The 30 cent Ice-Cream Story

This is a true story (a real true story) I was reminded of this week and I thought I would share it with you. It relates to a time in my life that at one level was highly forgettable, yet at another level was one of the most powerful seasons of my life and is very much a part of who I am today.

I lost everything in the nineties – for a whole bunch of reasons, but mostly because I just did not have the emotional or spiritual character to handle the business and financial success that came relatively quickly after I started my first business. That’s a whole story in itself – for another time.

Anyway, it was during that time that I called into a local Macca’s for a baby burger which was all I could afford at the time. It was not a good time and I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders (you know, self-pity, “why me”, “its not fair”, “its all too hard” – those weights!). I bumped into a bunch of lovely mums and children that I knew from the better times. So putting on my bravest face I was chatting away pretending all was OK – as you do. Then we heard this almighty scream from the back of the restaurant and one of the little 5 year-olds came up screaming with only the cone part of his 30 cent ice-cream. He had dropped it and lost the ice-cream bit. He was devastated, as only a five-year-old who has lost his ice-cream can be.

Us grown-ups all laughed, because we knew it was only an ice-cream. But to the little fella, it was worse than the end of the world. Well it only took a few minutes for someone to replace the ice-cream. And what a transformation! Not only was it NOT the end of the world, but it was a better world, because he now had a whole new ice-cream plus what he had eaten of the previous one. He was happy as…

Boy eating icecream

We laughed and talked some more and I said my goodbyes. As I walked to the door I could feel the weight of my problems descending once more. Now I am a man of faith and a believer, but it is amazing how quickly we can let adverse circumstances take our eyes off our faith and that Source of help in times of trouble.

But then! As I walked across the threshold it hit me like a blast of hot air – “from God’s perspective, all my problems were just about the size of a 30 cent ice-cream. I had completely lost my perspective, like the 5 year-old, and allowed myself to be driven into a state of anxiety and depression by my circumstances.

That moment is deeply etched in my consciousness and had a profound effect on my life. From that time onwards, I knew that I was not defined by my circumstances, but by my ATTITUDE TO my circumstances.

And that is my moment of clarity for this week. Perhaps to take a moment to reflect as we come towards the end of the year. Have we got the right perspective on our circumstances, good or challenging.  And whatever your philosophy, are you connected to and drawing on the emotional, relational or spiritual resources that help you keep a healthy perspective.

All the Best, Brian

+61 (0)408 277 773

Caring – The Secret Ingredient – Part 2

The title for this weeks post was an unthunk thought. That’s what I call one of those ideas, insights or revelations that seem to just arrive in your mind, without any clear idea where they came from or any conscious knowledge of the thought processes that produced them. My first book was called “Unthunk Thoughts”, and is a collection of those amazing one-liners and aphorisms that contain so much more than the words.

Well ‘The Secret Ingredient of Influence’ last week was definitely one of those. It tumbled out of my mind just as I completed last weeks post. It has occupied much of my thinking over the last week and I am a bit blown away by it.

Caring – The Secret ingredient of Influence! The Holy Spirit gets the credit for this one. I could never have come up with that on my own.

I will be really interested in peoples’ views on this. “Leadership is Influence”, to quote John Maxwell. People influence others and situations in many ways – through charisma, eloquence, power, motivation and many other ways.

But the more I go through life the more I realise that the quality that influences me most is a caring heart. It is not weak, – it comes from a strength of character! It speaks of an intuitive respect for people and a desire to validate and acknowledge the intrinsic worth of each person we meet. I only work with people who care. It IS the secret ingredient. The funny thing is that people who do care often don’t realise the value it brings to any transaction. It says “you matter”, it says “I will look after you”, it says “I will go the extra mile to make sure you are satisfied”. It is inherently unselfish and other-directed.

As a principle it echoes Zig Ziglar:

zig_ziglar_help_enough

 

In business there is a traditional costing model for products and services:

Labour + Materials + Overheads + Margin = Price!

I offer another model:

Labour + Materials + Overheads + CARE FACTOR + Margin = Price!

There is a premium that is due for that Care Factor. And the people who care the most often dismiss it or are not really conscious to it. I am passionate about helping people achieve that premium. The other side of that is being willing to pay that premium. I have a saying:

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“Discount is not the currency of blessing – great service is!”
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Let us be a people who willingly pay that premium so we can enjoy that great service. Remember that value is remembered long after the price is forgotten. In a world where truth is relative and the moral backstop has been removed, there is a deep and growing hunger for authenticity, truth and honesty.

So my moment of clarity this week is to dust off your ‘Care Factor’ and become an influence for good in your world. If it has been bruised and battered in the ‘roil and moil’ of life, take time out to heal and renew. Forgive those who have used you and taken advantage of you and decide to come back again to ‘care first’ and ‘care always’ and be a shining light in a world that needs it.

Have a great week, Brian.

+61 408 277 773

The Secret Ingredient of Influence

This weeks offering is at first I’m afraid a sad confessional.
But abandon not hope – there is a good ending.

Don’t you just love good customer service! I really appreciate it. Helen laughs – she knows that ‘Acts of Service’ is my number one love language.
No doubt most of you will have come across that great book by Gary Chapman called “The 5 Love Languages”.

Anyway, as I said, one of the ‘Love Languages’ is ‘Acts of Service’ and I really respond to it. For years I have had a high expectation of good service, along with a very strong sense that in fact I am entitled to good service.

Given the above, I have had some ‘interesting’ encounters over the years with customer service personnel. I hang my head in shame when I think of it now, but my view was – “I know what I want and how I want it, and I will patiently take whatever time you need, so you understand exactly what I want, but it is not negotiable for you to give me anything other than exactly what I have asked for.”

cranky food customer

I thought I was friendly and patient, but I know now that in reality I was insufferable!
My great complaints were “why does no-one care about their customers…?” and “where can you find someone who actually cares…?”

I spent hours and hours and hours trying to get someone on the other end of the phone to care enough to give me what I wanted. Call centres were nearly the death of me. And as for that speaking computer – spare me!!

Am I the only one who ever screamed “Operator… Operator… Operator… into the phone at that awful voice – and then get the answer – “I’m having a little difficulty in getting that…” please tell me again in two or three words how I can help you…”

And it seemed almost as if they knew I was coming, because the harder I tried to get them to care the more they made it obvious that they didn’t – in fact not a jot!

I had a major revelation one Thursday night trying to sort out a billing issue with that big telecoms company – you know, the one that starts with the letter after ‘S’. I got the same responses as above and when I eventually gave up I was fit to burst. And I heard a voice clearly speak to me saying “Look at the state of you. YOU KNEW before you picked up the phone what was going to happen and you did it anyway”. “You have got to find another way!”

You know those times when you suddenly come face to face with yourself and it is not pretty! I had one of those evenings. And then a few days later I listened as my beautiful, caring wife dealt with the issue in no time at all with an excellent outcome. She was friendly and caring and kindly asked for help – and got it.

margaretmead - caring

It hit me like a hammer – stop trying to get people to care for you. You care for them first. It has transformed my life. Instead of marching up to the flight desk and demanding and expecting a flight change or a seat change and getting nothing, I now ask for help and I take the time to get to know names. And I find people are all too happy to help. Now I get upgrades, I get credits on those telecoms accounts, and my customer service encounters are filled with smiles and thank you’s instead of scowls and resistance.

And at the end of all that, my humble moment of clarity is ‘care first’ and ‘care always’. That, I think, is the Secret Ingredient of Influence.

Have a great week. I really enjoy your feedback and welcome it.

All the Best, Brian.
+61 408 277773

Make a Date to Catch Up…

I was just talking to a client the other day about our holiday. I was sharing that we couldn’t remember the last time we went on a holiday that was just that – a holiday. As far back as we go, virtually every holiday we went on had another purpose. Visiting family, here or in Ireland; Mission trips to various parts of the world; going to conferences and adding on a few days. My clients response was “is that possible?”, “you’ve got to write about that in your blog”.

We had the same revelation some time ago in the middle of dinner with close friends, that this was the first time in whenever we were catching up with these friends for no other purpose than to catch up! We realised that virtually every social interaction had a background purpose. It wasn’t awful or anything – it was good – it’s just that there was usually a reason. It might have been pastoral, or business, or about an event or an organisation we were involved with. It might have been networking, supporting through crisis (ours or theirs!), visiting someone who was unwell, a bible study, committee meetings. The list goes on. We don’t have children, but I can imagine for parents that would be a huge list of its own.

Don’t get me wrong, all of this is a wonderful part of living in community and it is rich and rewarding. But, boy it can get exhausting!

I still remember the amazing feeling of just being together at a great restaurant by the ocean. And it was making my spirit sing – the pleasure and enjoyment of just hanging out together and sharing and listening. We came away from that dinner refreshed, energised and closer.

Friends over Dinner

It is one of the wonderful paradoxes of life – we are born for relationship and connection. And in our lives we are interacting with people all the time and I wonder are we spending more time ‘transacting’ than truly connecting. I wonder myself are my relationships deepening over time? Am I taking time to truly listen with my heart as well as my ears? Do I truly know where my closest friends are at? Do I take time to listen past the “I’m fine” or “Not bad”?. My answer for me is I can do a lot better.

So my moment of clarity this week is to make a date. Time IS precious, and there is so much to do, but I encourage you to make a date – with a spouse, your family or friends for no other purpose than to spend time together. I think you will be so glad you did.

All the Best, Brian
+61 408277773