Becoming the CEO of my Life

When the phone stopped ringing I could hear on the other end of the line “Al’s Wydown Cleaners.” I said, “Is this Jessica?” She said, “No, this is Cayla.” I said, “Cayla, this is Mike Houlihan. Yesterday when I dropped off the laundry to Jessica, I forgot to ask her if she could replace the waist button on my kahki’s.” She said, “Sure Mr. Houlihan I will be glad to make sure we take care of that for you.” “Is tomorrow still ok for pick up?” She said, “Yes! We will see you then.” 

At that moment I reflected on being in Houston, Texas managing the general construction part of a $77 million expansion to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery for two years. During that time my walking was becoming quite difficult, I used ski poles and carried things in a backpack. I used a golf cart to view the project and get to and from meetings. At night or after work I was struggling to carry my laundry to the washer and dryer in the apartment complex, clean my apartment and grocery shop on top of very long and demanding days driven by a very challenging project. During that time I met a woman who happened to be in one of my Landmark Education classes “Self Expression and Leadership”. We would have dinner occasionally. Since both of us were in a conversation of transformation and creation we would ask questions like, “What is working? What isn’t working? If we could have it be any way how would it be? And, what would we need to change in order to have it be that way.” During one of our dinners together, Karla, said “Michael, I have a undergraduate degree in physical therapy and I have known you for six months. Can I make an observation and a suggestion?” I said, “Absolutely.” What I was about to hear from her mouth would and has forever changed my life.

“So here you are,” she said, “running a very intense job, you come home, do laundry, go grocery shopping, prepare meals and it is exhausting.  You even clean your own apartment!  What if you became the CEO of your own Iife?” She said, “The most successful men and women I know don’t do everything. She asked if I finished concrete, installed conveyors, set steel or operated heavy equipment?” I said “No!” “Does the job get done without you doing all those things?” I responded, “Yes! She then asked, “What is it that you do?”

“I create the estimate, the schedule and then make sure I have the labor and materials to fulfill on my commitment to our client.” She then said with a smile, “…You don’t do everything”.

She then asked me the question that had me thinking twice about those tasks that as a farm boy had me think were my measuring stick. Being able to and then doing everything for myself by myself. Karla then asked me if you were going to manage your life like you do your project how might you do things differently?

And, with a big smile on her face she added, “Since you don’t do anything!”

I guess I would have people do things for me.

She then said let’s look at what you could have other people do for you. At this point my mind was racing with thoughts like, I can’t afford it, people are going to think I am a complete loser, they may not want to be around me. I thought to myself, so what if I’m a little tired.

Karla then said, “Let me give you some ideas. Groceries in Houston have delivery service called Peapod, we have a friend who needs to pick up some side cash from her teaching and I’m sure she would clean your apartment and maybe do your laundry. And, why don’t you ask the cleaners if they would come out and pick up and drop off to your car when you pulled up.” 

So with great reluctance I asked the cleaners to come to my car, I hired Kiersten to clean my apartment and do my laundry and had my groceries delivered to my kitchen. I even hired a boy in the complex to assist me in carrying bulky items from my car to my apartment.

The immediate result for me was freedom!

Today, thanks to Karla’s suggestion I have taken on being the CEO in every part of my life. In work I have teams and everyone on the team knows of my limitations and they assist me where I need it.

Before Mary and I got married, she sold her home right away and moved in with me about two months before our wedding. I told her, not wanting to take her power away, “I have Martha who cleans the house and does the laundry, when I go to Al’s cleaners they come out to my car and either pick up or drop off the cleaning and I use Houlihan Land Concepts to cut the grass and maintain the yard. I am not attached to this way of doing things so if you want to do any part of this yourself it is fine with me.” She responded without hesitation, “I think that will work just fine.”

Since then I have made very few changes. I no longer use Schnucks to deliver groceries.

I have learned people love to serve me as long as I acknowledge and appreciate them for their service and let them know they make a difference for me. Today I can honestly say I don’t do anything and I get a lot accomplished. 

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