The High Performance Hack You Can Steal From My Grandpa

My Grandpa Nye was 67 years older than I was, and he came from a different world, pre-electricity, pre-autos, pre-indoor plumbing. This man who quit high school to work on the farm taught me countless valuable lessons. Years later, many Fortune 50 executives have told me how powerful these same lessons are to them.

high performance lesson

Grandpa Nye in his Sunday Church Clothes

Grandpa Nye lived in a trailer 200 feet north of our farmhouse, and he worked on the farm with my dad, so I was with him a lot. When in his presence, I felt like the most important person on the planet. He was my Yoda in overalls.

High Performer Ahead of His Time

If the term “high performer” existed in his day, Grandpa Nye would have earned that label. Never hurried, he rocked from side to side as he walked because of advanced arthritis in both knees. But he and my dad farmed a large acreage across 3 separate farms using modest machinery compared to the monster farm implements of today. But they always got it done and did it well.

Grandpa’s High Performance Hack

Grandpa Nye wore blue and white striped OshKosh B’Gosh overalls over a long-sleeved green shirt every day on the farm. If he went to town, he’d change into his green work pants that matched his shirt with a nicer pair of work boots. On Sundays, he wore a suit and tie to church, then he’d come home and change into the green/green combo for the rest of the day.

There it is! Did you catch his high performance hack?

His hack was this: He knew when he wasn’t working. The clothes he was wearing were his reminder.

High performers know that regularly stepping away from performing is a highly productive move. You know this. Even when you’ve stopped working, your brain keeps subconsciously chipping away at unsolved problems, your body and brain get to recharge, and you gain a perspective that you can’t get with your nose pressed against the glass.

Grandpa Nye’s hack amplified both high performance and happiness. His dry laugh sounded more like a wheeze, probably from so many years of inhaling dust in the fields and barns, but he laughed often.

Old School Common Sense for a New Day

He’d laugh hard if he knew I was sharing this as a big idea. Stepping away from his work was just common sense for him. But due to technology that lets us even take our work to bed and a world economy that never sleeps, it’s hard to know when to not work. Maybe you need some old school wisdom for your new year.

Practice the Hack—Now!

With holidays approaching, you’re probably taking time off soon. Can you seize this opportunity to really not work? You know it’s worth it.

If it helps, hide your laptop. Go extreme and remove the email app from your smartphone for 24 hours. Remove the temptation to bypass his “not working” hack. Change your wardrobe if you must!

Maybe You Don’t Need the Break?

Are you feeling fully charged for 2016? Have you thoughtfully mined your 2015 experiences to bolster your clarity, strength and wisdom? If so, then maybe you don’t need a real break.

If you answered no to either question, trade your constant connection to work for some highly unproductive but enjoyable not working activities. You’ll raise your performance in 2016, and maybe you’ll even laugh like an old farmer.

Share your experience with us so we can learn. What are your common sense high performance hacks that you use—or that you plan to use? Comment below.

  • Scott Mann says:

    So good David. We can learn so much from our parents and grandparents. My grandfather affectionately referred to as “Papaw Mann” lived a very similar lifestyle up in the hills of Appalachia. I revered him. Your story put this so much in context for me. As I prepare for the major town hall speaking campaign I am going on in Jan 16, you and Grandpa Nye have reminded to put on the flip-flops and loose fitting shorts for the next few weeks and let the batting cages and Green Egg BBQ with my bride and boys be what regenerates my soul – not my laptop and iPhone. Thanks to you my master storytelling Friend…but most of all, thanks to Grandpa Nye!

    • David Martin says:

      Scott. I’m glad this helped you think more like Papaw Mann and that you’ll leverage both our grandpas’ wisdom before your town hall campaign begins. And your family will be happy about that, too. Grandpa Nye never sat me down to “teach” me lessons. He just lived them. Probably the same for your Papaw. Those are the best lessons of all. Your town halls will allow you to do the same.

  • Stipp says:

    I remember. Pretty awesome!

  • Ok – so I guess that means I need to change out of my pj’s when I am working… oh dear… But seriously, I so enjoyed reading about your Grandpa Nye and the valuable lessons he was able to give you when you were young and now to us all – thank you for sharing. Worth remembering not just during this time of year, but all year. Be present! That is truly a gift.

    • David Martin says:

      Ha! PJ’s are to the work-at-home entrepreneur what overalls are to the farmer. Keep it up. They seem to be working. Yes, his presence with me is still alive 41 years after I saw him last. A gift we can each give every day.