Friday, July 27, 2012

Pay Phones

                                                                  Pay Phones
 I saw someone using a pay phone this week – and did a double-take. When’s the last time you saw anyone using a pay phone?  I can’t remember.

 Amazing that we forget how things used to be. Remember rotary dial phones, and princess phones, and the first cordless phones; and all along there were pay phones.  And phone banks. And then the first real commercial mobile phones came out in 1983 – they had those thick antennas and were as big as a brick; and all along there were pay phones.  And phone booths.

 Fast forward to now: everybody has a cell phone – right?  Well, obviously not everybody, because this fellow didn’t have one. He was staring at that pay phone and looking around for a quarter he needed to use it. Imagine not having a cell phone, or a quarter to use a pay phone. Think about that.

 We get so caught up in ourselves that we don’t see these kinds of things going on around us; we are so focused on what we’re doing that we can’t see what some people are unable to do; and we take so much of what we have for granted that we can’t imagine somebody not having all that we have. The moral of this story: be aware that there are people who may not have all that we have, and as bad as things might seem, they can always be worse. There are people around us who need a helping hand, an encouraging word, an act of kindness, a word to the wise, or…. a quarter.  Never be too rushed or blind to see those in need, nor too full of yourself or busy to help.

 These thoughts went through my head in the millisecond that I focused on this fellow standing in front of that pay phone. And as that image developed in my mind, I turned and gave him a quarter. Let me tell you this: he was just as incredulous that someone did that as I was to see someone trying to use that pay phone.
My message this week is about acting responsibly:      

"It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”   Josiah Charles Stamp

 Josiah Charles Stamp, 1st Baron Stamp (1880 – 1941), was a British civil servant, industrialist, economist, statistician, writer, and banker. He was a director of the Bank of England, and chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.
 Did you ever hear “what you sow you shall reap”?  It’s from Galatians VI in the King James Bible, and it’s also what every mother teaches every child. It’s so simple, and yet so important. The things you do impact others, they impact you and your future, and they become part of what others know and say about you.  Like a pebble thrown in a pond, your actions create ripples around you.  Say or do something nice: others feel good and say nice things in return; act rudely or disrespectfully: and others feel and act badly in return.  Give great service: others will appreciate it and remember you; act like you don’t care and others won’t care about you.  You’re responsible for the things you do, and while it’s easy to dodge those responsibilities, you cannot dodge the consequences of dodging your responsibilities – today or ever.

 Stay well!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Out of Sight - Out of Mind

This summer I am again taking the train each week from New York City to our home in the Adirondacks. Like most of America’s railroads, the train I take follows tracks that were laid in another era, and thus they run behind and through some areas that were developed after these rail lines were laid. These places now provide some very interesting views and perspectives, ones that are mostly out of sight and out of mind.

Without any sense of the passage of time, these trains run through neighborhoods and behind homes whose backyards were never intended for viewing, and past decaying buildings whose better days have passed, and along waterways that are little used for commerce anymore, and in, out and alongside woods and fields that rarely get visited, and stop at stations built in a different era.  These are views and perspectives that have now mostly become out of sight and out of mind.

There’s one stretch on the trip I take where the woods are filled with trees that were felled by a rare tornado last year. Bridges and roads were also destroyed by that same tornado, but these more visible and necessary things were quickly fixed, allowing life to return to normal, and allowing people to move on and forget. But this patch of woods where the trees are still lying in their destroyed state is a vivid reminder of the kinds of things that happen and, because of what and where they are, then become out of sight and out of mind.  That’s usually not a good thing to let happen.

This patch of woods was destroyed at a time when so many other things were happening: the world was  inundated with news about the continuing devastation from the hurricanes in Haiti and New Orleans, the more recent tsunami in Japan and its nuclear meltdown, pictures on the news of mudslides in India, and so many other important and tragic issues. But these worldwide events, like the trees felled by that tornado, quickly become day-old news that fades, and the people and places and issues associated with those news items quickly become out of sight, and out of mind

But not for those places and people who are directly affected and continue to suffer. Because tragedies happen to real people (some of whom we know) and continue to linger, we should try to remember them and do what we can to help, wherever and however we can. Take a moment today to look at the people and places around you that may be still be dealing with things that happened in the past, and which are not yet resolved. And then do whatever you can to make sure they don’t become out of sight and out of mind.

My message this week is about doing what’s right:

"If we believe a thing to be bad, and if we have a right to prevent it, it is our duty to try to prevent it and damn the consequences." 
-Lord Milner

Alfred Milner, 1st Viscount Milner, (1854 – 1925) was a British statesman and colonial administrator who played an influential leadership role in the formulation of Great Britain’s foreign and domestic policy.

When was the last time you saw something that wasn’t right; and what did you do about it?  We often bump into things that aren’t quite right, and then have an opportunity to do something about them - or not.  Like a scrap of paper on the floor – do you stop and pick it up? Like a person who’s obviously lost or in distress – do you stop and offer assistance? Like an error someone made – do you help them to understand and correct it? Like a sad look in someone’s eyes – do you stop and cheer them up?  Or like a tough situation you and others may be in – do you re-double your efforts and help lead the way?  These and so many other things confront us all the time and the measure of a person is their willingness to stop and do something to prevent or improve them; that’s our duty, and damn the consequences that may result from our involvement and efforts.  Because that’s the right thing to do!

Stay well!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Falling Rock Zone

Falling Rock Zone


here are areas along the interstate highways where the original road builders had to blast through large rock formations.  And there are signs posted near those areas that say “Falling Rock Zone”.  Think about it: you’re driving along with your parents; you see that sign, and think to yourself that the world certainly is a dangerous place.  And of course, your parents always say not to worry.  But in your mind you think they wouldn’t have posted that notice if nothing was going to happen.  This is one of those dilemmas you face when growing up.
One day I was in the car with my father and uncle and cousin; we were going on the Thruway in New York to see a Yankee’s game in the Bronx.  I was sitting in the middle of the front seat between my Dad and Uncle, looking out the windshield as we drove through one of those don’t-worry, nothing’s-going-to-happen zones when, from up above, I saw, you guessed it, a small rock sailing down towards us.  It hit the windshield and cracked it, and I had all I could do to stop from screaming and jumping into the back seat. 

I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember looking at my Dad, who had assured me nothing bad was going to happen, and wondering what part of “don’t worry” had he meant.  But of course what he really meant was: ‘don’t worry, even if something does happen, we’ll handle it and it will be all right.” We pulled over, made sure nothing more than the little crack in the windshield had occurred, and proceeded onto the game.  Truthfully, I don’t remember that game; but I sure do remember that rock.  And how even though the sight of that rock coming at us scared the daylights out of me, I knew that my Dad would make sure we ended up all right. 
There’s a great deal of comfort to be found in knowing that someone is looking out for you – whether it’s a parent, a friend, a partner, a higher being, a camp counselor, a coach, a mentor, or a boss.  My old boss used to say that managers should think of themselves as a “mommy” or “daddy”, because parents and managers both love unconditionally, are stern when necessary, nurture appropriately, and are always looking out for others’ well-being. So juxtaposing ths falling rock zone story with my boss’ theory of management creates the basis for how we should care for those we care for and care about.  The moral of this story: being prepared is good, but doing what’s right when something happens is better.  So the next time life drops a rock on you, pick yourself up, make sure everything and everyone is ok, and keep going.

My message this week is about professionalism and what it takes to be successful:
Experts often possess more data than judgment. Colin Powell
Colin Luther Powell (born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1987-1993) and the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005).

As a professional, you’re called upon to make decisions all the time.  And those decisions need to be both quick and correct.  If they’re not, how long do you think others will trust and rely upon you?   Of course being a professional doesn’t just apply to the business world – people are expected to act professionally, reliably, reasonably, fairly, truthfully, openly and honestly in every aspect of life.  That means in your personal life with family and friends, in your community life with other volunteers and committed people, and in your professional life with co-workers and colleagues.  And in order to be at the top of your game, you need to rely on all of your senses and all of the information you can gather, and then use your judgment to use and apply it appropriately.  Think of it this way: if you just look at data, you might miss the human element that accompanies everything in life.  So remember: an expert, or a professional, or even a regular person who possesses more data than judgment, isn’t as good as they need to be to anyone!

Stay Well!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

You're a Grand Old Flag

Grand Old Flag

You're a Grand Old Flag is a patriotic song and a spirited march written by George M. Cohan as a tribute to the U.S. flag. Our flag certainly is grand, and it’s a symbol of our nation’s grandeur and ideals. Let’s celebrate this week’s holiday with the chorus from this popular 1920’s song:

You're a grand old flag; you're a high flying flag,

And forever in peace may you wave.

You're the emblem of, the land I love,

The home of the free and the brave.

Ev'ry heart beats true 'neath the Red, White and Blue,

Where there's never a boast or brag. 
But should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag. 

Songs help us focus on the important things and people and feelings in our lives, and this one is no exception. That home of the free and the brave line rings especially true this year as the men and women of our armed forces are again serving in faraway lands where the freedom and security we enjoy are not yet available.  And where there’s never a boast or a brag certainly leads us to think about how we should act in a world full of vanity and egos – both of which often do most of us little or no good. And for sure auld acquaintances should never be forgot, because the people we know and care about are treasures to be remembered and cherished always.

Independence Day is a time of fun, family, happiness and celebration.  Let the feelings you had and shared on this holiday be the emblems of all that you love every day.

Stay Well, and Happy Birthday America!