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  • Writer's pictureJacob Curtis

How 1+1=4

When Sir Winston Churchill was called upon to head up the war effort for Great Britain, he remarked that all his life had prepared him for this hour. Similarly, the previous five habits: Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Put First Things First; Think Win/Win; and Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood, prepares us for the sixth habit of synergy.

Synergy is the essence of principle-centered leadership from business to home. It catalyzes, unifies, and unleashes the greatest powers within people. All of the previous five habits prepare us to create the miracle of synergy.

My name is Jacob Curtis. I co-own Utah Valley Quilting and founded Curtis Accounting Solutions, where we help quilt shops piece together financial freedom by doing the bookkeeping, payroll, and taxes and providing proven business advice.

If you haven’t, please go back and read the five blogs explaining Steve Covey's first five habits of highly effective people so you can create synergy in your shop and life.

Synergy celebrates the differences between people to create third alternative Win/Win solutions. Synergy creates a new script–one that is more geared to service and contribution and is less protective, less adversarial, and less selfish; one that is more open, more trusting, more giving and is less defensive, protective, and political; one that is more loving and caring and is less possessive and judgmental.

When you communicate synergistically, you are simply opening your mind, heart, and expressions to new possibilities, alternatives, and options. It may seem like you are casting off the second habit of beginning with the end in mind, but you are actually fulfilling it. When you engage in synergistic communication, you're unsure how things will work out or where they will end. Still, you have an inward sense of excitement, security, and adventure, believing it will be significantly better than before. And that is the end that you have in mind.

It takes time to build the trust needed to have genuinely synergistic communication. But when you have built enough trust, attitudes become: "if a person of your intelligence, competence, and commitment disagrees with me, then there must be something that I am not understanding, but I need to understand. You have a viewpoint that I need to look at."

When there are low levels of trust, communication is defensive, protective, and legalistic, creating Win/Lose results.

When there are medium levels of trust, communication is respectful, honest, and genuine, creating compromised results–meaning 1 + 1 equals 1 ½.

With high levels of trust, communication is open, honest, respectful, genuine, and transparent, creating better solutions than any originally proposed–meaning 1 + 1 equals 4 or 8 or even 100.

The essence of synergy is to value the differences. The key to interpersonal synergy is intrapersonal synergy, that is, synergy within ourselves. The heart of intrapersonal synergy is manifest in the principles of the first three habits (be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first), which give us internal security sufficient to handle the risks of being open and vulnerable. By internalizing the principles of the first three habits, you develop the abundance mentality of Win/Win and the authenticity of seeking to understand; you start exercising your brain's creative and logical parts. The whole brain works better when you can access both the intuitive, creative, and visual brain and the rational, analytical, and verbal brain.

The importance of valuing the difference is captured in the often-quoted fable called "The Animal School" by Dr. R. H. Reeves:

"Once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a "New World," so they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer, all animals took all the subjects.

"The duck was excellent in swimming, better in fact than his instructor, and made excellent grades in flying, but he was very poor in running. Since he was low in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming to practice running. This was kept up until his web feet were badly worn, and he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that except the duck.

"The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup in swimming.

"The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustrations in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of from the tree-top down. He also developed charley horses from over-exertion, and he got a C in climbing and a D in running.

"The eagle was a problem child and had to be disciplined severely. In climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way of getting there.

"At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well and also could run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

"The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to the badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school."

Although you cannot control the paradigms of others, you can control your behavior. You can be synergistic within yourself even amid a very negative situation. You don't have to take insults personally. You can sidestep the negative energy; you can look for the good in others and utilize that good, as different as it may be, to improve your point of view and enlarge your perspective.

You can exercise the courage to be open and express your ideas, feelings, and experiences to encourage other people to be open.

You can value the difference in other people. When someone disagrees with you, you can say, "Good! You see it differently." You don't have to agree with them, but you can affirm them.

When you see only two options, yours and the "wrong" one, you can look for a synergistic third option. There's almost always a third option, and if you work with a Win/Win philosophy and really seek to understand, you usually can find a solution that will be better for everyone involved.

Thank you so much for watching. The next time you disagree with someone, attempt to understand the concerns underlying their position. And address those concerns in a creative and mutually beneficial way.

I would love to hear from you as you apply this habit. Please email me at and tell me how it's going.

Thank you for reading, and follow me at Curtis Accounting Solutions on FB, IG, Pin, and YT.


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