The Lady or the Tiger

The Lady or the Tiger

In my last blog we see a man running. A closer look shows he is chasing a beautiful woman. Zoom in and we realize that the man is being chased by a tiger.

What are we really seeing? Is the man running from the tiger or is he chasing the lady? Is there a difference?Running is running, you must admit. So, is running to catch something better than running away from another thing? It might be even worse.

I read an article by Leonard Kim in which he says, “When you decide to chase something, what you decide to chase starts to run away.” So with that in mind, can the man ever catch the lady? And, if the man does catch the lady, will he be happy? 

What if it’s the chase that brings the rush and not the conquest? What if the conquest usually ends in disappointment? One of life’s rules is this: the fantasy of the conquest is almost always better than the conquest itself. Do we run because we believe we can, or run because we believe we must?

Let’s suppose that the man catches the lady and they stop to enjoy the bliss of the moment. As she falls in his arms, her kiss is everything he hoped it would be.

As they enjoy the fantasy fulfilled, they are eaten by the tiger.

The tiger did not stop to rest. The tiger that chases us never rests. Was catching the lady worth being devoured by the tiger? Most would say no. With that in mind, it would seem that we should face the tiger before we ever chase and catch the lady.

I’ve been lucky to achieve most of my life goals. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I have a wonderful marriage, three talented and loving children and a great job. I work for a company that puts people ahead of profit. Within this corporation I’ve been able to build a company that has grown from $5 million in sales to nearly $300 million.

I’m not boasting, well maybe just a little, but I’ve been able to grab almost every brass ring as the carousel of life went around.

What’s your tiger? Maybe it will help you identify yours if I tell you mine. I am one of those individuals that never stops running. I really don’t know how to rest and relax. In many ways it is my strength but someday it will probably be my undoing.

We will talk about both the hows and the whys, but for now, let’s discuss the whys. Let me start out by telling you, in my case, the why was the tiger. My motivation to succeed was my fear of the pain that comes with failure. To be first, for fear of being last, and at times in my life, to be first, for fear of being second.

My personal life is not much different. Every day I feel I must accomplish something because I do not want the pain of accomplishing nothing. So I run. Not literally, but figuratively. I get up early every day and I look for projects. I need something to do and something to accomplish. If I do nothing, it makes me an easy target for the tiger, and the tiger never rests. Neither do I.

There are three ways to live in the jungle. The most common situation is we forever run from the tiger. Second, we can turn and fight the tiger, but the injuries we would suffer could be terrible or even fatal.

But there is a third option. We can turn and embrace the tiger.

We can discover what chases us and instead of fighting it or running from it, we can use it to our advantage. If we no longer fear the tiger, and use the tiger’s pace to quicken our own, we might indeed catch the lady.

So what’s the moral of the story? Only by facing our tiger, and using that fear to our advantage, will we ever be able to catch the lady.

Steve Haberly

Don’t miss my next blog, Catching the Lady

Just a little more Love and Passion

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How can I hope to explain, in only a few words, what might be the most powerful force in world? It’s a huge topic. In many ways you might say it’s the Holy Grail of subjects. It’s what we all search for, love and passion. But maybe the real issue isn’t love but passion. Are they the same? I don’t think so. Love seems selfless and has a giving nature while passion is often selfish and all about taking. But without passion is real love even possible? Maybe not. But let’s deal with these one at a time.

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Psychology Today talks about the different types of love. The first is Eros or passionate love. You can also think of this as romantic love. It’s a madness that comes over us and carries us away, but can also cause need and dependency.

IMG_0646 The second is Philia, commonly called brotherly love;  a relationship based on trust, dependability, and friendship. Psychology Today mentions that Philia, born from Eros, in turn feeds back to Eros, strengthening each. Friends are able to live fuller lives by teaching and supporting each other.

It’s been proven that most relationships start with physical attraction.

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First, a glance, then some words and next a touch. But we often mistake this Eros love for the kind that lasts. I believe without Philia love, Eros will fade and might not come back. So we chase it from partner to partner.

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We light the fire, it warms that part inside that yearns for someone to fill our emptiness. The flames are so bright that we’re sure it’s eternal, but alas, it’s not. Is it our fault or maybe our partner’s fault? We’re not sure who’s to blame, but we know it’s gone. Physical love is only temporary, but maybe it can be made permanent if you understand the secret. If I tell you the secret, it won’t be a secret, now will it? But I guess it could be our secret. So if you promise not to tell, I’ll share it with just you.

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Erotic or physical love burns so hot that no fuel can keep it burning at such intensity. It bursts into flame, has its moment and then dies back to embers. In fact, if that intensity continued we would all be devoured by the fire, left as ash to be swept away by time. So how can this magic, that is so temporary, be rekindled? Although the flame may die down but the glow from the embers can last forever, if fanned from time to time. To have the opportunity to rekindle the flame, love based on friendship must reside.

Let’s talk about friendship and why it’s the glue that holds the relationship together and allows the fire to burn again. Friendship is all about trust. Trust creates the foundation from which embers can again become an inferno.

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If friendship requires trust, then building and maintaining trust is necessary for passion to return. Trust is built as promises are made and kept, not just big promises but ALL promises. Each promise made, and kept, goes in the trust bank account and as the bank account builds, trust deepens and the friendship is built. But remember, trust is not given, it’s earned. Something that is given can come quickly, but that which is earned is built over time.

A relationship built slowly one brick at a time, one promise at a time, can withstand the storms that will surely come. A relationship built too quickly may not weather even the first winds that life can deliver. A relationship built on trust and fashioned over time into a solid foundation becomes the platform on which to build a lifetime of passion.

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Passionate love is like walking on the high wire; exhilarating but frightening at the same time. There is danger but there’s also an amazing rush; a pounding of your heart and a quickening of your breathing but don’t fear, your friendship is your safety net.

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Lovers that aren’t friends are like leafs on a tree. For most trees, they’re only temporary. They look beautiful but when the season is done, they are gone.

Think of it this way. The flames burn bright but die to a glowing ember. Trust allows you to protect the ember and gives you the foundation to fan the flame again. In great relationships this happens again and again and again. Passionate love is temporary but returns again as trust is rewarded with passion. A lasting relationship needs to be built on a foundation of trust and friendship.

Lovers are usually focused on their own satisfaction but the explosion that comes with passionate love is something we all want and desire. On the other hand, true friends are focused on the needs and wants of their friend. It would seem to be a perfect combination. A loving couple who can combine the fire that comes from passion with the caring, giving nature of their friendship has the magic.  They provide a safe place from which to experience passionate love. A place where each person is focused on the pleasure of the other. A tight wire with a safety net.

That’s why I am absolutely convinced that lovers who have and keep the magic also have a strong friendship as their foundation.

Steve Haberly

 

The Electronic Disconnect

IMG_0266About 10 years ago, I got a device that has changed my business and personal life, and not necessarily for the best. It was a BlackBerry cell phone.  As I carried it in a holster that clipped over my belt, I suddenly felt armed and dangerous. I was connected 24/7 and somehow thought this would make me more productive. And maybe it did, in some ways.

I remember one evening when the impact of my new device showed its ugly head. I was at dinner with my wife. It wasn’t a special occasion, but as I’ve told her many times, any evening with her is special. We sat outside, under a clear Texas sky at a local restaurant, and as our drinks arrived she asked, “Would you like to be alone with your BlackBerry?” I was stunned realizing I had been so busy responding to emails that I hadn’t really noticed her, or the new dress she wore just for tonight. I turned off the phone and gave it her to put in her purse. I told her I was surprised, but also embarrassed to find myself so distracted in that way.  I’d like to tell you that I learned my lesson and this never happened again, but bad behavior has a way of resurfacing.

Let me circle back to my first sentence, “It changed my business.” Before smart phones, the business worked like this: a customer or employee would call and if they couldn’t reach me they could call the office and leave a message for me to return their call. 95% of the messages were not an emergency and asked that I call back at my earliest convenience. I would look at the international origin of the call and plan my return call accordingly.  If it was an emergency, I would return the call immediately no matter what the time difference.

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Those days are gone. Since my business is global, I get emails, texts and messages 24 hours a day and often the expected response time is NOW. However, the business itself hasn’t changed that much. 95% of the problems are still not urgent and could easily be handled the next day. The business may not have changed but the expectations of the customers and employees has changed significantly. The expected return response from me is immediate. Casual has been raised to important and important to urgent. What was excellent response time is now expected. So, is my job more productive? I’m really not convinced it is. Am I working harder than before? Absolutely. Harder, but not better. Not a very good trade.

We visited the island of Koh Somui after a business trip to Bangkok. It is off the eastern coast of Thailand and has beautiful beaches and wonderful people.  After dinner, Debby and I walked down the beach to a club where people sit on big pillows on the sand and enjoy island drinks.  Listening to the waves and the music under a starry sky was truly romantic. This is what we saw.

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But not everyone enjoyed the romantic ambiance as we did.  A young couple sat on the pillows just in front of us and never looked at the waves, the moon, or the stars.  I’m not sure they ever looked at each other. Both were on their smart phones the whole time texting or tweeting or something. This is what they saw.

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What happened to soft words of love spoken at just the right moment?

At dinner, just a few nights ago, I watched a couple seated at the table across from us. She was trying to parent their unhappy 6 year old while the dad never looked up from his phone. Present but absent. Any guesses whether that couple was connected or not? She was struggling with her job as a parent while he had electronically taken himself away from that responsibility. What message did that send?  To his son it said, “I am not interested in your problems or needs. I have more important things to attend to.” Then, to his wife or partner, “This is your job to parent him and it’s probably your fault he’s misbehaving. If you were a better mother this wouldn’t happen.” What is she thinking, “My parents never approved of you before we got married. They said you wouldn’t be a good father, and maybe they were right. I deserve better.” I wanted to go over, take his phone away and ask him to be a parent. Of course I didn’t. It’s not my monkey. If this problem isn’t my monkey, how come I feel it biting and scratching me?

Any time I see people trade their humaness for electronicness, I feel the uncomfortable sensation of loss. Loss of what you may ask? Loss of the connection that comes with eye contact, speech inflection and body language. Without those things, aren’t we becoming less human? I believe we are. As we lose the nuances of human communication we lose the ability to completely express emotions: love, anger, empathy, concern, desire, joy, etc.  When you can’t see my face or hear my words, my intentions can be easily misunderstand.

Steve Bartlett, CEO of Social Chain, is an award winning entrepreneur and speaker. He takes things a step further, believing social media may be making us sick.  Take a look.

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The passion of the another moment was destroyed by the electronic vehicle I used and its lack of humanness.  Debby and I had a very wonderful dinner and evening together. The next day I wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked that night. This is what I intended to text, “Last night you looked so beautiful, you were absolutely delicious.” I misspelled delicious, so the spell check changed the word and the text said this, “Last night you looked so beautiful, you were absolutely deciduous.” Now, those of you that know your tree terminology know that deciduous is a term used for trees that lose their leaves in the winter. Her text back to me said: “I was WHAT?” Love’s moment lost.

I heard a very interesting discussion about Millennials on NPR the other day. There were many parts to the topic, but there was one I found especially interesting. A Fortune 500 company manager was discussing hiring new employees. He made a comment that concerns me, “Millennials just don’t interview well.” I wondered if they were lacking in verbal skills because of social media. Was it possible that their non-verbal skills, like body language, just haven’t developed? Or maybe they can’t express themselves in more than 140 characters followed by an emoji.

Just the other day, a friend was talking about the disconnect he was having with his girlfriend, “She just doesn’t give good text.” Is that what the love connection has come down to, giving good text? I hope not.

Even worse, what about passive-aggressive texts?  Take a look at Jimmy Kimmel’s explanation.

Many young people think that electronic connection makes us more connected. I must take exception. In many ways we may be moving toward disconnection or at least a false connection. I have seen people say things to each other while texting that they would never say in person. Does the texting generation, share intimate details on text that they would never say In person? Are they more comfortable texting than talking face to face? Without voice inflection and body language, misunderstanding is common place. We may paint a picture with our words that is totally foreign from who we really are. So what happens when we finally meet this texting partner? It is often disappointment and unmet expectations. If you want to know if your partner is sincere, watch their eyes. The eyes are windows to the soul. Words in a text are not.

I hate to predict the future, but I will just this once. If we continue to hide behind our social media mania and lose our gift of face to face communication, we risk losing any hope of meaningful connection.  If you are a baby boomer you probably agree with me. If you are a Millenial and disagree, I challenge you to try this.  Turn off your phone, sit down with a friend and have a meaningful face to face conversation.  Then, savor the experience of connection.

Steve Haberly

Next week, find out why small businesses are the Canary in the Coal Mine.

The Written Connection

IMG_0216One of my friends on Facebook voiced a concern that struck a chord with me. In fact, it opened up an area of much discussion recently. My FB friend asked this question, “Is writing a dying art?” First let’s define writing. If writing is pen in hand and ink to paper, maybe in some societies it is a dying art.

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Did you know that in many elementary schools they no longer teach cursive writing? That seems crazy to me. Are they saying those children should print their names or even worse, type it on a computer, tablet or smart phone? How will those students be able to read important historical documents if they aren’t familiar with cursive writing.

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I think this is a mistake. Typing is too darn fast. There is no time to feel the flow of the words. Good writing should be similar to composing a song or even an opera. It flows. It has a heartbeat all its’ own. I’m just not sure the keyboard understands adagio (at ease) or allegro (lively).

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Let me give you another example. I enjoy the game of golf. I don’t play as often as I did in the past but that’s my fault. But I did discover something interesting about my game many years ago. Golf has many things in common with our discussion of writing. When I play the game there is basically two ways I can follow my ball around the course. The first is with an electric cart and the second is on foot. Let me play a hole for you in each method and see if you understand what I mean.

IMG_0223I ride my cart up the tee box and sit until the group before us has teed off. I step out of my cart and take the first few steps carefully, remembering my knees have been bent and now must get ready to carry my weight. The first steps are pretty stiff but things loosen up and now I’m standing on the tee, waiting. Sometimes I feel I spend more time waiting than doing. I guess golf is also a boot camp for patience training.

I take a practice swing and I’m ready. I swing the driver, a little outside, unfortunately, and the ball takes off in a long looping slice into the short rough on the left of the fairway. I’ve done worse. At least it’s hittable. I sit back in the cart and zoom, we’re at my ball in an instant. I not only haven’t analyzed my last sliced shot, I also haven’t a clue about how to hit this shot. I’m there too quick. Do I swing the same? Do I swing different? I don’t have enough time to think and adjust. So I just hit the ball and guess what? It starts out down the middle and fades left, bounces once and rolls into to the pond guarding the left of the fairway. Crud, I hate this game!

IMG_0222Now, rewind please. I carry my clubs from the last tee to the next. I look at the hole while I hold my bag beside me. The fairway is pretty wide but there is an out of bounds on the right. The left has only a short rough. If I hit there, I would still have an open shot to the green and the rough would be easy to hit from.

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I aim the drive down the right side, remembering I often slice the ball. The ball hits in the fairway but rolls into the left rough. I can play that. I pick up my clubs and start to walk. I can feel the weight of the bag of clubs on my shoulder. Maybe clubs were lighter when I was younger. That must be it.

As I walk to my ball I see the water guarding the left of the fairway. As I walk, I see my ball and trees to my immediate left. Those won’t come into play. What a beautiful day to be alive and enjoy this game. I suddenly thought, “My worst day of golf was better than my best day at the office.”

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As I’m walking, I remember the grass will slow down the head of my club so maybe a 5 iron instead of the 6. I also guessed the grass would cause my club head to open up and maybe increase my fade left. Then I remember not to let my elbow fly away from my body, so my swing might not slice the ball so much. I reach the ball and set up to play the ball down the right side. I strike the ball pretty well with a little better swing than before. The ball fades from right to left and rolls up about a yard short of the green. Not bad! I put the 5 iron back in my bag, and take a few second to enjoy the view. Now it’s time to walk to the green and think about my putt on the way. Dang, I love this game!

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So I must agree with my FB friend. There is no substitute for the flow of the pen across smooth white paper or the feeling of walking the back nine on a beautiful Spring day.

Steve Haberly

Next week: The electronic disconnect or why Millenials struggle with connecction. 

 

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.

The Final Disconnect

The last stage of the disconnect is built on a foundation of unmet expectations, promises made and broken, and words said in anger. For this discussion, let’s accept that those behaviors have now become habit instead of a rare occurrence and that there has been no acceptance of responsibility and no reconciliation.

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Since promises made and broken are never your fault, someone else is always responsible. It’s always someone else’s fault – your job, your parents, or even the government. But at this point you may have deluded yourself into believing it’s all your partner’s fault. You are the victim. Without accepting your mistakes as your own, change is nearly impossible. Bad behaviors are repeated again and again. Promises made and broken become the expectation in the relationship.

Because it takes promises made and fulfilled to build trust, at this point in the disconnect, there is no trust. The foundation is crumbling all around you. Think of the picture of the connected hands, all fingers intertwined. In all the other stages the hands still touch, even though they are moving apart, they are still connected. But not at this stage. The longer the relationship resides in this sad state, the less chance of reconnection.

 Words said in anger but never followed by a sincere apology deepen the disconnect. I didn’t call the promise broken by chance. Broken denotes that it could take a significant effort to repair. Also realize that all broken promises don’t have the same impact or leave the same scar. “Sorry I’m late for dinner. I promised I would call but I just forgot. It’s my fault. Sorry”. Yes, it’s a broken promise but forgivable and connection can be repaired.

Let me share something with you and maybe you can help me see this a different way. I always struggle with connection between forgiving and forgetting. I believe I am able to forgive, but I must be honest, I never forget. So what if forgiving must be coupled with forgetting, does that mean I am incapable of forgiving? Let’s talk about that more at a later date and I promise I will be responsible for scheduling that discussion. Now back to the disconnect.

Words said in anger not followed by a sincere apology deepen the disconnect. When this behavior becomes more frequent, a new evil might appear, passive aggressive behavior. The passive aggressive person expresses their anger by cloaking it in a veil of acceptance. They rarely say what they really feel. The behavior can manifest itself in words or actions.

In many ways, passive aggressive behavior is more destructive than voicing anger directly.  I saw a term once that fits this person perfectly: Afraid to Rage. No open warfare here, but casualties by subterfuge causing the divide to get wider.

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But what about other broken promises? What about infidelity? What about abuse? What about behaviors that endanger the whole family? What about the words, “I never loved you?” Some behaviors create scars that can’t be healed. With the continuation of these damaging behaviors trust is just a word and not a behavior. Trust is the glue that holds it all together. All broken promises hurt, but some hurts are repairable and some just are not. You can’t always find all of Humpty Dumpty’s pieces, much less put them back together.

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Now I’m going to get myself in trouble. Should I apologize ahead of time? We will see. I look at fidelity in two different ways, but with a commonality. Fidelity is a promise. Wikipedia says “Fidelity is the quality of faithfulness or loyalty.” So, fidelity is the promise of faithfulness. Companies expect fidelity from their employees and try to assure there is no misunderstanding by requiring a signed legal contract stating the acts that would constitute infidelity.

When we marry, we sign a document as well, but more important we verbally promise this fidelity. We traditionally call it a vow. To me, a vow is a promise of higher order, similar to an oath but slightly different. In old England if I were a Knight, I would swear allegiance to the King. I would take an oath. I would vow to defend the Crown. If I were a Monk during that same time, I would make my vows. This would be a transaction between the monk and God. The fidelity promise is a solemn vow to fulfill your commitment. So, of all the promises broken, this can be one of the hardest from which to recover. A promise made in front of man and God.

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What about abuse? It comes in all forms  – physical, verbal and emotional. It can be physical, causing injury or emotional leaving even deeper scars. I must admit to you that this behavior is one I cannot understand and probably would struggle to forgive. Many times the victim believes it is somehow their fault. They think they have brought the abuse on to themselves. This is not true. Get out and get help – right now.

Am I saying if the relationship has become this divided that there is no way back? No. Never say never. But the way back takes major commitments on both sides. It may also take significant concessions from both partners. In most cases when the disconnect is this complete, only a professional can help the couple repair the damage.

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Something to remember at this point is from one of my earlier blogs, the impact of time. The longer you allow the complete disconnect to occur, the less chance there is of a reconnection. Start repairing it now.

How do you reconnect after this? Maybe you don’t. But maybe there’s just one more chance. In the worst of all situations there’s always hope. Don’t be passive aggressive, say what you are feeling. When you make a mistake, own it, and then apologize quickly and sincerely. After you apologize, change your ways, discontinue the toxic behavior. This is your new mantra: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions. Practice fidelity in all things. Don’t suffer any type of abuse.

Steve Haberly

Next week’s post, The Luck Connection asks, “How can a dime change your life?”

Promises Broken – Words said in Anger

IMG_0153The second stage in the path to disconnect comes in two parts. The first is promises broken. We know that promises made and fulfilled strengthen a relationship. As you might guess, the opposite is also true. The second phase of disconnection begins with promises made and broken. These are the things said or done that may go unnoticed by the offender, but are a sharp sting to the recipient. Don’t fool yourself. These are small promises, but they add up. Home late from work without the promised call. Forgetting date night planned for Saturday. Not going to his baseball game because something came up.

Some philosophers tell you to think about promises as though they were a bank account. When you do what you promise, no matter how small, you put credits in the trust account. If you build your relationship the right way, the bank account always has a surplus of credits. This surplus allows you to break a few promises and still have a positive balance. You think you are doing just fine. But this is FALSE. Promises are sacred. Honor in life is everything and honor is built on the foundation of the promises made and kept. Never take a promise lightly. Not the small ones and especially the ones you make to yourself or your maker.

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Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Relationships between individuals, companies and countries. To be honest, I can’t think of a thing I do all day that doesn’t rely on trust. Here are some examples: I get out of bed and trust that my alarm clock was set correctly last night. I walk to the bathroom, trusting that I moved the dog’s tennis ball so I wouldn’t step on it in the dark. I trust the toothpaste I use is safe to brush my teeth. I take a hand full of vitamins and trust that the manufacturers have good quality control of the ingredients. I trust my car will start, I will get to work safely and still have a job. All that trust is built on experiences. Successful experiences, after promises were made and kept. Make a promise. Keep that promise. Build trust. A SteveismTrust is not given it is earned.

So, if the glue that holds everything together from personal relationships to countries is trust and trust is making promises and keeping them, broken promises undermine the very foundation on which our lives are built.

If promises made and broken is the first sin in this phase of disconnection then words said in anger is the second. You’ve probably heard the rule about fighting fair in a relationship. Personally, I believe that fighting in a relationship is wrong. Discussing and disagreeing are natural and healthy, but to me, fighting means somebody loses. When one person loses in a relationship, you both lose.

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It’s not easy, but you must learn to take responsibility for your actions. No excuses. Don’t say “I got mad because you said…” “I couldn’t come to your game because I…” You either broke a promise or did something hurtful. The operative word is you. Take responsibility for your actions. That’s what we do to grow as individuals and partners. We all make mistakes. We are human and fallible, so step up. Take responsibility.

I love what is taught in the Buddhist religion. If you have the right thoughts in your head, you will say the right things. If you say the right things you will do the right actions. Simple to say, not so easy to do. But all great things start with a beginning.
When you are wrong, you need to sincerely apologize. “I should have started earlier from work because I knew the traffic can be bad. It’s my fault I was late for your game and I’m very sorry.” “There is no excuse for me losing my temper. I am embarrassed by my actions. I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

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In most cases, taking responsibility and apologizing honestly and sincerely can repair the damage. But don’t misunderstand, taking these two actions doesn’t have much value unless you also work on changing those behaviors in the future. Words are great, but right actions build trust.

How do you know you are on the right track? What helps hold you accountable? Write a mission statement. State what you believe in and how you will act on those beliefs. Before you break a promise or speak in anger, look at your mission statement. Are the words or the actions you are considering aligned with your mission statement? If not, don’t say it and don’t do it.

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My mission statement is pretty simple. I want every one’s life that touches mine to be a little better because they knew me. Sounds a little Pollyanna doesn’t it? You’re right. It is. But it works. All the time? No. I’m human just like you and I make mistakes, but I always gravitate back to my mission. If you don’t have a mission statement, get one.

✔  Write a Mission Statement

✔  Live By Your Mission

✔ Make promises you intend to keep.

✔ Take promises seriously.

✔ Build trust on the back of those promises.

✔ Think before you speak.

✔ Do no harm.

✔ Take responsibility for your actions

✔ Sincerely apologize

✔Change Negative Behaviors

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✔Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are

Steve Haberly

Wow! Don’t miss the next post dealing with passive aggressive behavior, infidelity and abuse. 

Unrealistic and Unmet Expectations

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Before I jump off this cliff, let me tell you I am not a professional in these matters. Although I’ve left a few broken relationships by the roadside as I motored through life (driving a bit too fast while listening to rock and roll blaring on the radio) I am not trained in marriage counseling. I guess that makes me knowledgeable by experience if not by education.  I’m a student of life, educated in the classroom of experience. I have been both an observer and a participant. I have watched what worked in relationships and what failed. I began observing these scenarios at a very early age.
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My childhood years had my family living in more than 20 cities by the time I was five. My dad was on an oil exploration crew so our address was either the motel we were in today or the one down the road where we’d be tomorrow. My mom said their nights were filled with loud music, dancing and lots of drinking. But somehow Dad got up the next day and did it all over again. In most of the motels there was not a baby crib so I slept in a drawer.  As far as I know, they kept the drawer open!

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By the age of 5, I knew that when a voice was raised over a normal level something bad was about to happen. Antagonistic tones could be loud but really soft tones were just as terrifying. These things I learned closer to the age of 10, as I sat quietly listening and wondering why. I found that anger was frightening but even worse was disappointment. Angry tones could come quickly but soon faded. The words of disappointment hung in the room like the smoke from too many cigarettes. By the time I reached junior high I realized that my parents were just staying together for me. They were committed to being parents for my sake. But don’t misunderstand, one thing I knew with certainty was that I was loved. Unconditionally loved. And knowing I was loved was enough. It was enough.

My blogs deal with the joy of connection and the pain of disconnection . I was deeply connected to both my parents but I could see their disconnection from each other. I would say I learned much in my early years by observing but I have learned even more in the 35 years I’ve been married, not by observing but by living and loving.

I have a great marriage, and it is great because we work at making it that way every day. A friend once asked, “Aren’t there just days when you can coast?” The answer is a resounding “NO.” A relationship is just like a car. When you put it in neutral, you’re going nowhere. This is true in business relationships as well as personal ones. But for this blog, let’s get personal.

To examine actions that could reconnect a relationship it’s important to know the extent of the disconnect. Let me explain my reasoning. If I think about friends’ marriages I have tried to save over the last 30 years, I am batting zero. I haven’t been able to save even one. If you were hoping I had some magic advice that could put things back together, I’m sure you’re getting a little concerned at this point. Before you give up on me let me explain my poor score. In each case the marriage was completely disconnected. The distance between them was too far and they had suffered the pain for too long. There was no way back. They were each lost in a sea of lies and disappointment. All my help accomplished was to delay the inevitable. I know this sounds hopeless and depressing, but there really is hope. Many relationships can be saved long before the final divide. Let’s focus on those.

There is a change in relationships that happens but is not part of the disconnect. It is a time of adjustment. This is not the beginning of disconnect, but rather a reversal of connection advocates within the relationship. Let me explain. The partner that desires the connection the most will initiate actions to keep the connection intact. These actions could be physical or verbal but they have one main purpose, to maintain closeness. Within the relationship this responsibility to be the advocate who protects and maintains the connection will change from partner to partner throughout the life of the relationship.

This positioning might look like a weakening of the bond but, in fact, is only a natural handoff of the torch. In a good relationship the intimacy leadership role gets passed back and forth many times over the span of years. This is not only healthy but desirable. A colleague once said it perfectly when asked how he and his wife achieved a long and happy marriage. “We have been married a long time because we never fell out of love at the same time. One of us was enough in love to be willing to sacrifice and work on the marriage when the other had given up.” That’s an amazing statement, isn’t it? It may very well be the most important ingredient to a long and happy marriage.

When the relationship begins to disconnect, it comes in three stages. Three conditions that weaken the connection before full disconnect occurs.

The first part of this stage is unrealistic expectations. When a relationship begins to develop we begin to have expectations about what it could become. The extent and the type of our expectations depends on many things. One thing that seems to be the most influential is our past experience. How were we treated as a child? Did we live in a world of reality? What was that reality? Did we learn to take responsibility for our own happiness or did we grow up depending on others to satisfy our needs, and did they? What causes some people to expect more from their partner than the partner is able or willing to give? I wish I knew the answer.

Unrealistic expectations can be evidenced everywhere. When we expect more than a person has the ability to give, we lose. The people involved feel like they failed. I disagree with those who believe failure is a motivator. I believe, in a relationship more times than not, failure is just failure. Too many times in a relationship we believe our love or caring can cause the other person to rise above their level and become more. This might be true to some extent, but how much more can they grow is the question. Again, if we are unrealistic in our expectations then  we both lose. But wait a minute, what if my expectations are unrealistic but I find this amazing partner who meets them all? First, pinch yourself because you are either dreaming or you are the luckiest person I’ve ever met. For now,  let’s assume there is a remote possibility that an unrealistic expectation could be met.

So maybe the real issue is not unrealistic expectations but the second part of this stage, unmet expectations, whether unrealistic or not. These expectations may be totally reasonable but still not met. What is reasonable for one person might be completely unreasonable for another. Reasonable depends on your frame of reference. We all see the world through different glasses. Each layer of the lens is crafted by our experiences, good and bad. It can be very hard to take off those glasses. Most people believe that meeting our basic needs is the least we should expect from a relationship. But these needs might still go unmet. You’re a loving person. You’re faithful and respectful. You deserve the same in return. Is that too much to ask?

Expectations may also change as we age. This can create problems when the expectations of one partner don’t change to meet the expectations or even the ability of the other. I have a son that is 26 years old. I asked him how his relationship expectations have changed since he was a teenager. He said that when he was younger he looked for a girlfriend that was fun to be with. That’s right, just fun and not much else. At 26 his expectations are different. He said he now looks for a girl that has parental qualities. Unsure of what he meant by parental, I asked him to explain.  He told me that parental means nurturing, kind, thoughtful and looking out for your best interests. Someone mature enough to hold up her end of the relationship. A woman, not a girl. Seems reasonable to me.

So what about me? What are my expectations? I still expect honesty and faithfulness, but now more than ever, I expect passion. Passion can come in many packages. It can be defined in many ways. I like what Wikipedia says, “Passion may be an eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, discovery or activity or love.” Passion is the fuel that drives the soul.

Passion is the Fountain of Youth. Those that have a passion for the things life offers have the best chance to have a happy life. Life without passion is cold, dark and empty. Passion is the fire that continues to burn inside, but only if you keep adding fuel. Find something your passionate about and give yourself to it.IMG_0139

I don’t profess that we are all the same in our expectations, so you will find yours different than mine. We are often told that our desire naturally wanes. I don’t agree. It certainly is complicated if health becomes an issue, or if abuse, addiction, or adultery are  involved. From the outside, it may look like we just give up and thus the disconnect. Passion is possible at any age. But without it, we age quicker than our years. Expectations unmet, whether unrealistic or not, start the divide that becomes the start of the disconnect.

The first step in solving any problem is to accept a problem exists. In this case,  the next step is to realize the problem may be of your own making. Begin by accepting others for what they are instead of what we expect them to be. Most of the experts agree that there are three paths to avoid or repair this disconnect from unmet expectations.

First, make sure you’re aware of your expectations. Second, make them reasonable and third, talk about them to you partner. Try to experience life and not expect it.  Experience not expectation.  Let’s look at it another way. I would like to paraphrase what I remember from a movie called Parenthood. The grandmother in the family has witnessed the chaos that occurs when  balancing a job, marriage, children and the world around.  It gets pretty overwhelming. But she shares a story that has great insight. She says that when she was a little girl she would go to the amusement park. Bright lights and lots to do. Some children chose to ride the merry go round. But it just went around and around. What’s the fun in that? She loved the roller coaster. The ups and the downs. The thrill. The excitement.

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Life is about experiencing, not sitting back observing and definitely not going around and around, seeing the same things again and again. It’s easy to start out idealistic, but no one can live up to our idealistic view of what life should be. We need to become realistic not idealistic. I would like to share with you what my wife calls a Steveism.

When I find myself feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with my life, it means I’m thinking too much about myself and not enough about others.

The second step in avoiding or handling unrealistic expectations is communication. Talk often and talk openly to your partner. Don’t avoid the difficult topics. Put them on the table and negotiate how they can be handled. Sometimes when you explain your expectations, you might find your partner is very willing to meet those needs. They just might need to be stated another way. But you also need to be willing to compromise. A good relationship is a product of give and take. I have another Steveism that works for us.

He who has the most emotion at risk or invested in a subject should get special consideration in the decision.

Let me give you an example. When Debby and I were deciding whether to move our children to a private faith centered school or to leave them in public schools, I really wasn’t in favor of the private school for two reasons. First, the money. It seemed crazy to pay for private school when my taxes were already paying for the public schools in my area. Second, the public schools in our area were great schools. So for me they could get a good education in our public schools at a lot less cost to our family. On the other hand, my wife had a very deep feeling about this decision. For her it was an emotional decision that would change their lives. So who had the most emotion invested? She did. So you guessed it. They were transferred to the faith based school. I won’t give you all the details of the amazing things that occurred, but I will tell you that my wife was right. Let me give you another Steveism.

When it comes to difficult decisions, your brain will lie to you but your stomach never will.

Trust your feelings. This is another strategy that may help soften the disappointment of unmet expectations and therefore mitigate the damage. You might call this tactic the early warning system. The best way to explain it is to give you another personal example. My wife and I had decided that Friday night would be date night. A great dinner out somewhere followed by a romantic evening. Her heart was in the right place but the flu bug made the evening impossible. So does she wait till I get home to tell me? No. There’s a better way. She calls and tells me how much she was looking forward to our date but she feels awful. Could we postpone the date a day or two till she feels better?

What makes this work? It’s what she says next. “I’m disappointed to postpone our date, but you deserve my A game. Thanks for understanding, I’m really looking forward to being together. Would Saturday night work?” Because she was the one who must postpone the date, she is responsible for setting the new date and time.

So how did I feel after her comment? I felt loved, wanted and even more, desired and isn’t that what I really wanted anyway? My wife and I have a name for this. We call it giving good phone. More on that later!

Steve Haberly
The next blog will explore the second stage disconnectPromises Broken – Words Said in Anger

Recognizing the Personal Disconnect

If you read the first of my blogs you learned that almost everything of any value comes from and depends on connection.  You may also have realized when the connection is broken, all can be lost. I hate to be melodramatic, but I really do mean ALL.

img_0131-1In the second blog I wrote about some of the rules that govern our attempt to reconnect. Understanding these rules helps us understand why reconnection is so difficult.  Disconnection in relationships is common and in many cases, permanent.  Remember the salesman who became disconnected from his customer and eventually lost that account? In this blog I want to address the need for connection in our personal life and the tragedy of disconnect.

You may be familiar with the term “bar bet.” It is the bet we make with a friend or even a stranger in a social environment. It’s usually on some trivial fact. Maybe it’s who won the 1945 World Series or the first Super Bowl or which team will win the game being shown on the bar television. Many times the person who initiates the bet already knows the outcome, so I guess you could say it’s really a trick. Not very serious, just for fun and maybe a beer.

So, I’ll make you a bet just for fun. I’ll bet I can sit at a table in a restaurant and after 10 minutes tell you which couples are connected and the ones that aren’t. Here’s how I’ll do it.  First, look at their eyes. The eyes are windows to the soul and surely to the heart. People that are connected make eye contact with the person or people they are with.

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img_0081People that sit together, but are disconnected, tend to look around the room often past the other person. They may even continuously look at their smart phone or watch. They know if they make eye contact it may elicit an emotion or even a confrontation. That confrontation might bring up their disconnect and the struggle that would be necessary to reconnect is too much, just too much. So as my Grandfather used to say “Let sleeping dogs lie.”

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Next, I look at their hands. If you lay your hand on the table at dinner with your hand open, palm up, you are asking to connect. Palm down means you are less sure that the feeling will be returned, so a palm down has less emotional risk if it gets rejected. But hands closed mean I am not willing to connect and I will not respond in a positive manner if you reach out to me. I am closed.

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Next, look at their faces. Partners that are connected practice active listening.  When one person is talking, the other is not only hearing the words but also feeling the emotion behind the words. That’s a form of active listening. I’m into your story, sad or happy. I want to experience it too, even if it’s after the fact. People who are not connected tend to show no facial emotion other than boredom.

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Next, look at the other body language. Arms crossed often indicates disapproval but also possibly disconnect. Sitting forward in your chair signals a desire to connect while sitting back may signal lack of interest. img_0077-1

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The ultimate goal of many relationships is happiness. When people are happy they often smile. So look at the faces at the tables and measure the smiles.

img_0134Now, think about the couples you have known over the last 10 years. First, consider those whose marriage ended in divorce. Think about the signs of the growing disconnect before they finally gave up. But what about the friends you have that are still together. Are there signs of disconnection? All you have to do is listen and watch. You’ll recognize the disease. The disconnect between people we love and care about is tragic. Our disconnect and our inability to repair the damage turns friends and lovers into strangers. Strangers in our own house and even in our own bed.

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So when does this start?  Disconnection at a personal level starts when we find ourselves thinking more about ourselves then we do about others.The selfish person lives a life of loneliness because true connection is nearly impossible. Today more than ever in our history, we live in a disconnected society of lonely people and misplaced trust. Look around you for those that are connected, but don’t be surprised what you find.

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Steve Haberly

Next week’s blog defines the level of the disconnect and what can lead to a turn around and a reconnect.  Don’t watch your relationship dissolve before your eyes. Don’t wait until the damage is permanent.  Be proactive.

Everybody is Selling Something

img_0041My daughter sat down with me several years ago and wanted to talk about the future. “What should I be when I grow up?”

I said, “You can be whatever you want to be. You could  be a doctor, lawyer or even an Indian Chief.

She laughed and said “Dad, I’m serious.”

“Sweetheart, all I want is for you to be happy.”

“I want to be happy,too, but my friend Susan wants to be a dentist. She has her career path all planned out.”

So I asked my daughter to describe her ideal job.

“Something where I work with people. A job where I can make a difference.  Something where I can be happy, but still make a lot of money”.

I said, “What about sales?”

“Dad, I don’t want to sell things.  Sales doesn’t seem like a very noble profession to me. Talking people into buying things that they may not even need, seems a little shady.”

I thought for a moment and replied, “What if I told you that every profession and every job has one thing in common? Every job is a sales job, and I can prove it.”img_0040A great example is teaching, perhaps the most noble profession of all. The future of our country and the world are in the hands of our children and our children are in the hands of our teachers.  Often times in this economy both parents must work full time to make ends meet. This results in our children spending more time with their teachers than their parents. Because of this, it is our teachers who shape the way our children see the world.

I was a teacher once and it was the best  job I ever had. I taught 9th grade Science to kids who were not interested in facts as mundane as the age of the Grand Canyon.  Although my lesson plans were fact filled, the students found them to be stale and boring. In my second year I came to a great realization, I had to sell Science to them. I needed to make it interesting and exciting because I was in competition for their attention. I became a seller of knowledge. Once I realized that, my classes became fun for the students and for me as well. The key was selling, selling them the magic of Science.

We come in contact with “salesmen” every day.  Your doctor sells you on the belief medication he prescribes will cure your ills. Your mechanic sells you a tune up that will save you money on fuel. Your dentist sells you teeth whitening that will improve your smile. The teller at the bank sells you their credit card, proclaiming it is better than the card offered by the bank next door. And so on and so on. I can’t think of a profession that doesn’t at some level involve the presenting of an idea. That is sales. Sales is when you convince someone, including yourself, to do something. So don’t fool yourself. Everybody  is selling something!img_0037Opportunities to sell happen every day. I remember an interesting opportunity shortly after getting married. Debby worked for a very prestigious Dallas real estate firm. The female agents never went anywhere without their clothes perfect, their nails painted, and their hair combed just so. They were the epitome of sophistication and grace.img_0038Then came the softball tournament. A variety of companies organized teams to raise money for a local charity. Debby talked the realtors into signing up to represent their company and their profession. It was a typical summer day in Dallas, Texas. As my grandfather used to say “100 degrees in the shade.” The ladies looked great. Outfits were color coordinated and varied from walking shorts to Capri pants, worn over panty hose of course.img_0044After two innings I could see their makeup beginning to melt and mascara ring their eyes. Then, in the third inning, it happened. A line drive straight at my third baseman. There was no time to react. The ball hit her just below the right eye where the skin is the thinnest and the check bone creates a hard under surface. She put her hands up to her face and bowed her head. When she looked up, there was blood everywhere. I called time out and rushed to the field. Both teams were speechless as they watched me help her back to the dugout. My pitcher broke the silence, “Coach, you didn’t tell us we could get hurt!”  It was true, I had never mentioned the risk.

Finally, the game ended and the ladies headed toward their cars, hot, sweaty, and dirtier than they’d ever been.  I stopped them, “Ladies, great game. You won!”

My team captain grinned, “Yay! Now it’s time to go soak in a hot bath.”

I smiled and said, “That sounds great, but since we won, you have another game in one hour.” They were in shock. I guess I hadn’t explained what single elimination meant. You play till you lose.

It was a day I will always remember. We won the next game and the one after that. Midway through the championship game I could see they were totally exhausted, but somehow they played even harder than before. As I walked through the dugout offering water, my shortstop said, “I don’t need a drink. Just pour it on my head!” So I did as asked. SPLASH.img_0035I wish I could tell you we won the tournament, but I can’t. We lost by one lousy run. I coached sports for many years after that, but have never been as proud of my team as I was that day. That team was a perfect example of courage and grace under fire.

Long story, I know, but the point is that day I was not just a coach,  I was a salesman. I sold them the idea they could play through the heat, the pain, and sometimes the fear. I painted the dream and made them want it as much as I did. If that’s not sales, I don’t know what is.

Now that you realize all jobs are really sales jobs, it is time to improve your selling skills so you can be successful at any  job. There is only one logical place to start. Connection.

Steve Haberly

My next blog will show you that the same skills necessary to connect in  business relationships are just as important to have a personal relationships.  Want to know why your relationship isn’t working?  I’m willing to bet it’s because you are not connected.