Getting Them Over “Fool’s Hill” Alive

I wrote an article for Father’s Day that is really appropriate for any occasion. You don’t have to be a father to get some value from the article, so I wanted to share it with everyone. Here is what I wrote:

Since this is Father’s Day, and I happen to be one, I thought it appropriate for me to throw in my two-cents on the subject. After 23 years of parenting I can say with confidence, that I am “NOT” an authority on the subject. As a father, I learned firsthand that children aren’t born with an instruction manual, so this is a, learn as you “screw-up”, job.

I remember visiting my wife’s parents after our son Tyler was born, and her Dad made a very calm, off-the-cuff statement about parenting, which I will never forget. He said: “Our job as parents is to get our children over Fool’s Hill, alive.”  Boy was he right. I also didn’t know that everything I was doing was going to be copied. I didn’t know that a 3-year-old could repeat exactly what you said, word for word … with the proper inflection, when you think no one is listening. But, I soon realized that our son was going to be a direct reflection of our effort and love. I never doubted my wife, she was the rock; I doubted me.

To me, D.A.D. is an earned title, a badge of honor, which comes with enormous responsibilities. In my mind, the D’s in DAD stand for so many things.

It was now my Duty to take care of him. I needed to instill in him Determination so he could Distinguish himself in whatever he did. I needed to teach him he didn’t Deserve success, he had to Deliver. I needed him to understand he would encounter Difficulties, Dishonesty, Disappointment, Disrespect, Defeat, Disagreement, Disobedience, and Doubt on his journey to being successful. I wanted him to know there is never a reason to stay Depressed or Dwell on mistakes, because tomorrow is always another day. I wanted him to be able to face Danger head on, Dare to be great, be Defiant to the naysayers, Demand the best of himself and live with Dignity. I needed him to recognize the importance of Dreaming but that we are all graded on what we Do, not what we Desire. I had to get him to understand greatness is achieved by those who are Dauntless, Durable and Devoted to their goals and sometimes he would just have to roll-up his sleeves and get Dirty, Demonstrating to all, he was willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

The “A” in D.A.D. was going to be simple for him to remember, but the core to everything when it comes to success and failure. Everyone is graded by their ACTIONS. His success in life would be Determined by what he Decides to Do and then Does. There are no trophies given for Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda … and you can’t take back what you did … so, act as if everyone in the whole world is watching, because they could be.

Then a chill came over me because I knew one of the best ways to teach was by example. Why should I expect more from him than I would from myself? As his DAD, I wanted more for him than myself, but it is not fair to demand more than I am willing to strive for. Do as I say, not as I do … is a lousy way to teach. Yeah, I got real scared. Would my son be proud of me; would I be deserving of the title D.A.D.?

Then I learned one more thing on my DAD journey; when they know you LOVE them, they become a lot more forgiving of your faults. Was I there all the time when he needed me? No. (his Mom was) But, he knew I wanted to be. At times, was I too tough on him , not fair, a poor listener, too strict, too stubborn in my ways … Guilty as Charged.  But, if he says just four simple words, “I love you DAD,” I will know I succeeded at what mattered most; he knows I love him and always will. All DADs deserve the title of D.A.D., if their children LOVE them.  AND … I’ll keep working on making him as proud of me as I am of him.

If you want your children to know how to live,

Don’t Tell Them How – Show Them How


Benjamin Franklin once said:  “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Syndicated cartoon columnist, writer and artist Don Wilder had a wonderful description of excuses. He said, “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.” What a profound description of the value and outcome of an excuse. I find people who are good at making excuses, are seldom good at reaching goals, solving problems, and leading people.  I am tired of people who say … Excuses

What stands between most people and their goals are a bunch of excuses. Now, some people get real fancy and rationalize the situation … thinking they are not giving an excuse. American novelist and philosopher, Ayn Rand, destroyed that notion when she said, “Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.”

To me, an excuse is a form of weakness or inability to take responsibility for your own mistakes. Excuses usually show a weakness in your plan, or your attitude, your conviction, ability, knowledge, judgment, talent, or organizational skills. But, I also think making an excuse is a sign of cowardice. By making an excuse for your actions, you are showing a lack of courage in accepting the consequences for those actions. Please understand, excuses may make you feel better, but they change nothing and usually annoy the people you are telling them to.

I have found that successful managers/bosses/leaders … when something bad happens, a mistake is made, a goal isn’t reached … would rather you tell them what happen, what you learned and what you are going to do about it, than give them an excuse. If you are always on the lookout for a great excuse, you better also be on the lookout for a new job.

Helen Keller was the first blind and deaf person to EVER earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. If there was ever a person who had a great excuse for not being able to graduate from college, I think she should be right at the top of that list. Florence Nightingale, who is known as the founder of modern nursing stated, “I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”  So, the next time you are thinking about giving an excuse – DON’T.

If you quit looking for an excuse –

you will have more time to find a solution.

Just Plain Rude

I wrote this article on Mother’s Day … but it is appropriate anytime.

This Mother’s Day I thought it might be appropriate to address a subject which seems to be an escalating problem, RUDENESS. Most of our mothers tried hard to teach us great manners, proper etiquette, politeness, and the importance of courtesy. I know my mother spent countless hours explaining and demonstrating what I should and shouldn’t do in all those areas. I can still see her glaring at me from across the room, with pursed lips, admonishing me for what I was doing without saying a word. Those looks would turn me to stone knowing that if I got one or two more, things were going to be REALLY BAD when I got home.

Opening doors for others, pulling out the chair to help someone sit down, keeping my elbows off the table when I was eating, chewing with my mouth closed, not interrupting, showing respect for my elders … her “Good Manners List” goes on and on. But today, something else has helped to take the lack of good manners to a whole new level, and that would be technology; or to cull it down to one simple mobile communication device, the SMARTPHONE (or cell phone). It seems that the SMARTPHONE has given us the right to be rude to anyone, because a message, phone call, or text seems to be taking precedence over anything else.

EXAMPLE: You could be having a nice conversation with someone at lunch and their phone rings, dings, vibrates or plays a loud song to let them know that someone else is trying to reach them. Well, guess what? Your importance just took second place. They immediately look at their cell phone to see who is contacting them. It doesn’t matter if what you were saying was really important. What matters, is for them to take that call, read that text, or answer that message. Sometimes they don’t even say, ” Excuse me,” before grabbing that cell phone; they just do it. It is almost an addiction to have to grab that cell phone to find out who is contacting them. Interrupting you, being rude to you, showing no courtesy to you, is not an issue to them. It’s as if the SMART/CELL/MOBILE PHONE has become the “Exception to the Rule” for showing common courtesy. Have you ever had someone …

bump into you while walking and texting?

• answer their cell phone while talking to you?

• have a loud ring tone with some crazy song blaring?

• be texting at a traffic light not noticing the light has changed?

• look down at a text they just received while you were talking?

• have a loud animated conversation on their cell phone sitting near people?

• talk on their cell phone while checking-out in a store, thus holding up everyone in line?

I would answer yes to all of those … and they are all RUDE. Please don’t use your cell phone at the check-out counter, while boarding an airplane, or when entering someone’s office. Try and stay away from others while talking on your cell phone. Don’t use your cell phone when having a meal with someone. Try not to talk on your cell phone in confined spaces. Don’t talk loudly. (Whispering will let others know you are respectful of their space) Never put your cell phone on speaker or talk about personal details in public. (I don’t want to hear about your colonoscopy) Try to never use your cell phone at live performances, libraries, museums, elevators, hospitals, auditoriums, meetings, places of worship, lectures, funerals, weddings and movie theaters.

So, while we are celebrating Mother’s Day, let’s all try and make her proud of us by having better manners when it comes to using our smartphones. AND, for all you mothers out there who are reading this, I would like to share with you an old proverb that sums up my feelings about all mothers:

“God could not be everywhere so he therefore made mothers.”


I have Learned A Lot from “ANONYMOUS”

I am always looking for great quotes, saying, or statements to help reinforce my message and I think it is important to give credit to those who shared their brilliance. Unfortunately, I often come across wise words of wisdom that have been credited to “ANONYMOUS.” It sure would be nice to know who said such wise or clever words.

In all honesty, is a statement more profound, wise, brilliant, insightful, astute, sensible, intelligent, shrewd, smart, or clever because you know who said it …or because a famous person said it? I don’t think so.  I think that each quote should stand alone, judged on its own merit, and not be given more or less value because of who said it.

Below are a few Anonymous Quotes I’ve collected over the years I thought you might find helpful:

     To be a winner, all you need to give is all you have.

     I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.

     For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

     The best way to finish an unpleasant task is to get started.

     Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open.

     He is truly wise who gains wisdom from another’s mishap.

     Stupid people always think they are right. Wise people listen to advice.

     Why do people say “no offense” right before they’re about to offend you?

     Worry doesn’t help tomorrow’s troubles, but it does ruin today’s happiness.

     Business is like a wheelbarrow. Nothing ever happens until you start pushing.

     If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

     Everybody has the right to be stupid … some people are just abusing the privilege.

     Set aside half an hour every day to do all your worrying; then take a nap during this period.

     When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

     Good judgment comes from experience, and experience – well, that comes from poor judgment.

Yes, ANONYMOUS has shared a lot of wisdom with us over the years, but the key to success for any company or person is applying it. I see so many organizations with powerful mission statements not living up to what they’ve written. There are also far too many so called “LEADERS” handing out wise words of wisdom but not following the advice themselves. They live by the motto, “Don’t think of me as your boss, think of me as a friend who is never wrong.” Their attitude is the wise words of wisdom are for other people because they make no mistakes. I’m sure you can think of two or three managers you have worked for that fit this description perfectly.

Go to school on other people’s experiences. Learn from their wise words or from their mistakes and shorten your learning curve. If I have learned one thing in business, it is “WHY” experience the pain to learn something when you don’t have to; the more knowledge you can gain from others the better for you. Life is too short to learn and experience it ALL yourself.

Success comes to those who seek knowledge and apply it.

The Carpet People

The other day I had the opportunity to hear four managers from large companies give 15 minute presentations about things their companies were doing to improve productivity, morale and communication. The first speaker got my attention instantly when he said his people were always complaining about the “CARPET PEOPLE.”  He had just been promoted as the new boss of one of the largest manufacturing facilities his company operated in the United States. A couple of days after his arrival he heard the term “CARPET PEOPLE.” He said that he didn’t want to look like an idiot not knowing what the term “Carpet People” stood for … so he kept his mouth shut for a while, hoping he would eventually figure it out; but to no avail. He finally pulled one of his employees aside and asked what the term meant.

 That employee said the term “CARPET PEOPLE” was directed at management. The only place in their enormous manufacturing facility that had carpet on the floor was in the offices where management worked. If a question had to be answered, they had to go talk to the “ CARPET PEOPLE.” No supervisors had offices on the main manufacturing floor … so production employees would always have to waste time and go find the “CARPET PEOPLE” to get an answer. It was not meant as an endearing term … I can assure you. It was an US vs. THEM mentality.

He said that once he understood the term and why it was being used, he immediately changed things. He didn’t want production stopping on the factory floor because his people had to go find a “CARPET PERSON” … so he had those offices moved … to front and center on the factory floor … where production managers could be quickly located; it should also be noted … they had NO CARPET in their offices on the factory floor.

The next three speakers played right off of this story and used other non-endearing terms for their management people … such as the “Shiny Shoes”, the “White Coats”, and the “Suits”. In a lot of companies, the moment employees see “THESE PEOPLE” heading their way… they want to run, hide, look busy, and they know whatever they do … don’t get in their way, don’t strike up a conversation, don’t make a suggestion and don’t ask them a question. Speak only when spoken to and refer anything they ask to your direct supervisor if at all possible.

There are some managers out there who love being the boss, being seen as the Carpet Person, wielding a mighty “whip” of authority … with a “my way or the highway” mentality. Some even believe the best way to deal with morale problems is just fire anyone who complains. I learned years ago that effective managers help people get better and should be looked on as a “knowledge base” for employees to call on anytime to help evaluate, correct, adjust, or address any tough situation they can’t handle. If employees fear their supervisors, managers, or bosses … productivity and morale is sure to suffer. It has also been proven through countless studies, that employee turn-over will also become a problem.

If management is asking for teamwork, collaboration, synergy, unity, cooperation, looking for camaraderie, wanting employee input, seeking suggestions and new ideas … then management needs to pay attention to how they are being perceived. A hierarchy, top down, status based, authority riddle, pecking order … doesn’t seem to be very conducive to creating any of the things I just mentioned. One of the managers who spoke, said they decided that if management was to walk on the factory floor, then they needed to wear the same thing all employees wear wearing … so they came up with a corporate polo style shirt (all the same color) that everyone wore. Take note of the things you are doing that separates management from everyone else and try to minimize it as much as possible. There is a big gap of dissension between the “Carpet People” and having true teamwork.

You Don’t Mandate Unity – You Cultivate It

Chalk up a “6”

Andrew Carnegie hired Charles M. Schwab to run US Steel in 1921 and paid him $1 million per year. That was $3,000 per day, when people who made $50 per week, were considered well off and there was no income tax. He was not hired because he knew more about steel than anyone else. Carnegie hired him because he was a genius at dealing with people.

There was a book written about Mr. Schwab back in 1912 entitled Succeeding with What You Have. (Century Publishing Company of New York) I would like to pull a short excerpt from the book that gives a great example of how Mr. Schwab was able to motivate his people to accomplish more without threats, condemnation, fear, criticism, intimidation, or pressure. I’ll be paraphrasing what was written.

When asked for the secret of his success in the steel industry, Charles M. Schwab always talked about making the most with what you have, using praise, not criticism, giving liberal bonuses for work well done, and as he stated; “Appealing to the American spirit of conquest in my men, the spirit of doing things better than anyone has ever done them before.” He liked to tell this story about how he handled an unproductive steel mill:

He said he had a mill manager who was finely educated, thoroughly capable and master of every detail of the business. But he seemed unable to inspire his men to do their best. “How is it that a man as able as you,” Mr. Schwab asked him one day, “cannot make this mill turn out what it should?” “I don’t know,” the manager replied. “I have coaxed the men; I have pushed them, I have sworn at them. I have done everything in my power. Yet they will not produce.”

The night production supervisor and his team could never produce as much steel as the day production team, EVER, and the day team wasn’t doing that well, either. It was a few minutes before the night production crew was to arrive, so Mr. Schwab asked the day supervisor how many batches of steel his team produced that day. The supervisor replied “6.” Mr. Schwab asked for some chalk and in the front entrance of the steel mill, where everyone had to walk past to enter the steel mill, he wrote a giant “6” and then walked away saying nothing.

When the night shift came in they all saw the giant “6” and asked about it. They were told that “The big boss was in here today and asked how many batches of steel had been produced on the day shift, and then “HE” chalked down the big “6.”

The next morning when they day shift showed up they saw that the “6 had been rubbed out and a big “7” written instead. The night shift had beaten them (something they had NEVER done before) … and also had thrown down a challenge at the same time. When the day shift saw the “7” boy did things start happening. By the end of their shift the “7” was rubbed out and a “10” written in its place (something they had never done before). Thus, a fine competition was started, and it went on until this mill, formerly the poorest producer, was turning out more than any other mill in the plant.

No one was coaxed, pushed, cursed, intimidated, yelled at, threatened, nor was fear used to get them to produce more. No threatening memos were issued or jobs on-the-line to get production up. A simple “6” was written where all could see … and things like competition, resourcefulness, teamwork, rivalry, ingenuity, maximum effort, determination, and pride kicked in. Mr. Schwab once said … “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.” Almost 100 years later, Jim Collins, in his best-selling book Good to Great, said the most frequent words used to describe the TOP 11 corporate leaders in America (by the people who worked for them) were … Shy, Quiet, Modest, Humble, Gracious, Reserved, Understated, and Mild-mannered.  Some leaders “get it” … most don’t. One of the most important things a leader can do is “INSPIRE” the people around them to “WANT TO” do better.  

Fear is a Short Term Remedy

Inspiration is a Long Term Solution

Create The Want To not the Have To


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