Archive for July, 2008

I just read an additional tribute that was written about my brother when he died last March.  It was posted in his former company’s newsletter and was focused on the success that my brother had in mentoring others as well as his attributing his personal success to the team with which he had worked.  This set my mind to thinking about how many people who have personal success never acknowledge that it was a result of a whole lot of other people behind the scenes that made it all possible.


I started to review my own interaction with others and how my actions have made it possible to have success because of them.  In my current work in the entertainment industry for example, I have many clients both internally and externally who require legal clearances on a huge quantity of materials ranging from titles to on-air and printed materials to contract liabilities to screen credits to internet materials, etc.  I started this job without any experience or training in law and find that I can handle the vast majority of clearances without any help from anyone else.  But how did I get to this point?


It is the result of every single attorney who initially provided me with the information and took the time to explain the answers to me.  This process called to mind the famous quote, “Give a man a fish, and you’ve given him a meal. Teach him to fish, and he’ll have food for a lifetime.”  I believe that this was the basis on which my brother operated that resulted in his success.  And I am totally vested in this approach.


As I am not an attorney, it is obvious that there are still many situations in which I need to consult with them in order to provide answers to the clients.  Many times I have had to get these answers in incredibly short periods of time and in situations where the underlying materials were not readily available.  It was the outstanding assistants from these attorneys that allowed me to meet, if not exceed, the deadlines that I had been given.  The attorneys made me look good and allowed me to succeed on an extremely high level.


But how could I provide a special thanks to them for what they were doing to allow me to be successful in my work?  Well, there is a book called “Fish Tales” that chronicles the team of workers at a fish market where they decided to make their jobs a lot more fun by filling orders by throwing the fish through the air rather than just passing them from one to another.  The book also told of a group of hospital workers who expanded this concept to their own use by having stickers of fish on their name badges that they would take off and pass to a co-worker who had done something special to help them on an individual basis.  I liked that concept.


So I instituted my own “fish” program by using photos of fish that I hand out to those attorneys or anyone else who has gone above and beyond in helping me with materials or answers that I need.  Everyone loves getting the fish and some even compete to see who can get the most fish.  And while this has become a fun program for everyone, each person who receives a fish knows how much I appreciate their individual efforts and who doesn’t appreciate it when someone gives you a special thank you.  I know what their help means to me and I hope that they know how grateful I am to receive that help.







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This is a tough one if you ask me.  I know that there have been many times when I have forgiven another person for having said or done something when I know that they had no intention to cause the hurt or harm that they did.  After all, no one is perfect and we often blurt out comments that were not intended to convey the message that the recipient received.  And often, something that is said or done has been delivered in a poor manner, not because of the message but rather because of the mood of the messenger.


Then there are the events that occurred a long time ago that we have been carrying around as part of our own personal baggage.  I know of no one who has had the “perfect” childhood and/or experience in growing up.  We can choose to blame our parents for all of the choices that we make in our adult life and for all of  the things that they did not teach us or all of the perceived ways that we were treated poorly.  I believe that the vast majority of parents do the best that they can in raising their children.  But most parents raise their children by employing the techniques that their parents used in raising them or the exact opposite of how their parents raised them if they perceive that their parents got it all wrong.  For me, I applaud the way I was raised and what I was taught. But, it took me many years to realize that although my perceptions were correct in most cases about specific ways in which my parents interacted with me, I came to an understanding of why they did what they did.  Once I had that understanding, I realized that there was nothing to forgive and that my parents had done an unbelievably fabulous job under some very tough circumstances.


In my first marriage, I was abused both physically and mentally.  For many years, I dealt mostly with the day to day fears and doing what was necessary in order to survive.  I tried everything that I could conceive in order to make the marriage work.  But it took my reaching the point where I realized that I couldn’t do anything to change him and I had to take the responsibility to change the situation in which I found myself.  I got to the point that I decided that it was better to leave and have him hunt me down and kill me as he had threatened than to live another day in such bad circumstances.  In this situation, I never found myself thinking that I needed to forgive him for how he had treated me.  I just looked at the miserable existence in which he had chosen to live and I honestly felt sorry for him.  He had the opportunity to get the help that he needed in order to change his circumstances but never chose to do so.  It was so much easier to blame his situation on his parents and everyone else around him.  And ultimately, he died all alone on Christmas day which is about as sad as anything that could happen to an individual.


There is one other situation regarding forgiveness that I have not experienced and hope that I will never have to know.  I don’t believe that I could ever forgive a person who took the life of someone else.  I have seen many situations where people have been able to do this but I am not that magnanimous.  That is just beyond my comprehension and although I do hold myself to certain standards and will forgive just about anyone for just about anything that they do, I can find absolutely no circumstances that would allow me to explain away such action.  And I have absolutely no desire to ever find a justification to forgive someone who has committed what I think is the worst crime ever.  That leads me to acknowledge that I am not the most forgiving person when all is said and done.

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Many years ago when I started teaching school, I was troubled by the fact that the many students were misbehaving and doing whatever they wanted both within and outside of the classroom.  Furthermore, whenever the behavior got out of control to the point where the parents were called in, I found that the parents defended their children and were usually rather abusive toward the teachers and held the teachers responsible for not being able to control the classroom.  After 3 years of seeing this problem escalate, I decided that the classroom was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my working life.  However, I did learn something that explained what was happening and why there was no way that the teachers were going to be effective in the classroom in such an atmosphere.


I knew that when I was growing up that if I had done anything to cause a problem in school, I would be disciplined there, my parents would be informed and I would be punished when I got home as well.  The discipline resulted not from fear but rather from having been taught respect.  We were taught how to behave, how to present ourselves when we were in public and how to treat each other.  Those fundamentals served us well at that time and throughout our lives in each and every situation in which we found ourselves.  And my parents always worked in tandem and enforced whatever punishment they chose to hand out.


As a result, we respected our parents.  We were taught how to behave.  We were treated fairly and the teaching applied to each of us three children equally.  We were fortunate to have two parents in the home who believed that their children were their primary responsibility and did monitor us and our behavior pretty much at all times.  We were given rules and regulations to follow which continued into our adult years as long as we lived under their roof.  And to this day, I am most grateful for the structure that we were provided.


What I figured out was that if we were taught to respect our parents, this automatically filtered on down the line.  We respected our siblings, other family members, teachers and all authority figures and from there, we respected property.  We learned the value of a dollar and it was explained to us that we simply could not and would not receive everything that we wanted.  Financially, it was not possible and we understood that.


By the time I started teaching, I realized that the students that were causing problems were those whose parents had no time for them.  In the majority of the cases, the parents were busy chasing the almighty dollar and never had time for their children.  That meant that the instruction and guidance that we had received was not available to these kids.  The emphasis had switched to parents believing that they were successful if they could accumulate lots of stuff and they dealt with their children by handing them money to get them out of the house and out of their hair. 


The value of the dollar was more important than the value of a person.  If a child is constantly pushed aside, he/she soon learns that they are not as important as mom and dad making money.  In many cases, the parents tell the children that they wouldn’t have to work so hard if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to feed and clothe them and keep a roof over their heads.  And when you are constantly ignored and told to go away because you are a bother and that you are the cause of the discontent in your parents’ life, you have no respect for yourself.  And a person with no respect is a life that has been ruined.  I can’t think of anything that is sadder.  Most children who are treated this way will never recover in their entire lifetime and will tend to raise their families in the same way.  But if each of us learns to treat each other with respect and dignity, we can teach by example that there is a better way and perhaps, by chance, we can make a real difference.   

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Some time ago, I heard a co-worker say that she works with honor.  Now knowing this individual, I knew exactly what she meant and I told her that I was adopting that as my own motto.  It really does represent how I think and what I choose to do.  And when I used this phrase to describe my own work ethic, I was not too sure that others understood.


Working with honor is all-encompassing.  On an individual basis, it means that you always work to the best of your ability to complete each task as perfectly as possible while meeting all deadlines.  It implies that when you are on the job, you work the job and not spend time on personal business or wasting time in gossiping and keeping others from working because you want to chit chat.  It demands that you be honest with regard to your reporting of your time, your expenses, your communications with others and not “borrowing” office supplies or other types of office services to which you are not entitled on a personal basis.


On a group basis, working with honor requires that you work with all of your co-workers as a team.  When someone is having a problem or working on a special project and they need help, you jump right in.  When someone has a great idea, you get behind them and support them.  If someone needs some great ideas, you get right in there and make your own contributions.  And you don’t need to worry about whether someone steals your idea and makes it their own.  What goes around, comes around.  Not everyone is stupid and it doesn’t take long for people to know who does what.  You need to remember that if someone steals your ideas, they steal other peoples’ ideas as well.  And that type of bad behavior never goes on for long.


Hopefully if you are in a work situation where others do not work as you do, your personal behavior may serve as an example.  If you are cooperative and treat other people and property with respect, others will notice.  If they choose, they can make the necessary changes to work with honor in the same way that you do and if not, it doesn’t matter.  What other people think and do is their choice and should never affect your own personal behavior.


When all else fails and you have to deal with people who do not have the same ethics and/or morals that you have, just remember that when you go home after your day’s work, you can be very proud of the effort that you gave and the work that you accomplished.  After all, you only need to answer to yourself and if you know that you gave your best efforts that day, that is all that matters.

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I have noticed that whenever things get really crazy, there is nothing that I want more than just a little bit of quiet time.  But when I finally get that quiet time, I find myself looking for something to do.  I have taken time to go to a quiet place to meditate on many occasions and I wonder why I am not able to do so at will.  Now I finally discovered that when I want that peace and quiet and can’t find it, it is because I am worrying about something.


Now I know that worrying about something is absolutely of no value.  It doesn’t change anything.  It is a complete waste of energy.  But yet I do it.  I just keep running my thoughts around in my head with no other outcome than the fact that it drives me crazy.  So I decided that I have had enough and I wanted to end this craziness.  I just had to figure out how?


I began by reviewing a number of times in the past when I had worried about things.  I remembered what I was thinking at those times that had caused my worry.  Then I thought about the ultimate outcome of those situations where I had worried.  To my amazement, there was not one single situation where all the things about which I had worried had turned out the way that I expected.  So why couldn’t I just stop doing this?  Well, I believe worry is nothing more than an expectation of a negative outcome to a particular situation where I do not have enough information.


Okay, so now that I figured out this part of it, what could I do to get more information?  Depending upon the particular situation, this can range anywhere from doing personal research to asking others who have knowledge of the particular situation.  I could also put together all of the information that I had and try to work out some sort of logical explanation or understanding or possible potential outcome to the matter.  In most cases, this did not work because there were just too many variables for which I could not account.


And if I couldn’t get more information, then what else could I do to counter the worry?  At the very least, I need to talk about the issue.  I need for others to provide their input which gives me some additional perspectives.  I can get reassurances that all will be fine and that nothing ever turns out the way that you expect.  And when all else fails, I just need to fill my head with a mindless TV show or focus on something absurd to the point where I completely forget what it was on which I was previously wasting my time.


The bottom line is that sometimes you just have to have certain experiences in your life.  No one else can tell you what to do.  The experiences of another may be similar but no one has walked a mile in your shoes.  Therefore, even though two people may experience the exact same situation, their individual experiences will not be the same because of the individual lives that brought them to the same place. 


So the heck with all of it!  Enjoy the day.  Live your experiences and try to put on them the most positive spin that you can because regardless of the outcome, you will get out of any situation exactly what you put into it.


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