Things have been rather quiet around here since Thursday. This is, of course, by design. I don’t take much time off from writing but my hunting buddy moved back from South Carolina so come October 1st, everything got put on hold while we do our best to help thin the deer herd for the Insurance industry of Michigan.
All kidding aside, while we don’t exactly rough it (it’s not like we’re out in the Michigan wilderness in a tent in the middle of October – though we’ve done that), living outside and getting the required “butt time” is quite time-consuming. Rather than use the time to write posts or catch up on current events, I instead choose to reflect, meditate (to the greatest extent possible for me, anyway), and inventory my life… if I have to be away from my family, I may as well make good use of the time.
I would say I don’t solve the world’s problems while I’m sitting out in the woods, but technically, I do… I just start with the one person I can do something about.
As is so often the case, my inventory always comes back to the same thing: Rigorous honesty.
I’m not talking about the BS “political” honesty, where I spew the latest thing the masses want to hear, I’m talking about the unvarnished truth. The good, the bad, the sick and the healthy. Basically, the inventory looks a lot like it would for any shop owner takes inventory of what’s on the shelves so they can order more of what’s selling and discontinue ordering that which isn’t. What I’m talking about here isn’t an instant-ass-kicking machine or an all-out “I’m awesome” love-fest either. It’s an honest assessment of what I am doing well and what I can improve on. It’s that simple.
When I do this, everyone around me benefits. My family, my customers, my suppliers, my subcontractors, even the gas station attendant a mile from my house. The world becomes a better place because I am a better person once I start discarding the old items on the shelf that just aren’t selling as I thought they would.
There’s a catch though… This inventory is limited to my own thoughts and actions (or in many cases “reactions”. If I devolve into how others have treated me and the unfairness of it all, I am sure to end up with morass and self-pity that no amount of awesomeness can prevail over. In fact, the inventory is often referred to in Biblical terms (Matthew 7:3): Don’t concentrate on the splinter in your neighbor’s eye while ignoring the log in your own (or any of the variants in translation). That description is lacking though. It must be taken a step further to “Don’t bother with the log in my neighbor’s eye when I’ve got a splinter in mine. I have an example.
I’ve made mention of a customer who tried to make away with $70,000 owed on a contract in past posts. Here’s the unvarnished truth of that $70,000. Due to my customer’s ignorant management, the job fell behind schedule (part due to his over-promising, part due to other trades taking longer than they should have, part due to inspections taking too long). Once behind schedule, and coming up on a hard Grand Opening party for major contributors/benefactors, the contractor looked to my company to get the job done in a portion of the time I’d been allotted and I couldn’t supply ample man-power to do so (I simply ran out of guys). The contractor supplied supplemental labor that I accepted. He then over-billed me (up to $100 per hour) and charged for time prior to the date I accepted help. When all was said and done, he wanted $52,000 and some change but withheld $70,000. We had a meeting and I went through and marked off a few things that were double-charged and for the time prior to the agreed upon date. That dropped the bill, not even looking at the egregious overcharging of cost per hour, down to $29,000, plus the cost of a piece of glass that one of my guys destroyed through ignorance ($1,100 – I know, it was an expensive piece of glass) and one other charge bringing the total to $33,000. My attorney became more actively involved and new charges were trumped-up and they tried to up the ante to $60,000… We eventually agreed on $38,000 to me and $32,000 to him and I got my check in the mail more than a year after the job was completed (some of the numbers have been changed so that this very public post couldn’t be tied to the actual job – that said, the descriptions are fair and honest). In any event, the takeaway from my inventory on the situation was that I should have done better homework on the customer before I ever took the job. I would have been better prepared for what happened and better documented the problems so I had better footing leading into the “bargaining phase” after the job. There is no doubt that my guys performed admirably on the job, with the exception being that piece of glass, and that I did a good job from a management standpoint – even after all of that, the job did make a profit. However, I should have been better prepared for what I was getting into.
This is the kind of honesty I’m talking about… Bad things happen to good people all of the time. What is important, what matters, is what I do when life throws me a lemon every now and again, if you will. I can complain about someone else being a jerk or dishonest until I’m blue in the face – it won’t do either of us any good. This is one of my keys to happiness… If I rely on sources outside myself for my happiness, if I rely on everything outside of myself, that I can’t control, to go my way to be happy, I’m cooked before I ever entered the game because life just doesn’t work like that. On the other hand, if I’m constantly taking action to be a better me, weathering the bad things becomes bearable because there’s always something I can learn from – there’s always a way to be better. All I have to do is find it, so it helps to be looking.
So, if you’re wondering how my use of my time at hunting camp solves the World’s problems, well there’s a big picture and a little picture way of looking at this. For the little picture, if my experience helps one person to look at life just a little differently or to understand a problem that’s been giving them trouble, I have been useful. On the big picture side, if you’re wondering what the answer to the biggest problems facing the world today, they can all be fixed with a little bit of good old-fashioned rigorous honesty. Every last one. The problem is, of course, is that it’s easier to concentrate on the other’s splinter. Or log, as the case may be.
What do you know, it’s not rocket science after all.
Anyway, my apologies for going silent all of a sudden. I did need it, for what it’s worth.