Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Learning from my Current Condition

One night after I had recently broken up with yet another girlfriend (My wife tells me I had more than my fair share), my dear college friend and roommate, Steve Bray, and I went out for donuts at the new Krispy Kreme that had recently opened up in our college town of Provo, UT. On the drive home, I began complaining to Steve about the condition in which I then found myself, which was namely this: I was tired of being single. I was tired of the dating game—the ongoing emotional rollercoaster of finding Miss Right. I told Steve I was frustrated, and that I sometimes wasn’t sure God heard my prayers requesting that he help me finish being single and begin a new life as a married man, as I was sure was the right thing for me.

Steve’s advice was profound and has remained a pillar of wisdom for me since then. He told me about a woman he was teaching as a missionary who had been in a bad way for a long time. It seemed her life went continuously from one trial to another. When she complained to him one day, he gave her this advice—which, as a missionary, he felt was inspired at the time: Stop complaining about the situation you’re in; instead, pray and ask God to help you learn what lessons He has prepared for you within your present circumstances. When you have learned what you need to, certainly God will help you move into the conditions that will help you best learn whatever He has for you to learn next.

This perspective assumes (I believe quite correctly) that God has an interest in the development of His children. It also implies that He has an active role in helping His children learn what they need to in order to move along the planned path of progression that He has prepared for them. The idea, then, that there are no coincidences and that all things in our lives have a purpose becomes a central premise by which one can evaluate and grow from the conditions of his own life. I believe if we accept that premise, and utilize it to our own benefit, growth is expedited. Although conditions may not change quickly, growth from any condition can occur continuously.

Not long ago, I had the same frustrating thought that I had back on that enlightening night after Krispy Kreme: When is my current condition going to end?

I have been frustrated, of late, over the many business ventures that I have been very close to making successful for quite some time. I have been frustrated that they have not yet come to fruition; yet, I have been working diligently on them for so long. Also, I have had several opportunities come and go for one reason or another with no conversion into the success I had hoped for from each of them.

Recently one morning I was awakened by the pressing need to move forward with so many different projects I have been developing. When I came to work, I was immediately faced with a challenged that appeared to have the net effect of all but shutting down one of the projects I had been working on for a long time. Namely, the financing for the project completely fell through. As I began working through the challenge, my soul cried out—as it did that night I spoke with Steve Bray. When was this ‘almost successful’ phase of my ventures going to be over, and the ‘stable and growing’ phase going to begin!?!

Immediately upon feeling frustrated with my current conditions, I had the thought I have trained myself to consider anytime such feelings come upon me: I need to learn from my conditions, not complain about them. I knelt down and prayed. This was my prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, please help me learn what Thou would have me to from the conditions in which I now find myself.

I felt impressed to make notes of the specific lessons I learn from the business challenges I face. As I do so, I believe I will come to realize the growth I hope for in all of the most important pursuits of my life. I think that impression, and the process of noting the lessons I learn is the answer to my prayer.

I am, of course, implying that I believe God usually answers our prayers by asking us to do something about the problem about which we are praying. I believe that where no human effort could change a circumstance which God would have changed, He will divinely intervene. Otherwise, I think it happens quite often that He uses us, His children, to generate the changes we might seek in our own lives. And so, I believe the answer to my prayer will be to take note of lessons learned.

In regards to the specific frustration I was dealing with over this financing issue, there are two lessons I learned: First, secure your financing in writing. On this deal, I had called to verify that my creditor would fund a new $30,000 transaction well in advance of the transaction, but I didn't get the verification in writing. When it came time to transact the business, no one at the crediting company seemed to remember the commitment I had received earlier. I believe a letter indicating my qualification for the funds would have solved the problem.

The second lesson is a reiteration the one I have already described: take note of the lessons learned through the challenges of your life. Prophets have counsled the children of men to keep a regular journal. They, themselves, have done so and benefited generations of nations. Really, what are the scriptures, other than the journals of prophets? But I think the benefit of a journal to the "non-prophets" of us (ha! cool word: 'non-prophet', instead of 'non-profit'! :) may prove even more valuable to the individual making the notes in the journal than to anyone else. Personal journals can become a notebook of learning.

In conjunction with writing the lessons learned, it helps to read those lessons from time to time. Just the other day, I read through a dream I had written down several months ago. When I wrote about the dream, I indicated that I didn't feel the dream had any real significance--that I just wrote it down because it was just interesting. But, as I re-read what I had written, I gained an insight into how important my family is to me at an extraordinarily deep level. While the dream may not have been significant as any kind of prophecy of things to come, the value of remembering the great importantance of the important aspects of my life was something I benefitted from greatly.

I'll conclude with a final thought from Ralph Waldo Emmerson: "Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it." Certainly each of us has thoughts on how to improve, or lessons we have learned. Language, either written or expressed, is the means by which we are motivated to execute some action towards progress. Think. Speak. Act. Is there really more to life than this?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Building Rapport to Forge Meaningful Relationships

As part of one of my MBA classes, I was given an assignment to choose one strength that is a key asset in my professional work and discuss the circumstances under which I really came to discover the strength. Below is what I came up with for the assignment. Let me know what you think. --oh, and I've got to say, as harshly as I depicted some of the attributes of some of a couple folks who may read this, I love you like brothers, even today; and I mean no offense. ;)


Building Rapport to Forge Meaningful Relationships

I have chosen a career path in sales. To be effective in this line of work, building rapport to forge relationships is a key strength that I have had to develop; yet, building rapport is an ability I have had from a young age. I remember being able to connect with individuals I associated with at a level I don’t think everyone typically achieves from as early on as grade school.

Throughout high school, my ability of quickly building rapport was evidenced by my consistently having meaningful relationships with girlfriends and friends throughout my various involvements. Matt Hong, my closest friend on the high school debate team called it my “Corky Thatcher” effect, referencing the irresistibly loveable Down syndrome character from the hit TV series Life Goes On. He said I had a knack for winning over the debate judges just by being me.

I came to understand my ability to build rapport and consequently establish a truly meaningful relationship with almost anyone most distinctly on my LDS mission. Since missionaries are assigned a ‘companion’ with whom we are to be in constant contact every day, most missionaries have quite an adjustment to make.

My first companion, Elder Hendricks, was one of the hardest missionaries someone might be assigned to ‘adjust to’. He was just plain quirky. He walked differently than most people. His voice was loud and often obnoxious. He was a bit “socially backwards”, not quite knowing the appropriate thing to say or do in virtually every social situation in which he found himself. Although he wore deodorant and brushed his teeth, he emitted certain bodily odors, and he even seemed to breathe oddly with a bit of a snort as he inhaled. His acute acne problem didn’t help his plight much, yet there he was—on a mission to preach the gospel and to do so as my companion.

Even though I grew up in Idaho, (associating with plenty of ‘less refined’ folk ;) I found it difficult to get past all of my companion’s personality traits and truly enjoy his companionship. But a note from another missionary in our district helped me realize I was doing something most don’t. “Elder Hone,” the note said, “I just wanted to let you know I sincerely admire the way you treat your companion. He drives me crazy, and I only have to see him in a class every now and then. I think I would very literally kill myself if I had to be his companion.” The letter seemed overly harsh to me, but I learned that most others who had any associations with my companion also had very similar feelings. They were baffled at how I got along with him at all.

But I did get along with him. To me his quirks were just quirks. I didn’t like them, but I still appreciated Elder Hendricks for his strong desires to serve, and his sincere hope to accomplish something good on his mission. As my 8 week assignment with Elder Hendricks progressed, I came to realize that I really cared about my companion as a person. I wanted to know him better, and the better I got to know him, the more I cared about him. Although we didn’t part ways as the very best of friends, I felt I had a strong rapport with my first companion, and it lent itself to a relationship that I believe was deeper than he ever established with most others. In fact, of the 12 missionary companions I had, Hendricks was the only one who made the effort to attend my wedding reception.

Later on my mission, a similar scenario played out on the other end of the spectrum when I got the privilege of working directly with a British missionary who had earned a reputation of being a snooty, stuffy, prideful, hard-headed man. He exuded a sense of arrogance about himself—always correcting others’ grammar and pointing out other of their faults and weaknesses. By the end of our work together, though, this Brit had become one of my truest friends, and I believe the feeling was reciprocated.

And it’s not just the ‘hard ones’ I connect with. The truth is, I am simply interested in the individuals with whom I associate. I have a conviction that if I truly knew the heart of any man or woman, I could easily find something to sincerely admire in him or her. So, that’s what I try to do; I try to know people. As I do, I build rapport and forge relationships. It has been the key to my success in sales, and largely the key to my own happiness in life.