LEADERSHIP

Last year this appeared on SERENDIPITY. Following the elections and light of what you see every day, perhaps you are wondering about the leadership qualities of certain people. Time to think about this again.

SERENDIPITY

What makes a good Leader? by Rich Paschall

With the election cycle in full swing, and the seemingly endless Presidential debates at hand, it is fair to ask what makes a good Leader.  What traits do we expect a Leader to have?  What do we admire in our leaders?  What qualities do we want to avoid in our leaders?  What generates our respect and our willingness to follow?

Your Vote Counts

It is not enough to say that our leaders should “lead.”  What does that mean exactly?  In a certain sense they all want to lead, but where are they trying to take us?  What message is their leadership style sending?  Are they willing to lead us in a good way?

It is also not enough to say that they should “inspire.”  What does that mean as well?  If they inspire you, I guess you would, of course, want to follow.  Not all…

View original post 843 more words

My Story, A Letter Home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward, I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here almost two years ago following the inspiration given by that book.  After posting the importance of Your Story this week on Serendipity, I thought about this again. Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it up once more.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE

Time for some thoughts on success and failure. Are you thinking big?

SERENDIPITY

Thinking Small, Rich Paschall

Some organizations think big and do big.  You may know such organizations.  You may wonder how they accomplish so much.  How can a social service agency, school, church, or park district pull off grand events with a small budget and a small staff?  Yet, there are quite a number that do it.  What is the difference between the successes and those that think big and fail?  What is the difference between thinking bag, and those who just think small?

Image: Mashable.com Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what needs doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this…

View original post 562 more words

NO SPORTS, POLITICS, OR RELIGION

This past week I stopped by a local inn to see some friends. Two people ended up having a “lively” discussion on the outcome of the recent national election. Naturally, I thought of this guideline.

SERENDIPITY

Some Old World Wisdom, by Rich Paschall

When thinking of blog topics, there is no shortage of subject matter. Some general areas offer a lot of topics.  With a bit of extra thought, there’s an endless supply. Consider well how many areas you can pursue if you are willing to delve into sports, politics, or religion. Each is bound to set some readers ablaze. Would surely bring lots of comments. You do want lively discussion, don’t you?

How lively do you want it?

conversation1

Venture into a sports bar well into the evening and you are likely to find plenty of spirited discussions regarding sports.  These ideas should help you out.  Will the Cubs win another pennant?  Will the White Sox ever get the love the Cubs get?  Will the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup?  Will the Bears defeat the hated Green Bay Packers?  Will the Bulls beat the hated ____________ (fill in…

View original post 627 more words

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

Now that Christmas is over, you must prepare for the next holiday just one week away.  So what are you doing?

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog   By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly your friends have been asking and you must have …

Source: WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

LOSING OUR LEGACY

What is the value of tradition? I have not changed my mind since last year’s post.

SERENDIPITY

Traditions, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?

The strength of many schools, churches and community organizations lies in its rituals and traditions.  They provide a constancy that is reassuring to students, members, alumni.  While traditions may seem a bit crazy to some, to most they are cherished as part of their heritage.  Those who do not honor tradition are likely to incur the wrath of those who want to find comfort and solace in the reassure that traditions may bring.

When traditions remain constant throughout the years, they begin to bring identity to organizations.  The school, recreation program, and community center become known for their special features and regular activities.  Identity leads to purpose and purpose leads to dedication and commitment.  Maintaining what you have been good at through the years is important to gathering loyalty.

And how do we keep our balance? That I…

View original post 587 more words

PLAN B – RICH PASCHALL

It seemed like a good moment to share this short story again.

SERENDIPITY

A King Brothers Tale, by Rich Paschall


It was a beautiful late summer day in the mountain resort town.  It was a high sky, whatever that means, deep blue with no clouds to be seen.  It was warm and the breeze was light.  The town was not crowded with tourists in this off-season, although many wealthy people had just arrived.  A few pesky reporters were buzzing around as well.

A so-called secret meeting of the Brothers of Freedom had been called.  The group’s members were composed of a series of conservative “Political Action Committees.”  The annual meeting was chaired by the King Brothers and their committee played host.  The topic was their common political interests in the presidential election year, but presidential politics would play only a small role in the meetings ahead.

While most of the billionaires had slipped quietly into town, including the King Brothers, a few were followed…

View original post 733 more words

Decoration Day

When I first put up this article three years ago, I was surprised to receive some backlash over the meaning of the holiday we now know as Memorial Day.  The origins of Decoration Day were told to me as if there was a bit of a conspiracy over the years since the Civil War to change the day’s meaning.  It is likely that the same tradition grew up in many places around the same time. 

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see the PBS Newshour was covering how Americans are hitting the road due to a drop in gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this drop to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. The Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

Related articles

A SHADE OF DIFFERENCE

With the political races working hard to divide us against one another, it seemed like a good time to run this piece again. What colors are you against?

SERENDIPITY

What are your colors? by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Everyone has favorite colors. You can probably tell what someone likes by the colors in their home. People pick out the color for their rooms not just by the color, but the shade of color. Big home improvement stores will mix and match colors for you so you have just the right shade. They stock color palates and have little colored papers you can take with you while you stare at the walls and envision how it will look. Some will even give you a little sample so you can stare at a brush stroke you put on the wall and dream of a whole room in that color.

Blue is a nice color to me, but I would never paint the walls a dark blue, only pastels. As a matter of fact, there would be no deep dark colors in my home decorating, if you can…

View original post 842 more words

To not grow old gracefully

It is often said that we should learn to grow old gracefully.  Those who do not are sometimes looked on with scorn.  Perhaps you may hear that someone should “know better at that age.”  What is it that we should know better?  Of this, I am not sure.  I just know that a lot of people have ideas in the back of their minds of what old should be.  For a long time I thought being like my father’s father was the way to be when you are old.  I guess that may be in part because I always thought of him as old.  Of course 30 seems old to a child, but from his 60’s to his 80’s my grandfather seemed about the same to me.  Everything was taken at a slow pace and with good humor and I could not see anything wrong with that, as long as I was not actually old myself.

Age Appropriate

Age Appropriate (Photo credit: skittledog)

Except for the eccentric few, society has notions of what you should do, say, wear when you get old.  For example, you probably should not shop for your clothes at the Gap or some other shop that pitches all of its advertising at the young.  If you do, you may hear that your apparel is not age appropriate.  If you can not shop at Neiman Marcus I suppose you should shop at Goodwill or some place that will have stuff for old guys.  If you still fit into your high school or college clothes, they may not be correct to wear unless you have irresponsible friends your own age who do the same.

Sports is not a good ideas for old folks either.  When you sprain your ankle playing touch football in the park, you may count on someone saying, “He ought to know better at his age.”  It will be worse yet if you break something.  That will be the point that people will try to find out what kind of help you actually need.  If you are past 50, they will no longer pass this off as some sort of midlife crisis.  Instead they will wonder if you have reached early senility and should be kept under constant surveillance.

If truth be told, most people approaching the supposed golden years may want to partake of a lot of activities they had to put off while doing that all important action of “growing up.”  Work, family and a whole host of post high school, college or military life obligations may mean postponing things you really want to do.  A little extra financial security, if there is such a thing in these times, and a little “empty nest” freedom may mean you are ready to go off and live a life you wish you had lived when you were much younger.

Growing old gracefully will not be on my list of things to do.  I intend to continue to play loud rock and roll in my car until neighbors think I must have the sound up that loud because I can no longer hear it.  Trust me I have never stood in front of a loud-speaker like Pete Townsend blowing my ear drums out, but I nevertheless like to rock and roll down the highway.  While I sometimes wish my neighbors would tune it down after midnight, I am not always certain the same applies to me.

There is another important thing to know that may not always appear obvious to the younger set.  Giving up on the things that we love to do is a scary idea.  It signals that we have turned a corner into the final era of life.  No one aside from perhaps the clinically depressed wants to go there.  We want our lives to be vital for much longer than practical.  This may account for a good deal of the depression that afflicts the elderly.  It is the realization that you can not do want you really want to do.

When I see my younger friends going off to do things that seem like the type of thing I would like to do as well, I generally meet these times with a cross between jealousy and sadness.  I am jealous that they are doing things I can not, or because they are doing things for which I would not be included because I am not of the same age group.  Most my age seem to have family obligations that do not allow the freedom to run off on adventures like I can, so I feel a bit sad to know I have reached the point of being left behind.  I hasten to point out, I really could not do everything my younger friends do, but that doesn’t mean I would not secretly like to do them (or not so secretly sometimes).

There is much value in staying as young and vital as possible.  You can live a longer and more productive life.  When you start turning the corner of fall to meet winter, you will not find it so depressing if you have kept your good health.  Instead you will be able to still see adventure ahead.  If crossing 40, then 50, then 60 just means the opportunity for new and exciting things, then these will not be milestones to dread.  In fact they may hardly be a bump in the road.

Having cultivated friendships in many age groups, I now find that I can be in the company of those who are decades older on one day, and having fun with those who are much younger the next.  While a chronic condition has slowed me down a bit, it has not knocked me down at all.  If it does, I at least know some younger guys who can pick me up.  My contemporaries may have to let me lie on the ground a while until they can think of whom to call to get me picked up.  Therefore, we need to keep the young and strong nearby, if not indeed with us, at all times.  If someone, someday says I have not learned how to grow old gracefully, I think I will take it as a complement.