01:20 – Lessons about contrast
03:38 – On the job challenges
06:06 – What an hour is worth
09:18 – When you’re the benchmark
10:24 – Making others look bad
11:42 – What childhood was like
13:22 – A formula for winning
13:54 – An action step for you
Business coaching and resources are inside JamesSchramko membership
James Schramko here, welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. This is part two of life lessons, and I hope you enjoyed the first episode where I was talking about my grandfather and some of the concepts that I learned about being able to buy and sell and benchmarking.
In this episode, I’m going to continue the life lessons. We’re going to focus this time on my grandmother, who was also a mentor of mine as a younger person. Her name was Phoebe and she was an actor, which was very rare for a lady of her generation. She grew up in a wealthy household. She was an artist, very adventurous, and a real explorer. She used to go skiing when she was very old, and she’d play tennis into her 80s, and still drive almost up until the end.
A lesson in contrast
She taught me how to paint. One of the valuable lessons was the use of light and shade. She’d tell me that I need to put more light or more shade in my picture to balance it out. It was a really valuable lesson in contrast. The idea goes like this: if you have a bad day, you only know it’s a bad day because you’ve had a good day. So the darker your day, the more it can be balanced out by your awareness of light. If you have challenges, you know that this is just a positive growth phase, that it will balance out and lighten up.
So I’ve actually had long periods of challenges and struggles. And I’ll do spare you from the stories that you’ll hear from just about every expert. They’ll tell you a tale of low and how they were deadbeat drunks or burnt-out broke bankrupts, etc. I’ve never been bankrupt and I’ve never been an alcoholic. So I can spare you from those sad tales of woe.
But I have had periods of growth, which have come from challenge, and that is because in the beginning of my career cycle, I went through some rapid transitioning from, I guess, having to go from accounting studies to a job I started in debt collection. And I went from debt collection to repossessions, and I went from repossessions to credit, and then from credit to accounting, and stock control, and from there to selling, and then sales management, then general sales management, and then general management, and then business owner. So that’s my entire career compacted into a few sentences.
But during that transition from selling vehicles to owning a successful online business, there’s certainly been moments of stress, challenge and growth. So it doesn’t matter if you’re in a dark patch now because there’s some light on the way. You know what a good time is because you’ve had the struggle of a challenge.
I know my jobs as a laborer and unloading wet timber from containers helped me appreciate a good job like mine, where I get to go surfing and just talking to a microphone occasionally. So by creating some of those challenges and getting through them, you’re on your way to a lighter and brighter next stage.
Some challenges at work
In some of the jobs that I had, there were challenges. When I was studying accounting the first time, I actually had to stop because I got glandular fever. And after watching “Mad Max” for about 30 or 40 times in a row, I was pretty keen to get out of the house. That’s when one of my friends asked me to go and race on 16-foot skiffs, which was a sailing boat that really took me to the next level in my sailing career. I talked a little bit about that in the previous episode.
I also worked in an accounting office on Fridays, which was extraordinarily mundane, I guess. I really did feel connected to the idea that accounting can be a bit boring. I used to have to do filing and answer the telephones. I learned some valuable lessons there. I remember someone phoned up asking for the accountant, and I asked them if it’s important or not. I mean in hindsight, that’s kind of a silly thing to ask. The person assured me that it was important. But I realized that I’d have to refine my telephone technique a little bit from there.
I also found basic stuff like filing was challenging. Where do you file stuff? It’s not always obvious. Certainly, if it’s a client’s name, you could file it. But if the company is called “The something,” do you put it under T or the something? So just basic stuff like that was challenging at the time. And then of course there’s wretched T-accounts where they wouldn’t balance. You might be out by just 30 cents or $3, and you might spend 5 or 6 hours trying to find that one damn number. So chasing numbers around a T-account was extremely frustrating. It gave me an appreciation for accuracy.
So my grandfather also helped me get a job at a timberyard, but that only lasted 2 weeks because by the time I calculated my wage, which was about $2.70 an hour, I couldn’t actually afford to get there with the petrol, and eat lunch, and get home and still make a profit. So I realized that I was actually losing money working in this timberyard. And aside from the fact that I was dodging forklifts and unloading wet, soft wood, which really smelled bad from a 20-ton container, I just couldn’t see myself in this role forever. I’m no millennial, which these guys seem to think that no role is good enough for them, even if they’re in a reasonably clean role, but this was a pretty awful sort of a role.
The value of a paid hour’s work
My next job as a laborer paid way better but it was very difficult. I literally dug out someone’s swimming pool with a shovel and loaded all of the dirt into a wheelbarrow and carried around through a very narrow passage from the back of a house to a skip bin out the front. That was very hard. I had a lot of blisters on my hands. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but it did pay about $400 a week cash in hand. We’re talking about the 1990s here. So that was a good job but it was a difficult job. There was no shortcut, no leverage.
So I’ve learned the value of a paid hour’s work. And I know now when I’m employing people what I can expect. And having done the hard yards and got the blisters on my fingers. I certainly never feel guilt when I have a good business set up now because I’ve created that, and I believe it’s possible for others to create. So if you’re winging or moaning about getting blisters, just think how can you get more leverage in your business. How can you make the business work better for you? I’m certainly able to help you do that in SuperFastBusiness membership, by the way.
So after I re-enrolled in accounting, my family had a little change, and I got this debt collector role. I had to chase people up for late payments. That was really formative because it’s pretty much reverse selling, and I was really good at it, having worked for my grandfather in the timber industry. It was a good phone job. I didn’t have to go and confront people face-to-face. I could over the phone. I learned that you could have a fair bit of leverage with a telephone. In a single day, you can call up about 70 to 100 people and ask them for money.
You start to refine your scripting and the way you use words and your tonality and the approach to see how you can get the best results. I broke every record they had in that place for collections. And then I traded in that job for a higher paying job as a telephone collections agent at General Motors Finance. This one was really fascinating because it actually made me angry at the training process. And I think this is the first time I realized that since I’d worked for my grandfather and for some other companies, more progressive companies, I hadn’t bumped into such an archaic company before.
They were using forms that were still current from the 60’s and it said on the bottom, copyright 1960-something. I was really upset about the mismatch, about how little they did to encourage the success of someone starting the business. They would put you in a training room with a cassette player. And I’d be listening to American accent using words that we would never use in Australia.
Again, I broke every record because I was using techniques they didn’t train on and they’d never heard of. Stuff I’d learned from the timber broking business. I would be innovative too. I actually had two telephones. One to call out and one to receive calls. So this is the sort of thing that got me leapfrogging everyone’s results. Because there was four sections, and I was doing one of them, it was easy to benchmark. You’ll remember I talked about benchmarking last time.
Be the benchmark
So benchmarking works really well if you are the benchmark. Suddenly, everyone else wants to know what you’re doing. This was an important lesson because later on in my sales career, I was always benchmarked as the highest performing salesperson, but it also created a lot of animosity in my peer group. You can imagine when there’s a bunch of salespeople and I’m the best performer. So good, in fact, that I was able to outsell every other salesperson in the dealership combined on a regular basis that they literally hated me. So I had to start learning about handling “prickly peers,” as I’d like to say.
If you want to be held back because you’re scared of sticking out and people being a little bit resentful towards you for being an achiever, then you probably always be pegged with a low level. And that’s what I would call like a public service attitude, where you slow down because you make everyone else look bad. You might at times make the others look bad. Not because it makes you feel good, but it just means that you found a better way, you found a leveraged way of doing things.
How to approach things
I quickly got promoted into the field where I now got to repossess cars. I repossess a hundred cars a little bit more than that actually, my first year in the field. And at the time when I was about 23, it was kind of exciting; maybe 21 or 22. I had a company car, and I was repossessing cars, but I learned a lot about human behavior. Because when I’m knocking on someone’s door, and I’m suggesting that they make up their payments, or else we’re going to have to put the car into storage. I’ve got a very different range of reactions from people threatening to kill me, waving around knives and guns, to just handing me the keys and giving up, or giving me the cash.
So I learned a lot about how to approach this the way that I want to field this. And I also did my research, and I looked at the account histories, and I worked out if I’m going to be dealing with someone who might be threatening or not. In some cases, it was just easier to take the car first and then ask them for the money. I found that that was a very successful method of getting paid. So I learned about possession is 9/10 of the law. If you have the thing people want, then they’re pretty much have to deal with you. It’s always good to have a monopoly.
That was a pretty good start. You might be wondering about my childhood situation. Was I down and out poor? No. I actually grew up in a good neighborhood. I went to a very nice school. My parents put a lot of love into my life. My grandparents were also very loving and caring. I basically had probably a little sense of entitlement when I was a kid until my parents went through a little bit of a financial hardship. Because in the 80’s, in Australia, there was a difficult recession and interest rates were very high, and it was easy to get caught out. A lot of businesses just blew up in smoke. My dad, as an employee, got sort of caught up in that.
My mom has always been supportive of charities and looking after families who have not been that well off. That made me very grounded. We used to visit homes with underprivileged kids. We used to visit aboriginal communities in rural New South Wales. So I wasn’t naive. But I was probably a little bit complacent.
We also got to do cool stuff, like back then, eating at Chinese restaurants for dinner. My dad had a car phone in the 80’s, and that was pretty cool. So I’m certainly very appreciative of my upbringing. But I also worked hard. This is really the important thing. I often felt like, in my career, that it was almost like dog years. The first 20 years of my career, I really worked 5 years to everyone else’s one. I packed a lot in. Because I had such a strong work ethic and several times more focus than most people, a lot of these came out.
A secret to winning
It came out from my competitive sailing. I kept locking in wins. I would win at work, then I’d return that at sailing. I’d win at sailing and I’d win at work. So when I win something, I’d take that confidence, and I’d use that confidence and awareness to channel it back into the next thing. So when someone looks at my life now, they might think, there’s James, he’s doing well. It’s easy for him. But I was in that deep river with a strong tide as well. Not a lot surprises me or frightens me based on some of the things that I’ve experienced.
So my action step for you from this episode is to reframe your investment and experience into an appreciation for locking in wins. Look at how the things you’ve done in the past shore you up for things that can happen in the future. The hardest steel is forged in the hottest fire. Take those experiences and start seeking out the light so that you know that it’s going to get easier as you leverage more. Reframe your failures into positive experiences.
I’m not a big fan of failures. I don’t even use that word. When I’m asked about my biggest failures by the typical podcast template, which if you use those, please be careful with them, because they really come across as schlocky; nothing really comes to mind because I read a lot. I observe other people’s failures. Everything I’ve been through, I consider an apprenticeship and an investment in experience. It’s so much easier to observe other people’s failures than to do it yourself.
One of the things that protects me from that is to question everything. I see people these days for example, every 5 minutes they’re on social media, and they use likes, and hearts, and tweets as their need for appreciation and their currency. But I don’t value those things. I value cash in the bank, good relationships, and the ability to surf everyday. So by questioning things, you don’t have to fail.
I’ve reframed the idea of failure into just an investment of experience. I don’t cry about my hardships and I don’t manipulate people in my sales process based on hardships. I think that people actually like an original idea. And the fact that you can have some challenges and come out with some knowledge that you then share with others is very appealing. That’s really where the OwnTheRacecourse idea stemmed from.
OwnTheRacecourse protects most people from failing. It is the idea of ownership and control and lack of compromise. I picked all of this up in my second last job. I spent such a lot of time with the top few percent of society who buy Mercedes-Benz, and dealing with billionaires, movie stars, and top politicians, they gave me a different window of the world.
For quite some time, I mean almost two decades, and working with those crazies and the maniacs and the entrepreneurs who just went into such high level business concepts that I can’t reverse these thoughts. I believe it’s all learnable. I even put together a course called Lunatic Millionaire, which is inside SuperFastBusiness membership area. It’s got a lot of the key insights that I picked up in that last phase of business.
So in the upcoming episodes, I’ve got a few more personal insights. So I hope you’ll join me for part three. I’m James Schramko and I hope you’re enjoying listening to this series.
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