It wasn’t simple, or was it?

 I am writing you today that I am fed up.

I am fed up with being fed up.  I have spent more time using the backspace key today than any other single letter.   I am only on the third sentence but there could have been a book already.  I have leaned forward in the chair a few times because of the pain in my back but the pain in my back doesn’t really compare to the frustration I am feeling in my being.   For the past few weeks I have been consistently in conversations that are circular in nature.   While I love circles, they don’t do much for progress if we are walking the line.   That isn’t a clear statement but this is a blog so I guess I can say what I want to say.  Onto the conversations and the situation.   There are people who I am close to professionally and personally that feel trapped.   They are an increasing number.  It used to be one or two, then three or four but now they are more.   I thought for a while about their situations individually and more so about how I may help them.   Which brings me to my frustration; I have realized that helping doesn’t always help.

One of my best friends was a grumpy old man.   He taught me that I should help people the way that they needed not the way I think they need help.  He would yell at me if I overstepped my bounds and he would threaten to shoot me (sometimes I thought he was really considering it).  When he needed acceptable help, he would call me and allow me to help.   Which brings me back to my professional situation.  I feel as if I were standing at the top of a hill and looking down over a battlefield.  I can see the various troops, participants and unintended casualties walking about just doing their business.  I can see the tents where the military commanders convene.  I can see the hustle and bustle of the lower ranking troops.  I can see the people who will be caught in the crossfire.  My life experience facilitates the varied and consistent game play in my mind.  In other words, I have been war gaming the situation over and over with various outcomes.  I have read a lot of leadership books in my life and have realized that resolve comes in only two basic forms, trust and fear.

Sometimes people say to me “Howie, tell me how you really feel!”  Of course I never want to say something that is caustic but I want people to know what I truly think when I am asked for my opinion.  I have been a consultant professionally for many years but I have been practicing my whole life for this job.  I can say that my approach to solving problems is based on trust.  There are many books about trust; Stephen M.R. Covey has a business built around the ideas and concepts tied to trust.   Trust is important, it is a key critical enabler and it is a factor in every facet of our lives.  Covey himself talks about being counterfeit as being damaging.  So, a lack of trust is damaging.  Ok, I am telling you something that you already know.  Then there is that whole fear thing.

Fear will put a man in a foxhole, but trust can pull him out. 

That’s it, the whole thing in one sentence.  My friends are in a foxhole and I am having a difficult time getting them out.  I would love to tell them that it is safe outside but they ask me for my honest assessment and I tell them that it is dangerous out here.  I also tell them that it is worth coming out of the hole.  It is fear that binds them and that keeps them in their situation.  With that I would like to share a story from one of my favorite books Tao of Pooh feel free to skip this part if you already know of “The Stonecutter.”  If you don’t know it then read it.


The Stonecutter
by Benjamin Hoff

The Stonecutter
Benjamin Hoff

There was once a stonecutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house and through the open gateway saw many fine possessions and important visitors.

“How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession.

“How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!”

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence.

“How powerful the sun is!” he thought. ”
I wish that I could be the sun!”

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and labourers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below.

“How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!”

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind.

“How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!”

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone.

“How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!”

Then he became the stone, more powerful than
anything else on earth.

But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock and felt himself being changed.

“What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought.
He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

Benjamin Hoff from The Tao Of Pooh


Interestingly enough the story of the stonecutter is a circle too isn’t it?  Which brings me back to the beginning of my post.  I would love to have a conversation with someone and have the ability to provide a thought-provoking and inspirational comment that would change his or her position on despair.  More than not, despair and fear hold them hostage.  I have decided to take and apply the lesson taught by the great and wise Arden (Spook) Skelton.  Always be honest, always be helpful in a way that is acceptable to the person in need of help and answer the questions only when asked unless otherwise specified. Taking action only as necessary.

 One other area that I didn’t write about or cover but I must address for my very dear friend Ron is love.  Love is…. How about I leave it at that for now?



One thought on “It wasn’t simple, or was it?

  1. Gloriousness.

    With great power comes great responsibility Howie, a lot of us want the great power; but not the responsibility that comes with it. This is not possible. Power and Responsibility are directly proportional to each other. The power and influence we have over other peoples lives comes with the responsibility to teach, share, help and make attempts to show them this.


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