DON'T DO THE MAN WITH THE JACK!
There's an old story, originally made famous by the legendary comedian, Danny Thomas, that my dad told me when I was a kid. It popped into my head the other day...and not a moment too soon. Here's how the story goes:
There's this traveling salesman who gets stuck one dark night with a flat tire on a lonely country road. He pops open the trunk and sees the spare but there's no jack. "Oh Great! That's all I need!" he yells. "Now I've got to walk all the way back to that gas station I passed three miles ago!"
He starts walking and as he walks, he starts talking to himself. "How much is the gas station guy going to charge me for renting a jack? One dollar? Maybe two? But wait, it's the middle of the night, so maybe there's an after-hours fee - he'll probably tack on another 5 bucks!" Then he gets really worked up. "I know, he'll figure I have no place else to go, he's got me over a barrel and he'll charge me ten bucks more, the jerk!!"
He keeps on walking and fuming and swearing and the price and the anger keep rising higher and higher...and higher. Finally, he gets to the service station, walks straight up to the station owner and punches him square in the mouth. "You wanna know what you can do with your stinkin’ jack??!" he shouts. And he stomps the three miles back to his car...with no jack.
End of story.
Okay, so in our family "doing the man with the jack," as we call it, is an ever present danger. Assuming the absolute worst - of people, situations and life in general - is a pit we can fall into on any given day. And when we do, we can actually create the situation we dread... I fell into it three days ago.
Here's the story: We moved our offices last week. We're very happy with our new space - it's light, airy and friendly. But stuff started to go wrong. The new phones cost more than we'd thought they would. My first client arrived and the security people downstairs (with whom we’d carefully cleared him) told him he was “not secure” and refused to allow him up to our floor. (I went down and after much discussion, was allowed to escort him up...) And here's the kicker, no one told us that the office doors locked automatically when you closed them, so Annie, my administrative assistant, found herself locked out of her office (it was on Saturday) with her purse and coat locked inside. The security people said they couldn’t help her and told her to call a locksmith. She found one on Google. She had to pay him $300 (cash) to pick the lock on our door.
"That does it!!." I shouted. What's gonna happen next?? Wait'll I tell the building people about this, not that they'll care! I mean, I signed a lease. They’ve got me over a barrel. Get somebody on the phone!" And then this quiet voice (my dad's) said, "Don't do the man with the Jack, Sweetheart! Don't make an enemy...you're going to be there for a while, ya know." I took a breath, let it out and then I started remembering what we really liked about our new space...and started assuming the best possible outcome. I worked so hard at it that I was actually smiling when I finally talked to the building manager. In fact, I couldn't have been nicer. Neither could he. I told him I was sure he’d take care of everything. And he did - including reimbursing us for the 300 bucks. I told him how much I appreciated him and that I had absolutely no doubt that things would go beautifully in the future. He said he’d make sure they did. And so far...they have.
So stay out of that “how bad could it get?!" pit, okay? And don’t do the man with the jack! As Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, found from his research on pessimism: It doesn't pay...
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns ©2014 All Rights Reserved
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