Consider this...

By Mike Johnson

I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah.

"I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah."

It was an annoying habit.

A hundred years ago, I oversaw a district of convenience stores and would "ride stores" with my various area supervisors. Each had 7 or 8 stores and our tour of their group helped ensure each location met company standards and followed its strategies.

Human nature being what it is, we tended to look forward - or in this case - dread, visiting certain stores. This location, situated in a small town, two hours away from our other stores, received fewer visits. As a result, its employees saw corporate mandates more loosely than the typical store and often put their own spins on programs designed for systematic precision.

The travel time there was spent wondering what the heck we'd encounter once there. The two hours back were often spent commiserating about "Bob."

"Bob" (not his real name) thought he was a great deli operator. He really did. And every time we'd give Bob a suggestion that was sure to make his job easier and more effective, he'd habitually nod agreement and rotely repeat, "I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah."

His tone implied that of course, he already knew everything about our suggestions, fully understood their many benefits and agreed with them all.

He just didn't do them. Ever.

"Bob, your sandwich build-up book hasn't been completed for two weeks. Not knowing how many you sold makes it pretty difficult figuring out how many to make doesn't it?"

"I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah."

"And you're out of stock on ham and turkey, our best sellers. When customers don't see what they want, they tend to go somewhere else."

"I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah."

"And Bob, the weight on this sandwich is off. We ask you to use the scale so each customer gets the exact portion everytime, so they can count on their sandwich tasting the same every visit."

"I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah."

Translation: He DON'T hear yah.

"Bob" was the perfect example of the old axiom: There's nothing more impossible than teaching a man something he thinks he already knows.

In our own ways, we've all got a little "Bob" in us.

We believe we're friendly to others, yet catch ourselves telling off that difficult co-worker in our minds as we drive home.

We think we're fair-minded, but then discover ourselves negatively judging another with no more information than a glance at their appearance.

We say we love someone, but then find ourselves pressuring them into something they'd rather not do.

In all cases, we'll never improve until we realize we're not the expert we thought we were.

Approaching life like a novice, instead of an expert, allows us to remain open to new learning. When we see ourselves as a beginner, we're open to any suggestions on how to improve.

But as soon as we decide we're an expert, we've identified with doing things one way. Suggestions that would improve us are then seen as attacks on our status as "expert." So instead of embracing improvements, we go through all sorts of ridiculous behaviors defending ourselves from them! By fighting to prove what we already know, we remain ignorant.

Whenever we discover ourselves defending ourselves from another's suggestion, it's wise to ask ourselves, what is it inside of me that needs defending? Just what am I trying to protect?

Until we face the possibility we're not yet the experts we think we are, like Bob, we'll continue to defend ourselves from improvement. And even though our words of defense may be different, they'll mean the same thing.

"I HEAR yah. I HEAR yah."


Mike is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at