Just a Thought: It’s as simple as addition and subtraction

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Let’s simplify our world today and learn some math.

We often make life more complicated than it is. We don’t have to be an expert at playing chess to plan three moves ahead in our lives. We don’t have to understand how electricity works to be able to enjoy its benefits. We don’t need to know how to solve algebra problems to be able to keep things balanced in this world.

Life sometimes is as simple as addition and subtraction. Nothing more, nothing less.

In our daily lives we give. In our daily lives we take. Some people give more than others and some take more than others. There are people we enjoy being around because they add value to our lives and people that we run from because they only take from our lives. 

I sometimes envision each of us going through our day living in a “circle of influence.” Let’s say it is a three feet circle around us that moves with us every step we take. As we go through our day our circle intersects with other peoples’ circles. It may be for only seconds as we shake hands in passing. It could be for an hour if we have a lunch meeting together or for several hours if we are driving together to a conference.

Now stick with me. I am going to combine the “circle” concept with a second “numerical” concept.

What if we had a digital panel on our forehead that showed the world what our mood or state of mind is at any given time by a number on our forehead? Our number would be somewhere between zero and ten. A ten would represent the best mood and best attitude possible and a zero would represent the worst state of mind possible. As we go through our day we would move up and down the number scale. 

For example, some people wake up at the nine level and some start their day at a two. Either way each person eventually ventures out of their home and into the world with a number. Some people live their days generally in the five to ten scale. Others can go an entire day without breaking above a five. I have met people who, on a typical day, struggle to climb above a three. If we are walking through a good day we may have an eight on our forehead. After an argument, our score may drop to a two.

Let me give you an example how this would work. I am walking into the post office and I see Suzy Q walking out. She has a three on her forehead. I have a seven on mine. A three for Suzy Q is very unusual. I have known her for years and she usually wears numbers like eight and nine. I give her a hug and I say, “How are you Suzy Q?” She says, “I’m hanging in there, I had to take my mother to the hospital yesterday and I am worried about her.” I ask her what happened and she shares with me. I hurt for her and the difficulty she is facing in her world. After a short visit, we part, because of my concern for the steps she is walking, Suzy Q leaves me with a four on her forehead. I leave with an eight on my forehead. 

In this example, I have added to her life and helped her through her day. It also added to my life because, no matter how slight, I have been able to make a difference in another’s life and it improves me.

Let me give you another example. I go into a meeting with an eight and Billy Bob goes in with a four. In the meeting he does a full frontal attack on me because he doesn’t care for the way I do something. I respond by coming back at him and the way he does something. By the time our discussion ends, both of us are quite upset and angry. He has dropped to a two and I am now down to a four. We have each taken from the other’s world. You get the idea?

There are many factors that cause our numbers to go up and down. There are external sources of influence that we are regularly bombarded with. I have heard that the average American receives up to 3500 new pieces of information each day. Talk about being impacted by outside sources! 

We can have significant control over our choices for external influences. We can control who we choose to do things with. We can control where we choose to work. We can control the organizations we choose to be involved with. We can control what we watch on television. There are also many external influences we cannot control such as the driver who cuts us off as we are driving down the road or a sudden unexpected illness. People who spend their day in the one to three category generally take from others. In other words, what does a zero have to give? A zero has nothing to give. A ten can spare a number or two and not miss a beat. A ten is well positioned to be a giver.

What is important to learn through this illustration is that we each have control over our number internally. To a large degree we can set our own attitude. One of my favorite sayings is by Abraham Lincoln, “A man is pretty much as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” This is a significant concept. 

I heard a speaker once say the most important advice his father ever game him was to regularly ask the question, “Do you add value when you walk into a room?”

What would the world be like if we each internally pushed our number up to as high as we can right when we wake up? It is not fair to encounter our spouse or children each morning when we roll out of bed as a two. What if we walk into work each day with the highest possible number that we can? It is not fair to our coworkers to grumble at them as a three first thing when we see them.

I heard a speaker once who shared that he would stop his world for a two minute break between leaving work and when he arrived home. His typical day left him exhausted and tired as he walked out the door from work. I visualize him as leaving work as a three. He found himself walking in the door at home and being short with his family. He knew that this wasn’t fair to his family.

What he began doing was parking in the street in front of his house for a couple of minutes and resetting his attitude. I visualize this as taking his three up to an eight. He internally reset his number. He would then walk into his house with a smile and ready to hug his kids and kiss his wife. What a great idea! I have used this from time to time in my world when I have an especially difficult day at work. I remind myself before I walk into my house it is not my children or wife’s fault I had a bad experience at work. Why take it out on them?

My challenge to you today is to be aware of the attitude you go through your day with. Recognize that your circle of influence will intersect with many other’s circles as your move through your day. In each exchange are you giving or are you taking? Use the internal power God gave you to set your number as high as you possibly can so you have the ability to give. What number would you wear on your forehead?

In the life you live be a giver, add numbers and add value to the life of each person you interact with. It’s not that complex, it is as simple as addition and subtraction.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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