My personal coach, Mary Duwe, and I were having a telephone session when she mentioned a danger that people who are not prepared for retirement face.
“All too often,” Mary stated, “men and women who answer an alarm clock and head out to work each morning for years fail to give ample thought to how they will spend their time when that forced-structure ends.”
A place to go. A time to be there. A reason to get out of bed. Studies have demonstrated that a lack of planning for this stage of their lives can actually lead to an early post-retirement death. Something deep within us inherently longs for a reason to begin each new day. We need to be needed.
I pondered how that principle can apply to areas of our lives other than retirement. In doing so, I recalled other people who started selling life insurance at the same time as me in Fort Dodge, Iowa years ago. Most of them did not last long in the business. I surmise, now, that one of the main reasons is that they could not handle the freedom that came hand-in-hand with the lack of structure in their daily lives.
My agency manager, Jim Dwyer, frequently reminded me, “Ring your own bell, Bill. When you were a teacher, someone else rang it for you.”
He was 100% right.
Ring: Start class.
Ring: End class.
Ring: Cover study hall.
Ring: On to homeroom.
Ring: Another class; time for lunch.
Ring: Prep time; more classes.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
“But now you’re on your own,” Jim said, “and the bell ringing has become your responsibility.”
I paid attention to him and learned to prioritize. To limit coffee time. To be on the phone seeking interviews that generated sales to raise our kids and pay the mortgage. To choose the appropriate balance of rest, recreation and family time.
It became very clear to me that true freedom came only when I learned how to ring those bells for myself as a salesman/entrepreneur.
As a self-employed entrepreneur, you have no one standing over you every hour of the work day micro-managing your efforts. You have a choice moment by moment on how to invest your time and talent.
You will be most effective as a small-business owner over a longer period of time when you replace the structure built into the corporate world with the self-imposed structure of a plan, a process and purpose.
Embrace structure. Ring your own bell. Enjoy the success that will inevitably follow.
Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES: Bio under Guest Authors
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