Growing Up: Wisdom or Patience

29 05 2018

Dr. Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, identified “The Twelve Stages of the Human Life Cycle” in his book, The Human Odyssey:  Navigating the Twelve Stages of Life:

Prebirth, Birth, Infancy, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, Late Childhood, Adolescence, Early Adulthood, Midlife, Mature Adulthood, Late Adulthood, Death & Dying

Throughout these stages, values-priorities-goals are discovered, formulated, and change.  A “great” dish of ice cream is replaced by a “thought-provoking” conversation as the bright spot in the activities of a day.  The person we admired for extraordinary physical features, muscle strength, or agility becomes less significant with each passing stage.  Those who have successfully traversed the first seven stages seek different characteristics in those we choose to work with, rely upon, trust and befriend.

Be straightforward – Be decisive – Be knowledgeable – Be experienced – Be honest – Be respectful – Be sincere – Be loyal

As that twelfth stage approaches inexorably, our willingness to suffer fools gladly fades more and more rapidly.  The process provides a clarity of thought, word, and deed.  The wisdom attributed to those in stages ten and eleven may be nothing more.


Don’t “quit!” Find a new boss…

5 06 2015

They go by a variety of titles:  foreman, chief, supervisor, manager, director, chief operating officer, chief executive officer, president, chairman, founder, employer…  The title most often missing is “leader.”  Regardless what title the person you report to may wear, beneath the surface he or she must be a leader, “the head guy or gal, the one running the show,” “a person who rules or guides or inspires others,” as defined by[1]

Look no further than the pages of Fortune Magazine[2] to find a list of the world’s greatest leaders.  They come from business (Tim Cook, CEO, Apple), finance (Mario Draghi, President, European Central Bank), government (Xi Jinping, President, People’s Republic of China), religion (Pope Francis, Pontiff, Catholic Church), show business (Taylor Swift, Pop Star, Big Machine Records), and every other imaginable source. How do these high profile over-achievers compare with Bernie Smallowitz, supervisor on the 12-8 shift at Any Ironworks in Everytown, USA?  Does Bernie lead/guide/motivate you to be the very best pipefitter on the shift, in the company, in the industry?

According to The Wall Street Journal,[3] the standard mix of bosses/employees stood at 1:10 since the 1930’s.  Most recently, that ratio has grown as high as 1:56.  So, pick a number.  For the sake of argument, a ratio of 1 boss for each 25 employees should be reasonable.  With a current labor force of 157,469,000[4], according to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6,300,000 or more of them have a job title that calls for some level of leadership.  Obviously, they cannot all function at the levels of Cook, Draghi, etc.

The questions then are:

  • How do you measure your boss’s leadership?
  • What do you do if your boss’s leadership is unsatisfactory?

Use this simple guide to measure your boss’s leadership:

Characteristic Rank (1-5)
Is your boss honest with you/others?
Is your boss intelligent/knowledgeable?
Is your boss organized (Planning/follow-up)?
Does your boss offer recognition?
Is your boss dedicated to the company?
Does your boss communicate well?
Is your boss reasonable?
Does your boss trust/believe in you?

With 5 being excellent and 1 being unacceptable, rank the people to whom you report.  If the final score is 36-40, you are a lucky person; 30-35, better than most; 20-30, not good but fixable; 0-20, find another job.  If your response to the first question is less than 5, you may choose to go no further.

As you ponder this dilemma, some thoughts to consider:  Does upper management support your boss?  After all, they chose him/her for that position.  They may be unhappy with his/her performance.  Are you alone in your feelings?  Always look within first.  Perhaps you can change the situation by offering support and constructive criticism.  If you sense your boss’s dissatisfaction with you, then carefully weigh your effort, and attitude.  Do you like your job, your employer, your work environment, fellow employees?  Answers to those questions will help you decide whether to:

  • Sit down with your boss and iron out your differences.
  • Seek a position in a different department within the same company.
  • Find employment elsewhere.

The process of carefully evaluating your employment by establishing specific parameters for your situation and then fixing values for each one should begin on your first day of employment and continue on a quarterly/semi-annual/annual basis throughout your career.  The process will help you establish a baseline and measure changes. Career decisions will then be determined logically, not emotionally.

Fifty years in the labor market is a long-long time.  Advancement will keep you fresh and motivated. Stagnation and boredom will drain your energy and steal your health.  Rarely do companies give out gold watches for thirty or more years of loyal support. No one cares about your future more than you.  Two thoughts that come all too frequently as retirement age approaches:

  • “If only I had found a way to fix my issues and stayed with that company…”
  • “I never really liked my job…”

You were selected for employment because of your intelligence, your knowledge, and your experience, not your emotions.  Apply those resources to career management, and you will enjoy a fruitful, productive, rewarding career.



9 01 2019

An editorial in the August 1977 issue of The Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners suggested that “brain failure” like heart failure or renal failure is a more appropriate, a more accurate term to describe dementia. As the patient’s brain slowly dies, physical changes occur.  The ability to speak, walk, etc. is gradually lost.  Unlike other diseases that rack the victims’ bodies with pain, sufferers of brain failure feel no physical discomfort. That pain is borne by family and caregivers who helplessly stand by as the disease gradually and inexorably steals the mind of their loved one.

While late-stage victims end up bedridden, incapable of movement, unable to eat or drink, it is the months and years beforehand that are just as painful:

  • They suddenly forget how to dress.
  • They become confused or combative as you try to fix the clothes they’ve put on backward.
  • They repeatedly ask where their life-long mate is.
  • They ask where their children are while looking straight at you.
  • When in a lucid moment they become aware of who they were yet are no longer that person, the sorrow is palpable.

Brain failure touches all of us as the population ages.  We are called upon to become caregivers for loved ones or to give support to a friend or relative who has had the burden of responsibility for a victim thrust upon them without warning.  If nothing else, we listen with trepidation as someone starts a conversation with a story about a senior’s “quirky” behavior.  Too quickly, we recognize symptoms that the storyteller is oblivious to.  We know all too well the heartbreak and sorrow that lies ahead.

Pray for an end to this insidious disease before it captures you, your wife, or a loved one whom you hold close.  It’s only a matter of time…

Product Endorsement: Ember Ceramic Mug

15 06 2018

What an absolute delight!  A coffee lover who drinks 5+ cups of coffee daily, the temperature is an extremely important part of the experience.  Everything from appearance to performance of the ember black coffee mug and the smartphone interface is ideal. The thickness and texture of the cup at the contact point with my lips are the best I have ever experienced!  The handle shape and texture provide assurance that the cup will not slip in my ham-handed grip and tilt downward spilling the contents of a full cup.

Picture for a moment a styrofoam cup filled with lukewarm coffee consumed rapidly for only one purpose:  an oral injection of caffeine

Picture a 52-cup coffeemaker sitting on a kitchen counter, kept hot for a week as two adults consume 3-6 cups per day.  When you go to pour cup #51, it’s so thick you practically need scissors to cut the coffee loose from the tap.

Picture that cup of “burnt” 7-11 coffee you forced down at 2:45am out of total desperation as you tried to stay awake on the drive from Atlanta to Birmingham.

When you crave that “perfect” cup of coffee after so many misfires, drink it out of the ember ceramic mug.  It adds that much to the experience.

This Father’s Day gift from my daughter will be cherished not only for its extremely unique sentimental value but also for its engineering sophistication and performance.

Ember: The World’s First Temperature Control Mug


24 03 2018

A recent James Andreassi article appearing in the Stuart (FL) News on March 23, 2018, incorrectly titled, “FEMA paid $5 million to raise 27 flood-prone buildings along Treasure Coast waterfronts,” describes a program that has helped 25 Treasure Coast families and 1 business recover from and avoid future flood damage.

While focusing upon a $5,000,000 expenditure over a 12-year period, it fails to take into consideration key elements.  Andreassi provided 2 examples, the Davis family that experienced flooding 5 times before subscribing to the program that pays to have homes elevated above potential flood levels, and the Chontos family that regretted program participation because of the personal inconvenience, red tape, and increased insurance premiums and property-tax bills that resulted:

  • Based upon current property values, a 30% loss on the Davis home would have resulted in a $46,230 payout from the National Flood Insurance program. Multiplied by 5 (claims), the Davis family would have received $231,000+.  If the loss was closer to 50% (not unusual), the total payout would have been $385,000+.  The average cost for elevating each of 4 homes in that area:  $160,000.
  • The average benefit received by residents in the Chontos family neighborhood was $387,500. If they sustained a 40% loss, based upon current property values the insurance reimbursement would have been $117,232. Reimbursement for a total loss would have been less than $300,000.  The financial benefit for the Chontos family ranges from $87,500 to $270,000+.

Yes, there is a “forever” participation in the National Flood Insurance Program requirement that keeps the program viable by enhancing loss ratios, but that obligation would continue if the property wasn’t elevated so it cannot be considered an additional expense.

Andreassi failed to touch on the real value, the importance of this government program.  Those who have never experienced a flood need only look at images of people leaving homes in Houston or New Orleans from 2nd story windows by boat – people sitting on roofs next to gaping holes desperately hacked out to avoid agonizing death by drowning.

Early Florida settlers owned one-story cinder block homes with terrazzo floors and aluminum/plastic furnishings.  There were no valuables housed in walnut display cases, no original art hanging on the walls.  Photo albums were stored on the top shelf in the closet.  They understood the risk and prepared as best they could for the day when the water rose.  We have evolved.

The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program is a cost-effective government attempt to help people in need at minimal taxpayer expense.  The $416,667 spent per year for the past 12 years has helped 25 families and 1 business avoid the pain, suffering, emotional trauma, and financial loss that comes with flooding.


17 03 2018

Our president is so polarizing people publicly issue profane vitriol that friends and family find disturbing, confusing – depressing.  While part of the blame can be laid at the feet of a president who uses his ability to incite anger as a bargaining chip, the proliferation of uncontrolled diatribes can be traced to the ease of access to a public platform and measurement of the response.

When my grandson could barely walk, he would crawl, climb, and teeter on the highest spot in the room.  His competitive spirit would drive him to stand on a piece of paper if it would make him (almost) taller than everyone else.  Our competitive spirit is ingrained and drives our actions from birth.

The newfound world of Social Media thrives on competition.  We measure Facebook “Likes,” LinkedIn “Connections,” etc.  We closely monitor how many “views” or “comments” our posts receive and compare our performance with various benchmarks.

The comments our parents and grandparents made to “raise Fred’s dander” while playing pinochle at the dining room table or “annoy Uncle Jim” at a family gathering never travelled further than the walls of their home.  Just the same, responses – a grin, a chuckle, a wink of the eye, or even eyes widened in indignation – were carefully measured and recorded.  Dinner conversation the following day often included, “Did you see Anne’s face when so-and-so said…”

Comments now broadcast to hundreds of friends bring joy with every like, smiley face, thumbs up (or down) reaction.  A “share” is the gold standard.  When a comment becomes a “thread” with dozens of comments and responses, hearts pound fast.

Like that proverbial tree in the woods, this personal perspective will be meaningless until someone reacts.

Key West or Bust – The Drive

28 02 2018

For those who haven’t had the experience, a trip to Key West by car can be a gruelling, mind-numbing experience.  After battling your way along 64 miles of 4-8 lane congestion through the Broward-Miami-Dade megalopolis amidst vehicles making their way at speeds ranging from 45 to 115+ mph while swapping lanes and dodging crotch rockets flying along the lane demarcations, you get the privilege of driving another 126 miles on a two-lane highway with speed limits ranging from 30 to 55 mph.  While the thought of such an experience may be innocuous to most, a chance to observe beautiful vistas of pristine water dotted with tiny islands, of delightful cottages, brightly and whimsically painted in all the colors of the rainbow, and of quaint shops and restaurants beckoning you, the reality is much harsher.

The highway is heavily travelled by tractor trailers delivering goods, dump trucks and heavy equipment, private motor coaches towing trailers, monster dualies towing goose-neck campers, and clapped-out 30-year old Toyotas with no taillights and windows opaque from 29 years of collected cigarette smoke.  Not satisfied with picking a single speed and sticking to it, the drivers tend to entertain themselves by slowing to a crawl at the top of every bridge span to admire the view, accelerating rapidly for and then stomping on the brakes for entertainment, or just generally floating along in a daze of self-centered laissez-faire that bewilders and perplexes those who are forced to follow behind until one of the all-too-brief passing lanes opens up.  Then, in a mad dash, 50+ cars accelerate to 90 mph in a race to get past the miscreant only to be caught behind another equally annoying creature.

Google Maps predicts an average speed of 44 mph for this odyssey, but that average includes the hours from midnight to 5 am when the highway is filled with drunks and n’er-do-wells who believe that breaking the sound barrier is a reasonable driving objective.  The typical person can anticipate exceeding the projected 2-hour 52-minute drive time by 60 minutes or more including at least ½ dozen near misses with vehicles suddenly pulling out in front of you or coming to a complete stop and pregnant pause before executing a tentative right-hand turn.  There are also bicyclists, pedestrians, totally lost tourists, and emergency vehicles driving at breakneck speeds to contend with as well.  Drive that road twice in 24 hours, and normally you would be a candidate for a stint in the funny farm.

Drive that same route in a late-model Subaru equipped with “Eyesight” and the lane-departure warning system, and the tedium, the frustration, the road rage becomes non-existent as the vehicle efficiently keeps you at a distance that you set and control from the vehicle in front of you under all circumstances.  Furthermore, if the vehicle starts to “wander,” a warning note and a gentle nudge of the steering wheel brings the car back to its proper place.  While remaining alert for unanticipated danger, you can avoid riding the brake or making unrelenting speed adjustments.  Absent knowledge about similar features in other vehicles, it is easy to say that the Subaru performed flawlessly over the course of a 540-mile trip that included the previously described gauntlet.  The result was a long trip that required no recovery.  Even better:  The 3.6 liter, 235-hp Outback Limited delivered 30 mpg.


21 02 2018

Reverend Graham’s passing is a stark and painful reminder of just how far we have strayed from the world of our youth.  May those memories be a lasting final gift and a beacon of hope in a troubled world from this man who placed his faith above all else.

The question that begs an answer:  Did the world change, or did we change?

After World War II, there has been a global shift toward prosperity fueled by advancements in all sectors:  Manufacturing, Technology, Medicine, Business, etc.  Some have suggested we are living in the “real” Renaissance, the previous 30 years being the “real” Dark Ages.

While many are experiencing a crescendo of achievement and unheard-of success, there are underlying factors that remain unchanged or have even gotten worse: poverty, disease, violence, etc.

The reality is that we have changed.  We were born with an innocence that our parents protected and fostered.  Having struggled through the darkness of the Depression, dishonest and immoral leaders, and war, our parents tried to protect us from the realities of a difficult life.  The most common parental expression was, “I want you to have a better life than I had.”

They wouldn’t let us wear sneakers or jeans to school.  There were kids we weren’t allowed to associate with.  Their authority was well-established through a difficult and challenging system of punishments for even minor infractions of rules carved in stone.  “Children don’t speak unless spoken to!”  “Go to your room!”  “You’re grounded!” “Bring me the paddle!”

On the positive side, there was Boy/Girl Scouts, Brownies/Cub Scouts, Sunday School, Youth Fellowship, and Dancing School.  School included Band, Choir, Student Council, etc.

Parents tried to shelter us from the vagaries of a violent and sometimes evil world.  We were devastated when tragic deaths stole classmates and friends from us.  Death was anathema to us, our only prior exposure being comedic representations in Farmer Gray and Ben and Jerry cartoons.  There was no way to equate Wiley Coyote’s murderous pastime with the reality of our lives.

There is no innocence in today’s world.  Children from the earliest imaginable age are just one click away from the most sordid, evil, violent sides of life.  Video games strive to deliver the most realistic depictions of violence and mayhem.  Information of all types is delivered unfiltered to the masses.  Who knew anything about presidential promiscuity when you were growing up?  Posted by students, live videos of the Parkland massacre spread throughout the Internet like wildfire.

There is a pervasive thought that evil only exists in the minds of naïve, backwards thinking, people who are out-of-touch with the world.  The concept of “good vs. bad” has been supplanted with “better and best.”  Win or lose, everyone gets a trophy.  Away with negativity.  Reinforce positive behavior.  Downplay all else.

The result is a world where “morality” has become an outdated cliché.  We have failed to introduce balance in the human value proposition.  Without a guide, compass, or beacon, young people do not comprehend the concept of a “path through life.”  They are scattered, distracted, and lost with thoughts and emotions that are beyond their understanding yet nurtured by unlimited resources.  In today’s world, if a person chooses to worship chocolate bunnies, there probably exists a myriad of sources supporting the importance – the value of that endeavor.

Having allowed that world to evolve, grow, and consume our youth, we as parents and grandparents have no choice but to watch the devastation and death foisted upon us by youthful miscreants devoid of values and lost in their self-centered world.

We changed the world, and now we must suffer the pain of our permissiveness.  Let us pray that someone with clarity and purpose, with the strength of conviction, will rise and speak in a voice that will carry a message of hope to the world.

It happened – once.