The Red Card Disconnect

IMG_0241I discovered something years ago as I swam the shark infested waters of my relationship with my sister. I’d like to share this observation with you in hopes you too, can avoid getting eaten. Before I explain what I discovered, I should give you a little information about the relationship my sister and I developed over the years. First, I must tell you she passed away this last year and it was a sad day, indeed. No matter how controversial our relationship was at times, I loved her dearly. In fact, I called her every morning before I drove to work and most everyday as I drove home.

My sister and I were very different in many ways, but the same in others. She was a liberal socialist that believed all the money should be divided evenly between everybody no matter what job you had or how hard you worked. Well, that wasn’t exactly her stance, but it’s in the ball park. On the other hand, I am a conservative capitalist that believes it is our responsibility to help those less fortunate but compensation should match effort and impact of the work done.

We also found ourselves at odds on many other things. She was adamant about women’s rights, while I liked to focus on the rights of all people: men, women, children, the elderly and the unborn. I think it goes like this: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Don’t they call it the Bill of Rights? We also disagreed on religion and government.

So what did we have in common? It’s simple. We loved each other. So since we had so much territory for disagreement, how did we talk so often with only minor problems? That’s a great question so let me explain.

You would think that we must have limited the areas that could be considered open for discussion. You would be wrong. All topics were fair game, but there were rules of engagement. First, every call started with topics that were not controversial and allowed us to warm up before we opened up. Our favorite topic was the weather. “It’s hot here today in Texas,” I would say. “Hot here in Oklahoma as well,” she would respond. You can’t get in trouble starting with the weather. We can’t control it but we can sure complain about it.

Next, she would ask about my family after which I would ask about hers. It let me practice my active listening skills. Just about now things would always turn a little more serious. So what would that be? Politics! I won’t tell you which side I would take,  but you can probably guess. She saw the world in a completely different way than did I. She owned her own business in crime prevention and later was a counselor at a prison pre-release center. She was a first responder for rape victims in her town and held group sessions for pre-release inmates.

If God keeps track of the good you do, he had to get extra paper for my sister’s unselfish acts. I on the other hand, am a singer/song writer/dreamer turned businessman by necessity. A successful businessman by the way, so my view of the elephant was completely different than hers. So, to have successful discussions about anything other than the weather, we had to establish rules.

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First Rule: either party had the right to call time out.  It had to be accepted by the other partner, no matter what. This usually occurred when the conversation became just too emotional and crossed over the line from helpful to hurtful.

Second Rule: the person calling time out should pick a future time to continue the conversation and that was what usually happened. However, sometimes the topic was too much for us to handle in a gentle manner and was postponed indefinitely. This happened rarely, but it did happen. Abortion was one of those topics. It was just too emotional for us to speak about without damaging our relationship.

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Third Rule: when she told me about a problem she was having, I often offered advice. This almost always ended the meaningful part of the conversation. One day my wife gave me the book, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. I wish I had read this 20 years sooner. But it wasn’t too late for me to change. So I did. When my sister would tell me about a problem she was having, I followed these rules and it worked.

⚪  Listen

⚪ Support her feeling of frustration

⚪ Assure her that she would come up with the correct answer, as she had many times before when faced with tough decisions

⚪ Only offer advice when specifically asked for advice

IMG_0243Fourth Rule: the red card disconnect. Here’s how it works. I want you to think of a soccer player (European football). The player is in the middle of the field surrounded by a few other players, but mostly open spaces. The game is being played fairly with no obvious fouls and you are only thinking about playing A game. Then it happens, you turn to tackle the ball away from a competitor and trip him instead. The referee is sure you did it on purpose and up comes the yellow card. You put your face in both hands, and raise them to the sky, proclaiming your innocence, but to no avail. You’re marked as an offender. You’re now being watched and many believe getting the red card is just a matter of time. Every mistake you make is magnified, with no tolerance or understanding that you’re only human.

At every turn the red card is just one misstep away. Why are they looking at you so differently than before? Because your offense has disconnected you from the mainstream.  Just make the slightest mistake and you’ll be dismissed from the field of play. As an offender, you never gets the benefit of the doubt.

Now think about a relationship. When you are connected you can make a few minor missteps, but because of your connection, all is forgiven. Your words aren’t misinterpreted and you’re given the benefit of the doubt. You are, by the way, human and humans are not infallible. There is no ill intent driving the behavior and therefore no future bad behavior should be expected. But what if you already had a yellow card? What if the connection was already in jeopardy? If you and your partner or even you and your customer aren’t close, every word is suspect.

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When you are disconnected, every mistake is magnified. Here’s what happens. The slightest misstep, the most innocent comment, a glance away or a shrug of the shoulders and you guessed it, the red card. You’re dismissed from the field. I know relationships that are played like this and I bet you do, too.  These relationships are almost broken and just one foul away from the red card. Don’t let this happen to you.

Most Important Rule: don’t let the disconnect linger or minor offenses will be perceived as flagrant fouls and the red card isn’t far behind. Fix that small disconnect now.

Steve Haberly

Next week find out how to use the dying art of the handwritten word to stay connected or reconnect.

Connect and Collect

IMG_0214Connect and collect. What I’m about to tell you might just make you rich or even save your life. But first, you must open your mind and believe that anything is possible. Remember, the foundation of all my blogs is pretty simple.  Over the years I have experienced and learned many things and through all my experiences there has been a common thread. No matter how far I strayed from this universal truth I always came back. So what is that thread? Everything of any value depends on CONNECTION. That’s it. Pure and simple.

IMG_0008Let me give you some examples. Scientists believe that the connection at birth between a baby and a mother figure has a huge influence on the ultimate mental wellbeing of the child as it grows into adolescence and adulthood. A connection allows the baby to discover that she is secure, but independent from mom. Those really are her hands and feet and she can move them anytime she wants.

Your connection with school friends makes your feel like part of something. Your connection with a partner can bring you happiness. A connection with your faith can bring you peace.

What about other impacts from connection. If everything depends on connection (and without this connection failure is a sure thing) then we might say interdependency could also be the outcome of connection. Two things that are connected, depend on each other. Let’s take this one step further.

The philosophy of connection  would tell us that the relationship between the two connected variables may evolve to a higher level where one variable can change the other. If you will buy into this concept, then let me suggest to you that one variable may even control the other. A higher evolution of connection. So you really think I’m crazy now. Or maybe sitting on a stool in some dark corner reflecting on the impact of sunspots on ground squirrels mating cycles. But I’m not.

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W all agree that the brain is an amazing organ. We understand so little about the brain that we must admit we don’t know exactly how it works. But what we do know is this, computers still can’t do what the human brain does every day, the decisions it makes,  The paths it navigates through life, etc.  So what if we were able to utilize the total power of our brain, could we influence the things inside us? Of course. Our thoughts can speed up or slow down our heart rate. Our thoughts of passion can make our face blush. If we think about our bad knee long enough the knee begins to hurt. Our brain is connected to our knee and influences our evaluation of its condition. But what about outside of our bodies? Could our brain control or at least influence things outside our bodies? Is the brain that strong? I believe the answer is yes and I hope to prove it to you.

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I played some sort of sport most of my life. For me as a child it was baseball. I was the average player, not a star, but at least a contributor. But as an average player I never got nominated to the All Star Team until one fate filled year .When I was about 10 years old I somehow got the nod. Amazing. My father didn’t go to the game that day but we can talk about that another time when Alcoholism is my topic. A neighbor took me to the game. Nice guy, maybe 18 years old at best. It was a really hot summer day in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Hot and dusty. The plains of America are like that. You could get your uniform dirty even if you never got off the bench.

As I walked behind the backstop I saw something shining  in the Oklahoma dirt. I bent over and picked up a shiny Mercury dime. Wow. This is my lucky day, I thought to myself. I sat on the bench the first few innings and then the coach put me in right field. That made little sense to me since I was a catcher and didn’t have any experience in outfield. But I went out there anyway and that inning I got exactly ZERO balls hit my way. But I did get a chance to see a grasshopper eat a blade of grass until it was gone and so was the inning.

We were behind by 3 runs when it was my turn at bat. I picked up a bat that looked good to me and then stopped. I reached in my pocket and found that Mercury dime. My lucky day, I thought. This is my lucky day. When I stepped to the plate, the bases were loaded. The first pitch was low and outside. I couldn’t have hit it if I wanted to. The next pitch was right down the middle. I was too slow. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

The next pitch came so close to my ear that my hat fell off. Some kids laughed but most were just dirty, hot and tired and wondering if this was really America’s game. I just kept thinking that this is my lucky day. I found that dime, didn’t I? The next pitch was somewhere around the plate. I’m really not sure where, but all I remember to this day was the sound of wood on rawhide. The ball exploded into the outfield and past the center fielder and clear to the fence. Maybe he was looking at a grasshopper of his own, but it doesn’t matter. It was a grand slam home run. We won the game by one run in the last inning with my hit. It was my lucky day!

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Was it my talent that connected with that ball and won the game that day or was it something else? Was it my fate? No, I believe my fate was to ride the bench and finish by striking out and leaving the runners stranded on base. But not this day. Not my lucky day! Even now,  I believe it was something else. I changed what the fates had planned for me. That dime made me believe. It made me believe in myself. My lucky day. The power of my mind over the things around me. All I had to do was believe. That day has had a huge impact on my life and I think about it every day.

So roll the film forward a bit. For most of my life if I found a dime on the ground I would put it in my pocket and say “This is My Lucky Day” Then one day a few years ago I thought: “Why do I wait for luck to find me. Why don’t I find luck?” Now after I get dressed I walk by my dresser and reach for the shiny coin I placed there the night before and say “This is My Lucky Day”. If I forget, there is also a dime lying on my desk at work, plus dimes in the drink cups in my truck. It was an amazing moment when I realized that my mind is so powerful it could change my destiny. I MAKE MY OWN LUCK.

So what does this have to do with getting rich? I’m glad you asked. I was recently on a flight to Las Vegas with my wife and daughter for a short getaway. The flight was full and loading passengers was really slow, so I had a chance to look a faces. I would estimate that 50% of the people I saw were here to enjoy this amazing place and part of their fun might be a little gambling. But there were those few faces that had a certain look. They seemed to look past the present and into the future, a future that only they could see. Were they the ones? The ones that had the dime in their pocket. I wish I knew.  I wish I could have followed their weekend to see the outcome, but I can’t help believing they walked away with their share of the winnings. If believing you could win can influence the fates and your ability to win, than they had the connection. A connection with luck.

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A connection with luck, just like I had felt so many years ago. This is their lucky day.

Epilogue

I played two sessions per day and with four sessions behind me I was up maybe $100. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but I only gamble $100 per session. If I lose that, the session is over. I do adhere to a simple rule: never count on a losing streak to end and never walk away from a winning streak. It had been an okay few days of gambling, not impressive, but I was holding my own, until it happened.

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The next day was a disaster. Both sessions were losers and quick losers. I barely got to sit down before I was standing and walking away. Ouch! When we got back to the room, I changed my jeans and made a discovery. There was no dime in my pocket. Not even one. I had left the dime in my other pants. Was that why I lost? Who knows? But I won’t make that mistake again. Tomorrow will be my lucky day.

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Make your own luck.  Connect and collect.

Steve Haberly

Next week:  In the game of life you realize you have lost your connection.  You’ve been given the proverbial red card. What do you do now?