The Great Equalizer

Time slows as I adjust my goggles, lean on my poles and survey creation from a mountaintop.

The awe flooding through me slows time even more as I peer through ice-speckled goggles: azure sky, snow ghosts, sunlight sparkling on fresh powder.

I’m late for a meeting, but I let the feeling wash over me before I cruise the freshly groomed run.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” —  Charles Brixton.

It’ is January:  a new year begins, and I am getting older.

It is a big, beautiful world out there and there are so many ski hills I want to ski (50, to be exact), flowers I want to pick, trail I want to meander, columns I want to write, business adventures I want to be part of.

There are people I want to influence me and people I want to influence.

Where will I find the time?

Business guru Anthony Robbins offered this perspective.

“Once you have mastered time, you will understand how true it is that most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a year – and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.”

I need to start. I refresh myself with classic time-management concepts.

First, the danger of perfection: I often talk about the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule that says we get 80% of our results from the first 20% of our effort.

To have 100% perfection, we would need to put in 80% more effort. Sometimes, perfect is not worth it. I will not be explaining this principle to my neurosurgeon or my pilot.

Former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower described his decision-making process like this: “The urgent is never important and the important is never urgent.” 

This view led to the design of the Eisenhower Matrix urgent/important quadrant. It is a concise way of looking at different work strategies for the best use of time.

When looking at Quadrant 1, I ask myself “Is blood spurting?” If yes, then I do whatever “it” is. 

Quadrant 2 represents tasks leading to the accomplishment of your long-term goals. An example would be like getting your income tax filed – it is important, but you do have a few months to submit it. 

If you don’t, then it will move to Quadrant 1. On a personal level, going to the gym is important, but not urgent –
it is a decision.

An example of Quadrant 3, “urgent but not important,” is other people’s urgent needs. In this case, teaching them to “fish,” as in solving their own problems, will remove some of the challenges from this quadrant.

Some of your own urgent tasks can be delegated – such as getting your kids to shovel the sidewalk before the mail is delivered.

Quadrant 4 activities are distractions. Eliminate them. Distractions like such as Facebook, surfing the Internet, chatting longer than you should in the office kitchen can all be eliminated or at least, dramatically decreased. 

There are apps that monitor your screen time and that can help keep these pervasive habits in check.

Time is the great equalizer — we all have exactly the same amount of time in our day.

"Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time." — Jim Rohn.

Thinking about the matrix and my overwhelming desire to do so many things, I realize I can stack activities to increase the value and move them into another quadrant.

It is important for me to take each grandchild on an adventure before they graduate from high school. A few years ago, I was exhausted, but was debating whether I could afford the time. 

My oldest granddaughter was graduating from high school that year. That goal moved from important to important and urgent. We had a great one-week vacation together.

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot." — Michael Altshuler

I’m piloting my time, my life.


Learn from Rita

Rita has the secret to your business success.

Thousands of business books profess to have the secret. Workshops are built around that premise. And then there are business gurus. Lord, there are so many so-called gurus.

And then there is Rita.

  • She has never been in business.
  • She has never read a book on business.
  • She never attended a business workshop and certainly has never listened to a guru.

But, if you're like Rita, you will succeed in business, and in life.

Rita personifies where there is a will, there is a way.

Six hours after hernia surgery, one dramatic fall to the pavement, one shaky walk with support on both sides, my 85-year-old mom had to go to the bathroom.

I helped her off the couch.nAmerica’s Got Talent applauded in the background.

She collapsed back on the couch, unable to support her own slight body weight.

She did not look upset. In fact, she looked puzzled. This is not how she did life.

I suggested I get an office chair and she could wheel herself to the bathroom.

Office chairs don’t have brakes and on a hard surface, a chair could go on a runaway. A chair could turn into a race car.

She sat quietly thinking.

“I could crawl.”

“Your knees will hurt.”

But, I thought, if you do fall, you are closer to the floor and won’t hurt yourself.

She lowered herself to the floor. Kneeling upright, she teeter-tottered toward her goal.

The area rug ended. She clutched the “wheelchair” and rolled, still on her knees, to the bathroom.

She grabbed the bathroom vanity and hoisted herself up onto her goal with a sigh of satisfaction.

Oh, my, she should have been an entrepreneur — that kind of determination would have really got her places.

That determination always got her where she wanted to go.

Still on her knees, she crawled back into the living room.

Self-reliant. Resourceful. Confident.

My mom.

America’s Got Talent gave her a standing O.

One of the challenges many entrepreneurs face is overcoming self-doubt. Lacking confidence in ourselves and our abilities can slow an entrepreneur, even to the point of wanting to give up. Being absolutely determined that I could succeed, I would succeed was critical to my success.

As a new entrepreneur, when I doubted myself, I called people who believed in me.

Suppliers, clients and even former staff would remind me that I was succeeding and I could go to greater heights.

Further along my entrepreneurship path, I connected with four other entrepreneurs and we met monthly to discuss our businesses. We set goals for the next month and held each accountable, And if something came up between our meetings, we could call and get advice.

These two systems gave me clarity and reminded me of the tasks I needed to complete and the bigger vision of why I was in business. And the self-doubt diminished; the determination strengthened.

Rita didn’t have self-doubt. When all else failed, she crawled. Will you?

The little things make us

Sweat flew as I twisted on my left foot and my gloved fist smacked the Thai pad with an orgiastic thud.

Sweat hung in the air as the thud reverberated across the gym, folding into the echo of other thuds from other women twisting on their left feet and smacking the pads with their left hands. And then, their right.

Remember those great scenes from Rocky? The first Rocky movie. As the hook landed on Rocky’s jaw, sweat arched and flew, in slow motion.

I was in a movie all my own, but my opponent was tougher than Apollo Creed. My opponent was me — and my lack of experience and skill.

But I have Rocky’s drive — as do my training buddies, and coaches, at Pacific Top Team.

I am 60 years old. I just started Muay Thai, a nasty form of kick-boxing. The age range in my all-female class is 13 to maybe 45. I could be their grandma or mom. But who cares? I like this. No, I love this.

Why, my friends ask? Seems rather out there for someone “like me.” I love it because of the need for absolute focus and, with that focus, the rapid improvement in skill. I can see me changing mentally and physically.

There are several questions I ask myself:

  • How would a person who wants to excel at Muay Thai behave?
  • What would she do?
  • What would she think?
  • What goals would she set?

Because, given my age, time is not on my side. I want to get good, and I want to get good fast.

What is it about Muay Thai that appeals to my entrepreneurial brain? Building a business requires focus and skill. Like Muay Thai. Building a business takes time. But that time can be reduced by applying focus to develop more skill.

How would a person who wants to excel as an entrepreneur behave?

She would have clarity of purpose.

She would stay in the constraints of that purpose. She would have focus. She would know what she was doing and why she was doing it.

Then, the dream can begin to be realized.

  • What needs to be done to prepare for the day?
  • How would she interact with the people who are supporting this purpose?
  • What will she have accomplished at the end of the day? What good will result from these efforts?
  • What can be done tomorrow to advance the cause with more ease and speed?

For the past 20 years, I have hammered into my home family and work family the expression: How you do anything is how you do everything.

This message is burned into my subconscious. How I play at Muay Thai is how I play at home and how I play at work.

I have spent time reflecting and defining how a person my age would need to train, eat, sleep and think to excel at Muay Thai.

I actually wrote it down.

I thought about muscle tone across my trainer’s shoulders and wondered, what does a person need to do to achieve that?

Twenty push-ups at every bathroom break? Then, 30?

Maybe I need to get advice.

I am considering a new business venture with partners. I have been reflecting on how I need to act in a partnership to make it successful; what do we need to agree on to maintain focus, clarity and peace within the group.

Just like I ask my Muay Thai coach for suggestions as to how to improve, I ask people within this unfamiliar business space for suggestions, recommendations, thoughts and concerns.

I love the parallels between personal and work experience. It gives me comfort and direction when either world becomes muddled.

For now, I’ll go practise a round kick.


Time-travelling memories

I discovered I can time travel while sitting at my desk. 

As I scroll through my school alumni Facebook group, I am back in time, back in my small hometown.

When I read posts from people years older than me and posts from my classmates' children, I am reminded of my formative years, and friends, teachers, neighbours.

I relive the seemingly profound events — lapping Main (street, that is), attending the annual church picnic, standing as a wallflower at the country community hall dances.

In these time-travel wanderings, I received the most touching gift. Ever.

In a recent post, my Grade 8 PE/Health teacher, John Pullen, talked about his parents.

John's dad, Jack, was the senior pharmacist in town, and was close to retirement when I got the coveted job of working at the drugstore when I was 12.

I was a cashier, a shipper/receiver. I stocked shelves and created magazine displays.

One day, Mrs. Taylor was sick and I was promoted to the dispensary. There, I put pill bottles into bags and stapled the prescription instructions.

I vibrated with the newness of the assignment – rows of bottles, neatly labelled, were shelved behind me while I scanned the store from the lofty heights of the dispensary.

I placed small, white bags filled with pills and liquid concoctions in alphabetical order beside the cash register, waiting for pickup.

The new responsibility exhilarated me.

Mr. Pullen would tell me about various medications and how they worked, but he never talked about the patients. He didn’t need to — my vivid imagination concocted its own diagnosis of everyone in town.

Mr. and Mrs. Pullen lived on the next street – somehow an almost insurmountable barrier for my narrow view of life. He would invite me to visit after work.

After my two-hour, after-school shift, I’d race home to eat and jump on my bike and ride to their grand, two-storey home.

As the second oldest of five kids, with working parents, I had lots of responsibility and little attention.

At the Pullens, I was the “golden-haired child.” They had three sons. The oldest two had gone off to university. The youngest son was so much older than me that I deemed him irrelevant.

Over tea prepared by Mr. Pullen, the three of us would chat. They answered my youthful, ill-conceived questions. They endured my relentless curiosity. And I learned stories of their youth.

The Pullens knew of my insatiable desire to go to university. They hired me for odd jobs around the house, chores wheelchair-bound Mrs. Pullen couldn’t do. I hope I did them well.

Reading the Facebook post about Mr. and Mrs. Pullen got me thinking about the value of mentors.

The original mentor was named Mentor, the trusted friend of Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey, who was charged with guiding Odysseus' son, Telemachus.

  • As leaders, we are charged with guiding our teams.
  • As parents, we are charged with guiding our children.
  • As community members, we can choose to guide the youth, the less fortunate.

There are three roles that mentors fulfil:

  • Consultant. They share specialized knowledge.
  • Counsellor. They listen, guide, and provide feedback and advice, but not all the answers.
  • Cheerleader. They share enthusiasm and celebrate successes, no matter how small.

As a leader, my most rewarding role was mentoring new agents. When I worked closely with newbies as they learned how to list a home or help a buyer find a home, they would jump out of the nest into independence and autonomy.

This was the fastest way to launch their new career.

As a business mentor, one of my favourite memories is a breathless call from one of my mentees. She was developing a home-delivery service and had branded her delivery van.

“I got a call from someone; she said she saw one of our vans and wanted to know if we would deliver to her. She doesn’t know it, but we only have one van.”

Mentoring can go beyond the workplace to personal, career, and community. A friend is mentoring an immigrant in the English language, introducing her to life in Canada, and preparing the aspiring physician for her qualifying medical exams.

According to Mentoring.org, young adults with a mentor are:
55% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school

  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
  • 90% interested in becoming a mentor
  • A whopping 130% more likely to hold a leadership position.

Sage.com cites the statistic that although 97% of people who have mentors believe mentorship is valuable, 85% of them don’t have a mentor.

If we want to make a difference in a new business’ profitability, sustainability, and viability, we need to step up and be mentors – especially in these unprecedented times of business disruption.

One of my first mentors was my former boss who came to work with me. Because of his experience and our relationship, I could burst into his office, eyes flashing. “I am going to fire them all.”

He would lean back in his chair and place his glasses on the desk. In his low, calm voice, he would point me in another direction, teaching to be more confident in my abilities, to grow my leadership skills. And not fire them all.

Years later, Mr. Pullen passed, tired from years of caregiving and dispensing drugs. Mrs. Pullen flourished at the local seniors’ lodge.

I would visit her during my weekends home from university.

In response to my comment about my memories of his parents, my PE teacher wrote this:

“Yes, Myrna. They held you in great respect. I thank you very much.”

From my first mentors from decades ago, two time-travel gifts – a most unexpected compliment and the rich life I am privileged to lead because of their guidance.

More Reflective Leadership articles

About the Author

As the former owner of Century 21 Assurance in Kelowna, Myrna uses her experience to build value in organizations.

Myrna’s passion as a leader is recognizing the strengths of her people and encouraging them to grow, even if it meant leaving her organization.

Her purpose is to reflect the greatness of others – in work, in play, in life.

Myrna has discovered that when organizations and individuals work with their strengths, amazing outcomes unfold.

Myrna is certified in behaviour and motivation analysis, emotional intelligence, as well as being a growth curve strategist and a certified value builder advisor.

The host of the soon-to-be-launched MLS Leadership Show, Myrna’s podcast will feature leaders in the real estate industry.

A wannabe athlete, Myrna has completed several half-marathons, deadlifted 215 pounds and has now put her mind to becoming proficient in muay Thai kickboxing. Contact Myrna at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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