Don’t Limit Yourself: A Lesson for Self-Storage Operators on Pushing Boundaries
By Matthew Van Horn
As a manager, business owner and entrepreneur, I’m constantly looking for interesting things to read and new ways to motivate my team. I really enjoy fiction—Game of Thrones at the moment—but some of the most interesting and motivating things you can read are often biographies. The other day I was reading a story about Bruce Lee. For those who don’t know, Bruce Lee was an actor, martial-arts instructor, philosopher, film director, screenwriter and founder of the Jeet Kune Do martial arts movement. He is widely considered to be the most influential marital artist of the 20th century. Suffice it to say, Lee was obsessed with pushing himself both physically and mentally.
The story I read, in The Art of Expressing the Human Body, was from one of Bruce’s training partners regarding running. He wrote:
“Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a-half minutes per mile]. So this morning he said to me, ‘We’re going to go five.’ I said, ‘Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.’ He said, ‘When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.’ I said. ‘Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.’
“So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, ‘Bruce, if I run anymore,’—and we’re still running—‘if I run anymore I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.’ He said, ‘Then die.’ It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, ‘Why did you say that?’ He said, ‘Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.’”
The story with Bruce Lee may be a little dramatic, but the point is extremely clear: Don’t limit yourself. Just the other day I read an article in USA Today about Delta Airlines. What does Delta have to do with self-storage? Well, nothing, but it has a lot to do with limitations. One of the biggest problems in the airline industry is the cost of fuel. Delta decided it was time to address that problem. The company purchased an oil refinery in Pennsylvania. This particular investment could cut Delta’s fuel costs by $300 million per year. Analysts said, “The investment isn’t risk free...”
I don’t know of any investments that are completely risk free. I give Delta credit, so should its shareholders, for taking that kind of risk. Delta has a problem and the company has gone out on a limb to address it, even if an oil refinery doesn’t fit with its other operations.
So try that new marketing technique you’ve thought about. Implement those rent increases. Test out that new customer-service technique. Try that new piece of technology or software—maybe buy that iPad you’ve been looking at. We must consistently branch out and test ourselves to grow. It’s the only way our facilities and our industry as a whole will continue to succeed.
Matthew Van Horn is vice president of Cutting Edge Self-Storage Management, a full-service management company specializing in management, feasibility studies, consulting and joint ventures within the self-storage industry. For more information visit www.cuttingedgeselfstorage.com .
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