Maxing Out The Master Card

5 May

There it is again: An empty roll of toilet paper in the holder, a new roll right there on the shelf. And again: A used plate on the counter, directly over the empty dishwasher.  And again: Granules on the island, a remnant of “spoon spillage” during the transfer from container to glass. What about that greasy Pam overspray ignored on the counter? How about that goopy fingerprint on the cabinet door? The washed sauce pan, clean on the inside but needing obvious attention on the outside?  Did I mention toothpaste splatter on the bathroom mirror? Is there a contest to see how full a trash can might get before someone has to take out the bag?

Why can’t everyone just clean up after themselves, help out, notice something that needs attention, step up and do something on their own and, for pete’s sake, do it the way I would do it?

Why can’t everyone just do their job?

Pains me as it does, I can’t always assume things will get done and get worked out, whether with a family member, a business partner, or a member of one of my other teams. Black belts on my taekwondo teams have been some of the most reliable at being able to be put on autopilot. However, even if everyone IS doing their job, I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t fly on autopilot for very long.

Did I say that no one younger than their late 30’s lives with us? My wife and I have had at least one other adult relative living with us throughout our entire marriage since before we had our first child, and even more since our kids left home. We should be experts at living with other people. It was a challenge to orient our children to pay attention, notice, clean up after themselves, contribute positively to the common cause without being asked.  Of course, when necessary we could always just play the parent card: we could cajole, direct, even demand. Still as challenging as that was, it’s an even greater challenge to live with adults.

If family life is not that simple, neither is work life.  A a parent, we could only direct and demand so much before something broke down. Likewise, with adults, I know I can’t default to play the spouse card, the bread-winner card, the home-owner card, the owner card, boss card, manager card. The Master-card. Not if I don’t want things to break down.

My alt-Lead business partner and I once discussed a promotional concept along the lines of, “Are you just managing to run your business when you could be leading to get the results you really want?” (Cute, eh?) I think the reason leadership has become much more discussed in recent years is to bring to the front the notion that one is dealing with real people, human beings, living-breathing-thinking-feeling-hoping entities, and not simply resources to be coordinated, directed, bossed, managed.

Surprise! With real-people comes the challenge of relationships: understanding, sensitivity, vulnerability, authenticity. In my experience, the better the relationship the more likely people will respond. Duh. They know how you feel. They know the Why. They see the purpose. Conversations have heart. When they have heart, they have meaning. People do things because they fully want to, not because they have to. Being the parent, the home-owner, the boss, the mentor, the master, works for a little while, or every so often. But it doesn’t get the job done in the long run.

If people aren’t responding, I know I have to look at the relationship. If people aren’t engaged, I have to look at the relationship. If people leave, if people avoid, if people lie, cheat or steal: relationship. Here’s the rub: when those instances arise, it could be too late. Those situations show that the relationship, the significance, the trust is not there and it is possibly too late to develop it, or too late to get it back. If anything, it takes even more skill and vulnerability and authenticity to turn things around. But it’s never too late to try. And, I have found that it’s always best and easiest to start early.

And, I have come to see that it’s my job. When I point one finger, three are pointing back at me.

Being a black belt, I was taught, means being impervious to fear and darkness. I think one of the toughest, most fearful things someone can do is to step out from behind their big ole’ deck of parent-spouse-manager-boss-elder-master cards and present themselves openly to entering into and building a real relationship. It doesn’t mean you become best friends. It doesn’t mean you give up your position, rank or status; you still own that deck. But stepping out from behind — or off the top of — that high and mighty deck means that others can actually see you, hear you, understand you. And you them. Interestingly, I’ve also found that the more meaningful the relationship, the more people respect each other’s decks, status, role. Hmmm.

What’s your trump card you like to play? If you’re playing a trump card, you might be gambling with the relationship.

When it comes to relationships I think we are all scaredy-cats; when we step out there openly to others, we could get hurt.  It takes warrior courage to step out into the open, to step forward into that circle, that ring, and present our self to another person.

Back at home. Don’t just remind or direct, Chris; have a conversation. Build a relationship. My master card is not accepted here. I know one thing for sure: I can only hide in my own house of cards so long before my wife finds me to talk about all of my stuff laying around. And all of those piles I seem to accumulate. Oh, and that yard work. How about finishing taxes?

Hey, no one’s perfect.


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2 Responses to “Maxing Out The Master Card”

  1. Maria Scherkenbach May 9, 2016 at 08:40 #

    Chris! There’s so much to think about, and absorb here. It’s brilliantly done. It’s very easy in life to involuntarily create a hard coating on yourself…and just push through the day. It’s so important to take a step back, breathe, and think about whatever perspective you find yourself in. Thank you for taking the time to point this out so poignantly.

    • chriscorreia May 15, 2016 at 06:03 #

      Thanks for the feedback, Maria. Not for public comment, but personal reflection: Is there a particular instance when you find yourself wanting to simply “act the role?” If so, what role? Why? What might need to be present for that to change? How might you get that?

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