I have always been a fan of charts. To me a graphic representation of numbers has always helped me to understand the relevance of amounts. I occasionally graph my expenses in order to check out where the money is going. I then concentrate on the tall bars in the graph and figure that if I can reduce a large bar by 10 percent, that may amount to a 20 percent reduction of the total whereas reducing a small bar by 20 percent may only reduce the total by three percent.

A friend of mine from Reno recently visited. In the evenings while relaxing we often got philosophical discussing life and attitudes, etc. Conrad has been very successful at just about everything he has tried. He has several successful businesses and managed to survive the recent recession and has things going well again but had been going through a bad time personally. While discussing this he showed me how he was going to handle his new problems. He took a tape measure and pulled it out to 75 inches. He said that 75 is about how long the average man lives. He then grabbed the tape at 55 and said that represented how old he was. The part of the tape from one to 54 fell on the floor. He said, “That part of my life is gone and done. I can change nothing about that part.”

He then addressed the remaining 20 inches. “This is what I have left, maybe. I intend to make the most of every day and enjoy every moment that I have left. I have no time for negativity or being miserable.”

I thought about this for a moment and picked up the tape. I grabbed it at 73 and said, “Conrad, I only have two inches left.”

“Better get started,” he answered.

My two grandchildren had been listening and were genuinely interested in the conversation. Conrad asked my granddaughter how old she was. Katie answered that she was 16. Conrad then stretched the tape out to 85 and said that should represent how long she might live. He then bent the tape at 16 and said that was the part she could not change. He then marked the inches between 16 and 23. He said that those represented the time from now until she might graduate college. He said that the choices she made and the relationships she developed during that time would determine the quality of her life from 23 to 85.

The graphic representation that the tape measure portrayed made a big impression on Katie and I could see that she might be thinking some good choices for the next seven short years could pay off for the following 62 years in a big way.

Conrad wasn’t done. He had the attention of the two kids and me also. He mentioned a term I was unfamiliar with. He explained that the reason he had survived the economic downturn and his competitors hadn’t was because of what he called “social equity.”

It was pretty simple. Conrad treated his customers fairly as well as his employees and friends. If he could help someone out and make their lives better, he did it. This alone caused others to send him business because they knew he would give whoever they sent a fair deal and they wouldn’t come back on them. He was honest and if he told you he would do something, you could take it to the bank. When you have built a lot of social equity, people want you to succeed and a lot of opportunities come your way.

I can remember my dad telling me that it didn’t cost a nickel to be decent to other people. Dad had a big account when it came to social equity.

Open Range columnist Barrie Qualle is a working cowboy in Wallowa County.

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