Make Way for Youth

The ABC’s of Professionalism

What do kids have to do with a series of essays about professionalism? Everything! Let’s start with legacy. A professional takes his legacy seriously, knowing his “self portrait” will create a ripple effect through multiple generations. Youth, especially those within his circle of influence, are influenced by what they see probably more than anyone will ever know.

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
— John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983

“Young people need models, not critics…”
— John Wooden

“What we desire our children to become, we must endeavor to be before them”
— Andrew Combe

While children are especially aware of how adults manage their lives they also learn from their own experiences. Allowing children to participate with adults in challenging, real life situations is just as important as what they learn through observation.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
— Abigail Van Buren

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
— Stacia Tauscher, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 1997, p. 57.

These are times influenced by the mindset that childhood and adolescence are periods of freedom from any real responsibility. “Let kids be kids — don’t rush them through their childhood.” reflects the predominant contemporary philosophy. As warm and fuzzy as this attitude seems, it is cheating our kids. There is a more significant role kids can and should be playing in the adult world long before they turn 21. If we don’t allow and encourage this, we are stealing their opportunities for success.

“Society doesn’t expect much of anything from young people during their teen years – except trouble. And it certainly doesn’t expect competence, maturity, or productivity.”
– Alex & Brett Harris, Do Hard Things, 2008, p.36.

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
— Robert A Heinlein (1907–1988), American novelist, science fiction writer. Time Enough for Love, 1974, p. 270.

“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s a long and challenging process, making responsible adults from helpless infants. Raising children means loving and respecting them enough to make personal, continuous, and substantial investments in their lives.

“If you haven’t time to help youngsters find the right way in life, somebody with more time will help them find the wrong way.”
— Frank A. Clark

A generous portion of this investment can be in the form of good old-fashioned fun. Children are usually better at fun than adults. Before they get hooked on video games, kids will spend hours exercising their imaginations by playing make-believe games. (Maybe they don’t know this is part of the learning process.)

“Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.”
— Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), Italian poet, essayist, philosopher, philologist.

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”
— Walt Streightiff

“I always won in my imagination. I always hit the game-winning shot, or I hit the free throw. Or if I missed, there was a lane violation, and I was given another one.”
— Mike Krzyzewski

In the area of creativity, adults can learn from kids. In their spare time, adults could be engaging their minds with mental exercises instead of “vegging-out” in front of a television.

“That’s another thing, we made up games. We didn’t have equipment. When it snowed, we would play slow motion tackle football. We would play hockey, but we wouldn’t skate. We just made things up. I loved doing that.
— Mike Krzyzewski

At the risk of sounding like an advocate for child labor camps and sweat shops, I propose that a healthy childhood should also include a substantial measure of work. Children are not helpless creatures. They deserve the opportunity to mature and learn responsibility through work experiences.

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world”
— Maria Montessori

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right”
– Bible, Proverbs 20:11

“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
— Norman Douglas

Most kids are willing and even waiting to be challenged. When adults care enough to provide challenging opportunities, it is amazing to see how often kids meet our expectations. Set the bar low and that’s what they aspire to. Set it higher and they rise to meet it. How else do you explain 14-year old world class gymnasts, 18-year old world record holders, and teenage entertainment icons? Now, if we ever become as serious about our minds as we are about our sports and entertainment, watch out!

“Youth is a period of missed opportunities.”
— Cyril Connolly

Children are born with no fears — adults have many. Between birth and adulthood, something must happen to create fears where none existed at birth. The fact that we have the capacity for fear implies that it must have survival value. But, how many fears are irrational, unnecessary, and stifling? Which ones are caused by well-meaning parents trying to protect their children? How many could be avoided by helping children experience new things before they learn to be afraid?

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear breeds fear.”
— Byron Janis

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
— Frank Herbert (1920-1986), American science fiction author. Dune, Litany Against Fear, 1965.

So, for the good of our children and the future of mankind, we need more adults to challenge our kids, nurture their creativity, and resist the temptation to shelter them from every difficult situation.

“In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”
— Ann Landers

There’s a second and perhaps less obvious reason for including youth in adult opportunities. Adults learn from kids. Children can introduce fresh creativity to a conversation. Their questions and comments can help adults see the world in a new light. A child’s innocent inquiry can cause an adult to rethink an old opinion or idea. Wouldn’t it be a powerful combination for adults to combine the benefits of their experience with the optimism and unconstrained creativity of a child?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
— Pablo Picasso

“A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.”
— Author Unknown

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
— Franklin P. Jones

“Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.”
— Franklin P. Jones

So, what should we do? Here are four practical suggestions for adults who accept their responsibility toward our youth.

Say “Yes!” to Youth — When a child asks to join the party, let him. When he wants to help clean the garage, find a way to include him. Of course, not every project or adult gathering is appropriate for every child. My observation is that the more wholesome an adult’s lifestyle, the fewer gatherings are off-limits to children.

Invite Youth — People are sometimes leery about asking to join in — kids more so because they have been trained to believe they don’t belong. Adults probably need to make the first gesture and always with sincerity. Not every invitation will be accepted. That’s okay. Treat that first invitation is an icebreaker and keep on inviting. When the kids in question are not your own, invite them several at a time. There is safety and comfort in numbers.

Engage Youth — When children are included, help them feel the value of their presence. Ignoring them or treating them like they are “in the way” is not very uplifting. Introduce them. Brag on them. Include them in the conversation. Let them join the fun. If it’s a work project, give them a task and the appropriate responsibility. Show them how to be successful. Praise their efforts and results and help them improve as necessary. Treat them like partners.

Join Hands With Youth — Kids really can contribute. When we create in ourselves and in the minds of our youth an attitude of partnership, they will respond accordingly. As they reach their objectives, raise the bar. Give them more responsibility. Help them find opportunities to branch out on their own toward larger challenges. For example, demonstrating proficiency in cutting grass in your own yard qualifies them to volunteer their skills for an elderly neighbor or start to a yard care business.

Please don’t misconstrue these four ideas. None of them is intended to imply that adults should forfeit their rightful status as authority figures in order to make friends with children. Folks who trade authority for friendship will always lose respect during the exchange. The professional approach requires preserving one’s roles as parent, teacher, mentor, and/or coach.

George Zimmerman taught music first throughout the City of Dayton public schools and later at the University of Dayton. Many thousands of people, I’m guessing, know George as a musician, artist, writer, entertainer, teacher, broadcaster, organizer, and/or a great cook. Many also knew him during their childhood and young adult years as a mentor and friend. He excelled in teaching people to appreciate music and theater. George was also fond of inviting college students, two or three at a time, to his home for a special meal and pleasant conversation. I remember his home being filled with photographs and other artifacts of his personal treasures. What are these treasures? To this day, George’s trademark of professionalism is displayed in the kids he’s taught, his treasures. His life has been dedicated to taking excellent care of them and helping preserve, enhance, and showcase their unique qualities. Our youth need more friends like George.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass

God Bless,

— CC

[ X=eXcellence | Index | Z=Zone ]

© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Elbow Grease

The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Elbow grease is the best polish” — English Proverb

The topic is hard work, the title is elbow grease. To my father, these word pairs mean exactly the same thing — he prefers the latter. One of my favorite stories told at family gatherings is how Pops dealt with loafing baggers, cashiers and stock clerks in his stores. He would tell them they needed to apply some elbow grease. If they seemed puzzled by the instruction he’d send them on an errand to find a jar of it. For each person, the trick only worked once (except possibly for brother Dave). But, the point was made and the lesson was never forgotten. My dad probably would have also said the following, if he had thought of it:

“Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat.” — Ann Landers

Even possessing knowledge about the cause and effect relationship between work and results, mankind seems unable to counteract its tendency to avoid work. Any shortcut, regardless of how inferior it may be, is more often than not preferred over working up a sweat. It’s a sure bet that without the necessities of life, there would be no work done at all.

“The normal condition of man is hard work, self-denial, acquisition and accumulation and as soon as his descendants are freed from the necessity of such exertion, they begin to degenerate sooner or later in both body and mind.” — Thomas Mellon

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” — Frederick Douglass

“People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.” — Frederick Douglass

The desire to survive is a sufficient incentive for most people to put forth the effort necessary to acquire the basics of life: food and shelter. A life motivated solely by the survival instinct is the lowest form of existence and produces the least amount of effort.

“Everyone confesses in the abstract that exertion which brings out all the powers of body and mind is the best thing for us all; but practically most people do all they can to get rid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstances drive them to do.” — Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The fundamental principle of human action, the law, that is to political economy what the law of gravitation is to physics is that men seek to gratify their desires with the least exertion” — Henry George

Once survival has been achieved, people seek pleasure and comfort. At this level, they’ll put forth just enough additional effort as needed to acquire the goods, services and relationships for their pleasure. As these pleasures become synonymous with the person’s life, fear of loss may create new incentives to protect these pleasures. Level three is about safety. All three of these levels are characterized by visions that are inwardly focused on personal pleasure, comfort and safety.

“The principle of liberty and equality, if coupled with mere selfishness, will make men only devils, each trying to be independent that he may fight only for his own interest. And here is the need of religion and its power, to bring in the principle of benevolence and love to men.” — John Randolph (1773-1833)

“If pursuing material things becomes your only goal, you will fail in so many ways. Besides, in time all material things go away.” — John Wooden (1910- ), American basketball coach.

What happens when a person exchanges his mirror for a window? Suddenly the view changes along with his vision of life. He’s able to see a brand new level where people do things for others on a routine basis. The benefits of voluntary helping and sharing are amazing. He sees cooperation, the swapping of good deeds, as a more productive and more satisfying way to live.

There is one more level — service with a soul. This type of life, which is literally an act of worship, is the way Christ taught and lived. It’s all about serving people who are not in a position to return any type of benefit in response. Serving others in this capacity is equivalent to serving God.

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” — Bible, Luke 10:33-35

While rising through the levels, each step up comes from an increase in the magnitude of the vision, followed by greater amounts of effort to fulfill the bigger vision. It stands to reason that when a person is only interested in taking care of himself he will put forth only enough effort to accomplish that objective. Rising above an inward-looking philosophy and the drudgery that accompanies it starts with a new attitude and a bigger vision.

“Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution.” — Stephen Sondheim

“Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success.” — Diana Rankin

“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” — Muhammad Ali

Let’s look now at elbow grease as it relates to professionalism. Like other attributes of professionalism, putting forth one’s best effort is a matter of self-respect.

“A dream is a vision, a goal is a promise. You can keep your promises to yourself by remaining flexible, focused, and committed.” — Denis Waitley

“I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give this game of life everything he’s got.” — Walter Cronkite

“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.” — Theodore Roosevelt

It’s not necessarily true that a professional is free from apprehension toward sweat. What is true is that he has ordered his life around his life’s purpose and passion. This tends to segregate the favorable from the distasteful deeds.

“The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.” — Logan Pearsall Smith

Still, he will find drudgery in his path. But, because his courage is greater than his apprehension and experience has taught him perspective, he is able to rise above an attitude of drudgery.

“Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion” — Florence Nightingale

“Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun.” — Colleen C. Barrett

 

Instead of viewing personal toil as the price to pay, professionals welcome hard work as one of life’s opportunities. Hard work is an opportunity to improve, achieve AND enjoy.

“The highest reward for a man’s toil is not what he gets for it but what he becomes by it.” — John Ruskin

 

“Success, remember is the reward of toil.” — Sophocles

“You do not pay the price of success, you enjoy the price of success.” — Zig Ziglar

 

“The happy life is thought to be one of excellence; now an excellent life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.” — Aristotle

 

While professionals usually have a positive attitude about their work — others usually prefer to make excuses. “Well I’d have a good attitude about my job too if I made as much as the CEO.” Wrong! Attitude is the cause, not the effect.

“Both tears and sweat are salty, but they render a different result. Tears will get you sympathy; sweat will get you change.” — Jesse Jackson

“To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death.” — Jean Anouilh

Usually, the hardest part of work is the getting started part. Making excuses seems easier than making a beginning. Statements like, “I’m not prepared” or “the timing is bad” are usually fear disguised as excuses.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar

“In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.” — Thomas Carlyle

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao-Tzu

“The beginning is the half of every action.” — Greek Proverb

So here you are, armed with a powerful vision of your life and the understanding that action is the necessary next step. It’s time to turn the key, get in gear and step on the gas. It’s time to make an action plan.

“A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.” — Brian Tracy

“Life is a journey of single steps. None can be taken back. Take each step with the anticipation and the vision of the outcomes you desire.” — Gary Lear, Australia

The plan should consist of a sequence of manageable objectives or goals and it must be written down. The goals help make the vision seem less daunting and they are the milestones for measuring progress.

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” — William Faulkner

“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.” — Rene Descartes

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” — Henry Ford

One popular planning technique, called the SMART Plan, has many variations on the format.  However, the principles are similar. I like this one:

  1. Specific – Define a step-by-step approach in terms of detailed goals that can be measured and tracked.
  2. Mission – Goals must be consistent with the overall mission and vision.
  3. Accountability – Identify person(s) with authority over the vision.
  4. Resources – List both required and available resources.
  5. Timeline – Define dates for progress reports and milestone completion.

The most important part of planning is writing down the plan. A written plan based on bite-sized measurable goals enhances accountability and focus. Keep the plan handy and review it daily. When individual goals are reached, reward yourself in some small, yet meaningful way. If you stop to rest between accomplishments, don’t stop for long. Let momentum drive you forward to the finish line.

“Plan the work; work the plan.” — Anonymous

“Success depends in a very large measure upon individual initiative and exertion, and cannot be achieved except by a dint of hard work.” — Anna Pavlova (1881-1931), Russian ballerina.

“Don’t feel entitled to anything you didn’t sweat and struggle for.” — Marian Wright Edelman (1939- ), American activist.

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.” — Thomas Edison

God bless,

— CC

[ V=Vision | Index | X=eXcellence ]

© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Video Calling

Since at least the 1960’s, we’ve been told that someday a phone call would include video. Dick Tracy had a wristwatch with video. The Jetson’s had a large screen video calling capability.

“Meet George Jetson. His Boy Elroy. Daughter Judy. Jane his wife.” — Theme Song

Well, video calling is finally here and it’s affordable. The cost of the phone is less than many popular cell phones. Service quality is already good and will only get better as the technology matures. Also, it is simple to set up and use.

For those who don’t think video is necessary for communication, you are correct. Many things that make our lives richer are not necessary. Human beings are very adaptable. We define necessary according to our expectations, our available resources and what the market can deliver.

Here’s an illustration. Think back about 60-70 years when people got along just fine with a radio and no television. Then along came black and white TV followed by color, followed by high definition. Now, imagine trading your TV in for a radio. Even the best quality radio cannot compete with the average TV. The visual dimension makes the difference.

“Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.” — Ann Landers

Let’s try some other examples. If the visual aspect of life is not important, why do we have eyes? Try having a face-to-face conversation with your eyes closed. Imagine going to a concert where the performers pipe their music in from backstage or a seminar where the presenter reads the material from behind the curtain. If you don’t get the picture now, you aren’t ready for a video phone. (May I politely suggest you are also in denial?)

Today, the technology is good and the price is easily within reach. I see only four hurdles remaining before video calling gains widespread acceptance.

1) Internet Connectivity — VoIP video phones on the market today require a broadband Internet connection. Although not everyone has broadband, the number who do not is shrinking. Residential broadband is now available for most Americans.

2) Awareness — Most people have not yet had a video calling experience. This is simply a marketing problem that is being remedied as you read this. Demos occur every day all across the country.

3) Whom can I call? — Until widespread distribution occurs, two or more people must agree to get one or there is no reason for a video phone.

4) Privacy — This concern is basically fear of answering the phone on a bad hair day or revealing one’s face to a stranger. Technology provides the solution. A video phone does not mandate activation of the video capability. In other words, they come equipped with a “video mute” button.

Who is getting started with video? The following list should spark your imagination:

  • Military families separated by overseas deployment
  • First generation Americans that wish to stay close to their roots
  • Grandparents who want to see their grandchildren grow up
  • Schools that want access to guest speakers without increasing the field trip budget
  • Museums offering video presentations as a public service and a way to promote the museum’s mission
  • Businesses with a need to offer remote field support
  • Remote business training to reduce travel costs
  • Missionaries staying connected to their families and sponsors
  • Parents who miss their college student
  • Professional athletes and entertainers stay in touch during road trips
  • Vacationers who prefer a video call to a post card

I am not someone who races to be among the first to get a new technology. I don’t have a high-definition TV, a Wii, or an X-Box and I got my first cell phone in late 2004. But video calling made too much sense to wait. Even though I am not Dick Tracy or George Jetson, I use video calling regularly for one reason or another. Someday you will too, because of the impact of video.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” — Fred R. Barnard

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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