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Of the thousands of News "Nuggets" that are added to our databases each day, we try to select weekly a few that we feel challenge and inform our viewers/readers the most.

Recent postings from our clients....

BBQ Adventure

CashierWe drove over to the Smithfield's Bar BQ & Chicken outside Mebane, NC and as we were at the counter ordering  I asked the cashier, "What is that white stuff they give you with fish?" and she said, "Tartar Sauce?"  and I said "Yes.  And what is the red stuff they give you with Bar BQ and she said, You mean cocktail sauce?" And again I said Yes. And I said, "I'd like some and she asked, "Both?" and I said I did. Then I explained, "When you talk with old folks like us you have to play guessing games with us sometimes on the words we can't remember."  Jean got a twinkle in her eye and she asked the cashier, "How old do you think he is?"  I winked at the cashier and she said, "Sixty two" and Jean looked over at me and said, "With an answer like that you should give her a tip."  I said, you don't tip cashiers. And the cashier said , "You folks are so sweet I think we could make an exception. So unbeknownst to Jean I reached into her purse that she had sitting on the counter and took out three  bucks. and slipped them to the cashier.  She gave me two dollars back and said, "I actually thought you were sixty one," and then she winked. I'm an old fool for winks, especially from young, beautiful and intelligent girls. I gave her $5 and she kept it.

When we sat down and had sucked up most of the tea through that pile of ice in our Styrofoam cups our waitress came up with two pitchers of ice tea, one sweet and one un. She smiled and asked, "Is that half and half? And I said, "Approximately. It depends on the server." She laughed.  A lot.  And I decided to tip her a dollar extra. We always meet the most interesting people when we go out dining.

* I must admit that this one is pure fiction. Sure we had some great BarBQ but that stuff about the staff and tipping and such was just an old man's fantasy. af

People Love to Pitch in and Help Deserving People

Boot PrintsI came across a wonderful story involving human kindness on the Good News Network. Trenton Lewis is a 21-year-old single dad who works for a UPS facility in Little Rock, Arkansas. For seven months he faithfully got up in the very early morning so that he could walk 5.5 miles to work in time for his 4:00 am shift. At the end of his shift, he walked the same 5.5 miles back home. Though he never told his coworkers about the way he commuted to and from work, they eventually found out and pitched in to buy him a used car. Mr. Lewis’ coworkers then lured him into the parking lot for a brief “union meeting,” and presented him the keys to a 2006 Saturn Ion. Mr. Lewis, who is described as a “stoic” person, could not contain his emotions over the gift. Kenneth Bryant, who headed up the effort to collect the money and buy the car, had this to say about Mr. Lewis’ situation: “For a young person to decide in their mind ‘if I don’t have a ride, if I can’t get a ride then I’ll walk,’ if a guy can do that, we can pitch in to help.” If you would like to read this very moving article in its entirety and/or see the video of Mr. Lewis being handed the keys to his car, click on this link

One Sentence Wisdom 

  • “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” -- Albert Schweitzer
  • “You feel alive to the degree that you feel you can help others.” -- John Travolta

If you know of someone who you think would enjoy reading my Reminder, please forward it to them.  Also, feel free to use this content in your own publications—newsletters, blogs, etc.

Money Can’t Buy Happiness or Friendship

Money HappinessI recently came across a review of a book about former Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, who was once known as the King of Late Night. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was the highest-paid entertainer in the US. The book was written by Henry Bushkin who served as Mr. Carson’s personal attorney for 18 years. While Mr. Carson came across as a friendly and likable person while on camera, according to the book, he was anything but. All four of his marriages failed because of his excessive drinking and voracious womanizing. On top of that he was not a kind person, so he had no friends. In the end, he died alone at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center unhappy and worth $450 million. The same thing happened to baseball legend Ty Cobb. He was such a mean and nasty person that no one liked him. And, like Johnny Carson, Mr. Cobb died alone, a very unhappy man who was worth more than $90 million in today’s dollars. To his credit, Mr. Cobb confided to someone shortly before he died, “If I had it to do over, I’d have more friends.” The lesson for all of us here is that money can’t buy happiness or friendship. On the other hand, being kind to our fellow human beings will bring both things to us in abundance.

My Songs and Memories

Art Fettig and Greg BraytonI've been using CD's with the songs I have written in the past in live presentations with Senior groups recently. . Most of these songs were taped by a musical genius named Greg Brayton. I wrote them and we recorded them from 1997 to 2001. I also use a few songs for children I'd recorded earlier.  Recently I was reading the chronological list of the my recorded songs and trying to recall where I was when I wrote the songs or where I was when we first introduced them to an audience.  It turned into a real adventure for me.

First Alaska popped into my head. I wrote Boo Coo Caribou in Prudhoe Bay up near the Arctic Circle.  Latino Lover popped into my head in the airport at Mexico City. Greg introduced our song Garage Sailin' at the Opera House in Clearwater, Michigan. There was Have a Good Life I wrote in Panama City, Florida and And It Rained and it Rained at Ocean Beach on the Atlantic Ocean in North Carolina.  One of my very first songs was written on a troop ship bringing us back from Korea. It was titled Goodbye Yokahama Hello Frisco and I sang it on deck with our group called The Happiness Boys in 1953 ( I sang quietly because I never could carry a tune.) The troops had us do encores at each show. I have tapes of over 60 songs to choose from still All America is So Beautiful is my favorite and I guess I researched that  song for many years visiting all of our 50 States but it came together in June 1999 as I traveled between Battle Creek, Michigan and Hillsborough, North Carolina courting Jean. Last week, right here in Hillsborough I played my song titled Don't Wait Too Long To Make Your Dreams Come True and every toe in that room was tappin' to that blues rhythm and every voice was chantin' back to me "Don't wait too long." And yes, all was right with the world and all of the worries I had carried into that room, for a while at least, vanished from my mind.

Life is a Journey, Not a Competition

JourneyAn article by Peggy Drexler, which recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal, cited the 80-year-long Harvard Study of Adult Development which found that, “…it’s not Money or fame, nor possessions or looks, that lead to happiness but, rather, strong relationships.” Strong personal relationships with people we love and care about who are honest, transparent, comfortable in their own skin, and not taken with the game of “worldly one-upmanship.” The problem is that most people refuse believe this, and they spend their lives chasing fame, fortune, possessions and looks and then make themselves miserable by resenting those who appear to have more than they do. I saw a quote recently on Facebook that went something like: “I’m happy for people who are healthy and successful. Life is a journey, not a competition.” Viewing life as a competition takes all the fun out of it and essentially guarantees we’ll spend much of our time be unhappy or even miserable. Instead, choose to view life as a journey and enjoy the ride.

Old Business Cards

Old Business CardsOn October 7th, 1946 I received my Diplomat signed by William M. Scholl,MD, President of The Scholl Mfg. Inc.  It stated that I had honorably completed the Course of Instructions in Fitting and Adjusting Dr. Scholl's Foot Comfort Appliances. I was just 17 years old and I was working after school in Thompson's Shoe Store in Detroit, Michigan.  I was ready to relieve the whole human race of foot pain from fallen arches.  We had an X-ray machine and it also helped me fit any customer's foot for comfort.  Below is my old business card and I could rattle off the names of every bone in the human foot. I fitted a lot of folks with arch supports and many would come back and tell me of the relief they provided.  When I was eighteen I moved on to the Michigan National Bank and drove their mail car taking mail from one branch to another. The same year I found employment with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad and worked for them for 35 years. Oh I took a leave to serve in the army for a couple of years but from 1948 to 1983 I was on the railroad rolls.. Oh, the business cards  fellow accumulates during a lifetime.

Five Simple Life Lessons from the Founder of Discount Tire

Bruce HalleAn article by Harvey Mackay, which appeared in a recent edition of the Arizona Republic, featured Bruce Halle, the recently deceased founder of Discount Tire. During his career, Mr. Halle took Discount tire from a single store to 975 stores in 34 states and nearly 20,000 employees and the company is still thriving. In Mr. Halle’s own words, “There are five simple lessons to life:”

  • Be honest: Be transparent and always tell the truth.
  • Work hard: According to Mr. Mackay, “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
  • Have fun: If you’re not having fun at what you’re doing, you’ll never be good at it.
  • Be grateful: You can’t overuse the term “thank you.” Give people a reason to be kind to you again.
  • Pay it forward: Never turn down the chance to do something kind for someone else. 

Living out Mr. Halle’s simple lessons in our own lives will not only make us more successful, it will also make us happier and we’ll accumulate a lot more friends as well. If you would like to read Mr. Mackay’s article in its entirety, click on this link: http://www.uexpress.com/harvey-mackay/2018/1/22/lessons-from-a-tire-man 

I'm Good

I'm Good!The old Sears Roebuck Catalog used in so many outhouses in the 1930’s often had three different models of products listed in price as Good, Better and Best.  When I have offered help or maybe a drink of pop to teens and older men they often respond “I’m good.”  That seems to have irritated me somehow because I woke up early on January 8th, 2018 with this poem already formed in my mind, rushed to my computer and captured it.  I told my mind that I would write a poem a week in 2018 and my mind has been blank until this.  I woke up a few hours earlier than this and recited a few poems in my mind and then went back to sleep. Then around  5 am I got up for a bit and captured this poem.

The Passing Stranger
Art Fettig

“ … can I help you?” I heard that stranger say, that wondrous day as he passed my way.

“No, I’m good.” I replied instinctively.

He shook his head, “No, you didn’t hear me I said, ‘How can I help you.’  You’re good, but you were born to be better and maybe even great.”

And he repeated what I hadn’t heard that first time,

“How can I help you?” And this time I heard him, loud and clear.

“How?” I replied. "Supposing you tell me how?"  And I listened.

“If you are willing to listen, really listen, then you’ve already come a long, long way.” He smiled.

And then I looked at him. Yes, I really looked, and his smile was contagious and friendly. 

I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d smiled.

It might have been at the same time I started that senseless habit

Of telling folks, “I’m good.”

And then he asked again, “How can I help you?”

And then I smiled once more and I looked him in the eye as I replied, “I’m great!”

The stranger smiled back and went on his merry way.

And since that day I have strived to discover that greatness that is in me

And in you

How can I help you?

Four Easy to Keep Health Resolutions that have a Huge Payoff

HeartbeatAmanda Oglesby, of the Asbury Park Press, wrote an article titled, “Realistic Resolutions,” which appeared in the New Year’s Day edition of The Arizona Republic. In the article, two medical experts were asked for their take on “…easy-to-keep New Year resolutions that have the biggest payoff.” Here’s a summary of what they came up with:

  1. Walk More. Even if you walk just a few times a week around the neighborhood, you’ll see a significant health benefit. Keep in mind that any exercise is better than none.
  2. Eat a Little Less. One of the tricks I use when I’m hungry is I make a half-sandwich out of a single slice of bread. Almost always, when I finish it, I’m no longer hungry.
  3. Floss Every Day. This, along with brushing at least twice a day, keeps your teeth and gums healthy.
  4. Get More Sleep. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight and may be at an increased risk for diabetes.

Resolutions don’t get any easier to keep than these and yet the benefits to our health are enormous. So, I urge you all to give them a try. If you would like to read Ms. Oglesby’s excellent article in its entirety, here’s the link.  

Let it snow, Let it snow

SnowWednesday we had a snowfall of 10 inches and it was still snowing, 12 inches when it finally stopped.

My Mentor for many years was a wonderful man named Herb True, Ph.D.  and Herb was becoming bald. He used to point to his balding head and say to audiences, "Now this might not look like a lot of hair to you but in a salad this is a lot of hair."  Likewise, to folks in Michigan or Minnesota 12 plus inches is not a lot of snow but to a fellow without a snow shovel in North Carolina at the bottom of a big steep hill, twelve inches looks like a mountain.

Here on Friday the sun is shining and we have temperatures expected to reach 48 degrees, and by Sunday to reach 61 degrees.  So I am now singing the hit song from that great Broadway Musical Gypsy, "Everything's Coming Up Roses."

A Heart-Warming Holiday Football Story

TubaThis past December 27, the University of Arizona played Purdue University in the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, California. My nephew, Chris, plays tuba in the University of Arizona marching band. About 50 of the band members including Chris departed from Phoenix for Santa Clara on Christmas Day. They needed to play at a pep rally on the next morning at 11:00am. The other 150-175 members of the band were to depart from Tucson around 5:00 am so they could arrive at Santa Clara in time for the pep rally. All the band staff and the large instruments such as tubas and drumline were on this flight as well. Unfortunately, there were technical issues with the flight which meant that this group would not make it to the pep rally. Not having a drumline is a huge problem for a marching band because they're one of the ways that the band keeps the tempo and they also start off all the tunes with a roll-off. So, not having a drumline caused quite a panic among the band members who were there. According to Chris, here’s what happened next: “Fortunately, members of the Purdue ‘All American Marching Band’ drumline came to our aid and played with us so that we weren't totally useless at the pep rally. They played our fight songs and some other tunes that we normally do. The cool part was that this was music that they had never even seen or played before, and they didn't have any music to read either. Since our drumline captain was there, he talked them through what to do. All in all, they ended up doing a fantastic job, and we were able to play our stuff and have a blast at the pep rally.” What a wonderful gesture on the part of the Purdue drumline.

Warming Jacket

Shoshone FallsIn this recent Artic Blast our temperature here was low enough for us to take a new look at what we were wearing. I dug into my closet.  I got to wearing a sweat shirt and a hoodie around the house and then before I went outside I dug deep, deep into my closet and discovered  an aqua colored Hellyl Hansen double lined 100% nylon outer shell. It had a zipper in front that went on up on the collar right up to my nose. On the outside  left chest area was embroidered  "Alamgamated Sugar Company, Safety 200 Club, Twin Falls."  What an awesome memory that triggered. In June of 1997 That firm hired me to fly in to Twin Falls, Idaho and together with it's vice president of operations Pete Chertidi we toured together throughout the states of Oregon and Idaho visiting their sugar factories. I made a two hour safety presentation at each plant. I will never forget the day we visited the Shoshone Falls  and there had been so much rain that the falls had a record setting amount of water going over the falls and instead of just "Twin Falls" like the name of the community nearby, there were a dozen or so roaring water falls. Pete wrote me and described it so well saying, "The Shoshone Falls were definitely breathtaking weren't they? The word magnificent was invented to describe such a force of nature at work. It was a spiritual experience in its own right."

That quality 21 year old jacket still looks like new. It really keeps me warm but the precious memory of that tour, of the wonderful, enthusiastic meetings we shared and the lives we touched with our presentations truly warm the cockles of my heart.

Surviving 2018

New Year's DayI ran into a lady at Walmart's I hadn't seen for a while and she said to me, "What do you think, Art, do you think we will survive 2018?"  Now is that a nice thing to say to a guy who is 88 years old?  She wasn't much over fifty I'd guess, and so I knew she was leading somewhere else.  Turns out she had been listening to the wrong TV stations and reading about nuclear wars and terrorists in the U.S. and fires in California and horrible weather predictions and reading Trump Tweets. I guess any of the above might get a person to ask that question.  Will we survive 2018?  Well, I for one am counting on it.  In fact, I'm looking forward to it. In fact, I just bought some green bananas the other day.  I hope you counting on it too. 

I was born in 1929 in July and just two months later the stock market crashed, banks failed all over this country and and I have felt obliged to cheer people up ever since then. Just to get the record straight, I did not cause the stock market crash.

I can't remember the last time that people in this country needed cheering up so badly.  Have you noticed how nasty people have become in this country?  Talk about bad mouthing, I have never heard so much bad mouthing, criticizing, gloom and doom B.S. in all my life.  On those alleged "news" stations they no longer have a commentator or a news person with a guest. They've got a rabid posse.  Or a seething jury. Or a pissin' contest. They do. 

I'm thinking about installing a huge screen in front of my TV Set.  I will have to get out of my trusty Lazy Boy recliner and stand there peeking around that blank screen to see my TV.  Sort of a test to see if my laziness or my stupidity is the strongest.  I just might cancel all of my disgusting 24 hour news channels.

Do any of you think we will survive 2018?

Excellent Advice for Dealing with Toxic People

Frank Myers Auto MaxxTracy Myers, a friend of mine who owns Frank Myers Auto Maxx in Winston Salem, North Carolina, made this excellent post on Facebook on December 30: “Remember the old saying: "If you lie with the dogs then you'll rise with the fleas”? It’s true. That's why I encourage you to look closely at your relationships going into 2018. Put them into one of two categories: toxic or nourishing. It's easy to spot the difference. Toxic people have a tendency to make you feel inadequate, angry, frustrated, or guilty. On the other hand, nourishing people make it a point to make others feel loved, valued, capable, appreciated and respected. Milton Glaser developed an easy test to determine if someone was toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them: After spending time with someone, observe whether you are more energized or less energized. If you are more tired, then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. PLEASE take time to detoxify the poisonous relationships in your life as soon as possible. This is one of the easiest ways to move onward and upward in 2018! Accentuate the positive…. Eliminate the negative. It's an easy formula to follow and it works!” Thank you, Tracy!

Performing an Act of Kindness Usually Brings Us Joy and Happiness

FlowerA subscriber shared one of her experiences while shopping at Trader Joe’s: “Before heading to my class at the gym, I stopped by our local Trader Joe's store to buy a few orchid flower pots to give to the teachers at my daughters' school. I found one of them to be especially stunning and beautiful. That specific orchid had white petals with purple edges. When I arrived at the cash register that specific pot caught the attention of the checker.  We started talking about how beautiful and unique the color combination was and the fact that none of us had ever seen such a beautiful pot being carried at Trader Joe's.  It was at that moment that I decided to give that one to her as a gift.  She resisted, but I insisted, and I told her, ‘it's just an act of love; accept it on behalf of a stranger as an act of love.’ The tears of joy started flowing for both of us; we hugged and smiled! After checking out, I had to go back inside Trader Joe's to buy another pot (since I had given one away). That day, I was late for my class at the gym but the amount of joy that I experienced by doing this simple act of kindness was worth everything.”

And The Beat Goes On

As I typed out "January 1st, 2018" I had a sort of historic feeling.  I began my job with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad early in 1948 and worked for them until 1983.  That totaled up to 35 years service.  Then I totaled up the years I have been retired and I came up with 35 years.  That means that I have been retired as long as I worked for the railroad and I've received a small pension from them all those years. Now that sounds really weird to me.  Now it isn't like I have been sitting in a rocking chair all those years.  I have often worked a seven day week and burned the midnight oil running my own business and I have had a seat on one of those red eye flights many times to make it to the next city to give a presentation. But oh the joy I have experienced in these past 35 years.  When you are blessed to find an occupation that you truly love then what you are doing no longer becomes "work." 

At 88 I still come into my office each day and I'm always writing at something.  Occasionally I go out and make a live presentation and I go at it with all the gusto I can muster.  I find that same joy in presenting.

I still can't get over that... 35 years since I packed up my stuff and walked out of my offices at that old Grand Trunk Depot in Battle Creek and moved into that tiny office I'd rented in the basement of a popular local freelance artist's office near my home. It wasn't like I was jumping off a cliff exactly.  I had already lined up a number of bookings and I already had several books published. 

Now I have to figure out what I want to do for the next 35 years.  Our garage needs a good cleaning. There's some dust accumulated on the books covering the walls of my office and upstairs in my music room.  I've got some exercise equipment that I have neglected far too long.  And I need to find more room somewhere to put some of my stuff.  It looks like another good year ahead.

Peace Be With You

Korean War"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."  I keep thinking about how I prayed for peace when I was on the front lines in Korea. We knew that there was talk of a cease fire and peace negotiations between the U. N. and North Korea but the fighting continued. Then in November when I was wounded in action I kept on praying for peace. I remember my elation and how I prayed with thanks as that plane took me from Taegu General Hospital to the airport in Kobe, Japan and then I moved on to Kobe General Hospital for some surgery. That was November of 1951 and in early 1953 when I returned home and was discharged from the Army, we were still praying for that cease fire.  Finally, the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, and was designed to "insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved." Now as we come to the end of 2017 no "final peaceful settlement" has been achieved.  I'm still praying for peace on earth.  Would you join me?"

Refugee High School Students in Fargo say Thank You by Giving Back

VolunteeringSince 2002, Fargo, North Dakota has become home to more than 4,000 refugees from places like Bhutan, Somalia, Iraq, DRC, Liberia and Sudan. That’s a pretty amazing feat considering that Fargo has a population of only 120,000. According to an article by Dave Kolpack which appeared in a recent issue of The Arizona Republic, a group of high school students from these refugee families decided to give back by initiating public service projects including making and distributing fleece blankets to the homeless, running a school carnival, and volunteering at nursing homes and day care centers. They have also opened a food pantry in a neighborhood that has a lot of low income families and spent the Thursday before the Thanksgiving holiday handing out turkeys and cranberries to people in need. What a wonderful example these people have provided for the rest of us. Congratulations to the fine citizens of Fargo and these refugee high school students for a job very well done.

Bad Weather

Icy RoadAs I look out my office window here in Hillsborough, North Carolina I see a Winter Weather Land. It is beautiful. The news reports say that snow has invaded the south and more is on the way. I received a couple of e-mails cancelling meetings. It reminded me of one cold winter night in Michigan many years ago.  This was long before computers and cell phones invaded our lives.  I was booked for a speech in Marshall, Michigan for the Future Farmers of America. It was an Awards Banquet and we had a bad ice storm in progress. I got my Ford V out of the driveway OK and headed on through the deserted streets of the City of Battle Creek. I did not see a store open. The whole downtown was dark.  I got onto I-94 OK and drove slowly.  The expressway was covered with ice and on the ten mile journey I never saw another car. I drove through downtown Marshall over to the hall where the meeting was scheduled and I didn't see another vehicle.  As I drove up to the hall there were pickup trucks parked everywhere and when I walked into the big hall it was packed with proud kids and their parents.

It was a joyous event. The food was fantastic and watching those young men and women accepting their rewards, so proud and humble about achieving their often difficult goals, made me forget about those icy roads and that bitter cold outside and I just felt good all over, about the youth of America. I felt so proud to be an American living in this land of the free.  As I carefully made my journey home their applause for my speech still rang in my ears, but I had waved it down and redirected that applause back to themselves for it was , hopefully, a night they would all remember long after the ice had melted away. That was over forty years ago and I still remember it well.

Sad But True: Power Corrupts

CorruptionA set of research studies reported in the Wall Street Journal found that nice people–people who are polite, honest, outgoing and compassionate–are more likely to rise to positions of power in the organizations they worked for.  These findings held true for corporations, the military and politics.  It turns out that people bestow authority on people they genuinely like.  That’s the good news; now for the bad news.  According to the article, once these nice people get into positions of power they start to act like fools.  They do things like flirt with interns, solicit bribes and fudge financial data which, in turn, often leads to their downfall.  The article went on to say that even the most virtuous people can be undone once they get a taste of power.  The lesson here is that if you ever come into a position of power, never forget what got you there–because what got you there will keep you there.

A Writer?

Art FettigDid you ever look back on your life and ask yourself, "What if I had done things differently?"  I just looked at what I had written and started snickering to myself.  What a can of worms that thought could produce. I could play a game of "shoulda, coulda, woulda..."  There is a song that Sammy Davis used to sing and the lyric went, "I've gotta be me."  That is the way I felt when it came to writing and to being a professional speaker too. I always gave myself the freedom to follow my muse. I let my mind, my creative imagination take me to whatever path called me and I would follow it until another voice called. I guess I can stand back and look at what I've written and say "I've done it my own way."  What a rack of books I have written - humor, creativity, speaking, safety, sales, a mess of children's books, music, novels. First a humorous Army adventure, a book on two old coots in search of a hit song, an adventure novel on a Success Rally, and some spiritual books - Platinum Rule, Love is the Target, Mentor: Secrets of the Ages and Serenity! Serenity! Living the Serenity Prayer.

Follow the muse...follow the muse..  What a journey it has been. Yes, what a challenge and what a joy too.

Working on a booklet titled "Stuff I Wrote" I came up with 104 books or booklets I have written in my career since that day early in 1961 when I decided to become a writer.  I remember the day I followed up on a want ad in the Battle Creek Enquirer offering an Upright Underwood Typewriter for sale.  I bought it.  And I bought a ream of paper and I went to a local printer and had 100 business cards printed that read, "Art Fettig, Freelance Writer."

I climbed the narrow stairway to our big 3rd floor attic in the home we had just purchased in Battle Creek, Michigan and insulated the walls and ceiling and put up big florescent lights. A local travel agency gave me some big posters to faraway places with strange sounding names and I covered the walls with them. I picked up an old table and a typewriter stand and when my wife and I got our four little children off to bed I would walk upstairs to the attic and do my writing. And I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and I haven't stopped writing since then.

For me the joy was in the writing.  I often felt as if I could leap over tall buildings.  Most importantly, since that day when I bought that old used Underwood typewriter and had those business cards printed I have lived my life without a bit of alcohol. Writing and speaking has opened so many doors for me and led me to so many amazing adventures in my life that it sometimes almost overwhelms me. All I ever asked from a book or booklet is that it paid its own way.  Bring in enough sales to pay for the next one.  Everything else is an unexpected blessing.  The real joy is in the writing. 

One Thoughtful Person Can Bring Out the Kindness that’s in All of Us

Shopping Carts at CostcoMy wife recently made a trip to Costco on a Sunday afternoon to purchase, among other things, a rotisserie chicken. When she arrived at the counter where the chickens are displayed, she noticed that all the cooked chickens had already been taken. As she looked around, she saw that the rotisserie was full of chickens that were still cooking. She then asked a Costco employee behind the counter how long it would be before the next batch of chickens would be ready. He said, “about four minutes.” She then walked over to the produce area to pick up a few things and when she returned, 11 people were lined up anxiously waiting for this employee to put the newly cooked chickens into their plastic containers and set them on the counter. This could have turned into an “every person for themselves” free-for-all. But, when the first person in line was thoughtful enough to thank the Costco employee for putting more cooked chickens on the counter, the rest of the people in line relaxed and followed suit by saying “thank you” to this employee when it was their turn to pick up their chicken. In fact, one person even invited a mother with several children to go ahead of him in the line. It’s amazing how a single kind act, by one thoughtful person, brought out the best of everyone that was in that line. 

A Bad Example

Jo No NoI guess you could say that Father Skiffington, S.J. was my first Mentor. He was my English teacher in my junior year at the University of Detroit High School.  Somehow I had been named "Staff Poet" on the Cub Newspaper and he had been reading some of my stuff.  One day he called me aside and said, "Art, I do believe God had a plan when He created every living individual and that He gave every one of us a special talent.  If we can just discover our special talent and hone it and find ways to use our talent for the good of all humankind then this could become a world full of love and peace and understanding." Then he looked me straight in the eye and  said, "Art, I do believe that you were put on this earth to serve as a bad example."  I replied, "Yes Father, and look at the great job I am doing with this talent."  I could serve well as a bad example in both my conduct and in my academic achievement there.

Later I taught a course titled "You can sell your writing." It was built around a poem I'd written which was rejected twenty-five times. I sold it the 26th time out. My course gave struggling authors the challenge to carry on and some found success.  At the railroad years later I played the role of Joe No No in our A-V productions on Safety.  Joe No No would break every safety role and we'd show me lying on the ground and we even brought in a stretcher and showed me getting into an ambulance and moaning with great pain. So many times both writers and professional speakers have shared with me how I had inspired them.  Some said to me, "Art, I saw you succeeding and it convinced that I could do better in some way and I did." What is your special talent and what are you doing with it right now?

A Substitute

AudienceOne of my fondest memories as a speaker was the time I was called in by General Foods Management Club to substitute for Euell Gibbons, a natural food TV celebrity.  I lived right there In Battle Creek, Michigan where the meeting was to be held. Euell was forever being shown on TV eating cattails and other weird foods he'd locate out in the woods.  I worked hard on my opening lines for my talks and so I opened with a comment on being the substitute for Euell Gibbons. I said, "Unfortunately, Ewell could not be with you this evening.  I understand he was detained in the Upper Peninsula for violating a virgin pine.(pause)  He said he just couldn't resist those crazy cones." (pause)

Let me digress. Once when the great comic Jonathan Winters  was interviewed on a show about comedy he said that when he was learning comedy he was told to tell a joke, hit the punch line hard and then slowly count to five waiting for the laughter.  Then he said, "I still haven't learned to do it silently.  One, two, three, four, five."

Well when I'd write these new opening lines for a speech I had to practice them in my mind. In my rehearsals I used to hit the punch line hard and then count to five silently and then listen for the laughter. I learned to wait until the laughter built too because some audiences are a little slower catching on. And I learned how to let the laughter begin to ebb before I would continue. (Don't step on the laugh.)  I learned that there were a thousand ways to mess up a joke and so not all of those opening lines worked the way I visualized them in my mind.

That night I got a great laugh on the first line and then greater laughter and applause on the second. I was home free with that audience from there on.  When you are being paid as a professional speaker your job is to win over that audience every time.

Another challenge I faced that evening is best described in this well known quote. "A prophet is without honor in his home town."  I've been told by those who know the Bible much, much more than I do that Jesus could not work miracles in his home town. Well, I knew I certainly wasn't in His league.

Now the reason that presentation sticks out in my mind was that I finally had the courage to open with new material and even though this was a home town group I managed to do a great job.  It was a small booking but a giant step forward in my career.  Most of what I did that evening was my original material.  I'd been gaining confidence, building my repertoire and having enough success on a national basis to feel good about my career.  I didn't work any miracles that evening but I sure came a long way.

Avoiding the Easy Way Out Leads to a Far More Meaningful Life

Raised HandMy wife, who directs a foster care and adoption agency, recently taught a class to would-be foster parents. She was discussing some of the challenges and difficulties that come with being a foster parent when one of the people attending the class raised her hand and said, “We do not want to have our life be as easy as it can be. We are interested more in having a purpose in life than in being comfortable.” What this person was saying that being comfortable does not add meaning to our life, but having a purpose that we’re committed to does. I know far too many people who opt for comfort and take the easy way out and then wonder why their life is boring and without meaning. This is why one of my mantras has always been, “Never take the easy way out because there’s little or no reward (tangible or otherwise) and you miss out on an opportunity to add meaning to your life.”

 


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