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What An 86 Year Old Man Can Teach Us About Procrastination

What An 86 Year Old Man Can Teach Us About Procrastination

I want to tell you the story of Hank.

I work in the Real Estate industry in San Antonio, TX and in our community, Hank is considered The Lion of our business. I train, coach, and teach real estate agents how to become better at what they do. Hank has been doing that for 40 years, he puts me to shame, and that is after a whole other career in The US Air Force where he served hazardous duty, posted all around the world, and protected The President of The United States.

If I ever feel myself getting cocky, all I have to do is look down the hall and see Hank, and I remember that I have a long way to go.

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My Business Hero

An elder statesman now, Hank could kick back. He could rest, play golf, collect stamps…….But not this man. At 86 years young he works a full day every day at our brokerage and then often teaches real estate courses at our local school at night. I often joke to new agents that I am hiring that he will never quit, he will not go quietly. The truth is, he is my business hero and I would be heartbroken to see him not here.

Hank sat in a chair in my office yesterday, told me he felt “Like Crap” and that is sucks getting old. This has become our ritual. I am a crazy morning person, comes with having small kids that have to be at school before the rooster crows, which means I usually beat him here. He will walk into my office, sit down, and we catch up. Sometimes it’s nothing more than small talk, sometimes its much larger issues. The truth is I could speak to him all day.

Don’t hustle. Don’t try.

His demeanor and his attitude about the world are outstanding to me. I have never once heard this man say “What’s in it for me?” Do you know what he complains about? Not having enough work! He so wants to share his knowledge and passion for real estate that no matter how many agents I hire, it’s not enough. And he is heartbroken every time I hire an agent and then they don’t amount to much. Don’t hustle. Don’t try.

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See these are foreign concepts to Hank. It just isn’t in his DNA. Why would you choose this job, or any job, and not give it all you have? Think about it like this. Hank does not work for the money. He has a very comfortable retirement. But he out works and out hustles people half his age, or less, who do need the money. These people have families to feed and bills to pay, yet he works harder than many I know. Why?

This is not to say that we do not have outstanding agents in our brokerage, we do! I am biased but I think we have the best team in the industry. This is more a symptom of the industry as a whole. It isn’t what you see on TV. For the most part, it isn’t glamorous, and it certainly isn’t easy.  Sometimes there can be big bucks……..sometimes, but often you are fighting for all you have, especially in the beginning. Some agents go on to have wonderful, fulfilling careers, and others flame out. Most never even really get started. If I knew the answer as to why then I would be a billionaire. I would have bottled it and sold it time and again.

Why Then Did I Succeed and Others Do Not?

I never set the world on fire as an agent, but I was successful. I hustled every day ( most days ) and fed my family. I was proud of the job that I did. When I think about it though, I had no special training. No secret was given to me when I started. I am not any different than those students sitting in real estate school right now. I had no special knowledge or hidden insight, yet I had a career I could be proud of and now I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Why then did I succeed and others do not?

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If I had to guess I would say that I succeeded simply because I refused to procrastinate. In the beginning, I rarely knew what I was doing but I did something. Maybe I learned this from Hank. This is his life every day. If I didn’t, then I am sure that I re-learn it from him on a day in and day out basis. He is a role model to me of how a man should behave, and treat others.

Each time I write an article for LifeHack, I give it to Hank to read before I submit it to my editor. He never fails me. He always likes the content but doesn’t like the way I wrote it. I can completely respect that. There is never any BS when it comes from Hank.

Yesterday, in my office, he told me the next time I write, it should be on procrastination. So we can get these agents off their duffs and get them hustling. I completely agree and thought what better way to do that than to remind them and the world…………that this 86-year-old man is cleaning your clock and shows no signs of slowing down.

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These lessons are not confined to the Real Estate industry. Not by a long shot. Each one of us can use Hank as a model for how to go about our daily lives.

Hank, of course, is not his real name. I have never asked but I am sure he would tell me that writing about him is useless. I think, however, that his story needs to be told.

Let me leave you with this, though:

If Hank is the exception and not the rule, then what are you? After all, you decide. Procrastination is a choice.

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    Glenn Killey

    Author, Motivational Speaker, Mindset Coach

    What Is Your Defining Mental Picture? What My Teenage Daughter Taught Me About Simplicity What An 86 Year Old Man Can Teach Us About Procrastination The Randomness of Life: 3 Steps to Take Back Control The Law of Reversed Effort

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    Published on November 23, 2020

    How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

    How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

    Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

    Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

    Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

    Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

    Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

    Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

    Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

    In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

    Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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    After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

    What can we learn from this historical lesson?

    1. Focus on the Consequences

    Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

    So was Moscow not an important target after all?

    Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

    When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

    • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
    • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
    • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

    The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

    This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

    2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

    Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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    Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

    If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

    Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

    This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

    Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

    • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
    • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
    • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
    • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

    Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

    3. Ask for Advice

    Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

    Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

    A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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    Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

    4. Beware of Biased Advice

    Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

    For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

    • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
    • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
    • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
    • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
    • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

    However, most purchases are unnecessary.

    Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

    Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

    After all,

    • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
    • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
    • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
    • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
    • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

    There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

    Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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    Bottom Line

    It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

    You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

    Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

    Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

    Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

    Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

    Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

    More Tips on Thinking Clearly

    Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
    [2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
    [3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
    [4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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