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A Student of Life

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Recently, I spoke with a shop owner who told me he had a third grade education. Like many of you out there, he grew his business himself and got to a point where he needed help. He was humble enough to seek out that help and now his shop is on track to do $2 million per year in sales. We discussed many topics but one thing in particular he said really stood out to me: “The sky is the limit.” It’s cliché, yes, but anyone who’s had even the smallest taste of success should be wondering, “How far can I take this?” 

The United States has been the world's largest economy for over 100 years and, in a lot of ways, it continues to be the land of opportunity. Many succeed here, many don’t, and even more accept a static place in life and stay there, for better or worse. Not me. Growth is part of my DNA and I would wither without it. And if you’re a shop owner reading this who’s already tasted that success, you should be asking yourself that same question. How far can you take this? 

The opportunity is always here and now.

As for the “how” to do it, well… Ratchet+Wrench offers practically a complete blueprint for how to build and run a perfect shop. It’s beyond amazing to me that a person could simply read every issue and have the nuts and bolts of how to do it. 

But (there’s always a but, right?!), the “how” comes down to more than just information. It also comes down to motivation—and often, we’re our own worst enemy. 

There wasn’t an exact moment for me, but over the past five years, I became a student of life. I left behind views and perceptions that were static. My mind opened and I started to wonder how much control I had over my life and, “How far could I take this business thing?” From my perspective, a student of life is one who comes to understand that self improvement and growth is a vital part of life. 

Even if you’re not at this point yet, it shouldn’t be a huge stretch for any business owner. If you started or own a business, you’ve likely already “helped yourself” or pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. The key, however, is not to stop there. Ownership of a business is a part of the journey, not the end. And, it can be a great tool to open a person’s mind. Think about it: If someone has improved his or her stake in life through business ownership or business growth, how much more business growth could there be? Could other areas of life also be improved? 

I’ll give you an example: Many who know me know that I’ve struggled with back pain for most of my adult life. And even though I know that success in your personal and professional life, as well as your capacity to achieve results, is far more difficult with poor health, it can still feel like an insurmountable goal to exercise and eat better. Plus, anyone else stubborn?!

So, how do we attack these insurmountable goals? Well, let’s think back to how we build or grow our businesses: one small step at a time. Many years ago, a friend explained to me some basics of reading the nutrition label on food packages. Big difference between shopping based on the front of the box versus the nutrition info on the side of the box! Years later, another friend showed me an app they used to track their food and exercise. That was another big eye opener. I used to snack on trail mix at my desk and would often struggle with tiredness. Turns out, that small bowl of trail mix I regularly ate was almost 1,000 calories at once. Trying to sell service and manage techs while my blood sugar spiked was not going to get me to the next level.

Slowly but surely as my businesses and enterprises grew, so did I, as a person. I became healthier and more capable of taking on responsibility. Twenty years later and I’m making progress on my back pain that I didn’t think was possible before.

In addition to physical health, I became interested in improving my focus and motivation. For me, there have always been people that came into my life with wisdom to share—if I was open to hearing it. That’s going to be true for you, as well. If your mind is open, you will be surprised who has wisdom to share. Some of my best mental focus and motivation came several years ago from someone who was 15 years younger than me at the time, barely in his 20s. He helped show me the value of starting my day off right with a routine, including journaling, goal setting, and a gratitude list. The me 10-15 years ago who was in the daily grind of working my shop counter would never have had the time or open mind to hear something like this from such a young person. 

As the years continue to go by, I can’t help but wonder what knowledge and improvement is still out there waiting to be discovered. Take a look at how far you’ve come. Then, imagine if you had 10 more years; what improvements could you make? You may have 20, 30, 40, or more years—that’s a lot of time! Time to make the transition into being a student of life one step at a time. 

Make this gradual change and you’ll see all areas of your life—from your business, to your relationships and your health—improve. And if you start to feel that improvement and success or if you’re lucky enough to have already discovered this, share it with others! The world can always use more balanced and open-minded people.

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