07 Mar Hit me baby, one more time
There is one constant about humanity that we often overlook. Each one of us, has the exact same amount of time each day.
Time, arguably, is our most important resource in business and in life.
Last week I attended a Private Equity seminar. The opening address, which I find is sometimes the most boring aspect of the day, turned out to be the most insightful. The message delivered was along the lines of ‘the next conversation you have may be the most important of your life’.
The next conversation you have may change the trajectory of your business. It may change your life personally. Maybe it will just offer you a perspective you hadn’t considered before.
For me it hit home hard. I get up to 20 meeting requests a week – nearly all I say no to, or at least did up until last week.
We all get meeting requests – ‘just 10 minutes of your time on the phone’, ‘a ‘quick’ 20 minutes of your time to discuss……’, ‘I’d like your opinion on x, it shouldn’t take more than an hour’.
But how many of us brush those seemingly constant and time demanding requests?
Taking the time to listen may in fact change your life.
So I sat back after this seminar and thought about how I act or react to meeting requests. There have been some amusing and some rather puzzling conversations.
For example, the person who asked for 5 minutes of my time then told me it would take 20 minutes to go through the presentation – I laughed in the moment and said ‘not much of a presentation if I only hear 25% of it’, or the caller who asked for 10 minutes of my time but refused to tell me what it was about.
Of course I politely declined both. Is it because I don’t have time? – Well not really. But it wasn’t a priority.
We all make time for what we feel is important. We prioritise our time according to what we think we need in that moment to work towards our goals or action plans for the day.
Previously, if I didn’t want to share my time in that moment I’d simply respond ‘I don’t have the time’. An untruth on my end that, by default, gives the caller permission to call again when I presumably do have time.
I certainly don’t say yes to all meeting requests but now when I say ‘no’, I have changed my response from ‘I don’t have time’ to ‘Thanks for the offer to chat, but this is not a priority for me at the moment’. I’m being truthful, and respectful of both the callers and my time and making way for the things that are important to me, my family and my business.
I am sure if we all look at ourselves, certainly with myself in particular, I do have time – it is the desire I don’t have.
I wasn’t going to attend this PE seminar as I felt I didn’t have the time.
I often don’t listen to opening addresses as I find them boring and a waste of time.
I didn’t want to have coffee with a gentleman because I didn’t want to spend the time.
As I listened to the opening address about taking time to meet people, making the effort to make the time and valuing the time I spend meeting new people, a lightbulb went off.
The defining of time
My wife, and the lifeblood of the business, bluntly (as she is wont to do) pointed out my existing relationship with time and why this opening address had changed my perspective. And it all came down to how I define my time.
The one thing in business we all need to do is define our relationship with time. The truly successful people in life have a great relationship with time. My relationship with time has, in the past, been a love/hate one at best. But I am learning. And it is not just in business. We all need to redefine our relationship with our personal time. What is important to us? Time with the kids, with family and with those we love? Or time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or funny cat videos?
It is often said that people on their death bed wish for one thing – more time. I’d like to take that one step further and say what they really wish for is that they had lived every moment of every day to its’ fullest.
Earlier this week I spent 45 minutes with someone who, if I am being honest, I expected very little from. It was a general chit chat about life. We hit it off. What was meant to be a 5 minute cuppa ended up as a 45 minute conversation on politics, philosophy and the general meaning of life.
There was next to no mention of business. 48 hours after this coffee I received an email from a gentleman unknown to me, who was referred by my coffee partner.
This gentleman happened to be the Australasian Manager of an asset management firm – with billions under management. They were looking at expanding their operations to include lending to property developers in Australia – would I be interested in catching up? It took me all of 3 seconds to set up a meeting.
Just a few shifts of my thought process and I now find myself on the cusp of a potentially great personal and business relationship – all because I redefined ‘time’.
A little story
Here’s a little story I heard once. The authenticity of this note is irrelevant, it is the message that counts:
A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door… It’d been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack had moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his own wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.
Over the phone his mother told him “Mr Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly, remembering his childhood days.
“Jack, did you hear me?”
“Oh, sorry Mum. Yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago.” Jack said.
“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’, as he put it.” his Mum told him.
“I loved that old house he lived in.” Jack said.
“You know Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life…” she said.
“He’s the one who taught me carpentry.” he said. “I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important… Mum, I’ll be there for the funeral.” Jack said.
As busy as he was, Jack kept his word and caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away. The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mum stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories… every picture… every piece of furniture.
Jack stopped suddenly.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mum asked.
“The box is gone.” he said.
“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘The thing I value most.'” Jack said. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.
“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him.” Jack said, frustrated. “I’d better get some sleep. I have an early flight home Mum.”
It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser died. Returning home from work one day, Jack discovered a note in his mailbox: ‘Signature required on a package.’
No one had been at home when the postie popped by. ‘Please stop by the main post office within the next three days.’ the note read.
Early the next day Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention: ‘Mr Harold Belser’ it read…
Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside:
Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life. A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing and tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely-etched casing, he unlatched the cover.
Inside he found engraved:
Jack, Thanks for your time! – Harold Belser.
“The thing he valued most was my time.” he said to himself. Jack held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days.
“Why?” Janet his assistant asked.
“I need some time to spend with my son.” he said. “Oh, and Janet, thanks for your time.”
Thanks for your time. :)
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