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

Did You See the Sunset Last Night?

Hi
First of all an apology. I missed sending out this blog last week. I got some calls – it won’t happen again.
Anyway, this week I am writing from Hawks nest, a beautiful little seaside town north of Sydney. They tell me not to say exactly where it is, so as to keep it everyone’s little secret. So I won’t. But if you Google TeaGardens you’ll be close.

It is truly a beautiful place, undeveloped and relaxing. We are ‘Glamping’, otherwise known as ‘posh camping’ or camping where you DON’T have to fill your car and a trailer to the brim with everything and spend hours unpacking and setting up. It’s all done for you with a real bed and an ensuite. So we are having a wonderful time. And I did something this week that I thought would never happen. I went with Helen to sit and watch a sunset. And it was truly amazing – as some of the pictures will attest.
Sunset North 2
Do you know one of the curious things about a caravan and camping park is how everyone is friendly, and waves, and takes time for a chat. It reminded me of the time in 2000 when the Olympics came to town. The whole city became like a giant caravan and camping park. Everyone was friendly and took time for a chat. Do you remember what it was like on the buses going to and from the venues. It was awesome! The whole place was a holiday camp. and it lasted for more than a few months.

Then it slowly drifted back to ‘normal’ city life. There IS a lasting remnant though, if you ever take the bus to the Olympic Stadium for a rugby game. The atmosphere on the buses is just great – much the same as it was back in 2000. I love the conversations we have on the way to and from the game. If you tried that on the number 38A on a Monday morning though, you might get a different response…

Sunset 2
And it occurred to me, as it does, that we could create a new ‘normal’. William Wilberforce, that amazing man who back in the 1700’s fought for and won the abolition of slavery, also dedicated his life to another goal – “The Reformation of Manners”. At the time it was laughed off as a hopeless pipedream. But he had a huge impact and all manner of community organisations and support groups sprung up during that time, many of which still operate today. The heart of it was about people being mindful of each other and being mindful that we live in community, and that if each of us brought that mindfulness to bear in our dealings with each other, the world we live in would be a much better place.

And that is the atmosphere in our caravan and camping park. Everyone is mindful, and that makes us kinder and more thoughtful and we take more time for each other.

You might say that’s OK when we are on holidays. And Yes, that’s true. But wouldn’t it be good to take some of that back to the city with us? and maybe take the time to stop, sit, and watch the sunset? And That’s my moment of clarity this week.

All the best, Brian.
0408 277 773

Perspectives … and trying to Lose Weight

I carry a bit of extra weight. OK, a lot of extra weight. I have done so for years. Rugby was my passion and I played breakaway and No.8 for years. I was fit then, and fast. And I had the appetite of a No.8. The problem was that when I stopped playing rugby, I continued to eat like a No.8 and now unfortunately, I look more like a prop. (For those who are not familiar with the terms, the No.8 is the tall, fast, thin guy at the back of the scrum. The prop is the big, slow, heavy guy in the middle of the scrum).

Front row

Anyway, for those like me, who carry extra weight it can be a big struggle to lose the kilos. I have done it all – Weightwatchers, Dr. Atkins, High Protein-Low Carb diets. GutBusters, Fit for Life – you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve had personal trainers, personal torturers, joined gyms – tried it all. I’ve done aquarobics, where at 59 I was the ‘young boy’ in the class (that was fun!) I could go on and on. I have more books and commando exercise programmes than you could poke a stick at.

So from all that you can gather I am pretty qualified to join in the chorus of those who talk about “How HARD it is…” to lose weight! And with my background I am also fully qualified to blame my weight on my past. For many this IS a real issue.

But the other day I was involved in one of those conversations(you know…about how ‘HARD’ it is to lose weight) and as I walked away I was really challenged. When I stopped to think of all I have to be thankful and grateful for… my life is blessed, not hard. Losing a loved one is HARD! Cancer is HARD! Having your house destroyed by bushfire is HARD! Living in Iraq right now is HARD!

Losing weight, along with a host of other ‘First World’ challenges we face is NOT hard. I have had a revelation of how out of whack my perspective has been on this and a whole list of other stuff that I allow myself to get bothered by…

So my moment of absolute clarity this week is actually not about losing weight(though I think I have just completely dobbed myself in to all of you on that issue!).
It is about perspective. Is our language and our self-talk in proper perspective? Is it really ‘hard to do’? or can we make a proper, quality decision and just go do it? It may not be about losing weight. It could be about anything.
What one change in perspective can you make this week that will open up for you a whole world of new possibilities?

Have a great week, Brian.
brian@brianmaguire.com.au

PS: I really appreciate the encouraging feedback I am receiving about these blogs. If you think someone you know might be interested, do feel free to share this with them. BM

Cartoon compliments of shafiq-asimplelife

Go For It…Take the Next Step!

Out on our balcony last night, straining to see the ‘Blood Moon’ through the clouds, I was offered another humerous insight into human behaviour (mostly my own human behaviour!). You couldn’t see a thing because of the cloud cover, yet I spent the best part of half an hour staring at the clouds as if by just staring, the clouds would somehow clear and reveal all. They didn’t. But we did see the the moon with a slice missing before it disappeared behind said clouds, so we settled for that.

It reminded me of what an ancient prophet said a long time ago about us being guided by a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It spoke of the old camel trains that travelled centuries ago along the Silk Route from China and India in the east to the Mediterranean Sea. They often travelled by night, and in those days, without the benefit of GPS or Google Maps, they depended on the light of old oil lamps. These lamps were not much chop and at a push, would light up about the length of half a camel, just one or two steps at a time.

Camel train silhouetted against colorful sky crossing the Sahara Desert, Morocco

Then once a month, the moon would come up and they would get a sense of the horizon and refocus on where they were headed. Then it was back to one step at a time by the dim light of an oil lamp.
Yet these travellers covered vast distances, over 6,500 kms right across the top of the world. They knew exactly where they were going and it took a long time but they got there by just taking the next step, and the next…

I wondered was this a good analogy for our lives, our businesses, our hopes and dreams? A famous writer once said that the future is dimly-lit and hard to see, but the present is brightly-lit and clear to see. We can have a goal, a destination or a dream yet sometimes we hesitate because we can’t see how we can get there. And, in truth, we rarely CAN see the whole journey, but we CAN always identify the first step.

Goethe’s famous quote on taking the first step is one of my favourites:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance
to draw back.
…but the moment you definitely commit yourself,
Providence moves,
And all sorts of things occur to help you that would never otherwise have occurred,
raising in your favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and assistance which no-one could have dreamed would come your way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.”


So my Moment of Clarity this week is to step out and “Go for it”. Even if we can’t see the moon we can always see the next step in front of us. So take that first step, get into motion. Whether it is a dream, a change, breaking new ground, whatever, “Go For It!” And, in time, like the great camel trains of the Silk Road you will get there – even if it is just one step at a time.

Have a great week. As always, I welcome your feedback.

All the Best, Brian.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Your Stories are Powerful – Share Them!

Last weekend we saw a terrible tragedy unfold at the MCG. The Sydney Swans, who had dominated all season, fell at the last hurdle. It was awful to watch. I am referring to the emotional dissembling of the died-in-the-wool Swans supporters with whom we watched the 2014 AFL Grand Final. One of them had to go to another room, so great was their trauma.
Being a St Kilda tragic, I was full of empathy, having been in exactly the same position in 2010.
That is not what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t just walk by the scattered remains of a seasons hopes without a sympathetic mention.

MCG resized

This week IS about the AFL Grand Final, a DIFFERENT Grand Final, and the story does involve St.Kilda and The Sydney Swans. It is a story of faith, and hope, blind, senseless faith and hope and how one man’s senseless faith and hope can inspire another to similar acts of senseless faith and hope.

The story is first about the 2009 AFL Grand Final. All through 2009, St.Kilda were in the ascendancy and they lost only 3 games all season. So great was my expectation of finals victory, I booked flights and accommodation for September very early in the season. I reckoned that if we weren’t able to get tickets for the game, any pub in Melbourne on Grand Final Day was going to be better than sitting at home.

My hopes were realised and St.Kilda made it to the Grand Final. We were not able to get tickets from anywhere before the day but we flew to Melbourne undaunted. I said to my wife Helen “we’ll go to the ground early and surely we will pick up a couple of spare tickets from someone”.

So two hours before the game we headed for the ground. I started to practice my pitch for tickets along the way. I have done this successfully many times at rugby union tests but I soon realised this was a different game. I was met with huge laughter and ridicule. Everyone thought this was the funniest, stupidest thing, a guy walking towards the MCG on Grand Final day, expecting to pick up tickets.

I persevered anyway. After 15 minutes, Helen retreated to a safe distance, out of the drizzle and out of the embarrassment zone. She said she was praying. I approached anyone that looked like they had a ticket in their hands. Half past one came and with it rising anxiety. Two o’clock came – nothing. Ten past two passed with no result and the situation was getting a little desperate. With only 15 minutes to go to kickoff I started to consider Plan B – a dash to the nearest pub. I decided to hold on for 5 more minutes. We heard the cheer as the teams came out . We heard the National Anthem being sung. “Just one more lap” I said to myself, of a forecourt by now almost empty.

“Are you looking for something” a voice behind me said. I turned and looked at this guy and said (thinking as I said it what a ridiculous proposition). “I was hoping to buy a couple of tickets”. He took an envelope out of his pocket and said “would these do?” I looked and in his hand were two Premium Centre Square Corporate tickets. “They are yours if you want them”, he said. My eyes started to misbehave and I could barely see a thing. I remember giving him a great big bearhug and stammering “thank you, thank you, thank you” and then rushing for the gate to save both our embarrassments. Helen was happy her prayers had worked.
AFL 2009 cropped
It took a while to get our breath back and for the blessing to sink in. The guy beside Helen paid almost $2,000.00 for his ticket. The seats were awesome – under cover on a rainy day with perfect views. Our benefactor had managed the corporate ticket sales programme and had a few tickets left over. He decided to look for a couple of deserving punters outside rather than burn the tickets.

You can imagine that story has been told many, many times since then. The tickets are framed and on the wall of my study, and it reminds me that faith and hope, even blind, senseless faith and hope, works. By the way, St.Kilda lost at the end of the day, but that pain pales in comparison with the joy of the victory at the beginning.

And now I come to this week’s moment of absolute clarity.

Mid-morning last Saturday, the morning of the Grand Final I got a text from a friend:

“Hey Brian, we are in Melbourne for the SWANNIEs!!!
What time did you head down to get your tickets?”

I responded:

“Go well – I was there from about 12.30 – go with
faith and patience. Cheers, Brian”

90 minutes later:

“Hallelujah we got tickets!!! :-)”

It hit me there and then – We MUST tell our stories of faith and hope!
We never know when our story can be just the thing to encourage someone to step out in faith and hope themselves – even the blind, senseless faith and hope that believes you can get tickets to the AFL Grand Final on the day!
Based on someone’s story, my friends stepped out in their own faith and hope and it was rewarded.

Have a good week, Brian

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Enjoy a Technology-Free Weekend

Last weekend I went on a father and son adventure. We went up to the end of Kanimbla Valley to a farm owned by Rob, and amazing man with a wonderful heart. There were nearly 20 of us – (half kids and half grown-up kids!) and we had a great time.

Rob had us herding cattle, tagging calves, trying (mostly unsuccessful on my part) to capture cows in the crush and all manner of cattleyard tasks. We took turns with chainsaws and built a big bonfire. It was wonderful. We sat around the fire, cooked marshmallows on sticks (longer and longer sticks as the heat built up) and cheered at every shower of sparks that flew into the air. It was just a glorious evening and the stars put on a boastful show of their splendour.

Then we went back to the farmhouse for a big pot of Spag Bol. We enjoyed some very nice reds over an evening of relaxed and hilarious conversation. Do you know I haven’t laughed as much for ages.

Then we spent Sunday morning digging out weeds on the side of a mountain that Edmund Hillary would have baulked at.
The boys had a ball too. The rule for the weekend was no electronics. We did not hear one complaint. But we did hear the roar of laughter, and of mini-bikes and quad bikes tearing around the farm. And the boys really got into the cow herding and calf-chasing. There was a less enthusiastic response to the weeding, but as we adults had to ‘provide a good example’, we kept digging.

I spent a couple of peaceful hours on the Sunday just sitting in the middle of a paddock reflecting on what really mattered and I cannot remember the last time I did that. It was probably the simplest and most enjoyable weekend I have had this year. We can get so wrapped up in our fast-paced worlds with our phones and devices rarely more than an arms-length away.

My moment of clarity this week is to book a regular technology-free weekend and go do some of the simple fun things we used to do before email, mobiles and the world-wide web. Or am I showing my age…?

Have a great week. Brian.

I welcome your feedback:

+61 408 277 773

brian@brianmaguire.com.au

Let What Matters Most, Matter Most!

I spoke at a business breakfast a few weeks ago and the process of preparing for it was quite challenging. I have come to realize that many of the perspectives that I have traditionally relied on have basically been blown out of the water.
I spoke on “Let What Matters Most, Always Matter Most”. Right now my wife Helen’s Dad is dealing with cancer after 83 years of hearty good health. At the same time my lifelong friend in Ireland, Aidan, (Mono to his friends) is fighting cancer. He is just a very little further past 60 than me.
Add to this the disturbing events that are happening in the world at the moment, and I am left reflecting a lot on the question “what really, REALLY matters to me…”
A particular photo of a Mum and child standing on ruins in Eastern Europe also brought me up short. I have been clear and settled on my political position re the Middle East, but seeing that picture profoundly challenged me.
In truth, it is far less about political positioning than it is about people. It is people that matter to God, and at the core of my being, it is people that matter to me.

I am starting to see that over the years I have become immersed in world affairs and things political and economic that I can have absolutely no control over, but they end up stealing my peace and making me lose sight of what really matters and where I can have some influence for good.

So my moment of Absolute Clarity this week is to keep coming back to what really matters most, and to make sure that they always matter most.

Have a good and perhaps reflective week. Brian.

I welcome your feedback:
0408 277773
brian@brianmaguire.com.au

Kindness – My Godmother’s Legacy

My Godmother Maura died last week. It took me by surprise. I heard the news not long after I had returned to Sydney from a trip to Dublin to see my mother. My mother is 85 and physically well for her age, but her mind is settling slowly. She lives in a beautiful retirement home . They just love her there. “if we had a home full of Vera’s we would be happy as…” one of the nurses told me.

My mother never complains, she is just happy and content being really well looked after. She gets a visit every day from one of my sisters. You know, there is always something new to learn. I have discovered that the currency of power and status in a retirement home is the number of visitors you get. My mother is the Queen Bee! She gets more visits than anyone else there. I am so grateful to my sisters for that. It is a big commitment and they honour it faithfully.

Though my mother never complains, she does suffer quite a lot of pain. The nurses now have to look onto her eyes for the tell-tale signs. Then they can help her. She won’t ask. “Ah sure, its only a bit of pain”, she’ll say, “nothing to bother about”.

My Mother and Maura were first cousins and best friends and hung out together growing up and in the dancing years before they were married. When I look back and remember them together they were a hoot. They both had that sparkle in their eyes and were never far from laughter, and I know they would have broken many young mens’ hearts in their dancing days at the Metropole and the Olympia.

Maura had this wonderful, wonderful warm laugh. It washed over you like the melodic strains of a Strauss waltz and left you feeling bathed in warmth and love. She was probably the most peaceful and kind person I knew in my childhood – kind and gentle and warm and loving. I never knew my Grandmothers – both had died before I was born. But I think if I had, it would have been like being with Maura. She was probably the person who most showed me kindness and unconditional love in my childhood.

Hearing of her passing reminded me of the impact of kindness. I think kindness is one of the most powerful demonstrations of humanity there is.

For me, it is a statement from one person to another that “I care, you matter and that is important to me to show you that I care”.

An act of kindness crosses all boundaries, all dimensions, all levels of humankind. It is as important as a smile, a wave, stepping back to let someone else go first, a hug, a cup of tea, a coin in a tin, or a gentle touch. It is listening and not talking, it is bending down to listen to a child, it is patiently waiting for the person in front who is moving more slowly than you. There are so many more ways to show kindness. It is one of the great spiritual gifts.

It is, I believe, one of the most powerful forms of validation I know of, an acknowledgement from one human to another at its most basic level, that you exist, that you are of value and that I acknowledge you.

I used to think of Maura often, and I could not believe that I was in Dublin for a whole week and it never occurred to me to go visit her. I am saddened at the missed opportunity, but on reflection, it has reminded me of her legacy. Maura’s legacy is that wherever she went, she showed kindness.

And my moment of Absolute Clarity is not to spend too much time focused on myself and my own petty stuff, but to look up and look around and take the opportunity to be kind.

Have a great week.  Brian.

I welcome your feedback:

0408 277773

brian@brianmaguire.com.au

Welcome to Moments of Absolute Clarity

This is something some have encouraged me to do for a while now.

My goal is to use this blog to share with you insights and inspirations, observations and experiences gathered along the journey towards Absolute Clarity.

Jim Rohn, my great Mentor talked often about taking the time to record these insights in a journal. This, for me, is a sort of an online journal, and you are welcome to read my journal and to join in the conversation if you wish.

So if you would like a weekly dose of insight and inspiration, served with an irish accent, just click the link below. If you would rather not receive emails or blog posts from me, just hit ‘reply’ and enter “No Thanks” in the subject line.

Looking forward to sharing with you and you sharing with me .

 

All the Best, Brian.