My Dad has had a full and rewarding life. He was: An Eagle Scout, Camp Counselor for six years starting at age 14, a lifetime National Ski Patrolman, also starting at age 14, started eight successful small businesses in 30 years, holder of four US patents, member of the National Speakers Association, authored and published 15 books that sold in 22 countries… I could go on. But I think you will agree after reading what follows, he is a real “Value Added” kind of guy!
I recently wrote to my Dad and asked him to write down the best ‘Daily Habits’ that made him successful and happy. Here’s how I plan to use my Dad’s written response… the same way I hope you the reader will too.
I’ll use it for two reasons:
First, The Legacy- to pass down to my children.
Second, To share with the world.
Here are my Dad’s Daily Habits:
1. “ MAKE IT a Great Day !!”
My Dad does Not say… ever…, “ Have a Good Day”. He always says when ending a call or a personal visit, “Make it a Great Day.” Ask yourself: Who is responsible to make it a ‘Great Day’? YOU Are ! End your conversations with this phrase.
2..”Leave Your Campsite Better Than You Found It.”
My Dad learned this from his parents as a young camper. Substitute ‘Campsite’ for “Your World”, “Your Career”, “Your Church”, “Your Community”, etc. This advice builds legacies.
3. “Learn and Use Time Management Skills Daily.”
My Dad,who is now in his 80s, gets more done than anyone I have ever met! What is his secret? He always uses a Clipboard with a form to make a Weekly Plan, in advance of Every week! He writes down his plan on the single page form that includes a box for each of the seven days. (Yes, weekends too), along with a listing on the right side for all the “Projects To Be Completed This Week”. He starts planning, on paper, each week in the middle of the previous week. He includes Meetings & Appointments, etc. Then he keeps the Weekly Plan clipboard near him during every day and crosses out items as he finishes them. At the end of each week, he “Carries Forward” any items not finished in the current week. My Dad guarantees that this will result in much more being accomplished. It will for you, too!
4. “Networking, Meet Greet And Connect”
My Dad wrote books for business people that sold in many countries. His network of associates ranged from state and national level politicians to presidents of national associations to heating company technicians. He even taught a seminar on this subject, of the same name as the title of this paragraph. Once he and I lived together away from home when I was starting my first position just out of college, and he was starting another new business in a new market area. When we would both attend the same Business After Hours Chamber of Commerce evening mixer, he and I would compete to see who could meet the most new people, trade business cards, and get a potential new business leads. The loser bought that night’s pizza. I bought a lot of pizza! My Dad suggests that you don’t hang around those you already know at events like this. One of his saying is: “Act like the Host, not the Guest.” His advice works. Try It.
5. “Don’t Burn Bridges”
Here’s my Dad’s plan for if and when you are involved in something painful, like a job that is not going well or a business association that is not fulfilling for you: Write down how you feel on paper and sleep on it. If you resign via a letter, then send the only the first and the last paragraphs only. In other words, do not itemize the “conflict” information. Only tell them “ … unfortunately, I am resigning….” [ first paragraph], and “… thank you for the opportunity to work with you and my best wishes…” [ second paragraph]. That way no bridges are ever burned.
6. “Always Keep a Log of All Your Personal Spending.”
My Dad first learned this from his Mother, Most personal finances experts say it too. Why? For starters, My Dad would say it will save you money… because it takes time, energy, and the trait of persistence to always write it down. And my Dad calls it “painful”. He itemizes in a loose ring notebook using a dozen tabbed categories…. like: ‘Home’, ‘Utilities’, ‘Food’, ‘Insurance’, ‘Clothing’, ‘Medical’, ‘Education’, ‘Transportation’, ‘Gifts’, ‘Recreation’, ‘Contributions’, and ‘Miscellaneous’. A Log like this comes in handy at tax preparation time, or when, at times when bill comes in higher than expected. It allows you to look back, compare what you paid previously and then make a plan to respond to them, as necessary.
7. “Calculate Rates of Increase on Bills.”
This daily habit goes along with the previous one described in #6. For repetitive bills, like insurance, or utilities…. when they raise their rates, “calculate” the rate of increase percentage, and consider calling them . My Dad calls to “thank” them if it’s less than the average cost of living [COL] rate at that time, Or, if it’s much higher than the COL rate… then he tells them that the higher new rate is unsatisfactory to him and that he will be considering an alternative provider. This keeps your providers “on their toes” and it will save you money.
8. “If You Don’t Have the Money… Don’t Buy It!”
That’s how our ancestors did it in the mid-20th Century. They did not go into debt. There were no credit cards until the 1960s. My Dad and Mother did not even have a home mortgage, at age 30! They saved their money up front before making a purchase. Yes…. it is possible. And to go along with this daily habit… Pay your bills about a week before they are due. That way you will never get any “late payment” contacts from those you owe. My Dad always felt that fiscal responsibility is Important.
9. “Drive the speed limit, and never over the limit.”
In his day, most everyone drove at least 5 MPH over the limit. But with this habit, you basically will drive more safely, more relaxed, and arrive at almost the same time. Also, he says, less potential for accidents, less “wear and tear” on your car and tires, lower Insurance cost, less fuel used, and no Speeding Violation fines.
10. “Recycle and re-use everything possible.”
My Dad found that over 2/3rds of his household “trash” was recyleable. Yes, like several of his daily habits, this one too will take persistence, but not much time. Here is a specific in his “Recycle Plan”: Wash and dry all of the reusable small plastic bags … especially the small “lockable” type. He always says: “This sort of frugality is what helped put me and my two brothers thru private college without debt.” By the way, all of my children also graduated from college without debt–even one from Medical School. Little things count up.
11. “Have a Family Scholarship Plan.”
Work hard, and rewards follow. Here’s the Plan: Report card “A” grades earn money: $400, each. And, if you also work a job while in college, you get an extra 50% per hour, from my Dad. All the money each semester, when earned, is placed in a special Education Account, and as needed, dispersed directly to the college for tuition, dormitory fees, etc. Over the years, my Dad has contributed tens of thousands to his children and grandchidren. They earn lots of A grades!
12. “Live A Full Christian Life. Start early, with tithing.”
That’s 10 percent of your current income to the church. The Bible calls it your “first fruits.” Since everything is Christ’s, that means He allows you to keep most of it…90%. The Bible refers to “Offerings” too. Those are gifts…over and above your tithe… for things that come along from time to time. Then there are the “stretch” donations, like a Building Fund. My Dad says: Do all three, over time. You will be blessed. Then read Proverbs 3:9: “Give of your first fruits and your wealth.” Okay, what does that mean? My Dad studied this and found that refers to leaving part of your “Estate” to Christ upon your death. So he started a Charitable Trust, which will turn into a Family Charitable Foundation to encourage the following generations in our family to expand their multi-step giving program with additional gifts. My Dad was also one to “set the example” for his family to follow. He says that this all leads to a peaceful, satisfying, long range way to “leave your world better than you found it”.
13. “Start your day early.”
Continuing the theme in #12, here is a Bible verse that supports Great Living results, per my Dad. It is Eph. 5:13. It basically says, “…. the Early Bird gets all the worms. Read it. My Dad’s story: When he was 50, he started an additional business 120 miles away from his home base. At that time, he already had two successful small businesses in place in his home town. So, he already had his plate full. He soon realized he would need to find a way that would make the use of his time much “more efficient, if possible. He had heard of an Adult Study that placed a group of people in a ‘bunker’ facility, without clocks, windows and 100% completely void of their determining ‘time’. The adults were allowed to sleep whenever they felt like it and for as long as they wanted to.The results were amazing… their sleep was only slightly more than 4 hours in a 24 hour period, over time. So my Dad started his “six-hour-a-day” sleep routine seven days a week, from 10 PM to 4 AM. And it worked! He did all his personal and business ‘one person’ things every morning, before anyone else awoke, which allowed him to ‘tithe’ 10% of his business-day time to projects outside of his business.The end result: the new business prospered.
Not surprisingly, he started earning Small Business awards, at the local, state, and national level. He even was asked to give congressional testimony on behalf of small business before the US Congress.
I now work professionally as a Management Coach, so I can easily determine positive traits in business people. My Dad is one of the only people that I have ever met that is both an “Integrator” and a “Visionary.” He excels in working both with his hands and his head. It takes both to design, install and maintain a large off-grid solar system, which he did at age 75!
As a handyman, he has two rules that all of us should use: 1.Use The Correct Tool and the Correct Material. Example… when building ‘outside’, the material used on the ground must be pressure-treated (Ground Contact) lumber, along with Exterior Grade screws. 2. Measure Twice and Cut Once. Both of these are great advice.
My Dad is an entrepreneur. After 20 years with a national telephone company, he realized his real potential was in planning and starting small businesses. Since age 40, he has started eight of them, all of which were successful. Each time, he sold them to someone else and started another. At 75, he started his latest: an almost 400-acre managed tree farm in a southern state.
My Dad’s advice: Always start with a business plan. Take risks in business. Some will pan out, and some won’t. But put your best effort in each one. And remember, your ‘first year’ is 15 months — not 12. Why? Those first three months involved mostly business ‘start up’ activities. Again, some great advice.
Here was my Grandfather’s advice when asked at 93 “…How do you do so well?” His answer…. “Just Keep Moving!” It seems that good advice runs in the family!