People Power - July 2012
By Scott Humphrey
When you think of the passing of 20 years and all that has taken place, it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that time truly does fly by. Truth be told, time is something I have been thinking a lot about lately.
You see, I turned 49 in April. That doesn’t seem possible. It seems like only yesterday that I was graduating from high school and then college. Twenty years ago, I was a newlywed with no kids. Now I have been married for nearly 22 years and have four wonderful children. Twenty years ago, I was a sales rep for Shaw. Since that time, I have had four other positions. Twenty years ago, I had my whole life in front of me. Now, I am well into my mid-life years. Twenty years ago, my focus was primarily on what I would do with my life and who I would become. Today, I find myself looking back at what I have done and the people I have been blessed to meet through those years. More than ever I am focused on finishing strong.
According to a survey of some 6,000 people polled in 1988 by U.S. News and World Report, in a lifetime the average American will spend six months sitting at stoplights, eight months opening junk mail, one year looking for misplaced objects, two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls, four years doing housework, five years waiting in line, and six years eating. And now, nearly a quarter century later, we also have to contend with sorting through emails, surfing the web, and all the other time wasters that the Internet has brought into our lives.
Time is indeed the great equalizer. If there is any area in which the playing field is level, it is in the area of time. Still, I am amazed at how many people simply let time go by without making the most of every moment. We don’t see ourselves wasting this valuable treasure, but, still, it happens.
An anonymous quote I once read makes the challenge of better utilizing our time seem even more real. “If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,000 that carried over no balance from day to day...allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day, what would you do? Draw out every cent every day, of course, and use it to your advantage! Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME! Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances; it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.”
With that in mind, here are three very important questions you must ask yourself in order to get the most from the limited bank of time you have available to you.
First, how have you used the time you have been given? Yes, I know there are those out there who say we should never look back, but I don’t understand their reasoning. The truth is, those who never look back to evaluate the highs, lows and mundane times of their lives are destined to continually repeat the same mistakes with limited opportunity to duplicate the same successes. Why? Because the world around them is changing, but they are locked into the habits of yesterday. Looking back is essential for several reasons.
Looking back allows us an opportunity to be thankful. Thankfulness will always change your attitude for the positive. In fact, one of the things you can do to battle against periodic depression is to sit down and write out the things that you are thankful for. Try it. It works. Do you have a great team working with you? Be thankful. Do you have a strong marriage, great kids or great grandkids? Be thankful. Have you survived the challenges in our industry over the last five years, and, though they were tough, have you managed to recreate yourself and occasionally experience periods of success? Be thankful. I could go on, but I think you get my point.
Looking back helps us see what is possible. No doubt when you look back you will recall some accomplishment or achievement that once seemed unattainable. That could be your marriage, children, a job experience or opening your own retail flooring store. Today those are memories and accomplishments, but at one time those were hopes and dreams. Seeing what you have accomplished in life will remind you to focus on what is possible. It will inevitably grow your faith in what you can and will do.
Looking back allows us to evaluate our life list. It is an opportunity for us to gather ourselves together and take an honest assessment of how we are progressing as we seek to accomplish those things that we always said we would do one day. It can be a great way of refocusing and re-evaluating your life. Is your life list or bucket list (those things you want to accomplish before you die) still the same? Are there goals that have changed or need to be tweaked? Are there dreams that you still desire to make a reality? Looking back allows you to create a new foundation for your life list of tomorrow.
The second question that naturally flows from looking back is, how are you using your time today? Of the three, this question is the most important. Are you investing in the things that really matter? It can be a bit sobering to think that the life you are actively living today will one day be the past that you look back on. In order to have no regrets when that day comes, it is imperative that you focus your time and efforts on those things that will one day have the payoff you desire. But let me warn you, though you may be rewarded by focusing on improving your business and processes, the investment that will ultimately return the greatest dividend will always be the time you invest in people—at work and at home.
Try this exercise. On a blank sheet of paper, make a list of the things that matter most to you (family, business, faith, community). On a separate sheet, list out the major time takers in your life (TV, work, relationships, employee development). Now put these two sheets side by side. Can these two sheets co-exist? In other words, are you spending the majority of your time on the things that you say matter most to you? It is said that the way to tell what really matters to someone is to look at their calendar and their checkbook. Where you spend your time and money will ultimately show what matters most in your life.
Now is the time to prepare your business for the inevitable return to normalcy that our industry will see. Warren Buffett once shared with me that more businesses fail in the uptick of the economy than in the downturn. It is how you are using your time today that will determine the likelihood of your success in the future. I challenge you to replace the word someday with the word now.
The final question is, how will you use your time going forward? You have the opportunity to change the future, not with good intentions but with focused actions. Not satisfied with your store environment? Change it. Not pleased with your work relationships? Invest in them. Feel like you don’t have enough time and that your life is in control of you instead of the other way around? Then do something about it. If your business continues to function as it is today, where will you be in five to ten years? Will you be satisfied with your success? If not, go back one question and make the change now that will impact your future. You, and only you, can change your future. Get rid of the excuses and get focused on the solutions.
I challenge you to read the poem by Linda Ellis called “The Dash.” It will help you to focus on the impact today’s decisions will have on tomorrow’s outcomes, but more importantly, it will help you to understand that where you spend your time and who you spend it on is ultimately in your control.
In closing, when I began writing this column back in 2006, none of us was sure how long it would last. Let’s face it, there is a level of risk involved when a major flooring trade publication has a regular article that focuses not on the industry but on the people impacted by that industry, at home and at work. Now, over 50 articles later, we are still going strong. I want to personally thank Kemp and the team at Floor Focus for their support. As Andy Andrews, author of the New York Times best seller, The Traveler’s Gift, says, “I don’t like writing, but I love having written.” Thanks for encouraging, prodding, and providing the opportunity for me to invest in others through your publication. Here’s to 20 more years!
Copyright 2012 Floor Focus