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Life is a Business – Chapter 20

A series of essays on the past, the present, and the future

We now live in the Information Age, which is perfectly named – we have unlimited information at our fingertips, but a very limited supply of knowledge and understanding. There is rapidly becoming no motivation to learn How to solve a problem or answer a hard question; just ask “Siri” or “Google” it. Calculators and iPads are fired up during both classes and tests to take away the hardship and “wasted” time processing the equation longhand. How many would truly be in AP math classes with 4.0 GPA’s without all this help? What would you do without the Internet, now in your wristwatch and even in your eyeglasses? If it all went away tomorrow, how would you start over and build a life with only the tools of your distant ancestors? They did it very well, even before gasoline engines and electricity. In the mid 1800’s, an extreme sunspot created a summer where the Earth’s magnetic fields in the sky glowed all across the world for weeks with no impact, since there were no electrical devices. When that happens again, which it will someday, satellites, the Internet, plus most all electrical systems and unprotected electronics will be fried and put out of commission for some period of time. Where will you get the information, understanding and skill sets to be successful in a radically changed environment?

Remember my quote from Jim Robinson: “Things are never as good, nor as bad as they seem”? Things will change…they will be better for those who are prepared, much worse for those who are unprepared. This is true in all aspects of life, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Be the person at your company who can handle adversity with grace and someday, you may run it, or own it! It’s the same in nature, for the matriarch elephant is the one who knows where and how to find food and water in all seasons and conditions.

To be successful selling and marketing manufacturing capabilities, I spent thousands of hours out on the shop floor learning “how & why” things are done, to avoid promising customers something that kills profitability and ruins your company’s reputation when you can’t/don’t keep a promise. I have seen far too many sales people promise anything to get the order, even when they already have 10 lbs. of business booked into a 5 lb. bag! Never promise something you cannot deliver…and today’s promise does not override yesterday’s promises. It is better to pass up the order than fail on the altar of greed. In Marion County, the farmers said: “Pigs eat & Hogs get slaughtered…”

Knowing what “not to do” in any situation is critical to your short-term survival. Consider the frightening instances in your life that may have been life or death situations – automatic instincts we all inherited from our ancestors probably saved you. The unfortunate thing in business is that you primarily acquire good instincts through trial and error; it’s not in our DNA, in the textbooks or available online in the heat of the battle. You must rely upon your integrity, character and your instincts, both natural and learned to lead effectively in a crisis. No great company was built by spreadsheets, financial analysis, slick talking salespeople, or the management theory “flavor of the month”. They are built by those who are educated in life, prepared to lead, open-minded to new ideas, motivated to overachieve and just too damn persistent to fail. They are dreamers in one eye and realists in the other, who understand that change is inevitable. They work hard to brace themselves for the danger which they cannot see, hear, nor smell…but they know it lurks in the shadows, just waiting to pounce in a weak moment. No matter how successful they are, they know the tiger will always be in the shadows, waiting patiently for her moment.

You learn this by experience and experience only – so venture out into the darkness only as far as you are prepared to survive…master that, then learn new skills and build experiences upon experiences until you are the hunter, not the hunted. The tiger fears nothing but a big game hunter.

By Bill Hewgley