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Monday, February 25, 2019

Stupid is as Stupid Does

My wife Rhonda (AKA Lambchops) and I have taken a liking to the television show Last Man Standing. It’s cleverly written with a lot of funny lines. Since we only started watching it this year, we’ve loaded up on the reruns from the previous years when it aired on another network.

One of our favorite characters is Kyle Anderson—boyfriend to one of the daughters in the Baxter household. Kyle is often a foil for Tim Allen’s lead character, as the young man seems so naive yet charmingly honest and with the best intentions. He can say some of the dumbest things…but often brings profound simple truth to a situation.

In some ways, Kyle reminds me of Forrest Gump. I trust you’ve seen the movie by that name. Here was a kid from Alabama who seemed out of place in our world yet also charmed us with his simple wisdom. His movie lines are often quoted. Especially this one: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

The online Urban Dictionary explains. “It means that an intelligent person who does stupid things is still stupid. You are what you do.” True.

It is with this in mind that I call to your attention a startlingly dumb move by the Boy Scouts of America. A recent headline* in the Chicago Tribune lays it out. “As of this month, girls officially can be part of Boy Scouts program and are able to work way up to Eagle designation.” (*That is the headline as written.)

Sadly, we average folk are expected to cheer such a decision. Our ability to discern with logic has fallen and it can’t seem to get up. Clear thinking has been replaced by politically correct pressure. Stupidly.

This new policy follows just a year after first to fifth grade girls were allowed to join Cub Scouts. Would we imagine a kid asking Mom or Dad, “Why do they allow boys in Boy Scouts?” Of course not. That would be, well, a stupid question. But asking mom or dad why GIRLS are allowed in Boy Scouts isn’t.

Obviously, young people just don’t arbitrarily join these programs. Parents are involved. The Tribune cites one parent who volunteers in both programs who views “the Boy Scouts as more leadership oriented and the Girl Scouts as more culturally oriented.” Her view believes girls in Boy Scouts receive that leadership perspective.

Wait. Really? What do the Girl Scouts think of that? The Girl Scout mission says, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Isn’t that leadership??

Another parent cited his thoughts that since Boy Scouts in several other countries have included girls and boys together for years, we’re missing the mark. He said, “I always scratched my head why we wouldn’t.” I’m scratching MY head as to why we should play “follow the leader” with a weak-minded international community. Even Kyle could figure this one out!

Fortunately, the Girl Scouts haven’t jumped on the stupid bandwagon. Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois spokeswoman Lynda Fillipp noted that “Girl Scouts are entirely girl-focused, and offer all sorts of high adventure and activities.” Good for them.

Forrest Gump gave us some earthly wisdom. He needed better spiritual insight. Lt. Dan famously asked, "Have you found Jesus yet, Gump?" To which Forrest replied, "I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for him, sir.”

Forrest would have seen that Jesus had close friendships with women, But his day-to-day companions were men. No one should ever quibble that women were less in the eyes of Jesus. They weren’t. Women hold high esteem in the eyes of God.

As for the Boy Scouts, their history had them focused in the right direction. But they’ve drifted. Too bad. They should have listened to Mama Gump who said, “You have to do the best with what God gave you.” The leadership of the Scouts failed on that important lesson.

Stupid is…as stupid does.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Hall of Shame

I’ve managed to visit two sports Halls of Fame in my time. In the early 70s, a friend and I found our way to Cooperstown, New York, to check out the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Loads of fun seeing images and stories of the greats—many of whom I saw while growing up in Minnesota as a boy. Including those “darn” Yankees like Mantle, Maris, Yogi Berra, and Whitey Ford.

Later, while living in Pittsburgh, I had media passes to attend three Hall of Fame NFL games in Canton, Ohio. Of course, that ticket comes with a visit to the museum. Today, they spread this event out over a few days. In one of the years I attended, my Vikings hero Bud Grant was inducted. I was moved.

Of the major sports, I’ve not been to see the tributes to basketball, hockey, or golf greats. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The World Golf Hall of Fame is in St. Augustine, Florida.

There are other Halls of Fame, of course. I’ve been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and museum in Nashville, Tennessee. The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, Ohio. Missed that one along with a plethora of others.

But now…Indiana can take pride in its own special display. It’s the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting! The Chicago Tribune describes it as “a decidedly irreverent monument to sports mascots,” adding that it has been a bright spot for the community located about 25 minutes south of downtown Chicago.

Perhaps it’s obvious that along with displaying the costumes that have graced the sidelines of sports stadiums, this is as much a tribute to the talents of those who wear those costumes. The Trib notes, “There is an exhibit that asks you to strap on 40-pound sandbags (to approximate the weight of a costume), then dance and monitor your heart rate. It’s not easy being fuchsia, or having a baseball for a head, while entertaining thousands.” I guess not. Especially in very warm and humid locations.

Whiting feels blessed to have landed the Mascot Hall of Fame. The city had hired a consultant to capitalize on their undeveloped waterfront. A couple of historical museum ideas surfaced. Then they connected with Dave Raymond who, for several years, served as the Phillie Phanatic mascot for the Philadelphia baseball team. Now a marketing executive, Dave put Whiting on the path to their mascot tribute. It is something the city believes complements their other special event—Pierogi Fest. About a quarter million people feast on that each July.

So I’ve been thinking. Maybe some community will develop the Hall of Shame! We could have busts of several presidents who couldn’t keep their pants on. Add governors of various states (including Illinois) skilled in manipulation and abuse of power. Throw in some Hollywood legends or business tycoons taken down for harassment, embezzlement, and other crimes.

In fairness, the Hall of Shame would not be complete without well known church leaders. Some have bilked mass sums of money from trusting souls. Some have used their bully pulpit to be, well, bullies—as we’ve recently read about in Chicago. A number of Catholic and Protestant church leaders are now also having their sexual sins exposed. You could fill entire halls in the museum with these folks.

It would be quite the place to visit.

The only trouble is, there might be a spot for all of us in the Hall of Shame. As the Bible clearly explains, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one;'" (Romans 3:10, NIV). Later in Romans we read, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23, NLT)

Yes, there do seem to be certain standout performers in messing with sin. Most of the rest of us fall in the hidden category. And all of us need repentance and forgiveness.

There would be no charge to visit the Hall of Shame. But most assuredly there has been a price to pay.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Don't Let the Old Man In

So... it’s rough growing into your 60s if you work in radio. Especially if you are air talent. Trust me. I know. Two times within five years, I was given my walking papers.

My departures did not come because my talent diminished. Nor did it happen because of laziness or a lack of commitment. There were no performance issues cited. Just…we need to make a change. And, goodbye.

Unlike being in your 30s, 40s, or even 50s, the opportunities for real radio work seem to be sliding away. Slip slidin’ away, as Paul Simon might say. Of course, my age is not the only factor. Radio as a medium has its own share of challenges. Especially AM radio.

I have been blessed to have other talents. Organizing and developing two leadership events—one in Pittsburgh and one in Chicago—has given me a degree of credibility with game changers. I have received recognition for my writing and creative abilities. I helped move a men’s ministry that had flatlined to a point of raving success. There are two books to my credit. And…I have had success in sales as well.

Here’s the thing. None of those talents have weakened with my age. In fact, experience has given me insight and wisdom in my fields of capability that I did not have in my younger years.

You’d think that those of us with a sustained gray matter would easily reveal that our gray matters! As aging seniors, we can still make a difference. There are contributions yet to be made. But the world does not necessarily see it that way.

Please do not take this message the wrong way. I am not sitting in my recliner each day complaining. Nor am I resting on laurels of days gone by. Nonetheless, more than one well-meaning friend has suggested I simply “retire.” And then what?

Instead, even without pay, I continue to work. I’m up early each day and do my exercise and have a time of spiritual preparation. Next, I am mapping out ways to continue to use what I’ve been given to help others at some level.

My biggest challenge is simply to determine where to focus at this point in life to help others most—and monetize that sufficiently to keep the home fires burning. There is no lack of opportunity. That's what is great about our country.

So there is no “pity party” going on in our household. There is daily gratefulness for all we have enjoyed in life and some extra time now to spend with grandkids. And there remains hope for the future—which is what the soul needs to thrive. Hope.

One of the interesting parables of Jesus is the Parable of the Talents. We find it in Matthew 25:14–30 and also in Luke 19:11–27. Simply stated, a man plans a trip away. Before he departs, he entrusts money to his workforce. One person gets five talents, another two talents. A third receives only a single talent.

In the story, two of the workers double the investment and show a profit upon their master’s return. The third chap buried his talent, taking no risk—and offering no real return when the master comes back. The master honors the first two workers, but is critical of the third’s actions. After a reprimand, this worker is cast out into the darkness.

Some theologians disagree over the meaning of this parable. 

In the Western church, interpretation of The Talents parable has typically been about properly investing. It appears Jesus was urging His followers to use their abilities and gifts to serve God without reservation, despite any risks.

I’m applying a variation on the theme. There is no plan to “bury” my talents in retirement mode. For me, it’s still game on.

Recently, my wife and I watched the latest Clint Eastwood film, The Mule. So now I know what NOT to do. I mean…who wants to drive that much? *insert snicker here* Want to hear the finishing touch of that movie that didn't leave a dry eye in the place?

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Monday, February 4, 2019

The Radical Workplace

Suppose you had three wishes for your workplace. What would they be? Most likely people would put better pay and benefits at the top of the list. Maybe they would wish away their boss or some other problem person with whom they have to deal. Sales people would wish for more customers!

Me? I’d wish for a kinder and gentler workplace. That phrase should be familiar to most of us Americans. In August of 1988, candidate George H. W. Bush received his party's nomination for president of this country. And in his acceptance speech, Mr. Bush called for a "kinder, gentler nation.”

He added in that same message, “I say it without boast or bravado, I’ve fought for my country, I’ve served, I’ve built. And I will go from the hills to the hollows, from the cities to the suburbs to the loneliest town on the quietest street to take our message of hope and growth for every American to every American.” Almost everyone who knew the former president would tell you this mindset was woven into his character.

Unfortunately, it is missing from many workplace leaders. The gravitational pull of self interest often yields unkind and harsh realities for the people who work for them. You’d think conscience would cause some to step back and reconsider the damage done. Or that ghosts of past, present, and future would add a haunting reality to their world.

I don’t know enough about the inner workings of Bain Capital to make judgment on their practices. Others have done such research and the company has been found wanting on values. Some have gone so far as to describe their activities as corporate raiding. Mitt Romney took a hit with that claim. Carl Icahn has been a long standing member of buying and selling businesses for his own wealth while leaving others in the dust of unemployment. (see links below)

The “kinder, gentler” workplace issues that concern me go beyond corporate raiding. They are at more manageable levels with companies of all sizes. It has to do with the way you perceive employees as real people. This approach understands that a culture that ignores human need and shows little compassion reveals a serious weakness in core values.

It shows up in various ways. Does management give healthy feedback for improvement? Do teams actually function as teams—not as a gathering of minds or bodies without unified purpose and clear direction? When cuts have to be made, are the consequences and processes weighed carefully from a “kinder, gentler” perspective?

A few months ago, Reva Seth submitted an article for Fast Company titled, “How to build a kinder workplace when its leaders don’t.” The subtitle accurately states, “It’s the job of leaders to build supportive, empathetic work cultures. But there’s a lot ordinary employees can do, even when their bosses shirk that duty.”

Reva offered several suggestions including:

1. Add an act of kindness to your daily to-dos. This might be as simple as checking in on fellow employees to see how they’re doing.
2. Listen more mindfully (“building a kinder workplace is all about creating an environment where people can be seen, appreciated, and valued for who they really are.”)
3. Choose the reactions you can control: your own. We can’t control weather, but we can control how we interact with one another.

Ideally, these are values that a company builds into an organization. My experience tells me most organizations fall short. Perhaps they need a little coaching. Or start hiring people who actually care.

The words of Jesus should guide us here, “Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them—this is the essence of all true religion.” (Matthew 7:12, Phillips)

Things like that made Jesus seem like a radical! Yeah. Let me be like that.

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