Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Why Are YOU Here?


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 catch up.

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 carefulness!

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 1965.

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:


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 customers!” 

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 REALTOR®, they 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  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 still!


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?