Sunday, September 30, 2012

Workplace Advice

Here are a few more pieces of workplace advice:

  • Arrive a little early. Stay a little late.
  • Never make excuses.
  • Don't interrupt people.
  • Choose not to attend every argument to which you are invited.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Never borrow or lend money to workmates.
  • Eliminate "can't" from your vocabulary.
  • Return phone calls, texts, and e-mails within 24 hours.
  • Confirm appointments.
  • Never disclose confidences.
  • Stay out of office politics.
  • Avoid office romances.
  • Say "Please," "thank you," and "pardon me" often.
  • Use your best manners at meals.
  • Don't take things, even little things, from work. It's stealing.
  • Be especially kind to people beneath you in the company's pecking order. Notice them and speak to them.
  • Smile a lot.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

One of Those Days

Did you ever have one of "those" days? One when you "zigged" when the world around you was "zagging"? One when you looked at what was happening and said, "How could this be happening - again?" One when you felt like you were at the end of your rope, or possibly that there was no rope?

Chances are someone is listening to me right now who is feeling this kind of frustration and despair. If so, I've got good news for you.

You are a creature of great worth. Your life has real meaning. Most of the things that are frustrating and discouraging you today will not matter a year from now. Life will move on. Somehow you will survive, and the problems of today will fade into the background.

So breathe deeply. Relax. Let the tension drain out your fingers and toes. This is going to be a good day after all.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Have you ever had surgery? If so, did they put you to sleep?

Surgery is a simulation of death. We fear surgery for the same reasons we fear death. We fear losing consciousness, losing control, not waking up.

Notice the people who are on gurneys being pushed to surgery. Their heads are erect, off the pillow. No matter what they say, they are frightened. They fear that they are being pushed to their death – feet first.

Sometimes when I am with people prior to surgery, I get them to pray the old childhood prayer: "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

Somehow it helps.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keep Your Job

Here are a few pieces of wisdom that might help you keep your job:

  • Know when to e-mail and when to talk to people in person. Err on the side of personal communication.
  • Never shop, do personal correspondence, or apply for another job on the company's computer.
  • Never forward non-work-related e-mails.
  • Use gender-neutral words in all of your written communication.
  • When your boss drops by for a visit, put everything aside and be attentive.
  • Know the names and faces of your company's top executives.
  • If you don't know something, don't expose your ignorance by saying something. Stay quiet.
  • Do what you say you will do. And do it right - the first time.
  • When people praise your performance, don't minimize. Just smile and say, "Thank you."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The standard railroad track is four feet, eight-and-one-half inches wide. Where do you suppose the railroads got such a strange measurement?

The first rail lines were built by the same people who built the tramways which preceded the railroads. And the trams were built with the same tools used for wagon transportation.

And why did wagon transportation use a four foot, eight-and-one-half inch wide spacing? Because the imperial Roman army used war chariots which had wheels that same width.

And why did the Romans use this measure? Because this is the average width of the rear end of the two horses which pulled an imperial chariot.

Isn't it amazing how many of our contemporary decisions are based on old, poorly-thought-out assumptions?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Harry Houdini

Harry Houdini was a famous twentieth-century escape artist. He claimed he could quickly free himself from any confining enclosure.

A group of people offered Houdini a challenge. They locked him up in a rural jail cell and challenged him to escape.

Once in the cell, Houdini removed a strong but flexible piece of metal from under his belt. Using the piece of metal he worked hard for 90 minutes to free himself, with no positive results. Frustrated, he labored another 90 minutes, with no success. By now he was soaked in sweat. Totally exhausted, Houdini fell against the door. To his utter surprise, the door opened. It was never locked - except in his mind.

There are some barriers in life that strain and stress cannot remove. Try believing that all the doors in life you will need to open will open for you.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Here are some gems that will help you at work:

When you're asked to do something that you don't know how to do, nod confidently, leave calmly, and go immediately to someone who knows how to do it.

The three most important parts of your job description are attitude, attitude, and attitude.

New bosses mean new rules. Adjust to the new rules and play by them.

Be prepared for meetings, and show up on time.

Prioritize your work by the 80/20 rule: do the 20% that gives you 80% of the results first.

When you are sick, stay home. But, if possible, don't get sick on Mondays or Fridays. Supervisors will be suspicious.

Learn the important skill of asking the right question. If you can ask the right question, you can help your group find the right answers.

Listen to people. It's the highest form of flattery.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mentally Healthy

How mentally healthy are you?

Here are seven characteristics of mentally healthy people:

  • They have a positive view of themselves.
  • They see value in all people as human beings regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or status.
  • They enjoy helping other people.
  • They have a realistic perception of the world.
  • They have a sense of humor. They are able to deal with paradox and complexity.
  • And they have a unifying, well-thought-out philosophy of life that defines their purpose for living.

How mentally healthy are you?

Saturday, September 22, 2012


If you are out of work or are looking for another job, here are some things to consider before a job interview:

Study the company's website, and, if possible, its annual report. Familiarize yourself with the company's mission, strategies, and goals. Be able to explain persuasively why you want to work there and why you would be an asset to the company.

Treat your resume as your first job assignment. Use it to put your best foot forward.

Keep samples of your work, letters from satisfied customers, positive performance appraisals, and letters of recommendation. Submit them with your resume.

Dress carefully. Smile. Look the interviewer in the eye. Be enthusiastic, confident, and upbeat. Do not say anything negative about anyone or anything.

Finally, be prepared to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. But, be careful what you say about your weaknesses.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Do you remember the scene in the movie, "Gladiator," when Maximus, the slave-general, stood before his men and called out, "What we do today echoes in eternity"?

Does that sound a bit grandiose? Is it possible that something we do in a moment of time could have an effect on all time? If we believed that, it would make a big difference today in what we did, and how we did it, wouldn't it?

Well, believe it or not, the things we do and say can have a ripple effect on the people around us. And what we do and say can affect what they do and say. In this way, what we do today can echo in eternity.

When I was a boy, a teacher said something to me that changed what I have told people for over 50 years. What she said to me then still echoes in eternity.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I like these quotes:

"Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences." Robert Louis Stevenson

"There are two ways to look at life: as if nothing is a miracle, and as if everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

"An empty head is not empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head." Eric Hoffer

"I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Mohandas Gandhi

"There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you can enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it." Bertrand Russell

"The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil." Hannah Arendt

"Better to shun the bait than to struggle in the snare." John Dryden

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Good Neighbor

Lately I have been remembering the days in 2008 when Hurricane Ike blew through the Houston area. Most Houstonians left town, but pastors are like ship captains: we have to be the last people off the ship. If a general evacuation has not been ordered and any of our flock are still in town, we have to stay.

Those were tough days. I rediscovered that without electricity, America is like a third world country. I also relearned how many modern conveniences we take for granted: ice cubes, warm shower water, air conditioning, refrigeration, the internet.

But many good things happened as a result of Ike. I discovered neighbors I had never known. Because we had a common enemy, the storm, strangers instantly bonded and helped one another. We cooked together, shared our meager resources, and told one another secrets -- like where to find gasoline and ice.

In some ways I was disappointed when the electricity came back on. Normalcy quickly made us forget to be grateful for simple blessings and what it means to be a good neighbor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Apollo 13

In 1990, two days into the Apollo 13 voyage to the moon, a tragedy occurred. The vehicle's primary oxygen tank exploded. Suddenly, carbon monoxide was building and usable oxygen was escaping. It was a life-or-death situation.

The three-person crew moved into the lunar module, the all-terrain vehicle they planned to use during the moon landing. The only problem was that it was only built for two persons.

Quickly the engineers at NASA and the astronauts in the spacecraft began collaborating on how to fix the problem. The astronauts raided small parts from many parts of the ship, added packing material, stuck it all together with some ever-useful duct tape, and managed to rig up an air filter good enough to get them safely home.

Many of the seemingly insurmountable problems we have can be resolved with some old-fashioned teamwork. All we need is commitment, creativity, and collaboration.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Recent Ruminations

Here are a few recent ruminations:

  • Isn't it strange that we will watch people on our televisions who we would never invite into our homes
  • The only thing worse than not being married and wishing you were is being married and wishing you weren't.
  • Most politicians are buying something and selling something: they are buying votes and selling governmental services. The trick to getting elected is figuring out the right combination of interest groups with which to barter. Virtually everyone in America is part of several interest groups.
  • The best definition for "intimacy" is "into you see me."
  • There are three stages of friendship: seeing each other's virtues, seeing each other's faults, and two people seeing each other as they are and becoming friends.

Now a word from the pastor in me:

Live in such a way that when you die the preacher doesn't have to lie at your funeral.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


It is time for someone to say a good word for procrastination.

Our world is full of deadlines, late fees, demands for instant gratification. Computers trade millions of stock shares through high-speed programs every minute all over the world. Twenty-four hour news channels, blogs, and tweets constantly bombard us with information. Fifty-nine percent of Americans, including many professionals, are paid on an hourly basis, and so many feel like they can't afford to take a day off or to have a vacation. A quarter of Americans dine at fast food restaurants every day. Wasting time is considered a social sin.

But is it wise to be so obsessed with speed? Isn't there something to be said for wasting time, dithering, savoring, waiting? Don't we make better decisions when we think about it rather than making snap judgments? Isn't creativity dependent on the brain having enough slack time for bursts of insight to be generated?

What if Sam Houston had succumbed to the pressure on him to engage Santa Anna prematurely? Flavius Maximus, the Roman General, earned the nickname "the Delayer" because he chose to bide his time when Hannibal's army invaded. And he was victorious because of it.

Obviously it makes no sense to delay tackling issues that will grow worse if ignored, but most things can wait awhile.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

You Know

A retail store owner kept a parrot near the front door. A man, accompanied by his homely wife, walked into the store one day. The parrot said to them, "Hey, you!"

The man replied, "What is it?"

The parrot exclaimed, "Your wife is ugly!"

The store owner immediately took the bird to a back room, slapped him, plucked out some of his feathers, and put him in a closet. Two weeks later, the owner, thinking the bird had learned his lesson, put him back by the front door.

And would you believe it? That same day, the man and his homely wife walked in the store. Again the parrot said, "Hey, you!" Again the man responded, "What is it?"

This time, the bird looked at the woman, hesitated, and said, "You know."

I love that story.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Anger is on the increase in our society. One of the reasons is that people want what they want, when they want it. And they feel entitled to it.

So when someone slows them down, or cuts them off, or when something goes wrong, their response is rage.

Dig below these outbursts of anger and what do you have? Self-centeredness. People are thinking only of themselves, their needs, desires, and schedules.

Somehow, we have to learn that the people around us are just like us. They have feelings, needs, longings, aspirations, schedules. If we could see them as human beings, rather than interruptions, perhaps we could learn to overcome our anger. Who knows, maybe we could learn to be considerate.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Punishment Enough

There is an old A.A. saying that I like: "Being them is punishment enough."

The saying is relevant when someone does something to you, and they seem to get away with it.

You have a choice: You can harbor ill will toward them, or you can forgive.

Ill will morphs from anger, to resentment, to bitterness. Bitterness poisons one's soul. It binds us, sours us, sickens us, paralyzes us, and imprisons us.

Forgiveness is a bitter alternative. Forgiveness doesn't mean they get away with it. It just means we turn their punishment over to the one who is called "the higher power" in A.A.

One punishment they will get for sure is that they will have to be them. Being them is punishment enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life Cycle

The average age of the world's greatest civilizations since the beginning of recorded history has been about 200 years. Our republic, founded in 1776, has survived longer than most.

According to the historian, Arnold Toynbee, all the great nations of history have passed through the same eight-part life cycle:

  • from bondage to spiritual faith
  • from spiritual faith to great courage
  • from courage to liberty
  • from liberty to abundance
  • from abundance to complacency
  • from complacency to apathy
  • from apathy to dependence
  • from dependence back to bondage

If Toynbee is correct, where is America in this sequence?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Have you noticed how people today use the word perfect?

The photographer snaps a picture of you and says, "Perfect." But when you look at the picture, it's anything but perfect.

You purchase a soft drink at a service station and present the cashier with the correct change. The cashier says, "Perfect."

You try on a dress at the department store, and the sales agent says, "Perfect."

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? No matter how you look at it, the word perfect overstates the case, stretches the truth, and amounts to an exaggeration.

I love to hear people tell me that what I am saying, doing, looking like is perfect. But in my heart of hearts, I know that I miss the mark. Like everyone else, I am imperfect.

Oh, that we fought undeserved praise as much as we do unfair criticism.

Monday, September 10, 2012


As a general rule, religious stereotypes are untrue and uncharitable. Here are a few of them:

  • Jews are smart, rich, and greedy.
  • Muslims are violent Jihadists and terrorists.
  • Mormons hate gays and practice polygamy.
  • Catholics worship statues, and their priests are child molesters.
  • Evangelical Christians believe the earth is 6,000 years old.

Please try not to believe, or to use, broad, sweeping generalizations about people and religious groups of which you have little understanding. Most of these stereotypes are not true.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ads Vs. Obituaries

I read the newspaper every day. Lately, I have been noticing the difference in the content of advertisements and obituaries.

Ads are about having great hair, teeth, sex, bodies. They are about eating good food, drinking good beverages, living in good houses, driving good cars. Advertisements are shallow, tensile, and hedonistic.

Obituaries are very different. They include none of these surface items. They contain realities like birth, character, achievements, relationships, and death. Obituaries are about who a person was and why their life had meaning.

Isn't it odd that most newspapers readers pay attention to ads and bypass obituaries?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

People's Favor

One of my favorite political stories dates back to Marvin Griffin's gubernatorial campaign in Georgia about 1958. Governor Griffin's strategy was to have huge barbecues on Election Day all over the state. He figured that if people ate his barbecue, they would vote for him.

The barbecues drew huge crowds, but when the votes were counted, his opponent, Carl Sanders, won.

A reporter asked Governor Griffin what happened. His response was classic: "They ate old Marvin's barbecue, but they voted for Carl."

The lesson is: You can't buy people's favor.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Here are a few more quotable quotes:

Joseph Epstein wrote, "We do not choose our parents. We did not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how to live."

Rudolf Dreikurs observed, "A great many people fall in love with a person who offers the least possibility of a harmonious union."

John Gardner wrote, "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."

Jack Gibbs said, "Self-confidence is the result of successfully surviving risk."

Garrison Keillor said, "Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye - and deny it."

And I like this one. Sir Winston Churchill said, "I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs see us as equals."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Two Horses

I loved going to the Houston Rodeo when I was a boy.

I will never forget the fellow who came in near the end of the Grand Parade, riding around the ring with each of his feet on the back of a different white stallion. The band was playing "The Eyes of Texas;" he had a U.S. flag in one boot and a Texas flag in the other boot; and he was waving a ten-gallon hat.

I thought to myself, Wouldn't it be great to do that and to have everyone clap and shout for you?

As he rode by one section of stands, two little boys leaned over the rail: one waved a red nylon jacket, and the other stuck two fingers in his mouth and gave a shrill whistle. Instantly, both horses bucked and ran east and west. They hauled the rider off in an ambulance.

I learned a serious lesson that day: It is dangerous to ride two horses at the same time. We have to decide.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Swiss Goats

The Swiss say that in the mountains there are steep pathways where there is only room for one traveler. They say that often two goats, going in opposite directions, meet on these paths. When this happens the goats have a choice: they can butt heads, causing at least one, and perhaps both, to fall off a cliff; or one can kneel down and let the other step over.

It is sad to say but Swiss goats are smarter than people. Inevitably, one goat kneels and allows the other to pass over his body. We humans don't do that. We will lower our heads and collide with others even if it means our own destruction.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pacific Salmon

Do you know about the life cycle of the Pacific salmon? It is hatched in a little inland brook. As it grows, it begins to make its way into streams, then rivers, and finally into the Pacific Ocean. There it enjoys a wonderful life roaming the broad, powerful waves.

But for some unknown reason, one day a timer goes off in the salmon's head, and it makes its way from the ocean, to the river, to the stream, to the brook where it had been hatched. And there it dies.

They call it a homing instinct. The same instinct in the Pacific salmon exists in thousands of other creatures: pigeons, Monarch butterflies, geese, and the caribou, to mention a few.

And the same instincts are in each of us. The Good Book says it this way: "The creator has put eternity in our hearts."

Monday, September 3, 2012

Quotable Quotes

Here are more quotable quotes.

John Gardner wrote, "We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems."

Mark Twain quipped, "The only way to keep your health is to eat what you do not want, desire what you do not like, and do what you had rather not do."

There is a Chinese proverb, "The leaving of something brings the true appreciation of it."

The French scientist-priest, Teilhard de Chardin observed, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."

The writer William Somerset Maugham said, "People ask you for criticism, but they only want praise."

And Henry Kissinger was right when he said, "Ninety percent of politicians give the other ten percent a bad name."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Which Dog Will You Feed?

I love this quote from the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw.

"A Native American elder once described his own inner struggle in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most."

Mr. Shaw was right. Inside each of us there is good and evil. They compete for control of our lives, and which one wins is determined by what we choose to think about, nurture, and obey.

So which dog will you choose to feed today?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Many of us feel guilty about some of the bad decisions we have made. We did wrong, and we have suffered a banquet of consequences.

But has it ever occurred to you that if you had made other choices, they might not have worked out perfectly either?

Life is not mechanical. It is not about making all the right choices and living happily ever after.

No matter who we are, how great we are, we are going to make some bad choices. The good news is that there is a merciful supreme being who loves us and who uses even our worst mistakes for good in our lives and in the lives of others.

Besides, even when we make mistakes, life is not over. There are still choices to be made, and those choices will be woven into the fabric of our life's story.