New book shares valuable OPE: ‘Other people’s experience’

From left, Jeffrey Kappen, Tony Thelen and Matthew Mitchell co-wrote “Am I Doing This Right?”

By Steve Dinnen

You’re successful, right? But what if you could succeed just a tad more in both your business and personal life? How could you actually enjoy the fruits of your labor?

Three Iowa business experts answer those questions in a new book called “Am I Doing This Right?” published by Business Expert Press. Its subtitle, “Foundations for a successful career and a fulfilling life,” sums up its premise pretty well.

One of the authors is Tony Thelen, a longtime executive with Johnston-based John Deere Financial, the equipment financing branch of agribusiness giant Deere & Co. He wrote the book with Matthew Mitchell and Jeffrey Kappen, both business professors at Drake University.

To succeed in farming, banking, industrial production – or any other line of work – you obviously need some knowledge. The book’s foreword tells us there are two basic ways to learn beyond the university campus: trial and error, and OPE, also known as “other people’s experience.” Since trial and error takes so much time, the authors share OPE from business executives across the country whose stories and anecdotes offer plenty of ideas for anyone starting or restarting their career or pivoting in a new direction.

For starters, the book suggests you should identify your self-image, to decide who you are and who you want to be. Then consider your personal brand, or how others see you. You can start by simply filling in the blanks: “I want to be known for ______ so that I can deliver _______.” After you figure out who you are and where you want to go, you can work on how to get there – and learn along the way.

“Keep reinventing yourself,” retired John Deere executive Bob Timmons advises. “We can all slip into routines that stifle creativity, create lethargy and limit our view of possibilities. Being a lifelong learner is a way to keep one’s personal edge sharp.”

The question mark in the book’s title is helpful because it subtly prompts you to regularly examine whether you’re on the proper path. Kappen calls this the calendar test. “Look back after 90 days,” he writes. “Is it the way you want to live?”

Depending on your answer, you can adjust or stay the course.

The book is for sale on its own website or on Amazon.

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