Think Win/Win – The Mutual ‘Thank You’

If you didn’t make it through my first post in this series, I don’t blame you. What was supposed to be a 300-word post turned into 2000. Long story short, I have an assignment to publish a blog a week for the next 14 weeks based on the readings in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class at BYU-Idaho. Those assignments are being published on my blog.

The concept of writing a book fascinates me. I have never been a big fan of reading as an end in itself. I tend to be too antsy to sit down and read a book without some sort of external motivation to do so. This tendency has been made even worse after reading a few books that felt a lot like bloated articles. Drive by Dan Pink always stood out to me as the ensign of this problem. The entire contents of this book can easily be summed up in a 10-minute video (this is one of my favorites). After watching this video, I wanted to know more, so I read the book. After spending several hours making my way through the book, I realized there really wasn’t much more to the book than the basics that were laid out in the video. I felt a little taken advantage of. What did I gain from those hours that I didn’t already know from watching the video? Not much.

If I didn’t gain much from reading the book, what did Dan Pink gain from writing it? The best answer I have come up with after contemplating this question for a few years is this – you can’t sell a 5-page paper for $15 and get on the New York Times best seller list. Pink did some interesting research, and put some interesting studies into a layman’s terms for the masses. That was a valuable pursuit, but all of it could have easily been done in 5-10 pages as opposed to 150. It seems the book selling industry is built around turning 5-page ideas into 150-page books. Even the other book we finished this week, Mastery started as a magazine article that got a lot of attention, and the author turned it into a full book.

The irony of that, is that there are a lot of people like me, that don’t have a ton of time to sit and read those 150 pages, so there is another industry that takes these 150-page books and condenses them into easy to consume 5-10 page summaries. Spark Notes is one that I remember students would use to cut through classic literature in school, but this exists in non-fiction space as well. Blinkist is one that I have been using lately to make my way through some interesting books in the business, leadership, and social sciences topics. I learned of another player in this space this week as we were asked to read a summary of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits from summaries.com.

Before I highlight my favorite of the 7 habits (per my assignment this week), I want to make a brief comment on self-help books as a genre. Having made my way through several of these books this semester, it seems everyone has their own mix of tips and tricks that helped them through life. I have no problem with reading these books, as there have been small tidbits of wisdom hidden inside the dogma that I am happy to take and apply in my own life. For example, a few weeks ago I wrote about trying to wake up earlier based on the Launching Leaders book. a month or more later, and I am still waking up at 5 am every morning, and I love it.

Maybe one day I’ll write a self-help book of my own.

7 Habits is one of those books that has always seemed very dogmatic to me. Covey is an interesting organization. They took a good 5-page paper (the 10-page version we read was still a bit pithy), and instead of translating it into a 150-page book, they transformed it into a $200-million dollar company. That’s pretty impressive. I should have expected at some point in my time at BYU-I I was going to be expected to engage with this material in some way.

My favorite of al the 7 habits was number 4, “Think win/win”. Covey talks about how important it is to get out of the mindset that for one person to win, someone else has to lose. These win/lose (or even lose/lose) situations do exist, but I agree with Covey that we should be looking for ways to push everyone forward, not just ourselves.

I understand that lots of people need to read a book to learn this lesson. I had the chance to learn this lesson as a young man working for my grandfather. He ran a small manufacturing business out of his garage and basement. Many of the grandkids had the opportunity to help out at one point or another. I remember one day when I was probably 14 or 15 asking for a paycheck for some of the work I had completed. When my grandpa signed the check and handed it to me, he told me ‘Thank you’. I raised an eyebrow, confused. Why was he thanking me, when I am the one that should be thanking him for the check in my hand? He explained, “In every business relationship there should be a mutual ‘thank you’ in the exchange. The employee is grateful for the generous pay for the work completed. The employer however is grateful for a job well done.” He taught me a lesson in those three sentences that took Covey 40 pages in his book to cover.

My grandpa also added that for that win/win situation to stick, both sides need to make sure they are treating the other side with respect. If an employer pays less than a fair wage, that abuses that relationship. If the employee slacks off and doesn’t do a good job, they are taking advantage of their employer and wage. If both parties are honest in their dealings, it remains a win/win, a mutual thank you.

I have been reflecting lately on just how blessed my life has been to be able to learn lessons like this at such a young age. As I look around and see individuals and families struggling with concepts that seem so basic to me, I have been wondering how to share the things I have learned with them. Maybe I’ll write a 5-page paper (or a few blog posts). Maybe I’ll write a book. What are some lessons you have learned that you wish you could share with others?

 

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