Just between you and me…

A wise old friend of mine once gave me a valuable piece of advice. He said: “When you’re listening, don’t stick around to hear the end of a sentence which begins with ‘Just between you and me’…and when you’re speaking, never be so stupid as to end a sentence that begins with the same.” That little phrase, “Just between you and me” or put differently “You have to keep this between us,” is the shoe horn which eases destructive gossip into an otherwise generative conversation.

What most often follows “Just between you and me” is a concern about someone who is not within earshot (you hope). Preceding such statements is typically a glance over the shoulder to see if the coast is clear and such words are usually delivered in hushed tone.

Why do people gossip in this way? Part of it is that they’re afraid to address the issue out in the open, face-to-face, with the person they’re concerned about. It is a form of social cowardice. Behind that fear is a fear of pressure or perhaps even of rejection should the parties fail to come to a constructive agreement.

Gossip, both well-intetioned and maliciously crafted, is the cheap way to manage friends, family and associates. You’ve no doubt experience the fact that whenever you shortchange your integrity or take a shortcut under the rationalization that the end justifies the means, you devalue your personal worth, both internally and in the eyes of others. There is only one way to manage your affairs rightly: with honor, dignity, respect, genuineness and transparency.

Such an approach says to another about whom you are concerned or with whom you are frustrated: “Brother (or sister), if what I am perceiving is correct, I feel that a change is necessary here.” Rather than going behind the back of those whom you love and respect at critical moments, meet them squarely and voice your concern carefully. Frame it in a way that it is most likely to be received and not rejected by the defense mechanisms that will likely be in place to protect the weaknesses in those around you. Don’t be a pussyfooter; state your concern cleanly, succinctly and humbly and then shut up. Let the process unfold from that still place you create.

What really do you have to lose? If anything, you have everything to gain. The problem will either be solved or all involved will be clear as to what the concerns are. There will be no secrets, not intrigue, no politicking, hidden meaning or double-talk. Wouldn’t that be a nicer place to live than what we have now on earth?

Some might say, “Oh that is a naive thought. If you acted that way anybody and everybody with a crooked agenda would take advantage of you.” I say, nay nay. You cannot con an honest man for he has nothing to hide, nothing to lose and nothing to gain. Others might say, “If you were so transparent with people they might take offense and you might lose their friendship, business, influence, etc.” I would agree that such departures would result in a loss, but not in the negative sense. You would lose only that which burdens you and slows your forward movement.

If you manage your life rightly, each and every day you live will be the worst day of the rest of your life. Being the worst does not mean that it will be bad, of course, and the fact is that you can and should move from glory unto glory in your living.

My Best Teachers

If you treat an individual…as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One of the greatest privileges in life is that of teaching, coaching, mentoring or leading others in any setting or of any age. To do so requires an unusual combination of skills, chief among them are the ability to radiate a certain quality of knowledge or even wisdom and the willingness to be at rest in yourself while occasionally making others feel uncomfortable by your radiant presence.

Looking back, my best teachers were those who made me feel the most uncomfortable, challenged and capable of reaching that which was beyond my reach at the time. Their very presence compelled my finest expression – in thought, word and action – no matter how I was feeling or they were feeling at the time. They were empathetic and understanding without being sympathetic and subject to my limitations, both real and perceived.

Another common denominator to this rare and distinguished group was (and is!) the ability to help me navigate from where I was to where they knew I could be. Just writing this makes me realize that they believed in me more than I believed in myself at certain critical points. This is the very essence of an effective teacher, mentor and leader.

You cannot give what you don’t have and the wonderful thing about teaching, mentoring and leading is that you find yourself face-to-face with yourself as you are presently configured. You realize very quickly what you have and can therefore deliver and what you don’t and must therefore develop in yourself if you are to continue to provide guidance in that area. Luckily those whom you are guiding are typically consumed with their own process to the point that they do not see you addressing your own deficiencies, especially if you do not draw unnecessary attention to your process.

A great teacher will humbly admit that he is continually learning from his students and from the process of teaching and sharing, without losing his authority. A great teacher is, in this sense, a great student first and a great teacher second. Put otherwise, the way a teacher relates to the learning process will tend to condition the way his students relate to the learning process.

It’s a beautiful process when you think about it. It’s not so much the circle of life, where facts and information are recycled from generation to generation, but the spiral of life, where the ongoing revelation of wisdom is encouraged. This is the catalyst that transforms the human experience from history repeating itself to moving from glory unto glory.


Can’t buy me love

When loveless money seeks to buy love by spreading out on the counter in the matrimonial market its stocks and bonds, houses and lots, bank accounts, automobiles, fine dress, position in society, travel abroad and the others, and the woman looks languidly over the outfit where she has to take the owner too, and finally consents, he has not bought love. He has some understudy to love, an imitation, a combination of policy and pretense. There is never a sweet spontaneity, a word, a look, a tone that splashes like water from an overfull fountain, but only the pettiness of cool, counterfeit emotion. He has closed an option on a partner in matrimony as he might on a block of stock. He has bought not Cupid, but cupidity. If wealth wants love it must give love. It must be an exchange not a purchase. The rich man must win love as the poorest man wins it—because of what he is, not for what he has.” ~ William George Jordan

As harsh as these words may sound, they are the truth of the matter. You cannot sell yourself short and expect any long term income on your investment. There are simply no shortcuts to fulfillment.

Man for too long has satisfied himself with the appearance of fulfillment, rather than its actuality. Fulfillment is a state wherein there is movement from glory unto glory. If you have already decided that such a state is impossible, then it will be to you. If, however, you are free of such prejudice, your heart becomes a fertile ground in which the seed of fulfillment can take root.

True glory takes root, and even spreads; all false pretences, like flowers, fall to the ground; nor can any counterfeit last long.” Marcus Tullius Cicero