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.


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.


5 10 2017

The 2017-18 NBA season promises to be exciting and competitive as throughout the league many of the biggest stars have transitioned to new teams and others have begun to show their age.  Predictions about playoff bound teams are valueless as players learn new roles and build new working relationships.

Thirty years ago, the National Basketball Association granted an expansion team to Miami.  A team named the Miami Heat was formed and entered the league in 1988.  Throughout the 30-year history of the Heat, no-name players have risen to stardom while seasoned, experienced players have provided a rock-solid backbone to a team that seems to perpetually flirt with playoff and championship opportunities.

The Miami Heat team is coming off a record-breaking turnaround in the second half of last season.  Players came together in a tight-knit unity and singular focus to post the best second half comeback in the history of the NBA.  The nucleus of that team is entering the new season virtually intact.  Its scrappy, balanced defense and aggressive offense will carry over and offer fans exciting moments and impressive results.

This loyal fan will follow the Heat every step of the way this season.  The ups and downs will create breathless moments and every win will elevate spirits to new highs.

Improving on Perfection, or How a Trolling Motor Changed My Life

9 07 2014

My son, John, and I took up salt water fly fishing five years ago. We started with 6 months of casting lessons from an 80+ year old retired Command Sergeant-Major, Green Beret with the patience of Job. Sarge taught us a variety of casts for normal conditions, windy conditions, around docks, etc.

About the same time, John bought a boat. Actually, it was an old and tired 14’ Sears Gamefisher with a 25 hp Mercury tiller motor. After gutting the boat entirely, he fabricated and installed resin infused stringers and ribs, put down a solid deck, mounted a bench seat, a center console and a fishing platform in the bow. He created a jack plate out of an 8” aluminum I-beam and mounted a Honda 40 hp, 4-stroke motor with cable steering from the center console. John affectionately named her “Greeny” after her white deck over green hull custom paint job. A stern mount, tiller trolling motor with 30 lbs. of thrust helped us navigate skinny water, and a Stick-It Anchor Pin held us in place when we stopped.

For the next four years, Greeny reliably delivered us to myriad fishing spots in the Indian River Lagoon from Vero Beach, FL south to the Saint Lucie Inlet in Stuart. We fished the Loxahatchee River, the Saint Lucie River (North and South), Bessy and Taylor Creeks, and occasionally ventured out to Lake Okeechobee.

When John found an immaculate, 19’ Hewes Redfisher with a 150 hp. Johnson motor, he decided it was time to move up. After bringing her home, John’s first addition was a Minn Kota Riptide ST bow-mount trolling motor with 80 lbs. of thrust and i-Pilot® GPS Remote.

Although we have only had two chances to fish with the new gear, the differences are so stark and obvious that it’s really easy to draw a comparison. While I expected the move up to a longer, wider, faster, purpose-built platform would be the biggest difference, in reality the trolling motor is far and away the most amazing, most significant improvement.

First and foremost, I no longer have to feel the pain of John’s almost constant frustration as he tried to put me in position for the “perfect cast.” I don’t have to hear him getting up and down over and over in order to adjust the trolling motor speed or direction. All of that can be accomplished with the remote.

When the ads say that you can, “Lock onto a fishing spot – and stay there,” they don’t give full disclosure to the importance of that feature. One of our favorite spots to fish is under the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart. The spot is not 50’ from the popular, highly trafficked channel used by boaters on their way to the inlet.

The wave action caused by passing boats was rhythmic and almost hypnotic in Greeny until the anchor line was drawn taught and there was a sudden “snap” as Greeny suddenly changed direction. That direction change couldn’t be anticipated and made standing in the bow a real challenge. The i-Pilot® takes the frustration out of that challenge, as the boat is allowed to ride up and down unimpeded. Once the disturbed water has passed, i-Pilot® simply returns the boat to its former position.

Fishing with John is my favorite pastime. The Minn Kota Riptide ST 80 with i-Pilot® has completely eliminated the least enjoyable part of that experience. Just imagine how much fun we’re having now!

A Recipe For Growth and Prosperity

2 07 2014

Select a group of three or four successful business people from a specific geographic area (a county, city, town, or village). Grow the group slowly through an application/member voting process, establishing firm guidelines for membership.  Meet every Wednesday for networking, breakfast, introductions, and brief presentations by a different member each week. Continue the process for 28 years.  After nearly 1,500 meetings, the results will be astounding!

Each week, a different perspective on business values is presented.  Members are given a chance to describe their business to the assembled group and in so doing, important business characteristics are shared.  An exterminator says, “I won’t accept a job that requires opening up walls, because I’m not a contractor.”  The group is reminded of the risks of overreaching.  A sales manager says, “I insist that sales people provide a rate card only after the value proposition has been established.”  The group is reminded that a quality product/service is more important than a competitive price.  A professional marketer says, “Accomplishment is more important than experience.”  Sixty businessmen find a new way to measure candidates for employment.

There will be some business people who will subscribe to the values and make them their own.  Others will perceive them to be flawed and will reject them completely.  Those people will ultimately leave the group in search of something more closely aligned with their business philosophy.

As the group grows, its influence in the community will flourish.  Picture 60-70 businesses in any community that all display an American flag in front of their businesses on the 4th of July.  Driving through such a community would generate feelings of patriotic pride.  Imagine as many businesses sharing beliefs in character, honesty, integrity, fairness, respect…  The entire community would benefit from such an image.

Stuart, FL, has always enjoyed a reputation for uniqueness; as a desirable place to do business; as a great place to raise a family.  A group like the one described above continues to thrive and grow in Stuart.  As Martin County Business Exchange members strive to help each other succeed, the entire community derives benefit.

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store

9 04 2014

To the Woman Behind Me in Line at the Grocery Store.

As our lifestyles and events cause us to become more isolated, the individual who reaches out to others with a helping hand becomes a beacon in the night, a bright, caring light in an otherwise dismal, dark existence.  That light has reached us through this story.

Our hearts are warmed, our souls comforted by the radiance of one person’s kind act and the recognition of its recipient.  While the consideration shown to a downtrodden soul is exemplary, that effort reached only one extremely grateful individual.

The subsequent public revelation of that act of kindness will ultimately warm the hearts of an entire world filled with people who have lost or never had faith in their fellow man, people whose jaded, cynical hearts cannot find room for generosity.  Pay it forward?  Andrea, you have done that monumentally!