What Are You Waiting For?
Forward progress should be an essential element of your life every day
This is a question I find myself asking A LOT when I am trying to figure out why the traffic in front of me is not moving even though the light is green and the path is otherwise clear. Invariably, a driver somewhere up the line is distracted by the text they are reading or sending and they haven’t looked up from their mobile phone.
For some reason, we are conditioned to think that it is rude to beep the horn at someone, so we all just sit politely while the distracted driver continues in his oblivion until he realizes that he hasn’t been paying attention. Eventually, we will all move forward again, but why should I be delayed because someone else isn’t paying attention? What is wrong with a friendly tap on the horn to snap someone back to reality?
As far as I’m concerned, the whole thing is unacceptable. The broader topic of distracted driving and the safety hazards it can create are well documented. I am speaking specifically about the delay in forward progress caused by one person’s distraction or lack of priority…unacceptable.
When I am behind the wheel of my car, I have a singular purpose and that is to get from point A to point B as safely and quickly as possible. I am in the car to go somewhere. I believe that if everyone felt that way about their travels, there would be a lot of happy commuters with more time on their hands to spend in other ways besides unnecessarily waiting for someone who doesn’t share the same set of priorities.
Allowing someone or something to delay your forward progress should be unacceptable under any circumstances, whether you are measuring it on the road in traffic or on your journey through life!
Forward progress should be an essential element of your life every day. If you are not moving toward the achievement of a goal or the completion of a task, what are you doing and why are you doing it? Do you make it a point to learn something new on a daily basis?
Even when you are relaxing or enjoying a holiday, part of the value of those times is re-energizing for the next round, the next challenge, or the next commute.
In some cases, you may even be your own worst enemy and the one most likely to delay your own attempt to move forward.
So, what do you find yourself waiting for? At work, for instance, are you waiting for something to happen or are you making something happen? I’ll give you an example. How often do you find yourself waiting for someone to call you back? When you placed the call, did you leave a clear message stating the purpose of your call? Did you indicate when you would like to hear back from the person?
If you are waiting for something to happen, you may be coasting on the mere fact you placed the call. If you are making something happen, you made the call with purpose and you know exactly how long you will wait before you call that person back, or give that person a friendly tap on the horn, so to speak.
Here is another example. Are you waiting for your boss to notice the good work that you are doing or are you making your good work known? If you are fortunate enough to work in an environment that is collaborative and one, in which, you receive feedback about your job performance and where you are headed career-wise, be sure to take advantage of that good fortune by sharing your views and insight. If you wait until your merit review rolls around to do so, you may very well be disappointed.
Even if you have a manager who is switched on and interested in helping you to develop, he or she will only be as good as what they know. If they don’t know how you feel or what is important to you, they will be left to rely solely on their own experience to determine where your best fit is.
In other words, if you are interested in managing people someday, be sure to let your boss know so that you can be evaluated on that basis. If you really enjoyed a certain project or you were disappointed not to have been included on a new initiative, be sure to share your views with the people who were instrumental in making those decisions.
You can’t expect to stay silent and wait until your annual review hoping to be recognized as someone who is upwardly mobile. It may work out, but your chances of positively influencing how you are recognized and what you are recognized for are far greater if you do not wait to get actively involved.
What would happen if the police simply waited for the bad guys to turn themselves in? Or, what if your doctor told you just to wait until you felt better before you came in for a visit?
If you concentrate on the many, many times it is not acceptable to find yourself waiting; you will realize the importance and power of being proactive. When you are in a proactive mindset, you will be far more likely to be actively engaged in the management of your own life and the direction it takes.
The next time you ask yourself what you are waiting for, the answer may very well be…you!
Remember that what is important to you is very rarely as important to someone else, just like the distracted driver, who apparently has nowhere to go and all the time in the world to get there. Your purpose for being in the car takes a back seat if you don’t make it known, in an appropriate way, that you do have some place to go and you do not have all the time in the world to get there.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Managing Your Finances: Fact or Fiction
Empower yourself with education to unleash choices and power
Understanding and managing your finances, especially the information that may be contained in your credit report, can be a daunting task.
Even if you have experience in the financial industry, your choices and the impact they can have on your credit report can be confusing.
Here are a few of the more common beliefs and misconceptions coupled with responses that will serve to set the record straight.
Belief: Cash is king; I have great credit because I pay cash for everything
While it is a great idea not to buy things that you cannot afford, you have to actually establish and use forms of credit in order to earn a credit score. The more often you demonstrate that you are responsible with the credit that you have been granted, the stronger your score will be and the better access to credit you will have.
There is a happy medium here. It is not a good idea to try and establish all of your credit all at once and you certainly want to avoid opening up and trying to maintain too much credit. A typical credit report will often contain a mortgage trade line, one or two auto trade lines, and two or three credit cards along with whatever previous credit you obtained and paid off or otherwise closed. Establishing this type of credit will ultimately help you to build up your score as you make timely payments and pay down your debt levels while maintaining available credit sources. As your credit history builds so will your score.
You should still use cash when it is comfortable for you to do so, just don’t expect to build up your credit score without first establishing a credit history.
Belief: The most important part of my credit report is my score
Everything contained in your credit report is important and personal to you. In addition to the names of your creditors and the balances that you owe them, information contained within your credit report includes your Social Security Number, your date of birth, your home address, and your place of employment.
You should monitor your credit report regularly, if for no other reason than to ensure accuracy. The information that everyone, from a potential lender to a potential employer, will look at with the most interest, however, is your score. Today, in our quick answer-immediate response world, your score is the single most important factor in determining whether or not you will be approved for that loan or, in some cases, be granted a job interview.
There are many scoring systems, at least one for every credit bureau, but they all have one thing in common. The higher your score, the better off you will be. Your cost of borrowing will be lower and you will have more options from which to choose.
Belief: I don’t have any control over what my credit report says
Nothing could be further from the truth. The data included in your credit report is a recording of your decisions, payments, requests, and overall handling of the credit you have sought and/or gained. It is your duty to act responsibly with the credit extended to you just as it is your duty to make sure all of the information on that report is accurate.
Belief: I will hurt my credit score if I meet with a Financial Counselor
Response: Both fact and fiction
Simply meeting with a Financial Counselor will not have any impact on your credit report, whatsoever. Keep in mind that you have to share certain data with a creditor or any company that reports information to a credit bureau in order for that transaction to show up on your credit report. It is a good idea to understand what, if anything, potential creditors or financial professionals are going to do with your information before you do any business with them.
If you decide to employ a Financial Counselor and you give them permission to act on your behalf in re-structuring or reducing the amount of debt you owe a creditor or a group of creditors, those actions could very well have a negative impact on your credit score. Even if you reach a mutual agreement with a creditor who allows you to settle with them for less than what you owe them or to pay them over a longer period of time than what was originally agreed, that creditor will almost certainly report that information to the credit bureau and that data will cause your credit score to drop.
If you have made some bad decisions in the past and those decisions have had a negative impact on your credit score, meeting with a certified financial counselor may be the best thing that you can do for yourself even if the actions that you need to take have an additional negative impact on your credit.
If you take the time to understand what you have done or not done to contribute to your situation and you are willing to hold yourself accountable for your actions going forward, employing a certified financial counselor may be your best avenue to move forward on positive footing.
Belief: The more money I make, the higher my credit score will be
Your credit score really doesn’t have anything to do with how much money you make. One of the measurements that influence your score is the amount of debt that you have, but your income has no direct impact on your score. If you make a minimum wage, but you make loan payments as agreed, you can have a credit score that equals or exceeds maximum wage earners who may or may not manage their finances as well as you.
Belief: I don’t have enough money to hire a Financial Advisor
Reputable Financial Advisors can be helpful in virtually any financial situation from establishing a college fund through retirement planning. You can establish an investment plan for very little money and begin habits that will serve you well throughout your life.
While some professionals may cater to a wealthier client base and charge accordingly, the vast majority of Financial Advisors are very affordable. Many are paid through the commissions and fees that you are already paying on your investment accounts.
Lastly, please remember that the best way to manage your finances and the information contained in your credit report is to take an active role in the process. Review your statements. Ask questions when you don’t know the answer. Obtain your credit report for free from one of a multitude of websites offering that service. Make sure that everything is accurate and, if something doesn’t look right, take immediate corrective action.
If you make the commitment to yourself to prioritize your personal financial management and are willing to do the work that is necessary to understand your finances and then make good decisions that are consistent with your short and long term financial goals, you will immediately begin to establish good financial habits. Once you do this, you will have more choices and more control over your finances and, therefore, more power.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The movie “Bridge on the River Kwai”
Set-Up: British prisoners of war are tasked with building a bridge for the Japanese war during World War II. Captain Nicholson, played by Alec Guiness, is the ranking British officer and he utters this line.
Line: One day, the war will be over, and I hope that the people who use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it.
I wrote a paper about this movie when I was in 8th grade. I wrote about the fact that, despite horrendous conditions, the men that built the bridge took pride in their work and they made the best of the situation. I ended up getting called into the principal’s office to explain my stance. I am still not sure why!
From The Serial Decision Maker On Finance:
Stress comes from the unknown and you feel better when you manage your own life in a way that minimizes what you don’t know.
Decision Points are part of Scott Arney's Serial Decision Maker educational series.
A New Use for an Old Cliché: You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat it Too
This is another cliché that is routinely misunderstood. The use of the word “have” implies that you are going to consume it so, of course, you can’t eat the same thing twice.
The literal meaning of have in this instance is to keep or save. You can’t save your cake and eat that same cake.
If the underlying message here is that you can’t have it both ways, my answer is that it depends on what itis. If the cake is your paycheck, for instance, then you can certainly save some of it and consume the rest. If the cake is your leisure time, you are not going to be able to preserve it without making a few sacrifices if you want to get or stay fit.
Can you live an enjoyable life in the present and save for retirement? Absolutely. Can you sit on the couch and exercise at the same time? Probably not. The value of the message is reliant on the intent of the recipient.
If you spend all your money every time you get paid then, of course, you will have nothing left when it is time for you to retire. If, however, your version of having your cake and eating it too is finding the balance between enjoying your everyday life comfortably and being ready for the future as well, then that is a perfectly achievable goal.
If you believe that you can get fit by laying around, you are eventually going to have to make a change in your thought process. You either must be content being idle and sacrifice your fitness or you will have to get off the couch and start exercising to stay or get into shape.
Your options and the decisions you make regarding them are an integral part of your life. The choices you make say a lot about who you are and what you value, and it is always in your best interest to create and preserve as many options for you to choose among as possible.
Conversely, a limited number of options limits your decision-making power, so it is important not to let yourself fall into the either/or trap hinted at by this cliché. If you find that you are facing what feels like an ultimatum, that is a great time to pause and really think through the choice in front of you.
You will be in situations that involve an all or nothing, this or that option, but most of the time you will avoid unnecessary limitations in your decision making simply by taking a little bit of time to consider other options and alternatives that will lead to a better solution for you and possibly everyone impacted by your decision. Maybe you can think about that while you have a piece of cake!
By Scott Arney, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Patrolmen’s Federal Credit Union.
This article is part of Arney's new series, entitled A New Use for an Old Cliché.
This installment is part of Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
Medium: The song “Try Whistling This” performed by Neil Finn
Line(s): And if I can't be with you I would rather have a different face
And if I can't be near you I would rather be adrift in space
And if the gods desert us I would burn this chapel into flames
And if someone tries to hurt you I would put myself in your place
An infinitely listenable disk of the same name!
You The Conqueror
(This is the last chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy)
Many years ago, my wife and I lived in England. One of our favorite places to visit, while we lived there, was the Tower of London. It is full of 1,000 years of history and every time we went, I learned something new.
One of focal points, at the Tower, is the story of William the Conqueror, a key figure in the rich history of England. His is a story of victory, courage, and success as an early leader of the country, which is all great, but I have always been more fascinated with his name.
Was he known as William the Conqueror while he was alive or is that a moniker subsequently invented by biographers and historians? I don’t know, but can you imagine the advantage you would have in your career today if you were known as You the Conqueror?
I would be willing to bet that every one of your calls would be returned promptly. Everyone would undoubtedly pay attention at every one of your meetings. You’d probably be able to get a reservation at any of the best restaurants. Your resume would be at the top of every potential employer’s pile were you to ever be looking for a job.
You get the picture.
While I was writing this super hero series, I realized that if you incorporated all of the processes and suggestions that each of our five super heroes have outlined, you would become You the Conqueror in your own personal way.
I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you begin to openly refer to yourself as such, but you would surely gain the inner strength that you would need to feel like a conqueror. After all, what else could possibly stand in your way?
The only other obstacle that I can think of that we have yet to discuss is the fear of success. Were you to achieve success, particularly of the consistent and prolonged type, you most certainly would also incur increased responsibilities and additional expectations. A brighter spot light will almost always increase the amount of scrutiny you face. The more success you have and the more attention you receive for that success, the more people will be inclined to criticize you. The more relevant you become, the more opinions people will develop and those opinions will vary greatly.
Everything that you achieve extracts a price from you. You could be forgiven if you were hesitant to run toward success if these consequences would be the price that you would pay for it.
At this point, however, there is no logical reason for you to feel overwhelmed or that you are not up to any of the challenges that your success might bring your way. Besides, you aren’t just you anymore, you are You the Conqueror!
What you can and should do is figure out the exact price that you are willing to pay for success and then set your aspirations accordingly.
As an example, you may decide that you are unwilling to travel extensively for your career even if it might mean that you will make more money. You may determine that you would like to spend more time with your family in exchange for a lighter travel schedule and less money.
You may decide that you are best suited to work at a smaller company because you value the relationships with your co-workers and you believe that it would be more difficult to achieve those quality relationships at a larger organization.
Perhaps you place loyalty at the top of your list of redeeming qualities and you decide that you will continue to reciprocate the loyalty you have been shown by staying with your current company rather than looking for potentially greener grass elsewhere.
The great thing about your goals and how you define success, is that they are uniquely yours to create and subscribe to. The balance and harmony that you seek in your life are yours to develop and you are the only one who gets to determine when you get there and what you will do once you are there.
You have the tools to make your decisions in a guilt free environment, without self-imposed limitations. You are free to pursue your own personal perfection while embracing all of your imperfections. You have strengthened your resolve so you can proceed forward without worrying about being knocked off your path. If someone or something tries to get in your way, you know exactly what your options are.
You have so much momentum and so many things going for you, success should be the last thing that you worry about. The only thing left for you to do is to go out and achieve your potential.
You are You the Conqueror!
This is the last chapter of Scott Arney's Super Hero Series.
Be sure to check Scott's Spot on Patrolmen's Dispatch for each chapter of his Super Hero Series, which starts with Fear is Our Enemy; and his ongoing Serial Decision Maker series.
Perfectionists Kill Progress
I have a huge admiration for self-disciplined, switched on people who put forth a strong effort every day. I very much appreciate people who hold themselves and the work they produce to a high standard, especially when that standard exceeds any reasonable expectations that others could place on that person.
I applaud all students who study with a goal of getting an A+ on everything they do. I am impressed by competitors who compete to win every race every time.
Committing yourself to a pursuit of excellence will serve you well no matter the cause.
A pursuit of perfection may be a different story and, if you consider yourself a perfectionist, I am going to ask you to reconsider whether or not you want to own that title. First, however, I would like to illustrate what I believe is the difference between a person in pursuit of excellence and a person who is pursuing perfection.
I believe that a pursuit of excellence equals achievement, progress, and leadership. Conversely, a pursuit of perfection equals delays, hindrance, and stagnation.
There are a few reasons for these contrasts, but let’s start with the concept of each. Excellence and the perception of it is an inclusive, broadly defined term that most people can easily identify with. Perfection, however, is a highly subjective, exclusive term that to most people represents an unattainable standard. In fact, the old adage of “I’m only human” is simply another way of saying that no one is perfect.
Some of the basic fundamentals of goal setting mandate that worthwhile goals must be measurable, attainable, and realistic. While you may have a slightly different idea of excellence than I do, it will be infinitely easier for us to find common ground in that definition and how we will achieve it than it will be for us to agree on what perfection means and how, if ever, we will achieve it.
It has been my experience that perfectionists use the fact that perfection is out of reach more as an excuse than as a way of defining progress. Perfectionists tend to miss deadlines because the product of their work isn’t “perfect” at the time the result is needed. Perfectionists tend to tinker with and often amend the nature of a project or its scope because they cannot achieve a perfect outcome. Additionally, perfectionists tend to be poor delegators because they believe that no one will do the work as well as they do nor will anyone else be as focused on perfection as they are.
The by-product of a perfectionist, especially when there are multiple perfectionists in an organizational setting, is that progress is slow at best because the focus is on an unrealistic standard for achievement instead of the effort needed to achieve.
Delays and an unwillingness to delegate ultimately will bring progress to a screeching halt. Not only are things not getting done, no one is learning anything because the perfectionists are too sidetracked chasing a mythical objective.
No matter what your standard is or how you define progress, there are things that you can control and things that you cannot control. Any coach or manager that is tasked with running any team or business predicated on multiple people subscribing to the same vision and core objectives will tell you that they are much more concerned with the effort than the result. Why? Because the players on the team and the employees of the business control the effort while the result is at least partly reliant on others, whether they are a rival team or a clientele.
The pursuit of excellence focuses on the effort and the journey you take to achieve your goals. The pursuit of perfection focuses on the end result and intrinsically creates obstacles that block your path to get there.
The pro-perfectionists out there will also tell you things like mistakes are unacceptable and that they will not accept anything less than 100% satisfaction from the people they serve. I respectfully disagree with this as well. Whether you accept mistakes or not, they are going to happen. I suggest that you categorize those mistakes in order to better understand them.
For example, if the mistake in question is a simple error in execution, while not desired, it should be easier to understand than, say, a mistake involving a lapse in judgment.
If a teller mistakenly gives you $20 less than you asked for because some new bills stuck together in her drawer, it is a mistake that must be corrected, but it is also easy to understand how it happened.
If, on the other hand, that same teller takes your withdrawal amount from your checking account instead of your savings account as requested and hopes that you won’t notice because there are 10 other people waiting in line and looking impatient, the mistake is unnecessary because it could have been completely avoided had the teller exercised common judgment and basic decision making skills.
As far as the client satisfaction is concerned, well that is about as subjective as the concept of perfection. If you ask ten people what satisfactory customer service means to them, you are likely to get ten different answers. Satisfaction, just like perfection, is a moving target and representative of a result that is likely never to be achieved despite the best intentions and highest quality effort.
As a business leader and a sports coach, I can speak from a first-hand perspective on both fronts. Given the choice between an employee or a player who labels themselves a perfectionist and an employee or player who will maximize their effort every day in an attempt to continue to progress and improve, I will take the person who is committed to the pursuit of excellence every single time.
Besides, nobody is perfect.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.
From The Serial Decision Maker On Goals:
Results are great, but the majority of your learning and the experiences that you gain in your lifetime actually take place along the path that you travel as you move toward those results. In fact, most of your life is spent in the pursuit stage of your goals and dreams, not in the actual end result of those pursuits.
Decision Points are part of Scott Arney's online educational series, The Serial Decision Maker.
Published articles, original content, opinions and commentary by Scott Arney, CEO, Chicago Patrolmen's Federal Credit Union.