Friday, May 26, 2017

Reflections on being Presidential

As my second (and final) year as President of the South Dakota Retired School Personnel swings into full gear, I believe it is time to look back and reflect on what I learned year one.  (Understand, my “ascension” to the presidency was a hard fought battle, fraught with late night strategy sessions and early morning coffee.  I ran unopposed, and I believe came quite close to losing.)  The lessons were many—some a review and some brand spankin’ new!  I will enumerate them—in my own executive order!

1.         When (not if, but when) you screw up, OWN IT!  The phrase, “I made a mistake”, is not anathema.  If, however, you choose to sound a little more erudite, you can always do it in a foreign language—like German—“Ich habe upgescrewed!” (I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes)—or Latin “Mea Culpa!  Mea Culpa!  Mea maxima Culpa!”  Perfection is simply unattainable.  Heck, even the electoral college screws up occasionally!
2.         Having admitted your humanity, you have several courses to follow.  You can ask for forgiveness.  You can attempt to atone.  You can cry, gnash your teeth and pull your hair, but you must do all three. Unfortunately, not having the ability to do part three, that option wasn’t open to me!   Once you have followed every course available, MOVE ON!  Dwelling on past mistakes is like choosing to live in a dormitory your entire life.  EEEEEEK!
3.         When confronted with a Herculean task (like planning the yearly convention), decide where you want to have it, come up with a theme, appoint an amazing committee and then sit back and watch the true masters at work.  Put another way, pick the right people and then get out of their way so they can do their magic.  (Side note—having made those "appointments", not one chosen member has had to resign for collusion with a foreign power!)
4.         Recognize the worth of EVERY member.
5.         Never underestimate the abilities of the people around you.  You will only be wrong (see #1).
6.         Plan ahead. 
7.         Monitor and adjust.  Your original ideas may be brilliant, but there is always someone out there with higher wattage!  Allow them to shine.
8.         Be visible.  You can’t help someone if they don’t know you are there.
9.         Delineate what is expected of your “staff”.  Each person has specific responsibilities, but can’t/won’t perform them if they are unclear (or non-existent!)
10.       Always, always, always bring fudge!

I don’t take Air Force One to my meetings—I take Ford Edge ’15—with the VERY BEST DRIVER in the world.  I don’t own a plethora of red silk $500 ties (or for that matter, $.50 used ties purchased at a thrift store).  I wear old man shirts that are somewhat loud, eschew ties, and are TOTALLY comfortable.  My shorts show my old man legs, but they’re my best feature so if you’ve got it….   My hair is cropped short, my wife is the prettiest lady (and thankfully the most forgiving) I have ever met, I use invectives on occasion (but NEVER Tweet), I have a treasure trove of PG 13 stories (and even more R rated that I don’t get to tell too often—Dirty Johnny was my hero growing up!), I associate with the very best of the best, and can truthfully say that edging out my non-existent opponent has been an amazing experience.  I definitely can say it’s a great year to be president—at least for me!  Know you are loved!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Fiddler Jones

Perhaps it's because we ran into former students and/or their progeny.  Perhaps it's because on occasion, Mother Nature has an amazing way of reminding us to enjoy the time we have.  Perhaps it's just because I am old and my mind wanders to an earlier time (and at least to this point, comes back!).  Whatever the reason, this morning Fiddler Jones rests at the forefront of my thoughts.
Those who truly know me know I have, since high school, been infatuated with Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology.  We performed the play as our senior drama farewell.  Invariably, I had interpers do selections from the Anthology.  I directed the play for Town Players.  You would have thought I had cleansed my soul's need for sharing Mr. Masters.  Yet, this morning, for whatever reason, there he was.

The earth keeps some vibration going
There in your heart, and that is you.
And if the people find you can fiddle,
Why, fiddle you must, for all your life.
What do you see, a harvest of clover?
Or a meadow to walk through to the river?
The wind’s in the corn; you rub your hands
For beeves hereafter ready for market;
Or else you hear the rustle of skirts
Like the girls when dancing at Little Grove.
To Cooney Potter a pillar of dust
Or whirling leaves meant ruinous drouth;
They looked to me like Red-Head Sammy
Stepping it off, to “Toor-a-Loor.”
How could I till my forty acres
Not to speak of getting more,
With a medley of horns, bassoons and piccolos
Stirred in my brain by crows and robins
And the creak of a wind-mill--only these?
And I never started to plow in my life
That some one did not stop in the road
And take me away to a dance or picnic.
I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle--
And a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,
And not a single regret.

All too often, we become driven by rhythms others would have us hear.  We succumb to the expected...the norm (if there is such a thing!).  We strive to be a "success"--in the eyes of others--and subjugate our own inner drums.  We are the amalgam of other expectations.  Don't misunderstand.  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  It can be, however, if during the process, we lose our own heart's vibration.  There's a popular philosophy that states in the end, we don't regret the things we have done, we regret the things we never did.  Socrates said, "know thyself/"  Or as Mr. Shakespear;s Polonius opined, "To thine own self be true."  (Thanks, Harlene!)  You may not fiddle...but you have your own beat.  Syncopate today!