Friday, February 25, 2011


I've Been Working on the Railroad

Ever wonder what keeps the trains running on time? Baby boomers like me don’t truly understand this question since train travel has either been declining or non-existent in our lifetimes. But now that I’m riding the rails to work every day I am becoming keenly aware of both their schedules and how closely they’re adhered to. And the people who make that happen.

We’ve become accustomed to: rare on-time takeoffs in the chaotic airline industry, and disrupted commutes in increasingly heavy traffic and frustrating bus trip through crowded urban streets. Riding bikes and walking are potentially attractive options but the distance between points makes these modes of getting around unrealistic.

So how come trains get such a bad rap - maybe it’s because there aren’t enough of them in enough places for enough people to have enough experience with them. But there are lots of trains here in New York City and they move lots of people around every day, mostly on time. And there are lots of professional conductors and engineers and brake-people and announcers and ticket takers who work in this low-tech but well-oiled transportation system. And, by golly, the trains do run on time.

All those people ‘working on the railroad’ (isn’t that a song??) look hard-boiled but they’re of warm hearts and good intentions and high spirits. They punch our tickets and answer our questions and announce the stations, all with a great deal of pride and professionalism. And, because they do, the trains generally run on time and all the people who depend on them and ride them faithfully are able to enjoy a really great way to get where they’re going without much stress and hassle.

Now don’t mistake this as just another blog about trains and mass transit and big cities; this is a tale of pride and professionalism and how regular people doing regular jobs can have a big impact on a lot of people. These trains are full most of the time – full of people who ride them because they can rely on them. And they can rely on them because the good people who’ve been ‘working on the railroad’have been doing so with purpose and pride and professionalism. And that’s what keeps the trains running on time!

In every business and industry, in all walks of life, in all of life’s daily endeavors, things get done on time and on budget and up to standards when people act with pride and professionalism. And that’s what keeps all the proverbial trains that we rely on running on time. Make sure you’re doing all you can, by acting as professionally as you can, to keep the “trains” in your world running on time.

My message this week is… (big drum roll here)
…about professionalism.

“Humility makes great men twice honorable.”  
-Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) invented the lightening rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania.

Can you go to school to learn how to be a professional? Schools can teach you a profession – like computer science or auto mechanics – but there aren’t many classes that focus on the art of professionalism. While you can certainly learn some of that by watching others, more often than not the examples you see aren’t the ones you want to model: like those professional athletes who strut their stuff after making a play for which they’re paid an unbelievable amount of money; or the celebrities who frequent the tabloids as though they’re as noble as the characters they play; or the bankers who take bonuses in excess of most people’s lifetime earnings. They’re not the types of professionals that you want to be like. Look to be like the quiet and unsung heroes who do good because it’s the right thing to do and whose reward is in knowing they’ve done good deeds. That kind of behavior and humility makes great professionals twice honorable.

Stay well!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Birthday

Birthday CakeHappy Birthday!

I’m in Las Vegas this weekend to celebrate my Mother’s 90th birthday. And while there were so many other things going on in the world this week that I could be writing about (like the amazing events sweeping throughout the Middle East and Valentine’s Day), for me this one takes the cake. Because no matter how old we are, we’re still and always our mother’s child.

90 years is a long time – think about the events that occurred during that time: the roaring 20s, the depression, World War II, baby boomers, the interstate highway system, the rise of suburbs, air travel, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the Beatles, Roe v Wade, a man on the moon, Woodstock, Watergate, Reagonomics, the boom and bust, the Gulf War(s), the Internet, the Hubble Space Telescope, the end of the Cold War, Bush I and II, the Great Recession, electric cars, the iPod, and Obama (just to name a few). And through it all, my Mom (and every other Mom) stood steadfastly for the simple proposition that each of their children should be all that we could be.

Moms everywhere are amazing: they seemingly know all, they’re always there for us no matter what, they all share an amazing ability to have the right thing to say at the right time (“I’m only doing this for your own good”), they cook and clean and toil endlessly without much complaint and they love without question. And all they ask in return is that we be good kids (and wash our hands, clean our rooms, stand up straight, comb our hair, etc.). Did you ever bring home a boyfriend or girlfriend that your Mom thought was good enough for you? Were your grades ever high enough?  It seems their role was and is to always tell us we’re the best while still challenging us to be better. It’s that balance between unconditional love and a gentle push to do and be more that’s the great lesson given by every Mom to every child.

Mothers never come right out and ask that we love and respect them in return – that’s not in their nature. But they know (because it happened to them) that in the end we do love and respect them. Because we know (or at least suspect) that they did their best to give us what was needed to have the life we wanted. That’s every mother’s gift to every child. And again, in the end, we children realize that the things our mothers say and do really are for our own good!

So Happy Birthday Mom – thanks for all you’ve done and, hopefully, will continue to do for a long time to come!

My message this week is dedicated to my Mom and Moms everywhere – they are and always will truly be the greatest and grandest things in our lives.

Arte Nathan“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”  -Art Linkletter

Arthur Gordon "Art" Linkletter (1912 - 2010) was a Canadian-born American radio and television personality. He was the host of radio and TV shows on both NBC and CBS for more than 40 years. Linkletter was famous for interviewing children on House Party and Kids Say the Darndest Things, which led to a series of books quoting children. I have a feeling this quote was somehow inspired by his mother.

In order to make great things you must have a positive attitude. It’s no longer good enough to do just enough to get by – sure you can make that work, but if you have hopes and dreams of a good reputation and a lasting legacy then you have to do more to get more.

A positive attitude helps you to see things in the best light and to think clearly about how to best approach tasks and people and life’s daily challenges. And while things often turn out to be less than expected, it’s your role with your family or friends or work colleagues or neighbors to appreciate the good and help others to do the same. This reflects an inner strength to make the best out of the way things turn out. Do that and see if things turn out the best for you today.

Stay well!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's Like Riding a Bike

It's Like Riding a Bike

How many times has someone said to you that something is “like riding a bike”? That usually means it’s something you never forget. There are lots of things like that: eating taffy, typing, singing an old favorite song, cooking a family recipe, playing a musical instrument, snow skiing, recognizing a long lost friend’s voice – all of these can come back to you immediately, even after a prolonged absence. Not so with tolerating cold weather!

Ok – so I said I wouldn’t write any more about the weather – but c’mon, it’s all over the news and for those stuck in this wintry grip, it’s a grim reality. Getting and staying warm is not like “riding a bike" - I can’t seem to remember how to tolerate and react to this kind of cold weather.

But this isn’t just about cold weather.  It’s also about remembering all the other things your mother taught you that you may not have thought of or been practicing lately. Sure, it’s about remembering to wear a hat and mittens but also about helping people who may be stuck in something (like this cold) or helping someone who is having trouble (like on the ice) or stopping whatever you’re doing to help or with anything. And not just on the ice but at home and work and anywhere else when others are confused or struggling or just in need of a helping hand or a moment of kindness; it’s about being there for someone to help with one of life’s challenges.

I remember when I was in college – my friends and I got lost and stranded in a blinding snowstorm and the people in the first house we came to were more than happy to let us spend the night in their home. Ya think that would happen today?  Would you open your doors and do that?? I think it’s time we again started to open up our hearts and minds and homes to people in need. That would sure make it easier to deal with the stuff that life throws at us. I want to believe that getting back to that kind of thinking would be “like riding a bike”.

I feel pretty strongly about this and so my message this week is about passion:

“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”  
-Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott (1832 – 1888) was an American novelist. She is best known for the novel Little Women, set in the Alcott family home Concord, Massachusetts and published in 1868. This novel is loosely based on her childhood experiences with her three sisters.

What are you pursuing today?  Whatever it is, you’d better be into it all the way – not half in or distracted or less than prepared or lackadaisical or iffy.  Nothing you do should be less than the best you’re capable of – that would be unfair to you, your reputation, the people who’re counting on you, those who need whatever it is you’re doing to be as good as it can be and anyone else who might somehow be affected. And to be that good, you’ve got to be passionate about making all those wishes come true, weaving all those dreams into reality, turning all those hopes into beliefs. And if you’re a believer, then everyone around you will be one too.  That’s the deal: it’s your life to pursue, so keep on believing with all your passion, and make life great.

Stay well!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Dispassionate Note

A Dispassionate Note

I’m a passionate guy: I get so involved with, and excited about, everything I do - I get so attached to everything I have and love to collect and savor those treasures. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I try to use these to inspire those around me. I’m passionate about everything, including everything I own - that’s ok until you have to move. That’s when some dispassion is needed!

Open up a drawer in your kitchen or bedside table; look in a box you packed sometime in the past and put away; try on some old favorite clothing you haven’t worn in a long time; go through boxes you’ve stored in an attic or basement or storage unit. Do you need any of that stuff and more importantly, can you bring yourself to get rid of any of it? Most of us cannot. Because deep down we feel some kind of connection and loyalty to that stuff or at least to the memory of what that stuff represents. That’s when you need someone’s help who’s not connected to the things you’ve collected and the memories they represent.

They can go through things without any of the connections you’ve associated with them and they can move them to a more appropriate place, which sometimes is the dumpster (something you could never bring yourself to do). They can see the folly in keeping that menu or matchbook that was saved to help you remember something that is long and appropriately forgotten. They can get through the piles of things that represent the miles of memories. Because it’s not the stuff that makes the memories that make you who you are – even without the stuff, you’ll still have the memories and be you. Because the you that’s really you is inside and that’s not going to change whether you have or don’t have all of that stuff anymore. Because the connection and loyalty you feel to the memories that come from all that stuff will still be there whether you have that stuff or not. And once it’s gone, you’re free to keep growing and learning and experiencing and becoming more of you. 

So I got rid of more stuff than I ever imagined I could – and it didn’t diminish the passion that I feel for all that those things represented (wow, what a revelation). And I’m freer now than I’ve been in a long time and it feels great. There’s less clutter and more freedom. The trick will be to remember this and not start another round of collecting – but if I do, I now know that having a dispassionate person to help sort it all out is a good thing. So find yourself someone who can help you shed many of those long-ago collected but no-longer-needed things that are accumulating all around you. You don’t have to move to do this – you just have to get started.

My message this week is about loyalty and how it can help you do more and be more.

“No more duty can be urged upon those who are entering the great theater of life than simple loyalty to their best convictions.”  -Edwin Hubbel Chapin

Edwin Hubbel Chapin (1814 – 1880) was an American preacher and editor of the Christian Leader. He was a trustee of Bellevue Medical College and Hospital and a member of the beneficent society called the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

You have to believe in what you’re doing. Not just believe in it, but know all about what you’re doing, get engaged entirely, eat/sleep/believe it with all your being – that’s how to be loyal to whatever you’re doing. And being loyal to whatever you’re doing is critically important to its success – because that means you’ll commit all of your energy and focus on it, and you’ll help others to better understand it and be able to lend their efforts effectively, and you’ll pay close attention to everything about it to make sure that nothing goes wrong.  This attention to detail, commitment to excellence and dedication to quality is what it takes to be successful in the great theater of life. And let’s face it – isn’t that what you want?  So start today to be loyal to your best convictions!

Stay well!