117. A fruitful second chance.

It has long been known that mixing alcohol with testosterone seldom produces a good result.

Last week we talked about The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions and it prompted Martin to contact me and share a story of an experience, and a win-win agreement, that took place when he was a mere 15 years old and changed his life forever.

Martin described himself as a “not untypical small city town kid” who grew up in a community in northern Ontario.

Like many of his age and generation he had his moments of rebelliousness. He skipped school, experimented with drugs and once he discovered how uninformed in the ways of the world his parents were, he set out to carve his own way in the world.

Just a few days shy of his 16th birthday he snuck in the house at 2AM on a Saturday morning, “borrowed” (stole) his dad’s vehicle, met up with a couple of friends and “drank a ton of beer.”

Somewhere around 3:30 AM, having dropped his friends back at their homes, he was making his way back to his home when he lost control of the vehicle and smashed through the living room wall of a neighbour’s house some three blocks from his home.

The police were called, Martin’s parents were summoned and he spent the next few hours in a holding cell, alternately being read the riot act by a variety of police officers, the elderly couple whose home he had damaged, and, worst of all, his parents.

Martin, at 15, was still a juvenile and as the police were explaining to his parents what the procedures would be in dealing with him, the neighbours intervened with a suggestion of their own.

They generously asked the police if they would turn a blind eye to these events and not charge Martin if, and only if, he would agree to get a job, and also agree to repair all the damage he had done, by himself with no assistance from anyone and, once completed, paint the entire exterior of their house.

The job would provide him with income to purchase the materials needed for the repairs and they would provide the paint for the exterior work.

Martin’s parent immediately agreed on his behalf but that was not good enough. They wanted Martin to not only agree verbally to their terms but to also sign an agreement documenting his commitment.

Once he understood that the alternative was to spend time before a judge, potentially go to jail and have a criminal record he eagerly agreed to their terms.

It turns out that the gentleman was a retired carpenter and had recently sold a successful home renovation business.

As Martin set about repairing the damage to their home he discovered he had a ready-made mentor working alongside who helped him develop the skills necessary to not only do the job but to do it to a very high standard.

This gentleman also helped Martin get an afterschool job as a helper to the folks who had purchased his company and Martin’s afterschool hours were spent either hard at work at his job or diligently improving his carpentry skills.

He also discovered something interesting. He learned that the highs he had previously experienced by drinking with his friends were easily replaced by the sense of accomplishment that can only come from doing great work.

A few years later when Martin graduated from high school he began an apprenticeship and today, some 30 years later, has built a successful business building and renovating homes.

That experience also taught him to stay away from drugs and while he still enjoys a glass of wine once or twice a week with his wife he has never once been drunk since that fateful night.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions proved its value to all involved.

Martin learned a valuable lesson and gained a prosperous career. The elderly couple had their home painted at minimal cost and helped a young man redeem himself.

The police who attended that night were spared from both the arduous paperwork and the need to having to deal with this young man again.

Society was spared the cost of trying and incarcerating a young person.

Everyone went home happy which is what happens whenever The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions is deployed.

The Habit of Seeking Win-Win Solutions will not apply to all conflicts but when it does, it sure beats all other available options.

And creates more smiles than scowls.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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