A Businessman’s Book of Black Gold

BlackBookv1About 20 years ago I met a unique businessman. He was very tall and built like a linebacker. To compensate for his size, he spoke in a soft voice and always carried a smile. I had never seen such a sight, so I crossed the waiting area at our gate to introduce myself before our flight boarded. I’ll refer to him in this post as Mike.

I was working for a Fortune 50 company at the time and always on the lookout to learn from the best. It didn’t take a lot of observation skills to ascertain that Mike was a successful executive, wearing the latest Armani suit with highly polished wingtip shoes. His uniqueness was evident in how he responded to my approach.

He immediately sat up and leaned forward to give me his undivided attention. His word choice suggested that he could hold his own in the country or on a farm, while his dialect and presentation was clearly Park Ave. He was approachable, knowledgeable, and filled with wisdom—knowing exactly how to alter his conversation on the fly to match the other person’s.

His face reflected a fascination with my questions, which allowed me to continue asking questions that most businessmen would find exhausting. At one point he stopped our conversation and cut to the chase, asking me outright if I wanted to know the core reason for his business success. I said, “Yes.”

After pulling a small, black notebook from his pocket, he said that all of his business secrets were in the book. He then asked if I’d like to read through it while we waited. I took the book and sat down to read his handwritten notes. I was amazed at the business techniques that were captured on each page. I had found “black gold,” Texas tea, business oil, that is. The stuff that could catapult a man toward success.

He saw my hunger for the information as I absorbed page after page. He quietly borrowed my ticket and went up to the gate, while I continued to memorize the information. He returned after exchanging my economy ticket for the first class seat next to his so I could continue reading.

At 35,000 feet, I turned to Mike and asked him for clarification. One of the business statements didn’t read in a way that was easily understood from a business context. Proverbs 8:20 read: “A king who sits on the throne of justice, sifts all evil with his eyes.” He told me that understanding the translation sometimes required a deeper dive into the word choices selected by the translator who converted the info to English.

Mike said that a “king” represented him as a business owner reigning over his small business empire. He was to do it “justly,” always making sure he was fair to himself, his employees, and his clients. His greatest task during the transaction was to “sift” through all “evil,” or one-sided choices, by carefully observing his team and the clients, making sure to purge or get rid of anyone who was not conducting business on the up and up.

Mike then told me about a man who was trying to leverage an additional 3% margin out of the customer to make himself look good. He immediately remembered the proverb and fired the man. Five years later he heard how the man finagled business at his next job to the point where his boss got fired and he took over the position—not the kind of man anyone would want on their team. Two years later the business was scrutinized by the FBI, ending with the man being jailed 11 months later for embezzling.

I admired how Mike’s experience proved the black book’s notes to be effective and accurate. I wanted more, and Mike saw it in my eyes. As we disembarked, Mike handed the book back to me as a parting gift with the hope that I’d always mold my business according to its biblical principles. I thanked him for the first class seat and the chance to learn from one of the best. He suggested the best way to return the favor was to share my story about the black book with others. And so I have, again.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

The Riches of Cross-Gender Conversation

Conversation_with_Opposite_GenderWhenever the entire family got together to celebrate holidays someone would inevitably mention the matriarch we all lived under. The women in the family predetermined my childhood activities and there were so few men that no one argued for alternate experiences.

In Cub Scouts I was labeled a “mama’s boy” and by the time I entered Boy Scouts the words, “Mama’s little cherry tart,” rang in my ears weekly. The repetitive degradation limited my dialogue with guys, but thankfully the women in my life supplied an ample amount of conversation for a young boy.

Not only did I learn to be a good listener, but I also got pretty good at jumping back and forth between non-linear simultaneous banter. My dad’s ability to carrying a conversation exceeded that of most men too, especially when filled with his unending list of stories that captivated everyone in the room. I’m not sure if our skills developed to help us survive living within the matriarch or we were hardwired to communicate from birth.

By the time I received my drivers license, I realized that few men were able to chat for any length of time. I unconsciously developed more female than male friendships. This was probably due to my comfort level conversing with women, but also because I understood that the more people shared, the more fascinating their life story.

Finding a good conversationalist was like discovering a hidden treasure filled with heartfelt pieces of gold. As trust developed through a series of chats, the information shared became more profound and admirable. The level of vulnerability increased and the waves of delight and amazement for the person’s life achievements commanded respect. Meeting a man or a woman capable of carrying on a vulnerable conversation inspired my life and blessed me with great intangible wealth.

But a few days ago, I read a Focus on the Family article that if heeded takes away that treasure. The words were a warning to married men about conversing with women. The thought of not having in depth chats with women to placate someone’s fears was absurd.

The article referenced the “Billy Graham’s Rules” and suggested all men need to follow it to protect their marriages. But the piece wasn’t clear that the rules, actually called the “Modesto Manifesto,” were put together by a group of guys wanting to protect their ministries from any appearance of controversy. It had little to do with their wives.

Vice President Pence’s choice to never be alone in a room with a woman who isn’t his wife was also mentioned. Based on what I’ve read about Pence, he is a man of integrity and does not yield to what he knows is wrong. Surely his wife knows of his integrity too, so why does he avoid being in a room with another woman? Is it because he doesn’t trust himself or women?

Being a man of good character and integrity should give you access to conversations with women, not force you to sever the possibility from life. I’ve learned more from women in my life than I have from men. I can’t even begin to comprehend how little knowledge I would’ve amassed using the alleged protection rule.

Integrity to me means that I will live my life in the same way in public and behind closed doors. I will endeavor to be honest at all times, sustain my moral principles through example, and live uprightly according to godly standards, not man’s. I will also live a holistic life and not present a divided self. I will be a creative person in public and in private.

As for being goofy, since it’s a side effect of my imagination, I will choose when to reveal it and to whom. After all, few people would want me to act goofy at a funeral. But, in keeping with integrity, I have no problem with people learning that I can be down right goofy. Or, as my kids put it—Weird.

So if I were married, I would hope my relationship with my wife reveals who I am. I’d want her to see into the deepest part of my soul where life long trust is built. With that kind of access to my heart, I believe she would trust my integrity and our marriage. This state of partnership would then allow for conversations with anyone I meet.

Now, this is not to say that I’m not careful. I am. I’d be a fool to continue an in depth conversation with any person, man or woman, which does not live by similar standards. If a person is trying to win or persuade me away from what I know is true and right, then I immediately lose respect for them and see no need to continue the conversation. I politely walk away.

A few years after my divorce, I remember meeting a woman that was super hot and equally as sweet. My integrity told me to walk away, not because she wasn’t of value, she was, but there was something about her that stopped me from being me. I had to continue living an integrated life based on the principles that I adhere to and her presentation was hindering my moral success internally. Left unchecked, it could eventually dampen my morals externally.

I do not want to be a moral failure. Nor do I want to cut out the riches in my life because some men were fearful they might do wrong without a pact. I do not make fear-based decisions. I do not answer to how an organization, author or a group of men think I should live. I answer to only one person—the creator and protector of my soul.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Attended My Ex-Father-In-Law’s Funeral

© Argus - Fotolia.comNot once did I think that I’d be out of place attending the funeral of my ex-wife’s father. Nor did I receive anything but love, as I visited with the family after the funeral. In fact, it was a time filled with rich smiles and a lot of catching up on all of our lives.

I was 20-years-old when my dad died and I have few recollections prior to age six, which left me with about 14 years of memories. My ex-wife’s dad was like a surrogate father of sorts and our relationship lasted 25 years prior to the divorce with most of its memories intact.

My dad taught me about integrity, family, creativity, leadership, and how to serve and protect others. My father-in-law taught me integrity, family, business, and how to be second. I honored both men at their funerals and held dear to my heart the impact they each made in my life. Both men had richly blessed me.

While some might think it was odd for me to attend, I wasn’t the only ex who showed up at the funeral. No one denied the honor due my father-in-law regardless of how old the relationships were. He deserved every word of appreciation and the family was thankful for each comment and shared story.

The funeral opened with family participation. My youngest daughter shared a letter she wrote her grandfather, which was read to him before he passed. Her reading brought tears and smiles to many including me. I was very proud of the woman she’s become.

My ex-wife then shared a personal conversation with all in attendance. Her words were well chosen and painted a picture of hope that lifted the heaviness from the room. I was amazed and proud of how well she delivered her talk, which was filled with grace, diplomacy and compassion.

My son and oldest daughter both shared scriptures and a heart-warming song that stirred every soul in the room. They were clear, dynamic and articulate with each reading and their musical prowess obvious to all. I had hoped that they would continue for another hour or two, but their blessing came to an end as the service continued.

During the long ride home, I wondered how many divorces stopped others from saying goodbye to loved ones. As I crossed back into my state, my heart filled with gladness that the divorce hadn’t defined our family. Everyone had viewed the divorce as just one moment in time – one painful event.

It’s been more than ten years since the divorce was finalized and while it changed our circumstances, it didn’t make us bitter.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that after the funeral I shook the hand of my ex-wife’s husband as we exchanged genuine smiles and started to catch up on each other’s life. Nor should anyone be startled when I told my ex-wife that I was proud of her for giving such an excellent talk.

Divorce is not like death, although many say that it is. Sure, to some extent we can talk about the death of the marriage, but the person is still a part of your life afterwards. We share time with the kids, participate in special family events, and spend time with our grandkids. We also both believe in integrity, family, and all the other great things that our family stands for.

The core essence of who we are never changed, so showing up to my ex-father-in-law’s funeral was natural. And, together we all said goodbye to a man that deserved the honor. After all, he made a lasting impact in everyone of us and we were all more than happy to say thank you.