On my recent (and rare) family vacation, I finished reading my good friend, Chad Bockius’ first book, Be Better – a highly valuable read, and my favorite book I’ve devoured this year. Shortly after closing the cover, I called Chad to tell him how much I loved the book and how the format in which it was written closely resembled how I’ve always intended to write my own. This got us talking about our own experiences coming up through childhood, school, and into adulthood (which much of the book is about). Shared experiences and common beliefs bring people together better than any sales pitch I’ve encountered. Yet, not so when done through screen time.
There are a lot of ways I can (and should) improve. In the almost 10 years since I started DealerKnows, I have recklessly thrown myself into work (even more than when I was doing just that very same thing in retail). What I thought was being a workaholic while at the dealership looks like child’s play to how I approach my career and clients’ needs nowadays.
Before I went on vacation with the family, I knew I needed to disconnect. I brazenly left my phone behind for the trip, and only brought along a few books and some magazines. My goal was to trust in my partner Bill and the rest of our team to hold down the fort, and continue delivering top-notch education, advice, and CRM monitoring services for our clients. This would allow me to cut the cord so to speak. No pics, Snaps, IG stories, or updates. I lived my days on the beach and at the pool through my own eyes rather than through a screen. It is amazing what a handful of days without a handful of technology can do for one’s perspective.
Social media, in several ways, has helped many of us grow our businesses/brands, connect with new people, and reconnect with old friends. It has given everyone a voice, and simultaneously dumbed down the collective. To me, I realize that social media – while beneficial to my undeserved notoriety – has become an obstacle. It hasn’t made me Be Better, that’s for sure. Too much time has been dedicated into following the lives of others, and not those I love and hold most dear. Too many platforms, too many images, and way-too-many motivational quotes from people that are unimpressive and undeserved of the confidence they employ online. Yet, online is where people are living their lives, but it is no longer where I want to take up permanent residency.
Smartphones, yes – that little device in which you may have in your hand reading this, has helped me do more, communicate more, and manage time more than ever. It’s what allows me to conduct business while still out to dinner with the family. It gives us the ability to work from everywhere at all times. And that specifically is part of my problem. I’ve always made it a point that when a client calls, I will almost always pick up the phone, morning, noon, or night, regardless of where I am. As I always say to my dealer clients, if you find a consultant that cares more about your success and performance than I do, fire us and hire them. Because I live and breathe this business and know few that stay up at nights thinking about how to improve the livelihood of others rather than themselves. Smartphones have allowed me that privilege. For that reason, smartphones have also become a time-suck of epic proportions.
Family comes first. That is, and always has been, a rule at DealerKnows. If one of our team members has their child’s school function during the weekday, we urge them to go. Others pick up the slack. (While I’m on the topic of family first, congratulations to our own Jennifer who is expecting her third child!)
It sounds stupid writing that “family comes first” considering I have been traveling or on the road consulting for almost 10 years, taking valuable time away from my own – but that is part of the job I love, and I understand that. It doesn’t so much explain why I’ve scheduled myself to be on the road during at least 6 of my last 7 birthdays (mid-December of all times) when I should instead be partying it up with family celebrating my one-year-closer-journey-toward-a-too-early-in-life heart attack. But instead I’m on the road, serving clients or educating others (while still working toward that inevitable Happy Meal heart-grabber in the sky waiting for me).
If you’re still reading this, you can tell it is a personal message. One I’m writing for myself rather than others, but more than likely those others addicted to their devices will relate to my story and future promise. This message is not just for me, and is not some indictment of a mid-life crisis, though that may be it too. I think we ALL could use a break from social media. Even if it is a small break. An hour, a day, a week. Since returning from vacation, I turn off my phone when I get home and only turn it on shortly before bed so I can address anything that I need to plan my next day around. Being tied to a good book seems to be better for me than being tethered to a smartphone.
To that end, I think I, and others, should get back to using these devices for communication and creation, instead of consumption. Important news will find us. We don’t have to go searching for it across platforms. Family and friends should get back to connecting rather than posting something and waiting for the validation notifications to show up in the form of emojis, hugs, and prayers. I’ll still participate in the sharing of lives with friends, but don’t need to dedicate portions of the workday to it.
I’m going to get away from letting my iPhone take over my life. It’s the firs step for me in taking time to be better. I plan on spending, not more time with my family, but more focus on them when I’m with them. It will only take me spending less time on the stories and memes finding their way to my social accounts. People that view me through the lens of FB, Instagram or Snapchat think of me as some amazing dad, and God knows I have dedicated my life to be just that, but I’ve noticed how much I have my phone in my hand when my family is around. I don’t think at the end of my life, I’ll look back and be happy how I spent time around those most valuable to me. This is why I’ve always hated when people say “work/life balance” or worse, the hashtag. People that need to use that are putting their family aside. If you have to say it, you’re spending too much time not focused on them. Just be better by not using that phrase, please.
In this week since I returned from vacation, leaving my phone alone during “off hours”, I realize I actually serve my clients better. I complete projects for them faster because I refuse to be distracted. I pay even more attention to my kids. I listen to my wife better. (Sorta – let’s face it, I don’t think I’ll ever master that.) I’ve realized that I can get everything I need out of social in well under a half hour a day. So far, I have worked just as hard as I always have. Heck, I work harder even, because I have more focus. I take and make calls. Send and accept texts. But I have zero need to grab it and review the lives of others during the day like I did before. It’s freeing.
I hope everyone is wrapping up an amazing summer, and that you all have cherished memories seen through your eyes rather than a lens. A little less screen time is just my first step to helping me Be Better. (There are a lot of steps in front of me, and I’m getting ready for a heckuva climb). I’m ready to take time to Be Better. Are you?