Saturday, April 13, 2024

Wednesday Evenings with Gary

Gary’s obituary calls him a “renaissance man,” and I couldn’t think of a better description for that smart, funny, eclectic, and entirely odd and quirky 85-year-old friend of mine.

Gary was a brilliant painter, musician, scientist, arborist, cook, gardener, and part-time philosopher. He worked for many years in the chemistry department at Cornell and, together with his wife of nearly 61 years, Florence, built a beautiful home in the forest all by hand, all by themselves. They filled that home with violins that Gary built and/or refurbished and brilliant paintings of local waterfalls and scenery that he meticulously created, surrounded it with gardens that they both cared for, and filled it with a family that they loved dearly.

I’ve known Florence and Gary almost my whole life, as family friends and as part of the same church fellowship. And for many years now, I’ve lived in the same town as them and have been meeting with them on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. On Sundays we usually have a larger group, but for our Wednesday evening Bible studies it’s usually just a few of us—sometimes four, often three, and not too rarely just me and Gary; Florence has been quite ill for years and not often able to participate in our time together much anymore, so she just listens in from her bed when she’s able.

My Wednesday evenings with Gary have been such a treat, and there’s something special I’ve really come to appreciate about the times when it was just him and me together studying a chapter. He had a very active, imaginative, and creative mind, yet got so simple and so sincere when he spoke about things spiritual. No matter what story we read or what topic we studied, Gary would often find a way to bring it back to the basics: childlike love and having a good spirit.

Gary loved Galatians 5 and the bits about the characteristics of the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience (or longsuffering / forbearance), kindness, generosity (or goodness), faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (or temperance)—those qualities that come when God’s spirit is in control in someone’s life, overruling the less desirable qualities of our human nature. Gary would bring it back to those nine simple things again and again, often looking for those key themes in any chapter we were reading to try to identify what he felt he should be focusing on. He would often say that he thought about these “fruits,” as he called them, not because he felt he had them all, but because he knew he needed more of each.

Gary also loved Matthew 5, 6, and 7, which is where Jesus gave the famous sermon on the mount. He would often say that “if that’s the only part of scripture we have, it’s all we need.” And that’s so true. He’d talk about how often Jesus used the example of children and the importance of having a childlike trust and a childlike love. It wasn’t uncommon for Gary to tear up, genuinely so sincere and forthright, when he’d talk about this. He was honest in his deep desire to simplify his love and increase his trust.

Gary had plenty of opinions, ideas, and idiosyncrasies, and I think it’s safe to say that he—just like any of us who are indeed very human—wasn’t entirely perfect. But the Gary I got to know and love, especially the last few years as he cared for Florence after her strokes and through her growing dementia and expanding need for outside caregivers, became increasingly soft, gentle, loving, and caring. For a long, long time before Florence got sick, Gary would sleep outside in a tree house. It was just one of the odd things that made him special. But, since her needs increased, he did something he didn’t like to do—sleep indoors—and he did it willingly because he knew that’s where he was needed. I think that speaks volumes about who Gary was, deep in his heart.

This past Wednesday, I was on my way out the door to head to Gary’s for our regular Wednesday evening study when I got a call that they had just found Gary sitting in his favorite chair, lifeless. I had been texting with Gary earlier that morning and all seemed well, and his son had checked on him in the early afternoon and Gary was joking around and in good spirits. But, between shifts of Florence’s caregivers, Gary must have sat down in his chair and, just like that, checked out. What a way to go!

Gary’s funeral is Tuesday. Hopefully that gathering of friends and family will be an honor to the good buddy many of us had in that odd, quirky, wonderful old man. Then Wednesday will come the next day, and it’ll be different. I’m sure that, wherever Wednesday evenings find me from now on, Gary’s memory will be ever present.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Firing a Client

Ugh. The thought of firing a client makes you cringe, doesn’t it? At least, if you’re a conflict avoider like I am, it’s a very unpleasant situation to find yourself in. But, it occasionally is necessary.

I’ve only had to do this a handful of times, and I admit I let it go way too far before I pulled the trigger. But you know what? As my dear friend Fahim says, you often have to “say no so you can grow.” Hanging on to those who are a drain and not a boost does harm, both to you and to them. It harms you by sucking away your time, energy, and zest, and it harms them by leading them on, hand-feeding them, and not allowing them to leave the nest and make it on their own.

This world is full of takers—those people who want as much as they can get for free without putting in the investment of time or resources that others put in for the same thing. And the world is also full of abusers—those people who feel that they can treat others disrespectfully or as if they were less-than in order to make themselves feel more important. Takers and abusers should never be pandered to, because in doing so you just reinforce their bad behaviors. Takers can sometimes be given a little more grace in hopes that they’ll eventually see value and become a client, however abusers must not be tolerated and need to be fired. Immediately.

Firing a client is like ripping off a bandage—painful, but necessary. One of our clients recently had to do this to someone who had been verbally abusive to their staff over an issue that wasn’t actually an issue, and they put their foot down. They told that person point blank that they’re no longer permitted to do business at their establishment, as mistreatment and abuse of their staff will absolutely not be tolerated. I applauded this! It’s so important to set a standard and to not let those who feel that they can get away with that type of behavior.

Please note that, when firing a client, just like when firing a team member, you need to be very clear with the reason why you’re doing it. It needs to be done with cause and not because of a simple ideological disagreement, personality clash, or other non-threatening reason. I want to be very clear that I believe wholeheartedly in businesses who have an inclusive, welcoming, love-all, serve-all mission. But when a client is being mean and that meanness crosses over into abuse, then my goodness you need to protect your staff and your business and get rid of that client. In doing so, be sure to outline the cause, be specific, and be very clear that you’re well within your rights to cut them off because of it.

Sometimes firing—or at least putting up a firm boundary—can and should be more gentle, especially in the case of takers…and especially especially in the case where those takers may not realize that they’re being takers. At AYM High Consultants, we’ve been recently having some discussions on how we make sure we honor our dedicated, paying clients with our best resources and time. While we want to do our best to accept outreach from others and potential clients and those who just book an initial 30-minute call but don’t go further, our managing partners find themselves fielding inquiries and one-off questions most of the day from those who seem to want free advice but not commit to our full coaching. So, we had to come up with a kind, polite response to let them know that we had to limit that contact unless they wanted to sign up. Here’s what we came up with:

Thank you so much for reaching out. We must respect our clients who have subscribed to our Monthly Accountability Package and above by reserving our time and resources for their outreach. We'd love it if you would join them so we can assist you further! Please check out to see all of our offerings and how we can best be your partner in success.

We’re not outright firing those people, as we do hope they’ll come on board as true clients and see the value in doing so. Instead, we’re protecting those who have put their hard-earned resources into an investment with our coaching, and in turn are finding themselves growing their businesses exponentially and covering that wise investment again and again. It’s our responsibility—as limited humans with limited time and limited patience—to be very careful with those resources, giving them to those who appreciate and value it the most.

Knowing your worth and your value is so important. We coach people at AYM High all the time about this very basic concept and guide them to pricing strategies so they don’t sell themselves short. So many people—and I’ve been here so often, learning from much experience—consistently and gravely undervalue their time and expertise. If you are a professional, an expert, a specialist, or someone with knowledge, skill, and information that’s unique and specialized, then you have tremendous value.

It's your right and responsibility to put up boundaries for clients who are being takers, and to outright fire—with cause—those clients who are being abusive. It’s not fun, but it’s important. Your peace of mind after it’s done will be well worth it.


Marty Johnson is the Communication and Vision Coach at AYM High Consultants, a columnist, and an editor, producing the mail and business center industry's leading magazine, MBC Today. In 2023, he sold his popular and growing brand, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, and retired from shopkeeper life to focus on writing and coaching. Subscribe to his Ask Uncle Marty™ newsletter and read more at; follow him on socials @askunclemarty. #AskUncleMarty

This article was co-published on the AYM High Consultants blog and on on April 12, 2024.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

One of Those Days


When it rains, it pours…

Have you ever had “one of those days?” You know, the ones where, right from the start, everything just seems off. Those are the day when, if bad news is going to come, it’s going to come in droves; when coffee is guaranteed to not only spill, but to stain your white shirt; when you’ll stub your toe on the coffee table you walk by just fine any other day; when your cat will leave you a gift that you’ll somehow step on perfectly on target in the dark; when you can’t find that document that you know you were looking at just the other day; when you just want to get back in bed and start over again.

I’m in the middle of one of those days right now. So far, I’m still spill-free (though, anyone who knows me knows that even just a normal day spill-free is a stretch for me, so I’m sure that’ll change any moment) and haven’t stubbed my toe…yet. Sparing you the gory details, let’s just say that, so far, today has been a doozy.

We often hear that our character is built just as much by our reactions as it is by our actions, and I believe that to be very true. Yet, our reactions are often much harder to control than our actions. It’s situations that come up—storms, trials, hardships, tragedies, surprises, or so many other things—that test us. If you want to get spiritual, it’s the fire that purifies us, as is a concept of many prominent faiths. The road of life is not smooth cruising, nor is it intended to be, but rather it’s the obstacles, roadblocks, speedbumps, detours, and traffic jams we encounter along the way that, as cliché as it sounds, “build character” and give us the experience, training, development, muscles, and scars that give us value and allow us to find that gold that’s deep inside everyone.

We all have “one of those days” from time to time. They’re not fun, but I believe they’re good for us. The tragedy of those days would be if we didn’t learn from them or grow alongside them. So, after the bursts of expletives are over, the tears are shed, the anxiety peaks, and the heart stops racing, when you do have a day that’s unpleasant, do yourself a favor and take a moment alone to debrief after it’s done so you don’t miss the little golden nuggets that just may have come to the surface during the upheaval.

So, today, as I sort through the muck of the day, I need to remember that this is polishing muck. This is a mud bath. This is going to make me appreciate good things more and have more patience when things don’t work out as planned; this trains my adaptivity muscles and prepares my pivoting neurons; this strengthens my resolve and reminds me, once again, of the big picture and what is really ultimately important.

Tomorrow will be a good day!



Marty Johnson is the Communication and Vision Coach at AYM High Consultants, a columnist, and an editor, producing the mail and business center industry's leading magazine, MBC Today. In 2023, he sold his popular and growing brand, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, and retired from shopkeeper life to focus on writing and coaching. Subscribe to his Ask Uncle Marty™ newsletter and read more at; follow him on socials @askunclemarty. #AskUncleMarty


This article was co-published on the AYM High Consultants blog and on on April 11, 2024.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Dumpster Delight

Here’s a sentence I didn’t imagine myself writing: I just had the most delightful experience with a dumpster!

As I’ve mentioned recently, I’m in the process of getting my house ready to list. Part of that process includes the need for a dumpster for some renovation scrap, as well as to purge some accumulations from many years in the shipping and storage business that have piled up in my garage.

A few years ago, I had to rent a dumpster for another project. I shopped around and came across a company that blew its competitor out of the water on price—nearly half of what the big go-to garbage conglomerate in our area was charging. So, I went with Bellisario. I remember it being a very good experience and that they were very easy to work with, so for this current dumpster rental I went back to them.

Let me tell you, this time I was not only impressed by a very good experience, but it’s safe to say I was quite surprised and delighted by the ease, rates, and overall positive vibes I got from renting a big metal box. My colleague, friend, and mentor Fahim has a tagline in his mission that he aims to “make the mundane extraordinary,” and I feel like Bellisario must share that same directive.

The Bellisario website was so easy to use and book a dumpster, with clear options, fair and up-front pricing, and an outlined process that makes even the most dumpster-unfamiliar people feel comfortable. After booking, a few days later I got a call at a reasonable morning 10 a.m. hour (something so important, yet often so overlooked by early-morning businesses like those in the construction field tend to be) from the most chipper person I think I’ve ever received a call from, telling me he was outside with the dumpster and just wanted to be sure he placed it in the spot I preferred it to be in. I was home, so I went outside to wave at the driver as he dropped the dumpster exactly on target, considering easy of loading and back panel opening, and couldn’t help but keep a ridiculous grin on my face because of the overarching joy that this dumpster deliverer shared. Is it weird to say that I’m thoroughly looking forward to filling it up this week? To top it off, the dumpster is like super new and super clean; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dumpster in such great shape!

Being a small business owner for many years, I believe strongly in supporting local when possible, as well as uplifting those companies whose service and fairness is top-notch. So, I just must share how pleased I am with Bellisario. This likely is my last Ithaca-area dumpster rental, but for any of my friends still in the Finger Lakes region, if you ever need to haul away some trash, please give them a shot. You will be both surprised and delighted.

And for those who are wondering what the secret sauce is in business, as is a question I get asked a lot in my coaching, it's really quite simple. Take my friend Fahim's advice and "make the mundane extraordinary." Surprise and delight your guests and clients with an experience that they will not just enjoy, but they'll want to share with others. Do your best...and then some. Go above and beyond. Provide more value than expected. Be relationship-oriented and not focused on one-and-done transactions. With that, you can join the ranks of Bellisario in finding huge success...and sleeping soundly at night, knowing that in your little area you're making a big difference, putting positivity into a world that so desperately needs it, and being a very good neighbor.

Marty Johnson is the Communication and Vision Coach at AYM High Consultants, a columnist, and an editor, producing the mail and business center industry's leading magazine, MBC Today. In 2023, he sold his popular and growing brand, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, and retired from shopkeeper life to focus on writing and coaching. Subscribe to his Ask Uncle Marty™ newsletter and read more at; follow him on socials @askunclemarty. #AskUncleMarty

This article was co-published on the AYM High blog and on April 2, 2024.