For My Grandsons

Observations On People, Character, Responsibility and Success

There was a pretty young lady who went to school with my daughter. She grew up, got married, had a couple of kids, and became a drug addict. Her husband was so frustrated about it that he started hitting her and got put in prison. Her mother took custody of her children. She herself finally was also put in prison for drug use. Not a very pretty story. And yet, I think about her now and then. While she was in prison, she had the opportunty to work as a wildfire fighter. Low risk prisoners apparently have the option to do firefighting. She won awards for the work she performed fighting fires. She very well may have saved some lives. Yet, left to her own devices, most of her behavior was negative. I wish that our society could harness the powers of people like her. Armies, cults and terrorist organizations have, in many cases. Last I heard she was out of prison and back to using drugs. She could be a hero if someone else could lead her.

I have noticed that it is a lot easier for me to see what other people should be doing better than it is for me to see what I should be doing better. And it is easier even yet to know what is better than it is to do what is better. If you can manage to do what you know is better most of the time, you will do well in life.

If someone is picking on you, they are interested in you. If they are a competitor, they are probably trying to understand how much they can get away with against you. If it is a person of the opposite sex, they may be attracted to you.

American schools generally do not teach children character. I believe they should, as many parents themselves were never taught, but educators commonly feel that this is a parent's job. Bear this in mind, and do the best you can to help your children understand what is right and wrong.

It is good for others to be a little apprehensive about playing dirty tricks on you. There is an old saying: "don't get mad, get even". That means you should respond when someone does something to you that you don't like. Remember that the person who hits back is usually the one who gets caught, though. The best responses are well thought out and don't happen until later. This also clears the air. Better to get even and not to hold a long term grudge. Feuds are bad.

Vagueness and innuendo are the opposites of truth. Do not form your beliefs based on suggestions or accusations. Pay attention to what is claimed and consider whether it is reasonable and proven. Innuendo is the language of false propaganda.

It is amazing how far our actions can stray from our ideals.

In the business world, deal honestly and objectively with those who take from you, but treasure those who give to you. As a business or as a customer, you can find endless people who want you to pay them. It is the ones who pay you that put food on your table, and fund your employees paychecks.

If you have suffered a few setbacks, as most of us do in our lives, it may be helpful to work your way back up a step at a time. It is an old expression, but tried and true because of human nature. One thing that is guaranteed not to work in life is giving up. If you start believing the world is against you, you are likely to create your own failures. Take a lesser job versus no job. Respect your supervisors even though your previous position may have been higher than their current position. Be dependable. Work hard. Take good care of your customers and you will soon be working your way back up the ladder. To this end, it is very helpful to keep the world in perspective when things are going your way. Don't think of yourself as better than your subordinates when you are up. Then it will bother you less to report to them when you are down.

"I wanna die with you Wendy on the street tonight, in an everlasting kiss!" - (Bruce Springsteen) - One of my favorite songs, but, I am glad I didn't die on the street with Wendy. Drive carefully. Those hormones only last a few years and you have a lot of good things to experience besides everlasting kisses.

When, as a young man I was faced with the wide world of rent, utilities, insurance, car payments and so on, I was apprehensive. But after a few years I realized it is really pretty simple. What you need to do is get a job and make money to support yourself. When you work for someone, they will explain what they want you to do. Pay attention to what they tell you, and focus on doing what they asked. If you do, they will pay you. Get up in the morning when it is time to go to work. Understand that your employer is in business to make money, and they will not spend any of their time taking care of you. With that, you can get by. If you want more, you will have to give more of yourself. By giving more of yourself, I mean looking around for opportunities and finding ways to take advantage of those opportunities. Remember that a great many people, especially the most successful ones, play the business world a lot like athletes play the sporting world... they want to win and if you stand between them and victory, be prepared for a battle.

If you are an employee, the farther up the workplace ladder you climb, the greater the chances that your security or advancement may depend on performing distasteful, unethical or illegal actions on occasion. These are the "Gray Areas". Using sports as an example, a football cornerback might be encouraged to hold a receiver and hope to avoid detection. An extreme example would be a coach instructing a player to try to injure an opposing player. Similar "aggressive" deeds occur in business, perhaps corporate espionage or false rumors. Most people simply comply with their leader's requests. Some might refuse and risk retribution or stagnation. I think the best solution is to own the business. Being in business for yourself means you enjoy the pride of accomplishment and the fruits of success. It is risky, but rewarding. And you know who the last one standing will be. If you can appreciate Andrew Carnegie's advice and take the initiative, this is the best way to make your living. Next to self employment, skilled professions such as engineering, law or medicine are also very rewarding for the accomplishments that come with the territory, as well as the compensation.

In the United States, it is the people's job to maintain the government. It is not the government's job to maintain the people. The people do this by obeying the laws, voting, contacting their congressional representatives to express their opinions, serving in the government and paying taxes.

It is better to do things as soon as possible, rather than waiting until you are forced to. If you wait until you are forced to do something, you are more likely to lose to a competitor, be taken advantage of, rush, do it poorly, or miss out on something else because it would conflict with thing you have to do. This is called procrastination, and it it a common shortcoming among people. Avoidance and procrastination can be compared to running in a race and letting your competitors start ahead of you. Those who start immediately are most likely to win, those who procrastinate are likely to lose.

Happiness comes from achievement. Those who wait for others to take care of them are never happy. Their caretakers could always be doing a better job. Those who achieve achieve happiness. Those who depend on others grow bitter.

Think about what people say to you... just because someone does not express their thoughts in an easy to understand way, that does not mean their ideas lack merit. Sometimes when you take the time to look carefully, you may find a treasure.

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