Two Anniversaries

My bride and I celebrated 32 years of marriage this week. I think she gave up on trying to fix me up, so she is stuck with what she got. Kidding aside, my wife is easily the best half of us. She is “the girl who holds the world in a paper cup,” meaning she is as genuine as they come.

My wife likes to say we are friends first, when asked about our longevity. The friendship carries us through the ebbs and flows of the relationship. The other is keep a sense of humor. We often laugh at ourselves and can tease each other. Life is too short not to laugh more.

I had another anniversary this week. I passed ten years without a drink of alcohol. The cravings are far fewer and less intense, but they linger back there somewhere. My daughter asked me about my drinking habits as I made her and my wife aware of the anniversary as we traveled. It stunned them by the amount I drank, but at least I did it at home.

The key lesson I learned early in my abstinence is to say the following mantra, “I am not going to drink today.” This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know the number of days. Another piece of advice is to find a substitute – mine were green tea, fruits, fruit juices, popsicles or sorbet. The cravings will remain, you just need to drink or eat something else.

So, let’s toast with your beverage of choice (or necessity) to laughter, love and sobriety, at least for those who must abstain.

 

I believe in you

These are very simple words, but they are extremely powerful when used. “I believe in you” can make a huge difference in performance, whether it is at work, at home or at play. A real life example may help, but I have changed the name of the individual to protect the identity of the person.

Sandy has worked in retail for many years at the same small store. She is a solid contributor, very pleasant to customers and quite loyal. While Sandy is not the best employee in the store, she is very reliable and is often called in when others cannot work their scheduled slot. Only rarely does she say no, as she needs the hours.

Like many retailers, this store is pushing cross-selling at the register. And, like many stores, they also have a phone application where customers can find answers to questions and guideposts on their own. Sandy, hates cross-selling as she knows many of their customers are return ones and don’t need to be invited to buy, but she is obligated to make offers.

Sandy was not performing well under stretch store measures, as the retailer was in financial trouble. The application sales were critical as they provided recurring revenue. The cross-sell push was strong and it made her feel quite uncomfortable. Her manager was stressed and made her stress known to Sandy and others. As a result, Sandy felt threatened and it affected her work, psyche, and health. Her scheduled hours suffered and her boss was hyper-critical of her. She considered other employment.

And, then the stress went away. An old boss who knew Sandy and what she was capable of, replaced the stress-causing boss who was asked to leave. Sandy was not the only one who felt the extra tension. The returning boss “believed in” Sandy and gave her room and opportunity. Sandy sold more of the applications and gained greater comfort in cross-selling without being too intrusive. And, her scheduled hours went up.

The boss who left openly and caustically shared her displeasure with others. Sandy is far from perfect, but the stress causing boss, created the circumstances for less fruitful performance. The returning boss knew how to lead and manage. She believed in her workers even while giving them high goals. This belief enabled Sandy to perform at a much higher level and the results showed.

“I believe in you.” Leaders can make a difference with these words. Not every employee is an “A” employee. Any team is a mixture of different skills and capabilities. A leader will provide the necessary amounts of management and encouragement. They will know when to step on the accelerator or ease off and tap the brakes. Good leaders are few and far between, but each manager can be a little better at leading. The results might be staggering, if they do.

The $65,000 Question

Let’s start with a question. As a seller of contractual services, do you make more money if you charge a new client $65,000 or $70,000? The answer is not obvious, but it may be the smaller amount. Why?

What if you told the client you would do the work for $65,000? But, your company had some cost overruns that may or may not have been the client’s fault taking the cost to $70,000. If you told the client, we had some overruns, but told you it would be $65,000, so that is what we will invoice, you will create goodwill and trust. Your firm may get hired for future work as a result. If you billed the $70,000, you may not get hired again.

But, what if you told the client it would be $70,000 and you were more efficient. By invoicing the lesser amount, you will have done something unusual and it will be noticed. This may also lead you to being hired for future work.

The key that gets lost on managers who push for billing every cent in the system is most services are relationship based. If trust is established, the opportunity to have a mutually beneficial relationship exists. You make more money serving the client long term. When trust is broken, all bets are off.

This is a hard lesson organizations like Wells Fargo are learning today. And, if you doubt the veracity of this observation, the most acclaimed accounting firm used to be Arthur Andersen. They no longer exist as they breached the trust of a significant client and they could never recover.

Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind

The above song lyric is from a great song by Lynryd Skynryd, a southern rock band hailing from my home town. It is a fitting song, since the initial band left us much too soon after a tragic plane crash that took its lead singer and others and altered its course.

With this song lyric in mind, I want to note a few other things that seemingly have “gone with the wind” or at least are eroding away:

– Civil discourse seems to be on the demise at a time when we need it most. If you disagree with someone, you need not take his or head off. Respond the way you would want to be responded to. And, listen to hear and not to respond.

– Handwritten letters are a lost art it seems. To me, it is a treat to get a note or card in the mail. When my first son went to college, I sent him a letter a week. When we moved him out, I stumbled onto the saved letters.

– Political correctness can be over done, but abandoning it for frank dialogue does not give the speaker the right to lie or be a jerk. One can be frank and still have a sense of decorum. See Civil discourse above.

– Privacy continues its decline, with Social Media, marketing segmentation and mining, hacking, and the absence of filters between people’s brains and fingers or mouth. Just because you think it or did it, does not mean we need to know about it.

– Our world remains a beautiful place. The biggest threat to it is us. All religious documents encourage us to be better stewards of our earth. There is no Planet B, so we better take care of this one.

If there is a theme above, it is we must treat each other and our planet better. We could start by treating ourselves with more respect. We are an imperfect lot, so we should cut each other a break. We can have civil discourse to discuss our problems. We stand a better chance of solving them that way.

Don’t cede your power

Several blogs have been focusing on the impact narcissists have had on their lives. These narcissists have controlled their lives through an overbearing presence which is built on a foundation of deceit and greed to elicit devotion and attendance to their needs. When the victim does not kowtow enough, the narcissist makes the victim feel he or she is to blame and lessens his or her standing.

An old friend who counseled teenage students at school would often say “Don’t cede your power.” You choose to react to situations, not others, so don’t give your control or power away. True, it is harder to do this with a narcissist, as the abuser is very adroit at making others feel they are at fault. Donald Trump accuses others of lying and cheating when he has lied and cheated at a record clip in his life and during the campaign and is on trial for such, as we speak, in three separate court cases.

I worked for the longest time with a narcissist who leaned into people all the time. His overbearing manner and position would get folks to do his beck and call. Over time, the smallest slight would cause these people to snap and his response would invariably be “What did I do?” The straw that broke the camel’s back was small, but after a year of tolerating his narcissism, the victim blew a gasket, to mix metaphors.

Rather than let it fester to the point of disproportionate reaction, do your best to remain in control of how you react. “I am sorry you feel that way,” is one response placing the feelings back where they belong. “That was not my intention, so I am sorry you misconstrued that” is another. Voting with your feet is another. What I mean is reduce or eliminate exposure if you can. This may prove difficult, but it is well worth it.

One thing I have learned in my fifty-seven years is you cannot please a narcissist. You can only placate them. When I learned this about the individual I knew, I managed accordingly. I stopped going to lunch with him, I would offer pushback as needed and encourage him to see the other’s point of view. I also did not trust him at all, as I knew he would talk behind my back just as he did every one else. I did not need evidence as I just knew, but every once in a while a piece of evidence would float my way.

Narcissists are abusers. It is about their control. So, do your best to not cede yours, and if you cannot, then seek other avenues limiting or eliminating exposure to his or her negativity. You will be very glad you did.

 

Imperfections

I think one of the reasons I treasure the eclectic and eccentric, is I appreciate imperfection. Let’s face it, we are an imperfect lot with a wide of array of likes and dislikes. But, we should be less concerned with perfection.

Without getting too risqué, I love imperfections in women. I prefer women to be more true to their look and less inclined to modify their imperfections. I also recognize fully there is psychic value in looking one’s best, but I am speaking to major changes to fix a perceived or actual flaw.

To me, these imperfections add character and beauty. We need not have identically looking women to find beauty. A crooked nose, a beauty mark, differently shaped eyebrows, curly hair, straight hair, full lips, thin lips, small breasts, large breasts, too thin, too heavy, lithe legs, athletic legs, rounded bottom , flat bottom, etc. makes the female varied and beautiful to me.

Yet, women are bombarded by magazines and ads to look a certain way. It adds to a neurosis of appearance that need not exist as much as it does. Of course, we prefer a healthy version of ourselves and would like to remain as youthful as possible, yet these efforts need not be over-engineered. Granted, we men contribute to this with our wandering eyes and sometimes wandering hands. And, I know we men are no day at the beach with our imperfections.

But, the beauty I find most appealing is the ability to laugh, to feel, to converse, to love. There is an old saying that is true to me – the woman picks the man. He just better be aware that she is picking him. What I did not understand until I watched the documentary called “I Am,” is the heart gives off a magnetic signal that can be sensed many feet away. If that heart is a flutter, it can be sensed by the person who made it flutter. There is nothing more attractive to a man than a woman interested in him.

So, if your imperfect self makes an equally imperfect man’s heart flutter, it could be as close as we get to nirvana. Being an imperfect man, we appreciate your imperfections. We certainly have our share. And, together, we can be more perfect than separately.

 

Dating dilemmas


Being a tall person, I have had my share of dates who were much shorter than me. I have even dated a few women who were under 5 feet tall. But, those height differences are very manageable and provide interesting stories. The dating dilemmas occur when something surprising happens.

Here are a few I encountered, some funny some not so.

Why must you be so rude? – the first example occurred when I took a date to Disneyworld for the day driving from my home 3 hours away. The dilemma is she was rude to other people, cutting lines, being curt, impatient, etc. I was captive while there, but could not wait for the date to end.

We really must pray before the meal – one of the funniest blind dates occurred when a friend set me up with a minister without telling me. I was not expecting the answer that she gave me when I asked what she did. She was a nice woman, but I was too immature to get past thinking it was a sin to imagine carnal knowledge with a minister.

Prom dates need to pace themselves – I think many of us have had prom dates where too much drinking occurred. But, our double date before the prom started consisted of far too many Screwdrivers. When we arrived first to the prom, my date waved with a big gesture to the other couple when they arrived. When she did she fell backwards and for some unknown reason, I was able to catch her with one arm, six inches from the ground and straighten her up. Talk about scared.

Did you like how I parked my car?  – when dating a college friend, I offended her when I suggested we use her car, so a friend could use mine. She broke our date after I arrived, so I tried to back down a long, hilly and angled driveway. I drove off into a rock garden and my car got stuck. My last sight of her was as she watched from a large window as her father towed my car off his rock garden. 

Where did that horse come from? – as I was sneaking out of my girlfriend’s parent’s house after she moved into their basement apartment, I was unaware her horse was in the field next to the driveway. At 3 am, while pitch black dark, as I edged toward my car, the horse snorted and scared the bejesus out of me. If a horse could laugh…

I guess my audition failed – this actually occurred with the above horse owner. We went to a community play where folded chairs were placed on raised platforms. When we returned from intermission, unbeknownst to me, one of my chair legs moved off the back of the platform. As I took a sip of wine, I noticed my date moving forward in slow motion. In actuality, I was falling and made a huge crash when I hit the floor on my chair. It was indeed funny and the only thing hurt was my ego.

Tell me your funny or surprising date stories. I am sure you can top mine.