Words matter. How we use words matters. Replacing a single word in a sentence, or a thought, can result in an entirely different ending point. Today we’ll focus on what I think is the most important word in business, and how replacing it with another will change your entire outlook.
When we use the phrase “I made money”, we are lying. Unless you own a printing press specifically for creating money, use a special blend of top secret woven paper and fabric, use special inks and dyes, etc, and you literally create money, you didn’t make anything. Using this phrase can lead to subconscious shifts in how we not only conduct ourselves in our business environment, but every other area of life as well. It might seem trivial, but words matter more than we know.
When we say “I made”, we are taking full credit for a creation. Over time this can, and often does, lead to hyper inflation of the ego. The power of creation is something to covet. Desiring to create, or make, isn’t bad in itself. After all, we are here to honor God by creating. It’s what we direct that desire towards which can lead us down very bad paths. When we “make” money, we subconsciously train ourselves to believe we have the power to create wealth. We don’t. And once that pattern of thinking takes hold of you, it will expand out to the point of losing touch with nature, truth, logos, and reality itself.
The way to avoid this crucial misstep is to rephrase it, and instead say “I earned money”. Changing “made” to “earned” removes the idea that you created the money. That is important. Saying you earned money is not a lie. If you provided a service or sold a product, you did in fact earn that money. “Made” comes with the connotation that you are so powerful that you create from nothing. Only God can do that. “Earned” comes with the connotation that you worked hard to acquire, which is exactly what you did.
When we enter a job working for someone else, we don’t make our paychecks. We earn them. We enter into a contract with an employer. The employer agrees to give you an amount of money for either a job, or per hour that you work. You willingly choose to accept these terms, knowing that in order to obtain that paycheck at the end of the week you will need to work hard to earn it. Nowhere in there did you make money. This doesn’t magically change as soon as we create our own business. I don’t make money selling wood products. I earn money by making wood products. There’s a very big difference between those two, and the latter will keep you humble and focused on whatever it is you do.
A good exercise to see how important words are is to swap the words “made” and “earned” in everyday phrases, and see how ridiculous they sound. For instance, when I go into the shop, I make a cutting board. I don’t earn a cutting board. When you graduate college, you earned your degree. You didn’t make a degree. Your kids run up to you, paper in hand, exclaiming that they made you a picture. They don’t yell “DADDY I EARNED THIS FOR YOU!”.
Save the word “made” for when you’re actually creating something. Use the word “earn” when you’re working for an end goal. In business, this end goal is ultimately money. I work hard every day to earn money to feed my family and keep a roof over their heads. I do so by making things and then selling them. And at the end of the day, I have no false sense of superiority, no inflated ego, and I haven’t convinced myself that I’m King Midas. I am tired, I am sore, and I feel grateful knowing that God allowed me another day of hard work so I could earn the money which I used to put food on the table. This also keeps my creativity focused solely on my craft, rather than on the acquisition of money. Instead of thinking about how I will acquire money, I think of what product I can create with wood that people will not only like, but will serve a purpose. I focus entirely on putting my energy into creating the product itself, so that when I hear the chime of a sale notification I know that my hard work paid off. I earned that sale.
Until next time Bears! Onward!
FB: Little Bear Woodshop
Price Vs. Value
In these modern times, two of the largest gripes people have when they buy just about anything are the price of an item, and how terribly built it is. We’ve all cursed a Swedish piece of furniture, or raged when a spark plug change is preceded by tearing the entire top end of the engine off just to get to them. Typically in that moment, we also reflect on how much the item cost at the time of purchase, and more often than not we regret even buying it. It wasn’t always like this however, and to be successful in business it is imperative to understand what led us to this perpetual annoyance with cheaply made stuff.
Not that long ago, the quality of most things one could purchase was substantially better than today. There is a reason old washing machines were better than new ones, why old tools were indestructible, why cars were built so solidly and would run for a million miles if properly cared for. Manufacturers of old cared much more about the quality of the product they were producing than they do today. There’s no simpler way to put it. For whatever reason, that began changing a few decades ago, and has spiraled out of control and led us to where we are today.
Where I believe it went wrong is a tale as old as time. People got greedy, and began chasing higher and higher profits. And in doing so, the quality of their products decreased. Tool companies realized if they used a slightly softer steel that was considerably cheaper to purchase, then they could increase their profit by 5% on every socket or wrench sold. So they did it. Then they realized if they shipped manufacturing overseas, they could pay 1/10th of the wages that they were paying American workers. So they did. The result of having unskilled workers using cheap steel was an inferior tool which broke easily. But the price never changed to account for this downgrade in quality. The company continued charging the same amount of money for an entirely different tool. I would classify this as not only dishonest, but also disrespectful to the customer.
People work hard for their money, and many people struggle just to keep their lights on. Far too many people go to sleep at night feeling as if they failed, because their children went to bed hungry. I witnessed my own parents go to bed without eating more times than I can remember, because there wasn’t enough food but they made sure we children ate. Were they lazy parents? Not at all. They both worked incredibly hard to provide for myself and my 3 siblings. But a blown furnace here, an unexpected car repair there, and funds become very tight faster than we can often adjust. So when the time comes and someone has a bit of extra money and they’re ready to invest in that tool, or that washing machine, or in the case of my business that butcher block, they want to know that their money is being exchanged for something of good quality. That exchange of money for either goods or a service is the most crucial calculation one can make in business.
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
Every business owner needs to objectively look at the value of what their customers are getting before they should ever set a price. If you set the price too high in relation to the value, nobody will buy your product. If you set it far too low, people will assume it’s cheap and, again, not buy your product. There is always a sweet spot where the price is reasonable, and the customer is able to justify the cost based on the value they know they’ll receive.
A quick example of this, as it relates to my own business: There are many companies who produce butcher blocks for the kitchen. Many of these companies use one type of wood (usually maple or walnut). Little, if any, care is taken into the creation of the block. There are even a couple of big name companies who market, quite literally, a single piece of wood as butcher blocks and charge absurd prices for them. For context, those styles of blocks take 2 cuts on a miter saw and 2 minutes of sanding to produce. Since they’re also a single piece of wood with no joints or wood glue used, they are capable of warping much more easily, as wood does. When doing market research prior to launching my butcher blocks, I asked many people what they thought of these blocks. Every single person said “That’s ridiculous. It’s a piece of wood. They’re asking how much for it?!”
On the contrary, the butcher blocks I produce are made using a mixture of many kinds of wood, both domestic and exotic. They are cut into 3/4″ thick strips, and glued together with alternating grain orientation so the board will not warp after years of washing. I hand pick every piece of wood for every board. In a single board, you could have Wenge wood from Africa, Purpleheart from the Amazon, Hard Maple from New England, etc. I spare no expense in the construction of each board design, because I understand that if I were to be spending $150, I’d expect something that would last for decades.
When I set a price for my butcher blocks, I looked at one thing above all else. What was the value of the board. I don’t mean the price, I mean what was the customer receiving. Was it good quality? Was it aesthetically pleasing? Could the customer find the same board somewhere else? How long would it last? What was the cost of the materials used to produce each board? All of these things went into my final set price. And that price gave me a fair profit, while still coming in $100 cheaper than the above mentioned single piece of wood butcher block.
This description of one of my products is not intended as self promotion. Those who are reading this most likely know who I am, what I do, and what my products are already. What I want you to take away from this is that there is a healthy relationship between price and value, and it’s a relationship that should be carefully considered by anybody who is selling anything. You must remove your bias as the one producing the product or providing the service, and be honest about what it is you’re offering. I know that I offer a quality product, so I charge what I think is a fair price for that product. If you know in your heart that your product or service is decent but could be better, then don’t set unrealistic prices. I know the idea of higher profit seems appealing, but a lifelong customer paying smaller prices is worth exponentially more than a one time customer who rides the roller coaster of regret when your goods and/or services don’t hold up.
Be honest. Be fair. Work hard to better whatever it is that you do, so when the time comes to raise your prices you can do so feeling justified in your decision and knowing that your reputation for quality will ensure your customers follow you.
Until next time Bears! Onward!
Not Every Seed Sprouts
Many years ago, when I was a young kid fresh out of high school, I got my first full time job at one of the largest collision repair shops in the United States here in Lake Oswego, OR. I started as a Lot Attendant (a glorified car washer), and over the course of 1.5 years I worked my way up to Lot Manager. This new position had me being in charge of everything on the lot. I oversaw all of the other Lot Attendants. I was in charge of final inspection and polishing every car before it went out. I had my own bay in the shop, scheduled all customer rides after a drop off and delivered finished cars to customers, etc. I love mechanical stuff, I love cars, and I loved being able to work in a shop. I had endless amounts of fun learning from all of the mechanics and body techs, and every Friday before they left I’d give their cars a detail as a way of saying thank you. The guys at the shop loved having me there, and I started to build some great bonds with a lot of them. The work was grueling manual labor, but I was young, strong and loved it.
Fast forward to the end of my first run at this shop. Our manager moved on and we got assigned a floating corporate manager to oversee everything for a few months while we hunted for a suitable replacement. To put it bluntly, I was not a fan of his way of interacting with employees. As he quite literally arced his neck to look up to me and walked around with ILS (invisible lat syndrome), he quickly made a name for himself in the shop lunch room every day. I kept a professional attitude through the first couple of months, until he told me I needed to shave every single morning since I was driving customers around. I saw no rhyme or reason for it, as every single man who worked in the shop had a beard. I called the owner of the company and talked with him about how ridiculous of a request it was. I was fired the next day, and told I was nothing by this floating manager. This was, as one would imagine, a shock to me. Everybody was blindsided and couldn’t believe I was let go. I left on good terms with all of them, but harboring a strange feeling inside.
For the first time in my working life, I understood what it felt like to be expendable. Here I was, dragging half cuts of cars (literally half of a car, cut down the middle) across the concrete lot with 1 hand like a strongman. I streamlined the lot in numerous ways. Every shop was always clean so the bodymen and painters could work without any clutter. The shops ran like a well oiled machine under my oversight, and then it ended in a flash because I questioned authority.
A few months later I got called back after that manager had moved on, and was asked what it would take for me to work there again. I told them I’d happily come back for a $3 an hour raise, to which they immediately said yes to. They knew my worth, as did I. So, slightly apprehensive but excited to see the guys again, I returned. 3 months later, I was an hour late for work due to extenuating circumstances the night before. I hadn’t slept all night, and my alarm stood no chance after I had been up for nearly 40 hours. I was fired by the new manager over the phone when he called that morning, refusing to even talk to me about it. Once again, I had gone from a valued employee to disposable. It was at that very moment that I decided I wanted to work for myself in the future. I had no idea how I was going to go about doing that, but I knew I needed to make it a reality.
I didn’t immediately start a business. I was a young kid after all, with absolutely no idea how to even start or what I wanted to do. I ended up working a couple of other jobs over the next couple years, went to college for a few years, and aimlessly stumbled through life trying to find my purpose along the way. All the while, the notion of working for someone else in your typical corporate setting became harder and harder to stomach every time I thought about it. So, I started down the road to self employment. And boy was that a winding, wild journey.
I am a fine artist, specializing in photo realistic portrait drawings using both graphite, charcoal, and colored pencil. It is a skill that not many have, and definitely not something that comes easy to people as it did to me. Knowing that I had such a skill, I tried to start a “business” out of it. although I got many orders over the years, it was nowhere near enough to pay the bills, think about growing a family, or buying a piece of land in the future. I wanted so badly to be able to make my way in this world with my artwork, but finding people who were willing to pay a fair price for a one of a kind portrait was beyond difficult. So, I shelved that idea.
I am a moderate giant, standing nearly 6’4″ tall, and have had a full beard for many years. So my next business endeavor was to start a beard care product business. Beard balms, beard butters, beard oils, mustache waxes, handmade wooden beard combs, etc. I jumped head first into this, and actually had a fair bit of success for the first couple of months. I marketed my business like crazy on social media, designed awesome looking packaging for each product, experimented with different manly/woodsy scents that people loved, and created a whipped beard butter that hadn’t been done before. I thought this might be something that would work, but alas, competition presented itself immediately in the form of everybody around the country stealing my coveted beard butter and selling it themselves. I had not the capital or the manufacturing ability to keep up with these larger companies, and eventually the orders stopped coming in. It was an extremely fun couple of months, but I ultimately shelved that idea.
Fast forward a couple of years, and upon finding out we were expecting our first child, I decided it was time to kick it in to high gear. My next business idea was to build overlanding tow along off-road trailers. For those not familiar with these, they are all terrain camping trailers that you can tow behind your vehicle but will go many places a normal trailer would never be able to. I researched the market for months, planned out build designs, had every single piece I needed planned out and in online shopping carts ready to buy. One morning, after finalizing all parts needed online, I stood up to go use the restroom and fell into a wall. I was unable to walk for a month. After many trips to the doctor I finally landed at a chiropractor, had imaging done, and was told my spinal cord was crushed in 3 locations in my neck, I had 6 more herniated discs throughout my thoracic and lumbar spine, my vagus nerve was crushed, and I should by all accounts not be able to walk. So, I shelved that idea and spent the next 8 months learning how to walk again after that last spell of “fall into a wall”.
A year after that last adventure into wall falling, I walked out into my horribly neglected garage and just stared for what felt like hours. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was time to find something that stuck. As you all probably know, I worked for the next 3 months building a proper shop in my garage. I had no idea what I was going to make, but I knew if I was to succeed I needed a workable space, so that was step 1. The rest is history, and you’ve all probably seen at least part of the journey. But even in this, there are things that didn’t go as I had planned. My first idea was to make nice cutting boards and sell them to Realtors as closing gifts for their clients. I emailed over 100 Realtors in my area. Half of them didn’t respond. The half that did didn’t even acknowledge my pitch, and simply said “are you interested in buying…?” So, that plan was out of the question. Next move was to sell at our large local farmers market. 4 months of 12 hour days every single day batching products to sell ended in a rescinded invitation due to new “pandemic rules” which cut nearly half of the market space and left myself, as well as long time vendors, high and dry. Another plan gone.
You may be wondering why I just told that long story. The reason is this. Had I given up after my first business idea failed, or my second, or my third, I never would have ended up where I am today. I have a thriving business doing something that I love, I am fortunate and blessed to be able to work from the comfort of my own home which is a huge help and relief to my wife who is mothering 2 baby girls under 2 years old currently, and I answer to no corporate entity any longer. None of that would have become a reality if I would have thrown in the towel years ago and went to find a minimum wage job. It took a tremendous amount of patience, planning, and much trial and error to find the thing that worked, but it was worth it in the end.
When you plant a garden, not every seed sprouts.
Does that mean nothing will grow in your garden? Of course not. It simply means that some seeds, for whatever reason, were not meant to grow. This same idea is very real in business, and we need to be mindful of that as we start our journeys towards business creation/ownership. Just because you want to do something, does not mean that it’s the right time nor the right environment for your idea. I can take a picture and draw it perfectly. I have an incredible talent. But at the time, I couldn’t make it happen. Now I’m in a community full of crushers like Nero, HandDrawn, AJRhino, etc, who make beautiful works of art. I’m not resentful at all, because hindsight has shown me that it just wasn’t the right time. But now I get to do something else that I truly love, and it ended up working out better for me in the end.
Every single thing that happens in this life was ordained by God before any of this even existed. Above all else, we need to remember that. God’s plan will always unfold exactly as He deems it. It does not matter how much we want our plan to work. His plan is the only plan, and instead of fighting that plan at every perceived inconvenience, we must put our faith in Him and simply say “time to plant a new seed”. After all, if we gave up on the garden after the first seed failed to sprout, we would never get to sow the bountiful harvest later that came from planting more.
Until next time Bears, Onward!
A New Approach To Homeschool
What do you want from your child’s education? How do you envision them as an adult? What skills will they have? People often focus on curriculum; math, English, science, but fail to develop a vision. They remove children from public school without advancing beyond a department of education mindset.
A proper education prepares children to succeed in the real world, but what skills make that possible? The Pythagorean theorem? An 18 year-old shouldn’t only have skill, but monetary value. Teach your child basic proficiency in art, music, construction, engineering, and computer coding, and they have the capability to bring anything they imagine into physical reality. They have the skills necessary to unlock the full potential of their creative mind. I call this creative excellence. It’s not that there is one right way to do this, but that it is the ideal to strive toward. Maybe your child’s path will take them into mechanics, plumbing, or anything else, but the ability to create is an absolute necessity. Development of skills makes children resilient to outside factors that can cause them to be less essential. The old lady down the block will always need her toilet fixed, just as people will always need their cars fixed.
Skill development is the surest way of ensuring children will always be able to earn a living.
Now pair that with business experience. From the time children are little they should have experience with product/ service development, organizing, sales, marketing, and business in general. I call this talent stacks. Think about that child who can physically create anything they imagine, and pair that with a lifetime of actual business experience. Does that sound like a person who will have difficulty navigating in the world?
Classical Learner allows me to assist families in formulating a unique vision for their children, like a guidance counselor for homeschoolers. You can read more about the Classical Learner Philosophy here:
It also provides me a platform to create unique educational materials. Earlier this year Classical Learner launched the Cubs to Bears children’s book series – designed to teach morality, liberty, history, and the mechanisms institutions use to manipulate people. Children’s entertainment should mirror reality to provide children a framework to understand complex concepts. For example, in The Bear from Jekyll Island, the pigs – bankers, tempt the animals with monetary loans. The animals that give into temptation find themselves in a vulnerable position when the farm has a drought and the pigs call in their loans. Learn more here:
Pulling children out of public school is the first step in building a better future. The next is to re-think what a worthy education looks like. Parents must create a unique vision of who their child is going to be.
Public schools have one vision and parents have another, at Classical Learner we bridge the gap.
Video readings of Cubs to Bears Books:
The Beartatria Times App: Classical Learner
Instagram: Classical Learner Today
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Price Vs. Value
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