Three lessons from a veteran BAM worker

My friend Tom was asked to share three lessons he learned while starting and growing a sizable manufacturing company in Asia.  I often wonder what I would pick if asked to do something like that – which three?  Why those?  How can I remember the three most important things? However, I thought that Tom’s choice was interesting and valuable.

  1. He learned to keep learning to be teachable. “There are so many things I do not know”, explained Tom.  It is important to learn from everyone – not just experts, friends or people we know – but someone at the bottom of society or someone with an idea you had not expected.

I was reminded of a quote by Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld in 2002: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Such insights date at least back to the 13th century Persian poet, Ibn Yamin.  Certainly, a wise Business as Mission entrepreneur is a learner and is aware of the known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.  I once observed a BAM business having a terrible year.  It was a known known that they would have to work hard and have long days. It was a known unknown that there were risks to the plants on the farm (one turned out to be disease). It was an unknown unknown that they did not understand the culture fully and thus situations arose that were unexpected and were not considered.

  1. He learned to develop a 2-4 second window of opportunity. Tom explained that in his experience God gave wisdom just when he needed it.  He used the example of beggars on the streets.  Until he learned this lesson, he would often just pass them by.  But he learned to ask God to impress it upon him in less than 4 seconds if he should talk to a beggar or another person that he normally would not speak to.  He said it has been amazing what he has learned and the people he has helped when he would greet someone in that window of opportunity.

Tom told the story of finding a crippled man on the street and after listening to the 2-4 second window, brought him to work in the company.  It turned out to be a blessing not only to the crippled man, but to others on the production line.

  1. He learned that people accomplish what they measure. He used the example of joy.  Like all of us, he would have bad days until he began to rate his days on a scale of 1-10.  So, if he started out saying the day was a 5/10; he would ask himself, “what would it take to have the day an 8/10?”  The principle comes from I Tim 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain…”.  He reminded us of the childhood song, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

In the twelve years of IBEC’s history, we have seen many BAMers leave their business and their country.  Many lost their joy. It ceased to be interesting and fun. But it is possible to have joy in all we do – even if it is difficult.  Check out this little video called “Yes, I’m the mechanic.” 

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures
larry.sharp@ibecventures.com

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