Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     Seems as if I write the same thing over and over.  The Christian writer, Phillip Yancey once said, “All writers have just one theme.  All writers are trying to get one thought out.  They say the same thing over and over.”  I certainly didn’t think that was true of me.  I have written several books, but I “knew” they were all different.  After all, one was for teachers, one about a horse that helped a troubled youth, one about a frog and his family who dealt with a tragedy (his daddy got gigged), another about a disturbed horse and so on.  Then one day years later, I looked at all the books sitting on a table and realized, “Oh my goodness, they’re all about the same thing!”  Yancey was right.
      My favorite subject – my favorite question – is “How is it that we do better?”  What are the things we can do to improve our chances for personal success?  And perhaps even more importantly, how can we help those we love?  Maybe more than anything, we want those we care about to be successful, whether they are our children, grandchildren, students, employees, and in my case - and many of yours as well – how do we get our horse to do better?  How do we get our horse to be the best of all things…a willing partner?
     Some years ago, I began to notice certain people in my life who were really good at this “improvement” thing.  They were also effective at helping others around them.  While they came from different walks of life – some were professors, some coaches and teachers, some bronc riders - they possessed one common theme.  They shared one bright thing.  They all treated people – and horses - in a certain way.  I’ve been trying to learn more about those behaviors since.
     It begins from the moment you meet them.  When you first encounter these people, they look at you and they smile.  They seem genuinely glad to meet you.  They say your name and ask you about you.  That doesn’t seem to be much, but you find yourself liking this person…and you don’t even know them.  Most “important” people have little time for the rest of us.  These folks I’m talking about make you feel like you are important.  Whenever I talk about this, sooner or later you can bet someone will say, “I don’t like people like that – people who always seem to be running for office.”  I don’t like people like that either.  None of us do.  But you know who we do like?  We like people who are authentic, genuine, and sincere.
     Some educators say, “It’s not my job to teach kids that.  That is the parent’s role.”  I agree.  Problem is even successful, well-to-do people sometimes have a lack of knowledge of the power of interpersonal skills - not phony glad-handing, but real skill in dealing with others.  One of my favorite quotes from an old John Wayne movie is when the Duke says, “Big mouth don’t make a big man.”  (Then naturally he knocks the loud mouth over a water trough.)  To paraphrase my point, “Just ‘cause you got money don’t mean you got manners.”  But those rich people are missing something vital by not teaching their kids manners.  Manners can get you money.  You can give your kid thousands of dollars, but if he’s still a jerk, chances are he will lose it all.  If, on the other hand, he has style, genuine grace and charm…the kid can make his own money.
     On a couple of occasions, I have been criticized by some who say, “You’re teaching people what con men do.”  That is precisely correct.  That is exactly what I am trying to do.  “Grifters” - as they are called - know the power of charm.  They can actually relieve others of their money with a smile and some guile.  But those people have something dark in their hearts.  What if you combined powerful people skills with something light in your heart?  You would have something that could really help you.  And I have seen so many who did just that.  I will never forget watching one woman do something so wonderful…
     Her name was Sally Field.  Sally worked at the Pentagon, and at the time, Sally held the distinction of being the highest-ranking civilian female in the federal service.  One day, as she walked into the conference room to conduct a meeting, a general officer – not knowing who she was - turned to her and said, “Get me a cup of coffee, honey.”  Without missing a beat, Sally turned on her heel and said, “Certainly, I’ll be glad to.”  She went down the hall and retrieved this fellow coffee.  After placing it in front of him, she said, “There you go.  Made you a fresh pot.” 
     She then took her position at the head of the long mahogany table and said, “I’m here today to request some twenty-million dollars in funding for our troops who are fighting in the field.  I need this money to keep those brave young people alive.  I may not get everything I ask for, but I am certain of one thing…”  She paused and smiled down at this general whose mouth was now really wide open, ‘cause this fool had realized he had just told his boss to get him coffee, and she said…
     “I won’t have any trouble out of you, will I?” 
     General “Coffee” hung his head, cleared his throat, and said, “No Ma’am, you will not.  And if I have anything to do with it, you will get every penny.”
     Sally got all her money.
     That little story could have gone so many ways.  Sally could have snapped back at that man.  She could have said, “I’m not a secretary.”  She could have stormed off in a huff – and justifiably so.  Instead she treated that fellow with the kindness of Jesus, and Sally won the day and Sally saved lives.  Just goes to show you -
     It’s nice to be important…but it’s more important to be nice.


          Michael Johnson

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