“Our Customers Have An Urgency”

“Our Customers Have An Urgency”

(3 Lessons from a tiny repair shop)

 Austin, Texas in the late 1990’s was a dreamtime of economic growth and progress. As a minister serving a church in Austin, I learned lessons from things & people both big and small. Here’s three lessons learned from a small thing.

 My ’86 Chevy was old, with an annoying electrical short  somewhere  behind the dashboard. Spying a sign for an automotive electrical repair shop, I wheeled in to check the problem.  The parking lot was tiny, as was the old building. I was enchanted by a phrase written under the name of the establishment ; “we must be quick, our customers have an urgency”.

The business was a one-person operation. In broken English, with an accent I can’t place, the serene old gentleman who owned the shop asked about my problem. He listened, nodded and said “Yes, I know your trouble, you wait, I fix it. One hundred dollars”. Frankly, I was relieved. I had imagined a bill twice or three times that amount. It was worth it.

He let me stand and watch. With sharp eyes he examined the underside of the dash, moved some wires, replaced some tiny parts. Surveying his wall of tools he selected a long piece of wire with a hook at the end. It was clear this was his most-used tool. Inserting it under the dashboard he gently moved, prodded, extended and coaxed. In 15 minutes, he said “you are ready”. I have no idea if this was a good deal or not, what the problem was, or how he did it. I don’t care. I got what I wanted at a reasonable price and this guy was FAST! When I asked about his sign, he replied “Yes, my customers have an urgency, so I have an urgency too!”

Here are some of the lessons learned:

1)      We all deal with people, I do so in a church setting, you may do so in a business or educational setting. The people we deal with have an “urgency” of some kind. They have a problem, or an issue, a need, a struggle, or a desire.  It is very real and pressing to them. Our best work happens when we understand this and treat each person with respect. Our best work happens when we KNOW our people and what their urgencies are.

2)      You and I have an urgency. I certainly do, there are things I want to achieve in my ministry and family and personal life. You have urgencies too. We best serve God, ourselves and others when we clearly know and understand what our own urgencies are. This self-examination may take us out of our comfort zone, but in my opinion the only alternative is to drift through life.

3)      We have to know our work, know our craft. We always need to be students of our work, students of our craft. We must be teachable; willing to grow and become both efficient (do things right) and effective (do the right things). Our knowledge, skills, and values are precious and, honed over time, become invaluable in dealing with “urgencies”.

That’s it, thanks for reading, pray we learn all the lessons we can, because there is always an urgency.

Peace!

 

Cary

 

7 Simple Ways to Jailbreak Your World

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7 Simple Ways to Jailbreak Your World

Jailbreak is a techno term for modifying systems on a smartphone, tablet or mobile device. And why would anyone want to do this? The jailbreak allows you to better utilize the device in new ways, but here’s the key thing; these ways help YOU! Transparency: I have no intentions of jailbreaking ANY of my smart devices (they work fine for me as they are) but I am totally engaged with living my life and experiencing my world in ways that are more open to God, and work better for me and the people in my world.

How can you “jailbreak” your world? How do you get out ruts, see and feel differently, find the “next step” for your life without destroying your current relationships and life structure? Here’s 7 simple things that work for me, try some yourself. It’s kind of fun.

1)      Imagine God is MUCH more Powerful and Ultimate than you can imagine. Based on that, how would your life be different? If God is ultimately in charge of the universe, what would you do, where would you go? Who else would be in your life?

2)      Engage people in new ways, join a small group at your church (transparency: I’m a small groups minister, and so of course this is my answer to everything),  start a conversation on a train, at the airport, at the stoplight, or in the mall. Really LOOK and LISTEN to people. I bought a bottle of water for a rabbi in Times Square this year, introduced myself as a Christian minister, just said thanks for being Jewish, and for sharing the heritage of the Hebrew scriptures. He LOVED it!

3)       Get a different haircut. No joke. I do this, and it’s fun. It’s just hair, come on!!!

4)      Buy a cool skinny tie. They’re in right now, hip and fun.

5)      Eat at an ethnic restaurant. Pretend you’re in that country.

6)      Dress up, I mean 100% dressy, go to a museum, look thoughtfully at the art, then eat in the café. Quick story about this:

 I went to the Kimbell Art Museum for some solitude, sat quiety and ate their fantastic lunch and Laura Bush (yes, THAT Laura Bush-at the museum with friends) looked at me several times before concluding I wasn’t anybody she knew. Still a WIN!

7)      Go over your possessions, get rid of the stuff you don’t want (give it to a service-based organization, or away to friends, or sell it), and instead buy a few AWESOME things you LOVE.

That’s IT! Hope you come up with some of your own ideas. Thanks for readin’. PEACE!

Cary

Things You Miss Travellin’ w/Others

We’re at that breathless moment before the new year begins. For many of us, the holidays involve travel, it certainly does for me and maybe for you too. Do NOT get me wrong, I love my family. I love travelling with them and some of my best memories involve roadtrips. You pile into a car and hit the interstate.

I’m just sayin’, there are some advantages of rollin’ down the road at the wheel, alone.  When you travel with others for business or pleasure, every person gets a consideration; it’s too hot, too cold, wrong music, wrong road, stop now, all that and a bag o’ chips. Here’s what you miss travellin’ with others:

1) Dawdling and poking around. See a cool side road or a weird roadside stand? Just hit the brakes, take a turn, groove on the new vibe. Awesome.

2) Take the long, interesting way. I’ve travelled I-35 for decades, time to go the little county roads, stop at the dives, wave at cattle, eat watermelon till the juice runs off your elbows. Say “howdy ma’am, I’m the big shot from the big city in my fancy city car”.

3) Be the interesting mystery guy at the truckstop counter quietly sipping coffee; well-dressed, perhaps ruggedly handsome in an old guy sort of way, but with a look in your eye that says “don’t mind my somber look, I’m just wrestling with some secret sorrow”. Sometimes people buy you coffee if you can pull off this look.

4) Unorthodox food choices. When travelling with family, we always stop at the same places. Who doesn’t want to taste exotic jerky once in a while? How about vegan steak? Southern fried tofu ain’t so bad, so what if it’s sold out of the back of a pickup truck by some rustic rural character? You only live once.

5) Perfecting whoops and hollers. We don’t whoop or holler enough, I don’t, certainly. Neither the office nor home provide ample opportunity for this neglected talent. Alone at the wheel? Whoop your brains out. Holler. Loud! It’s problem-free unless you pass a small town cop, who’ll pull you over, but will release you since you’re city folk, and thus odd behavior is expected.

6) One sided imaginary conversations where YOU always have the last word. I see folks doing this in the city, and it’s very unbecoming. If you have something to say to someone, tell them directly. Except if you’re travelling alone, and out of town. I’ve straightened out family members, co-workers, employers, leaders of all stripes, and various spiritual entitites, and I always had the last word, all in the solitary safety and comfort of my car. It’s very therapeutic.

7) Alternate driving postures. Warning: I am not endorsing unsafe driving postures, but slouch if you want to slouch. Sit sideways. Go “vroom vroom” and pretend to shift gears like a rockstar. Too much of this travelling with others, and your companions will be looking for a roadside mental health facility.

That’s it, drive safely kids-the life you save may be my own. Peace!

Cary Branscum

The Awesome Power of Listening

 

You really don’t have to listen. Seriously. Our time and culture provides constant babble, and folks like us have facebook, twitter, and easy ways to talk all the time thanks to blogs like this one. In fact, you shouldn’t listen to everybody, there’s not enough time and attention in the world for that.

Listening provides great personal benefits, and non-listeners miss out.  Non-listeners who obsess only about being heard will likely not be heard. Non-listeners have to stumble through life on their own, they have to reinvent the wheel every time they do anything. Non-listeners miss out on the accumulated experience of humanity.  

The value you give listening is up to you. I’ve spent a career listening, and it is indeed awesome. It’s made my life deeper and richer, and it’s a skill I work on daily. 

Here’s 5 Things That Work For Me:

1) Look into the eyes of the person speaking as you hear their words.

2) Nod, smile, move your head a bit, gently lean toward the speaker, raise your eyebrows slightly from time to time. These tiny incremental non-verbal gestures say “I want to hear more”.

3) Keep your body language open. Don’t cross your legs or arms, have your body congruent with your facial features. You’ll send a mixed message to the speaker if your face says “more” and your body says “enough!”.

4) As a listener, there are actually some things you can say to help the speaker. An occasional “ah”, or “hmm” or “I see” is helpful. If a speaker is stuck, you can ask “so what happened next?” or “so what did you do then?”. Then remember to shut up and listen.

5) Some “don’ts”; don’t look at your watch while someone is speaking, look at it while you’re speaking, and no one will care. Don’t hurry someone along, don’t complete their sentences, empty your mind of conclusions as much as possible. Don’t look at others, don’t look at the sky, don’t scan the horizon. Focus on the person, and you’ll communicate value. Period.

I’ve realized over the years people have an intense desire to be heard, and they’ll talk to those who truly listen. Some folks will flat out talk your ears off, and getting out of a listening situation is as much a skill as listening itself. Some folks will not be helped by listening, they just won’t. Some folks I listen to in order to learn. Some folks I listen to in order to avoid their mistakes. Some folks I listen to knowing that only God can change and help them. 

There are individuals who will be transformed by being heard, and my listening will change their lives. There are others who’ll never change yet my listening is still a ministry to them; it’s a form of spiritual hospice and I provide this often.

Enough talk from me! I gotta go listen.

Peace y’all,

Cary Branscum 

3 Bits of Country Wisdom

 

Growing up in the country has advantages, including the offhanded, passed-around, often unconscious bits of  country-smarts you can pick up if you listen. Or as we used to say “if you take a mind to”.

Here’s 3 that pass the test of years:

“Don’t Shoot the Horse Till You Can Drive the Tractor”

How many times I’ve wanted to change people, situations, and things. How many times I’ve wanted to give people a piece of my mind, then just clear out and go elsewhere. Folks, burning bridges is a serious high-cost luxury most of us can’t afford. Quitting a job, a relationship, or a challenge before it’s achieved poses problems. I’ve noticed in my own experience, God and life keep presenting lessons till I’ve learned them. Shoot the old plowhorse and then the tractor won’t start? Makes both plowing and life difficult. And it’s not so good for the horse.

“You Need to Learn C’mere from Sic’em”

Always had dogs on the farm. Hard to imagine a life in the country without these fantastic animals. They sometimes have a brilliance and empathy that rivals many humans. Occasionally they get confused. So do we. Things can happen so fast, get so busy that dogs and people get confused, and run back to the owner when they need to face a task, or run to a task instead of coming to the owner. It pays for dogs and people to take a moment in any situation, and learn the difference between “come here and sic ’em”.

“Never Look a Gift Horse In The Mouth”

Another lesson that includes horses. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and didn’t really “get” this one till a few years ago. Folks can tell the age and condition of a horse by the health of the teeth. If you’re buying a horse, looking at their teeth only makes sense. If someone gives you a horse, it’s bad form to check the teeth. I mean, come one, it’s FREE. Why communicate mistrust to the gift giver by questioning the value of the gift? If someone offers me something I either give an instant polite refusal or graciously accept the gift. You can look at the teeth later.

Now, thar ya go, how’s that for some country wisdom?

Peace y’all,

Cary Branscum

We All Need a Small Group

 

I am beyond blessed to have friends with faith and many friends with different faith or none. I embrace them all (at least when I’m not sweaty from yard work).

We see the world through our own lens, my lens is the work I do to help build community at The Hills Church of Christ inFort Worth,Texas. It’s my dream that every person everywhere finds a place to be part of a small group in some context- it’s that’s important.

 Here’s why:

 We’re wired to belong, to be with other people. I’m amazed how many lone rangers there are in the world; those who have some family or work connections, but few genuine “hey, here’s who I really am” relationships. We not only survive but thrive when we “run in packs”. We’re wired to share who we are with people who accept us and care about us. We thrive when we belong.

 We need to give and receive personal, emotional, spiritual and financial resources. The early Christian community had all things common, and we’re quick to object to this practice today. We fail to realize there are times when we feel more human, more fully alive when we share what we have – sometimes in sacrificial ways. The culture and economy are chaotic, we learn to cope in this environment by realizing we’re not alone, there are others struggling, and we can help each other. And there are times when we learn the humbling lesson that others can share their resources with us.

 We need to feel valued. The many worlds we live in call for segmented lives and identities: employer, employee, consumer, citizen, mom, dad, son, daughter – all good things yet only segments of who we are. A small group can help us feel whole again, by seeing each person as the priceless, complex individuals we are.

 Elton Trueblood, a theologian of the past century wrote in 1943 “True community, true fellowship is indeed a rare and precious thing”.  Here’s hoping you find some.

 Peace  y’all,

CaryBranscum

 

Why You Should Get a Kindle

Been a book lover all my life. Still love ’em, and found the Kindle experience makes the books I love (both old and new) even better. If you have a Kindle, I’m preaching to the choir, if you’re on the fence, I hope to sway you, if you don’t want one, at least give these reasons a look:

-139 bucks won’t kill ya, that’s what a low end Kindle costs, and you can get about 20 bucks off that if you get the bottom end model that runs occasional ads. I have the 139 Kindle, I don’t want ads.

-It fits and goes literally anywhere, slips into a large pocket in a jacket, slips unobtrusively into my thin leather briefbag.

-You can choose the print and size you like, and this makes for a more pleasurable reading experience than you realize.

-It’s not backlit like an Ipad, so it’s restful and easy on the eyes. If you have an Ipad and like to read books on it, go for it.

-More and more books are made available every day. No, not all the books I want/love are on Kindle, not yet.

-I’ve discovered books and writers, not only bestsellers but very cool, obscure, and ancient writing I’d only seen in crumbly yellow hard to read editions.

-It’s six times easier to read a Kindle outside and/or in bed than a regular book. No glare, its light, no propping open pages, no angling for light.

-Carry your own personal library around in one dedicated device.

-Unlike my beloved Iphone, the battery charge on a Kindle lasts a seriously long time.

-It is awesome getting a book instantly.

-you can highlight text easily, and refer to it later. It does take some getting used to, and it’s not as fast as underlining with a pen or highlighter, but it’s neat and more fun once you get the hang of it.

-It’s just cool.

I do have lots of hardcopy books I’ll keep forever. Sometimes the physicality of the book, the object itself is what you want. Me too, just know the Kindle adds another world to the book/reading experience.

Peace y’all,

Cary Branscum