Daniel Tardy: License To Sell

Business advice from a math teacher

Posted in Business, Personal Development by elephanthunters on May 20, 2010

Mr. G

There wasn’t a seventh grader in the world who wasn’t scared of Mr. Garcia.  If our memories are crystallized in direct proportion to our fear, then I must have been especially afraid the day I walked into his classroom for the first time.  I remember every poster on the wall, the layout of the room, the notes on the chalk board. I can almost smell the pencil shavings that seemed helplessly out of place below the broken, wall mount pencil sharpener in the back of the room.  I sat next to Rachel Wilson.  She was scared too.

Mr. Garcia’s reputation preceded him.  Not only was he our math teacher, but he was the Jr. High principle, and a marine to boot.  I remember crying when I went home that night because Mr. Garcia told me that I would need a red pen for his class, and all I had was a red pencil.  His persona just seemed to carry an intimidating amount of weight.  There are many things I remember about Mr. Garcia, but one thing I will never forget is the speech he gave that first day of class to a room full of budding, naive seventh graders.  He told us to listen very closely, because over the next hour he was going to give us everything we needed to know about how to succeed in the seventh grade.  He went on to give a series of speeches, well, actually it was all one speech, just rehashed about 40 times.  This was the message:

Students! Know where you are going. Have what you need. Be on time.

If you can do this, you’re going to be just fine.

Not just for seventh graders

Looking back now, I realize that Mr. Garcia was actually a very caring and compassionate man.  I suppose it is possible for a seventh grader to over dramatize the appropriate level of fear to experience when meeting a new math teacher.  Little did I know the nugget of advice Mr. Garcia gave me that day would become one of the most useful tools in my journey through life.  This mantra is simple enough for a seventh grader to understand.  Be in your seat when the bell rings isn’t really that complicated.  However, it’s amazing how many grown ups still haven’t ingested these simple truths into their approach to life.

  1. Know where you’re going. You have to know where you’re going before you can get there.  I’ve always set goals.  I haven’t always hit them, but as long as I can remember I’ve set them in each area of my life.  I’m certain that if I skipped this step, I would have very few accomplishments to show for it. If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll still end up somewhere – you just won’t be the one driving.
  2. Have what you need. Knowledge is everywhere for the taking.  In our world today, there are no excuse for being unprepared.  Telling the teacher you left your book in the locker might not have been that detrimental in the seventh grade, but you don’t get many second chances on legitimate opportunities when your 34 years old.
  3. Be on time. Not just on time for work each day.  On time for life.  Wayne Gretzky spoke of his strategy to skate to where the puck was going to be, instead of where it is.  When opportunity arises, it’s too late to prepare.  In other words, you better know how long the walk is to the next class down the hall before you stop to chat with your friends.

Take a look at anyone who is consistently struggling to move forward in life, and chances are they’re missing the mark on at least one of these key pillars. I’m thankful for the Mr. Garcias in my life who took the time to mentor me, and teach me life lessons before I even understood what they were.  We can never fully appreciate the sacrifices people like this make, so that we can become something more than we ever would have on our own.

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Wrapping Paper

Posted in Personal Development by elephanthunters on December 25, 2009

I’ll spend more time looking at this than anyone else

That was my thought yesterday as I meticulously wrapped a Christmas present for my wife.  I ran some quick estimates and figured out that while it took me about 8 minutes to wrap the gift, it would probably only take my wife about 10 seconds to unwrap it.  Then, the wrapping paper that I so carefully cut, taped and folded will be tossed on the floor, and all of her attention will rightfully shift toward the present inside.  If my estimates are accurate, the ‘prep to open ratio’ is about 48:1.

Why even wrap it then?

The answer is an obvious one to those who have ever dabbled in the art of gift-giving.  I could even make a reasonable case that wrapping the gift is what actually defines it as a gift (at least in the husband-giving-to-wife scenario).  The point?  Presentation is EVERYTHING.

What’s your gift?

You have something to offer.  You get up each day and go into the world with an opportunity to influence others, to leave your mark, to offer a gift.  Maybe some things you do are similar to the things I do:

  • Make presentations or give speeches
  • Answer phones
  • Blog, Tweet, Engage
  • Make sales calls
  • Create value by listening first
  • Ask for help
  • Impact the outcome of meetings

Whether or not these actions translate into a valuable gift depends on how much I prepare, read, practice and pray about them.  If I do these things without ample focus and preparation then I’m not giving a gift…I’m just doing my J-O-B. (not good)

It’s only a gift when it’s wrapped

And wrapping takes time.  It takes more time than anyone else will spend thinking about your little project or business idea.  A fantastic 10 minute presentation could take 5 hours of your time, and you’ll be lucky if your audience actually gives you 5 minutes of their attention.

So why bother?  Why bother putting in so much more effort than what people will notice and applaud?  Because your gift keeps on giving.  Your preparation sharpens your saw and causes you to become more valuable.  You read a book to learn a concept that helps you navigate through your situation, but the knowledge gained stays with you beyond your immediate needs. You spend hours preparing for a meeting, but your efforts pay dividends as the participants absorb your ideas and begin to act on them.  If you give a 10  minute speech to 100 people, are you not actually influencing 1,000 minutes?

A gift that is valuable will be amplified upon it’s delivery…BUT it’s only a gift when it’s wrapped.

…and any action that is not a gift is just noise.

I believe it’s worth it

It’s worth taking 48 times longer.  It matters that I read more, listen more and practice more.  Excellence does not occur naturally.  I believe that taking the time to wrap our gift is what allows the world to receive the value we offer.  I believe that when we take the time to prepare and focus on our contribution, the biggest gift is actually to ourselves, because the preparation changes who we are.

Next year we all have a chance to give more and thus become more.  You can start wrapping your gift over the next few days by thinking about your goals for 2010.  Then prepare, practice & pray…and when you’re done, put them in writing so you can look at your gift, and so you can remind yourself why it matters that we spend the painstakingly tedious time to wrap.

Merry Christmas.