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

The man, the lady, and the tiger

Imagine you find yourself in the forest; deep, dark, and dense. You look and listen for things familiar.  There is a faint sound in the trees.  You sit quietly but you see nothing. All of a sudden, you see the source of the sound. A man is running and running fast. You wonder why.A closer look reveals a possible reason. Running in front of the man is a beautiful lady, long hair falling across her bare shoulders and down to her waist. She glances back, smiles at the man and picks up her pace even more.

 Her allusiveness has made him out of breath and needing a rest, but the lady never stops, so the man presses on. The quest to catch the lady has consumed most of his life, but somehow he believes the prize is worth the sacrifice.

But another glance shows the shadow of a third figure. This darkness runs as fast as the man and matches his every step. A little light falls on the shadow and now we know the third figure in the race is a tiger.

His eyes are fixed on the man and his claws dig deep into the Earth as he runs. Never looking left or right, he has but one prey in sight. So what will be the outcome? If the man runs faster, he may catch the lady, but then what? He’s not sure, but he runs all the same. If he slows down he knows he will definitely be caught by the tiger.

So here is the question: Why does the man run? Why do we all run? Are we running from or running to? Is it the prize we seek that makes us run, or the fear of getting overtaken? Most would say the prize, but I disagree. I believe for many, it is the hot breath of the tiger that quickens their pace.

We all recognize the lady. She’s the ribbon for winning the race or the good grade on a test at school. Later, she’s the promotion at work or the bonus for achieving a goal. We know the lady very well, but what about the tiger. Most of the time we’re not sure what the tiger looks like. We would rather not imagine the sharpness of his teeth, but still, we shudder at the thought.

Do we run the race to get the trophy or not to be overtaken by the runners behind us? Do we make good grades in school for our own achievement or to avoid our parents’ disappointment? Do we study hard for the college chemistry to pass or not to fail? Do we marry to be happy or not to be lonely?

I’ve had the good fortune to manage a very large sales force and have always considered myself a leader that motivated others to achieve by painting the dream for them. I was in a meeting with an attorney I admire and trust. He asked, “Do you know why people perform so well in your company? It may be different than you think. They perform because they don’t want to disappoint you.”

I must admit, I was taken aback. But when I think about the man, the lady and the tiger, it makes sense. I have come to believe that most decisions in our personal and business lives are made from fear of loss rather than pursuit of gain. We are running from something rather than running to something.

But is that so bad? Maybe not. Thinking of the tiger’s teeth creates the urgency that may be much greater than the pleasure of the lady’s kiss. Isn’t it results that we desire? Just a thought.

Now you can resume running.

Steve Haberly

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

 

Canary in the Coal Mine

img_0101Through the presidential primaries and even after the election was decided, I heard that small business in America was the driving force for new jobs. That’s so important because I believe that the answer to most problems in our country is jobs. Pure and simple. People who have jobs that allow them to support their families don’t have time to riot in the streets, break store windows and get pushed back by water cannons. Without jobs, the masses see no future. No way up or even out. Jobs bring pride in accomplishment. Hard work, whether mental or physical, can provide an outlet for creativity and invention. I believe most people want to work, but when there are no jobs, people are easily swayed and manipulated. In America we need more GOOD jobs.

So, back to small business. Can they bring more jobs? Sure they can. Could they create enough jobs to pull the economy up by its bootstraps? Maybe. Here’s what the SBA states:

⚪ 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.

⚪Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs, and  66% of all net new jobs since the 1970’s.

⚪ 600,000 franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales.

But percentages can be deceiving. What about the number of new jobs? Ok. Let’s look. Since 1990, big business eliminated 4,000,000 jobs while small business added 8,000,000 new jobs. So, great work small businesses, we owe you a lot. But creating enough new jobs is like moving a mountain and will take a partnership between big and small business.

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Looking back in history, we see that the Ottomans came up with a unique strategy when faced with sailing past the big cannons at Constantinople. They took their ships out of the water, pulling them on the shore using logs and ropes.  This got them safely out of reach of the big guns. Every man, woman and child had to pull their weight. It took a total effort with no time to rest.

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That’s what it will take in this country. America the beautiful. America the brave. America the strong. So grab the rope. Do what you can, and of this nation speak no ill. The future is what we make it, bright or dark. Words aren’t enough to pull this ship, called America, across the land and out of cannon fire. GRAB THE ROPE. IT’S OUR JOB TO KEEP AMERICA GREAT. Yes, I believe small business can add jobs, but they can give us more, much more.

It occurs to me that most successful small businesses have several things in common. This is at least true of the ones I have been fortunate to work with. Let me show you the common characteristics.

Honesty, sounds simple and is easy to say, but not so easy to find today. Being honest requires making promises and keeping them. This builds trust and trust keeps us going. How much do we trust the big companies we deal with? I think you would find our attitude about big companies much like Ronald Reagan’s thoughts about Arms Control. When speaking to Mikhail Gorbachev, he said “Trust but verify.” Small businesses must rely on their reputation to be successful. No one wants to do business with a company that they think is dishonest.

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Small businesses often survive or fail based on repeat business. Repeat business is a product of fair pricing, high quality and follow up. How many times has a big company called you after you bought their product to see if you like it? It does happen, but you must admit, it’s rare. Small businesses have to follow up, because their customers must not only be satisfied, they must be elated.


Next comes integrity. You might say that’s the same as honesty, but let me disagree. In my mind, honesty is making promises and keeping them, walking the talk, and doing what you say. Integrity might go a step further. Integrity means doing more than what you promise. If  you begin a task and find there is an alternative that is a better solution, offer that alternative. Look for ways of being better than even the customer expects. Don’t just fix things. Fix them so they don’t break again. Truly understand the needs of the customer and the resources the customer has to fix the problem and then tailor a solution to fit. If there is something better, even if you don’t have that product or service, don’t be afraid to say so. So, integrity is really honesty after it has spanned the test of time and held up against the fires of unjust criticism. When you have honesty, integrity, quality at a fair price and great follow up, you only need one more thing. Hard work.

I’ve discussed honesty and integrity, but what about quality at a fair price? Quality is a lot like value, it’s mostly in the eyes of the customer. Quality could be seen as meeting the expectations of the customer. A quality product might be one that out performs other products in its class or category. High quality might even surpass average or normal expectations since its performance is critical to support the product or service produced or offered by the customer.

That leaves follow up. If you don’t follow up with your customers, how will you know if they’re elated or not? Follow up gives you the feedback necessary to make adjustments to your service or product to improve and retain that customer. It closes the circle of continuous improvement. If you underperform and your follow up either doesn’t occur or takes too long, the laws of disconnect engage and your lost business will increase. Also, without follow up, you won’t know why things aren’t going so well. So there’s a good chance you’ll blame it on some easy target like the global economy or unfair competition. The fact is you just missed the target.

What’s a fair price? A book could be written about fair pricing, in fact many books. But here’s a simple way I look at it. A fair price is one when the price of your product or service matches the value that it brings to the customer and the quality meets expectations. But you also must look at it another way.  A fair price is one that allows the provider of the product or service to make a reasonable profit. If you don’t price to make a profit you will be out of business and no longer able to provide that quality product or service. In this case, everyone loses. As a business it is your responsibility to run your business in a profitable manner.

In a small business if you are honest, have integrity, good follow up, and work really hard, you get to eat that week. If you forget one of those attributes, you might go hungry.

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So,why are small businesses the canary in the coal mine? When mining for coal, miners could be exposed to dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide. They would carry a cage containing a canary down into the tunnels. The canary was much more sensitive to the gases then were the miners. If the canaries started to die, the miners would evacuate the tunnel to safety. The canaries were an early warning of eminent danger. Small businesses are this canary. If they fail, it means that one or more of these critical attributes are missing or lost. If it’s missing here don’t you also think it might be missing in big business as well? This trend has me concerned and you should be concerned too. When the canaries are getting sick and dying, the miners aren’t far behind.

Here’s my simple formula: Perform honestly, act with integrity, deliver quality, price reasonably, and follow up to make sure the customer is completely satisfied. I believe the young people of today will punish those companies that don’t heed this simple formula.

Steve Haberly

In my next blog I’ll share with you some of the small businesses that I’ve dealt with that are great examples of these principles.

 

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.

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?

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.