You've Got 25 Feet To Save Your Career

You’ve Got 25 Feet To Save Your Career

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Kenneth Aronoff is a drummer for John Mellencamp. He’s also part of a documentary, The Untold Stories Of Your Favorite Musicians. He talks about the early days with Mellencamp when he was asked to come up with a drum solo of sorts for a new song, Jack & Diane.

When I first heard him say it my mind went into a few different directions.

One, being good under pressure. Not everybody is. How can we improve that skill?

Two, being good on your feet. That is, being able to figure it out in real-time, with the clock ticking. Again, how can we hon that ability?

Three, knowing you’re at a pivot point that could (no guarantees) change everything. How can we recognize the importance of this moment?

Aronoff had enough of all three to handle this moment.

“It’s kind of funny…the moments on which life hinges. I think growing up you always imagine your life–your success–depends on your family and how much money they have, where you go to college, what sort of job you can pin down, starting salary…But it doesn’t, you know. You wouldn’t believe this, but life hinges on a couple of seconds you never see coming. And what you decide in those few seconds determines everything from then on… And you have no idea what you’ll do until you’re there…”
― Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics (a novel)

Pessl is a novelist who has crafted some great lines. Truthful lines. This is one of favorites. Life often hinges on a couple of seconds we never see coming. More accurately, it hinges on what we do in that moment. In those seconds. And while you have no idea until you’re there, all the things we’ve done up that moment prepare us.

I will prepare and some day my chance will come.  – Abraham Lincoln

That line speaks to our ability and our optimism. The belief that we’ll put in the necessary work and in time, we’ll get an opportunity.

I often wonder if we knew in advance of that moment, would it help us or hurt us? Might we live in constant fear and anxiety if we knew? It may be a blessing that when those moments arrive, we had little or no warning.

In the last episode I talked about how special forces train so when the battle erupts, they react wisely (and well) automatically. So much so, they describe their reactions under fire as “it just happens.” That’s the value of preparation. It’s the value of focus, intensity and dedication to constant improvement.

It’s also the quest to learn what we don’t yet know. Ignorance isn’t bliss. It can be disastrous when we act based on it. Many dramatic stories prove the point. Mostly, tragedies prove it. Hamlet. Romeo & Juliet. Stories where people lacked knowledge, but took actions based on it. Stories where they had 25 to save themselves, or somebody else…but they got it wrong.

Tragedy has visited each of us, partly because of actions taken based on our ignorance. We thought something, but without full knowledge, or understanding, we got it wrong. The result was tragic. Maybe not life and death tragic, but some version of tragic none the less.

25 feet to get it right. Or to get it wrong.

I began to consider the journey to those 25 feet, wondering how important those feet are. And how we might influence them.

Reminiscing of my 25-foot-moments I tried to remember what led me there. What happened and how did I get it wrong? Did I get it wrong? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

Randy Cantrell

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Practicing It So Much That When The Moment Comes, It Just Happens

Practicing It So Much That When The Moment Comes, It Just Happens

On Chris Williamson’s Modern Wisdom YouTube show with Tim Kennedy, a Special Forces master sergeant and author, Kennedy was recounting the extensive training of special forces. In the fog of war there is no time to think when bullets start flying. It’s all reaction. He details the many micro movements of firing a weapon during a fire fight, emptying the weapon and reloading – all within seconds. It’s not a strategic – “I now need to do this” – kind of thing. It’s something you’ve practiced tens of thousands of times. So much that when the moment comes, it just happens.

It just happens.

He said you practice it so much, that when the moment comes, it just happens!

But first, it’s a slow, arduous journey of working hard.

Everything is hard, until it’s easy. Everything is slow, until it’s fast. 

This is why most things remain hard to many people. They don’t put in the work.

It’s why we remain broke, fat and miserable, too. And why too many of us lack faith, gratitude and compassion.

Because it’s hard work. It’s not couch potato work!

Some weeks ago I mentioned to Lisa Norris, my co-host on the Grow Great podcast (a podcast about city government leadership) that every high-performer I’ve ever known pursues the hard stuff. They’re not complacent. They’re all strategic in learning more, growing and adding to their arsenal. I remarked,

“Everything is hard, until it’s easy and high-performer are always chasing the hard stuff.”

Practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice does. That’s what we’ve heard for decades. It’s absurd though because it presupposes that our work ought to be perfect in practice (when it doesn’t matter as much). However, if the saying speaks to the process of practice being perfect (our willingness to put in the work by doing what we must in order to improve), then it’s not absurd at all.

When I heard Tim Kennedy’s response I went back to notes I’d been making to myself about preparation (practice). I’m a lifelong fan of preparation. This – and all my podcasts – depict my fandom. I use a broadcast workflow because I’d rather prepare in advance of recording instead of just winging it, then fixing it all in editing after-the-fact. Besides, preparation is where I’ve found my confidence can be greatly enhanced. And I hate not feeling confident.

What is confidence? Where does it come from? Where do we have it?

Long ago I concluded that my confidence isn’t singular. There are a few different types of confidence in my life.

First, there’s confidence in God. I’ll call it a spiritual confidence. It’s based on belief, faith and conviction. It’s not an internal faith in myself, but rather it’s my inner confidence in something and someone else – something much higher and more powerful than myself. My spiritual confidence is based only on the Bible because it’s the only standard I have to inform me about God. Any other confidence based on feelings or intuitions or urges would come from me, not the Bible. That makes them susceptible to being mere delusions so I won’t base my spiritual confidence on such things.

Second, there’s confidence in others. This is an external confidence based on my belief and trust in others. It may be based on past history or expected future. I’m confident that our family will help influence my five grandchildren to be successful adults, able to navigate their lives well. Ages 16 to 8, it’s yet to be proven, but I have confidence in our family and in these children. Maybe it’s an optimism based on the work we’re putting in to help train them all. But it’s not entirely based on the adults in the family. None of these 5 children have shown an unwillingness to be compliant to learn and improve.

My confidence in others is based on past behaviors and on my expectations of their capabilities. It’s not an absolute though because I’m not in control of what they do. I’m not confident they’ll please me because that’s not my expectation. I expect them to improve and grow because I care about them being their best.

Third, I have confidence in myself. It’s not absolute or complete. Sometimes it’s spotty. More so than I’d like.

My confidence in myself is mostly born from preparation…practice. In areas where I fail to focus, I struggle. Appropriately.

Permit me to veer to where I lack confidence and why.

The federal government is’t my savior. I already have a Savior who is divine so there’s no point in looking for one that’s not. I know many people look at the federal government, and to a lesser degree state and local governments, to rescue them from whatever ails them. I don’t. It’s a conscious choice all of us make.

It’s problematic to put confidence where it doesn’t belong because fundamentally it’s delusional. It’s belief in something that isn’t worthy of that belief. It’s unreasonable and unrealistic expectation that something will happen, which will never happen. The cavalry of government isn’t coming to save us. They work vigorously to make us believe though. They desperately want and need our confidence to be placed in them. “Trust us. We know what’s best. Just leave this business to us.” We hear those kinds of messages from local municipalities all the way to Washington, DC. It’s a global epidemic as governments are in full-blown self-preservation mode growing bigger and bigger.

…I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”          – Ronald Reagan

Self-preservation motivates those in power to remain in power. Fear contributes to the process. It works like a charm. A snake charmer! 😀

I only digress to point out that everybody can put their confidence where they choose. This is merely my admission of my own choices. You make those you feel are best for you. I’m on record that I’m a capitalist who enjoys the power of a free and open market. Yes, I support competition and oppose monopolies. There’s nothing free about the latter. I know markets make winners and losers of us all. If I bring insufficient value, I won’t survive as a business. If I bring high value, I will. Besides, I’m fond of knowing how I’m doing. Keeping score is a great thing when it comes to business and enterprise. It’s a terrible thing when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

In the race to bet on oneself or to bet on government, I’d much prefer to bet on myself. I view government as I view leadership. It’s a focus on others and doing for others what they can’t do for themselves. So while I need government and as a Christian, I pray for governments, I don’t put my confidence in them – beyond trusting them to pick up my trash, make sure my water works (and is clean), make sure my toilets flush, make sure my electricity continues to work, make sure my safety is reasonably preserved, etc. I can’t do those things for myself.

1 Timothy 2:1–4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Romans 13:1
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Who is working for whom? It’s fundamental to the conversation about confidence and being prepared. Who is serving whom?

Being in service to myself to put in the necessary work to become better isn’t selfish. It’s right. Everybody benefits.

As I grow and improve as a person I can better influence those around me. I can make better decisions. Take better actions. Benefit myself and all around me. It can’t be helped IF I practice with intensity to insure that when moments come, I’m fully prepared to do the right thing. Not without thinking, but because I already made up my mind. Because I pre-thought it by putting in the work.

That’s the point.

Putting in the work in advance. That’s the practice.

Putting in the work long enough to endure the hard…until it gets easier. Then continuing it long enough until it becomes easy.

Then…

Advancing it up a notch (or three) to make it hard again…until it gets easier.

For me, it’s the drive to always make it better. It’s also the dissatisfaction that it’s good enough. Not to the point where my discontentment is crippling (or anywhere close to that), but to the point where I’m continually driven to improve it. It’s a restlessness with complacency.

For me, it’s not a restlessness with calmness or quiet. I’ve seen that in the lives of others, people who are just perpetual motion machines. Such folks tend to not get nearly enough done though. They log a bunch of miles, but without actually going anywhere. This often mistake movement with progress.

It rarely just happens for them. I know because I hear how hard they work, how much they’re hustling, how fast they’re working and how busy they are. “I’ve gotta run,” they repeat. Years later, it’s the same thing. These poor folks are stuck in Ground Hog Day living a life on constant REPEAT. That’s not progress. That’s not growing confidence. That’s not practicing so when the moments comes “it just happens.”

It’s also exhausting. And I’m only a spectator to their frenzy, but it whips me.

In place of that…what if the effort were focused? Intentional. Purposeful. Strategic.

What if our “practice” was driven with forethought aimed at an ideal outcome?

And here’s a big one: what if our practice was at something we couldn’t wait to do over and over again because we desperately wanted to master it?

And what if we mastered it and we still felt like we could advance in it?

How good could you become at such a thing?

There’s only one way to find out. Do it. Give it a go. Keep on giving it a go. Make sure that talent is your limitation, not aimed effort.

I know I have limited skills that will prevent me from achieving more, but I have no way of knowing those limitations if I don’t practice diligently to improve.

There are naturally gifted athletes who make it to the professional ranks. There are less gifted people who also make it to the pros. It would seem you can make it to the professional leagues of sports by being naturally talented, but you also have to put in the work to practice your sport. The extraordinary athletes, those world-class performers, combine both. Then along comes that person who has visibly natural ability that makes them superior, but something goes awry. Maybe it’s addiction. Maybe it’s poor behavior. Maybe it’s lack of desire, or lack of work ethic. And their career, which could have been spectacular, fizzles. Because something got in the way of putting in the practice. Discipline to stay the course. Missing.

It’s hard to discipline yourself. It’s hard to do the hard thing. Procrastination is easy. “I don’t feel like it right now,” is a phrase I’ve said too often. As a result, many things have gone undone. Either completely or for longer than necessary.

Not right now.

And when the moment comes, that’s the answer we get back to the thing we most wish would happen in that moment…

Not right now.

How’s that working out for you?

Really well.

It’s efficient. Reliable. Ridiculously predictable.

Galatians 6

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 

You didn’t know that was in the Bible? Yep, that’s where mankind got that wisdom – you reap what you sow. What goes ’round comes ’round. God ordained it.

Nature proves it. Plant tomatoes and you get tomatoes, not okra. Or cucumbers. Everything after its kind. God ordained that, too.

What are you practicing? Why?

If you practice self-indulgence, then that’s what you’ll reap. The consequences of a self-indulgent life.

If you practice self-discipline, then that’s what you’ll reap. The benefits of temperance, self-control.

I wish it were an all the time, everything deal, but for me – it’s not. Sometimes I’m self-indulgent. Other times, I’m self-disciplined. My goal is to lean away from self-indulgence and lean toward wisdom through self-discipline. Restraint from the things I should not do and embracing the things I should – that’s what I ought to do. Ought to.

“Mean to don’t pick no cotton” is a Southern saying that means saying you intend to do something is different from actually doing it.

“All hat and no cattle” is an idiom that means someone is full of big talk but lacks action, power, or substance.

I’m too often guilty of that. Like right now.

I’ve got a list of things I need to do. A long list that isn’t getting any shorter because I’m not knocking things off that list.

The Yellow Studio 4.0 took weeks longer because I’d stare at the work required and say, “Not now.” But when I dove in and began to do the work it was rewarding to see it come together. The feeling afterward was positive, uplifting. The feeling after I made excuses was guilt. Uplifting or guilt? That’s an easier choice than doing the work or putting it off.

Homer Simpson’s philosophy continues to grow in many of our lives. “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”

Well, the answer is choose regret and guilt or choose achievement and confidence. Laziness or achievement?

But there’s something else about that line uttered by the Special Forces guy…”

you practice it so much, that when the moment comes, it just happens!

In that world of warfare, there are moments that come. Pivotal, life and death moments.

As I kept thinking about this line and how truthful I believe it to be, I also realized that in our lives – we ordinary folks who aren’t in mortal combat – our achievements are comprised of lots of moments. Some of them micro moments. Some not so micro. More often than not, moments that don’t seem so consequential – not like a fire fight in war. More like, a moment where I decide to not eat that ice cream sandwich and go for a 20-minute walk instead. Moments where I decide not to buy that shiny little object, but to set that money aside in a high yield savings account. Or an S&P500 low cost index fund. And it’s the cumulative impact of all these choices that define my life.

Financially.

Spiritually.

Physically.

Relationally.

It’s a moment of hugging my wife. Or refraining from hugging her.

It’s a moment of putting my phone away so I can be more present as I sit across from her at a restaurant table. Or at home. Or not.

It’s a moment of squirreling away that $100 I find myself with, or blowing it on something frivolous.

It’s a moment of thinking the worst of somebody, or thinking there may be a plausible explanation for their behavior in this moment.

It’s the compounding effect of all my choices and decisions and how they add up to create a definition. Not a defining moment, but a defining life.

I’ve talked about that chart of a penny doubled every day for 30 days. It’s worth bringing up again, but it’s how our lives work in areas beyond money.

LTW compounding a penny

 

We make choices that seem insignificant. Good choices. Bad choices. The compounding works the same. Cumulative bad choices take a toll that’s far heavier than we think in real time. Cumulative good choices pay off in a far grander way than we realize in the moment. Good can take time. Bad tends to take less time.

By day 27 a person who opted for the penny doubled is thinking, “I made a horrible choice. Only 3 days left and I’m over $300,00 shy of what I could have had if I’d taken the million bucks.” But look at those last 3 days. In a single day he’d have made up the difference plus an additional $342K. The next day, he’s over 2.6x times the single million dollars. And by day 30, he’s got almost $5.4 million instead of just one million.

It’s these moments that define us. These moments of decision and action. Or indecision and inaction.

It doesn’t mean the line is any less valid or accurate. I think it very much is – we put in the work, we predetermine what we’re going to do, we practice doing it, and we keep on doing it over and over so when bigger moments come, it happens. Because all along the way those smaller moments have been happening. Our preparation has increased our confidence. Our confidence has built our resilience. Our resilience has prepared us for the things that could go wrong so we can counter punch them.

It’s the difference in a life well lived or a life wasted. For combat soldiers, it’s life or death. I could argue it’s true for us, too. All of us.

Randy Cantrell

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Making Yourself A Better Companion

Making Yourself A Better Companion

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Note: The picture in the featured image is my 100-year-old dad holding my 92-year-old mother’s hand as she lay dying. She passed from this life on April 4, 2024. They were married for 73 years, a testimony to the power of companionship.

Companion / Companionship

a person or animal with whom one spends a lot of time
a feeling of fellowship or friendship

Do you want to be alone with yourself?

And if not, then why do you think anybody else would ever want to be around you?

What is it about you that might be off-putting? Or unsafe?

Let’s begin with a word, EFFORT. It’s the thing we can all control. It’s the igniter in the combustion chamber of success. Whether it’s relationships – companionship, or some other pursuit – if we put in enough effort, we can always ensure our growth. Hard work may not result in an absolute win, but it will result in personal growth. The kind of growth that can impact every aspect of our life.

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”         ― Helen Keller

In recent weeks I’ve talked a lot about my challenges with having too many spinning plates. This goes directly to EFFORT, which means we need to discuss another word, CAPACITY. There is a limit to our effort because our time is limited. And our ability is limited, too.

Time is easy to measure. It’s definite.

Ability may be impossible to measure. I suspect we’re all severely limited by our mind thinking “this is all I’ve got,” when in reality, we can do more. Evidence of such things is the Navy Seal training and many other physical/mental challenges that people regularly conquer. The person who wants to run their first marathon may quit thinking it’s too hard. But those who go on to run their first learn they’re more able than they thought. Those who quit are convinced it just wasn’t something within their reach. Like Henry Ford famously said…

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

What if we believed – truly believed – we were more able?

I have asked hundreds of executives, business owners, and other leaders a simple question: “Would you say that most of your dreams have come true?”

100% of them answer, “Yes.”

That doesn’t mean every dream was achieved. Or that they’ve got no more dreams left to chase. It just means they achieved most of the things they set out to achieve.

After they’ve weighed in, I’ll then say, “Makes you wonder what kind of potential we’re leaving on the floor, huh?”

What if we dreamed bigger? What if we chased something seemingly impossible for us? Our lives seem to be proving to us that we might be able to achieve most things we pursue. Why shouldn’t we reach for more? And why shouldn’t we help others reach for more?

Time is easier. Daily we say YES and NO. Daily we may say yes to things we’d rather say no to. We may also say no to things we’d really like to say yes to. All these decisions impact our time. They determine our calendar. And our calendar – those things we answer wrongly – determines our resentment and bitterness.

Suppose I say yes to an invitation I’d rather say no to. Maybe I’m cowardly in the moment. Maybe I’m too worried about hurt feelings. Not my own, but the person inviting me. Maybe social pressures are in play. But for some reason, I give the wrong answer and now this dreaded event is on my calendar.

Who is served by my wrong answer?

Not me.

Not my inviter.

Nobody else in my sphere. Because I’m going to dread it and it’ll certainly impact my demeanor and behavior.

That doesn’t mean I have to behave hatefully. I can certainly make the decision that’s ideal in a polite way. I can be gracious and thank the person for inviting me, but politely decline.

A major component of managing effort, ability, and time is truth. We’re surrounded daily by deceit. Lies are all around us. Constantly. We come to think that lying is just a way of life, but it’s not. If we’re devoted to the truth – and our commitment to telling the truth, firstly to ourselves, then to everybody else – we can avoid a lot of messes.

The lies we tell ourselves take a heavier toll than I suspect we understand. Who wants to live a delusion? Well, you’d think most of us because it sure seems we’ve all done a fair job of creating our own matrix to define our lives. We tell ourselves what is and isn’t possible without any evidence. We wrap ourselves in blankets of anxiety and insecurity whilst pretending to be confident, strong and able. We show off and show out instead of showing up. We drive expensive cars to look rich while being in debt and broke. All that fronting is a lie – a delusion to medicate ourselves on feeling better about our life.

What if we just behaved better?

What if we told ourselves and others the truth? All the time?

What if we stopped fronting and pretending?

What if we did the right thing in kindness? Always acting with integrity?

What if the delusions and misjudgments of others were stripped of their power? What if we didn’t respond to hateful treatment? What if we didn’t get drawn into the delusion?

A woman tells me about a sister, a lifelong drug addict. It’s a long, laborious story of hurt, betrayal, and awful behavior. The parents – they’re gone now, but after years of being taken advantage of by a daughter. The delusion of the wayward sister foisted onto everybody in her wake, most notably those people who cared the most about her. And when big sister draws a line after realizing that a relationship – companionship – with little sister is only enabling little sister to impose her delusions – does the venom really start spewing from her sister. All the vile, hateful things she once thought she had endured now pale in comparison.

She says, “I love her very much, but she can’t see it. She’s so warped in how she sees her life and my life, there’s no fixing it. I now realize I have to commit myself to people who I love who are willing to love me back.”

As I listen to a story I’ve heard more times than I can recall (all the people whose lives have been disrupted by a loved one disconnected from the reality of their own poor choices and bad behavior), I think of all the waste. Wasted lives. Wasted time. Wasted resources. Total loss!

I hate the term “mindset,” mostly because it’s overused. That viewpoint, perspective or whatever word might be more suitable to me – it’s important. It determines how we behave. It determines our choices. Our effort. Our dreams. Our aspirations. What we believe.

“…when people already know they’re deficient, they have nothing to lose by trying.”
Carol S. Dweck,  Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

A Lack of Understanding Kills the Truth

truthBecoming a better companion requires becoming a better person. That takes work and the work needs understanding.

The parents of a murdered boy sue the city because the police department proved corrupt. Evidence was intentionally hidden. The public doesn’t have all the information available to the family of the victim. Public outcry rails against the family as money grubby greedy people. But money is the least of the family’s concerns. In fact, justice for their son’s murder is secondary to wanting to restore faith in police so others won’t have to endure what they’re going through. The public doesn’t understand, but they think they do. They’re convinced they’ve got it all figured out. They know exactly why this family is suing the city.

But they’re wrong.

A corrupt detective had destroyed evidence. His lies destroyed the truth, for a time. It had painted an untrue narrative of the victim in order to pin the murder on an easy suspect. The detective would be the hero, convicting a person based on strong, but circumstantial evidence. Evidence it turned out that was largely the result of a fictional story.

Over time – years – most come to understand what they formerly didn’t. A clearer understanding results in truth. Truth results in a change in their behavior toward the family. That’s how understanding unlocks things for all of us.

Things may not be what we think. Our assumptions and cognitive biases can interfere with the truth. Bad enough for us to practice a lie – like the detective. Worst still for our lie to be put on others.

I suppose few adults have avoided grossly misunderstanding or being misunderstood. Likely we’ve all been severely misjudged along the way, too.

We hate it when we’re misunderstood. We think little of seriously discerning whether or not we’re properly understanding others though. Especially motives. Like the parents suing the city.

There’s wisdom in following the evidence. What do people do? What and how do they say it? What can we know to be TRUE?

The woman who vows to be a good wife and mother may sound credible. But when we see her drunken, promiscuous behavior another picture unfolds. The truth. No matter her claims we can discern by how she acts – the choices she makes – that she’s not what she claims to be. It may not explain why she does what she does. And over time she may be shown as a selfish, neglectful wife and mom. But she’s fabricated a narrative to make herself appear different. Better. Lovely. Faithful. Dutiful. Concerned.

Which is it? Is it what she says, or what she does?

YOU?

What makes you worthy of companionship? What makes you a good friend? A good spouse? A good parent? A good grandparent?

Words matter. Actions more.

It’s interesting that when actions are wise and good, speech is congruent with the behavior. It’s when behavior and choices are sinful and selfish that the stories told don’t match up.

Truth.

A commitment to high standards of behavior.

A determination to grow.

A willingness to make wrongs right.

A humility to accept responsibility.

A courage to change and improve.

A resistance against pointing fingers.

A bravery to look in the mirror and see ourselves more clearly.

It all starts here. With us. You. Me.

The path forward to provide value to others starts with making ourselves valuable by behaving more wisely. It’s hard work. Arduous. Daunting sometimes. Often troubling as we stare down our demons.

“Who you are tomorrow begins with what you do today.”    ― Tim Fargo

We have to conquer ourselves, not others.

Romans chapter 7

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

The key to improving our companionship skills is to get busy with our minds, which drives our behavior. Whether you serve God Jehovah or something or somebody else, that’s for you to decide. But we’re all serving somebody. Things go wrong when we serve ourselves. That makes us poor companions. It destroys our influence to help others. It diminishes our value, resulting in a loss for everybody, most especially us!

“You don’t know how it feels…to be me.”   -Tom Petty

Or do you? We share more than we may think. Especially in the battle to become better humans. Some of us are fighting hard. Others, not at all. It’s the difference in keeping good company or not.

1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.”

And there it is. Our companionship with others can be good or evil. The companionship we choose to surround us can be good or evil.

We get to decide the kind of companion we’ll be and the kind of companions we want to be around.

Companionship isn’t about perfection. It’s about a few critical things.

Caring. Both of you care deeply about each other.

Understanding. Both of you are committed to understanding each other as fully as possible.

Belief. Both of you believe in each other.

Encouragement. Both of you provide the encouragement necessary so each of you can grow individually and together.

Compassion. It’s a focus on others – you both remain focused on helping each other.

Grace. When you get it wrong, both of you are determined to make it right because the relationship is that important to you both.

 

Randy Cantrell

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Customer Service Fanaticism

Customer Service Fanaticism

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In 1982 I stood in front of a group of employees of the retail company I was running to tell them, “Who would have thought we’d reach a time when saying “please” and “thank you,” “sir” and “ma’am” would be a competitive edge?” That was then. This is now.

Superior customer service is rare. That means the opportunities are extraordinary! Seize the day.

Abel seized the day. Here’s his story, as posted on my Facebook profile.

Abel with Schlotzsky’s in Grapevine, Texas
Abel with Schlotzsky’s in Grapevine, Texas

Schlotzsky’s Grand Prairie, Texas Is Today’s Customer Service HORROR Story (Small Hill Drive location)
Rhonda placed an order via the app (something she’s done with great frequency). Location: Grapevine, Texas. Problem: during checkout, the app encountered a problem with her saved credit card requiring that it be re-entered. Done. Order placed.

Problem #2: during that payment problem evidently the order location changed from Grapevine to Grand Prairie. She didn’t notice that until we were in the drive-through of the Grapevine location. She explained the problem and they politely said, “No problem. Just call them to get a refund and we’ll make the sandwiches here.” So we pulled into a parking spot to call Grand Prairie.

She explained the problem and as they seemed to be helping her the connection went dead. I suspect they hung up on her (she was on the speakerphone). She dialed back. Explained it again, but this time it was a different person. “No, we’ve already made the sandwiches. No refund!” (Do this in the voice/tone of the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld and you’ll be dangerously close to the sound of this man on the phone). She asked for the manager. “I am the manager.”

I took the phone to ply my powers of persuasion but without success. The Sandwich Nazi wasn’t going to bend an inch. This $22 transaction was more meaningful than a long-time customer.

I entered the Grapevine store to see what I could do. A pleasant gentleman behind the counter was taking orders. I was 3rd in line. Immediately I thought, “This store isn’t run by the same folks that operate Grand Prairie.”

Turns out, I was right.

As I explained our quandary, the gentleman said, “Oh yeah, you were just in the drive-through.” I told him Grand Prairie refused to issue a refund. He was shocked. I asked what I could do. He asked me what we ordered and I told him. He punched it into his computer and said, “I got you.” No, no, no – that wasn’t the solution I was looking for and I insisted on paying. “No,” he insisted, “I got you.”

I thanked him and told him I was going to share this story. I gave him my business card, took a quick selfie as he handed me the order, gave him a bro hug, and thanked him asking, “What’s your name?” I’m pretty sure he said, “Able.” If not, I apologize. It was busy and I didn’t want to detain him.

Schlotzsky’s in Grand Prairie – Small Hill Drive – boos and hisses to your ownership and management for pathetic customer services

Schlotzsky’s in Grapevine – kudos and salutes to your ownership and management for stepping up to do the right thing. A special shout-out to the gentleman in the picture. He understands how to be excellent!

NOTE: Abel is his name! Hours later and I’m still very impressed with this man. Visit Abel and his staff at the Schlotzsky’s in Grapevine, Texas and tell them you saw this post.

Pursue excellence. Chase consistency in that excellence.

Do it in your professional life. Do it in your personal life.

There are opportunities everywhere!

Randy Cantrell

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Beginning The End

Beginning The End

Sloping seems more gentle than stumbling. And graceful. But when it comes to growing older it can be inaccurate. We don’t slope toward a face plant. We stumble. We fall. Face-first into the ground.

“Everywhere I look I see opportunities,” I said. The conversation was about how we see the world and our place. Me? I have lived life trying to take various hills. Then quickly seeking out a new hill to take. Sometimes the hill is simply making it better. Always making it better – or trying to – is the curse of my mind.

As I approach the beginning of my 67th year on the earth I know the end began on day one. Growing up, children only think about the present or the future. Age urges us to focus on the future and we increasingly lose track of the present. Today wasn’t great, but tomorrow will be better. Until we realize our past is larger than our prospective future, which prompts us to remember. Old people don’t tend to talk about the future, but they rehearse – often with boring repetition – the past.

In the future, I’m liable to be guilty of the same behavior even though I hate it. I hope to avoid doing it.

The end has begun. The end of many things has begun, sparking the beginning of others.

Experience, not age, has taught me how little I know. And how far I have to go to reach my ideal outcome. Mostly, that ideal outcome is me. Not in some self-centered way, but in the sense that all I will ever contribute to the world is myself. Being my best self. Nothing else matters.

My impact – whatever it may be – is all any of us have to offer. It’s not a minimal thing either. It’s massive. More so for some than others because our talents, drives, ambitions, and opportunities aren’t equal. There’s also luck. Mark Cuban remarked that luck was the difference between him being a millionaire and a billionaire. So it goes.

I feel like I’ve grown. Evidence shows it’s somewhat true.

Never mind that some likely view me in light of the worst chapters – or sentences – I’ve written. Everybody can make up their mind about me, or anybody else. And they do.

My days are spent focused on other people’s lives. Largely on their professional challenges and opportunities. Sometimes the focus is solely on their personal lives because what ails them is deeply personal. Challenges come from all angles. Oportunities, too.

The drive to make a difference is always the hill I’m trying to take. The methodology is asking questions.

I figure things out by asking questions. Asking questions provides answers. Questioning answers clarifies existing answers. The focus isn’t on me, so the questions are aimed at helping others figure it out. After all, it’s not mine to figure out. It’s a deep version of the old TV show, “This Is Your Life.” It’s not my life. I have my stuff to figure out. It’s only about me so I can better understand, ask better questions, and improve at helping others figure things out.

Relationships.

Careers.

Faith.

Financial circumstances.

Habits.

Beliefs.

Choices.

Behaviors.

Skills.

Abilities.

Perspectives.

Hobbies.

Preferences.

Everything is subject to change.

Everything decays. Decay starts at the beginning and continues until the end.

But Eternity changes everything because according to God’s Word, Heaven has no decay. Hell doesn’t either. Bliss or torture without interruption.

That’s not how life on earth works. Bliss, happiness, joy, peace – they’re all interrupted by decay. Each has enemies that disturb or destroy.

Our lives are subject to change because other people have choices that can interrupt our choices and preferences. Some years ago I had different goals and dreams than I had just a handful of years ago. The changes in my goals were driven by the choices others made, which compelled me to change my mind as I tried to figure out my best path forward. It happens. To all of us.

Those folks who enjoy blaming God for all the mishaps or misfortune in the world fail to realize we’re humans able to make up our minds. Our decisions impact the world around us. It’s not always good because we don’t always make wise choices. Our selfishness and sin take a toll on the world. We help create destruction, pain, sorrow, sadness, and damage.

We all can bring our foolishness to an end. At least we can begin the end of our foolishness. That doesn’t mean we can begin the end of everybody else’s foolishness. Since the point of this podcast has always been – and remains – an intentional leaning toward wisdom, I’m urging us to put in the work to get started ending our foolishness. Then keep working on it because foolishness is just around the corner in every decision we make – large or minute. And our choices will impact and influence everybody around us – and the world.

Relationships / Personal

Work / Professional

There are beginnings and endings in all areas of our life.

Randy Cantrell

NOTE: My mom passed from this life at 2:58am today, April 4, 2024. She was a couple of months shy of turning 92.

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