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CW 41: David Hopkins

Preparation! David Hopkins explains that as we prepare for so many things in our lives, how do we choose what we prepare for? In the crazy world we live in a few moments of silence and reflection can change the course we are on.

Welcome to Contributor Wednesday on Bridge The Gap network. In this series, you’ll hear from thought leaders on a variety of topics, dedicated to inform, educate, and influence the senior living industry.

Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m David Hopkins. I received a response to a request for a meeting that was shocking. It said, “I’m sorry, that time doesn’t work for me. It’s my preparation and thinking and reflection time.” I was like, what? Whoever schedules time like that? And so began my journey into preparation and understanding why taking time is important. In senior living, we have so many meetings. Marketing meeting, sales meeting, ops meetings, clinical meetings, at risk meetings, moving meetings, food and beverage committee meetings. With all the meetings that we have, how often do we have time to actually act upon the things that we met about? I think about some of the food and beverage committee meetings and thinking about all the different ways to prepare meatloaf. With over a hundred plus residents in a community, there’s usually about 200 different opinions of how meatloaf should be prepared.

Typically we do not prepare the meatloaf in any of those ways, so it’s always wrong. How do you take time to prepare? What do you think about when you’re preparing? How do you itemize what you want to get done and think about? Is it scheduled or is it just off the cuff? You know, I was trying to think, what do I most prepare for in my life? And I would say that would be vacation. A. because it’s fun, it’s exciting, and I like planning a trip. I like the thought of what I’m going to pack, what toiletries I want to bring, what cool outfits I can have. Do I need my snorkel gear or a tennis racket? Do I need my golf clubs? I like the idea of scheduling out my packing, making reservations or looking online at different amenities at the hotel or the attractions that I want to visit. Anybody AAA members that used to get the triptych and you’d be on the road and the ticket would flip open and you’d map your route out and you’d go.

And you’d be like, Oh, that looks interesting. Let me stop at that. World’s largest ball of yarn or South of the Border. If you’re heading down South on 95 or North, or do you look at the pictures online and figure out if you’re going on a cruise, what kind of excursions do you want to be on? Do I want a zip line through the rainforest? Do I want to go to the waterfalls in Jamaica? That is all preparation going on. In Florida, we prepare for hurricanes. Season’s coming up, my Florida friends and starting June 1st, we don’t check our water supply 48 hours before the storm hits. You have to have that done and prepared for. You have to have enough water on hand for your residents and your staff. And if you try to prepare for that 48 hours in advance, you’re standing in a long line at home Depot, Lowes.

You’re trying to find the last bit of remaining bottled water that you can cram into your building so that you can adequately be prepared. My friends up North, you don’t call the snowplow the night before a big storm or a nor Easters hitting do you? You have to have that contract locked in and ready to go and make sure that I am a priority when you’re out there in the snowplow at two o’clock in the morning. There’s so many cliches to preparation. When you fail to prepare, you’re are preparing to fail. Measure twice, cut once. That’s what my father-in-law says. I’m a little bit more off the cuff kind of guy. I struggle with preparation. As I’ve shared before, I have ADD. I’m very impatient and I’m also a seven on the Enneagram style. All of these personality traits and quirks for me do not set me off for success in preparation.

I like to go out and kind of wing it. By the time I want to sit down and prepare for something my mind has already moved on to the next item or the next fun thing that I want to do. I think about Duff Goldman ACE of cakes, who makes those incredible cakes on TV. And I think about all the time and preparation, they go into planning for those. And you think about the structure and the content in the frosting and the detail that goes into it. Even before they get to the recipe they have, they have a fully executed plan because they prepared. Tom Brady, the winning super bowl champion this year is amazing at preparation. When you hear interviews by his teammates, they’re talking about how Tom prepares for a game. He’s the first one there. And he’s the last one to leave.

He’s constantly watching game footage studying and looking for opponents weaknesses. Preparation has obviously paid off well for him, but as a sidebar, I’d like to get your opinion on this. Tom Brady has been to 10 super bowls. He’s won seven of them. And Tom Brady is now considered one of the greatest of all times in quarterback. Yes, as I was listening to that statistic, that means that Tom Brady gets a C in Superbowl wins at 70%. Well, I was a C student in high school, but nobody’s calling me the greatest of all time. So I’m not quite sure how we can really evaluate that on a 70% scale. If you’re going to call Tom Brady the greatest of all time, then in high school, I should have gotten a goat title as well. In my challenge of preparation, trying to find the time to sit down and dedicate that and keep my mind quiet.

I had a great mentor at Walt Disney world named Lee Cockerell, check him out. Lee started a time management class at Walt Disney World. And I will tell you, it was the most sought-after class if you could ever get into it. It filled up very quickly and Lee was a rock star among Disney cast members. His class would be in the biggest ballroom they could find on Disney property and it was free to cast members. And you showed up early, so you could get a good seat and there might be close to 500 people in that room, just to hear Lee speak for an hour. Lee would come in very nonchalantly, greet a few people and hop up on stage at the appointed time. Typically these began about seven or eight o’clock in the morning. And Lee would ask for the doors to be secured.

Inevitably, somebody was always late to Lee’s seminar for time management. Now putting this into perspective, at this point in time, we had 60,000 cast members at Walt Disney World. Lee is the number two guy in charge. He is in charge of all the operations that happen at Walt Disney World. So at eight 15, when somebody would inevitably show up and find the door lock, some would have the audacity to knock on the door. To which I think this little sparkle snuck into Lee’s eye and he would be on stage and he’d stop. And he’d look at the door and he’d say, “I’ll get it.” Lee would come down off the stage, open the door. And inevitably the person trying to come in would say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m late. I insert bogus excuse here, I couldn’t find a place to park. I was delayed by traffic.

I got a ticket.” Any one of those things and start to move into the room. Lee would always purposefully keep the door just wide enough that they couldn’t get it. And he would say, this is a time management seminar. You’re late. Obviously you need this time management seminar. So I suggest schedule for the next one. And I would get up an hour early to make sure that you’re going to be on time. And then he would politely close the door and resume his talk. The message is profound. If you’re on time, you’re late considering by Lee standards. And if you’re late, it’s disrespectful. Lee was a great mentor in changing the way I would prepare for things. At the end of the day, Lee always encouraged us to take 15 minutes and write down what we had to do the next day. Whether it be a notecard, he was a big fan of the day-timer system and now has his own calendar.
As a young leader, I started taking his advice and finding that I was able to prioritize my day and schedule out my time appropriately so that I was prepared for meetings, prepared to receive work from these meetings, and had the time during the day in which to conclude the work so I could be done. I will tell you this eliminated a lot of stress for me. And after 22 years of listening to Lee for the first time, I still use his system today. We prepare for lots of things in our life, going to school, getting new clothes and new book bags and notebooks and pencils and backpacks or new school clothes. We think about every option that might happen. Will I need an eraser? Will I need a pen? Will I need a highlighter or a marker? And we prepare for that.

We’re excited. When you go to propose, you plan out your day, am I going to the Italian restaurant to the sushi place? Are we going in a hot air balloon? And you schedule it out to make sure that that timing is absolutely perfect. I will tell you when my parents got married, they planned their beautiful wedding in their church. My mom wanted a candle light ceremony. The one thing they did not plan for was daylight savings time. So as the evening hour appointed and the sun hadn’t gone down, my mom quickly realized that her candlelight ceremony was going to be a sunset ceremony because they did not account for daylight savings time. What about having a new baby, buying a crib, three different car seats, four strollers, enough outfits to feed or clothe an army. And then you’ve got the diapers. You’re stacked to the wall, but I might just need to pick up another case.

We paint the baby’s room. We go ahead and we childproof the entire house. Even before the baby begins to crawl. We also prepare for end-of-life scenarios. 11 years ago, I lost my dad. My dad was not one to talk about end-of-life scenarios. He didn’t want to fill out a living will. He didn’t want to talk about DNRs. He didn’t want to talk about end-of-life situations and what he wanted to do. He left that to me. That was not a good preparation. So on that day, 11 years ago, when I made that painful decision to remove life support, I really didn’t know what his wishes were. So if you’re out there listening, take the time and opportunity to write it down, to get it to a lawyer, and put your wishes on paper. I will tell you that’s going to be one of your greatest gifts to your kids.

They might not ever realize it, but if they’re in this situation that I was having to guess, it takes a tremendous burden off them. So take those 15 minutes at the end of your day, think about what you need to accomplish the next day, and schedule out your time. Preparation is key in everything that we do. I know some people that lay out their clothes the night before, so they don’t have to think about it in the morning. Finding those areas of opportunity in your life to prepare for things that are unforeseen or could be coming to you soon, will help you deal with them when that situation arises. Most of the time in a crisis in senior living, we have that emergency manual procedure book. Not a lot of us pay attention to it until we need it. And then we dive in looking for answers of what do we do in this situation.

A lot of those numbers are very helpful and connecting and getting you to the right person in the right time. But without that preparation, you might be lost at sea for a little bit, until you figured out your way. So don’t be like somebody who goes out there and tries to throw it off the cuff and figure it out as you go. One of those preparations cliches is, jump out of the plane and then figure out where your parachute’s at. My dad was in the army and he went to airborne school and the instructor said, “here’s your primary parachute. Here’s your secondary parachute. If neither one opens, bring them back and we’ll give you two new ones to try out.” He promptly left that class and enrolled in something a little bit safer for himself. Preparation is that key. I’ve learned that for mentors 22 years ago and still continue it today.

I’d like to thank my son, Nick today for this topic. As he was listening to my podcast and said, “dad, you need to do something on preparation.” We had the opportunity to go to a survival camp, father and son style out in Ocala national forest. This really taught us how to be prepared. It was a true survival technique. We carried in our backpacks into the woods and slept for a night and came back out. We survived on the food that we brought, looking for water and learning how to make shelter. We created fire on the basic principles that if you had nothing, how could you survive? The rules and the lessons that we learned from those two days, we walk everywhere knowing that we’re prepared just a little bit better now. So go find that education and find that time management seminar that could change your life. To just change it a little bit and focus on what you can do better today. We’re in a crazy world right now, 2021, a little bit preparation is going to go a long way and keeping not only our residents safe, but our family’s safe, our staff, and even yourself. So hang in there. I look forward to talking with you next month on Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday. Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Please connect with me on

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CW 41: David Hopkins