How can you balance professional success and personal happiness? Well, picture this: After years of record-breaking success, a Senior Vice President of a Fortune 500 company makes time for the little things - like growing his own garden, spending time with his wife, and looking forward to not slowing down. The person in this picture is Ron Darnell - one of the spearheads of New Mexico’s very own PNM. Ron had time to sit down with me and talk about his dos and do-nots to be successful in your job and in life.
Colt: First off - how do you have time for a garden?? You’re an executive of a Fortune 500 company, crazy successful - and you have time for a garden - your time management is crazy! What are your morning habits?
Ron: I have very irregular sleeping habits. I get up anywhere between 2:30-4:30a - sometimes I can’t sleep, I love coffee so I drink coffee, and that’s when I cover most of my intellectual curiosities, reading, etc. I catch-up on the news, check ESPN, The Wall Street Journal, The ABQ Journal, look at my emails. Then once it’s light, I take the dogs for a 2 mile walk, get back, and Sue [his wife] and I meet in the gym at 7:30… That routine is a kind of meditation for me. At the end of it I have time to think about family, and any problem-solving I might have to deal with throughout the day.
Colt: Do you think that kind of self-discipline has separated you from others in climbing the ladder to CEO?
Ron: Partially. It takes a few other things too: (1) You have to be really passionate, so passionate that you’re willing to give up a lot. Sometimes there’s no such thing as a 40 hr work week, sometimes not even a vacation; (2) You have to take risks - you can’t just sit around and put in the time and expect stuff to open up; (3) You have to sacrifice.
Colt: Looking back, is there anything you would tell your 30 year old self?
Ron: Don’t spend a minute doing what you don’t like to do. Human beings have the amazing ability to adjust, but it’s really bad if you’re doing that emotionally with something you don’t like. People do it with bad relationships, bad marriages.
Colt: I totally agree. You have to take your life into your own hands.
Ron: Do you know who Jim Abbott is? He was a baseball player, and his left arm was deformed, and he would switch his glove from one arm to the other when he needed to throw or catch, and you couldn’t bunt him - he was as good as everyone else. You have the responsibility to make it work. If everybody had that mindset the world would be a better place.
Colt: I’ve worked with a woman who didn’t have any arms and she learned how to fly planes with her feet.
Ron: Same thing there.
Colt: After your long career and all the success you’ve had, what do you feel is your purpose in life? Do you feel like you have a purpose?
Ron: Are you familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes? All is dust and shall return to dust.
Ron: I think you should live day-by-day, and plan for the future, and strive to be better.
Colt: Do you try to push that on the people you work with? Try to make them better?
Ron: I do. There’s a really good book called Turn The Ship Around - it’s about a navy commander who takes over a horrible ship in the navy, and one thing he did was he had everyone report to him everyday for 10 minutes, they couldn’t sit down, and they updated him on things they thought other team members needed to hear or where they needed help. Things were too bad for him to fix them all, so what he did to fix it was facilitated the discussion. He provided a haven for team work.
Ron’s idea of providing a haven for teamwork really struck me. It’s easy to forget that we don’t have to have all the answers to be successful. We just have to start the conversation of how to get those answers.
In our closing remarks, Ron said that one thing he would want to be remembered for is that he didn’t stop with old age. He looks forward to new business adventures as his vibrant years continue on. I doubt Ron will stay in the garden very long.