Put in Your Time

Jim Rohn is one of my favorite self-development teachers.  I’ve been mentored by him over the past few years through his writings and recorded seminars.  I have never met him.  He died in 2009 after a full life.

Some time ago, I heard him dispense this nugget, worthy of wrapping one’s head around:

“Make rest a necessity, not an objective.”

Now that’s a new and powerful way of highlighting the importance of working hard.

Rest is something we earn.  This sounds foreign to American ears.  We are used to the “standard” of a forty-hour work week.  But forty hours of labor over a seven-day period—as enough to get ahead–is distinctly Western and recent.  Our grandparents didn’t think like this.

I’ve heard it said that if you’re only working forty hours a week, it’s not likely you’ll get ahead–certainly not as far ahead as your dreams, goals, and ambitions.

Even God worked six days out of seven when He created the cosmos.  He wasn’t done on Friday afternoon at 5:00.

I have family members who are doctors, attorneys, investment bankers, hedge fund managers, Federal officials, and much more.  They’ve all gotten where they’re at the old-fashioned way:  They worked their tails off.  Nobody handed any of them anything.

Here are just a few benefits that will return to you with greater effort and longer hours, as you create a life:

  • You will certainly grow in your chosen fields of vocation and avocation.
  • Your sense of accomplishment will increase as you tackle and master more skills and meet goals.
  • You will run far ahead of the pack simply because many, if not most, are content to put their expected time in, satisfied with “working their forty hours.”
  • Your earning potential will undoubtedly increase, especially if the extra effort is focused and you strive for greater levels of excellence at all to which you put your hands to.

This is not to praise workaholism, far from it.  But in a culture that lives for the weekend, for partying, for good times and leisure, one tends to get an unrealistic picture of what it takes to win at life and realize your full potential.  It’s simply a matter of adjusting your perspective to accord with reality.

My advice is this:  See work and labor not as a curse, but as a blessing.  Some of the most successful people in recent memory got that way, in sizeable measure, because they love working:  Sumner Redstone, Howard Schultz, Charlie Munger, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. Even Kate Upton (see the photo). Look for lots of increases in lots of different places as you likewise work harder toward fulfilling your destiny.

And, when you have striven and exerted and are tired, then rest.

You’ve earned it.

 

Suggested Resources:

Leading an Inspired Life (Jim Rohn)

Twelve Pillars (Jim Rohn & Chris Widener)

 

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Producing or Preparing to Produce?

Producing or Preparing to ProduceSixteen years ago, I worked as the associate to a man who’d enjoyed a successful career as a real estate broker.  We worked together in another field and I admired his diligence and commitment to excellence.

He told me about a valuable lesson he’d learned in real estate.  He said, “In real estate, every minute you spend doing less important things is time away from your primary location: To be in front of customers.”

He was told that if he did not sell on weekends and work Sundays, he’d never make it in real estate.  He had at that time–and still does, as far as I know–an ironclad commitment to make sure he spent plenty of time with his wife and children.  He told his colleagues, “I won’t work weekends but I will succeed.”

And he did.  One of the primary reasons, he explained, was that he spent very little time in the office, and, thus, put himself in the presence of his clients.  While his fellow realtors spent a lot of time putting together fancy office spaces and such, Gary was selling.  And only Monday through Friday.

In life, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  Gary taught me this.

Here’s a couple of good questions to ask yourself with respect to your work, your skills and talents, your pursuits, and goals: Am I working or making plans to work?  Am I actually producing or just preparing to produce?

I have to confess I’ve dawdled away far too much time making impressive plans to do something valuable and productive, making good use of my skill sets.  I’m trying to prune away the unnecessary time wasters (too much social media, pointless web surfing, etc.) and set about actually doing something that will help others, my own, and myself.

Well…how about you?

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Influences and Inspiration

Influences and InspirationsI read an interesting article some time ago about Viggo Mortensen and his influences.  Viggo is an actor of no mean accomplishment and a Watertown native.  He spent a number of his growing up years here in the North Country.  People who frequent neighboring Clayton see him from time to time as he comes back to visit family.

The article was not so much commentary as it was comprehensive lists.  Being a list junkie, I found it fascinating and invigorating.  You can read about it here.

I heard a wise speaker remark once that we are all composites of the people who influence our lives, whether directly or through their work.  I resonated with this observation and it helped put to bed the nagging urge to “be an original.”

So I thought I would list some of my own, collected over forty-eight years.  I’d be interested in yours if you choose to comment.

Guitarists:  Phil Keaggy, Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, Jeff Beck, Alvin Lee, David Russell, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Chuck Berry, Andres Segovia, John Williams, Earl Klugh, Larry Carlton, Ted Nugent, Paul O’Dette (lute), Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Slash, Steve Howe, Eric Clapton, Joe Fava, Konrad Ragossnig (lute), Tommy Emmanuel, David Gilmour, Rick Foster, Angel Romero, Wes Montgomery, Jacob Moon, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Anthony Phillips.  And many more.

Music, Artists, Performing Arts: Dan Fogelberg, Keith Green, Richard Souther, Elton John, The Allman Brothers, Paul Clark, The Beatles, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Donovan, Honeytree, Sara Groves, Vineyard Music, Maranatha Music, Hillsong Music, James Taylor, Larry Norman, John Michael Talbot, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Luciano Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Jethro Tull, Randy Stonehill, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Kemper Crabb, Lamb, Peter, Paul & Mary, Michael Bublé, Queen, Simon & Garfunkel, Twila Paris, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Card, Miles Davis, Bob Bennett, Twyla Tharp, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), Brian Doerksen, Debby Boone, Kenny G, Norah Jones, Diana Panton, Andrea Bocelli, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dave Brubeck, Ralph Sharon, Tony Bennett, Neil Young, Jascha Heifetz, Glenn Gould, Malcolm & Alwyn, Phil Ramone.  And many more.

Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach, John Dowland, Gaspar Sanz, Ralph Vaughn Williams, Erik Satie, G.F. Handel, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Jimmy Webb, Francesco Da Milano, Henry Purcell, Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky, Harry Gregson-Williams, Domenico Scarlatti, Enrique Granados, Isaac Albeniz, Michael Praetorius, Joaquin Rodrigo, Antonin Dvorak, Ennio Morricone, Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Jerry Goldsmith, Rachel Portman, Felix Mendelsohn, James Newton Howard, John Williams, Mychael Danna, Stephen Schwartz, George Gershwin. And many more.

Film: Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Marlon Brando, Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Steve McQueen, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Liam Neeson, Sir Laurence Olivier, James Caan, Sean Connery, Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness, Steven Spielberg, Gus Van Zandt, Jim Caviezel, Franco Zeffirelli, Francis Ford Coppola.  And many more.

Writers: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Eugene Peterson, Morris West, C. S. Lewis, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Will & Ariel Durant, Viktor Frankl, Chaim Potok, Ralph McInerny, M. Scott Peck, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael D. O’Brien, William Manchester, Dan Brown, Daniel Silva, Leo Tolstoy, Randy Alcorn, Joel Rosenberg, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elie Wiesel, Sol Stein, Mitch Albom, Mortimer Adler, Will Strunk & E.B. White.  And many more.

Leadership and Self-Development:  Jim Rohn, Peter Drucker, Michael Gelb, John Maxwell, J. Oswald Sanders, Jack Canfield, Dean Karnazes, James Allen, Napoleon Hill, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Earl Nightingale, Dale Carnegie, Warren Bennis, David Schwartz, Zig Ziglar, Warren Bennis. And a few more.

Politics and Economics:  George Will, Henry Kissinger, Abba Eban, Ronald Reagan, John Kenneth Galbraith, John F. Kennedy, George Schultz, Thomas Sowell.  And a few more.

Science and Technology:  Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, John D. Rockefeller, Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, E.F. Codd, Stephen Hawking.  And a few more.

Enough for now.  Who inspires you in your talents, work, avocation, and hobbies?

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Bach and Output

Johann_Sebastian_Bach

“I was made to work. If you are equally industrious, you will be equally successful.” (Johann Sebastian Bach)

Johann Sebastian Bach left an enormous body of musical work in his wake.  His creative production and work ethic, unparalleled.  He inspires not only composers, but artists of every stripe, in every discipline.

As a child, I was, of course, exposed to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”  A child of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I heard the synthesized version of this piece, the tenth and final movement of Cantata No. 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, by Walter (later Wendy—another story entirely) Carlos.

In college, I studied French and music, with focus on classical guitar.  When one studies an instrument in college for performance, the semester concludes with the instrumentalist performing a set of pieces for a jury, in my case three faculty members from the Oakland University Music Department, all familiar with the Bach string corpus.  One of my judges was noted lutenist, Lyle Nordstrom.  It was daunting.

For one of my pieces, I chose a Bach selection from Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 6.  This two-part Gavotte had been arranged by guitarist Sophocles Papas and put into the key of C.  I got through the piece in fairly good shape, although one of the jurists questioned the notation in one of the sections.  Pros have great ears.

Peter Kreeft, when arguing for the existence of God, once said, “There is the music of Bach.”

Bach’s creative output was staggering, numbering over 1100 compositions in a life of sixty-five years.  Cantatas, oratorios, concerti, works for piano, organ, lute, violin, cello, etc.  It is the fruit of the work ethic embodied in the above quote.  Work he did.

Avail yourself of Bach’s creative and joyous work.  I’m particularly fond of his Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (Jascha Heifetz, my preference), his Unaccompanied Suites for Cello Solo (Yo-Yo Ma and Pablo Casals), the Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould, 1955 recording) and any of his works rendered from cello, violin, lute and piano for classical guitar (Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, John Williams, and David Russell, all worthy readings).

Listen and marvel.

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Craft Your Own Job Security

Job SecurityStaying afloat in the turbulent waters of an economic downturn presents many challenges one might not otherwise face in a time of prosperity.  Navigating a volatile employment market takes ingenuity, drive, and creative thinking.  And not a little personal sacrifice.

The current unemployment rate, nationally, is about 7.4%.  It is, therefore, an employer’s market, even in the Armed Forces.  One career Army sergeant told me a few summers ago that the job security of being able to reenlist is a thing of the past.  Those who wish to do so are carefully scrutinized.  A record of poor performance, apathy, dust-ups with the law (e.g. bar fights, domestic mischief), etc., and your chances of being rehired are remote indeed.  Even the US Army can now pick and choose.

As well, many highly educated veterans in banking, InfoTech, retail, and other markets, having been downsized, are now taking the simplest jobs, with high mortgages and school bills coming due without fail.

What to do?

Job security is best stewarded in one’s own hands.  Labor unions can only go so far to ensure you have work to keep you busy and the bill collectors at bay.  Those who keep their skills current, their work ethic stellar, their thinking creative, and their drive unimpaired stand the best chance of finding and maintaining gainful, even satisfying, employment in this competitive economy.

Here are some things you can do to hone your edge and increase your staying power:

  • Traditional continuing education.  This means everything from attaining or completing a degree program to adult enrichment courses at your local community college.  You must weigh the costs associated and determine the value of the investment.  It is a fantastic choice for many.
  • Internet learning–at little or not cost.  There is so much free training material on the Web that one is able to complete a good deal of traditional education for little or no cost.  True, such training may not have the clout of an earned degree, but if it enables you to produce the results a company is looking for, you may get the job.  M.I.T. and Stanford, to name just two outstanding schools, have a huge assortment of free courses online—computer programming to engineering and everything in between.  Avail yourself.
  • A second job outside your primary vocation.  It does not hurt at all to learn skills completely unrelated to your career.  I am an IT professional, but also a carpenter, musician, baker, writer, and administrative assistant.  When the chips are down, I can look to these other fields for income and production.  If it means taking a second job at low pay and bottom of ladder, do it.  You will learn a new skill, valuable in itself.  And it may well keep you afloat in the days ahead.

Remember, you may have to train on your own time and dime.  Make the sacrifice.  Your sense of self-accomplishment as well as potential marketability are worth the effort!

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The Hard Work Factor in Making It

hard-workIf you stop by The Upside often, you’ll know that over the past number of years, I’ve mentored  young leaders..  During one particular period, a handful of guys in their twenties met with me and we discussed leadership, family, career and steps to success.  They were inspiring and invigorating meetings.

A couple of these men work between ninety and one hundred hours a week.

No, that wasn’t a typo.

90-100 hours every week, holding down multiple jobs.

You simply cannot expect to advance in your career, increase your income and become exceptional in your vocations and avocations without putting time into them.  A lot of time.

There are no shortcuts.  Those who are “getting rich quick” with cheap moneymaking schemes will eventually lose.  Being clever is not necessarily the mark of being a professional.  Nor is it a benchmark of character.

These guys earn my respect.  They are putting out to get ahead for their families—multiple jobs, college and vocational schooling.  And they carve out a couple of hours each week to meet and be challenged.

I’ve long admired the cultural, economic and vocational achievements of the Jewish people.  Jews make up one fifth of one percent of the world’s population and yet have won about twenty-two percent of all Nobel Prizes awarded since 1901.

This is due in part to a sober understanding that to get ahead and make an impact in the world takes an enormous amount of focus and hard work over many years.  The Jewish people have understood this as well as any people group in history.

God initially set the bar for humanity when He said, “Six days you shall labor and do your work.  The seventh is a Sabbath (rest) to the Lord your God.”  The Hebrew day was a twelve hour day.  Over a six-day period, that comprises seventy-two hours (no, I didn’t say forty).

There are no shortcuts.

I left our meeting challenged by the lifestyle of my colleagues.  How much would my skills as a writer and a musician improve—exponentially—if I worked ninety plus hours each week (including my forty-hour day job)?

How much indeed?

Time to get at it.

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The Value of Difficulty

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Problems.  Difficulties.  Challenges.  Tough situations.

Do these serve any other purpose besides stressing us out and making our lives chronically and acutely unhappy?

When our first parents ate the forbidden fruit from the tree God set off-limits, it plunged the human race into an existence where work no longer was sheer joy.  Work became, well, work.

We’re not told what kind of fruit they ate.  We don’t know that it was an apple.  We only know that the eating of it produced undesirable consequences.

Is there more than just misery as a result of this?

There is.  God told man the ground was cursed for his sake.  Other translations say, “Cursed is the ground because of you.”  There are some very helpful things that issue from this as we approach our the work of our lives.

  • Work became difficult.  But it is this very difficulty that helps us grow and learn to solve problems.  This very difficulty acts as resistance to develop muscle in us.
  • Work became a more time-consuming pursuit to grant yield.  This helps us 1) stay out of trouble because a long week’s worth of work tires us out and 2) it gives us appreciation for a job well exerted and well done.
  • The work in our fallen world teaches us our reliance upon God and the consequences of bad choices.  When you experience difficulty that issues from this state of things, it is a reminder to do the right thing.

Nobody enjoys stress, but it can work in one’s favor.  Leverage and grow from it!

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