Not an Act, But a Habit

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“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”  No, not Aristotle as often attributed but Will Durant summarizing the core teachings of Aristotle in a manner more palatable to modern readers.

The translation does not change the facts, and actually conveys the message better than the ancient Greek or the antiquated direct translations, much as related in the story of Caedmon in the Latin and the transcription of dreams and languages losing their power.  The best translations of The Tao te Ching are not the truest to the text, but capture the poetry of the thoughts.  So too with our profession.

Al Granum created activity management (he called it Client Building) almost a century ago.  Some of his verbiage has been updated (going from “suspects” to “Introductions”, and “dials” becoming “attempts”)  reflecting the technological evolution, but in many ways the narrow focus of his era needs to further expand into the current post Glass-Stegall world, like physics evolved from Newtonian to Quantum and unleashed the entire world of technology.  Mickey Straub has done so to Granum with SAMUSA, and as our world continues to evolve so too will the tools used to build financial services careers.  Just like we no longer use hand shovels to dig foundations to build buildings, and nail guns have replaced hammers for most construction purposes.  The old tools still make sense in many situations, but professionals know when to upgrade their instruments of their craft.  Yet the core of what they do is unchanged.

Hopefully you have mastered your craft, like the builders of old and modern days.  The core of what we did in 1921 was the same as in 1981 as it is today: help people build their futures by protecting them from the elements beyond their control.  Not wind and rain and sun and animals but uncertainty, and inflation, and taxes, and old age, and all the side effects of these.  The goals are the same, even if the verbiage and methodologies have evolved.

Agents into the mid-1990’s used rate books to calculate costs.  Are you using the equivalent in your client acquisition process by using cold calls or mailers instead of adopting email and social media?  The rock as a hammer approach works if you are on a deserted island and need to bang something out, but actually choosing to do so in our modern world is wasteful and ineffective.

The Master uses their tools until they are second nature, but also is aware of improvements so that their craft can continue to improve at the pace of the world around them.  Are you evolving via Shoshen (“Beginner’s Mindset” of the various Japanese martial arts), or have you become arrogant in your mastery and positioned yourself to be outmoded because you no longer can grow?

The great artists continue to evolve over the decades.  Picasso or PitreJohnny CashMorgan FreemanBen Feldman.  Never forgetting the core of their profession and the skills they learned early, but never afraid to embrace the new so that they could bring their message to a wider and wider audience.  While maintaining the habit of excellence, the self-imposed standards that created success instead of the other way around.

How are you evolving?

The concept of Client Building, or Sales Activity Management, is as true today as it was fifty years ago and will be true five decades from now: if you measure what matters, and care about improving, better results will come.  You can see this idea in your business, in your health, in your personal life.  Excellence is a habit, however you want to define it.

And so, be excellent today.

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