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Sep 6th, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

I survived my short vacation earlier this month. The vacation was a breeze – it’s returning that’s the hard part. I didn’t take my laptop with me this time. I had my Blackberry, ailment but I confined my work to maybe an hour a day. And guess what? The world kept turning, which brought a few questions to mind.

• Why do we take our work on vacation?

When we take our work on vacation, we disrespect our family members and friends who are kind enough to share their time with us. Worse, we disrespect ourselves. At that point, we have earned a pole position in the rat race. We are conditioned to devalue our existence.

• Why do we expect managers to live their work?

What happened to balance? One challenge in the towing business is that it’s a 24-hour-a-day business. You might have to ask key contributors to sacrifice more than 45 hours per week, but that should be the goal — no more than that. Mandate that your managers go balls-to-the-wall for 45 hours every week at work, and then that they hang up the business like a coat in a closet the entire remainder of their week.

• Why do we value short-term over long-term?

This gets to the core of many of our shortcomings as business leaders. There is no shortcut to success. Malcolm Gladwell has put a number on how many hours it takes to become proficient at something: 10,000. It’s a daunting number. You can’t sprint for 10,000 hours. It’s a marathon. It better be worth doing if you’re going to put that much work into it.

• Why do we measure once before cutting?

Do you know anyone who works in Emergency Mode 80 percent of the time and upgrades to Panic Mode the other 20 percent? Have you ever slowed down to observe the train wreck that they endure every day? We have a tagline at TowPartsNow that is very catchy, but contains conflicting directives: The Right Part – The Right Price – Right NOW! I came up with that actually a year before I started working for TPN, and it stuck. I’m not saying we can’t pull it off, but that third condition can never be achieved at the expense of the first one, which means that we can’t always live up to it. Here’s a common exchange with one of our customers:

Customer: I need that pin that keeps the wheel-lift from falling off.

Me: Can you get me the bed serial number?

Customer: They only make one that works. Why do I need a serial number?

In the parts business, there’s never a sure thing. Everything is approximate. Even after you ship the item and the customer receives it, installs it and uses it for months, it still might come back to bite you. I’ve given up trying to understand how that happens. If you don’t do everything you can, if you don’t measure twice before cutting, you are courting heartache.

• Why do we self-sacrifice or take advantage rather than achieve balance?

Life is not a bucket to be emptied. It’s an ecosystem to be sustained. Okay, that’s a little corny. What I know, what I’ve learned in 49 years of much trial and even more error, is that balance is good. I’ve tried excess — I don’t recommend it. I’ve endured deprivation — not enjoyable. I like to work. I like to laugh. I like good music, good food, good coffee, good beer. I like to read (although it makes me sleepy). You can “like” something because you’re used to it, because it satisfies you in a dysfunctional way and I’ve dipped into that a little as well. But everything is a choice, including work. Some say it’s not really work if you’re doing what you love, but that’s a tall order for most of us and we might have to settle for choosing our work and enjoying it, if not loving it. And then hanging it up in the closet at the end of the day.

It’s really kind of silly for me to be writing this at all. It’s kind of like the guy you work with who tells you how to invest your money — the guy who drives the old Ford Fiesta and just broke up with his old lady. I have to come up with something interesting to write about every week, and these questions are just questions I was asking myself on vacation, and I imagine that a few of you out there sit back at the end of a day and wonder if all of the effort you are expending is worth it. This — the ideas in this blog — is what I’m trying to do. Be nice to yourself — you deserve it.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper