The 3R’s – my first ever writings – another free weekly resource for the Covid-19 crisis

To help in this crisis I decided to give some of my resources away to help my clients and contacts. In the last few weeks, I’ve given away hundreds of books, resources and video courses.

Week 8 – Well, I partied remotely for my 50th on Friday night and even DJ-ed live for my friends on Zoom! As I turned 50, I started reflecting and thought about everything that I have written and spoken about over the years and then I came across the first ever chapter in my first ever book that I wrote back in 2001. And even now I was struck that it is the foundation of so much, to be honest, I guess it is the closest that I have got to a “life message” and in fact when I became a professional speaker it was the first ever paid talk that I delivered in my local high school here in Leeds.

The subject of prioritising relationships is very apt right now and many business people have been speaking to me about re-assessing priorities in the light of our current crisis, one told me that he is moving back home now many thousands of miles away.

Here is this weeks resource, for free, for you, enjoy and share, and as usual, there is no sign-up, no email collection, no trap doors.

It’s a little rough around the edges, but my style is still there and the message is strong and challenging. So, here is a slightly edited version for you…

The 3R’s – Lee Jackson (2001)*

After I had spent three years as the only school’s worker in Leeds, the organisation I worked for eventually had enough money to employ a second worker. This was very exciting for me, as I felt like the Lone Ranger some days! When the applications came in, we sifted through them in the normal way, except for one application. It was not on the typed form like all the others; it was a colourful, creative CV with photos and info crammed into its photocopied pages. As I glanced through it, there was a phrase that stuck out and persuaded me that we had found our next worker. It said: ‘All youth work is based on the 3R’s . . . Relationships, Relationships, Relationships.’ What a statement!

I later found out that it had been written in the middle of the night in a haze of caffeine, but aren’t a lot of good things? (Whether or not it’s an original thought is difficult to tell, of course; and yes, it does lean towards the cheesy, but still…) The 3R’s are not only applicable to youth work but to the whole of our lives. Think about it – what is more important than relationships? Our relationships with our partner, children, family and friends are the most important things in our lives. A speaker spoke at a youth workers conference I was invited to. I can’t remember much of what he said, except for one of his phrases: ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!’

The main thing for us is relationships.

Nothing is more important, and nothing comes close to matching it. The whole of this book is based on this simple piece of common sense. Putting relationships first in our lives means that everything else falls into its rightful place. Let’s face it – all men think they have healthy relationships, but how many of us really do?

Even some of the new men’s resources out there talk about being a man (Grrrr, like Tony the Tiger), but sometimes they forget that while we need manly stuff, we also need to be challenged about our relationships. I think there is a healthy balance to be found – we need typical manly-type activities combined with a challenge about our view of others.

To move towards deeper relationships with people, we need to develop a greater sense of honesty and realness. I used to work at the Crown Court in Leeds (I thought I’d start as a criminal and work my way up!). As an admin officer, I shuffled paper from one side of my desk to the other and then went home. In the mornings there used to be a ritual that drove me mad: it was the ‘say hello to everyone’ game. Everyone used to say, ‘Hello, good morning, how are you?’ but no one ever replied honestly or ever listened for a reply! ‘Yeah, fine thanks’, ‘Not bad’ or ‘Fair to middling’ were the only responses. Some people even answered the question when you hadn’t asked them! I loved giving people more information than they wanted: ‘Well, I feel a bit tired, actually, and I’m concerned about my relationship with my wife, and my dog has fleas.’ You have never seen people run so fast. We need to get real with each other and stop covering over the cracks with our English barriers. I must admit, though, there is a fine line between being honest and becoming a constant whiner. We will have to find the balance somewhere.

Football was invented because men have got nothing to say to their mates.
Ben Elton

For men, the depth issue is easy to push further – try steering conversations away from football, cars and ‘what I would do if I won the lottery’, and see what happens. Beyond the banter and football talk there is often a man who is lonely and craves true friendship. I know that from my own life. I still have feelings of loneliness and these feelings are shared by some of my (honest) friends. Is the Internet so popular with men because you only share the bits you want to share in selective Facebook-type relationships?

Are all relationships “purpose-driven”?
I have no doubt as to the validity of such relationships, but we have to balance things up. Can we deliberately spend time with people for no reason other than to spend time with them? As someone who enjoys networking, it is difficult not to talk about work all the time, but when I don’t, it often feels great just to connect with someone. A while back my friend Simon said to me, ‘Let’s get together, Lee; I feel as if we’re drifting apart.’ We had both been busy and he was right – we needed time together, not just for the sake of our work but just for our own sakes.

An influential leader once ‘announced’ to me that he had chosen me as his friend – we had a couple of meals together and now he only talks to me when he needs something! Mmmm. Since I have prioritised the importance of relationships with others, I have spent time writing more emails and my phone bill has gone up. So it is not without its costs, but the results are worth it. I used to coach and play basketball in school and I spent considerable time with one group of sixth formers who formed a team, playing basketball with them, organising trips, breaking up fights at their parties and just hanging out with them over the summer holidays. Now they have left school, they still keep in touch and invite me to the occasional party, which is great. All the time I spent getting them back together and checking if they were all right has paid off with, I hope, friendships for many years to come. I have a special friendship with some of them and they are not embarrassed to be seen with ‘that bloke who did my assemblies’.

Our fragrance?.
But what happens if people don’t like you? I used to be in a basketball team where most of the members seemed to hate me. I left in the end because of it. I had helped them, been a faithful member of the team but, for whatever reason, they just hated me. They loved it when I missed a shot or got fouled – it was weird. I went back after I had left to play against them and they still heckled me and were delighted when we lost the match. Some people you will never connect with. I can get on with most people, but these guys simply hated me. It was odd. There is even a bit in the Bible that I found out about where it says that to some people we are a sweet smell and to some people, we are like the stench of a rotting corpse! Maybe I was the smell of death to these blokes! This idea has stayed with me as a reminder of what a responsibility we have to try to maintain good relationships with people, but sometimes you just have to shake the dust from your feet and move on. However, I do believe this is a last and not a first response, as some people seem to think. I have been a ‘sweet smell’ to some people though, you will be glad to know. I used to buy a sandwich on the way to work every Friday, and one day the shop owner said she was selling up the business and moving to France. We had always had a laugh together and I was sad to see her go. On the last day I gave her a hug and wished her well and, to my amazement, she said that there was ‘something different’ about me and she had always enjoyed serving me. Obviously, the way I ordered sandwiches was somehow different to other people’s sandwich orders! The sweet smell again? Who knows?!

Carry on loving?.
I am a big comedy fan and I love some of the old Ealing comedies and the early Carry On films. But amazingly, many of those comedians were paranoid, mean, self-destructive and lonely people. How people who are so gifted manage to destroy the people around them I will never understand. In all the biographies and documentaries of comedians, there are only one or two who are always talked of very highly. Hattie Jacques (the ward matron in the Carry On films) is one of these people. She was a true friend to the greatest collection of outcasts in film history – the Carry On cast. I may not be seen as a ‘success’ in many people’s eyes. But I genuinely hope people will talk about me as a person who cared about relationships and not just a man who achieved a lot at the expense of others.

Once you get a taste of genuine relationships, there is no going back. Anonymous meetings and shallow friendships stick out like a sore thumb when you have seen and experienced glimpses of the real thing.

A few challenges…
Arrange a meeting with someone you work with, for no reason other than to talk to them.
Try to answer more honestly when someone you know asks you how you are.
When you ask people how they are, wait to hear an answer.
Get a cheap call package and make that call you keep putting off.
When you are ‘filling up’ your diary, remember the 3R’s.
Talk to your friends about your weaknesses as well, so they know you are not superhuman and you want a real relationship with them.

Character is much easier kept than recovered.
Thomas Paine

(*Please note that the book was originally written for men, hence the anecdotes being for men!)

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