Framework, V2I3

Keeping the Wood from Rotting

Exceptional business leader and motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones says, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Think about that.

Are you happy with your performance in every area of life right now? Are there areas where you’d like to be a better person? Perhaps a more involved dad, a better business leader, or a more caring person?

The second law of thermodynamics says that things naturally move from a state of organization to a state of disorganization. In other words, without intervention, things will decay. Ice melts, iron rusts, wood rots.

It’s true in our lives as well—we don’t become smarter, better, stronger versions of ourselves if we don’t work at it. Statistically, in five years we’ll end up older, fatter, and sicker than we are now.

Fortunately, there’s an answer.

Focused energy and intention can be applied to keep ice from melting, keep iron from rusting, and wood from rotting. Just the same, we can learn new things and improve ourselves by meeting new people and reading good books.

Not only should you meet new people, but you should set out to meet people who have a higher capacity than you do in some area of life. The people we spend time with tend to influence us, and either drag us down or build us up. It’s important to meet and get to know and spend time with people who have high capacity in some area of life.

Recently, I had the opportunity to do just that. Our CEO, Kent Lapp, recently suggested I join him for a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Having grown up in Michigan, attended college in Virginia, and spent most of my adult life in Nashville, I had never really met or gotten to know any Amish and Mennonite folks.

As president of Woodtex, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know more about the Amish and Mennonites, and I was thrilled to take Kent up on his offer to accompany him on a trip to Lancaster. Kent’s in-law’s graciously invited us to stay with them while we were visiting, and I jumped at the chance to stay in an Amish home.

I got to meet a lot of great people in Lancaster as we toured a shed builder (Stolzfus Structures), a truck and trailer shop (Pine Hill), and had great meetings with the team over at Paradise Energy Solutions.

The highlight of my trip however was meeting—and being a guest in the home of—Kent’s father-in-law, Gideon Zook. It seems everyone calls Gideon “Papa,” and I can see why. Papa and his lovely wife, Mary, could not have been more kind to their “English” guest. The food was incredible, and it was a delight to sit around the table with them and learn from them.

It was truly inspiring to see how Papa valued his faith, his family, and hard work. He has really high capacity in all three of those areas of life, and I’m a better man for having spent time with him. Through treating others right, consistent hard work, and a love for God and family, he has become a leader in his community and a successful businessman.img_6257

Papa even took us on a horse and buggy ride, which was a first for me! When he was putting the harness on the horse, I asked about the “blinders” that go on the horse. Papa explained that those kept the horse from getting spooked or distracted by things in his peripheral vision and stay focused only on what’s straight ahead.

I thought perhaps I should find a way to “put on blinders” sometimes. With all the distractions we have every day—notifications popping up on our phone all the time, emails, etc.—when it’s time to focus and get the job done, I need to learn how to focus and “put on some blinders” and focus on the task at hand.

Another thought about blinders? In business, it’s easy to “get spooked” by things. We see a competitor making a move, we read a news blurb about the stock market, or a key employee calls it quits. If we let that spook us, and operate out of fear or alarm, we’re not going to reach our goal. Having a strong sense of where we’re headed can provide a virtual pair of “blinders” to keep us from getting spooked by things in our periphery.

Let’s move on from “people I’ve met” to “books I’ve read” that have helped me grow and become a better person.

A while back, I read the book Swing Your Sword: Leading the Charge in Football and Life, by successful coach and renaissance man Mike Leach. I’ll share one anecdote from the book that was impactful.

In 1993 Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in the world. But he wanted to experience more and test his mettle in another sport. He shocked the sports world in 1994 by signing a contract with the Chicago White Sox. That spring, he reported for spring training in Sarasota. He went from the top of the game in basketball to the bottom of the game in baseball.

And the haters had a field day.

The sports press was so eager to point out every time he struck out or made anerror. They took cheap shots, mocking his “Air Jordan” moniker with “Err Jordan.” It seemed they couldn’t believe that he had the guts to step outside of the norms and test himself in a new sport.

But Michael Jordan didn’t do it for the press. He didn’t do it for the haters. He wanted to experience the journey of being in baseball. He wanted to see how he stacked up, what he could contribute. So he did.

That’s inspiring. It’s so easy to not even try to tackle a new challenge, especially when you’re worried about what others are going to think and say about you. What the haters didn’t realize about Michael Jordan was that simply his desire to be more and do more, and his willingness to step outside of his comfort zone to achieve it, was a big part of what set him apart.

No matter what you’ve achieved and done in your career or your business ventures, there will be those who look suspiciously, maybe even with disapproval, at you when you try new things and challenge yourself. Don’t listen to the naysayers—apply yourself, and put your very best work in, and enjoy the journey.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this challenge: In five years from now, what books will you have read, and what people will you have met that have made you a stronger more successful person than you are today?

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