Trust


Buzzwords, Part2

 Noun – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

dictionary.com

Last week I set the stage for a discussion of the buzzwords that I have chosen to guide my thinking and actions for this next season of life.  In case you missed it, check that post out here.

I am a word guy.  When speaking or writing, I choose my words carefully. I recognize that words carry powerful meaning and misunderstandings easily arise when words are used carelessly.  To that end I have chosen four words to help focus my thoughts and actions over the next while.  Today I want to focus on the first of these words.  Trust.

In the age of COVID, Social Media, and Donald Trump trust has been increasingly tested, manipulated, and weaponized by unscrupulous actors promoting an agenda.  Social Media in particular, is designed to keep our attention so advertisers can sell their wares.  The Social Media companies do that by continually monitoring our behavior, learning our preferences, and feeding us information that fits with and confirms our biases.  The longer we stay engaged, the more they can sell our data to the highest bidder.

In the film, The Social Dilemma, one of the whistle blowers drives the point home by saying that, if something is free yet boasts massive profits ask what the product is.  The answer, you, or more importantly, your attention is what is being sold.   

In my previous career as a music industry executive, I would regularly have a similar conversation with recording artists about radio airplay.  The music industry does not pay to have their artists played on the radio, it is the other way around.  Radio stations pay the artists a royalty for the right to play their music and hold the listener’s attention between advertisements.  Just like on social media, the real product of traditional broadcast media has always been your attention. 

This is where things get sinister. In the new world of social media, to hold our attention, truth, nuance and ultimately trust are sacrificed on the altar of conformity.  When a radio station focusses their airplay on a particular genre of music, that’s innocent demographic targeting.  If you change your mind, your preferences evolve, or you are just in the mood for something different you can easily find it somewhere else on the dial.  But when a social media platform targets news feeds to focus on a particular bias it becomes more and more difficult to find information that does not conform.  New information and varied perspectives are filtered out, growth is stunted, and opinions calcified.

When I say that I am focusing my attention on trust, what I am trying to do is twofold.  First, I must remain conscious of where I am placing my trust, so as not to become fixed in my thinking and unable to learn new things.  Second, I must be mindful of who has placed their trust in me and continually strive to remain worthy.

Trust is a precious commodity.  Regardless of where you place your trust it will have a profound impact on your quality of life.  When you place your trust in someone, or something, you are giving that person or product incredible power to shape your life. 

My advice, (if you trust me) is to trust experts because they know more than you.

Consider the court system.  In a court of law, when an expert is called, they spend considerable time explaining their credentials before giving any testimony.  They do that to establish trust so that what they say is taken seriously.  It is the opposing counsel’s job to cross examine the expert and cast doubt on their ability to provide trustworthy information.  The system works, (most of the time) because experts are, by definition, trustworthy.

But what if you disagree?  Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply disagree with a bonified expert.  You also need compelling evidence to the contrary, something to discredit them, or proof they have ulterior motives.  It is best if you can do more than one of these at the same time.  Unless you yourself are an expert, this can be exceedingly difficult. 

Trust as a buzzword for me means, do due diligence, test credentials, and cross reference sources.  And once that is done, trust the experts and continually strive to be a trustworthy expert in your own right. 

Who do you trust?  And why?

Buzzwords


4 Words I’m Using to Guide and Define My Next Chapter

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. 

Those of you who know me well, know that I firmly believe that if something is worth resolving to do, it’s worth doing now – not at some predetermined date in the future or tied to an arbitrary point on the calendar. 

But I do believe in planning and usually at some point in the fall my mind starts drifting toward what I want my next year to look like.  Making a plan is not the same as making New Year’s resolutions.  For me at least, plans are a guiding framework, not a checklist to be followed or a major “about face” that needs to be resolved and completed by a sheer act of will. 

I was recently introduced to the concept of buzzwords as a touch point for planning.  Rob Hatch, co-founder, and president of Owner Media Group, has written and presented several books and courses on leadership and management for business owners.  He recently sent out a newsletter that highlighted his use of buzzwords in is personal planning.  Honestly, I don’t remember if he used that term, but that’s how I remember and interpreted what he was saying. 

Dictionary.com defines a buzzword as:

a word or phrase, often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context.

To me, it’s a word that anchors thought, directs conversation and guides action.  As I focus on my business planning for 2021, which is itself an ongoing and fluid process, I have begun using the concept of buzzwords in this way.  The following are the four buzzwords that are currently anchoring, directing and guiding my thoughts, conversation, and action.

Trust

To have trust is to believe in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.  2020 has shaken our collective trust in the structures and institutions of society worldwide.  As a result of corruption and betrayal, cracks have been forming in our societal trust for decades.  In many ways COVID-19 has been a catalyst in forcing open many small cracks into wider gaps that are polarizing thinking and breaking down the bedrock of trust that holds us together. 

As part of rebuilding and resetting we all need to double down on trust.  Trust in experts, trust in institutions, trust in media and trust in each other.  Trust in this way is an act of humility.  It says, “I don’t have the answers, so I am willing to learn from others, trust their knowledge, have my assumptions challenged and grow”. 

But we also need to be worthy of trust.  Being a trusted expert, or a trusted advisor requires constant learning and constant listening to be sure your advice is correct and properly received. 

Experts and institutions are worthy of our trust not because they are never wrong but because they are ever evolving and learning themselves.  True experts are willing to admit when they are wrong, and course correct when their errors are brought to light.  By naming trust as my first buzzword I am building my plan around a thirst for knowledge and wisdom through the humility of my own ignorance while offering gracious thanks for the trust people place in me.

Community

When I think of community, I think of a series of nesting bowls or concentric circles.  Starting in the centre with my immediate family and working outward through my social groups, work colleagues, clients, the businesses I frequent, fellow citizens of my city, province, and country all the way to the loose connections I share with every human on earth merely because we breath the same air.  These ever-widening circles of concern are held together with weakening bonds of influence and shared interest.  The closer you are to the centre of my circles the stronger the bonds. 

A strong sense of community is what drives people to collective action and provides the catalyst for social change.  Black Lives Matter, climate activism, and advocacy for the homeless are all community movements that are driven by strong social bonds.  I’ve chosen community as a buzzword to help frame my thinking and actions around how best to impact the lives of those closest to me.  Both in physical proximity and shared values.  And as a reminder that in the broadest sense we are all members of the human family, if you look hard enough, we all have something in common. 

Health

Of the many things we have learned in 2020 one thing that has stood out to me is the value of a strong physical constitution.  Deaths from COVID-19 have disproportionately fallen on the elderly, the weak and those with “underlying conditions”.  I will turn 49 in 2021.  I can’t stop aging, but I can slow down some of it’s more debilitating effects with a healthy, active lifestyle. 

By elevating health to buzzword status every decision I make will need to be thought of in the context of how it will affect my health.  Not only that but placing it along side the rest of the buzzwords forces me to think of health not just in my own context but also within the context of trust, community and even prosperity which I will get to in a moment.  And it’s not just physical health but mental and emotional health as well. 

Decisions about what (and how much) I eat and when I go to the gym are the obvious ones.  Less obvious in the context of heath are the decisions about how I build my workday, and recreation time, and the people I choose to associate with.   Maintaining health starts with maintaining balance between activity, nutrition, and rest in all areas of life. 

Prosperity

As a buzzword prosperity is difficult to define.  The popular connotation of prosperity is to think of it in terms of material wealth, however, the Latin etymology of the word has little to do with materialism and more to do with favor, fate and an element of luck. In ancient Rome to be prosperous was to enjoy the favor of the gods, however that was manifest. 

Wikipedia further defines prosperity as flourishing, thriving, and good fortune.  In using prosperity as a buzzword for my thinking I am choosing to focus on and acknowledge that to thrive is dependent largely on forces outside of my control.  By focusing my energy on prosperity, rather than an arbitrary definition of wealth or success, I can strip away the things that are out of my control and concentrate only on the things that are within my control, the way I work and how I interact with people.   The resulting success, wealth, or even personal satisfaction, while desirable and worth striving for, is ultimately in the hands of God or fate.  By framing success in this way, I am free to be prosperous without the need to be wealthy by anyone else’s definition.

Conclusion

These four words, Trust, Community, Health and Prosperity, form the framework of my worldview.  They are the glasses through which I look at and interact with the world.  I hesitate to call my buzzwords values because they might change.  As the world slowly evolves these buzzwords will evolve but for now, this is how I look at things.

The process I went through to come up with these buzzwords was through meditation.  As I continue to meditate on these words and look for direction in how to use their influence I am growing in my commitment and understanding more each day.  

You should try it, pick a word that feels right and meditate on it for 5 minutes, make note of what comes to mind and then do some research on the meaning of the word to make sure it fits with how you feel.  If not, pick another word until you find something that closely aligns with your personal desires.  Do this until you have 3 or 4 words that you can meditate on daily for 5 to 10 minutes each and let them guide your thoughts and actions throughout the day.  You might be surprised how often your buzzwords come up as you go about your daily life.  They are a great touchstone for guiding your decision making. 

Focusing on the right words will transform your life.  Try it and tell me what your experience is like in the comments below.       

Three Cups of Tea


Building Relationships and Becoming a Trusted Advisor

“The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.”  – Haji Ali; Village Elder – Korphe, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan  

K2 – The world’s second highest mountain peak, located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan

In the spring of 1993, American adventurer Greg Mortenson was part of an expedition to climb K2, the world’s second highest mountain, located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of North Eastern Pakistan. 

While making his descent in blinding snow he got separated from his group.  Instead of arriving in the village of Askole, where base camp was located and the rest of his party had been headed, he ended up 3 kilometres off course in the remote village of Korphe. 

Although only 3 km as the crow flies, Korphe is located on the opposite side of a deep chasm from Askole and due to heavy snow and the spring melt, inaccessible for over half the year.  Mortenson was stranded in Korphe for several weeks while he waited for the snow to melt.    

During his stay he noticed that the village was exceedingly poor and had no local school.  During the winter months children would either leave their families and stay with relatives in neighboring villages or more often than not, simply stay home when they couldn’t get across the chasm to Korphe.  Once the snow melted, out of gratitude for their hospitality, Mortenson pledged to return to Korphe and help them build a school of their own. 

Fast forward twenty-five years and Greg Mortenson, through the Central Asia Institute that he founded, has built over 171 schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The full story of how it all started can be found in Mortenson’s autobiographical; “Three Cups of Tea; One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time.”  Although some of Mortenson’s claims are suspect and he has been accused of financial mismanagement the fact remains that there are now dozens of schools providing education to thousands of children across the remote mountain regions of Central Asia, where there were none before. 

I was reminded of Mortenson’s story recently while contemplating the often long and drawn out sales process in my business.    More specifically, I remembered the way in which Haji Ali had explained to Mortenson how to go about building long lasting relationships with the Balti people – Slowly, over tea.

There are as many different approaches to sales as there are sales people and clients.  There is no one-size-fits all approach.  But over the years I have observed that most new sales follow a path that roughly correlates to Ali’s three cups of tea theory. 

Meeting One – You are a stranger.

It is the sales person’s job in this first meeting to put the prospect’s mind at ease.  Listen to the prospect’s needs, wants, goals, dreams, and fears.  Do not interrupt.  Remember, no one trusts you at this point, offering grandiose advice without a full understanding the problem will only reinforce that distrust. Speak only when necessary, asking clarifying questions, or answering questions directed at you. 

Once the prospect has told you everything now is your turn to speak.   Resist the temptation to offer a solution.  Your job is to simply leave the prospect wanting to see you again.  Give them the impression that you are the only person in the world who can help them.  But don’t tell them how. 

I often leave these meetings by saying something like, “You’ve given me a lot to think about.  I know I can help you with this but it’s going to take me a few days to get my head around all this.  Can I call you on Tuesday?” 

When I call back on Tuesday like I promised I simply say; “I have found a solution to your problem, when can we get together so I can explain it to you?”

Meeting Two – You Are An Honored Guest

I’ve already told them that I have the answer.  They are happy to see me and eager to hear what I have to say.  They put on the charm and roll out the read carpet.  It’s as if The Pope himself or some other wise guru has come to visit with a special word of wisdom just for them. 

I begin by repeating back to them as verbatim as I can remember, the exact concerns they had the last time we spoke.  I ask them for feedback and confirmation that I understood them correctly.  When we are both in agreement that I understand the problem.  I lay out the solution being careful to link it back to their specific needs every chance I get. 

Some prospects will be so excited and happy about the solution that they will want to sign the contract right then and there.  Unless you want to make a one-off sale and forever cement yourself in the prospect’s mind as a one problem solution, resist that temptation.  Tell the prospect that they need to sleep on this.  You are trying to go from honored guest to trusted family member.  Family doesn’t rush into things.  By telling the prospect to sleep on it you are simultaneously giving them an out and elevating your status to as the kind of person who has their best interests in mind, like family. 

At this point I leave the meeting by saying, “Take your time with this, read it over, do your own research.  If there is anything you don’t understand, call me.  I’ll check back next Thursday and see how you’re doing.” 

When I call back on Thursday I ask if they have any questions and then tell them when I am available to come by and implement the plan. 

Meeting Three – You Are A Trusted Family Member

Now it’s time to do business.  This time when I come, the prospects tend to greet me like an old friend or relative.  The formality is gone, the red carpet has been replaced by a dusty floor mat.  I am no longer the wise guru with all the answers, I’m the kind uncle, or brother who’s looking out for the family.  There is no need to put on airs, I’ve already seen their dirty laundry, there is no point hiding it anymore.

At the start of the meeting I take a quick minute to reconfirm their needs and remind the prospect how my proposal solves their problems.  At this point there are very few questions left to be answered. This meeting is light, conversation centers around general life and personal matters.  Signing the contracts is just a formality and it’s done almost as an afterthought. 

Once contracts are signed, I reinforce the family image but reminding the clients that I am in their corner.  They can call me any time, day or night, there are no questions they cannot ask.  I promise to stay in touch and set a reminder in my calendar to call them twice a year, once on the anniversary of the signing of the contracts and once on their birthday, just like family. 

This process has worked for me consistently for 7 years.  My best clients have become friends.  Review meetings are more like reunions.  Without even realizing what I was doing, I’ve been following the ancient Balti tradition of three cups of tea since I started in this business. 

It works.  But more than just being a tactic for making more sales, if you’re genuine it’s a great way to make friends.  Most of my clients I think would agree, I’ve got a lot of friends. 

Just Breathe


Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” [John 4:10]

I recently heard it said that Trust is Faith Inhaling, while Faith is Trust Exhaling. Take a second and just breath with me.

Faith in – Trust out.

justbreathe

The story of Jesus with the Samaritan Women at the well can be read as an example of breathing faith. Here’s a woman who by all accounts is a religious person but also an outcast both to Jesus and her own people. She knows the traditions and teachings and understands what keeps Jews and Samaritan’s apart. And she knows the cultural sensitivities towards faith and purity that are keeping her alone and ostracized among her own people. Yet when Jesus speaks to her he tells her that if she would only ask, in a way just breath in faith he could give her so much more.

This startles her and after a little pull back Jesus convinces her that he understands her struggles and faith is worth it so she chooses to believe. She breaths it in, and then demonstrates her faith by going out and telling everyone about the man she just met. She exhales by trusting that what Jesus said is true.

Faith in – Trust out.

I realize I’m mixing metaphors here. Jesus speaks of living water while I’m talking about air but I think my analogy holds up just as well. Faith is something that you take in and can even hold privately for a while but eventually is must be expelled. You must learn to trust God enough to exhale or you will eventually suffocate and die.

Exhaling faith is demonstrating that you believe all the promises God has made and that you trust him to sustain you. You trust him that there is more air available and you will be able to breathe in again.

Faith in – Trust out.

When you inhale you are doing things for your own self, your own sustenance. Inhaling is ultimately selfish. But when you exhale you are serving others, demonstrating your faith, spreading God’s grace to those around you and giving back some of the air that you took in.

Faith in – Trust out.

When everyone breathes in at once you can literally suck the air out of a room and if you then proceed to hold your breath no one can get anything done. Have you ever tried to do anything while holding your breath? Stop hoarding the air! Breathe out and help someone.

We all need to inhale, take in faith, even hold it inside for a while from time to time. But we also need to trust God enough to exhale, share the air, spread the word and demonstrate that we know there is plenty of air to go around. That’s what living our faith is all about.

Faith in – Trust out.

The Best of Everything


I noticed something recently.

In my writing I have stated in the past that I am unconcerned and uninterested with the details of why God accepted Abel’s offering in Genesis and rejected Cain’s.  I just take it as fact and move on to, what for me at least, is the more interesting question;  Why was Cain unable to accept and learn from God’s rebuke and instead chose to kill his brother?  I talk about it in a bit more depth in my book, “Meekonomics; Kingdom Economics from a Love Based Mentality” but upon further analysis and meditation I think I may have discovered the underlying cause of God’s displeasure.

Take a look at the passage in question;

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. [Genesis 4:2-5, emphasis mine]

Cain brought some of his crops, the passage doesn’t tell us how much and Abel brought fat portions of the firstborn.  In other words, we don’t know really what Cain brought but we know for certain that Abel brought his offering to God first, before he took any for himself and it was the very best of the best.  “Fat portions” could mean large amounts or the best selection, I think The Message paraphrase gets at the meaning of both options when they translate Abel’s offering as “large portions of the choice cuts of meat”.

Here’s the point.  God never asked for a sacrifice.  Nowhere in this passage does it say that God demanded a sacrifice of Cain and Abel.  It was a gift straight from the heart of both men.  But if you’re going to give a gift to someone, especially God, why wouldn’t you give your best?  Cain hedged his bets and only gave God some of what he had.  This shows that in Cain’s heart of hearts he didn’t really trust God.  Abel on the other hand gave God the best of everything without knowing if his flocks would bear any more offspring.  Abel’s gift was an act of pure faith, Cain’s was an act of obligation, “what’s the least I can do and still feel good about myself?”

In that light, regardless of the contents of the gift, which gift would you want to receive?

Have you ever given God “the least you could do?”

Treasures in Heaven


Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there  your heart will be also. [Jesus; Matthew 6:19-21]

So I just spent the weekend at my in-law’s house.  Let me first say that my in-laws are great people, real salt of the earth types.  My father-in-law spent 35 years working at the national headquarters of Canada Post, before that he worked in the defence industry.  My mother-in-law was a stay at home mom.  The Cleavers have nothing on these two.  But I learned something about them this past weekend that was a bit disturbing.

My father-in-law’s heart is stored in the basement.

Disposophobia, more commonly known as Compulsive Hoarding, is a newly recognized mental disorder.  It is the fear of getting rid of stuff, even if the items are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary.  According to the Mayo Clinic; hoarders collect items because they believe they will have some value in the future but compulsive hoarding impairs mobility and interferes with basic activities, including cooking, cleaning, hygiene, sanitation and sleeping.   It’s really just been in the last 10 to 15 years that psychologists have begun to treat hoarding separately from other closely related disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and most psychologists still believe it is just a manifestation of OCD and not a separate disorder at all.

Regardless, I have no problem pronouncing my father-in-law a hoarder.  Everything from years of Life Magazine (dating back to 1950s), broken telephones, old clothes, and practically every piece of mail he has ever received, from personal letters to bills, some dating back more than 40 years are stored in his basement.  And it is next to impossible to get him to go through any of it and determine what has value and what can be thrown out.  To me, that is the very definition of disposophobia.

But this isn’t just about my father-in-law.  Hoarding is a 21st century epidemic and from a spiritual point of view, it’s a symptom of a much bigger issue.  It’s about our human tendency to place value in the wrong place and on the wrong things.

Jesus it seems knew a thing or two about hoarding.  He knew that it would “impair mobility and interfere with basic activities.”  Most of all he knew that if you place undue value on things it would damage relationships.

He goes on in Matthew 6 to talk about the damaging effects of worry.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life  more than food, and the body more than clothes? [Matthew 6:25]

Worry, to me is what lies at the heart of hoarding and OCD.  It’s a matter of trust.  If you place your trust in Jesus and His Kingdom (or community) you don’t need to hang on to things in the same way.  When you release your hold on the things of this world you can more freely give them away to people in greater need thereby building relationships with people and furthering the kingdom.

One incident this past weekend drove that point home for me more than any other.  We found a box containing 4 winter coats.  All where is slight need of repair, lining was torn or they were stained in some way, but they were otherwise in pretty good shape.  He hasn’t worn any of them in years.  Winter is coming so we suggested we take them to goodwill so someone less fortunate could benefit.  He panicked!  Claimed that he might wear them again, that he needed time to look at them and think about it.  He came up with ridiculous scenarios in which he lost or damaged his current coat and needed one of these old ones in an emergency.  (There really is no limit to our human creativity under pressure but that’s a topic for another time.)  In the end my brother-in-law finally just picked up the box and walked out.

The bottom line is this; hoarders are really nothing more than compulsive worriers who don’t trust anyone, especially God.  Therefore they become their own worst enemy when it comes to experiencing true community and joining in the workings of the Kingdom of Heaven.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these  things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:31-34]

Release your worry and pray for the hoarders, Meekonomists seek first the kingdom and his righteousness.