Why Are YOU Here?
By Jim “Gymbeaux”
Brown, February 5, 2024
There were two men working very
hard in the heat of the day. They were
repairing railroad ties and rails in a train yard. One of the men was named Ronnie
Freedman. They both had sweat dripping
from their brows and their shirts were soaked and their pants and shoes very
dirty. A train approached with only one passenger car attached; a very
beautiful and elegant passenger car. It
had to belong to someone very important.
Both men stared in awe at the
beauty of this one car when suddenly a voice rang out, “Ronnie Freedman, is
that you?” Of course, Ronnie was taken
aback by this acknowledgment and replied, “Yes, yes, it is!?
The voice once again called out, “Ronnie Freedman, get your
butt in here!”
Ronnie reluctantly approached the
rail car and was shocked to see his old friend Bruce Feldman standing at the
entrance. Bruce was not only Ronnie’s
old and faithful friend of the past; he was also the President of the Railroad!
“Come, get you and your friend
some cold lemonade to quench your thirst and then come in and sit for a while, let’s
Ronnie did as he was instructed
and after exchanging pleasantries, Ronnie had to ask. “We both started at the Railroad decades ago
as entry level laborers. I’m still a laborer
and you are the President of the Railroad; how did that happen?”
“Ronnie, you see, we both went to
work AT the railroad. You went to
work FOR the hourly wage, I went to work FOR THE RAILROAD!”
There is a very valuable lesson in that short story and people
around the world could learn from it but sadly, most either won’t take the
lesson to heart or have never heard the story in the first place. How many young people do you see every day
working at fast food restaurants for $8.00 or slightly more an hour? They all seem to be working for the hourly wage
instead of working for the restaurant.
When you find one that IS working for the restaurant, that
person(s) stands out like a sore thumb!
I’ve told this story in the past
and it is worth repeating in cased you, the reader, have not heard it
before. I used to travel a lot using my
car in my business. I would get up early
to get out on the road and before I would get on the Interstate, I would stop
at one of the fast-food restaurants and order a large black coffee using the drive
through lane. I traveled on weekdays so it
was not unusual to hear the same voice on the drive through machine. Unlike most voices at most restaurants, this
voice was most pleasant and extremely polite to hear. We got to know each other by facial
recognition but not name recognition over the course of months. I was so taken by the way she handled herself
on the intercom and then how she would place the paper dollars in change in my
hand first and then placed any loose change that might be
applicable on top of the paper bills instead of just dumbing everything in my
hand as what usually happens. I never
dropped any of the change outside or inside of my car as a result of her
I wrote a letter to the manager
of the restaurant, commending the manger on their hiring decisions that resulted
in them hiring such a proficient hourly worker.
Time passed, but not much when I ordered my usual large black coffee at
the drive through window. When I
approached the window to pickup the coffee, the young lady said, “I know it was
you!” I asked what she meant. She said the manager was so impressed that a
customer would write a personal letter and actually mail it with a stamp to
commend her on her performance, that the manager gave her a raise!
That is a perfect example of
someone going to work FOR the restaurant and not just for the hourly
wage which at the time was probably in the $5.00 an hour range if that.
It would be impossible to finish this Nugget without
including some personal information about myself. Growing up in the 1950s, I was always
impressed with the number of family members who served in the military. One uncle was wounded at both Normandy and
then again during the Battle of the Bulge.
Another uncle served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during
WWII. I had one aunt that served as an
Army Nurse and another who served in the Coast Guard during WWII and the list
goes on. Then while in the 5th
grade, we took a field trip to an Air Force Base near my home. I was able to
meet a lot of active-duty military men (no women at the time) and actually got
to sit in the cockpit of an F-101 Voodoo Fighter Jet. I was hooked but didn’t know it. When I went off to college, I attended the
university without ever coming to grips as to how it could help me EXCEPT,
I enrolled in Air Force Reserve Officer Training (ROTC); once again I was
hooked but still didn’t know it.
It was the mid-1960s and Vietnam
was going hot and heavy when I very unexpectedly received a draft notice to
report to Army Boot Camp. I obtained a deferment
to finish the semester I had started and during that time joined the U. S.
Coast Guard. It took me a while to
realize that the Coast Guard was exactly where I needed to be and where I
belonged! It provided me an income, a
career path and I could very easily see and understand exactly what I needed to
do to advance up the ladder, so to speak.
What I didn’t know at the time and certainly could not appreciate
something I did not know. I had unintentionally
gone to work FOR the Coast Guard, not for the many benefits that
a Coast Guard career presently offered or the great retirement plan they had in
place in the mid-1960s.
In short, I wanted to do and
become my very best person (Coastie) for whatever time I decided to serve. As it turned out, I served for twenty years.
To answer the title of this
Nugget, Why Was I Here? Not only did I want to improve myself, be a good
team member (which was critical in any military), I wanted to advance as far
and as fast as I could so I could (1) be of service TO the Coast Guard AND
in turn, my COUNTRY; and (2) set myself up for a career should I
decide to follow that path. More
importantly, the Coast Guard made it very clear what every member, enlisted and
officer, had to do IF they desired to be promoted. What I discovered was that so many of my
shipmates joined for the income and benefits, a small percentage went to work FOR
the Coast Guard. I didn’t know it at the
time because I had never heard of the 80/20 Rule but if I were able to
research all the members that joined the service when I did, 80% would have
joined to (1) avoid the draft; (2) for the income; (3) for the benefits; or (4)
all three of them. Yet about 20%
joined because of honor, duty and country.
Given my early introduction to members of my family that served and that
one visit to the Air Force Base, I now know I was in the later of those two
groups. Looking over your life, it is
easy to see things that you didn’t see as they were happening. Otherwise, I would have recognized that I
truly believe that I left every unit I was ever assigned to, better than when I
first reported there for duty. While
that was NOT my mission statement in life, it was an unconscious
mission statement that I worked hard to achieve; I had never heard of personal
mission statements or Life Mission Statements when I joined the Coast Guard in
Fast forward to the early
1990s. I am not ashamed to admit that
from the time I graduated High School (1963) until the early 1990s, I did
not read one single book, EVER!
Just didn’t want to do it which is one of the many reasons I never felt
like I fit in a college. Then by
accident or by design I met two people who changed my life forever. One was Lee Shelton who recorded a
cassette series, Creating Teamwork and the other was a former boss, Dr.
Tom Hill. The information on the
cassette tapes remains with me to this day.
Lee Shelton introduced me to one of his seminar audiences and said I
could recite the content of the tapes from memory I had listened to them so
many times. As for Dr. Hill, he
convinced me that everyone, including me, should have a Life Mission
Statement. I’ll ask the question now; do
YOU have a Life Mission Statement?
If you don’t know where you want your life to go or
what you want your life to look like when you are finished, how will you know
when you are on track to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve in life? Gret question, NO? I worked hard at what I wanted my Life
Mission Statement to be. I actually
worked on it for weeks. None of my
initial missions seemed to satisfy what I wanted to do for the rest of my
life. Then out of the blue the following
appeared to me and I immediately adopted it:
TO HELP OTHERS TO DO
WHATEVER THEY DO, TO DO IT BETTER!
Then came the HOW! How was I going to put myself in a
position to live up to that Mission Statement?
After listening to the Creating Teamwork tapes, over and over again,
there was one comment on the tapes that I can remember to this day. Read I’m Okay, You’re Ok! every six
months. I didn’t read it every six
months but I did read it more than once.
Keep in mind, I had NOT read a single book in decades! Based on the reading of that one book, I
was now hooked on reading. I
recognized that as a real estate Broker/Trainer/Team Leader, if I was really
going to be able to help people to do whatever they did, to do it better, I had
to become a lot more knowledgeable about, creating teamwork, sales techniques,
contract law, motivation, individual recognition, telephone techniques,
becoming an effective listener, developing personal relationships and so many
other subject matter, I HAD TO BEGIN TO READ BOOKS, ATTEND SEMINARS, LISTEN
TO TAPES AND PODCASTS whether I wanted to or not.
I tallied up the books that I
have read and since the age of 44 (I’m now 79), I have read well over 1200
books. I also have at least 100 eBooks
and have attended an untold number of seminars, conventions and listened to
hundreds of podcasts. I tell you this
not to brag but rather to demonstrate that I took my desire to help others “to
do whatever they do, to do it better!” seriously!
Then the most amazing things began
to happen. My real estate agents would
come to me with a problem or situation and without even thinking about it,
something that I learned in one of these books, tapes or seminars would
immediately come to mind. The memory was
triggered by the problem or issue. If
you were to ask me who wrote the books or even what their titles were, I may or
may not be able to provide that information.
The lessons learned, however, on the pages of the books, the speakers’
presentations or the many eBooks simply became available to me to impart to the
agent in need of advice or a recommendation.
It’s funny how that works.
Then this morning, I was
listening to a podcast that featured Michelle Moore who at one time was
a REALTOR® with the
same company that I had worked for before my retirement. She said something that I was aware of but
she put it in the simplest of terms. “I
can teach you what you need to know but I can’t teach you how to care for your
That is one lesson that I learned
the hard way. At one point in time, I
had grown the Real Estate Market Center in a small town from 15 agents to 105. As their Broker, their Team Leader and their
Trainer, I felt responsible for their success and/or their failure. The lesson that took me a while to learn was
that some agents signed on to our company and went to work for the commissions
that they “could” earn. Others went to
work for THEIR company. Do not be
confused when I say “their” company as compared to “our” company. Each real estate agent is in business for
themselves. When they become a licensed
place their license with a licensed broker (like me) and then they go about
building their own real estate business within a business. They are in fact, in business for
themselves. The lesson I had to
learn as their Broker/Team Leader/Trainer was that “you can bring a horse
to water but you can’t make it drink!”
In my case, you can bring the training (the water) to the agents (the
horses) but you can’t make them take the courses you provide. It’s the 80/20 Rule again! 20% would take advantage of the training
offered, 80% wouldn’t. As in most real
estate companies, 20% of the agents, do 80% or more of the work over the course
of any given year. Imagine what that
number could look like if more of the 80% actually took the courses offered.
Recognizing that so many agents
chose not to attend the inhouse courses, I began writing one-to-three-page
articles (called Nuggets for the Noggin) all based on (1) the courses I would
teach and/or (2) book reviews on the books I have read. Initially I would send the Nuggets out to my
agents via email. The word got out, how
I don’t know, that I wrote Nuggets for the Noggin and Team Leaders from all
over the country wrote or called and asked to be put on my mailing list. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, I had well over
550 people on my mailing list to receive the Nuggets as I wrote and distributed
them. Hurricane Katrinas put an end to
the mailing list when for some reason my mailing list simply disappeared from
my computer. This was about the same
time as social media was taking off and people were creating websites and
blogs. I created a blog, using www.blogger.com. Very easy to create and more importantly,
maintain. I would write the Nuggets as I
had done in the past using Microsoft Word, but then I would copy the Nugget and
paste it to the blog. I would then use
email and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter (now X), GETTR, Truth, etc.
to let everyone know there has been a new Nugget posted on the blog. I know the Blog is getting traffic because
there is a number counter that counts the number of people who opened the blog
but I don’t know who the people are. I
retired from real estate in 2012.
Between the late 1990s and the end of 2012, the Nuggets were written
about sales techniques, customer relations, business building, working with
other real estate agents, contracts, ethics, etc. plus I would also write
Nuggets on every book I had read. The Nuggets
number in the hundreds! Now, from 2012
and beyond, I write about anything that is on my mind like this Nugget. I have posted a lot of book reviews as well.
Why did I choose the Nugget
approach to help people to do what they do, to do it better? I knew that so many agents chose NOT to
attend the training classes but they just might read a one-, two -,or
three-page article related to doing their business more efficiently, and it
worked. A lot of agents who would not
attend the classes, did read the Nuggets, or so they said.
More importantly, I compared the
short one-to-three-page Nuggets that took just minutes to read to the hour or
more long classes and/or podcasts and there is no comparison. Most trainers and podcasters start with a lot
of needless graphics and music intros to their podcasts. Then they talk ever so slowly making it
difficult to keep up with what they are saying, at least for me. Thank God there is an ICON on most RECORDED
podcasts where the listener can choose to speed up the presentation. I remember the famous presenter Zig Ziglar
saying that he talks fast, like 80 mph with gusts up to 120 mph. He did this to keep people’s attention
focused on the message he was conveying.
Most hour-long podcasters could get the meat of their presentation
across to the listener easily within 30 minutes or less if they presented their
material more like bullet points rather than lengthy conversations. I often wonder if the podcasters ever listen
to their own podcasts and do a self-critique.
If they did, I believe they would change their presentation style and the
length of the podcasts.
Using Golf as a metaphor, a
typical golfer who plays 18 holes with a group, usually plans on playing for
about 4 hours. It would be impossible to
focus for 4 hours but a golfer doesn’t need to focus for 4 hours. He or she only needs to focus in increments
of about 1 minute before and during each golf shot made. In between shots the golfer can relax the
mind and focus until it is time for the next shot. Then the professional golfer does something
like adjust the golf clove to TRIGER the process of focusing on the task
at hand all over again. People who
listen to podcasts are the same way.
They are looking for the meat and basically ignore all the needless chatter
between the meat offerings!
For the record, this Nugget is far too long but I believe
it contains a lot of meat to think about.
A valuable lesson taught by
co-founder of Keller Williams Realty International, Gary Keller, is “you can
choose to be learning based or ignorant based, the choice is yours!” By this he means you can choose to
read books, attend seminars, or listen to tapes or podcasts and be learning,
OR, you can choose not to do these things and watch your competition pass
you by! This is true regardless
of what business you are in. PERIOD! If you are NOT improving, you are standing
YOU HERE? WHAT IS YOUR LIFE MISSION
Here is another
question, will the world be a better place because of what you did when you when
here and when you could achieve your Life Mission?
Did you go to work
for what the World OFFERED you or did you go to work FOR what YOU
could offer to the World?