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!

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