners know that the success of their companies is based on (a) having well trained, competent employees on their team and then (b) listening to those employees and putting their ideas to work to improve and grow their businesses.

As a business owner, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being horrendous and 10 being perfect, how would you rate your business?  Perhaps more importantly, if you asked your customers and employees, what rating would they give you?  If you’re an employee of a company, how would you rate the overall attitude and performance of the organization?

It the results you give or receive are not what you expected, then you need to contact us at 203.599.1467 or email us at gary@optechs.com today.  We can help you get the ratings your business deserves.