Leadership

What Egging Cars Taught Me About Empathy

What Egging Cars Taught Me About Empathy

I was born and raised in the inner city of Denver. So, when my parents moved to suburbia, I took all the tricks with me.

As a kid, on occasion, I used to throw small rocks, sand, branches, and occasional pop-bottle rockets (when available—thank you 4th of July)…at passing cars. Just for fun…and the thrill.

Fun = very cool to hit a moving target.

Thrill = when the car stops, you run like hell to save your skin.

***

I raised chickens as a teenager. Most of my hens laid brown eggs and would lay throughout the day, which came in handy later on for a fun, thrill-seeking delinquent.

“Here,” I said to my buddy as I handed him a freshly laid egg.

“What?” he asked with a grin, knowing full well what my intentions were.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I retorted. Then, I gave him the precise military plan how we were going to ingress the field of battle, execute our diabolical sortie, and egress with minimal casualties. And, ultimately, have our alibi down just in case.

Like I said, I brought all my tricks.

So, we, two thirteen-year-olds set out to egg a car with the most awesome ammo ever…freshly laid eggs!

Enter the station wagon. Perfect. Long, slow-moving target. Who can’t hit that?

SPLAT, and then…SPLAT. Perfect in execution.

As expected, said station wagon screeched to a halt, but a bit earlier than expected.

“Holy shit,” I yelled to my buddy.

A very mad looking, fast moving dude, jumped out of the slow-moving station wagon. He was pissed.

Turned out later, he was the Fire Chief for the Bancroft Fire Department. Yep, the big cheese.

He saw us, but we were faster.

Yet, we only had thirteen years of life experience behind us—a tad shallow for such an operation.

We ran, ducked, and jumped into my backyard; then shimmied into my bedroom window; then, turned on some music.

Oh, and laughed our butts off…until, my Dad opened my bedroom door.

“Come here,” he told us while motioning an authoritative finger at us. “There’s a man out here that says two kids just egged his car, and he thinks they live here.”

“Really?” I replied rhetorically. Not giving anything to chance, I quickly started with our alibi, “Well, Randy and I have been listening to music…in my room.”

Next, we were paraded outside by my Dad in tow.

The accuser handed my Dad a broken, brown eggshell and declared, “No, these aren’t the kids I saw. They had different colored shirts on.”

I couldn’t believe what I just heard.

Honest, we didn’t change our T-shirts; we weren’t that smart.

Then, he declared to my Dad that the egg was a chocolate covered egg.

I shrugged.

Randy, too frozen in his sneakers to think, no less speak, looked a bit like a frog in a hail storm.

I spoke for both of us, “Um, we don’t have any chocolate covered eggs. Besides, we were in my bedroom. Didn’t see anybody,” I explained to both accuser and possible executioner: Dad.

After a few tense and unnerving moments of conversation between my Dad and the Fire Chief, we were allowed to leave.

I remember that my Dad gave me a slight grin at the time. Hm.

***

A silly story I suppose just to say that I have thrown a lot of crap at a lot of people over the years…

Anger, guilt trips, judgmental opinions that melted the frailest of individuals.

No doubt, I burned a lot of people…all in the name of being righteous.

More like self-righteous.

Yes, I thought my glass house was safe as I tossed a lot of stuff at others. Usually behind their backs.

If your belief system didn’t fit into my box, I judged you harshly.

If your family life didn’t fit into my box, I criticized you ruthlessly.

If you wore your hair a color that didn’t fit my expectations, wore clothes I thought were too whatever, you spoke like, I don’t know, someone who shouldn’t, or just lived your life differently than others…I judged, condemned, and pretty much threw the biggest egg at you I could find.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “Why did he do that?”, or “How come this?” or “How come that?”

Only later, to repeat the same thing myself.

Then, you learn empathy.

Empathy is hard to teach someone.

You don’t learn empathy by memorizing a sterile definition.

Sometimes, you learn empathy by going through difficult and trying times that forge you into who you are today.

You learn that just because someone lives in a camper, or out of their car, doesn’t mean they’re cooking meth.

You learn that not everyone who goes through a divorce is a subpar individual who doesn’t know how to make life work.

You learn that when life beats a person up and they’re hurting, confused, numb, and bleeding out internally, does not mean that somehow, God is judging them, or that Karma got ‘em.

Maybe, just maybe, they’re like you and me who have simply lived life, and life has tossed them a nasty curveball.

Maybe, just maybe, through no fault of their own, bad things just sort of…happened.

Bewildered, they’re no different from you and I…looking for some compassion, looking for a release that, hopefully, someone would come up alongside and help pop open the valve to let all the pressure hiss out.

***

It’s too bad we learn such things later in life.

Just something to think about.

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Leadership, Life Hack, Living Better, Self-Improvement
Leadership and…Chicken Shit

Leadership and…Chicken Shit

So, there I was, cleaning out my chicken coop.

Wait…let me give you the backstory on this…

***

I’ve raised chickens off and on since I was a teenager. One of the unsavory duties of this wonderful pastime is cleaning the poop, outta the coop. There’s a lot of poop in a coop.

My last set-up, I would shovel poo out of the coop, and then deposit it into a nearby compost pile.

Every. Single. Day.

I’d shovel chicken shit from point A to point B.

My chickens were NOT helping with the poo duties either.

They’d watch from the edges and cluck. Probably laughing in chicken talk, while watching me shovel their shit.

There had to be an easier way.

After some self-education, I started a deep litter method.

Here’s how it works…

Layer the bottom of the coop with straw about six inches deep. Then, after a few days, go into the coop with their favorite treat.

There I stood, ankle deep in litter, their shit all around me, and I sprinkled treats on top of the litter.

What I found was that the chickens would stand right next to me, scratch and peck at the treats. They loved it!

In doing so, they turned over every piece of straw looking for goodies. In the process, they turned over their own shit, which caused the litter to work as a compost pile.

Problem solved! And…no more smell!

End result?

Eight months later, I would haul out some very nice compost.

I have to tell you, the best veggies anyone’s ever tasted came from that mix in my garden. Plus, those chickens were probably the healthiest birds I ever kept.

Back to the story…

***

So, there I was, cleaning out my chicken coop—the compost that is.

I thought back to the days when I shoveled chicken shit from point A to point B—shovel in hand and a heap of poo dangling at the end of it.

Every. Single. Day.

At that moment, I had an epiphany of sorts…

This is what managers do.

Leadership and management are worlds apart.

A title doesn’t make you a leader any more than standing in a chicken coop makes you a chicken.

You do NOT need a title to be a leader.

I have seen plenty of men and women lead their peers, and their superiors, without any title, rank, or position affixed to their name.

Then…I thought back to some of the worst managers I’ve worked for.

Self-centered and insecure managers who rule their people with fear, tyranny, and browbeating—which is akin to flat out disrespect, bullying, and intimidation.

Their management style causes their subordinates to feel fearful about making the smallest decision, afraid to speak up, and their efforts usually do not rise above mediocre.

These managers wind up working harder, are more stressed out, and get only the bare minimum out of their employees.

AND…all they do is shovel shit from point A to point B.

All the while complaining to their boss about how the employees are stupid, can’t think for themselves, and are unproductive.

I’ve worked for a lot of shit shovelers in my day.

There have been times when I’ve asked myself, “Why the hell do I work here?”

On the other hand, I have worked for some excellent leaders, and have always been fascinated with how they operate.

They have a way of bringing out the best in you, and you don’t want to disappoint them.

What is it that creates such a desire to launch yourself over a cliff for them?

Leaders are the folks who will strap on their boots, stand in waist-deep shit with you and not only show you how to shovel, but they will gladly help and shovel shit for you.

“Hand me the shovel,” you implore.

“Naw, I got this,” your leader says with a smile.

“Come on, give me the shovel,” you protest.

“Okay, but let me get to a stopping point,” your leader replies.

They set the standard.

By example, they show us how to work, what it looks like to work, the kind of effort necessary to accomplish the task, and they define what the objectives are…all by being in the shit WITH us.

Leaders seem to have healthier, more productive, and enthusiastic employees than the managers who shuffle poo from one side of the desk to the other.

You might think I’m talking just about work—the space on earth where we go to the cubicle every day to slave away for someone else.

Sure, there too.

But leadership is something that transcends the cubicle.

What about leading ourselves?

That’s really something worth pondering.

To make positive changes, no matter where we’re at, who we’re with, or what we do, it’s necessary to learn what it means to lead ourselves.

I don’t want to shovel shit from point A to point B in my life. I want to thrive and flourish like my garden did from all that compost!

***

Lead yourself.

Be kinder to yourself.

Give yourself an incentive to reach your dreams, and reward yourself when you accomplish something in your life—no matter how small it may seem.

When you take the lead over your own life, you will find yourself a bit less stressed, more fulfilled, healthier, and far more productive.

Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Leadership, Living Better, Reinvention, Self-Improvement