Wisdom

Exactly what kinds of experiences award an individual entrance into the wisdom club? Now there’s a question that stops the creative process with the finality of the word end on the last page of a book. So, where to from here? According to Wikipedia wisdom in the Western tradition is one of the cardinal virtues. As a virtue, it is a habit or disposition to perform the right action under given circumstances. This translation I like better. Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to right actions. A decent synonym is insight. (According to this my 7-year-old grandson has wisdom. He looked at me the other day and said, “Grandpa you have big ears”! Thanks kid. Always good to have the ego stroked. 😉

Usually, parents have wisdom. My father did not necessarily prove that out. In all the years I knew him he gave me one bit of sage advice, which was ‘go into sales’. As it turned out that was a brilliant bit of truth that came at the right time. But that was it. Apparently, Harry decided that he wasn’t going to offer any other truths; he wanted to offer one humdinger of a truth and then rest on his laurels. Harry was also a shy individual who did not want to impose his will on anyone. My mother would disagree but that’s for another day and venue.

Whatever shortage of wisdom my father offered I made up for in spades by offering more than people needed. That’s where ego and wisdom intersect. If people think they are wise and they have a larger than required ego they believe that they need to dispense their wisdom freely to everyone. Really a bad idea! I don’t think that I fell into that category although my kids and wife may disagree. How you deliver wisdom, when you do it and to whom are the real keys to this virtue.

I freely dispensed (some might say dictated) suggestions under the guise of wisdom. There was a better way to do it. Making a query as in “Mind if I share an opinion on….” is better. My intentions were good but the delivery sucked. When you offer wisdom (if it really is that) non-stop people get really annoyed and before you know it they tune you out. Kids tend to model their parents anyway so if the modeling is good then how much ‘wisdom’ needs to be dispensed? Probably not as much as most parents think.

One of my bosses offered this pearl to me when I became a first time manager. “If you need help or have questions give me a call”. Okay. The sign on his desk could have read Wisdom will be dispensed upon request. His theory was that if I had a problem or question I was smart enough to know that I needed help and that he was a phone call away. Either that or he didn’t know what to tell me because no one had ever taught him how to manage. He basically winged life anyway and I suspect that’s how he handled sales management.

Past the age of 16 (my own very arbitrary number) wisdom should be delivered with some finesse as in a tactful, diplomatic maneuver. Why the touchy feely approach? Maybe the person already knows the best way to approach a problem. Maybe they have already proven they can handle tough situations. Maybe they enjoy the process of learning from their own mistakes. Maybe they’re stubborn SOB’s. Maybe they’re tired of listening to you. Regardless, not everyone is anxiously awaiting the next pearl to escape your frontal lobe. Offering wisdom that might actually have a lasting impact on a person or situation should be offered upon request, humorously, in a metaphor mixed with humor, with permission or to sell a book. 😉 And isn’t wisdom akin to advice?

George Carlin was one of the funniest humans on the planet. He had a classic one liner jam-packed with wisdom. Don’t let your ego write a check your body can’t cash! Or something like that. Not a bad bit of wisdom.

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Change Is Hell!

I’m a fan of Jim Rohn’s. Here are a couple of his quotes relative to change. “Disgust and resolve are two of the great emotions that lead to change” And. “It is our philosophical set of the sail that determines the course of our lives. To change our current direction, we have to change our philosophy not our circumstances.”

In a general way I have embraced change throughout my life but unfortunately some of those changes led to dire consequences. Dire hardly even covers it! More than a few of my worse changes came because of the influence of liquor. I can’t say that liquor was the exact cause but liquor has a way of altering how we think about our actions. Can you visualize ‘downward spiral’? So disgust is a pretty strong motivation for change but the disgust has to be harsh and deeply felt, coinciding with potentially disastrous end results.

The flip side of disgust is resolve. It’s the more positive spin to change but that’s as far as the positivity goes. Resolve can be a serious motivator when the failure to change leads to dire consequences down the road. This is why I think Change is Hell. When I was given the opportunity while in the Army to jump out of airplanes or do KP for three weeks I chose Airborne after initially choosing kitchen patrol. However, this logic left a jet contrail in my brain. Airborne has to be reasonably safe or no one would volunteer for it. I haven’t read anything discouraging people from going Airborne due to poor training, faulty chutes, or bad planes. Peeling potatoes sucks! I get paid more if I’m a jumper. Besides, I’m a tough guy, I can handle it. The decision to change in this situation was easy because the consequences were kind of shrouded in mystery. And let’s face it I just could not imagine dying at 23.

Quitting smoking (my wife and I completed 6 months today) was not that different; I could visualize the dire consequences of lung disease and I was beginning to feel the effects of cigarettes even though I was down to 2 a day. My wife’s stroke was the cold-water-in-the-face dose of reality that was the final nail in the coffin (so to speak) indicating that we had no choice in the matter.

Resolve is defined as ‘to come to a definite or earnest decision about’. Definite and earnest are two hard-core words that do not invite equivocation. Resolving to change is not easy unless you can visualize the epic downside if you keep doing the same behaviors. For me personally this is how I change. I won’t claim it’s the best way. Ideally it is better to see an outcome that you want to achieve and then take the steps necessary to change. I guess either way yields the same result. One involves a smack up side the head, the other involves an idyllic approach.

Facts Tell, Stories Sell

I remember my first selling position at a pharmaceutical company in 1973. They were data crazy! We spent two weeks at their corporate offices learning every detail of the products. By the end of the two weeks I was having nightmares about ways to treat vaginal infections and obesity. So, what do you think they wanted us to do when we got in front of a doctor? Yep, give data and more data and more data. Pile it on baby! Facts about the product were what they wanted the physicians to believe so they would write prescriptions for their products. On the surface of it I guess it made sense. If someone heard the word Vanobid enough times they would think of it when prescribing. No wonder I got fired after 18 months!

No one ever taught me that stories “sell” until I got into a higher stakes sales position and later a sales management position. A person (prospect) making a seven-figure income does not want to listen to a yokel talk about the dimensions of a product or how it’s made. Okay, sure they want to know that stuff but they want that information romanced. Like this maybe. Years ago I was talking with a surgeon and he said, “I gotta tell ya, your product is no different from the other guy’s product.” (Wrong scalpel breath!) I responded with, “If I had a buck for every time I heard that I’d be driving your car. I know why you said that. It looks the same, feels the same, and probably smells the same. We found out something really interesting though when a couple of our engineer nerds starting testing the material for strength. Imagine two guys sitting at the bench munching on some awful looking health food trying to pull the material apart using every tool available. Can you picture that? Well, the material resisted every attempt to rip it apart. That started the marketing nerds thinking about how that characteristic could help you during surgery…..”

That sale closed! The surgeon was intrigued by the story. He also loved the reference to “nerds” because he was one going through med school, a fact that he had previously mentioned to me. What if I had responded with, “well doctor, our product really is different and here’s why….” Guess what? Every other nimrod trying to sell similar products is saying the same thing! That approach does not get the job done-consistently. The facts approach does not create spark. It leaves people yawning and looking at their watch, wondering when the march of factoids will be over.

I gave a talk not long ago to a group of people struggling with alcoholism, a disease I am very familiar with. I did not go down the factoid highway although Lord knows there are enough of those to wile away the hours. I told several stories of other ex-sots including my own, a tale which is particularly unhinged. Am I the second coming of Dr. Bob? Not remotely close. But the people in the room were nodding because the stories were similar to theirs plus they could identify with them. They were not alone. If some other guy could beat alcohol they could too.

Become story tellers! Communication is more interesting and people remember stories.

Memorial Day

Memories of horrendous events rarely fade. Example. The day that I stopped participating in the Vietnam war was the day I saw a Vietnamese Captain walk up to his counterpart in the North Vietnamese regular army and hand that person $5,000 in U.S. currency. I happen to be present (100 yards to the rear) for that exchange. I asked the Captain what just went down. He said, “me want to protect people from war.” Translated this meant that he paid off the NV person  to not carry the war forward into his district.

Things changed for me that day. I was planning to make a career of the Army. I liked the discipline, the camaraderie, the tactics, the technology, even the danger of the military. Talk about viewing life through rose-colored glasses! Of course in those days I also saw a reason for the U.S. to be in Vietnam and I thought we were ultimately helping to keep a “people” free. Very noble of me don’t you think? What happened that day was one of those life-lessons you get free of charge. The money exchange was how the war operated, at least in the town of BoDuc on the Cambodian border.  

The memory came back to me when I read several emails from men I trained with in 1969. We graduated from OCS as second lieutenants; we were naive and thought none of us would ever die or be wounded. Then I read the names of those who did die during combat, one of whom my wife and I introduced to her best friend in late 1969. They fell in love. One wonders how that might have worked out.

I was proud to serve in the Army from 1968 to 1971 in spite of the fact that I was sent there by politicians who were FUBARed. Brother were they ever! I came home physically unscathed and mentally about 80% OK. The bad dreams lasted a while but thanks to the nearness of my wife they went away. To all the men who served in that god forsaken hell hole of a country-thanks for your commitment. To the families of all those who died the memory of your fathers, sons, and spouses lives on with all of us. They won’t be forgotten.

To all soldiers in all the wars who have served and returned and to those who never returned-thank you for your service. Your commitment has kept the United States strong.

Think About Your Bad Habits-Now!

On February 13, 2013 my wife and I were given the scare of our lives. We were sitting across from each other at our kitchen table. My spouse was addressing Valentine Day cards to our grandchildren. Cath seemed confused. She kept saying that she only had three envelopes and needed four. She finally got that sorted out (she always had four) when she asked me how to spell one of our grandkids’ names. My antennae went up. I told her and then watched as she tried to write the name. It was a mess!

She put down her pen, looked at me and slurred, “I can’t do this”. Eight minutes passed from the time she was shuffling envelopes. I got up and said we’re going to the hospital to which my wife said, “I need my socks”. (Only a woman would say that!) I thought about it and said, “no, I’m going to call 911. Sit down and do not move.” The ambulance arrived seven minutes later. I knew what the problem was but the EMT confirmed it-my wife was having a stroke. She is 67 years old.

The first thing I thought of was that 67-year-old people do not have strokes. If my wife was thinking clearly I’m pretty sure she would have thought the same thing. The ambulance arrived at the ER within 30 minutes of when the first symptoms appeared. At 50 minutes the neuro physician asked my wife and I if we were familiar with tPA-Tissue Plasminogen Activator. I was because of my years in the medical sales world. Bottom line is that the drug (tPA) was in my wife’s blood stream within 60 minutes of her first symptoms. In order for the drug to work effectively it has to be in the stoke victim’s bloodstream with three plus hours. Basically the sooner the better.

I won’t bore you with the details of the next 4 days. The good news was that my wife walked out of the hospital on February 17th, 2013 with hardly any sign that she had a stroke. No slurred speech, droopy mouth, limp, weakness. Other than large amounts of fatigue and a slower pace to her activity Cath resumed life. The best quote of the week came from her neuro doc who said, “You are a poster child for tPA”. He also said in a less friendly manner, “you’ll be signing your death certificate if you ever look at another cigarette”!

My wife and I figure that God gave her a death-defying wake up call. He gave her a second chance to spend more time with her family and friends, among several thousand other life events. The message, for sure, was clear-lose the habits that brought you to the brink of the RIP sign. Stop smoking and exercise. Thanks Big Guy, I owe You one.

An Update On My Two Pound Friend

Several weeks ago I wrote about an event that has had a rather dramatic effect on my family. The event was the birth of our grandson Jackson Edward Fitterer. Jackson was two pounds and was born in the 25th week of our daughter’s pregnancy.

As of today young Jackson is doing OK. He is not, by a long shot, out of the woods but he continues to make progress and the nurses in the NICU tell us that he is taking on a personality. There word for it is stubborn! That would fit the DNA pool for the rest of the family so I think that’s a really good sign!

For the next several weeks I’m going to let the blog go dormant but I will be back. Added to the Jackson saga is the increased business in my consulting world.

Stay well and if you were part of the crew that stopped their lives for a few minutes to intercede on Jackson’s part with the Big Guy you have our thanks. Don’t stop now-he has a long way to go. Thanks.

A Thought: Don’t stubborn, strong-willed people make pretty good salespeople?

“We Interrupt This Recession To Bring You News Of a Bowl Of Cherries.”

I’VE HAD IT! My wife wonders why I always read the sports page first in the morning and why I leave the room to catch up on blogs when the news comes on. Bad news sells more advertising than good news! A wise man once wondered why people watch soap operas. The answer is simple-they want to know that someone else is worse off than they are! And there you have it.

For one very good reason I refuse to get caught up in the ugly news that permeates the airwaves-I am an optimist. I think I learned this from my father who, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, saw a commie behind every bush. I kept looking but I never found Kruschev or any other comrades. I loved my father but I thought he was nuts. He wasted enormous amounts of time worrying about the start of WW III.

In my63 years there have been wars, the proliferation of drugs, racism, inflation and its brother stagflation, recessions, enormously dumb politicians, scandals, tragedies and a host of other really bad things. Interspersed among these have been some very good things-bull markets, a few rational politicians (think Reagan), Mother Theresa, our kids finding great spouses, grandchildren, a rational pope (John) and a host of other really good things.

And why am I an optimist? Because I can see things happening that most people can’t or won’t see. And no, I don’t have a coven of witches stashed away in the closet! There are no Taro cards, Ouiji boards, crystal balls, or pacts with Beelzebub! I’ve just got a really good imagination, an imagination that will create opportunities because I picture them happening. (If you have ever read “The Secret” you know what I’m talking about.) Visualizing events that can and will happen is not mumbo-jumbo.

Of course there is a catch. Good things happen to people who expect them if they put actions in place that will make “something” happen. And no I don’t wear rose-colored glasses, I am not pie-eyed, nor do I wish on a star. I will sit in one spot for 30 minutes (tough to do for an ADD adict) and visualize what I need and what I have to do to address that “need”. I don’t consciously think about the need being addressed by tomorrow, the day after or a year from now. However, I do know that it will happen.

As the old cereal ad said, “try it you’ll like it”.

The Final Thought:     I Like this quote I dislike this quoteVisualization is daydreaming with a purpose.” Bo Bennett