Winners' Wisdom 2005
by Jim Stovall

Magic in the Details

Since losing my sight and getting a new vision for my life, many exciting things have happened to me. I have the privilege of owning and operating a television network; I get to travel and speak at arena and corporate events across the country; I have written a number of books; and, each week, I have the privilege of communicating with people like you around the world via this column in magazines, newspapers, and online publications.

Recently, another exciting thing is unfolding. Just like any other new development, it brings opportunities, privileges, and lessons. One of my novels, The Ultimate Gift, is being made into a major motion picture starring James Garner, Lee Meriwether, and Brian Dennehy. I just spent a week on the movie set and actually got to play a small part, myself, in the upcoming film.

When you go to a movie theatre, get your popcorn, and settle into a comfortable seat for two hours of escape and entertainment, it is impossible to think about the time, effort, and energy that literally hundreds of people put into that experience. While on the set, and while doing my scene, I met scores of people - some performing tasks you would expect, and others doing things that are still a mystery to me.

However, the lesson came when I realized that all of these people work together for several hours to put together a scene so that the actors and director can come together and, hopefully, shoot a minute or two of film that might make it into a movie. If just one person fails to do their job, the whole thing falls apart and everyone has to start over. This creates a collective sense of urgency for each person to do their job well and not let down the team.

After I left the movie set and came back to the real world, I realized that this same principle can apply to you and me in our daily lives. It takes a whole team of people to excel, and it only takes one person letting down for one minute to make the whole operation look bad. No matter how well you do your job, if the person who answers your phone, vacuums your carpet, distributes your mail, services your customer, etc. has a bad day or even a bad moment, you and your whole team are judged by your weakest link.

If, instead, you appreciate everyone's role and encourage them to do their best at all times for the collective good - just like in the movies - you can provide a great experience for the people with which you deal; and every once in a while, you can create magic. As you go through your day today, don't try to get one thing a lot better. Strive to get a lot of things a little better.

Today's the day!

Net Worth vs. Net Value

Most people in our society have extremely vague or general financial goals. These goals, in some capacity, surround the word more. These people want more money, more savings, more income, more investments, more retirement, and more stuff.

We have become a consumer society. We are bombarded moment to moment by advertisements, commercials, and countless messages telling us that "You are your stuff." The implication is if you had more you would be more.

Most people are, at some level, unhappy. The consumer messages tell us that the people who have more than we do are happy; therefore, we simply need to get more things in our lives. As someone who has been relatively poor and now relatively rich in my life, I can echo the old adage that All things being equal, rich is better. But it is important to note that neither money, nor the things that money will buy, make us happy. Happiness is an internal thermostat that we set ourselves.

Abraham Lincoln, someone who was plagued his whole life with clinical depression, said, "People are about as happy as they decide to be."

Most people are running faster and pushing harder to get more. Too often, they are performing a job they don't enjoy for people they don't respect to get things to impress others who simply don't care. If you were to probe these striving individuals in search of more, at some point they would tell you they are doing this for their family. Let's examine your net worth vs. your net value as it relates to your family.

  1. Think of the people in your ancestry who have impacted your life and the way you live the most. You will probably discover these high-impact people left you life values instead of money.
  2. Think of the people in your past who impacted you during your formative years. You will likely determine that they invested time, love, and lessons into your life and not just capital.
  3. Think of the special times with friends and family that meant the most to you then and now. You will probably realize that these occasions may have been low-cost or no-cost events.
  4. What are you leaving to your heirs in the way of time, lessons, and memories?

If you're trading these things in for the pursuit of more, you may be spending the most valuable part of their inheritance without their permission. They want you, not just your money.

Like most life lessons, this one is a balancing act. We human beings seek black-and-white answers to gray questions. Nothing will replace money in the things that money does, but beyond that point, nothing will replace you in the hearts, minds, and spirits of the special people in your life. As you go through your day today, find ways to increase both your net worth and your net value for those you love.

Today's the day!

The Power Zone

In order to maximize your potential, you must understand that power is not universal and skills are not transferable. Just because you can do one thing well does not mean you can do anything else at the same level.

Michael Jordan may arguably be the best basketball player to ever play the game. He is a superb athlete in every sense of the word and a fierce competitor to a degree rarely reached even by professional athletes; however, when Michael Jordan decided he wanted to move from basketball to baseball, most sports writers would agree that, at best, Michael Jordan was an adequate Minor League baseball player. Jordan's power and skill were in a very specific, finite area. As a basketball player, he was unparalleled; but as a baseball player, he was undistinguished.

As a former National Champion Olympic weightlifter, I was among the strongest people in the world. Within a very narrow range of motion, I could lift more weight than three or four normal men. This range of motion was a zone approximately one inch wide that ran from the floor to above my head. When I lifted the weight within this power zone where I had trained my strength and focused my skill, I was very successful. If I got out of this power zone by lifting the weight too close to my body or too far out in front of me, my strength fell off geometrically.

Most professional golfers can drive a golf ball close to 300 yards or more; however, if you move the golf ball a matter of inches away from them or closer to them, it will disrupt their swing and they will be out of their power zone. The result will be a dramatically shorter and less accurate golf shot.

Every major league pitcher knows every batter he will be facing. A batter may be a home run threat if the pitch is high and outside, but he will be unable to hit the ball or will ground to the short stop if you pitch him low and inside. Competition is a microcosm of life. There is a winner, a loser, and a clearly established way to keep score; therefore, many life lessons can be derived from sports.

In your career and in mine, we have our own power zones. This zone is represented by the activities where we maximize our effectiveness and our efficiency. Within this power zone, we are proficient and profitable. Outside of this power zone, our performance falls off. If you don't know the exact boundaries of your power zone, you need to ask those around you who know you best and who will be totally honest with you. Identifying and staying within your power zone is the key to everything you want to achieve in your life - both personally and professionally. As you go through your day today, find your power zone and stay in it.

Today's the day!

Big Picture vs. Details

In any venture or enterprise, you need two separate and distinct thought patterns. You must consider the big picture and you must consider the details. Many big picture thinkers do not understand the importance of details, and many meticulous detail thinkers fail to understand the vital nature of the big picture. Without details and follow through, a big picture or great idea is simply a fantasy. It will never be brought to reality without attention to specific tasks, deadlines, and follow through. On the other hand, outstanding attention to detail will go nowhere without the direction provided by big picture thinking. This is like a well-tuned car that has been meticulously maintained without a roadmap or destination.

One of my cherished friends and colleagues, Dr. Robert Schuller, often says, "Don't get the "how you are going to do it" mixed up in the "what are you going to do" phase." Dr. Schuller means that you should never limit your goal setting or planning based on your current understanding of what is feasible. If you limit your destination to your current knowledge, you will probably never build a Crystal Cathedral like Dr. Schuller did. On the other hand, even someone like Dr. Schuller who is one of the biggest picture thinkers I know would never begin to build a Crystal Cathedral or even finalize plans for such an undertaking without architects, engineers, and detail people who can direct the project.

Oftentimes, the two schools of thought seem to be at odds. Big picture thinkers see opportunities and possibilities far into the future and do not often consider the practical aspects of the undertaking. Detail people often identify every problem and obstacle without considering the value of the goal. Only when the two mind sets come together can you safely and effectively reach your maximum potential.

I am very grateful to work in an environment where I have the freedom to express grandiose and often outlandish thoughts and ideas. I am also grateful to work in an environment where I am surrounded by the best detail people I have ever met. I always want to be sure that they can deliver what I promise.

As you go through your day today, either consider each opportunity from both a big picture and a detail perspective, or find someone in your world who will bring the missing element to the planning and implementation process. When you do this, you will definitely find out that two heads are better than one.

Today's the day!

Labor Day 1955

In September, there are two separate and distinct days when there were celebrations. These celebrations were not connected except in the way they came together in my mind. Labor Day was observed as it is each year. It may well be the least celebrated among all national holidays except for those actively involved in the labor movement. Unfortunately, most people look upon Labor Day as one last three-day holiday to end the summer.

The second day that was celebrated was to commemorate the fact that my father has worked 50 years for the same organization and is still working today. As I have shared this milestone recently with a few friends and colleagues, they all seem to have a similar reaction. They are certain either I misstated the occasion or they somehow misunderstood. In reality, in August of 1955 after serving in the Navy, my father came to work for an organization in the mailroom, and he is still employed in that organization today. His service has taken him far beyond the mailroom as today he is President and Chief Executive Officer of a facility run by the organization where he began a half century ago.

Most people believe this kind of longevity and dedication within employment became extinct along with the dinosaurs if it ever, in fact, existed. My father represents a generation of people who looked at work differently. While they are concerned about their compensation, benefits, etc., my father's generation also looked at what they have to give and contribute to the organization and society as a whole.

My father looks at work as a calling, and he believes that if you treat your employer like you want your employer to treat you, it becomes the ultimate golden handcuff or parachute. Golden handcuffs and golden parachutes are terms that are used today in executive compensation. They are incentives to keep top level people or to make it easy for them to exit.

If you look at work like my father's generation, the employer doesn't have to produce any gimmicks to keep you, and you're not looking for an easy way out. Instead, employers value and honor the contribution made by long-standing associates, and these associates would no more leave their employer than they would leave their family. In fact, a good fit with respect to employment is more like a family for employer and employee than it is like a job. In these relationships, the questions of what you do, how well you do it, and who you serve are much more important than the standard "What's in it for me?" If you get the service right, everything's in it for you.

As you go through your day today, look for ways to create value in your workplace, and you will be rewarded far beyond your standard compensation.

Today's the day!

Doing What You Know

I am probably among the biggest proponents of continuing education and personal development. As the author of a dozen books and hundreds of columns, and as a successful speaker at numerous arena and convention events, I believe in learning everything possible; however, when it's all said and done, unfortunately there's a lot more said than done. When we fail in business or in life, we don't fail because we don't know what to do; we fail because we don't do what we know.

From time to time, it's good to get a check up of the very basic business success principles that we all know but few of us apply on a regular basis. Consider the following:

  1. Is your telephone answered politely and professionally, identifying in an understandable fashion who the caller has reached?

  2. Do you promptly and professionally correspond and communicate with your clients and prospects?

  3. Do you thank your existing customers for the business they have given you thus far?

  4. Do you express appreciation and gratitude to employees, co-workers, and colleagues who make your success possible?

  5. Are you constantly reading business books, success articles, and attending industry presentations that will keep you on the cutting edge of success?

  6. Do you set aside time regularly for medium - and long-range planning, or are you caught up in always putting out today's fires?

  7. Have you surrounded yourself with the very best CPAs, attorneys, financial planners, computer techs, and other individuals who will help you build on your success?

  8. Are you scheduling time off for recreation, family time, and other activities essential to having a balanced life and a refreshed attitude?

  9. Do you constantly set new goals for yourself and individuals within your organization so that there is always a challenge in front of everyone?

  10. Do you give back to your community, your industry, and those around you who may need a helping hand up? You didn't get there on your own. They won't either.

These are 10 simple ideas that any elementary school student studying business would readily understand. There is nothing revolutionary or earth shattering among these thoughts, but if you regularly apply these things that you already know, you will become a legend in your industry and a success far beyond your wildest dreams. As you go through your day today, continue to gain new knowledge, but don't forget to practice the things you already know.

Today's the day!

Good vs. Best

It is better to do the right thing adequately than the wrong thing well. All of us from time to time feel the temptation to focus our efforts on things that come easy to us, come quickly to us, or bring us the attention we seek. This short term approach rarely brings long term success. We live in a microwave society. We want everything easier, faster, and more convenient. Unfortunately, success is rarely prepared in a microwave. It is more of a crock pot process.

We've all heard the stories of the 'overnight sensation' that, at further examination, was the culmination of years and decades of effort. If you have ever watched or coached Little League sports, you will readily notice a phenomenon. The best hitters want to practice batting while the best fielders want to practice catching and the best pitchers want to practice throwing. Little Leaguers, as well as you and I, want to spend our time doing the things we do best. Unfortunately, often our performance is relegated to our weakest link. If you wanted to become an airline pilot because you loved the process of taxiing and taking off in an airplane but you did not enjoy landing, you would have very little success. There is no such thing as a good flight that ends in a bad landing.

We may become known for the things we do best. We become successful for performing everything competently. We all want to be specialists. Unfortunately, particularly when we start out, we need to be generalists. Few people ever get the luxury of only focusing on one task. Long term success, wealth, and happiness are built from consistency. An 80 per cent or 90 per cent effort may not succeed. If your favorite restaurant served your entrée perfect every time, exactly as you like it, but they burned the bread, forgot the salad, spilled your drink, and ignored your requests for service, it would not long be your favorite restaurant. In most areas of life, you have to perform a multitude of tasks adequately in order to succeed.

If you will objectively examine your personal and professional life, you will notice a number of facets. Each of these facets is equally important to the extent that success is not possible without them. If you succeed in your financial life but ruin your health, you have failed. If you remain healthy but cannot pay your bills and afford the necessities, you have failed. If you have an outstanding career but lose your family, you have failed. As you go through your day today, continue to excel at the things you do best, but focus your effort and energy on those things you want to do better.

Today's the day!

Time is Not Money

I've heard it said my whole life that 'Time is Money.' Certainly I understand, in the context of maximizing efficiency on the job, this can be true. But in reality, time is time and money is money. Try going to the grocery store and when they ring up your total tell them you don't have any money but you're willing to spend some time in the store. Or when you have a deadline on a project and you run out of time, you'll find out that offering them money may not solve the problem.

We each have 1,440 minutes in a day. We choose how we invest each of these minutes. I understand that you have commitments at jobs, schools, and other appointments, but when you really analyze it, you control your own time, and you simply made these commitments. It's amazing to me how we confuse time and money and often waste one while we value another. For example, if someone came into your office during your most productive time of the day and interrupted you with a long, detailed description of something that really doesn't matter to you, would you protect your investment of time and ask them politely to leave or to come back later? Unfortunately, too often we allow people to waste our productive time. On the other hand, if you have several twenty dollar bills in your desk and someone comes in and grabs one and begins to walk out, you will probably say something. While we invariably wouldn't think of letting someone steal our money, we routinely let people steal our time. In reality, the time that individual stole from your workday is obviously worth much more than the $20 they took.

We each have 1,440 precious minutes throughout the day. We can allocate them to work, play, family time, self improvement, reflection, study, or relaxation. Each of us has to decide how to prioritize our time. Unfortunately, we often give other people control of our most precious irreplaceable asset which is the minutes we have to invest throughout each day of our lives. There is no free time. If someone wastes your time at work, you may say to yourself, "I'll just finish this later," which invariably moves all your projects during the day to a later time. This causes you to work late or move part of today's activities to tomorrow. Unfortunately, we don't see that this person wasting our work time caused our work time to back up into our family time causing our family time to back up into our personal development time and on and on. That wasted time can never be retrieved.

Certainly having small talk with coworkers or playing a mindless game or even simply allowing your mind and body to relax can all be good utilizations or investments of your 1,440 minutes each day. Just don't let anyone else make those decisions. As you go through your day today, be sure to spend your time and your money wisely.

Today's the day!

Protecting Personal Priorities

Whether you are a top level corporate executive, a homemaker, a student, or an individual enjoying retirement years, you probably begin each day with a list of things to do. People who do not have a list of daily, weekly, monthly, or annual tasks quite simply baffle me. Either they have a photographic mind, or they are doing very little in their life, or they have a lot of priority items falling through the proverbial cracks. In any event, if we are going to maximize our time, effort, and energy--which in the final analysis is about all we have--we need to establish our priorities, and then we need to protect those priorities.

Every individual needs what I call a personal mission statement. This is what defines who you are and what is important to you in your life. Each of your daily activities must be valued in light of your personal mission statement. We all have the necessary maintenance things that must be done. We have to get our oil changed, get our hair cut, and visit the dentist. These things must work in and around the priorities in our life. The most productive people I know have no less than four or five priorities in a day and no more than 15 to 20. On a normal day, if you only have one or two things you're working on, you need to reexamine your priorities or mission statement. If your average day has more than 20 things you have to get done, directly relating to your job or mission in life, you may need to look at delegating or combining some of these tasks. If you have a high number of daily activities, you at least must prioritize them. This can be done by quickly answering the following questions.

  1. If I could only get one thing done today, which one would it be?
  2. Is there anyone else who can be doing this other than me?
  3. What if this particular item is not done today?
  4. What if this particular item is not done at all?
  5. Which of my priorities will put me in the best position to get where I want to be tomorrow, next week, next year, etc.?

You must have your priorities firmly established in your mind because, throughout your day, you will run into any number of people who, for whatever reason, have you listed on their priority list. They may be a salesman trying to sell you something, an old friend wanting to reconnect with you, a neighbor or colleague wanting to visit or network, along with any number of other activities in which people want you to engage. Keep in mind that even valid activities may not be your priorities. If something comes up during the day that is obviously someone else's priority, it needs to be ranked in your priority list before you can change your plan of action. As you go through your day today, remember--if it's worth doing, it's worth prioritizing.

Today's the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at . Visit for additional information.

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Copyright 2005 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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