Belt and Suspenders

I once had a supervisor; in fact it was a supervisor I had for nearly two decades in my banking career, who had a way of putting things in the simplest of terms, making them easier to understand. By way of background, he raised cattle, was a farmer by trade originally, and loves horses. His parents were settlers in Kansas going back to the early 20th century. This man, along with his siblings, then managed to grow their parents’ operation into ones of their own. In later years, being a man who enjoyed working with numbers, and frankly was and still is quite good at it, he decided to get into commercial banking in my hometown in Kansas. I became associated with him initially in 1985 and for the next 20 years we worked side-by-side through some very difficult times with the bank.
To this day, I still recall some of the lessons I learned from this man, along with some fairly inventive ways he taught them. He also had a sense of humor, even though he was deadly serious about his job. For instance, when one of our clients was encountering financial difficulties and couldn’t understand why, he’d say things privately to me like “it doesn’t take a raisin for a brain to see that!” Of course, he never said that to a client’s face. But, one of my favorites was his use of “belt and suspenders.” When I was faced with a particular difficult decision about whether and how to extend a large amount of credit to a client, he’d simply say, “Gus, just make sure your belt and suspenders are on with that deal. That’s all I ask.” In general, he was simple, direct, and to the point. He said what needed said and did what needed done. Period. He even had a necklace that had these 3 simple initials inscribed on it: TCB. Take care of business. A philosophy he subscribed to with his actions, and one he instilled in those around him, including me and my fellow co-workers.
In my capacity as an agricultural and commercial loan officer, especially during my tenure in dealing with what could be best described as some extremely challenging economic times, it was imperative that I, along with my co-workers, did everything possible to protect the bank and its stockholders. Dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s was one of my mottos. Sometimes even with a certain ink color, metaphorically speaking! And putting our belts and suspenders on as bankers, as my supervisor used to say, making certain our loan portfolio was clean was VERY important. Loan analysis, loan administration, and compliance had to be at their absolute best. It wasn’t easy for some, but it came as natural to me as it did for my bank supervisor. We prided ourselves on that.
So it was with these thoughts in mind when, a few months ago, I discovered another possible choice for my life path. It’s called “Life Coaching.” The tag signifies what one would associate with the term “coach”, to support an individual in achieving a specific personal or professional goal. A month or so ago, I met with a newfound friend here in Southern California who has been engaged in this profession for many years. In fact, she was one of the pioneers in the industry in this part of the country. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting into this sort of career myself and I’m still contemplating it, even though for now I’ve got a job in the insurance industry. Looking back over my life, I can see many experiences, both good and bad, that I might be able to utilize in this capacity. In fact, most people my age could say the same, wouldn’t you agree? After all, at our age, we’ve all had experiences we could use to facilitate the personal and professional growth of others. At the same time, there’s the notion in my head that there are literally dozens, perhaps hundreds, even THOUSANDS of people out there doing the same thing.
That notion gives me pause. There are motivational speakers galore, self-help books and videos out everywhere; the list goes on and on. Many of us have encountered these sources in our lives, whether at work, on television, through counseling, or whatever. They all seem to “speak” the same language for the most part. Still, to me, there’s something missing. I think sometimes people get bogged down in the process of pushing themselves forward in a positive fashion, even complicating things to the point they get lost. Personally, I think motivating others, encouraging and fostering positive personal and professional growth can be simplified to a great degree. It’s not rocket science. You put your belt and suspenders on, cross the T’s, dot the I’s, organize yourself, and focus on what it is you want. I’ll discuss with you some of my thoughts on that.
In a similar way, “keeping it simple” yet effective, and putting one’s “belt and suspenders” on with your personal or professional life isn’t as hard as you might think. Going back to my bank supervisor’s methods, I recall that he wasn’t what you call an “educated” man. His methods were simple, direct, and though they sometimes lacked the “refined” nature one might think would be needed in his profession, the fact is they worked. But, I didn’t always agree with him. Our personalities, education, and life experiences were so much different. On the other hand, we both had a lot in common. We’re both tenacious by nature, meticulous when it comes to completing a task, and play the game called “life” for keeps. We leave no stone unturned and stop at nothing in our drive to succeed and win. We also share another intangible. We were both born and raised in an area of the country known for producing people who have withstood hardship. We are people with strong hearts, minds, and souls.
But I think I have the edge on him on something else. Something that, on the surface, might appear to be tragic, even a failure to some. Overcoming a personal downfall like mine and ALL the negative fallout that became of it; the loss of my job, the emotional scars inflicted on so many and the healing that still continues to this day, yet the triumph and glory of emerging from all of this gives me a HUGE source of strength. I’ve learned much. More importantly, I’ve applied these lessons I’ve learned over the past several years in my daily life. But, the work is never over. As I’m always fond to say, “Life isn’t a sprint to the finish line, it’s a marathon, and we all need a little help along the way.”
So, speaking of help, I’d like to ask a favor of you. If what you’ve read here has given you anything, ask yourself this question. First, what is it EXACTLY, you want out of life? After you’ve answered that question, write them down. Now, decide on a plan to reach those goals you’ve set for yourself. Then, act on it. It’s that simple. Don’t be one of those that thinks in order to achieve success in life you have to be “lucky” first. There’s no such thing. What your life becomes is what you WANT it to be. If you’ve ever heard of the Law of Attraction, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, look it up. The sum of who we are is what we create in our minds. Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become your character, and character becomes your destiny.
Reflecting back on my life, I realize the qualities I’ve always possessed, the successful career I once had in banking, and the glory of awakening to a new life and a new way of living as the result of overcoming a difficult set of personal circumstances, gives me a more than adequate set of skills in helping others achieve THEIR dreams and goals in life. For now though, I’ll continue with what’s been placed on my plate with the job in the insurance business. Time will tell and, in keeping with everything else in life, it’s all in God’s hands. He’s driving the bus, and I’m sure enjoying the ride!
  1. Gus, I think you are already a "life coach" of sorts. You should definitely consider "marketing" your gifts and talents to those who can also appreciate and PAY for what you have to say and offer. What you have learned and refined from your personal experience is priceless. Lucky for all of us, who have been able to be apart of your "Ramblings" journey, we have been given valuable "gems and jewels". Thank you for sharing yourself so freely and enriching our lives! I have already "cashed in" on some of your sound advise. Again, Gus, THANK YOU for sharing yourself so generously.

  2. Thanks for your gracious comment. Yes, I AM a "life coach" of sorts already. Only yesterday, I was on the phone with one of the followers of this blog, who also follows 'Gusto' on Facebook. She expressed to me, like SO many others have over the past 3 years, people from all walks of life, that I should consider inspirational speaking. She even said jokingly, "I'd rather read and listen to what you have to share than Joel Osteen."

    I'm not certain that's a fair comparison, Mr. Osteen is in a class by himself, but being even mentioned in the same way as him truly INSPIRES me to look further into helping my fellow man DIRECTLY.

    I'll leave that up to God. Whether He sees fit that I be compensated monetarily for the gift He's bestowed upon me, only time will tell. But I'm ready!


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