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Chip Shots: 8 Life Lessons I've Learned in 80 Years

8 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 80 Years – Jim Stahl talks everything from backswings to business

It feels like just yesterday I was driving from Georgia to Ohio after purchasing Cincinnati Belting and Transmission back in 1975 at 36 years old with three kids and my wife in tow. This year I am approaching a monumental milestone – I will turn 80 years old this month, and my successes and failures have taught me a lot along the way. If I could impart any wisdom on my 18-year-old self, I would share these eight things I’ve learned over the past 80 years – one for each decade.

    1. The value of friendship – My eight grandchildren are the biggest blessings. Their positivity radiates and their innocence is heartwarming. Although it’s common to think older generations teach the younger, my grandchildren have shown me the opposite; inspiring and educating me every single day. Above all, they have taught me to value friendship. Some of my favorite memories are when we all get together in Sea Island to spend time as family and friends.
    2. Life is hard, but tough times don’t last, tough people do – Life is all about the ebb and flow – there will be peaks and there will be valleys. The true test is when you are at your lowest of low and can’t seem to catch a break – that’s when you see the most personal growth and where you truly find out who you are as a person. You can’t prevent the bad times from coming, but you can choose how you react to them.
    3. Value your people – There are many aspects of building a successful business, but the most important should always be your people. You must appreciate the people who are working with you and for you. Afterall, who are you if you can’t stand behind your people? We all have to get up and go to work every day so you might as well enjoy the company you keep.  The fact that these people have helped support your dreams and help make your business what it is today is invaluable. You should always strive to create an environment where people look forward to coming to work every day. I will never forget when the 2009 recession hit and, as a business, we were faced with the difficult decision of cutting costs where we could. I presented a proposition to my staff and we collectively decided to take a pay cut across the board to eliminate any layoffs during this hard time. It was one of the most memorable moments we’ve shared at CBT. This was when many of us realized that this was more than just a job – we’re a family.
    4. People will let you down or disappoint you along the way, but don’t let them spoil it for everyone else – I believe in giving second chances freely because people are innately good and deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt in most cases. Often times people harden over the years when they’ve been wronged or treated poorly, but don’t let that happen to you. Keep building and developing prosperous relationships as one of your top priorities and treat everyone with the respect you wish them to show you. If you choose to live your life in a positive light it will be sure to rub off on others.
    5. Be a better listener than a talker – It may be a shock for some to hear, but you don’t know everything! There’s only one infallible person on the planet, and that’s the Pope! In all seriousness, you will learn the most from having a humble heart and listening to what others have to say.
    6. We only get one trip here on this earth, so enjoy it – As many of you know, this past year I lost someone extremely special to me. Bill Shannon joined CBT just a few years after I purchased the company and he stayed by my side for over 40 years. As hard as his passing was and still is, I look back on the memories shared with Bill and smile. We thoroughly enjoyed our time together and in fact, I can’t remember a single fight between the two of us. Bill was my counterpart, always there to listen and bounce ideas off of. Losing him has reminded me that life is short, and we must spend time doing what we love, with the people we love. That is what’s most important in this life.
    7. Always remain humble – Speaking of spending time doing what you love – golf and business are two things that bring me great joy in life, I’ve seen the highs and lows of both.  When you’re on top you have to remind yourself that you’re only the winner until the next guy comes along. Be proud of your successes, but don’t think you’re invincible. Learn from your experiences and continue to grow into the best version of yourself.
    8. Find and fight for your partner – I wouldn’t be where I am today, and CBT wouldn’t be what it is today, without the help of my better half, Mrs. Stahl. This year we’re celebrating our 54th wedding anniversary, which is something I’m most proud of. More often than not, people throw in the towel when the going gets tough, but just as I mentioned before, there will be good times and bad times in marriage. It’s not going to be “perfect” so lose the expectations and embrace the imperfections. Mrs. Stahl has been my partner in all aspects of my life, from helping with the business to raising our children. Some might think the work I did was difficult, but she did the hard part. She got the kids to school, helped with homework, and raised them into the wonderful people they are today. I owe so much of who I am today to her.



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