Athlone’s Kevin Fahy, presented a Brian Treacy management course in Newland’s Cross, well over 20 years ago. You may have heard me on about that week-long ‘studenting’ previously, but it is well worth another mention. I signed up – principally because I knew Kevin and he was very persuasive!

In fairness to myself, I already knew a lot of what was taught on the course, but I still came away a smarter man than when I entered. Several of the ‘themes of the day’ stuck with me, including, ‘Everything Counts.’

But first can we park all that I learned from Kevin, and tell you about one useful lesson that I taught him? (When I got hired to write this column, there was never a mention of modesty being listed as a necessary qualification!)

The subject of the day was the ‘Difficult Customer.’ The class of around 30 was brainstorming to come up with answers as to how to deal with various challenging scenarios. ‘The customer is always right’, was bandied about from table to table. I asked, what if you are trying to deal with a customer that cannot be satisfied, what do you do? I was told there is no such person.

I asked, ‘what if somebody masquerading as a customer just doesn’t like you, ‘has their knife in you’, and just enjoys giving you a hard time? ‘You have to give them something … let them feel they won,’ I was told. The following was my final word that day … which may have shocked some young business college graduates on the course:

“I know I cannot win by proving somebody wrong from my side of the counter; but I am only prepared to take so much. Deep down in me somewhere … it could be at the bottom of my stomach; but somewhere down there inside me, I reserve the right to tell somebody who has tested every other reasonable avenue, that the best thing they can do now is to  ‘f**k off!.”

One day some years later I met Kevin Fahy on the street in Mullingar. After the usual pleasantries and small talk, Kevin brought up my contribution to the ‘difficult customer’ class. “You were of course right in what you said that day!” he said. Praise indeed, from a man I admired!

One of the most important lessons I learned on that course is that ‘everything counts.’ How often do we hear, ‘that doesn’t matter’, or ‘it’s only a little thing.’ For every action there is a reaction, and also for every inaction there is a consequence. I know my staff used laugh and ridicule me for being too finicky; but my answer always was that the day that the least important set of rules go by default, the next layer will follow soon thereafter.

We all know the story of the battle that was lost for the want of a nail. The horse lost the nail, then the shoe and misfortune followed misfortune until the battle was lost. This reminds me of a somewhat similar story.

Back in the day when ploughing was done by a ploughman with a pair of horses – or in the case of my father, one horse and a ‘one horse plough.’ Anyway, I digress: A large farmer near us employed a ploughman. One evening, the ploughman was seen limping across the yard after a hard day’s work. ‘What’s wrong with you’, asked his boss. The workman, expected kudos for his answer: ‘I had a stone in my boot and I didn’t want to waste time taking it out’, he said. The farmer fired the ploughman on the spot, saying, ‘If the stone was in the horse’s hoof, you wouldn’t have stopped to take it out either.’ Everything counts!

‘Everything Counts’, no matter how big or how small. Adopting this philosophy will give you greater awareness and self-discipline. It is simple, yet very powerful if you think about it. Even what you say and your every thought has a direction. Two simple words, but there is a depth of wisdom therein.

I sometimes watch those ‘Air Crash Investigation’ programmes on TV. Most do not have a good ending. The happy stories of ‘Sully’ and ‘Freefall – The Gimli Glider’ are very much the exception.

One such crash investigation I recall was that of a Japan Airlines Flight, which crashed with the catastrophic loss of more than 500 lives. The cause of the disaster was found to be an improperly installed steel plate during routine repair work. The mechanic felt there was no need for all the rivets to be replaced and he only inserted every second one.

Over time, the metal plate expanded and came loose, causing the aeroplane to fall from the sky. After the result of the enquiry was announced, the Japanese fitter believed he was honour-bound to kill himself and another life was added to the fatalities. A costly example of the truism that ‘everything counts!’

Don’t Forget

Some pursue happiness – others create it!

Bernie Comaskey Books