The Lovely Christy and I were recently visiting Jerome, Arizona, an old copper mining town of 400 people. Presently, their main industry is tourism, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Jerome was a bustling community of over 15,000 people, most serving the mining industry in some way. We visited the State Historic Park to learn more about the town and lives of its inhabitants. Here’s what I will tell you: The life of a miner was hard. That term is relative, but by most standards, they lived difficult lives. Every day, they went to work hoping they didn’t die that day based on real physical dangers such as explosions, fires, rockslides and so on. Think about it. How many times have you gone into work and wondered if something about your job was going to literally kill you that day? Now ask yourself: Is your job “miner hard” or “minorly hard?”
Considering those questions, here are a few insights and inspirations I gained from what I learned about this little town and the mining industry of the past.
Difficult is a relative term
Difficult, hard, tough, strenuous… these are all relative terms, yet we tend to use them to describe our lives and businesses all the time! Now, I know some days seem more challenging than others, and it’s true that too much stress can take a long-term toll on your health, but unless some extremely freakish accident happens, you aren’t going to die at work. So, as you go about your day, or as you go into a fresh week, month or quarter, think about how hard you really have it.
You might have a tough customer, but they probably aren’t going to actually kill you. There might be some personnel issues or growing “pains” you experience in the upcoming weeks or years, but most of those miners in Jerome would’ve traded places with your situation in a minute. In fact, one of our most popular technician training videos is entitled “Winners vs. Whiners,” because every now and then all of us need that perspective check.
Terms such as difficult, hard, tough and strenuous are completely a matter of personal view and perspective, so be cautious of what you tell yourself is hard, because if you believe it’s hard, it will be. One of my favorite Henry Ford quotes is: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s true and applies to so many situations.
Learn from unplanned outcomes
When the miners would do their blasting, they never really knew if it would cause some unintended crack, fault or fire, but they knew they wanted the copper out of the mountain, and they typically got it. If they were just worried about every possible outcome all the time, things might not have gotten done at all. Now, what they did was make their best effort to test the ground beforehand based on the technology they had. Does that mean things always went as planned? No, but they kept learning from their mistakes to develop better testing methods.
Again (luckily for us), if something doesn’t go quite as planned in our industry, it’s not usually a life or death-type result. New technology and advancements are developed as a result of something that was identified as lacking or something that went awry, so instead of looking at an outcome as a negative consequence, look at it as an opportunity to find a better way of operating.
Strategic communication is key
You’ve heard a million times about how important communication is to a company’s success (at least one of those times was probably from me), but the mining industry of 100+ years ago really made me think about how they communicated. At the historic park, Christy and I stood on a glass platform that was built over an old 1,900 feet deep mine shaft (that’s 650 feet taller than the Empire State Building) and looked down into the darkness. How crazy to be sent straight down into this seemingly endless hole in the earth!
The company didn’t send those miners into that shaft, however, without a clear plan for what would be taking place, as well as a communication strategy. Even if it meant pulling on a rope or pushing a button, they all knew ahead of time what that would look like. They didn’t just send them down with the intention of “playing it by ear.” Think about how much more strategic our internal communications would be if we placed life-or-death-type importance on it? What if we went into every meeting with complete strategic clarity of what needed to be accomplished? What if we looked at every system with the goal of making it simple, understandable and as easy as possible? Our companies would run much more efficiently, I can tell you that!
Don't depend on one lead source
Once the mining companies pulled funding from a town like Jerome and shut down operations, the workers’ income also disappeared overnight. Those miners probably thought they had fairly secure jobs at the time and didn’t think much about the company pulling up stakes on such a large operation. I talk a lot about sticking to what you’re good at, but when it comes to lead sources, making sure you aren’t depending on a single influence (or income) outside of your control is crucial. If you depend on one source for 80% of your leads, for example, it’s time to look at diversifying, because what if that goes away some day? Don’t forget: It wasn’t long ago we couldn’t imagine phone books becoming obsolete. If you’re depending too much on just online marketing, big box leads or just property management companies, make sure if one of those lead flows scales back (or goes away completely), your company will still be able to survive and rebuild. You don’t want your business to go the way of the “ghost” town of Jerome… the town itself was reduced to around 50 residents after the mines closed. I’ve seen businesses struggle immensely when a lead flow they depended on too much went away, based on recessions, leadership changes, etc., so do your best to diversify your lead sources.
Along with these lessons, as you approach a project or situation you think is challenging in the next few days and weeks, ask yourself: “Is it miner hard or minorly hard?” Keep in mind: It’s all about how you look at it and respond to it, and half the time you are overcomplicating it in your own mind anyway. Every seemingly difficult task is an opportunity to learn, improve and simplify; the headaches of it will become more and more “minor” each time if you keep the right perspective and make the changes necessary to keep your life and business moving forward.