A funny thing happened

Work does not sound like fun, but it offers plenty of comic relief. We need to find moments to laugh at ourselves to break the monotony. Here are few true stories to earn a grin or chuckle.

Two people I knew at a client were arguing over an issue. The funny thing is without the other knowing, each one called me to ask for my input on the argument. Through this process, I was able inch them closer together to see the other’s point. “You know Fred, Andy is making a reasonable point.”

A colleague was looking into a past precedence on a process a client was using that did not make much sense. He shared with me what he found in the archived files. I asked “Who would ever give such advice?” He showed me the email, “You did.” Oops.

This story ended well, but it offered an opportunity to tease a demanding colleague who had a high sense of self-worth. Our senior consultant was meeting with a client who had traveled from London. He was a heavy-set man and began to profusely perspire and get red-faced during the meeting. Our colleague felt he was having a heart attack and called the ambulance. The client turned out to be fine, but it was scary. Our colleague was a perfectionist which made him a good consultant, but a demanding one. After this episode, when he was extra hard on us, we would feign a heart attack in front of him acting like comedian Redd Foxx would on “Sanford and Son.” He did not find this amusing. “Elizabeth…I’m coming to join you!”

When I went to work for one of my clients, we had a greatly appreciated employee wellness program including mobile mammograms and health screenings. The woman who ran the program shared with me all the upcoming wonderful plans for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. As I described it to my boss and a few others, I left off the word “cancer” by mistake. She slowly corrected me, that would be Breast CANCER Awareness Month.

Our firm bought another with some highly paid consultants. My boss, who I have written about before, looked over the compensation data and uttered one of his folksy sayings. “We sure are peeing in the tall grass with the big dogs now.”

Finally, I had a colleague who was getting final quotes from various insurance companies for a bidding process for a client. He had not heard from one, so he called around 6:30 pm to see if they wanted to improve their quote. Apparently, the night janitor picked up the phone. After listening to my colleague explain what he needed, the man uttered, “I told you as much as I know when I said hello.”

Let me know of some of your funny stories at work. Please change the names to protect the innocent. I might throw in a couple of more in the comments.

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Alcoholism – Feherty, Watson and me

I am an alcoholic, yet I am approaching the twelfth anniversary of my last drink. I bring this up today as I learned in an interview yesterday that David Feherty, a retired golfer, golf announcer and truly comical person, is also an alcoholic, along with some other demons he has to manage.

Several things about Feherty’s interview with Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel are worth noting. First, he credits his second wife for her tough love – after a final straw, she said you have 30 days to get clean or I am gone.

He also credits Tom Watson, one of golf’s greatest players, whose own career was almost derailed by alcoholism. As Feherty was interviewing Watson, the latter asked Feherty if he was alright. Feherty said he was not, but asked how could he tell? Watson said “I saw it in your eyes.” He then answered Feherty’s question of what did he see? Watson said bluntly, “I saw myself.”

Watson invited Feherty to his home and helped him through managing his demons. Feherty was sober for ten years, but fell off the wagon when his son took his own life after fighting a losing battle with the same demons his father faced. It should be noted Feherty’s alcoholism masked that he was clinically depressed and bipolar. His son inherited the problems. After renewing the fight, Feherty has returned to being sober.

Alcoholism or any addiction are tough enemies. You never fully defeat them. You put a lid on them, but they still simmer on the back of the stove. Over time, the heat is turned down, but it never is fully extinguished. In my case, I still want to have a drink, but it is a fainter flame today.

The key lesson I learned from a colleague, whose husband fought alcoholism, is to say this mantra – I am not going to drink today. This is a key reason recovering alcoholics know how many days they have been sober. The other piece of advice is to find a substitute for the alcohol. It may be green tea, fruit, fruit juice, near-beer, tonic or soda water or a piece of candy. Now, for me, it is hot tea and all kinds of fruit, dried or fresh.

Life is hard. It is not uncommon for some people to use some form of anesthetic to sand the edges off difficulty. If you think you may have a problem, you do. Be honest with yourself, first, but be honest with your spouse or partner and your doctor. Most addicts lie to all of the above.

People ask me what was my trigger to change? Another colleague’s wife, who was as vivacious and funny as David Feherty, died from complications due to alcoholism. She was only 59, one year less than I am today. I was a train wreck waiting to happen. So, I got off the train. It was and still is hard. But, remember the mantra, I am not going to drink today. Then, don’t and say it again tomorrow.

Brussel sprouts, breathing and beaches

“What an odd title?” you might be asking. “Outside of the alliteration, what does it mean?” These three terms represent a list of things I learned more about as I got older.

Brussel sprouts were nowhere close to being something I would eat when I was young. Okra, orange marmalade, spinach, etc. would also be in that category. Now, to my wife’s surprise, I will even eat brussel sprouts, preferably broiled or sautéed in a pan with bacon bits and olive oil. The brussel sprouts are a good metaphor for many things I now enjoy.

The breathing is an odd one. As a high school athlete, I was taught to breathe through my mouth as I worked out. Inhale when lessening the exertion and exhale when exerting. With yoga, more measured breathing is suggested, breathing in and out through the nose, exhaling through your mouth as you need it.

The yoga advice is sound. But, I read recently that breathing normally is better for your lung and heart health, as the sense of smell is activated and it better maintains the  breathing organs. The other observation is I find out I snore less at night by breathing in this manner when I exercise.

Now, what about beaches? I was thinking of the “Sunscreen” song where an older person shares a few pieces of wisdom including wearing sunscreen. I grew up twelve miles from the ocean. So, we hit the beaches often. Sunscreen was sparingly used especially with high schoolers. Yet, as more information emerged at the same time my scalp did so through my thinning hair, caps and sunscreen became paramount. And, don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen after being out on the beach more than an hour. The sea breeze masks the burning.

So, breathe more naturally, protect your skin, and eat your veggies, including brussel sprouts. And, try other things you passed on. Our great-niece used to say to her mother when asked to try something, “I don’t think I could like that.” That feeling will change.

The hard work is essential

Watching the college basketball tournament during March Madness, it is the hard work that wins ballgames. As my high school coach often said, you can have a bad shooting game, but defense and rebounding can never take a day off.

This is also a metaphor for life. Hard work pays dividends, even if it does not get notoriety. In basketball, making it difficult for your opponent to score requires determination, focus and hustle. The same goes for rebounding. Holding your opponent to one shot and giving your team more than one by good rebounding, makes a huge difference.

In life, being prepared by doing your homework, anticipating questions, learning and maintaining machinery or software, planning your efforts and asking questions puts you and your team in position to succeed. As legendary golfer Gary Player once said, “I have found the more I practice, the luckier I get.”

In “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, he notes four attributes of highly successful people or groups. They are talented or smart enough, they are given opportunity, and they recognize and seize such opportunity. The fourth one is they practice, a lot. He noted about 10,000 hours of practice as a key threshhold.

So, think of that last differentiator. Maybe your talent or smarts are average, but you can be much better if you practice. And, that takes effort and hard work. Maybe your opportunities are fewer, but I have found opportunities come to busy and capable people. If you are not busy, learn something, study and make yourself better.

Getting back to basketball, I was not the best shooter or big scorer on the team. If I led a team in scoring, we were not very good. So, I worked my fanny off on playing defense, boxing out and rebounding, and being a good passer to our better shooters. Being a good teammate and playing to your strengths are essential. In basketball, there are five people and only one ball. Play well together. The best five players don’t win; the team playing the best wins.

Work hard. Put the time in. Play to your strengths. And, be willing to pass the ball.

Racing in Texas

My grandmother had a lot of character, but she also was a character. She loved to tell stories, the funnier the better. And, we have learned from her keepsakes, she would write down funny stories she came across. Going through my mother’s things, we came across the following story her mother recorded.

Racing in Texas

A preacher wanted to raise money for his church. Being told there was a fortune in horse racing, he decided to purchase one and enter it in the races. However, at a local auction, going prices were so steep, the preacher ended up buying a donkey instead.

He figured since he had it he might as well enter it in the races. To his surprise, the donkey came in third. The next day the racing news carried this headline:

“Preacher’s ass shows”

The preacher was so pleased, he entered it in the races again and this time he won. The news read:

“Preacher’s ass out in front”

The bishop was so upset with this kind of publicity, he ordered the preacher not to enter it in another race. The newspaper head lines that day read:

“Bishop scratches preacher’s ass”

It was too much for the bishop. He ordered the preacher to get rid of the animal. The preacher decided to give it to a nun in the nearby convent. The headline the next day:

“Nun has best ass in town”

The bishop fainted and informed the nun she would have to get rid of the donkey. She found a farmer willing to buy the animal for $10.00. The next day, the paper stated:

“Nun peddles ass for ten bucks”

They buried the bishop the next day.

My grandmother died almost twenty years ago, but her memory lives on. She was indeed a character. So, were her many brothers and sisters. We called her Big Mama, just like the matriarch in “Cat on a hot tin roof.” Unlike the character in the play, my Big Mama was very much her own person and would have given it right back to Big Daddy.  I miss her.

Baseball, Kangaroos and Mr. Robinson

What, you might ask? One of best baseball players passed away earlier this week. Frank Robinson is the only major leaguer to win the Most Valuable Player award in the American and National Leagues. Even though others got more notoriety, Robinson was an excellent player and a born leader.

He was also outspoken which leads me to the kangaroo thing. He held a Kangaroo Court in the locker room after games, complete with a judge’s wig. The purpose was to tease players with small fines when they failed to sacrifice for the team. For the non-baseball fans, the failures focused on not bunting a player over, hitting to right field to let a runner go from first to third base, not running out hit balls that looked like outs, overthrowing the cut off man, etc.

Although, he had individual success, his teams succeeded. The Baltimore Orioles won two championships and played in four World Series, while his Cincinnati Reds played in one. That is what mattered most. He helped his team focus on what made them win.

He was an obvious choice to be the Major League’s first African-American manager. Since he was outspoken, he said a black manager won’t truly be treated fairly until he is fired like all other managers. In other words, if he did not succeed, his race should not stand in the way of his firing. That is a very profound thought.

So, let’s toast the life of Mr. Robinson. He hit many homers, more than only a few players, but he played and coaxed his team to win. And, that is the true goal, for the team to win, not just achieve personal success. There is a reason he became a manager. Kanga would be proud of this Roo named Mr. Robinson.

Prime numbers tell a story

A revealing item in my make-up is I have been around the block with mathematics, even though I have long forgotten most of my learnings. Prime numbers are part of the past I still remember as numbers only divisible by themselves and 1.

Using the initial several prime numbers, let me reveal stories for your weekend cogitation.

1 – represents the number of people the US President will not blame for his mistakes.

2 – represents the number of folks it takes to Tango.

3 – represents the number of blind mice or wise men, but just for fun transpose the two groups of three and see how the stories vary.

5 – represents the first part of the Five and Dime stores. Just think what we can buy for a nickel these days, which may only be avoiding change on a $1.05 purchase.

7 – represents the number of deadly sins. First prize for the person to name them in a comment is a nickel.

11 – represents the number of donuts that make it home when I go pick up a dozen.

13 – represents the number of bagels you get from a highly frequented baker in a baker’s dozen.

17 – represents the jersey number of retired quarterback Dandy Don Meredith, who achieved more fame as the initial trio of announcers on Monday Night Football – when the outcome of the game was in hand he would sing “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

19 – represents the numerator of a favorite fraction I use to illustrate a point-  someone can do the right thing 19 times out of 20, but the one time will get all the press.

23 – represents the number of donuts that make it home when I buy two dozen, noting the second dozen is an assortment (cake donuts rock).

29 – represents my current age on my birthday, as in I just celebrated the 31st anniversary of my 29th birthday.

31 – represents an ideal age where you survived your twenties and know more what you want and can navigate the world’s landmines a little better.

Have a great weekend. If you finish this post without wanting to go to Dunkin or Krispy Kreme, you deserve another nickel.