Thursday, April 25, 2013


So... I had a couple of clients that have owed me money for over a year who finally paid up. I've been surfing craigslist "motorcycles" for 3 months (old man porn). A really good deal popped up. I happened to have the cash. It's a Suzuki 650 single. Low maintenance, easily modified, relatively cheap to work on and they make a sidecar for it in case I can talk the wifey or my dogs to get into it. Not sure yet what I'm going to do to it cosmetically. I can't just leave something "as is". But it is a good canvas to begin with.

The book project is moving forward... in "Orthodox time". Fr. Joseph and I have gotten two extensions from the publisher (so far) for the manuscript.  His recent podcast foreshadows the book. Originally I was going to just illustrate, but we've ended up co-authoring and co-editing each other's stuff. I have to say it has been a marriage made in heaven. I was gun-shy of working with a priest after being beaten down over the years by priests for DARING to edit or even suggest changes to their "Holy Spirit inspired" words. So, behold a priest in whom there is no writer's (or clerical) arrogance!

In the process, I've discovered I can't edit a manuscript on a computer screen, I have to have a hard copy that looks like a book in my hands. For some reason, I'm proud of that.

In other news, the Wifey and I both had heart stress tests done a couple weeks ago because we have insurance now through our jobs. After 30+ years of fast food, pulled pork, red meat, a cholesterol count of nearly 300 and high blood pressure (genetics), mine came out OK. The doctor was amazed. The Wifey had to go in for an angiogram, her's wasn't so good. The doctor said 1/4 of her heart wasn't functioning.

Of course, regardless of "faith", the mind travels to the worst case scenarios when faced with an uncertain diagnosis. The immanent possibility prospect of losing your friend and lover, your children's support and comfort, your grandchildren's spoiler, is a harsh rumination for a couple weeks. Mortality looms large and ordinary things shrink in importance, but you still do the dishes for some reason.

All is well, however. It turns out she has a benign congenital heart defect that gives a "false positive" on a stress test.

So we are back to normal... whatever that means in our life.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

1:00 AM

I woke up and figured out why one of my special ed students couldn't log into one of our school websites today.  I had emailed him direct links, his login and password so he could just cut and paste them, I called him and walked him through it with his mother (who is a tech person) helping and they both still could not log in.

At 12:30AM, I figured out why.  I could just say he (and his mother) failed to follow directions.  He (and she) did that. In fact, that is one of his learning issues. But I too failed.

Failure is in the small details. Failure is generally in not paying attention, both as a student and as a teacher in all arenas of life. Failure is in assuming we are both looking at the same thing. Failure is assuming competence in another. Failure is in not clarifying, double checking, asking the right questions, listening and looking. I know where *I* failed my student and his mother today in all those areas. In the middle of the night I realized that one question would have solved the issue, but I assumed something at a critical point.  Any one of three things I could or should have done would have solved the problem, but I assumed something that did not send me down those paths.  And we all ended up at a dead end.

Of course all of those things are things I know from sixty years of being taught and teaching. My academic and spiritual training focused on all of those things. Intellectually I "know" how to ask, clarify, listen and watch.  In the grand scheme of things, and knowing a LOT of people, I think I do all that pretty well (he said humbly). But I also know that in certain situations, like today, I don't do it well. I fail to do what I know to do.

As a human being, none of that is really an "AHA!!" moment. Our existence is marked with failure to do the things we know to do. The "AHA!" is that I thought I knew better in this situation. ONE DETAIL! So yeah, I'm still human. I'm still vulnerable to the same dumb mistakes in specific situations. I'll fix this specific issue tomorrow.  I may even generalize it to other similar situations.  The important thing is, I think, that my focus is on MY failure rather than the shortcomings of my student and his parent to do EXACTLY what I had instructed them to do.  They actually didn't do EXACTLY what I said, but I didn't ask the right questions to discern that because I assumed too many things.

The secondary issue (actually the PRIMARY issue) is "How do I approach this tomorrow morning?" There are two scenarios.  The first is to either blatantly or subtly point out their failure to follow instructions. The end game is they are shamed and I am vindicated. I actually did give clear instructions, they've worked for 98% of my students and parents.  They were clear to me and a LOT of other people.

The second scenario is to be humble. I failed at several critical points to clarify, ask, check, double check and be specific. I failed them. For that, I am accountable and I should apologize.

So, last week I had lunch with one of the founders of a multi-million dollar software company. My oldest son is his executive assistant. We chatted business, being an owner, family and spiritual life. I told him about how I started my construction company with only a few months experience as a laborer/clean-up guy.  On Friday I was a floor sweeper for fifteen journeymen, on Tuesday I was their boss. My default position with them had to be "humility".  I didn't even know how to read a blueprint, much less frame, sheetrock, finish walls etc. etc. But I was still "The Boss" and held the "Boss Card".  That experience formed my "management style", and even my spiritual life for the past 30 years, both as one in authority and one under authority. We very briefly talked about  the problem with when to or how to play the "Boss Card" and the problem with employees/managers who can't figure that out and its effect on "the corporate culture", but didn't really delve deeply into the topic.

I've thought a lot about "management by humility" the last few days. What would that look like? What would be the effect on a "corporate culture"? How could you (is it possible?) to train someone to be humble? Would humility even work in the long run in a corporate environment? Is it possible to "hire to the core value of humility"?  How would an HR department screen for that and end up with quality employees?

But, it is now about 2:30AM and I need some sleep.  More later....