Monthly Archives: September 2015

You learn something every day.

You learn something every day.

Well, you do if you pay attention.

I learned something important yesterday. Something very worthwhile that I should have seen myself, but, well my eyesight is sometimes clouded by all that crap I went through early in life. As much as I like to be kind and compassionate, some things still leap out of that darkness and bite me in the butt. Here is one thing I missed.

If you are at all familiar with any of my books, I have written about “Intent,” in reference to succeeding with difficult people. Here is the centerpiece of what I have talked about:

First, that it is important to understand the intent of a difficult person’s approach to you. Brinkman and Kirshner, in their book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand talk about four basic ‘intents’ (slightly paraphrased):

Behavior becomes more…

Controlling when the intent is to get it done

Perfectionistic when the intent is to get it right

Approval-seeking when the intent is to get along

Attention-getting when the intent is to get appreciated

I added: Difficult when people don’t care; when the intent is to be cared for.

As an example: I am a “get-er-done” person. I like to get things right, but what drives me is getting it done and I tend to have to spend a good bit of time and effort reworking things because I charge ahead getting ideas out on paper as fast as my fingers fly over the keyboard (if you can call my two-finger typing “flying.” Generally, “get-er-done” people can get on the nerves of “get-it-right” people, and vice-versa.

The above is all very practical, and it does help to think about such things when you are in difficult situations with difficult people. Intent matters.

It matters so much because it has to do with perspective. If I perceive something different from the way you do, then our only real hope at understanding is open communications – where we are each willing to listen to and understand the other. With difficult people you may have to take the high road and make the effort to understand their perspective, because they likely will not make an effort to understand yours.

All this is well and good, but what I learned yesterday is even more important: my wife said we should give people the benefit of the doubt and make an effort to see that their intent could be coming from somewhere positive, rather than just practical or negative.

That sounds pretty reasonable, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It isn’t easy because we often have learned responses to behaviors and those responses leap out of us – I talk about “reacting” in my books – because of negative things that have happened to us in the past.

Consider this what if the person who you think is attacking you in some way, putting you down in some way, trying to get you to see something in a different way, is doing so because they want to help you?

WOW! Right?

Yes, you may be right in that they could go about it in a better way than they are, too. But isn’t intent better than anything else. It’s the real root, and unless we pay attention, we won’t see that. I need to start paying more attention.

“I’m not good enough.” That’s what I was told and shown throughout my young life. It’s a tough thing to get past and one reason I emphasize building self-worth so much in my books. Unfortunately, life has a way of reminding us of the past, and it is hard not to feel “not good enough” when someone is “telling me things,” “trying to get me to see things in another way,” and so on.

This idea of taking a step back and thinking of another person’s intent from a more positive perspective has me thinking, I can tell you that. I will need to work on it. It ain’t going to be easy. But it is a great new way to help “take that step back” and observe rather than react.

Think about this a bit. Maybe you’ll learn something too.

Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome.


Joe Koob

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Bravery against all odds

This is for those of you out there who were bullied or teased when you were young. And if you are like me, it wasn’t fun.

I was small for my age – which came from my Dad’s side of the family. I was actually 5’ 2” my Junior year in high school, but when I graduated I was 6” 1”. So I spent much of my young life behind the growth curve, and thus, I put up with a fair amount of bullying.

So take a look at this:


A mouse stealing a leopard’s Lunch…. Are you serious?

Seemingly unaware of the beast towering over it, the tiny rodent grabbed at scraps of meat thrown into the African Leopard’s enclosure. But instead of pouncing on the tiny intruder, the 12-year-old leopard Sheena kept her distance.  After a few minutes she tried to nudge the mouse away with her nose, but the determined little guy kept chewing away until he was full.


Sheena batted the mouse a couple of times to try to get it away from her food. But the determined little thing took no notice and just carried on.

The mouse continued to eat the leopard’s lunch and showed the leopard who was boss.

Bravery comes in all forms. I wonder if this mouse even knew how much danger he/she was in. Or perhaps he weighed his odds in whatever way a mouse does such things and said, “What the heck,” that’s a good looking free meal out there.”

When I look back over my life, I realize that I have been extraordinarily brave throughout. No, I didn’t beat up people who treated me badly, or strike back at them in underhanded ways, or get into major confrontations because of their boorish behavior (even though there were many times I wished I had) I did other brave things:

I stood up for what I believed in.

I went against rules and regulations that were beyond stupid.

I challenged the powers that be to do things that were right.

  • I was always willing to stick my neck out in outrageous ways to get a point across to my students.

I can think of many ways that I was brave in life – willing to dare to take a better road for myself and for others.

Bullying is a hard thing to take when it happens, and a hard thing to live with thereafter because there is typically a good bit of anger as a result. It’s hard to get past such deep feelings of anger, hurt, guilt, and shame too. However, perhaps it has taught us to be brave in better ways.

I’ll be willing to bet that there are a good many people like me out there – those who had to put up with alot in life, but who have fought the good fight instead of fighting in general. I imagine you have been far braver in your life than those bullies you faced.

LIFE is what we make of it, and it is very much about the choices we make. I think I’m going to continue to be brave my way. I don’t need to stoop to the methods of egoists and bullies. Neither do you.


Joe Koob

P.S. Yeah, they’re still out there. We just call them by different names, some of which I can’t print here. But you can tell – they’re the ones who act just the way they did as kids.

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The real competition is LIFE!

“The real competition is LIFE: Ask yourself how you are measuring up!”

This is a quote from my book “Difficult Men: a Book for Women.” However, I think it is a good quote for all of us to ponder.

Certainly one does not have to look at life as a competition, though often we do. This quote is found in the section of my book entitled, “Difficult Men at Work.” It is fairly common for women to feel like they are in a constant competition with men in this country when it comes to big business, succeeding at work in a male-dominating work-force.

I think that in one sense, looking at work/life/raising children/keeping up your yard/keeping up with the Joneses, etc. is a negative thing. One would hope that we could relax into life and enjoy it for what it is, rather than fight for every inch of territory we can from the moment we wake up until, exhausted, we hit the pillow at the end of the day.

I know, personally, that I have been far to competitive with this life; especially self-competitive. It wears on me. However, I, like millions of other Americans, was taught to be competitive. It seems like whatever I did as a child I was thrown into the fray by being compared to my brothers and sister, my classmates, idols and other great people, perfection, and so on.

Something still screams inside of me that “I am not good enough.” I imagine there are many of you out there who feel the same way.

In this sense, life shouldn’t be a competition.

On a more positive note, or from a better perspective, challenging ourselves to grow, learn, to be more kind, more compassionate, more understanding, and so on, is probably a good thing.

What I think I’m getting at here, and I am winging this, is that we need to pick the battles and wars we are fighting in life — for us — to be the best us we can be. Not to be the highest ranked, to have the most money, be the most well-known, and so forth, but to measure ourselves against the best standards we know.

So how are you doing today? Have you been kind? Have you offered someone some help? Have you learned something? Have you grown in some positive way for yourself? For someone else?

Try this: make a list of the battles and wars you really do think are worthwhile. Make your life about measuring up to these — today, tomorrow, and … hopefully many morrows to come.


Joe Koob

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