Things that upset a terrier may pass virtually unnoticed by a Great Dane.” – Smiley Blanton

 

The living areas in our home have wood floors and area rugs.  I didn’t pay attention when I noticed annie, our Toy Fox Terrier, avoiding the wood floors: it was cold and perhaps she was warmer standing on an area rug.  However, when instead of her usual mad dash to her dinner plate, she lingered on the family room rug—I realized it was more than a chilly floor.

Annie

Annie

Something has gotten between her ears.  For some reason—perhaps she slipped and fell—she is frightened of the wood floors.  You can see her calculating how to maneuver from one area to the next.  To get to the kitchen, she will run from the family room rug to one under a game table: only to realize she is further away.  Then she will return to the family room rug and continue her deliberations.  When tempted with food, she will bark, spin and pant as she tries to decide how to get to it without stepping on a wood floor.  Eventually, the prospect of food outweighing her fear, she will brave the wood floor and receive her reward.

Annie is baffled by the hallways.  The hall between the dining and living room is dangerous but the one from the dining room to the kitchen is not.  Coming through the front door she rushes to the dining room rug; from there through the “good” hallway, to the mat in front of the kitchen sink; then to the rug under the breakfast table; and finally, to the utility room and her dinner dish.  With a pause to build courage at each stop,  the process is hilarious to watch.

Annie is not the only one to be afflicted by thoughts she can’t get rid of.  It happened to me on the golf course.  A couple of months ago I began to slice short-iron shots.  After some thought, I realized not turning my shoulders occasioned the problem; so I became conscious of making a good shoulder turn.  Last week I met my buddies on the first tee and foregoing any warm up, proceeded to play well for the first three holes.  Then it happened.  I was hitting a sand wedge, when in the middle of my back swing, I wondered if I was turning my shoulders.  At that point I should have quit, gone to the clubhouse and ordered a beer—stick a fork in me, I was done.  Like Annie and the floors, the thought was between my ears and it wasn’t going away.

The fear of failure can deter someone from undertaking a new venture.  I have an acquaintance who hates his job.  He moans about his boss, pay, hours and lack of advancement.  He has written a plan and has funding lined for a new business.  However, he fears the possibility of failure more than he hates his job, so he continues to bemoan his circumstance.  He doesn’t recognize the misery accruing from failure couldn’t be much worse than the unhappiness he is enduring.  

The mindset that there is just one way a job can be done, discourages innovation. There was a mechanic in my sheet metal shop who always found a reason not to use a new fabricating machine.  One night, using a length of chain and a padlock, I made the old machine inoperable, forcing him to use the new device.  After a couple of days of muttering, he thanked me for making his job easier.  

Once a negative thought gets “between the ears,” it’ can be erased through action: if you believe something is dangerous, fix it; beat a problem with practice; list what you believe may be the consequences of failure; and resolve to innovate.

With time, I hope Annie will  no longer fear our wood floors.  As for my golf swing, if I get over the shoulder turn thought, it will be something else: grip, stance, alignment—always something—but that’s golf.

I was always late. My mother would ask me to do something and I would answer, “In a minute.” She would exclaim, “I’ll be on my deathbed, drawing my last breath, they’ll call and your answer will be ‘In a minute.” 

I have a friend who habitually boarded flights at the last minute. A few years ago, in response to a page he picked up a terminal phone.  When he identified himself, he was asked, “Do you own a 1998 blue Mercedes Benz?” He responded he did and the man on phone inquired, “Do you have your car keys?” After searching his pockets, my friend replied “No. why?” The man responded, “I didn’t think so, since your car is still running in front of the terminal.” Late to catch his flight, he pulled up to the terminal and left the car running. He now allows plenty of time to catch a plane.

I had a boss who held weekly staff meetings at six-thirty in the morning. I would awaken an hour before the meeting and rush to be on time—only to sit and wait for a habitually late employer.  It was obvious he did not consider our time to be of value.  Thinking about how I was treated, I realized my habitual tardiness demonstrated a disregard of others and resolved to make an effort to be on time.

We have many ways keeping time: wrist and pocket watches, alarm clocks, clocks on our computers, automated calendars and clocks on our cell phones. We measure time: the length of a ball game, the time it takes to bake a cake and how long to go from A to B. We record time: the hour and minute the plane struck the World Trade Center, the time of birth and the time of death. We talk about time: when it snowed, the year our team won the national championship and the last time we were together. Perhaps we are obsessed with time because we don’t know how much we have.

Since time is limited and more cannot be obtained, it is a person’s most valuable possession.  When shared, it is a gift to be treated with respect and received with gratitude. 

Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence — neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish — it is an imponderably valuable gift.” – Maya Angelou

When Farris Bryant became Florida’s governor, he invited me to serve as his page during the 1960 legislative session. 

The governor’s administrative secretary explained if I wanted to get paid, I had to have a Social Security number . He gave me directions to the local social security administration office and by the end of the day I was in possession of a social security number.

For over 50 years, this number has appeared on employment applications, payroll reports and income tax returns. When I tried to use the card to get into the Peppermint Lounge in New York City, the bouncer threw me out by my collar and back of my pants; the owner of the restaurant where I worked while in college had it; the Army used it as my ID number; and it appears on the records of my father’s company.

All the years of paying into the system I never thought about taking money out. It was just another tax, especially when I have been self-employed.  Now I’m one of the “codgers” scrutinizing my bank account to ensure my social security check has arrived.

We undergo changes as we enter each decade of our life: 20’s, entering the workforce; 30’s, fatherhood; 40’s, power and responsibility; 50’s, the first AARP notice and 60’s, a Social Security Administration notice about retirement.  When asked, what surprised him most about life, Billy Graham answered, “How fast it goes by.”  How right he was—yesterday, I was applying for a social security number and today, I am reaping the benefits.

Remember the ad? “Life comes at you fast.” A more accurate wording is, “Life goes past fast.” Because life goes by fast, we cannot afford to sacrifice precious time living in the past, dwelling on problems or fearing the future. After all, we can’t change yesterday, today’s problems will be history tomorrow, and tomorrow we will be in the future we looked towards today.

I’d never been more surprised: my brother Randolph had given me a gold trimmed Rolex watch for Christmas.  I knew his law practice was successful—but a Rolex. Heck, all I had gotten him was a sweater.

When I shook my wrist, I noticed an hour had passed. Puzzled, I again shook my wrist and watched the hour hand spin around the watch dial. After viewing the spinning hour hand, my brother looked puzzled, laughed and confessed: in New York, a guy approached him on the street, and whispered, “Hey bud, do you want to buy a brand-new Rolex watch?’  ‘Just take a look at them, they’re legitimate and not hot.” So my brother followed him into an alley and ended up buying my Christmas present.

Years later Randolph invited Terri and me to be his guests at a German restaurant. As she led us to our table, the hostess was excited about the evening’s entertainment—two contortionists who “put on a fabulous show.”

When introduced, two, thin as a pencil, 80 year-old crones appeared. I thought it was a joke—what could these women do that I would want to see.

They twisted themselves in impossible positions: it was scary, somewhat revolting but riveting entertainment. Afterwards, we stood and cheered.

I have learned “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  Often things are not as they appear: a Rolex that wasn’t; and emaciated, elderly women performing impossible feats of contortion.

“Judging a book by its cover,” is a mistake hiring managers make.  It is not uncommon for an interviewer to make a hiring decision within the first few minutes of an interview and once a decision is made, the mode shifts: from “inquisitive” to “let’s move on.”  

Some people make a great first impression—however, like the Rio Grande River, they may be a mile wide but only a few inches deep.  Others, make a poor first impression but possess hidden potential.  Candidates have to recognize the importance of making a good first impression and hiring managers need to realize a good first impression does not necessarily identify the best candidate.

A good hiring decision requires moving the process beyond a first impression.  Interview preparations should include:

  • Putting in place a strategic hiring plan that addresses the company’s goals.
  • Preparing a candidate profile that includes education, knowledge and experience.
  • Developing questions that explore a candidate’s ability to carryout the strategies in the strategic hiring plan.
  • Removing personal bias by putting together an interview team.  
  • Assembling the team to objectively grade and subjectively discuss the candidates.

By carrying out this process, company leaders can eliminate the blunder of “judging a book by its cover.”

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When you meet a man, you judge him by his clothes; when you leave, you judge him by his heart.” – Proverb

It is amazing how confidence improves performance. Take golf: a couple of good holes, everything begins to go right—drives are long, approach shots close the hole and putts fall. Record a triple bogey and nothing works: drives slice, approach shots go wild and you can’t sink a putt for love or money. The difference is confidence.

Confidence stems from knowing you can perform. Great golfers practice every aspect of their game and spend time conditioning their bodies to withstand the rigors of the pro tour. They have confidence because they have prepared to succeed.

In today’s world, managing a business is an incredibly complex chore. Government regulations, banking relations and dealing with insurance are just a few items on a manager’s list. To effectively operate a business a manager must have knowledge of all the preceding. Staying on top requires planning along with continuous learning—with Learning comes knowledge and with knowledge confidence—confidence that ensures good decisions and success.

Confidence is crucial to success in sales. Like a golfer preparing to compete, a salesperson must prepare to sell.  First and foremost, a salesperson must possess product knowledge—If you don’t know your products you can’t sell them.

Like a golfer exercising in a gym, salespeople prepare for success by working on their health and appearance.  Feeling good provides the mental acumen and positive energy needed to close a sale.  No matter what the product, people are hesitant to buy from someone with a sloppy appearance. Looking successful requires being neat, pressed and well groomed.

The author Leib Lazarow wrote: “Who has confidence in himself will gain the confidence of others.” Confidences comes thorough preparation, knowledge, appearance and good health.

“Man quit, hire another; mule die, buy another: zip bam, by damn, let’s go!”  That was my dad’s response whenever someone would relate a problem.  His point: “don’t be detoured by events—handle them.”

Early one morning, I received a call from a foremen telling me that he was quitting to  go to work for my roofing superintendent.  The call occasioned a double shock: the foreman quitting and learning  my superintendent was my competitor.  I prepared to take the crew leader’s place and the roofing department manager made sure the trucks were loaded and the other foremen properly instructed.

We never missed a beat: the job was completed on time and within budget.  The only casualty was a brand new watch I dropped into a bucket of hot asphalt and is still a part of the roof.  The next week, promising never to stray again, the prodigal foreman returned and I resumed my regular duties.

Years later I was responsible for a large convention and trade show .  Two weeks before the show, our meeting planner suddenly and unexplainably resigned.  Then, I thought it was because of a personal situation—now I know when someone quits before a major event, it’s an indicator of a major problem.

There were two luncheons planned during the convention: during one we had booked the musical group Up With People to appear and a fashion show was to be held at the other.  The day the musical group was scheduled, I noticed a beautiful woman carrying a garment bag; a minute later, I saw two more and then another.  A slender, gorgeous blonde caught my eye, walked over and asked the question that ruined my morning: “I need to change for the talent show; where’s the dressing room?”  Suddenly, it became apparent: the meeting planner had resigned because she booked the music group and the fashion show during the same luncheon!

Zip bam, by damn, let’s go—the models paraded while Up With People sang and the following day we held a “best idea” competition.  Both luncheons were hits: our attendees loved the “musical fashion show” and collected helpful ideas during the best idea competition.

When things go wrong, you can’t walk away, or hope someone will bail you out—you have to play the hand you are dealt.  Keeping a cool head; surveying alternatives; seeking ideas and solutions; making a decision and moving forward are the steps to handling unexpected hurdles.  Zip bam, by damn, let’s go!

Quote

The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.” -Theodore Rubin

When our closet is so full we can’t find anything to wear, we initiate a closet purge.  Then, we haul to Goodwill garbage bags full of items that haven’t been worn, shoes with holes in their soles and sweaters purchased for a younger and leaner me.

One of my construction company’s warehouses was cluttered with metal drums containing blueprints. I decided the space could be put to better use and hired a service to haul the drums to a landfill.  Arguing the old drawings were of great value, the manager of our air conditioning department halted the loading of the truck .

I challenged him to find the original plans on a job we installed 20 years before and use them to develop an estimate. It took most of a day but he located the old drawings; only to discover they were roach infested, weathered and unusable.

Clothes that will never be worn and building plans that are unusable are examples of clutter—disorder resulting in confusion and  lost time.  Getting rid of clutter reduces stress resulting from chaos and frees up space that can be used for better purposes.

It is also important to purge the litter from the closet that is your mind. Hanging there are feelings of anger and resentment. Hoarding such thoughts leads to bitterness that poisons your life.  Purging them creates space for positive ideas, dreams and aspirations.

Resentment and Grudges

Resentment or grudges do no harm to the person against whom you hold these feelings but every day and every night of your life, they are eating at you.” – Norman Vincent Peale

I am impressed by Chefs.  They undertake one task at a time—when preparing a recipe with shrimp, they will remove all the shells before de-veining; when mincing garlic, they peel all of the cloves before chopping and so on.  Chefs make sure all ingredients are on hand before beginning a dish and they clean as they go.  Because of the pressure they work under, to make a profit and turn out quality food, chefs must be organized.

While managing a construction firm, I discovered  the profit on a job was largely determined by Planning. Essential to success was the ordering of materials; the sequencing of work and the organization of the job-site.

Remodeling homes with my brother, I learned the importance of completing one task before continuing to the next.  For example, to avoid tripping over debris, completing demolition before beginning renovations.

Today, the distractions of technology make it difficult to organize and focus. People pride themselves on being able to multitask: jumping from project to project; making decisions on the fly and talking to one person on the phone while answering an email from another—perfect opportunities to create misunderstandings and harm relationships.

Planning, organization and focus are essential to making good decisions, performing quality work and maintaining relationships.

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Alexander Graham Bell

Milk_punch

Brennan’s Brandy Milk Punch

To insure we feel good for the following day’s Milk Punch Party, we avoid going out New Year’s Eve.

The party format has remained the same for more than 50 years: for good luck, Hopp’n John—black eyed peas, cooked with ham hocks and served over rice; for good health, greens—mustard, turnip and collards; to satisfy the  appetite, spareribs; and, to raise spirits, Milk Punch.

Milk punch is a New Orleans morning after tradition.  The concoction is designed to cool a parched throat with ice cream; settle a stomach with milk and clear a muddled head with brandy or bourbon.  The combined ingredients provide a sweet, easy to drink and surprisingly potent drink.

My freshman year at FSU I was invited to my first New Year’s Day party.  I arrived  with a date several hours after the party had begun. We poured a glass of Milk Punch and sat, on the floor, in front of the television to watch football.  Turning around, I realized how potent the punch was when everyone, except my date and me, was sound asleep.

My wife Terri’s first milk punch party took place a few months after she moved to Florida.  She volunteered to help prepare the punch and I assigned her to quality control—tasting each batch of punch. Terri made an unforgettable impression on her new friends when I slung her over my shoulder to carry her home.

Years later we invited our Sunday School class to join us to celebrate the new year and enlisted my brother to make the punch.  Late in the afternoon, I noticed our Sunday school teacher was slurring her words and the punch in her glass was bourbon brown.  Having run out of ice cream, my brother adjusted the recipe by doubling the bourbon and our guests were drinking almost straight shots of whiskey.  The members of the Senior Sunday School class at Winter Park Presbyterian still talk about that party.

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Anne and John Dozier

The past few years, our friends John and Anne Dozier have hosted the annual affair. They do a great job: Anne is a gracious host and her husband John is a Milk Punch party expert.  His preparations begin days before the party: spareribs are selected; just picked greens are bought; the dried black eyed peas are culled and he acquires gallons of ice cream and milk. The result is a meal that any Southerner—including imported ones—will appreciate.

New Year’s Eve is about celebrating the passing of the current year.  New Year’s Day is about greeting the new year; and, there’s no better way to do so than enjoying food, drink and laughter with friends.

John Dozier’s Milk Punch Recipe

In a blender add:

1 cup good bourbon

1 cup ice cream (ice milk may be substituted)

1 cup milk (whole or reduced fat)

1 cup crushed ice

2 oz Cream De Cacao (Kahlua or Tia Maria may be substituted)

Blend until smooth and serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

I hope you have a happy, prosperous and healthy new year!

When I was ten-years old, we invited a local icon, our widowed neighbor Miss Mary, to join us for Thanksgiving. My mother was delighted with and panicked by the accepted invitation.

The preparations began a week before the holiday with my mother, cooking side dishes and desserts, declaring the kitchen off limits. When Thanksgiving arrived, the house was in perfect condition and, dressed in our best, so were my father, brother and I. After a glass of sherry, my father was dispatched to bring the turkey to the table.  As he stepped through the swinging door that led to the kitchen he tripped and the turkey tumbled to the floor.

A major disaster. No one spoke until my mother said, “Jack, pick up the turkey; we’ll serve the other bird.” My father placed the turkey on the platter and accompanied by my mother, retreated to the kitchen. In a few minutes, they reappeared with a beautifully plated turkey. As I opened my mouth to comment on this amazing occurrence, I caught a look on my mother’s face that persuaded I had better be quiet. Later, I learned there had only been one turkey and it had been dusted off, placed on the platter and served.

My wife, Terri’s first Thanksgiving after moving to Florida was her first away from her family. Our family’s traditional menu never changed: turkey, green beans, sweet potatoes, rice, dressing and dessert.  We ignored Terri’s request for mashed potatoes until she started to cry. My brother realized how homesick she was, rushed to the store, bought a bag of potatoes and assigned Terri the task of preparing them.

After she washed, peeled and boiled the potatoes, she placed them in a bowl, added a pound of butter, a cup of milk and asked where the electric mixer was stored. I explained that Southerners liked lumpy mashed potatoes, so we used a potato mashers. She responded that it wasn’t her problem that we didn’t know how to properly mash potatoes—she needed a mixer.

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Randolph and Terri

My brother produced the electric mixer, Terri turned it to high speed and plunged the beaters into the potatoes. There was an explosion of potatoes: on the walls, floor, even the ceiling. The only sound was Terri’s sobbing. Suddenly my brother started laughing; not just laughing but rolling on the floor, uncontrollable, howling. At that moment, Terri and my brother became close friends and we had something else to be thankful about.

Thanksgiving was my brother’s favorite holiday; one he loved to share.  Before the holiday, he would canvass his friends to identify people who had no place to celebrate the big day. I can remember years when there were  40 or 50 people—a few of whom we never identified.

On Thanksgiving eve he would begin his preparations. He provided the turkey and two kinds of stuffing: cornbread, made from a store mix and an oyster dressing that caused more than one family dispute. His main contribution was the Thanksgiving punch.

After preparing his dressings and seasoning the turkey, joined by friends and family he would begin mixing the punch. The punch was cross between southern sweet tea and kickapoo joy juice.  To insure perfection, it would be tasted, and tasted again. After midnight, those still standing, would declare the punch ready.

Thanksgiving morning the punch would be poured into a ceramic crock, the turkey placed in the oven and the guests would arrive hours before lunch.  My brother loved singing. Before dinner was served, everyone held hands and with Kate Smith’s version blasting from the stereo, join in singing God Bless America followed by an a cappella Thank You For The World So Sweet, a prayer in a song.

In the mid-1980’s, Terri and I invited her sister, brother-in-law and their two children to join us for Thanksgiving. I told them that the temperature would be in the mid 70’s and be sure to bring shorts.

Thanksgiving morning the temperature was in the upper 30’s, with rain and a howling wind.  Forty people had accepted the invitation for lunch; including Terri’s freezing family, who hadn’t packed so much as a sweater. We planned to serve lunch on the front porch and lawn. However, with the wind and rain that was out of the question, so we decided to move to the garage.

My brother, into the Thanksgiving punch, was no help, so it was up to me to find chairs.  With the rental stores closed, I turned to our undertaker friend “Digger” Hiers.  He had plenty of folding chairs and was glad to loan them to us but we had to pick them up. Until you have done it,  you don’t know how many trips it takes in a four-door car to retrieve forty folding chairs.  We celebrated that memorable Thanksgiving sitting on chairs marked “Hiers Funeral Home,” in a garage, with a storm howling outside.

Thanksgiving is set aside for us to reflect upon and give thanks for the blessings we have been freely given. My wish for all: a bountiful feast, a wonderful time with family and friends and time to consider how blessed we are. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank You For The World So Sweet

Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the bird’s that sing
Thank you Lord for everything

Thanksgiving Punch

This is my brother’s recipe; so, the amounts need to be tested.  “1” indicates equal amounts—probably, 2 pints each.  Depending upon how many samples were tasted, some Thanksgivings there would be more rum and others an ingredient would be left out.

1 – Cranberry Juice Cocktail
1 – Orange Juice
1 – Apple Juice
1 – Tea
1 – Pineapple Juice
To taste add nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
750 ml dark rum

Mix in a punch bowl.  Before serving add a frozen cranberry juice ice ring (freeze in a bunt cake pan) and 12 oz of 7-up.