James owned a business, and as he got closer to retirement, he made an agreement with his son, Brandon, that would gradually increase Brandon's share in the business until he took full ownership from his father. But James said that he and Brandon fought over everything. There was arguing and yelling almost every day, and it was beginning to affect the business.
"I've been running this business for thirty years," James said, "but now this kid suddenly thinks he knows a better way."
"Have you actually tried any of the things Brandon has suggested?" I asked.
"No, they don't make any sense. I have more experience in one finger than he does in his whole body."
"And I'm sure you tell him that."
"Well, yes, I do." James's tone indicated that he sensed he was being set up.
"So, every day—with your words and tone and posture and facial expressions—you tell Brandon that he's an idiot, and that you don't respect him or care about his opinion."
"Ummm, well, not exactly."
"I wasn't asking. That is what you're doing, and he feels it right down to his bones. He hears you telling him that you don't love him."
"But I do love him."
"You say the words, but I can't feel your love for him, and I have no expectations at all. He does have expectations, so he would be even more likely not to feel loved."
"We have a business to run. I can't be stopping to hold his hand every few minutes to tell him I love him."
"Do you set priorities in your business?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are some tasks in your business more important, more urgent, than other tasks? Is it more important to return a customer's phone call than to repaint the yellow lines in the parking lot?"
"You're missing your priorities. I have little doubt that you're making great choices when it comes to priorities eleven through one hundred, but you don't even know what priorities one through ten are."
"So what are they?"
"Priority number one is to repair the relationship with your son, to help him feel your love for him."
"What's the second priority?"
"Same. Love your son."
"Same. Same with priorities four through ten. Unless you deal with one through ten first—loving your son—everything else you're doing, eleven through one hundred, may well be meaningless."
I'd love to make up my own end for this story, but the truth is that James couldn't see anything but how right he was. He couldn't allow his son to express himself. He couldn't genuinely listen to Brandon. So the arguments degenerated into legal battles, customers left as they sensed the tension between the father and son, and over a period of a couple of years the business failed.
We're all busy. Somehow we manage to fill every day. But it matters that we do the most important things first, or we may discover that we've wasted all our efforts—even our lives.
Replace your anger & confusion with peace and happiness.
READ OR LISTEN TO: