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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingDecember 13 - December 19, 2017
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You Are the Culmination of Your Decisions

growthchart2 e21ffBy Don G. Archer

John Tatum was driving to what he hoped would be the last call of the day, a simple tire change. It was 5 p.m. in the middle of July, and the hot Arizona sun was taking its toll. The heat was bad, but what John disliked most about driving a tow truck was the way people treated him.

As he watched and waited for someone to notice him after almost eight months on the job, nothing had materialized. He'd done his part, he thought—but it wouldn't come today.

After 20 minutes of trying to get a lug nut off the wheel of a beat-up, last-century Toyota, John finally felt it start to budge. The excitement mounted as he anticipated getting out of the sweltering sun and back into the air-conditioned comfort of his truck.

He put all of his weight on the four-way.

He was about to win in his man vs. metal struggle for dominance ... when his hand slipped off the tire tool, and he hit the ground face-first.

Upset, he quickly lifted himself up and reached for the four-way. In disgust, he flung the iron cross discus-style into an adjacent field.

As his rage smoldered, he was reminded of an incident that happened weeks earlier. He had scratched the paint on a car while attempting to unlock it. Of course, he contended it wasn't his fault.

The locks on both doors were broken, making the task almost impossible. What made it even worse was the car owner's boyfriend attempting to coach him through the process. After a few minutes of ill-equipped direction, John became frustrated and mistakenly scratched the paint.

Walking to fetch the four-way, he thought to himself, "Why do I always get the bad calls?"

Then he remembered what his boss Terry had said while admonishing him for scratching the paint on that car: "It's not what happens to you, it's how you respond to what happens to you that matters," and one that really stung, "You are the culmination of all of your decisions up to this point."

John kicked the dirt and howled, "That's easy for you to say; you're the boss, you're already successful. I'm the one out here in the trenches getting my behind handed to me every day."

Two months later, he was let go. Eighteen months after that, John and his young family would travel more than 1,000 miles to end up at my door, looking for a job.
He seemed like a nice-enough guy, had experience and was willing to work as many hours as I could give him. As always, I did my due diligence.

A call to his old boss in Arizona revealed issues with anger and incidents of damages. What really struck me was after all the stuff Terry had told me ... he was sad to see him go. He said that he really liked John and tried to help him succeed and grow, but it was hard because he refused to take responsibility for his actions.

I did not hire John, but the discussion led me to thinking about my own reactions to my day-to-day struggles. How I continued to falter—even though I was the boss and somewhat successful.

When a customer would challenge a bill and it got up to me, it was hit-or-miss how I handled it. Some days I would take the time to explain the purpose of each line on the invoice and why it was required. However, on other days I might take offense, believing the customer was challenging whether or not the services billed were actually provided.

I was a (sometimes) benevolent boss with employees. Often I would listen and propose solutions to their concerns. Other times I might question their motives, believing their concerns were less constructive and more about work-avoidance or office politics.

This thinking slowly caused me to believe they were the problem. Because I believed outside forces kept getting in my way like John, I couldn't get closer to what I wanted: harmony in my business.

I needed to change, but that's easier said than done. One day you're Zen-like and you think you have a handle on it; then some new challenge presents itself and you lose it. Then you beat yourself up for losing it. It can become a wicked downward spiral if you don't get a handle on it.

The best approach, it seems, is to treat every moment as if you consciously chose to be there ... because the reality is, you did. We are the culmination of all the decisions we've made up until this point.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at TheTowAcademy.com. Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at don@thetowacademy.com.
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