“Winner’s Wisdom” Columns

Dependable People

by Jim Stovall

The world could be divided very simply into two distinct groups of people.  There are people who you can trust to get things done, and there are people you can’t.

All of us have a myriad of things to do each day in our personal and professional lives.  How we prioritize these items and get them done on a regular basis will determine how successful we will become.  Even if you work or live by yourself, you are dependent upon other people for each of the tasks you want to accomplish on your daily list.  In some cases, you are waiting on other people to bring you the tools or information you need to move ahead.  In other cases, you are delegating responsibilities to others so that you can oversee a project or work on other aspects of it at the same time.

Recently, I went through several weeks of my daily list of tasks and realized that about 80 percent of the items I work on each day are dependent upon others.  If the people whom I had delegated items to or venders I had depended upon were totally reliable, my days would be much more free and clear than they are.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about a business professional he was dealing with on a project.  He had glowing recommendations for this individual.  As he told me the story, it basically boiled down to the fact that he had arranged to have this person perform a job in a certain way, with a particular budget, with a definite deadline.  The person he was praising had, indeed, done what he said he was going to do, within the allotted time, and within the prescribed budget.

It is sad to realize that in the world we live in today, if you do what you say you’re going to do, in a reliable and dependable fashion, it becomes noteworthy, and you become legendary among your customers or circle of influence.

As you move toward your goals and objectives in life, seek to surround yourself with people whom you can depend on.  This will help you avoid the redundancy of asking someone to do something and then being forced to follow up to see if it was actually completed and done properly.

As you go through your day today, strive to be a person who is dependable and reliable, and surround yourself with people who hold themselves to the same standard.

Today’s the day!

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The Ultimate Financial Plan

by Jim Stovall

Recent turbulence in the financial markets has caused us all to question our financial plans.  We are bombarded daily with advertisements and sales pitches from self-proclaimed experts, financial gurus, and all manner of miracle money managers wanting to sell us their financial plans.  Buying someone else’s financial plan is much like buying someone else’s shirt.  Odds are it won’t fit, you won’t like it, and the process is somewhat distasteful.

Recently, my coauthor Tim Maurer, who is a certified financial planner, and I have completed a new book www.UltimateFinancialPlan.com.   In our book, we do not provide answers as much as we pose questions and give readers the criteria to develop their own strategies and surround themselves with their own team of experts.

In The Ultimate Financial Plan, I focus on what I call Timeless Truths.  These are the age-old principles that guide our lives and, therefore, our money.  Over the years, I have found that it is easy to manage my money, but it is difficult to manage me.  Money is a tool or a vehicle.  It has no use other than to do what you want it to do and take you where you want to go.  Any decent financial plan has, therefore, got to be customized for you.  No one else knows your hopes, dreams, and ambitions or the plans that you have for your family or your future.

Once you’ve decided where you want to go in your life, then you’ve got to make your money work for you as hard as you have worked for it.  My coauthor, Tim Maurer, has all of the credentials, certifications, and experience that I would want from any financial planner, but the reason I am pleased to have Tim as my coauthor is the fact that in his financial practice and in his life, he puts people first.

In our collaboration, Tim deals with Timely Tips designed to help you financially get from where you are to where you want to be.  He also helps you look beyond the smoke and mirrors created by bias in the marketplace.

You have got to understand that everybody who wants to sell you a financial product or charge you to manage your money has a bias.  This is not bad.  It is simply reality and a part of human nature.  We all know that when we wander onto a car lot, we will be invariably approached by a sales person wanting to sell us a car.  We all understand that the car dealer and his sales people have an ulterior motive in having us buy their car.  The same is true in the financial services industry.  Whether it be a broker, banker, insurance salesman, financial planner, or a guy like me who sells books, we all have built-in motives to get your business.  This can be healthy and natural when you begin to understand how the finances work and how the profit is structured behind the curtain.

It is my hope that The Ultimate Financial Plan will be entertaining, informative, and serve as your ongoing roadmap to reach your financial destination.

As you go through your day today, realize that the ultimate financial plan is the one that will take you on a customized route from where you are to where you want to be and will make your money work for you.

Today’s the day!

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Cost of Ignorance

By Jim Stovall

Several hundred years ago, many of our ancestors lived on farms.  They raised livestock, grew crops, and produced the majority of everything they needed to survive.  These ancestors possessed all the knowledge that was needed to perform each of the tasks on their farm.

Today, we live in a world where we drive cars we don’t understand, talk on cell phones we can’t program, and deal with an ever-expanding amount of technology and information that we need help with in order to master.  Our ancestors survived based on what they could do.  You and I will survive or thrive based on what we know.

Since the world of information has expanded beyond the point where any individual can even have a cursory knowledge of every topic, we find ourselves getting information from others.  There are any number of people and organizations seeking to sell us or even give us information and advice.

An ancient Taoist proverb says, “True wisdom comes at great price.  Ignorance is always free.”  The most expensive information or advice you may receive may come to you at no cost.

I’m reminded of watching the esteemed actor, Michael Douglas, in his role as Gordon Gekko in the award-winning movie Wall Street.  Douglas, as Gekko, declares, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

Since it’s impossible for us to personally possess all of the information we need, it is obvious that it is not as important what we know as who we know, and even more critically, how much knowledge is possessed by the advisors we deal with.

It’s hard to assess advice without assessing the advisor.  One rule of thumb I have used for years is to never seek advice from someone who doesn’t have what you want.  Don’t take financial advice from broke people.  While these individuals may have some theoretical knowledge, they have not yet been able to apply it in the form of wisdom in the real world.
Our ancestors only needed to avoid making dumb mistakes.  We have to avoid accepting dumb advice on subjects we may or may not understand.  This is why second and even third opinions are valuable.

Checking references is imperative.  Before someone gives you vital information or critical advice that you apply, they should be able to provide you with a list of names of people or organizations who have succeeded by accepting previous advice.

As you go through your day today, commit to paying the cost for wisdom instead of suffering through the price of ignorance.

Today’s the day!

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Judging a Book

by Jim Stovall

You’ve heard it said that you can’t judge a book by its cover.  This has never been more true as the next book you buy may not even have a cover.

Several months ago, retail publishers reported that there were more electronic books sold in a month than printed books.  This is staggering to consider.  One of the publishing experts I really respect, Dan Poynter, put it in perspective, saying, “It took cars 40 years to replace the horse, the CD took just 15 years to replace the vinyl record, but it’s taken just four years for the Kindle to overtake printed books on Amazon.”

As the author of 15 books myself, with millions of books sold and several titles in the pipeline due to come out shortly, I will admit to a bit of discomfort when first confronting the digital book world; however, like most new developments, once you get past the uncomfortable feeling which comes from dealing with things that are not familiar and customary, I began to see many benefits.

There are millions of people with information to convey and messages to deliver who have never been able to have a book published.  In the old ink-and-print publishing model, there had to be a reasonable expectation that a title would sell several thousand copies before it would be deemed to be viable.  This eliminated a lot of potential authors who deal with important subjects that may not be of universal interest.

Next, there is the hurdle of dealing with distribution, involving shipping books around the world, and making them available in countless formats and languages.  The e-book eliminates many of these problems.

Finally, with the exploding amount of rapidly-changing information in our world, it’s hard to write a book that is not obsolete before it hits the shelves.  E-books allow titles to be more easily updated and stay more relevant and current.  This new technology will revolutionize the world of text books.  Costs can come down while volumes expand and stay up-to-the-minute with cutting-edge information.

My late, great mentor and friend, Paul Harvey, was fond of saying, “Not everything we call new and improved is either new or improved.”  Mr. Harvey was speaking of things that are changed simply for the sake of changing them.  This is not the case with e-books.  They are here to stay.  If Paul Harvey were still here among us, he would be approaching a century of life with an e-book grasped firmly in his hands.

As you go through your day today, find ways to engage timely technology in the pursuit of timeless principles.

Today’s the day!

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Personal Productivity

by Jim Stovall

All of us want to get more out of our personal and professional lives.  Accomplishing this goal will require us to be more productive in every area.  Productivity is simply the process of achieving more results in areas where we wish to excel.  Productivity is not simply a matter of working faster or working harder.  It is, instead, the process of working more effectively.

Several years ago, I wrote a book based on my research with Steve Forbes and legendary coach John Wooden entitled Ultimate Productivity.  The popularity of that book has given me the opportunity to work with a number of organizations that want to, collectively, be more, do more, and have more.  www.UltimateProductivity.com <http://www.UltimateProductivity.com> .

On the Ultimate Productivity web site, you can take a free Ultimate Productivity Profile and receive your own personalized productivity assessment.  Your access code is 586404.

Productivity can be broken down into three elements which are motivation, communication, and implementation.  It all begins with motivation.

Motivation is the first thing we get when we come into this world and the last thing we lose as we leave it.  Victory does not always go to the strongest or fastest.  It most often goes to the individual or group that is the most motivated.  If you are giving a maximum effort, and your competition is only giving a moderate effort, you are likely to succeed.

Motivation comes in different forms and styles.  It is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.  In our Ultimate Productivity training, we have found people motivated by money, titles, inclusion, recognition, and many other motivating factors.

The second element of productivity is communication.  None of us can ever succeed on our own.  We must be a part of a motivated team.  In order to become a part of a motivated team, we must communicate our vision.  Communication comes in many forms.  Some people need to communicate in written form.  Others are verbal.  Some people need to see it on paper while others need to hear it or see graphs or models.  There is no right way or wrong way to communicate.  There is only the best way to communicate with each individual.

Finally, the third element of productivity is implementation.  We live in a world when it’s all said and done, there’s a lot more said than done.  I would recommend you review a book entitled Get ’Er Done: The Green Beret Guide to Productivity by Michael Martel.

You will never be rewarded for thinking of the right thing to do, believing in the right thing to do, intending to do the right thing, or planning to do the right thing.  You will be rewarded for doing it.

As you go through your day today, commit to getting more out of every area of your life by being personally and professionally productive.

Today’s the day!

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Shaping the Future

by Jim Stovall

From our own individual perspectives, there are only three categories of time.  There is the past, the present, and the future.

The past has conspired to make us who we are, but it cannot affect us going forward except to the extent that we allow it to do so.  The past is a great learning tool, but it is only an indicator of the future if we allow it to be.

If you have ever invested any money, you have undoubtedly received a prospectus.  Since no one ever reads a prospectus, I will give you the one key point that seems to appear in every one of these legal and financial documents.  At one point or another, every prospectus says, “Past performance is not an indicator of future results.”  This is easy to understand as it relates to finance but harder to grasp as it relates to our lives.

The present moment is a nebulous point in time.  It is the product of the past and the gateway to the future but seems to be a mere blip on the radar.  If your entire past were climbing a huge mountain and your entire future was the descent down the other side, the present moment would consist of that brief point at which you stand on the summit.  The future is a clean canvas where we can create our own art or allow others and circumstance to randomly direct our destiny.

John Schaar, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said it like this.  “The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created—created first in mind and will, created next in activity.  The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.  The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

Unfortunately, the more we grow and learn, the more we seem to limit our futures.  As small children, everything seems possible, but as we pursue our education and our career, we seem to narrow instead of broadening the future outcomes we are willing to consider.  If anything is possible, we must realize that everything is possible.  Both the limitations and the pathways to success exist in our mind and imagination.

As you go through your day today, own the past, manage the present, and imagine the future.

Today’s the day!

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Productivity Over Activity

by Jim Stovall

Like most people who work for a living, I begin my day at the office by reviewing my calendar and making a list of tasks that need to be done on that particular day.  Some of these activities have a time associated with them such as a meeting, conference call, or speech I will be making at a certain point in the day.  Other activities such as correspondence, accounting, and returning phone calls need to be done that day in general terms but not at any specific point in time.

I usually try to prioritize my tasks and activities to focus on the most productive ones first, leaving the least productive items for later in the day.  Anyone who works in an office realizes that the exercise of keeping a calendar, maintaining a list, and prioritizing tasks is an exercise in the hypothetical.  You may be able to control your time and your calendar, but it’s hard to control intrusions and interruptions.  These unscheduled activities range from a coworker needing advice or help on one of their priorities down to the least valuable, in my mind, which are the myriad of sales calls that come in to everyone’s office multiple times a day.

I have written 15 books with multiple millions of copies in print.  I regularly speak to tens of thousands of people in arenas and convention centers.  In every book and speech, I give my audience or the readers my office phone number:  918-627-1000.  I encourage each of them, as I would encourage you, to call me at any point in time you’re having trouble applying these messages to your real life.

Suffice it to say that with my office phone number readily available to literally millions of people, I get my share of phone calls.  We never know who will be calling or when they will be calling.  All of my standard business calls, the calls from readers or those who have attended speeches, and the dreaded sales calls generally go through one very talented young lady named Beth Sharp at our front desk.

I happened to be sitting at Beth’s desk one day, autographing a number of books that were being sent out as she fielded several of these calls.  She quickly and efficiently deflected the sales calls but alerted me to the readers of my books and those who had attended my speeches who were calling as a result of my ongoing invitation.  I realized Beth’s ability to instantly do what I call Telephone Triage, separating the productive calls from the time-wasting sales calls, was an extremely valuable skill.

When I asked Beth how she could tell the sales calls from the legitimate calls, she gave me several tips that may help you and the people who handle your phones.

  1. If you hear other calls being made in the background by other cold callers in the boiler room, it’s a sales call.
  2. If the person calling interrupts your greeting but can’t pronounce the name of the person they are trying to reach, it’s a sales call.
  3. If this unfamiliar person can’t explain why they’re calling or gives some nebulous reason, it’s a sales call.
  4. If the caller lies by saying they are returning a call or following up on a call from last week that they simply never made, it’s a sales call.

If you handle incoming calls or work in an environment where someone screens the calls for you, Beth’s tips may help you.  If you are a sales person, trying to make a legitimate living calling on businesspeople, you may want to avoid the obvious telltale signs of being a cold calling sales person.

As you go through your day today, separate activity from productivity, and control your phone calls.

Today’s the day!

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Activity vs. Productivity

by Jim Stovall

Most of us work very hard. We get up each day and spend eight hours or more doing something we call work. If you talk to the most successful and the least successful persons you can find, they will probably both tell you they are working extremely hard. If this is true, why are so few people actually getting the results they want from their hard work.

Quite simply, they confuse activity with productivity. Just because you’re doing something doesn’t mean you’re really getting anywhere. We have all seen hamsters running around on the little wheel in their cage. They create a tremendous amount of activity, and no productivity.

Recently, I did some consulting for a sales organization. These sales people work on straight commission, so the only productive thing they really do is talk to new people about their products and services. Before our training session, the average sales person told me they were working very hard for eight to ten hours every day. Once they learned that their only productive task was talking to new people about their products or services, we conducted a simple experiment. Each sales person was given a stopwatch and instructed to keep it in their pocket and click it on only when they were talking to a new prospect, either on the telephone or in person. We discovered that the very top wage earners were actually productive only three hours per day. The average and below average producers were far less productive.

If you want to be more successful, earn more, or reach your goals faster, simply separate activity from productivity and commit at least half of your workday solely to productivity. The difference will amaze you. Your destiny awaits.

Today is the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift.  He is also a columnist and motivational speaker.  He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082, or by e-mail at JimStovall@aol.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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