95. We should all be like Grandma.

A delightful lady named Nadia called this week to chat.

Nadia had read our last two blogs on The Habit of Dealing with It and over the past weekend had discussed that very topic with her grandmother.

The purpose of her call was to share with me her grandmother’s take on The Habit of Dealing with It.

Born in 1928, a child of the Great Depression, her grandmother learned The Habit of Dealing with It at a very early age. Her early childhood was steeped in poverty with her father enduring long periods of unemployment and the family subsisting on whatever little offerings the few odd jobs he could find, provided.

She inherited from her parents a stoicism that has stood her in good stead to this very day.

At the age of six her father was killed in a train accident leaving her mother, who had never held a job, the sole caregiver and provider for five young children.

To say their lives were tough would be an enormous understatement. But they endeared.

They all quickly learned that the best way to deal with adversity is to deal with adversity.

It was apparent to all that complaining, whining, and developing helplessness was no way to overcome the challenges that life had dealt them and all six of them, with Nadia’s grandmother being the youngest, pitched in uncomplainingly to try, each in their own way, to make life a little more bearable for the rest of the family.

Her grandmother too was widowed in her early 20s, ironically also by a train accident and, like her mother before her, had to find the means to support and raise her own four children.

And she did so in stellar fashion. She cleaned offices at night and mended clothes by day. She became an astute shopper stretching every dollar the beyond the breaking point to ensure that there was always enough food on the table for her four kids.

On many occasion there was none left over for her. And she dealt with it.

As her childhood had melded her into The Habit of Dealing with It she unhesitatingly bore the challenges and difficulties visited on those raising four children in poverty and, despite all odds, was able to set enough money aside – “One penny at a time” – to help each of her four children get a head start on the education she was never able to afford for herself.

Despite near unbearable hardship she never once deviated from her goal of raising high functioning, progressive, non-complaining and high achieving children and, when asked, each of them, without hesitation, would attest to never once hearing their mother complain about her lot in life or allow herself to be overcome by life’s challenges.

Nadia’s mother, a product of the same stock, instilled in her children the same Habit of Dealing with It which she told me has stood her in good stead throughout her entire life.

Her grandmother is cynical of how the world has shifted and during their discussion last Sunday, she shared with Nadia her disappointment on how soft, ill-prepared and ill-equipped we have become as a society in dealing with adversity.

We are so coddled, sheltered and protected that our coping skills have not been given an opportunity to develop and for many of us an event that sends us into the depths of depression, stress and helplessness (like the power outage of two weeks ago) would not have caused people of her generation to as much as flinch.

Her grandmother proclaimed that The Habit of Dealing with It is an attitude that brings with it resolve and determination which is a birthright but which so many have set aside in favour of complaining or just plain giving up.

Her grandmother, having accomplished what she has, has unquestionably earned the right to voice her opinion and to enjoin us to toughen up.

At 86 she is living proof that The Habit of Dealing with It is all that stands between hope and hopelessness when things get tough.

God bless her – we sure could use a few more like her.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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94. He’s doing a Darren good job.

Last week’s blog on The Habit of Dealing with It prompted a response from Jacquie who called to talk about her brother who, for the past six months, has gallantly been battling cancer.

Jacquie explained that when Darren first became aware of his diagnosis their mother went into “drama-queen overdrive” and, with all good intention, created a family environment so fraught with panic that both Jacquie and Daren joked about, “running away and joining the circus.

Jacquie is 17, her brother, 13.

Jacquie lovingly talked about Darren’s being her hero. She explained how he has absolutely refused to allow his illness, or the unpleasant treatments interfere in any way with his life.

She says that Darren is a role model for all people because for him, cancer has become nothing more than an inconvenience that must be dealt with occasionally and ignored the rest of the time.

According to Jacquie, Darren has dragged himself to school on days when he has felt “sick beyond belief” and has continued to participate in as many of his previous activities as possible.

Darren will not discuss his illness simply because he refuses to acknowledge having one. He knows that something is going on inside his body that shouldn’t be happening but he does not allow, for one moment, anything associated with this to affect his life, his demeanour, or his infectious enjoyment of everything he does.

Jacquie explained that Darren personifies everything that The Habit of Dealing with It is meant to accomplish. He has set goals for himself not only for scholastic achievement at school but also in other areas of his life and he pursues his goals with the same zest that he always has.

To Darren, cancer is “just stuff” that he will deal with and get rid of and in no way will he allow it to gain any victory over him by impeding his activities.

His proud sister explained that on his many visits to the hospital he spends much of his time sharing his philosophy with other patients.

He tells them that the disease does not define them anymore than being defined by being left-handed or right-handed.

He patiently explains to all who will listen that if they focus on the good things in their lives and go through each day, as best as they can, doing the things they would ordinarily and normally do, then this will just become a tiny part of a much bigger whole.

Darren’s devotion to The Habit of Dealing with It has caught the attention of others and he is frequently asked to speak to groups of his peers and even adult groups around the state in which they live.

His doctors are astounded by the rapid progress he has made and are now confidently forecasting complete recovery whereas their earlier prognosis had been extremely guarded.

With a laugh in her voice Jacquie explained that Darren’s approach has helped calm their mother into becoming “manageable” and she and her brother enjoy great laughter when privately discussing how Darren has become the real adult in the family.

Life often deals us blows that knock us down. The Habit of Dealing with It measures not how often we fall but how often and how rapidly we rise. We cannot always control what happens to us but we always own our response and from everything Jacqueline told me Darren is rapidly becoming one of the great teachers of our era.

If at age 13 he can already manage his life as well as this and in so doing can be an inspiration to so many others, we cannot imagine how many untold thousands of lives he will touch in the future and with whom he will share the enormous benefits that come with The Habit of Dealing with It.

Earlier, Jacquie described him as her hero.

Mine too.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

93. Deal with it.

For the past four days my wife Gimalle and I, along with thousands of fellow Calgarian’s, have been living with no electricity or water.

On Saturday night an underground explosion in an electrical station wiped out power to an area covering approximately 25 city blocks.

They say the true test of a person occurs not when things are going well but when things are going wrong and over the past four days I have had ample opportunity to witness and witness how folks respond when things don’t always go according to plan.

I am a member of our condo Board of Directors so I immediately went down to the lobby of one of our buildings moments after we lost all power and, along with fellow Board members took whatever steps we deemed necessary to ensure the safety of all residents.

For the following 48 hours, with two tiny breaks to catch up on some sleep, both Gimalle and I camped out in the lobby providing whatever assistance we could and we have been overwhelmed by the spirit of cooperation and offers of assistance from the majority of our neighbours.

Our condo complex comprises two high-rise towers with some 400 to 500 residents and there was a steady stream of folks offering to do whatever was necessary to maintain continuity and functionality of our buildings.

This blog is not about those gallant folks.

Today I would like to introduce a new habit – The Habit of Dealing with It – and spend a little time sharing with you some of the experiences we encountered in our interactions with a tiny minority of our residents.

Let’s put this in perspective. At the time of writing we are now entering our fifth day with no order and no electricity. We are all safe, our building is secure and there have been no injuries or fatalities. We are blessed to live in a city with vast resources to throw at solving these types of situations and our city resides inside a province with even greater resources that have been made available to us.

In short, this is no more than a minor inconvenience.

A quick search of the internet tells us that just last week, some 6 natural disasters around the planet claimed the lives of dozens of people, injured hundreds more and lived thousands of people homeless.

Many of these disasters occurred in countries where help is not only not coming soon, it is not coming at all. These folks are left to fend for themselves with scant resources, limited infrastructure and, worst of all, no hope.

Most of the folks in our buildings and, those in the general area with whom I came in contact, were all somewhat stoic in their response to the situation and most went about quietly making arrangements to continue with their lives and not to allow disruptions of this kind to slow them down in any way.

These folks have all mastered The Habit of Dealing with It. They understand that sometimes life does not always deal us the hand we wish to play, but that the game goes on regardless. They also understand that as long as you stay in the game, then losing a few hands here and there are of little significance.

This blog is not about these people either.

We have had the extreme displeasure of interacting with a small group of whiners for whom this event has become far more catastrophic and devastating than any of the natural disasters referred to above.

From the little princess whose life was destroyed because she couldn’t charge her cell phone and demanded that we “do something about this, or else” to the middle-aged lady who proclaimed to all who would listen that “I can’t take this anymore I’m getting out of this $#!+hole,” we witnessed human helplessness, unwarranted anger and indescribable stupidity.

We were ordered by the Fire Marshall to evacuate and shutdown our parkade. I drove to my office and hastily printed 300 notices which we distributed to each unit and placed in common areas advising residents that after 6 PM on Sunday they would not be able to get their vehicles in, or out of, the garage.

We explained the reason – the potential threat of rising carbon monoxide levels – and at 6:30 PM we blocked off the entrances and placed a security guard at the top of the ramp to ensure that the garage remain empty.

Apparently the threat of death by carbon monoxide poisoning is not sufficient to deter those who feel their rights are being trampled on and we spent several hours dealing with people demanding they be allowed access to the vehicles or we would be sued into the middle of next year.

The more we attempted to explain the safety reasons behind actions the more desperate some became in their efforts to insult and belittle us.

On Sunday morning, at 4:30 AM, I, along with one of our security guards posted signs informing residents had access to the garbage disposal rooms was prohibited. We also placed yellow caution tape outside of the access areas.

By 11:30 that morning at least seven people chosen to duck under the yellow tape and enter those rooms. When we questioned them as to why they would risk their lives to dispose of garbage two of them explained that they were just “too stressed out to carry their garbage all around to the back of the building.”

The Habit of Dealing with It is one that allows practitioners to convert adversityinto adaptability and clearly those folks who caused us the most grief, complained the most and wrapped themselves in the pathetic discomfort of self-pity would benefit greatly by embracing this.

They clearly don’t realize how lucky they are to become stressed out by such tiny first world issues. I wonder how they would survive should they ever have to deal with real serious stuff.

The Habit of Dealing with It. Ignore it at your own peril.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

92. A grandfather to be proud of.

1. Be on time.
2. Be polite.
3. Finish what you start.
4. Keep your word.

That’s all it takes to achieve greatness in one’s life. Follow those rules and good things will happen. That has been the focus of our discussion over the past two weeks and yesterday afternoon I received a call from Michael who wanted to tell me a story of his grandfather, a man who lived his life by those four rules.

Michael’s grandfather was born in Russia and emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. He lived in New York State and entered adulthood during the depression. His working career began with menial jobs that he took to with enormous enthusiasm because he wholeheartedly believed that each successive job, regardless of how menial, was a stepping stone to the great legacy he knew would be his one day.

After many years of hard work and struggle his grandfather was beginning to experience success as an entrepreneur. He had started several businesses from scratch, built them up to be prosperous and then sold them.

At one point his grandfather entered into an agreement to sell one of his properties for a specified sum of money. Between the time of the verbal agreement with the buyer and the time it came to formalize the agreement in writing some 12 months later the economy had soared and the value of the property had almost doubled.

The buyer approached Michael’s grandfather and said to him that while he understood that the building was now worth far more than it had been at the time of their original negotiation, he felt that as they had, in fact, reached an agreement in principle he was willing to offer Michael’s grandfather a premium of approximately 50% above the originally agreed upon price which represented a huge gain for Michael’s grandfather but also somewhat of a savings for himself.

In telling the story Michael paused for a moment and told me that his grandfather had hammered home to him the importance of The Habit of the Four Rules of Greatness, particularly the last one, Keep Your Word.

His grandfather, upon hearing the offer from his buyer, shook his head and said, “I cannot accept your offer, it is indeed a generous one but we shook hands and made a deal for me to sell you the property for a certain price. I gave you my word I would do so and my word holds true today. I cannot accept your offer to buy the property at 50% more than we originally agreed but I will accept your original offer to buy my property at the price we agreed upon 12 months ago.

Some might call Michael’s grandfather a fool, others might simply shake their heads and make reference to how that might have been then but this is now and nobody does that kind of thing today.

None of that would make any sense to Michael because many years after that deal was done, in telling Michael the story, his grandfather used it to illustrate that our value as human beings in life is not measured by how many dollars we have by the word we hold.

Michael’s grandfather may well have walked away from a great deal of money on that deal but his act but the buyer repeated that story for many years to many people and Michael’s grandfather became the kind of person that people sought out in order to do business with us.

His integrity earned him many times the amount he turned down, in other business transactions over the years.

His word truly was known to be his bond and people flocked to do business with him.

With a smile Michael went on to tell me that one could set a clock by his grandfather’s punctuality; that if he agreed to meet you at 8 o’clock, at that exact moment he would appear as if magically transformed from somewhere else.

His grandfather knew no demeanour other than pure politeness. He treated everyone; friend, colleague, business acquaintance, adversary, nemesis with equal dignity, respect and politeness.

Michael also remembers being chastised by his grandfather one day when he set out to complete a math homework assignment only to find it more difficult than he had anticipated and he left it unfinished. His grandfather was visiting that evening and upon hearing of Michael’s non-completion of his homework, took him aside and sent him back to his room with firm instructions to stay with it until he had figured it out because, in the words of his grandfather, “If you started it, you gotta finish it or you ain’t no man.”

One cannot argue with logic like that.

Michael’s grandfather sounds like the kind of person we would all love to have as a mentor in our lives and while he achieved enormous financial success he remained a quiet, humble person who believed strongly in giving back to his community. He spent his final volunteering his time to a host of needy organizations.

I don’t know Michael, I’ve only talked with him on the phone but his quiet assurance and undoubted reverence for his grandfather tell me that he has adopted those same enviable traits and while Michael would not reveal much about himself, I’m sure his life will be as filled with joy and success as that of his grandfather.

The Habit of the Four Rules of Greatness. Don’t leave home without it.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this
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91. It’s not that difficult.

Last week we began talking about The Habit of the Four Rules of Greatness.

Our discussion focused on the first two rules: be on time; be polite. And it seems those simple rules of greatness struck a chord with many readers – particularly the first one – as I received more calls, emails and texts and I can recall ever receiving from any other posting.

As one caller put it, our new “Whatever” world seems to have removed any requirement for punctuality and when we set a time for meetings, social functions or get-togethers those agreed-upon times have simply become suggestions – a rough guideline – and showing up “whenever” has become the norm.

Having been raised by a mother who was serially punctual, that trait was instilled with me and cemented by many scathing lectures on those occasions when I failed her punctuality demands. I found myself fully agreeing with those who contacted me to share their own frustration and to discuss how unimportant being on time seems to have become in our modern society.

Certainly there were also those who lamented the lost days of politeness and who seem to think that the world has been overtaken by many people for whom the words “Please” and “Thank you” have been erased – or perhaps never inserted – from their vocabulary.

Listening to these folks reminded me of a blog I wrote way back in January, 2011 (www.raelkalley.wordpress.com/76 “One can make a huge difference”) about an elderly man who arrived in this country as a penniless immigrant and who, through hard work, determination, and unwillingness to ever consider quitting, had become enormously prosperous.

His first job had been that of a dishwasher in a restaurant and many years later, having attained great wealth, he purchased that restaurant which was in the industrial part of the city and it was there he would meet new potential candidates for senior management positions in his many companies.

He purposely invited them to lunch at his restaurant, with them, of course, not knowing he was the owner, with the sole intention of observing how they treated the servers. He looked for politeness and listened for “please” and “thank you.” He firmly believed that if they displayed those traits to his servers, they would do so to their staff and customers and if they didn’t, they wouldn’t.

Today I would like to discuss briefly the other two rules that complete the habit.

3.Finish what you start:
It seems self-evident that the primary reason many of us fail to achieve our goals is because we quit trying.
Maybe we quit because it’s too hard or too tiring or too painful or too costly or too time-consuming but regardless of the “too“, it makes perfect sense to understand that if we finished what we started we would achieve so many of those goals we give up trying to reach.

The Habit of the Four Rules of Greatness, is a powerful reminder that the price of perseverance is the joy of success and the price of quitting is the pain of regret.

4.Keep your word:
There’s not much that needs to be said – it’s quite obvious if you say you’re gonna, then do; if you say you won’t, then don’t; and if you say will be there at seven, then arriving at 7:20 is not a case of “whatever”, it’s a case of inconsideration.

So there you have it. I still can’t recall the author and creator of these four rules but I’m grateful to him, or her, for so clearly and succinctly teaching us that if we truly want to absorb greatness into our lives we need only follow these four simple steps.

Today and every day.

It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.