“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw
Tug-of-War a sport that pits two teams against each other in a test of strength holds wisdom that goes far beyond teaching kids collaboration and sportsmanship. From this competition where teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, in one direction against the force of the opposing team, many lessons can be learned. As our daily lives can easily be personified through this game.
Each day I play tug-of-war with my time whether I realize it or not. I, unconsciously deciding whether I will be unreasonable and make demands of the world or reasonable and take demands from the world. However, in life, the stakes are much higher than a first place trophy. My happiness, impact, and overall well-being are on the line.
As humans, both young and old, one of the significant challenges we face, is prioritizing. Often the tension in most of our lives is a result of a lack of prioritization. Foolishly, I thought as an entrepreneur by working for myself that I’d automatically be able to prioritize effectively. A firm misinterpretation of quotes like, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” by Jim Rohn allowed me to believe that entrepreneurship was the only way to control your destiny. But that’s not the case. We all can design our future even if you sign the back of the check and not the front.
When I reflect on my Corporate America experience one of the mistakes I made and I see plenty of other new hires make is accepting what is given. I still remember when a guy in my internship class said he didn’t deserve to make the hourly rate we got paid for overtime hours. I thought, madness! I’m worth every penny and more. However, despite feeling like that internally, I could not “keep that same energy” when it came to expressing it. Lacking confidence, I was afraid to make demands. Luckily, I had a few people looking out for my best interest, so I didn’t get taken advantage of, but I saw it happen to some of my peers. Being able to establish yourself and state your goals professionally is not only critical to your success but also essential for your sanity.
In life, we don’t get what we want, we get what we accept. I believe Tony Gaskins said it best, "You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce." During my time in corporate, I allowed people to treat me less than my worth not because I didn’t know my value. Instead, the fear of being fired allowed me to accept at times whatever project I was assigned vs. speaking up and articulating my interest. I prioritized security over my well being. I saw such a simple act as being unreasonable. Be grateful Nate, you’re in a space your family/ancestors could only dream about. By living in fear, I gave-up all my leverage because once walking away is off the table you’ve lost.
Thus far in my confidence journey, I’ve noticed that people transition through 3 stages to obtain real confidence. Level 1 - knowing your value. Level 2 - believing in your value. Level 3 embracing your value.
While at PwC, knowing that I was a valuable asset to the firm was not the issue it was believing it. And in the knowing stage, you reap the least fruit of your labor. For example, if Tom Ford charged $100 for a suit that is valued at $5,000, I’d probably buy the entire store. Naturally, as humans, we want the most value for the least cost. So as long as you ask for less than your value you’ll be paid less. Very few if any will decide to pay you more than what you’ve requested.
When I made my first wholesaling check, I began to believe in my value. The fear of being fired no longer kept me in a chokehold because I now knew how to generate income on my own. Continuing with the Tom Ford example, if Tom believed in the value of his suits he’d transition from charging $100 to $5,000, its real value. However, if he had a customer like Danny on Craigslist, they’ll know that what Tom will accept may be significantly lower than what he “charges.” Let’s say a customer accustomed to purchasing suits at $100 comes to the store and is unwilling to pay $5,000 but offers $1,000. If Tom accepts, he’ll demonstrate that although he believes in the value of his suits, he’s yet to embrace what comes with demanding your value. In Tom’s mind $1,000 is 10x more than what he used to make from the same suit so what’s the issue? The problem is when people don’t pay the full price they value it less. And to compromise once is to give in forever because sharks can smell even a single drop of blood from a mile away.
I’m currently working towards the embracing stage. A month or so ago I was on the phone with a wholesaler I partnered with on a deal. During the conversation, my buyer inquired about our wholesale fee, and with the utmost confidence, she stated the amount. I thought wowww, she’s a boss. Reminding me that I still have work to do before I’ve fully embraced my value. In line with the Tom Ford example, if I came into the store with the same $1,000 excuse and Tom had embraced his value he would say “Scoot Scoot” in his Haha Davis voice. When you’ve fully embraced your value, you no longer move out of desperation. You’ve developed the willingness to walk away. At this level your response to the question what is your fee? Is no longer a number but what is it worth to you. At the highest level of value embracement, you’re no longer charging for money but value.
Nonetheless, confidence plays a significant role in our ability to prioritize. In corporate, I saw some of my peers miss planned events with family/friends because a manager made a last minute request. Instead of speaking up and letting their manager know the situation, they’d take the “L.” This act demonstrated that work was the main priority regardless of how my co-worker felt about their family/friends. Our priorities are not determined by how we feel. Instead, we are judged by our actions and the message those actions communicate to the people in our lives. Therefore confidence is essential to act in a manner that aligns with your priorities.
What’s the metric?
One of the techniques I picked up from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was prioritizing based on the roles I play. For example, some of my roles include real estate investor, podcaster, brother, friend, cousin, etc. Then, based on these different roles creating goals and developing plans to achieve them. Leveraging this model I’ve enhanced my ability to prioritize tremendously. I was able to plan out my entire 2019 and now organize my weeks. Every Sunday I detail the tasks I want to accomplish within each specific role that week.
Moving back home I knew my family was supposed to be a major priority, but before I adopted this system in December, I was all over the place. For example, last October my aunt asked me to speak with my little cousin about school and a few other topics. Typically, when connecting with my little ones I do it over a meal, so we went to Chipotle. Later that evening my aunt dropped me off at home and in conversation with my mom she mentioned how I had taken my little cousin out to Chipotle.
After my aunt left my brother said, “you never take me out.” Naturally, I went into defense mode. “Yes I do, I take you out all the time. I just took you to Jon’s party, etc.” To which he responded, “I mean that’s different.” But I knew that already however my ego wouldn’t allow me to admit that he was right.
The day before this incident I was reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and it brought up this concept of Emotional Bank Accounts. In summary, the author suggested that all of our relationships have a bank account. And the more regularly we interact with a person, the more consistent we have to be about making deposits. Meaning I can’t take my brother, who I see every day, out now and then like how I take my cousins out whom I may see once a week. Dwelling on it for a while I decided to take my brother out at least once a month for some brotherly bonding whether it be to the movies or out to eat.
Before adopting this system, there was no way to measure or assess how I was performing in the different areas of my life outside of my business. Now, however, I can measure how I’m performing as a brother, son, or cousin which can ultimately tell me if I’m prioritizing family the way I claim to. Please also note, I had to consider what my brother views as a deposit. We’ve never taken the love language test, but I’d imagine that his is quality time. So even though I’m a pretty low maintenance person, meaning I don’t need much quality time, I had to learn that my brother isn’t. Moreover, my ability to measure and track how I’m performing in the different areas of your life has been critical to my development this year.
Was it Planned?
Discernment around when to prioritize family and when to prioritize work is another issue I had to overcome. To explain my approach, I’ll present these two scenarios.
- Scenarios 1: My mom and I have plans to go to the mall in an hour when I receive a call. An investor who has verbally committed to purchasing a property that I’m selling asks to visit the property one last time before making the deposit.
- Scenario 2: I have a scheduled meeting with an investor who has verbally committed to purchasing a property I’m selling. The investor wants to visit the property one last time before making the deposit. One hour before our meeting my mom (who doesn’t drive) asks if I can go with her to the mall because she needs a new dress her school dance the following day.
On the surface, these two scenarios may appear very similar. Yet they both elect different responses. In scenario 1 I would decide to go out to the mall with my mom. I don’t want to be a person who prioritizes money over family so keeping my commitments is essential. Although I do need these checks, the investor can wait until I finishing hanging with moms.
For scenarios two, I’d likely go to the meeting. My general rule of thumb is important planned events take priority unless it’s a real emergency. Although my mom might not want to admit it, she probably has something to wear and in the case that she doesn’t. She likely knew about the event months prior, so it isn’t my fault that she decided to wait until the last minute. As an entrepreneur, I only eat what I kill so letting family always get in the way of me hunting is not sustainable. It will also have a negative long-term impact on them.
Note there are those rare situations when you must sacrifice what was planned for an emergency. For example, in January after 25 minutes of being out in the cold waiting to hear from my dad, my mom called me asking to pick her up from the metro. She said, “Nathan are you home?” Then proceeded to tell the story. I responded, “I’m at Daniel’s house and was planning on going to my aunt’s house after to tutor my cousin since its a 2 min drive away. But let me know what you want me to do.” She responded, “Ok, I guess I’ll ask Josh to call me an Uber.” I’m like ok… thinking that was weird. Why didn’t she ask me to call her an Uber? Maybe because she’s like Nathan’s a broke entrepreneur let me not use his money. Then 30 minutes later I get a call from my brother Josh saying my mom is mad and that she felt as if I chose my aunty over her.
Thinking too logical at the moment I misread the entire situation. Initially, I thought I’m about a 25-minute drive from my mom. It makes no sense for me to drive and pick her up. She’ll be in the cold for at least another 25 minutes. So when she suggested Uber I thought perfect. An Uber can probably get to her in less than 5 minutes. Sounds like a win-win. However, in her eyes, I didn’t care that she was in the cold freezing. And I’ll admit I didn’t want to pick her up. Not because I didn’t care, but logically it didn’t make sense. And there were more efficient alternatives. Nonetheless, I bring up this example because not every scenario can be applied to the initial decision framework. At times you must be flexible.
Quick Tip 1:
Life happens, and at times we can’t make planned events. This is why making consistent deposits into someone emotional bank account pays off. Missing one of 8 basketball games is significantly different than missing 7 and canceling again on the 8th. People will give you a pass when they wholeheartedly believe that you’ve made them a priority. Also, ask for permission; people want to know you considered them in your decision making.
Quick Tip 2: Pie Chart
How you view time will determine how you use it. Time cannot be made it can only be spent. Similar to how we budget our finances we must budget our time. Therefore, when asked to commit to anything consider where the time is coming.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
I’ll conclude with a final story which I believe will provide a refined perspective on this famous Maya Angelou quote. Since October, every Thursday I help my 11-year cousin with his weekly math packet. And although I’m the tutor, it has indeed been a life-altering experience. Him reminding me of a young Nate Perro, I’ve learned a lot about myself.
The first 4 months of tutoring were rough. It was as if he was intentionally trying to push my buttons. Hoping that I’d give up on him. I didn’t get it. I’m here trying to help you, yet you have the nerve to tell me you don’t care if I leave. My pride was challenged weekly. But then progressively things began to change. To incentivize finishing his homework early I allowed him to play on my laptop after we finished. This progressed to taking him to the park for a mid-way break. And now, we are finishing his homework faster and is attempting it before our Thursday session. I thought cool, I guess the incentives worked.
Then, a few weeks ago he confessed why initially he never attempted to start his homework before our Thursday session. The week prior I was heading to Dallas on a Thursday evening flight, so we met Wednesday instead. Prior to leaving I bought him and his sisters their favorite chips from 711 as a parting gift. The following week he confessed. Admitting that he would intentionally not start his math homework because he wanted me to spend more time with him. He thought the earlier he finished his homework, the earlier I’d leave.
I thought really? What would make you believe such a thing? So I began to reflect on how my actions resulted in his behavior. “Ahah!” Like a light bulb, it all clicked. When I first started tutoring him, I would leave 10-15 minutes after we finished his math homework. Unintentionally, I said to him I’m here to help you complete your homework as soon as possible, so I can leave and get on to more important business. So although, I spent 2 hours with him doing homework he still didn’t feel like a priority. I don’t know how I missed it; the signs were there. On weeks he didn’t have a math packet he’d tell his mom not to tell me. To ensure that I would still come over. However, now that he feels like a priority Thursday’s are much more relaxed and enjoyable.
To conclude, you don’t get credit for telling people they’re a priority in their life or even making people a priority with your actions. You only get credit when they feel like a priority. So in this Tug-of-War battle, we call life, it’s vital to not go through the motions, but be present.