“If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values; they’re hobbies.” — Jon Stewart
Core values are imperative for success in any business. Or any career. Or any relationship. These core values, or guidelines that direct our actions, are the reasons we do what we do. After 15 years in the direct sales world, I've come to terms with 4 core values that have directed me to success. I've not only learned these 4 from some uber-successful people, but I've also had the opportunity to implement them in my own personal life. And I can honestly attribute the majority of the success I've had in my life to these 4 core principles of success I've picked up along the way. Your core values may be different...good for you for having some to begin with! If you haven't currently sat down to asses what's important to you in order to do life and do it well, I suggest you do so. And do it quickly. In the meantime, borrow the following to help direct you to a happy, rich, and prosperous life. I will review my 4 Core Values over the next couple of weeks. Today we start with #1. Work hard.
Core Value #1 - Work Hard
When it comes to working hard, there are only two men I've ever encountered in my life that are the real life persona of "hard work." They also happen to be the top two most wealthy individuals that I've ever spent time with in my entire life. These guys are the real deal.
Let me introduce you to my personal mentor, close friend, and the second most wealthy individuals I know, Howard L. Lewis. Mr. Lewis is the founder of a national insurance company Family Heritage Life Insurance Company of America and currently serves as Chairman Emeritus there. He is truly the poster child for the American dream. Mr. Lewis is from a poor family in Covington, Ky., where as a third grader he worked in the school cafeteria to earn “free” school lunches. By the time he was in high school, he’d figured out that if he peeled potatoes in the school basement at 7:30 a.m., he could earn his lunch and escape ridicule from classmates. Mr. Lewis founded Family Heritage Life in 1989 and grew the company from $3 million in debt to now a company with over $1 billion in assets that is part of a publicly traded, Fortune 550 company (and you thought you had good sales numbers?!?). Mr. Lewis has not only built an extremely successful business from hard work, but has also inspired thousands along the way to work hard, including me.
I'll never forget the words he shared with me at one of the first leadership meetings I attended with the man in my early years with the company in 2009. His words may have been spoken in passing or in a very strategic, well-timed, well-placed and seed-planting manner (I THINK I know which), but they rang my ears like a flash bang grenade with a built in tornado siren. He said, "Duke," (Mr. Lewis has a nickname for just about everyone...I'm glad I got one, too) "there is no such thing as a part-time millionaire."
These words I won't soon forget.
Now what was Mr. Lewis really saying? "If you work hard you can be a millionaire like me?" No, of course not. At that time I was just starting with his company and I had more month left over at the end of the money...becoming a millionaire wasn't the topic of conversation. The "words of wisdom" I received that day from the extremely successful businessman were much deeper than earning a million dollars...and worth a lot more, too. What he was saying was this: if you want something great to happen in your life, if you want to change your lifestyle, your relationship, your situation, your fill in the blank, you have to work hard at it. There's no way to be successful at anything by working part-time, by being "half-assed", by being ok with laziness or mediocrity. I don't care if your talking about building a business, making more sales, being a better spouse, or being a better parent. There's no such thing as a successful part-time anything. Period. These words apply to my life so much more than business. I am blessed to have an amazing relationship with my wife and my children because I am reminded to be intentional about it. I am reminded to work hard and to be all-in with the relationship with my wife no matter what. I couldn't imagine a part-time effort when it comes to being a father to my (now) three children. When it comes to my life's mission, my family, you can bet I'm all in. When it comes to loving the God with all my heart, my mind, and my soul, you can bet I'm all in. Too many people bank on the idea that there is always tomorrow to do better or to get things right. I see so many treat their careers with the same intensity as they treat a left-over sandwich. "I can just work on that later...I'll finish that tomorrow." No sir. Being all in is imperative to success in your career, your marriage, and your relationships. Mr. Lewis's words even parallel biblical scripture! Jesus said, "So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth!" (Rev 3:16). The thing that makes Howard Lewis so special is he is not one to talk the talk. He is the one that walks the walk and he has been walking with bigger and wider steps since day one. I've known him since 2009 and I see him working harder, doing more, getting more, asking for more, and being more for more people now than when we first met. He is truly an inspiration for all.
Now, let introduce you to the wealthiest man I've ever met in my life, Mark L. Southerland (your middle initial must be an L to become wealthy apparently). My dad introduced me into this world when he was just a kid of a mere 20 years old. Dad is the hardest working individual the world has ever known and he has also walked the walk from day one.
Hard work for Dad looks a lot different that it does for Mr. Lewis. You see, my father is a real-life cowboy who has worked on a ranch or farm since the beginning of time. His father, my grandfather, would rodeo for a living to help pay the bills when times were tough. I can only imagine growing up in the Great Depression made times real tough for Pawpaw. When I was a baby, it was certainly not the Great Depression era, but none-the-less, my dad worked hard to provide ends meet. I've watched my father take on a job for a man who owned a large ranch in central Texas as an hourly employee only to work the job as if he were the owner. A standard week for the ranch hands was Monday-Saturday at 55 hours per week. I don't know how much he earned per hour, but it wasn't much. I know that because we didn't have much. What I do know is I watched this man get up before the sun every single day of my life, go outside and work the ranch's needs regardless of the weather, and not come home until long after the sun went down or until the job was done. He is currently in his 33rd year at the same job. As I said, I didn't know how much he got paid by the hour then, but I do know it didn't matter. I can remember my dad putting in 15 hour days during planting/harvest season because that's what needed to happen for the ranch to succeed. My mom and I would pile into the truck to drive a warm plate of dinner and a tall glass of sweet tea out to Dad in the middle of the field so he could eat, stopping only for a quick break to kiss my mom and pat me on the head to say thanks as he clambered back up into that John Deere tractor so he could go turn another row using only the beat-up head lights which dimly directed his path The job didn't stop there. As a rancher, unbeknownst to common belief, cattle don't keep a calendar of holidays...or weekends...or your birthday...or when you're just not "feeling like it." On several occasions during the cold winter months, we would have a momma cow die when giving birth to her calf. Dad would make the nightly rounds to find a freezing, cold, and wet newborn baby calf laying all alone in a field accompanied only by its dead mother and a pack of coyotes who were smelling scent of the after-birth and zeroing in on his current location fast. Dad would load the orphan up in the bed of the truck and bring it to the house to be greeted with a warm bottle of formula happily administered by my brothers and me so we could stay up late past 10:00pm on school nights. We would lay the newborn calf down next to the old wood stove in the living room of our farm house, the same room my brothers and I slept in during the winter (because we didn't have central heat and air), to receive warmth and protection from the elements and the predators. This is what Dad did. And he did things like this when it was way past his clock-out time. When everyone else was quitting because it was 5:00 somewhere, Dad was working until the job was done. There are so many people around us who desire to get paid by the hour (and that's totally ok) so they can stop working everyday because it's 5:00 somewhere, yet I'm reminded of the real life lessons my father lived out right in front of me to work until the job is done. Unconditionally. That's what I do now. That's how I've climbed the ladder to be able to start my own insurance brokerage, Prestige Financial Group, from scratch. This ownership mindset is something few posses and even fewer maintain in times of comfort. I'm grateful beyond measure I was able to witness the leadership and work ethic of my father and that very work ethic now flows through me now. When everyone else is ready for home, I'm back on that John Deere ready for more.
Now, Dad may not have as much money in his bank account as Mr. Lewis, but he is just as wealthy...no, more wealthy, because his reward is in his work. In this, I am reminded to be grounded in the process, not the results. I am reminded to stay humble no matter what situation I find myself in. I am reminded that hard work is not quitting just because the rest of the world says its time but rather working until the job is done and exemplifying the ownership mentality. There is so much more reward in this than there there is money in all the world. Because of the loyalty and dedication my dad has for the brand of his employer, he as been well taken care of by his boss and their family. When I once had the courage to ask my father why he works so hard for so little personal financial gain, he responded in a way that only a confident, wealthy, successful man could ever respond:
"Son, you'll never work a day in your life if you love what you do."