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The Lessons We Learn

Last week I went to help my friend Sue Landis (http://landisluxuryhomes.com/) at her new home in Bonsall.  She recently bought a used tractor to help her with upkeep on her new horse property.  For those of you who remember, I am an engineer and have a practical knowledge of how combustion engines work.  I also have my hobby business, restoring old cars.  Sue reported to me that she suspected rats or mice might have eaten through the wires on her tractor, the possible reason that the tractor would not start.  I have wire, a flash light, and electric tape.  I figured I could trace the wires and splice the open circuits to get her tractor operating.

After a through inspection and cleaning of rodent residue we found that all the wires appeared to be solid, connecting to the places that John Deere designed them to be terminated.  Further evaluation showed that the battery was fully charged.  We discovered how to move the tractor in neutral after a lot of back breaking lifting. Once we could move the tractor we found that it had a flat tire that needed more than air to inflate it.  The tire needs to be replaced.

In the process of discovery I used my battery charger, my 1/4 and 3/8 inch ratchet sets, jumper cables provided by Sue, and my portable air compressor.  Sue used the computer to discover that the manufacturer of the tractor was willing to sell her operating guides for a fee.  After approximately two hours we pushed the tractor into the side yard for the future owner to retrieve or Sue to have repaired.

Sue and I shared a meaningful learning experience.  My learning is in plain text.  Sue’s learning is in italics:

  • It pays to pay someone to do their best so you can be paid to do what you do best where you can operate at your highest and best value to the universe.
  • You get very little for FREE.  Sure it was great to be with Sue and see her new place.  Having her five horses on her property makes it easy for her to maintain and exercise for playing polo.  However, had there been someone with a greater knowledge of this tractor, it might have been able to start and run.  What running this small holding has taught me is not only do I need to ask for help, people usually appreciate it when I do. It includes them in my vision and goals, and they enjoy that. My friends also have skills that I don’t. Even though Gerry wasn’t able to fix the tractor, he progressed the problem solving process and that was valuable to me. I enjoyed his visit and the energy of his support. It helps make me feel not alone out here, and in the pursuit of my goals. That has tremendous value. One of my lessons was, “Don’t wait for people to offer help, be pro-active and ask for it.”
  • Sometimes when you invest your time, you create discovery.  Sue discovered that maintaining a tractor is something she would prefer someone else do for her.  Hiring a gardener to keep her landscape tidy might be a better investment than maintaining a tractor and the land by herself.  The lesson for me is ‘time is valuable’ and you can’t do everything yourself. I ask myself, which tasks have a direct impact on reaching important goals. Riding is important (exercising the ponies) because it’s the equivalent of my gym – and I need to a) be fit and b) have a relationship with the horses both so they perform better, and its good for my soul (highly in alignment with my values). Picking up poop can be delegated because it’s a time waster for me, and on a different level, I learned that I have no interest or passion to operate machinery because I get no joy from fixing and maintaining it. Also, the scale of my operation is such that the investment in machinery is borderline. It is better to hire that skill, like I do with my compost guy who has a small tractor. He also drags my fields to keep them looking good.
  • Had Sue invested in a new tractor it is probable that the experience would have been much different. Yet, her investment would have been four times higher than what she paid for a used tractor.  There would also have been the investment of her time on maintaining the land which, when you figure her time investment on selling million dollar homes (her business) versus ridding the tractor to maintain her acres of property, time is better spent selling real estate.  Correct! My #1 focus is balancing my time so I can ensure money making activities (selling real estate) are not compromised by getting too caught up in my passion for the horses. I am needing to be more focused, structured and decisive about when I spend my time and how I allocate it on a daily basis. I am also a Mom (and wife!) and there’s a lot of time spent on that too. My next priority is hands free devices in the cars so I can make real estate calls on school pick up.
  • What you pay is what you get.  Hire for attitude as well as ability to do the job. The older I get, the less time I am willing to waste on people whose company I don’t enjoy or find uplifting.
  • I covered some of that in the second bullet point above.  It was interesting to me that you rated your effectiveness on being able to solve the problem versus me ‘rating your effectiveness’ on simply being a friend who showed up to help. All that mattered to me was that we progressed the problem solving process and that was of value to me. You also helped me decide that I’d prefer that my gardener takes care of the part of the lawn where I used to ride the ride-on mower. I’m thinking that I’ll still get the mower fixed (only if it is cost effective) and I’ve got one more contact to help with that – a John Deere guy who comes out to houses – I was referred to him by my neighbor over the weekend. I guess the lesson is that there is huge value in being interdependent, not independent.

These lessons can be applied to our businesses.  FREE information for decision making should be gathered in full bushels.  Going to the Internet was the source for me to determine how much it might have cost Sue for a new tractor the size of her used tractor.  I use the Internet to answer many of the questions I ask myself about business.  It was the way I discovered how to apply Year of Manufacture license plates to my 1966 Chevrolet Step Side pickup truck.  You might think that in California it would be an easy task.  Having made an appointment and after two hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles having all the correct documents filled out in advance, it took two months to get two placards and two stickers.

To grow we must discover.  Some of our best resources are in our networks of clients and prospects we already know, like, and trust.  Back in 2001 when I wanted to create e-books I used my network of technical consultants to deliver what are still e-books on my website today.  I paid people to do what they do best so I could do what I do best.  During that time I could have paid $79 for an online course in how to create, maintain, and add an e-book to my website.  Much like Sue and I could have spent hours learning how to repair her tractor.  Both of us would have had time invested for minimal return financially.  Some might say that the investment in working together would create a stronger friendship.  I would say that we have other common interests where we can spend time together creating stronger financial and bonding results.  

These are life’s valuable lessons.  I often tell people that my father paid for my first 24 years of education.  It is now my turn to pay for future education.  Days like the one I spent with Sue are part of our education.  If someone would have told me 20 years ago that I would own and restore three antique automobiles, have my own garages to do so, and have the needed tools and knowledge, I might have said it is possible yet questioned the probability of it happening.  Today it is reality.  The only way it happened is with trial and error to create success.  Purchasing my first fixer, a 1972 Chevy Pickup, was the start for me.  What will start you?

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