Friday, August 31, 2012


Perhaps the two greatest words of wisdom I ever heard were uttered by philosophers.

Socrates said, "Know yourself." Know who you really are. Do not allow denial and self-deception to blind you from the truth about yourself.

Michel de Montaigne took it a little further. He wrote, "Be yourself." It is amazing how many people choose to live someone else's life rather than their own.

To be yourself, and nobody but yourself, in a world that is doing its best, day and night, to conform you to anything and everything but yourself, means to fight a hard battle - and to never stop fighting.

If you cannot be loyal to yourself, what can you be loyal to?

As Shakespeare put it, "This above all: to thine own self be true."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Favorite Quotes

Here are more of my favorite quotes:

One of Ben Franklin's maxims was, "Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship."

Psychiatrist William James wrote, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings may alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."

Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind."

George Will, a political pundit and sports enthusiast, wrote, "Football is a mistake. It combines two of the worst elements of American life: violence and committee meetings."

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "He has not learned the lesson of life who does not every day surmount a fear."

And here is a Native American proverb: "It is easier to be brave at a distance."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


In 1923, a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Hotel in Chicago. The world's most successful financiers attended the meeting: Charles Schwab, president of a large steel company; Samuel Insull, president of a large utility company; Howard Hopson, president of a large gas company; Arthur Cutten, the world's greatest wheat speculator; Richard Whitney, president of the New York Stock Exchange; Jesse Livermore, a great Wall Street trader; Leon Fraser, president of an international bank; and Albert Fall, a member of the President's cabinet. It was a powerful group of people.

By 1948, twenty-five years later, each of these men was bankrupt - insolvent, penniless. Two of them went to prison; two committed suicide; one became insane.

Don't be overly impressed by wealthy people. Everything in life is temporary.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Writing on the Wall

Here are some words I have read on the walls of public bathrooms through the years.

"Don't throw cigarette butts in our urinal. We don't use your ashtrays as toilets."

"If pro is the opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress? It is Congress."

Below a sign which read Employees Must Wash Hands were the words, "I waited and waited. No one came, so I washed them myself."

How about this one: "To hell with Coca-Cola. This is the pause that refreshes."

Or this one: "Beer - helping ugly people find partners since 3472 B.C."

Another one read, "Patrons are requested to remain seated throughout the entire performance."

And a sign over the hand blow-dryer: "Push for a word from Congress."

Monday, August 27, 2012


Have you heard about the two friends who took a test one day? After the test was graded, the teacher called the two of them into her office to discuss their grades.

To one of the boys she said, "You missed only one question on the quiz. Congratulations, you made an A-minus."

To the other boy she said, "You missed only one question on the test, and you made an F."

Incensed, the second student exclaimed, "It's not fair. It's unjust. It's criminal. You can't give me an F. Like me, my friend missed one question, and you gave him an A-minus. You have to give me an A-minus."

The teacher explained, "Well, the difference is in the answer you gave to the question you both missed. Your friend answered, 'I don’t know.' You answered, 'I don't know either.'"

Intellectual theft is wrong, whether it is copying homework or cheating on a test.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Favorite Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes.

Eric Hopper, the longshoreman philosopher, observed, "The passion to get ahead is born of the fear of being left behind."

Philo of Alexandria wrote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet has a big problem."

The psychiatrist, Alfred Adler, said, "It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them."

Samuel Johnson, author of the first dictionary, said, "One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes people mistake words and thoughts."

And John Wayne is responsible for this one: "Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

I love Charles Dickens' immortal novel, A Tale of Two Cities. I especially like the closing scene.

The setting is Paris during the French Revolution - an era of confusion and chaos. All the friends of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were rounded up and executed by means of the guillotine.

Sydney Carton was a lawyer who had wasted his life. His client, Charles Darnay, was innocent, but since Carton failed to successfully defend him, Darnay was facing decapitation.

Sydney Carton went to the prison and exchanged clothes with Charles Darnay, thus setting him free.

The One I follow said, "Greater love has no one than this: that a person would lay down his life for a friend."

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Secret

Have you read Rhonda Byrne's best seller, The Secret? The thesis of the book is that our thoughts are magnetic. They send out a frequency into the unknown that attracts like things. If you think about wealth, you get wealth. If you think about sickness, you get sickness.

There is probably much truth in what Ms. Byrne is saying, but truth taken too far is error.

What about all the people who have bad things happen to them? The ones who are shot in war, are maimed in automobile accidents, are born with disabilities? Are they somehow responsible for these problems because of their negative thoughts? I don't think so.

When you read books and hear people talk, listen critically. Not everything people write and say that sounds right can stand the test of logic.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Random Thoughts

Here are a few more of my recent random thoughts:
We become most angry with our children when they are most like us.
Everyone needs to be a skeptic, especially of our skepticism.
Few people have the wisdom to prefer the criticism that would do them good to the praise that would deceive them.
When we enable someone, we do them no favors. Enabling is disabling.
In the winter of our discontent, we often forget about the seeds of progress that lie dormant on the cold, hard ground ready for spring.
People seldom do evil so enthusiastically and completely as when they do it for religious causes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


When our sons were young, we took them to a petting zoo. While Jimmy and Jared were playing with the animals, I put a coin in one of the vending machines containing animal food.
No sooner had the grain started falling into my hand than I felt myself being jarred by one of the rams. I tried pushing him away. I tried moving away from him. Still, he stalked me. He wanted the food.
I suggested to one of the handlers that perhaps they were underfeeding the animals.
His response was classic. "Look at them," he said. "Do they look undernourished? They are fat! They are not hungry. They are greedy."
Reminds me of a lot of people I know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Timing is everything.
One day in February when I was a boy, I decided to trim the shrubbery. I labored hard an entire afternoon. When my mother came home from work, I proudly showed her the result of my hard work.
"Look what I did this afternoon, Mother," I said, pointing to the nearly bald shrubbery.
My mother started to cry. "Son," she said, "you pruned the azaleas just before they were about to bloom."
Life is not just about doing the right thing. It is about doing the right thing at the right time. If you do the right thing at the wrong time you create a mess.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Expediency is living as though the ends always justify the means. It is going along to get along.
A Jewish boy named Karl grew up in Germany in the early part of the twentieth century. His family was very religious. They attended synagogue services regularly.
Suddenly the family moved to another German city where there were fewer Jews, and a majority of the affluent, influential town leaders were Lutheran. Suddenly the family started attending the Lutheran Church.
Karl said to his father, "I thought we were Jewish."
"We are," replied his father, "but don't tell anyone. I want people to accept us."
The boy learned from his dad that religion is a matter of expediency.
The boy's full name was Karl Marx, the father of the Communist movement.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Here are some of my recent random thoughts:
If you really want to do something, you'll find a way; if you don't, you'll find an excuse.
If you make a big change on the inside, you will change on the outside; the opposite is not necessarily true.
Be gentle with the young and compassionate with the old; be sympathetic with the weak and tolerant with the strong. Why? Because at some time in your life, you will be each of these.
Experience is what you come to just after you need it.
The price of shallow sex is the loss of capacity for deep love.
We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. Who we are determines how we see others and the world.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Scrape the Toast

One day, an aunt of mine who was a school teacher was teaching her students about the importance of helping their parents with household chores. Each student was asked to share what they did to help their parents. One student volunteered, "I scrape the toast."
I like that. Someone in his family evidently was in the habit of overcooking the toast, and this child assumed the responsibility for scraping off the burned places.
I hope you have someone in your family or some close friend who covers your errors when you mess up. The Good Book says, Love covers a multitude of mistakes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fine Print

Don't you just hate how advertising is written in a way so as to fool you? If you don't read the fine print carefully, you are led to a false impression, and it takes a magnifying glass to read the advertiser's small print.
  • You know the deal-altering, small-print words I'm talking about:
  • Price subject to change
  • Quantities limited
  • Plus shipping and handling
  • Not all models available
  • Offer invalid after
  • Offer not good in Texas

It's exasperating. Don't be like those advertisers in your dealings with people. Say what you mean and mean what you say. People should never have to guess at what you really mean.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


The purpose of tools is to assist the ones who operate them, not to control the operator. Unfortunately, some of us have forgotten that.
For example, do you feel compelled to answer your cell phone every time it rings? Don't you get tired of seeing people answer their phone when you are trying to talk to them? It says to us that anyone who happens to call is more important than we are.
What about e-mail and text messages? Do you feel duty-bound to respond immediately?
Tools are a good thing, but we should use them rather than be used by them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


We live in an era which is stark-raving mad about celebrities. We subscribe to magazines and watch TV programs to learn about them. We overpay for tickets to huge events to be with them.
I've known a few rich and famous persons in my lifetime. Most of them have been amazingly average, gifted in some ways, below average in other ways.
Why don't we focus our interest and attention on the truly remarkable people around us, the ones who make a huge difference in our lives? I'm referring, of course, to our families.
Some of us know more about the personal lives of our favorite movie stars and recording artists than we know about our parents. Why don't you develop a questionnaire and ask your folks some hard, revealing questions? After they recover from the shock, you may learn something.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

People Lie

Have you noticed all the TV ads offering to help you get hooked up with the perfect spouse? They invite you to contact them in order to review your compatibility matches online. Here is the bait they dangle in front of you: "Aren't you curious about who you are compatible with?"
Here is the problem with those ads: People lie. They lie about their height, weight, age, and education. They lie about their temperament and character. They even lie about whether or not they are married. They call them MBA's…married, but available.
I suppose it's okay to use the matching services, but don't just trust, verify.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Have you ever tried to play baseball? It's not as easy as it looks.
First, you hold a stick. The pitcher stands on a slightly raised mound exactly 60 feet, 6 inches away from you. The pitcher hurls a ball as fast as possible and with as much spin as possible. You have less than a half second to judge the pitch. Will it pass over the plate or not?
If you are lucky enough to hit the ball, there are nine players on the field who are trying their best to put you out.
No wonder even the best hitters fail to get on base most of the time. If you can manage it one-third of the time for a few years, you'll end up in the Hall of Fame.
Like life, baseball is not about perfection. It's about doing your best and making progress.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


As a boy growing up in Cedar Bayou, Texas, we made a trip to Houston twice a year. My mother shopped at the bargain basement of a downtown department store.
The thing I looked forward to about the semi-annual sojourn was riding the escalator. It was like Disneyland for a kid from the country. The stairs moved up automatically, folded into the floor, and reappeared at the bottom. It was like magic.
I observed people carefully on that escalator. There were two kinds of riders: handrail holders and non-handrail holders, cautious people and risk takers. I admired the ones who threw caution to the wind and thoughtlessly rode while eating cookies or carrying on conversations.
I guess there have always been those two kinds of people.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Job

It was late spring of my sophomore year, and I still didn't have a summer job. Some people passed through my college town offering big wages, so I signed up.
They sent me to a sales school in Nashville, Tennessee, then on to Wilmington, North Carolina where I sold family Bibles door to door.
At the end of the summer, I had made the big payday which had been promised, but the most important things I gained were intangibles. I learned how to endure rejection and humiliation, even having dogs sent to attack me. I learned the importance of persistence, that if you focus on the things you can control and just stay at it, you are likely to be successful. Most importantly, I learned not to take it personally when people said, "No" to me.
I hope you, too, learn these lessons along the way.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I knew a woman years ago who was very dissatisfied in her marriage. She felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and taken for granted by her husband. She was a very angry woman. Frankly, I never expected the marriage to survive.
I saw her again last winter, and guess what? She's still married to the same man.
I asked her, "How's your marriage?"
"Pretty good," she answered.
I probed a little further. "Did he change?"
"Nope," she replied, "he's about the same. I changed. Now I understand him better and love him more."
She went on to explain that her change of attitude was the result of a spiritual awakening.
I've thought about that woman ever since. When her attitude and perspective changed, her relationship with her husband was altered.
Do you know the only person you can change is yourself?

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I was a freshman in college. We were on a basketball road trip. We were supposed to be locked up in the hotel room, resting for a game the next day, but at 2:00 a.m., my roommate and I were out roaming the streets.
Suddenly there were fire alarms. Firemen and fire trucks rushed to a building near our hotel. We went to check it out. We stood across the street and watched the building burn. I had never experienced anything quite like it. The heat was intense. We wanted to cross the street to get a better look at the fire, but we couldn't get any closer. The heat from the burning building drove us back. That's when I gained a respect for fire fighters. Sure they have special equipment, but one of the firemen on the scene died in the fire that night.
When there is a fire and you are trying to escape the building, have some respect for the folks who are coming in to get you and putting out the fire.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Olive Tree

Greece is the rockiest place on the face of the earth. The Greeks say that when God created the world, he had a bunch of rocks left over, so he threw them and made Greece.

The olive oil that grows in Greece is the world's finest. How is it luscious olives grow in such rocky soil? It is because olive trees do not require rich soil. Some people even say that the more distressed the soil, the better the olives.

I wish more people could take a lesson from the olive tree. Rather than complaining, whining, and griping about our circumstances, why don't we learn to flourish where we are planted? After all, isn't it true that difficulties and trials make us stronger and more fruitful?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Prejudice takes many forms. People discriminate on the basis of race, skin color, religion, ethnicity, social status, age and, yes, gender.

I grew up being angry about gender bias. It still makes my blood boil to hear fundamentalists from my religion, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and all the rest relegate women to a second-class status.

My reasons for feeling this way are very personal. I was raised by a single mother. She worked hard to make a living for her mother and three children. Can you imagine how livid I was to learn that my mother made less money than her male counterparts simply because she was female? I grew up thinking that right is right, wrong is wrong, and this was wrong!

Prejudice, regardless of what form it takes, is wrong, and we all need to become less and less tolerant of it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Trustworthy Friends

Let me tell you a secret. Many of the people in prominent roles around you are not nearly as confident as they appear to be.

What are we to do when we are nervous and afraid? Whom can we talk to about our doubts and uncertainties? We cannot talk to our competitors, they will come in for the kill. We can't talk to our customers, they will bail on us. We shouldn't tell our problems to the employees, they will lose confidence in us.

Many of the leaders you think have their act together are just faking it. They are swans. They look cool and calm on the outside, but, underneath, they are paddling furiously for survival.

Everyone needs three or four trustworthy friends with whom they can bare their souls, tell everything to. It feels scary at first, but, trust me, you cannot get along without it.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What You Think of Me

I have a friend who is fond of saying, "What you think of me is none of my business." In other words, don't try to find out what others think of you and when you do find out, don't let it define you.

That's easier said than done. Each of us has engaged in impression management, whether we admit it or not. Some of us try to appear to be better than we are. Others seek to appear worse, but we care what others think of us.

The problem with impression management is that it is a trap. We end up losing touch with our true selves and we don't even know it. We think we actually are the character we have chosen to play.

Somehow we have to find a way to get to know our true selves and learn to live as authentically as possible. Then we can say with my friend, "What you think of me is none of my business."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Jazz Music

Do you like jazz music? Some people say it was the first truly American form of music.

In order to have a jazz band, you have to have two agreements. First, there has to be an agreement about who the lead is. Second, each musician has to have the freedom to improvise.

Every jazz concert is unique, because no one is sure how the music will come out. The band members are not playing off a musical score. They are making it up as they go along, so every presentation is an event which has never happened before and will never happen again.

Jazz music can either be magical or it can be chaotic. The outcome is dependent upon the musical participants following the leader and using their freedom to support the group. So it is with life.

Friday, August 3, 2012


I like the story of the farmer whose mule accidentally fell into an empty abandoned well. The farmer felt sad. He loved the mule, but there was no hope of his being able to pull the creature to safety. He decided to bury the mule alive, filling in the well with dirt.

Well, as the farmer shoveled in the dirt, the old mule shook it off and stepped on it. He kept doing it until he eventually stepped out of the well.

Along the way, you are going to have something bad happen. You are going to feel like you have fallen into a well. There will be people who give up on you. They will throw dirt on top of you, but just shake it off and keep looking higher and moving upward.

Everyone fails or goes through hard times. It is whether or not you have a quality called resiliency that makes the difference in life, in surrender, and survival.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


There was time when I had an answer to every question about God. I felt like I had to have an answer. People expected it of me. I was their pastor. I was supposed to be a fount of wisdom, a tower of knowledge.

I spent countless hours coming up with answers to every conceivable question; including questions no one was asking. After all, they might ask. I had a lust for certainty.

One day it occurred to me that I did not believe all my answers. That's when my carefully constructed answers started falling apart.

In its place, the Almighty One gave me a profound revelation that has brought great peace to my heart: I do not have to have an answer to every question.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was an immigrant from Scotland. When he arrived in this country in 1848, he was penniless. His first job was a bobbin boy in a cotton mill making $1.20 per week. By the time he died in 1919, he was one of the wealthiest men in the world.

Someone asked him what he would do if he lost all his wealth. His reply was classic: "If you took away all my money, but left me the people with whom I worked, I could rebuild my empire very quickly."

Carnegie knew that the keys to his success were his compatriots, his partners, his co-laborers. He clearly understood they were the key factors in his success.

Don't try to go it alone. You need people around you who you know you can count on; people you believe in and people who believe in you.