Adding Fuel to (Make) Your Fire

Feb. 1, 2018
Hope, self-confidence and the secret for reaching your full potential.

I read something recently that, if you added it all up throughout the year, each of us receives about 20 minutes of praise—total. Twenty minutes. That’s it; just 20 minutes over the course of 12 whole months.

And guess how much criticism each of us receives? A week’s worth: Right about 170 hours of criticism.

Just think about that for a moment. Now, tell me: Why haven’t you achieved all you want to achieve in your business, in your career, in your life? I’m telling you right now that the answer has a lot to do with those statistics I shared.

So, what I want to talk to you about is the concept of hope. There is nothing more critical to your future than understanding this and its effect on you. I wrote a column for Ratchet+Wrench last summer that talked about planning—proper, strategic planning—and I mentioned the difference between a hope and a plan ( In it, I explained that hope is not a plan; rather, it’s the fuel that pushes you through the implementation of a plan. “Hope fills you with energy, ideas and possibility,” I said then. “Your business and your life must be fueled by hope, or you have no chance.”

Are you starting to see the connection to those stats I shared earlier?

When I first talk to fellow shop owners about their businesses, they tell me their problems (or what they think their problems are). This process is broken, or not existent. This employee causes trouble. Customers won’t come into the shop. You get the idea. And each time, they expect me to solve the problem. And each time, I don’t. I tell them I’m not going to solve their problem. It surprises them. What they don’t realize yet is that in those moments, I could give all the advice there is to give, and it wouldn’t make a difference. All I’d be doing is giving them a plan, some strategy to attempt to carry out. But they won’t have the fuel to do it. They won’t be able to see it through. It won’t work.

Why? That’s right: They’re lacking hope—they don’t have the self confidence, self belief nor fuel to drive them forward. The No. 1 thing I see with people who fail and can’t push through difficult times is that they don’t have adequate resources, and I don’t mean money. They don’t have the emotional energy to succeed. Learning something new, implementing changes, making difficult decisions, it’s hard work. It drains you. And people who can’t put fuel back in the tank, people who never get that hope built back up, simply get burnt out and either quit or stall out.

The job of a coach isn’t just strategy and planning; it’s providing that fuel. There are lots of business owners out there that feel burnt out. They’re at the end of their ropes. They need to be supplied with belief in themselves, and they must believe there’s more for them. If they do, they’ll be excited about their business again. Then, when they have a plan, they’ll have the motivation to push ahead. And they’ll see it through.

I know. I know. It’s all easier said than done, right? How do you go from that feeling of burn out and turn it around to fuel yourself with hope—especially if you’re operating alone? Well, my advice is twofold: One, stop going at it alone. I honestly believe that all of us were designed to not be able to see ourselves. We can see everyone else’s flaws and see everyone else’s situation but can’t see our own and can’t solve it easily. You need someone to help you. I ask for help and get outside opinions on things all the time. All the time. Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a step toward self-awareness.

The other piece of advice falls back to our statistics at the beginning of this column. You hear about 20 minutes of praise to about 170 hours of criticism in a calendar year. So, it makes sense that you likely doubt yourself, that you’re unsure that you’re capable of achieving great things. You’re just a small business owner. You’re not some MBA from Stanford. You’re not wearing a hoodie and running a world-beating tech company. You should adjust your goals accordingly. You should settle, give up, quit.

Is that what you think? Have you ever felt that way? Well, you’re wrong. Whether I’ve met you or not, I know you’re wrong. Someone or something at some point in your life taught you that you have a limit to what you can do. This became ingrained in you; it became part of who you are and your self image. But it was wrong. Everything you knew and believed about yourself is wrong.

You’re capable of great things. You’re capable of achieving your dreams. And you deserve to do it. You must believe that with every fiber in your body, and you have to carry it out in all you do each and every day. You’re good enough. You are. And you’re going to do it; you’re going to be successful. I promise you.

This might not have filled your 20 minutes, but it’s a start. So, let’s get started.

About the Author

Aaron Stokes

A nearly 20-year veteran of the automotive repair industry, Aaron Stokes grew his business, AutoFix, from a one-car garage to a six-shop operation that is widely regarded as one of the top repair businesses in the country. Stokes, the founder of Shop Fix Academy, is an operational guru with a unique business and leadership philosophy that has led his business to great heights.

Sponsored Recommendations

Download: Lessons in ADAS

As ADAS systems become increasingly popular, understanding proper maintenance is crucial. This eBook explains the importance of staying current on proper ADAS calibration processes...

Establish and track your KPIs: Gross Profit on Labor

WHAT IT IS: The difference between the revenue of a job and the cost of completing it as it relates to labor, excluding all overhead costs. HOW TO CALCULATE IT: Job (or repair...

Find the right shop management system to boost your efficiency

Find the right shop management system to aid in efficient scheduling, communication and payment processing

Craft a strategic marketing plan

Develop strategies and communicate them to your staff to keep you on track