If time flies, I must be its pilot!

Wow!  I cannot believe I haven’t posted anything in this blog since October 13th!  Where does time go?  My goal is to post at least once per month and to share the same message or topic I do on YouTube.  Oh well, I have good intentions, don’t I?

We all have good intentions but we just don’t make the important things a priority each day.  Time can get away and all of a sudden we are down the river without a paddle and find ourselves in some rough waters that overwhelm us and then something bad happens.  It happens to you…it happens to me.  Why?  We are human and flawed and must be proactive if we are to change things in our lives.

Take Christmas shopping for an example.  I remember one year on my way through a town in Middle Tennessee coming back from a meeting in Nashville I stopped by a mall to shop for my family.  It was 2 days before Christmas.  I believe I purchased 10 gifts that afternoon…all in one store!   I am not much of a shopper.  Time had gotten away and I kept putting it off.

In 2017, however, I am now finished by December 15th.  Ordering on-line makes it so much easier!  But again, it really just boils down to making time, planning the time, to do things that you could easily put off.  Time moves faster and faster as I get older!  It seems like yesterday that I was helping my mother put up Chirstmas decorations around our farm house. (I reminisce a lot this time of year about those days!)  Hey, it seems like yesterday that I

was just dreaming of walking my girls down the isle to get married!   Now I have 4 grandkids!  Wow!  I must be having a real fun life cause you know what they say, “Time flies when you’re having fun!”

Well I am having fun! (Grandkids really make life more fun!) Life should be fun.  Making the right decisions and spending your time efficiently each day is rewarding.  But time is flying so in 2018, PACT will be my theme.

P=Productive daily

A=Action taken daily

C=Consistency in doing

T=Time well spent daily

Therefore I make a pact between me and you to make a difference this year in people’s lives around me as I watch time more carefully because, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” 

How and why should we prepare?

How do you prepare for the Fall and Winter months?  I prepare my autos and camper by winterizing them.  I prepare for winter by cutting firewood—or I did that when we had a wood stove (I miss that).  I prepare for winter by firing up my generator and cleaning it out.  I prepare for the holidays by planning family gatherings, well, my wife really does the preparing.  In the broader sense, I prepare for retirement…only faith in God will get us through…by having a plan on paper and then actually implementing that plan.  We have started way too late…another story…oh well.  I prepare for death by having life insurance and written final plans for my family to follow.  That’s the how I prepare.  But why do we prepare…or should prepare?  That’s the question.

“Be prepared”

“Be prepared” is the motto of many organizations.  Preparing for a job interview, for school day, for a ball game require two things…thought and action.  Do you think in an organized manner or are you like me who thoughts are all over the place unless I have a plan written down in front of me.
Focusing is so important on any task but in preparing for something important focusing will strengthen your preparation.  That’s why today there are fewer commercial airline accidents because they now prepare their flight by going over a preflight checklist!  Surgeons also use a checklist.  I was prepped very thoroughly before my open heart surgeries years ago and I am so thankful for that!  Then surgery team followed a checklist to be sure they did everything and did not leave anything inside me!

So we prepare to help avoid costly mistakes or loss!

WalMart, Lowe’s, & Kroger

I even prepare for when I go into WalMart, Lowe’s, or Kroger.  I have a list of what I need if I were to go to one of these stores.  When I do go into these store to get something my phone will buzz with a reminder to pick up that something else I have on the list.  Many times I look at the list then get to shopping and my mind will go elsewhere and I am then walking out of the store without that certain item or items my reminder brought to my attention.  I must have a list…I must be looking at the list or I will forget!

Prepare for the “what ifs”

I wrote about planning for tomorrow as far as tasks and appointments goes last year in one of my posts, but are you planning for the “what if…”?  What if we have an ice storm and the electricity goes out?  What if I have an auto accident and I become disabled for the rest of my life?  What if your home is destroyed by fire?  What if your corn crop is destroyed by wind or fire or hail?  What if, What if?  Many people choose to not prepare for the “what ifs”.  They say they want to save their money and take the chance instead of taking the time and money to prepare for a “what if”.

Don’t gamble on life, on your family, on your assets, or yourself.  The stakes are too high.  So make a list…check it twice!  Then act on the steps in that list.

Prepare today for the “what ifs” of tomorrow.


 

 

 

 

Show your family how much you love them by…

There are many ways we can show our families how much we love them!   Spending time with them, talking with them, cuddling with them, supporting them, encouraging them, and giving of ourselves to them in many other ways are just a few thoughts on how we can show our families how much we love them.

Love Insurance

Why not purchase love insurance?  You are saying, ‘What?”  Yeah, love insurance…that’s what I like to call life insurance.  For life insurance is for the family you leave behind, not for yourself!  Leave them a life insurance benefit that will help pay your debts, final expenses, or help keep a flow of income for your family coming in for many years.  I have written about this twice before in this blog, but it’s true:  Leaving a legacy is more important than leaving things.  Part of that legacy involves planning on your part and part of that planning is to insure your life with a policy that would help your family meet their needs after you are six feet under!

A Love Story

I have shared this story before about how my father was a planner…a preparer.  He loved his family.  He was not the “affectionate type” of father and grandfather.  Daddy didn’t show his love for us in that way but he sure did in other ways.  Even in his death he showed his love for us by preparing… preparing to die and leave my mother and the farm with no debt.  He did this by purchasing a life insurance policy many years before.  The benefit from that policy was just enough to pay off the farm loan he had carried for many years!  That check was a blessing to our mother.

Dad was a believer in life insurance.  So much so that he sent a young life insurance agent to my and Robin’s home right after we got married.  He also purchased life insurance on me while I was managing the dairy farm.  In case something happened to me he wanted help to keep the farm going.

Yes Daddy loved his family and I am very grateful to him for all he did for us.  And as I grow older I look at myself and see that I am doing what he did in many ways.

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month

So, there are thousands of life insurance stories out there like my dad’s.  Go find more at http://www.lifehappens.org/reallifestories/.

I hope it will change your life.

 

Sharpening your saw

Every late Summer or early Fall I enjoy getting out and cutting some firewood. In order to make that time enjoyable I must have a sharpened chainsaw! A sharp chain will actually pull itself through a log, therefore, making preparations before by sharpening the chain is a must. I really must say that using a saw that pulls itself through a log makes cutting firewood a joy and not a chore!

Habits of Highly Successful People

Just as it’s so important to sharpen a saw you are using to cut firewood, it is much more important to sharpen (renew) yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally daily or weekly.  This idea comes from Stephen Covey’s book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.  He explains the seven habits a person must practice in order to be effective in life.  Sharpening your saw is habit seven.  

Sharpening your saw is habit seven because, if you are practicing the first six habits then you should constantly renew yourself in the four areas of your life through certain processes.  This can happen daily, weekly, or even monthly.  The important aspect is that you make time to sharpen yourself!

Making time to sharpen your saw

Time blocking is the process of one blocking an amount of time during the day to complete an important task.  I have found this to be very beneficial. I have set aside 30 minutes per day to read a book.  If I read a book for just 30 minutes per day I can read over 12 books per year (Depends on how large they are, of course).  I select the books at the beginning of the year based on the four different areas of life, i.e. physical, mental, social, and spiritual.  This task has become one of my important tasks of the day in sharpening my saw!

Throughout my life I have struggled to finish projects (reading a book) I started!  This reading discipline has been a big positive boost to my attitude in how to make my life more effective in the four areas of life.

Sharpen your saw today…and everyday!

 

 

 

Back to School! …Learning the three “R’s”…of insurance?

Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic…have been a fundamental part of education in our country since the beginning. Well, at least here in the South…

What about the three “R’s” of a good insurance agent. Most insurance agents are people persons. They enjoy meeting and helping people. Your insurance agent is no different than your doctor, your pastor, or your financial advisor. These important leaders in your life are selected by you to help you because ,simply, you like them.

So what are the three “R’s” of a good insurance agent?  Let’s look at these and then measure your agent up against what I share.

  1. Relationship

    1. Do you know your insurance agent well?
    2. Do they know your name and face?
    3. Many folks do not know their agent’s name.  Do you know their name!?
    4. Can you call or text them at any time?
    5. Do they call you or send you a card on your birthday?
  2. Response

    1. How long does it take for your agent to respond to a voice mail or message you left for them?
    2. Do they make you feel like you are bothering them or are they always pleasant to talk to when you call.
  3. Resources

    1. Do they hire good customer service reps to help you when the agent cannot?
    2. Do they have many companies in which to shop from to find you the best fit for you insurance needs…or do they just have one?

 

If your agent lines up with all of these qualities, you have a good insurance agent…keep him or her.  If not, find someone who does.  It’s that simple.

The link to my video on this subject is here.  Check it out!

Happy Birthday to the UNITED STATES of America!

The United States of America is 241 years old this year! Wow! We have been a nation a long time! But the truth is that when compared to nations like Greece, China, Portugal, and Iran we as a nation are very young. Nations do rise and some fall. I got to thinking, why have nations like Greece and China been around so long…what keeps them united all these centuries? If you look at the history of China, you will find they have experienced many dynasties during their centuries of existence as a country but only became the Republic of China in 1912. Still they have remained united these many centuries. They like us have had problems with civil war and divisions since their existence but have remained united.

The Divided States of America?

In the United States’ short existence, we have had divisions and civil war and have remained united as well. I have heard many folks say we as a nation are destined to fall as the division becomes sharper and violent. Do you think that is where we are now?

 

Our nation is divided by beliefs and different thinking but, in my opinion, we are still united with a common thread of values. Values that the United States of America were founded on regardless of what you think now. Values based on the Judea-Christian faith originating from the Bible. That is a historical fact. We are a nation of laws…we know what is right and what is wrong. Laws based on our value system that is in turn based on the Bible.
I know we are divided when it comes to beliefs but I believe we all value freedom! The freedom that came from the blood sacrificed on the battle fields.

I sure do value this freedom just as the “Free Thinker” or the Jew or the Atheist or the Buddist or the Muslim…and so on. We all should value the freedom we have to practice our faith freely. As a Christian, it is my job to go to these religions and share what Christ did for them and how He loves them. It’s not the government’s job but mine as commanded by Jesus Christ. We may disagree on many beliefs and thoughts but one thing is common…our value of freedom!  Freedom of religion, speech, and assembly are worth a lot to me as a Christian.  If you are not a Christian I know you value those freedoms as well.

The NHL, fighting, and United States?

This past hockey season, the Nashville Predators’ run to the finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs was exciting!  I became a fan even though I never have liked hockey.  I have never grasped the rules of the game and the fact that in the NHL players are allowed to fight during the game.  During one of the broadcasts of the playoffs I heard a commentator state the reason he loves the game so much is that that can fight each other and then, when the game is over and in the books, they shake hands and congratulate each other.  It does look good for the players to do that after the game (even if their heart is not in it).

So I guess we as a nation are liken to a hockey game!  We can’t stand each others’ guts and fight a lot but when it is all said and done (usually during a crisis)  we can come together and unite with a common goal.  If only our elected legislators could grasp this concept!  Just saying…

Anyway, believe what you may about America and the division we have…I am so thankful I live in the United States of America!  Happy birthday and may she have many more!

God bless America!

Enjoy the Good Life! Get Out There!

Do you enjoy your life?

How sad to go through life and not enjoy the short time we have on this earth! I have been teaching a Sunday School men’s class on preparing for our family if and when we die. I have learned a lot during my research. But I was reminded again during my research that life is very fragile and short…especially when compared to eternity!

That’s why I asked at the beginning of this blog if you enjoy life. It seems the closer we get to each other in the world through technology the more unhappy we are as a human race! I know many people are dealt some terrible circumstances and are challenged each day to just survive or to live a purposeful life. I have been inspired by many of those people who are experiencing cancer, or some physical difficulty or even a mental or social challenge. These people have overcome their circumstances and chose to rise above and to make the most of their life everyday! They have chosen not to be unhappy, but enjoy life. The Bible is (I believe) the authority on life. In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” The Greek root used for “content” means “to be possessed of unfailing strength.”  In every change Robin and I have experienced in our life together we have learned the truth of this verse!

I have chosen as my 2017 personal theme “To make the most of every day”. It comes from a sermon series our pastor brought to our church in 2016 “On purpose I chose to…” He spent a few Wednesday nights on “to make the most of every day.

Enjoy this Summer with your family!

Stress stifles the fun out of life. Is your job stressful…(check out a my blog one year ago http://wp.me/p7qqnh-A)…is your family life stressful?…many times I remember my mother telling me that it seemed to her that daddy would always be happier while he and her were camping on vacation. I remember some of those times and certainly saw that happiness. Vacations are good. Getting away for a time of refreshment is good. Daddy was a dairy farmer…wouldn’t you call that a stressful occupation? He would get stressed…some times it was me that would bring it on him…but the farm was always a stressful place when weather was rough, or prices were down. So he and mama enjoyed going camping in their rv…just getting away.

So get away this summer and enjoy life…grand kids!…your spouse…your family…yourself! Refresh yourself, turn off the tablet, phone, and computer and enjoy God’s creation and time with the family.

Surveys show that most young adults believe that obtaining wealth and fame are keys to a happy life. But a long-running study out of Harvard suggests that one of the most important predictors of whether you age well and live a long and happy life is not the amount of money you amass or notoriety you receive. A much more important barometer of long-term health and well-being is the strength of your relationships with family, friends and spouses.

 

 

So, “Get out there and enjoy life!”

What if you died today? Do you have a will prepared?

What if you died today?  Do you have a will ready to execute your estate?  You, regardless of the size of your estate, should have a will prepared. This helps your family deal with all items in which you leave them at your death.  I know some of you do not like to think about death or even write down on paper things dealing with your death.  But listen, we live in a world with the “I deserve it” attitude running rampant throughout our nation.  Having a will to systematically spell out for your family and loved ones your wishes is so important!

       I am not a lawyer but I know the importance of having a will prepared and completing an estate plan of some kind before you are gone.  By the way, if you think that because you are in your twenties and death is a long time from now, just remember that you could be a part of the 6.4% of men who will die in accidents this year.  Maybe you will be in the 23.4% of men who will died of cancer this year.  None of us are guaranteed tomorrow!

Remembering the Day Our Family Changed Forever

The Friday morning of August 11, 2002, was very normal on our dairy farm in Middle Tennessee except for the fact that I had left the barn early to go to the house to get ready to leave for a Farm Bureau meeting in Columbia, Tennessee.  It was silage harvesting time and my dad and I had been helping my brother, Johnny, harvest his silage.  As I got out of the shower my mama called me and said dad had come in from feeding and was not feeling well.  I rushed over to find my dad in the floor not able to move or speak.  He had suffered a brain aneurysm.  He died the next day after we took him off life support.  We were devastated!  Any sudden unexpected death is devastating, but even then, with the help from God of course, and good planning, it can be a less stressful time.

Planning for Family’s sake

Six years earlier my mom and dad met with a Farm Bureau representative to help begin a process of evaluating the farm estate.  The conclusion was if something happened to one of them the other would be liable to pay estate taxes.  The limit then was only $600,000.  With the recommendations and the help of a lawyer the farm was divided into two farms.  One was placed in Mama’s name and the other in my dad’s.  Whoever died first, their farm would be placed into a family trust thus escaping the tax burden at that time.  This decision proved to be very wise!

I have shared before in this blog how his life insurance policy help pay off his debt.  Preparation is so key.  http://www.ryancsparkman.com/?p=85

My wife and I are in the process of updating our will and final plans.  Please take time today or sometime soon to complete your final wishes and plans that your family may not be burdened with unwanted stress.  Losing you is enough!  I know you love your family so do it for their sake.

My Heart…

My dad didn’t tell me that he loved me many times at all during his life but he sure did tell me in his death!  So, allow me to end this post with this thought.  And you may think it’s out there after what I have written already but here it is:

I have become to realize it’s not the physical things you leave for your children and grandchildren that’s the most important. Do I ever get the pictures, videos, albums, and documents out of my grandparents and parents to watch or read or reminisce? The long answer is “No”.  The most important things are the memories and the legacy those people left on me, my mind, and my heart!  

Just a thought from my heart.

Why I Follow the 12 Week Year Plan for Setting Goals

The 12 Week Year plan could be your new path to setting and reaching your goals!  The first month of 2017 has come and gone already!  February is here…so where are you?  Where are you on your 2017 goals and resolutions you made?  Well, if two of you are reading this article, stats say that one of you has already failed and given up on your resolutions for 2017!

The 12 Week Year

A new tool I came across at the beginning of 2017 as I was researching for something else has revolutionized my planning and goal setting.  I may be jumping the gun a little since I have just began this new process in my life, but I am so excited about it because I have really lived the premise of this method for years in my insurance career.  I am excited about sharing this with my wife.  She has some goals for 2017 as well.  I wanted to get a feel of the program first before I approached her about it.  I need her for the successful implementation of this tool.  Accountability is big on my list this year! What is this tool that I have discovered?  Well, it’s so simple but yet it could be life changing.  It is called The 12 Week Year.  Now let me just be honest with you.  Some people love tools like The 12 Week Year, and then there are some who don’t need it, don’t want it, and wouldn’t use it.

My past experiences…

Case in point:  When I began my insurance career as a captive agent with one of the top companies in our state, I learned very quickly that it was important to win the contests the company would conduct throughout the year.  Simply sell enough life insurance and you would be a winner!  I also learned quickly that selling a good product through a good company simply is a numbers game.  I began to develop a spreadsheet to calculate these numbers.  Each day I knew how many people I needed to ask, how many appointments I needed to make, and how many quotes I needed to give to reach my goal of winning the contest.  The numbers were there, everyday, and all I had to do was to reach that goal that day.  I knew when I asked someone about life insurance, or made an appointment, or quoted someone exactly how much money I made.  Making the appointment brought me in the most money because chances were good if I got to speak to someone face to face in my office or at their dinner table that we would close the sale.  So numbers were and are important to me and that spreadsheet was somewhat a little motivator to me.  Now,  I failed to win some of the smaller contests but I knew why…I failed to ask or quote enough folks.  Simple.  I shared this tool with one of my fellow agents who was always in the top ten and his response was, “I just can’t keep up with all those numbers”…”I just sell!”  He is a great closer and I’m not.  I needed numbers to reach my goals while he simply needed people in front of him.

The now…

This process has become much more important for me as an independent insurance agent.  My income totally depends on my output!  Those spreadsheets would give me a number at the end of each week.  If that number was 100 or greater, it was a productive week.  Simple.  It was kind of a “feel good” thing with me if I saw 100 or more there.  And that in turn would motivate me forward to the next week.  What I found was that breaking my big goals into smaller steps was a key.  (Wow!  That’s a powerful statement!   Yeah, I know many of you have known this for years to be true)  So what has this have to do with this new tool, The 12 Week Year, I have begun to implement in my life?  Too long to explain here so follow the link above and look to see if you might could use this tool also to reach more of your goals…give it a try.  The best thing about this plan is that you can begin anytime!

Tools to help manage your 168 hours

It may sound crazy, but I developed an interest for time management and what tools to use to make the most of my time way back in elementary school!  I drew a four frame cartoon that showed what my routine was every weekday.  I remember having a lot of fun doing this exercise!  I can still see those drawings in my mind today!  Ever since then I have had a time management mindset.  Have I always been efficient?  No, but I have continued to read and educate myself on how to use my time efficiently and then insert those practices in my daily life.  I have a friend who has told me that he gets up each morning and then decides what is important to do that day.  “No planning, no prioritizing, and no pain” ,this person says to me.

Time management is not a good description for managing your time.  You cannot manage time like money.  You can give every dollar a name just as you block time out for appointments and such, but you cannot save time for another day like you can money or other resources.  The following is a list of tools I use as my task managers that really help me to make the most of every day:

 Google Calendar

I am an android user so I have chosen Google calendar as my calendar of choice.  I really had a hard time a few years ago trying to decide which calendar format would be best for me.  Outlook was my first choice since my office computers were linked to Outlook in our customer service system.  Then I started syncing both google and outlook calendars, but that got to be very cumbersome at times.  Time blocking is the way to go.  I really feel it helps me to focus on what I should be doing depending on where I may be at a certain time during that day.  Now unexpected things happen…emergencies and such, but learn how to deal with them and go on!  Here is a link to a video of a young man who does a good job explaining this tool:

 

Evernote

I absolutely love Evernote!  I use it as both a task manager and reference tool.  I store all important documents and such in my evernote library.  At first Evernote did not really click for me, but during the last 5 years I have realized what a great tool it is to have at my side.  The app allows me to collect everything of importance.  One can easily organize your life areas of focus with Evernote.  I used it especially in my Christian life.  It is a powerful prayer organizer for me!  I hope to have a demo on YouTube soon covering how I use Evernote to keep my prayers organized.  Check out Evernote if you have never heard of it before at the link below:

Todoist

Todoist is my newest tool to implement into my life.  It is the best task manager I have used!  I use this as a reminder to do small daily tasks as well as my major projects.   I used Evernote as a task manager but when I tried Todoist I was blown away at how well it performs to help me get things done each day!  Check it out here (this guy has a large series on Todoist that helps you with anything concerning the tool):

By the way the IFTTT app (if this then that) uses great technology to sync and tie all of your tools together.  Check it out on the web.

The Getting Things Done system created by David Allen has proven to be the best system to follow to get tasks done each day.  The tools above can be used to help you follow the GTD system more efficiently daily!  It has really changed the way I do things!

In conclusion, these tools and systems help to remind me of what I should be doing based on where I am and even at what time of day it may be.  Am I following them religiously…well…I’ll just say this:  “I’ve come a long way baby!”  There are a few days, but failing to carry out my planned tasks is not failure…failing to plan is planning to fail!  Do I feel good by completing every task some days?  Sure!  Do I feel bad for not completing all tasks…no!  It depends on the importance of the task and where I was that day.  In context maybe the time wasn’t right…just postpone until tomorrow at end of day and make it priority one then.

Remember you only have 168 hours?  Make the most of them by using the right tools!