* The value factor is the key to your healthy bottom line.

Have you ever had it stuck to you by a hit-and-run type whose motto is “Business is business.” Their trick is to never depend on return customers and to never try to do business tomorrow where they setup shop yesterday. It’s a strategy best suited to those whose bottom line is merely the bottom line.

If instead, your bottom line depends on long-term relationships with your friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, be sure they consistently get what they value and value what they get from you.

* Plan on how you will get out of the muck before diving in.

Planning and foresight are highly valued by most everyone. This is painfully obvious when business deals go sour, partnerships fall apart, old friends have serious misunderstandings, people accumulate too much debt, conflicts escalate, and when the bottom falls out. Failure simply doesn’t play nearly as well as success.

Avoiding failure isn’t always all that easy, though. Nonetheless, it will improve your odds if you keep in mind most any mess is easier to get into than out of. If your personal experience doesn’t have you saying, “Ain’t that the truth!” you have lived a charmed life or are a saint, complete with robe and halo, or maybe you just don’t get it. For we mere mortals, though, “What the hell happened and more importantly, which way’s out?” aren’t uncommon questions. “I should have known better,” and “I didn’t see it coming,” aren’t much help when you are stuck in the muck, with no way to escape.

* Always go with the cards you are dealt.

“But¼,” says Doubting Thomas. “Anyone can have a run of bad luck and some people have all the luck,” he adds.

Sure, some lucky ducks were born with silver spoons in their mouths; and in life’s great poker game, some people get better cards than others. It’s enough to make you just sit down and cry. The old law-of-averages certainly doesn’t apply to you. You wish¼; and if cows could fly and if luck were really a lady, the world would be a fairer place. Even if it weren’t, at least you would get better cards. Keep on wishing. Maybe your luck will turn; but then again¼.

* Figure out what you have to do to improve your success odds and then do it.

Life’s a roll of the dice and you can’t do much about that fact. Well, maybe you can’t but, then again, maybe you can.

It was bright-and-early one morning when Grandpa found an exceptionally fine sea shell on the beach. I flippantly commented, “That was just dumb luck, your finding that shell.” He smiled and replied, “Yes, it was dumb luck for a guy who was already on the beach and looking before 6:30.”

Sure, luck and maybe even dumb luck at times play a big part in a lot of things. Things happen and you can’t control everything; but you can make a point to be on the beach before 6:30 and can make the extra effort it takes to improve the odds for your success.

* Do what you say you will do when you say you will do it.

You know you have to be there at the crack of the bat, on time, every time; and you know the early bird catches the worm, you have to strike while the iron is hot, and you shouldn’t keep opportunity waiting. It’s timing, timing, timing, no doubt.

“But¼,” you say. Well, okay. “Every time” may be a bit much to expect. Still, if you ask a shrink about this being on time thing, you will learn if you are early, you are anxious; if you are on time, you are compulsive; and if you are late, you are resisting; but if you ask the people who have been waiting on you, they will simply tell you your being late is wearing very thin.

* Be neither the dog that gets eaten nor the dog that has the meal.

You most assuredly should know a couple of things you may not have been told about Little Red-Ridinghood. Picture Little R-R out there where any 1990s woods walker with half a brain would go prepared, ready to deal with wolves, big, bad, or not. Predictably, B-B-Wolf walks up to R-R and says, “I’m having you for lunch!” R-R says, “Oh! Don’t take advantage of poor little me.”

A lesser wolf would smile and say, “It’s a jungle out here and anyone who can’t handle it is out of luck;” But with incredible self-control, B-B-Wolf says, “Okay, but you better be prepared next time. I can’t guarantee you another free-pass.”

As Snoopy might have put it, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world, Charlie Brown;” but¼.

* Only repeat things you hear about others you would feel okay about if someone were to say them about you, under the same circumstances.

Joe says, “I’m not comfortable with it yet.” Sam says, “Joe says he doesn’t like it.” Bill says, “I hear it’s over Joe’s dead body.” Ann says, “I can’t believe Joe is being so unreasonable.” Mike says, “Joe goes around acting like a little dictator.” Carol says, “There is no point in talking to Joe about anything. You can just figure he’s already made up his mind and you are not going to change it;” and so goes the rumor-mill, with the rumor-millwrights busily mongering and Joe serving as the grist.

* “They” embraces everyone, including you.

You may hear about better communication being the cure for the rumor-mill contagion; and though that is possibly true, beware. Listen in and draw your own conclusions.

“Our problem around here is communication. No one knows what’s going on.” But didn’t you get the message? “What message?” It was in an email sent out last week. You should have gotten one in your in-box. “I don’t have time to keep checking my in-box every five minutes. No one reads those stupid emails anyway. Someone should have told me.” I see what you mean. Communication is a big problem they have. They’ll have to get it straightened out if they expect us to get anything done.

* Know when and why it was your fault and step up to accept responsibility.

A project crashes, a solid relationship fails, an experienced employee screws up, or something else goes sour. You can’t anticipate everything and no one is perfect. That is life, sure enough; but is it really?

The truth is, short of an act of God, there were people who weren’t observant enough, clever enough, persistent enough, people who didn’t have enough hindsight, insight, and foresight to prevent what happened. Certainly they are only human; and equally certainly, a better outcome was their responsibility.

* When you’ve got to, there is no choice but to take a deep breath, plunge in, and do what has to be done.

Do you ever have to step up and make decisions without the clear authority to make them, knowing people won’t like it; or do you occasionally have to do something that gets people upset? Well, you have to do what you have to do; but how can you deal with it when you are asked, “Just who do you think you are? Who put you in charge?”

You can say, “I, me, a committee of one. It’s a collaborative thing.” Give Red Skelton credit for the I, me, committee of one, since he said it first but then don’t hesitate.

* Be a master at getting others to help you, if you are a model for others to follow.

Most assuredly, taking care of business is everyone’s business and we all have to hold up our end of the deal; but everyone wasn’t created equally. Even if they were, they certainly don’t act like it. Some are a pleasure while others¼. Well, there is no need to go into that.

The secret is to see how the exceptional few do it. They exemplify appropriate demeanor and behavior, high personal standards and ethics, professional development and quality performance; but their real secret is they ask people to help solve their problems instead of trying to get them to accept their solutions.

* Trust people enough to let them make the decisions they need made to do their jobs.

Getting others to follow you can be a tricky business. For example, “Can I do that?” I will check with the boss. “I thought you were the boss.” I can’t make this decision. “What can you decide?” I decide whether you are doing your work or not. “I see. The time clock tells on me if I don’t show up and you rat on me if I screw up.” You’ve got it; so get back to work.

If you get fed up, and you likely will, be sure your new boss can independently make the decisions you need made to do your job. Better yet, find a quality employer who will empower you to make those decisions yourself.