A friend called me today and asked me if I would consider referring him to some of my friends, clients and connections. He is an old friend and business colleague, a sound and competent business person and has a good set of values which I respect and seen in his behaviour. I don’t share all his beliefs, or he mine, we don’t come from or live in the same community or have the same religious practices. We don’t like the same things and we have vastly different characteristics.
I said YES immediately, and he almost missed it as he went on to say ‘I would be rewarded and I would benefit and he wouldn’t let me down’. I laughed with him when I said “It’s nothing, just knowing some people is nothing, so why be selfish and keep nothing to myself? …maybe you can make it something?”
It reminded me of my Oupa (grandfather) and what he taught me as a boy. He used to open his garage every year to trade everything he hadn’t used, or would not use in the coming year… BUT his trade was unusual because he put an old blackboard on the driveway with a list of obscure things he wanted or needed. e.g. Old clean glass jars of a certain size (for his jam making); a blade for a type of cutter, wooden boards etc… ….unusually (for a garage sale) he was seldom there during the trade. People would come and drop off what they though he was asking for and sometimes take something he had labelled clearly “please take me”. I used to worry he would lose everything and get nothing back or have all kinds of rubbish dumped on the drive. But every Spring all his labelled items were gone and a pile of stuff resembling what he’d asked for was sitting on the driveway, neatly in boxes. He was always delighted as he sorted through his new set of ‘stuff’.
Oupa used to preach values like the old ministers. “Values my boy, values. A bunch of people with the most uncommon behaviours and uncommon beliefs but sharing a common set of values, that’s a good community, that’s a strong community, because they’ll defend and uphold those values. Always put values before religion and law, they need enforcement whereas values just need courage.”
Back in the garage, Oupa was always up on the deal. He got more back than he put out to be taken, but he always ‘put out first’. Today the clever people call it ‘paying forward’, Oupa just called it living ‘core to character’ through your values.
Trust first, be the first and others won’t follow they will match and better your trust.
Love first, forgive first, show courage first. Then you will always be you from ‘core to character’. I asked him if there were exceptions and he said it’s tough when you just want want to slap someone, but then you do the unexpected, laugh from you heart and have the courage to bow, and leave. You will always be at peace when you have courage. So today, I talked to my friend about his business plans and he is truly excited. He has a great proposition and offering and just needs a marketplace. I heard him use all manner of great value-words ‘ build, teach, transfer, skill, enable, support’. I just ‘felt’ like helping and joining a small part in someone else’s journey, not mine.
From Core Values to Character….
I guess if our values define us, why is that our behaviours don’t always demonstrate this?….or do they ? What gets us from ‘core to character’? Do we need a national or local crisis to bring out the best in our values? Do we need that ‘hungry, helpless or shattered person’ to elicit a response? In any event when our values are triggered, by the time they hit our behaviours, they have travelled through our belief system and our own characteristics… …and these two filters can be very slippery subjects.
Beliefs or what we we believe in. The framework or references we relate to can form through any number of circumstances. Blind or adopted belief because we trust (value) something else in someone / something? Beliefs from our family, parents, grandparents, a specific religion we were introduced to. Influential teachers, siblings, peers, social groups, friends. Beliefs formed on our own experiences of ‘what happens next’… …’if this, then that’… …the sources are endless. Negatively, there are also ‘limiting beliefs’ which stop us, on certain topics, looking up and over the horizon at what’s possible. So living our values is influenced by our beliefs, as seen in our behaviour.
What of our Characteristics? Our beliefs will certainly influence our characteristics. These distinguishing features or qualities are evidenced in our behaviours e.g. a generosity of spirit, a welcoming of everyone, a genuine interested in the other party. Features that helps to identify, tell apart, or distinguish me from you recognisably: he’s a constant talker; she’s a good listener; he’s one of those Socratic questioners; she’s an extrovert, or an introvert.
Our characteristics can be the embodiment of our values OR a mask, behind which lie other values, hidden from someone’s behaviour. Those who mask values and pretend to be something else – maybe of generous spirit or altruistic, but it’s an act – are generally unmasked by their inability to carry it off under pressure.
Another friend, a psychotherapist, tells me there are depths to this that beggar believe in: what causes certain characteristics to surface; how beliefs impact values; how a culture driven by the fear of loosing something ( a job, status etc) can suppress what in the majority is known to be unfair, wrong and lead to the majority allowing the minority to defy their commonly held values and behave in terrible ways.
So what makes humanity join together immediately, cohesively and effectively, does it need a big shock, a sudden, unexpected, appalling, value-shaking natural or man-made disaster?
Something that strips away all the mechanisms that supported the suppressed behaviours in one or all of us?
Or can it be the courage to discover, define, explore and live our values before anythings else?
The Age of Legacy – Passing to those who follow us…
My Oupa was a man who didn’t see colour, or creed, or religions or any other separation in mankind, just values being lived, or not. He taught me so much both as a boy and young man and he knew exactly what he was doing. He was in his 3rd age, the ‘age of legacy’ and he was determined to pass on these lessons to me which are now in the heart of our teaching. His parting words were along the lines of these:
“I have little of value to leave but my values. Have the courage to live your values and be first to give, to forgive and to trust. In people, look to their values – be first to listen, to be patient as you inquire and witness their behaviour. Trust those who ‘live values’ in common with yours.”
Difference is a strength
“Remember always, it’s not those that have everything in common that create the best community, because sometimes that it odd socks in the draw that make the best pairs and last the longest, just don;t be ashamed they are different colours or sizes.” I believe in this, I believe that it isn’t some great leader we are waiting for, it is just us, which means me and you. You the individual and me the individual.
If we can have the courage then others may have it too, and one-by-one from ‘core to character we ‘become our values’.
Thank you for reading and feel free to pass it on…