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Editor's Notebook

Whatever You Call It, It Can Turn Things Around

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I don’t really know Joe Collier any more than I know any tire dealer. Spoke to him on the phone the other day when he called to say he appreciated my last column about momentum; one of several calls and e-mails I received on that same subject.

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Joe was different than the rest, though. The proprietor of the aptly named Joe’s Tire & Oil in Miami, Okla., Joe also wanted to remind me that there was a class of small business below what the government considers a small business – small shops with no other employee than the owner, super-small businesses that have been pushed even closer to oblivion in this Great Recession than “traditional” smalls.

Miami is not unlike a lot of small cities in the U.S.; with few industries and opportunities in the area, the downturn hit the people in Miami pretty hard.

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Not that many years ago, Joe recalls, turning $250,000 in annual sales “made me feel like a king.” And he enjoyed a number of those years, more than enough, he said, to raise his family and try to settle into a secure future.

Today he’s lucky to sell a single set of used tires a day and maybe one or two sets of new rubber a week. A quarter of a million is a distant memory.

Joe says he’s not worried. His family is grown and on its way, so he faces less pressure as a business owner/breadwinner. And he is confident he will fight through this bout of recession.

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Momentum, Joe told me, is so very important because it’s all about mindset – how you see your situation and view your immediate future. It is that Power of Positive Thinking than can be such a difference-maker. No, POPT is not going to deliver more good-paying jobs and better times for all, but it will help us get there sooner rather than never, said Joe.

I received this note about Momen­tum from old friend and respected tire dealer Bud Hogan up in Man­kato, Minn.:
“Thought I would share an old essay on momentum,” Bud wrote. “When things are going well, they tend to get better. When things are going poorly, they tend to get worse. These conditions continue until some significant event happens to change the momentum.

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“The reason for this is EXPECTATION. When things are going well for you, you expect them to continue to go well. Other people sense that expectation, and sure enough, they react to you in a way that causes your life to get better. Those people are equally adept at sensing negative momentum. You don’t express negative expectations, but people just seem to sense them.”

I am not one given to blind faith, in believing in that which cannot be seen or logically explained. Just ask my mother. She touts the amazing healing benefits of a salve called Unker’s, which, based on its website, can heal just about any injury or distress on man or animal.

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It’s not sold in stores (for some reason, perhaps related to the FDA), and Unker’s has provided little benefit to me on the few occasions I have used it.

Mom, on the other hand, believes greatly in the product, and often shares with me the victories the crème has had on bug bites and rashes and cuts and bruises and whatnot she or others have suffered. For her, Unker’s is it. That’s what she believes, and that is fine. Perhaps it is her enthusiasm that is the catalyst for cure and not the product itself, but who knows?

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Back during the recession that ended up costing George Bush Sr. re-election, some print pundits (back in the day, we didn’t have all these know-nothing talking faces on TV) were convinced that Americans had virtually talked themselves into the recession. Minor negative economic news snowballed into a major recession for no logical or mathematical reason, they claimed, all because of our collective negativity.

As I said, I am more comfortable with science and solid objects, but that doesn’t dismiss or diminish the reality I see in others. From guys like Joe, who could easily have bagged it all and walked away. Who would have blamed him for becoming an ex-tire dealer? His belief in the power of momentum is his business partner now, and he is sure better days are close.

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I cannot dispute Bud’s position on the cause and effect of expectations. He’s been at this tire game longer than I, and has survived and thrived through many ups and downs.

Lord knows I’m not going against my mom. That wouldn’t end well.

Despite my proclivity for science and solids, I do think there is something to the POPT and the nature of how people react to the moods of others. I don’t have to experience a mail-order crème’s curative powers to understand that others do indeed benefit.

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And I don’t need a scoreboard to see how a little of whatever “it” is can turn things around.

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