Fixin’ It Friday!

The PPPP Principle

The best way I can think of to fix things is to not let them get broke in the first place.  It sounds so simple, but it is a reality that is not as often visited as it should be.  Watching a youngster of 5 trying very hard to make sure his glass of milk gets all the way up on the counter can create some very amusing facial calisthenics.  But the calisthenics come from his having learned that if he doesn’t take the time to make sure the glass is on the counter, he could spill the glass.  He had learned that he needed to plan ahead and make sure the glass was on the counter rather than just taking a swing with the glass and running on.

In the Army I ran into a phrase, a little crude, but absolutely true and suitable:  Piss Poor Prior Planning On Your Part Does Not Necessarily Constitute an Emergency on Mine!  I had the giggles the rest of the day the first time I heard it.  That was nearly 35 years ago now and it is still as true today as it was when I heard my then NCOIC, Donna Morris, say it.  It will is a truism that we could all do well to remember.

Many mistakes and missteps are made because they are rushed through or adequate time is not allotted to complete the project.  Most of us adults know what our failings are in that regard.  When you begin a procrastination, the first letter of the word -P- should remind you of the PPPP Principle.  Make sure you plan enough time.  For any project or activity.  It makes it much more enjoyable – and usually far more successful.

This principle can also be well applied to our interactions with others.  Are we ensuring that we are giving the other person enough of our time?  Are we making sure that our kids are still a priority?  Is time taking us over, or do we control our time.




Fixing It Fridays – Is Everything Worth Litigating?

I was fortunate enough to work in the legal industry for over ten years in Alaska, and I learned a lot.  I not only learned about pleadings, and causes of action, writs, and summary judgments, I also learned that maybe everything isn’t a reason to sue.  We hear it on the news everyday.  Courts are overcrowded and there’s too many cases on the courts’ calendars.  Some jurisdictions are running civil court through the weekend and late hours just to get calendars cleared.

Why can’t we think of other ways of settling differences than just going to court?  Are there times when the court system is the appropriate place to go with a dispute?  Absolutely!  However, it may not always be the best case.  Some lawsuits are filed with hardly any work on the parties involved to settle their differences.  Instead of trying to find a common ground many are quick to “lawyer up” and get sueing.

There are other ways of settling disputes besides suing in court.  There are professional mediators in just about every major population area.  Professional mediators are individuals (many times retired judges) who act as arbiters much like a judge does in court.  In fact, many contracts written include a requirement to go for mediation prior to filing a lawsuit.   The level of representation one is allowed to have in the arbitration is either set by State Law or, more frequently, by the contract which is in dispute.  Normally, this situation happens in business…there is a contract, parties agreed to do certain things…someone didn’t follow through on their part…other parties in the contract go to arbitration or sue to ensure conformance, or, in the alternative, monetary compensation for losses incurred due to the party not fulfilling their part of the contract.

And, therein lies the rub.  There is a perception in the American culture that the right thing to do is SUE SUE SUE!  And, many people do.  With thoughts of multi-million dollar lawsuits swimming in their heads, people are lawyering-up faster and faster.  The truth of the matter is, the main sector of society this tendency has helped enrich is…the lawyers.  Sure, there’s no “fee” in most personal injury lawsuits unless you win.  However, there are costs!  And those costs come out of your pocket, not the lawyers.  If you are suing for $100,000 you should not expect to get much more than $50,000 in your pocket.  The lawyer does not absorb the costs incurred in pursuing your suit.  Those are billed to you.  Every stamp, every phone call, every copy made and fax sent, those are costed out and billed to the client when the case is over.  Lawyers will tell you they eat these costs all the time for clients, but I worked as a bookkeeper for over 10 years in law offices, and, well, the times the costs are paid by the lawyer are few and far between.

The courts are overloaded.  They have far more important things to deal with than Johnny down the street breaking Mrs. M’s front window.  Maybe, we should revisit our past and look at how these situations have been handled in the past.  Now in my 50’s, I easily remember how we were watched by all the adults on Auburn Street.  If we did something wrong Mom usually knew about it before we even got home.  If something destructive or damaging was happening an adult would normally appear quickly and kibosh the whole situation quickly.   Johnny down the street was marched back up the street and, if the family didn’t have the funds to reimburse Mrs. M for her front window, arrangements were made between the Johnny, his parents and Mrs. M to make sure that Mrs. M was compensated for her broken window.

Today?  The scenario tends to be different.  Johnny accidentally breaks Mrs. M’s window.  He runs home.  Mrs. M calls Johnny’s parents.  Johnny’s parents refuse to even talk to Mrs. M.  What is Mrs. M. to do?  Luckily, situations like this are handled in states’ Small claims Courts.  No lawyers and there is a cap on how much can be sued for.  What is Mrs. M to do?  On a limited income she doesn’t have the money to replace the window either.    Another example of how this comes down is:  Johnny accidentally breaks Mrs. M’s window.  He runs home and tells his parents.  His Dad takes him by the shoulder and marches him up to Mrs. M’s.  Mrs. M tells them it’s going to take $1,000 to replace the window and slams the door.  Through phone calls and written letters Johnny’s parents try to communicate with Mrs. M to get a copy of an estimate or documents that back up the $1,000 demanded.  Mrs. M ignores their request and continues to demand the $1,000.  What is Johnny’s dad to do?  He wants to be responsible and pay for the damage his son accidentally caused, but working in construction he’s pretty sure the figure is overly inflated.

While overly simplified, the basics are still there.  What’s the common denominator between the examples?  In both examples one party is being unreasonable and simply not doing the right thing.  In the first case, Johnny and his parents need to step up to the plate and at least communicate with Mrs. M to come to a reasonable compromise to fix the window.  In the second, Mrs. M is trying to “ka-ching” the situation by padding the damages to an exorbitant amount and isn’t willing to show the documentation of the costs for repair to Johnny’s parents.  In either case, simple reasonableness (much like it’s kin – common sense) is thrown out the window.

While I hope you never face a situation like any of these — or something for which you would even consider suing — if you do, think reasonableness.  Once you enter the courtroom there’s a good possibility that *you* are the one being unreasonable in the situation.  Think forward – is it about money or making it right.  If we spent more time working with one another to sort out our conflicts ourselves, maybe the courts would have a little more time to take care of more important matters than an accidentally broken window.  Maybe a court isn’t the best place to fix it.

When the window gets broken, think reasonable.  It is reasonable for Mrs. M to expect Johnny and/or his parents to fix her window.  It is reasonable for Johnny’s Dad to ask for a cost of the estimate or receipt.  Mrs. M calls and has the glass folks come out and give her an estimate.  She calls Johnny’s Dad and lets him know the estimate is there.  Johnny’s Dad goes over to Mrs. M and they look over the estimate on the porch.  Johnny’s Dad readily sees that the estimate is reasonable, although more than he expected.  Not having the full $750 cash at the time Johnny’s Dad explains to Mrs. M and sets up an arrangement to make payments.  During the conversation Johnny is detailed to having summer mowing duties for Mrs. M’s lawn to help make up for the payment process.  Three years later Mrs. M is still sending cookies home with Johnny when he stops by after school.

Which fix seems the best to you?  While the golden tableau above is the literary ideal, there was a time when the above happened on just about any street in America – without courts having to get involved.  If we want to lift our energy levels, if we want to be true to what we follow, we have to be willing to live it in the real world.  Good thoughts are good…good actions are world-changing.  I’d prefer the tableau with the cookies!





Fixing It Fridays

Emotions all tied up in a knot?

We Tie Our Own Knots!

Ever felt like your emotions were in about the same condition as this ball – all twisted, contorted and you can’t see any way to untangle the mess?  I think we all have at one time or another.  How do you find the core of the issue when your emotions are tied up in knots?  How do you find a way out of the predicament?  How to you see through all the wrapping to the center?  How do you find the end of the string and uncoil the knot?

The first thing to do is to figure out what the knot is made of.  Many times we have these huge knots to deal with because of our fears.  We can hide the truth of a situation from ourselves because of our fears.  We can hide the answer to the situation from ourselves because of our fears.    Our fears can blind us as well as paralyze us.  Our fears can make mountains out of molehills and keep us from achieving.  Our fears can stop us from reaching for our dreams and achieving our goals.  But how, when we are looking at the knot, can we find a way to conquer those very fears that threaten to paralyze us?

Remember, it’s your knot, you really can untie it at any time.  I know, much easier said than done.  Realizing that in the midst of the situation it is nearly impossible to see a way through the difficulties, we need to take the time to at least try.  Emotional knots are like having your own personal dragon.  When the knots are small the dragon is small, cute and kind of sweet.  When the knots grow to messed up tangles the dragon has grown to tremendous size and ferocity – breathing fire and beating the air into hot winds with it’s leathery wings.  The obvious and easy answer is to train the dragon before it becomes too big.  In other words, albeit hindsight, we should try to untie the knots before the related dragon gets too big.

Much like the tangle in the picture, it is hard to see where to begin.  However, beginning is exactly what needs to be done.  You may spend some time looking at the tangled knot, picking it up and studying it from all angles, looking for the tell-tale tail of the loose end.  That’s a good beginning…looking at the situation, trying to step outside of yourself and see the situation from a different perspective than your own.  Many times just taking a good hard look brings a clarity or solution not seen before.

If you’ve looked at it seven ways from Saturday and still only see a big knot you have a couple of choices.  You could just toss it and start with another knot, or, you can slowly and systematically untangle the knot and save the string.  It won’t always be easy to untie the knot…there will be times when the cord is cinched so tight on itself that you doubt you will be able to get it untied.  Sometimes the cord snaps and you wonder if it is worth the effort.  However, pushing yourself you force yourself to continue on, slowly transforming the cord from a tangled mess to a cord with a few knots holding it together.

To untie your knots, you must do the same.  It is sometimes difficult and always disconcerting to face our fears and negatives as we untie the knot.  But that is exactly what we need to do in order to be able to move forward to a freer and happier state of being.  Luckily, the knot doesn’t have to be untied all at once.  It can be untied in stages, step at a time, as we work on ourselves to  move forward from that which binds us so that we may discover that which helps us to shine.

Here’s some ways to help you untie the knot:

1.  Take it a piece at a time.  You don’t have to untangle the whole knot all at once.

2.  Tug on a string.  Fight the urge to allow your fears to freeze you.  Take a tug on a string.  The whole knot might just unravel.  On the other hand, tugging could result in pulling the knot tighter.   Tugging will let you know if you’re on the right string or not.  Even if it is a stab in the dark…try something.  By the trying you may just get it right the first time, and if you don’t — well you’ve learned something and that gives you a better idea on which way you need to go.

3.  Once you see a clear path to untangle the knot, don’t hesitate!  If you see a way through the knot, go ahead – untie it.  Sometimes the solution to a situation is far easier than we expect.   Sometimes its the little things that make all the difference…if your knot is a disagreement with another, you can at least tell them that you respect their opinion even if you don’t agree with it, and that you agree to disagree on that issue.

Facing our fears is something we all must do sooner or later.  It’s difficult.  It’s not fun, but the sooner we face them the better off we are.  Untying the knots we have tied in our life’s cord isn’t easy, but the rewards for doing so are far greater than we can imagine.  By facing our fears and dealing with them we can move forward with one less thing holding us back from achieving our spiritual center.

Blue Rope


Fixing It Fridays

Fixing It Fridays: Articles on ways people can work on issues or problems within relationships – including their relationship with themselves and significant others.