Talents and Opportunities -
On a scale from one to ten how would you rate your lifetime achievements so far? Given that you were blessed with certain talents and that you have made the effort to discover what your talent or talents are, how would you rate your accomplishments to date? What have you done recently to hone those talents, to put them to work for the good of all humankind?
With so many of our young people coming out of our colleges with brand new diplomas in their hands it won't be easy for many of them to find a slot they can fill where they can put their skills and talents to work. I talked with a young man the other day who had taken a job in a factory so that he could provide for his children. His talent is poetry and, in time, he just might make a difference in this world. The majority of poets I have met would be starving if they depended on their income from their poetry.
I recently received a book written for Hospice workers by a wonderful lady I met while working for the railroad in Battle Creek, Michigan. It is a wonderful book and I discovered that the most precious thing a Hospice worker might do is develop the ability to listen. For a guy like me who had earned most of his lifetime income from talking, that is, giving speeches, that is a revelation. THAT WORKER MIGHT BE A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL BUT IS LISTENING HER/HIS MOST VALUABLE TALENT? I’m discovering that one of my greatest faults and weaknesses is my inability to listen.
How might you discover your special talent and how might you get started using it? I started writing in high school. I tried speaking there too but I was eliminated from the Elocution Competition because my humor presentation which won the classroom competition in 4F was deemed unsuitable. It was a wise decision. 4F was a pit occupied by the unpromising.
As I write this I finally realize that my life would have been a lot less complicated if I had spent as much time reading and listening as I spent writing and speaking.
Somewhere I read that Hell would be a place where you were shown exactly what your talents were and also shown all the missed opportunities you had been given to use those talents.
And you can't go back.
Too late smart.
Have I squandered my talents and my opportunities? Have you? And are we going to do anything to do a better job of using our talents and our opportunities in the future?
I Remember It Well -
Recently I looked at the date on my computer and it read April 9th. Memories came gushing into my mind.
On April 9th, 1951 I was inducted into the United States Army. My pay for what seemed like a twenty-four hour, seven days a week schedule was $52.50 a month. I believe it was an additional $15 a month when we came under fire from the enemy in Korea. Of course, from that sum we had to provide our own shaving materials, tooth paste, frequent haircuts, cigarettes, laundry and most often a dollar would be deducted from our pay for the Red Cross. The rest we squandered on villas, booze and wild women.
I must admit the Army provided our food, our clothing and most often shelter. I can recall, while training at Fort Bliss, getting dressed up in my Class A summer uniform and riding in the back of a truck into El Paso to discover that the civilian workers on the El Paso garbage trucks were all wearing the same outfit I was.
The food was... well here is a story to describe it. A private on KP sees this big truck pulled up behind the mess hall. He goes in to the sergeant and reports, Sergeant, there is a garbage truck outside." and the sergeant says, "See if it is a pick up or a delivery." Nuff said.
"What did you do in the war, daddy?" "I did my time, my children. One Year, ten months and 27 days, with time off for good behavior."
Oh, those were the good old days.
The Musical Wheel -
My daughter, Nancy was on the phone today from California and I was at my computer and the small drawer on my computer table was open. It is crammed full of stuff and wonderful memories and as I glanced down I saw this little Musical Wheel. I turned the little stem on the wheel and told her about the history of that little wheel. First I let her hear it tinkle. Then I laid the base of it on my table and turned the stem. It played its own stirring rendition of the tune Yankee Doodle Dandy.
I’d found my first little wheel in a fascinating sort of junk store on the Dixie Highway just outside Pontiac, Michigan in early 1988.
This was not retail material they offered, it was stuff they bought from manufacturers who had parts of things they made and this wheel was something not used in the manufacturing of Music Boxes. They carried all sorts of fascinating things like eyeballs from dolls, miniature drum sticks,tiny springs and all sorts of parts of things, mostly junk in the eyes of most people, but, as you might know, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I'd visit the store monthly with another idea person named George and we'd brainstorm as we went through the entire store bouncing ideas off one another and having a wonderful idea exchange.
I bought a couple of these little musical wheels for about 20 cents each. I’m a professional speaker, a motivational humorist and I am always looking for stuff a client might use to make a point. For instance I put together a dozen little cards for an auto company. We pasted little items on cards to reinforce some point. We sent them out once a month with something different pasted to a card. Something like an eyeball saying “You only get two of these, use them wisely.”
After carrying that little musical wheel in my pocket for a few weeks I went back to the store and bought a hundred. When I gave a talk on leadership at Notre Dame University for students I talked about how the President of Grand Trunk Western RR had changed my life. He spotted my talents and then gave me permission to just do my thing to change attitudes and improve performance. I said that he was a sounding board for my talents.
I gave each of the students a musical wheel and first we all turned the wheels together and I asked them for the name of the song it played. One by one they figured it out. Then I had them hold the wheels up and a hundred wheels tinkled in the classroom. Then as I challenged them to become sounding boards for others talents I invited them to hold the wheels on their desk and turn it. The desks served as sounding boards and the room was filled with music.
My Mentor, Herb True, Ph. D. and Anita Jacobs PhD, both professors at Notre Dame and St. Mary's were in the room and later, at lunch they both agreed that this was the most powerful hand-out they had ever seen. I rushed back to that little junk store the next day and asked the fellow how many of these little wheels they had and he replied, "10,000." I dickered with him on the price a bit and got him down to a dime each, that was $1,000 and I bought his whole stock.
In 1988 I was speaking at the National Safety Council’s Early Morning session and I would estimate the audience at 2,000. I gave each attendee a little music wheel and repeated the above material. McCormick Place in Chicago was filled with 2,000 tinkles and then with the use of their chair backs as sounding boards music swelled and so did my heart. I challenged them to take this little wheel and put it where they would see it every day and then to try and discover the music that is hidden in each person they come in contact with and to act as a sounding board for others talents.
What happened to those 10,000 little wheels I purchased back in 1988? I have doled them out very carefully to many thousands of teachers, to safety leaders, to college students and others I have found in positions where they might have the challenge and the opportunity to touch the lives of others. How many wheels left? Perhaps twenty hiding from me in a drawer up in my music room. They are waiting for my call when just that absolutely right opportunity arrives. I'm certain I will recognize it when it comes.
“Music hath charm to soothe a savage breast."
The Tap Dancer -
It was 1978 and I was almost fifty. My daughter, Nancy, twenty- two. . I had a booking to do three early morning speeches in the grand ballroom of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago.
They would cram a couple of thousand people in that room for my sessions and I was dedicating every spare moment of my crowded life into preparation. As a professional speaker, I had become known for my unusual, memorable closes. I had planned to use my popular “people” close which I did with a musical background playing.
Then on the second day I planned to use a new verse I had written titled, My Brother’s Keeper. For the third day I had a wild idea. I wanted to learn a simple soft shoe dance to do to the music of Bye-bye Blues. I worked out words and the timing and in my mind I could see myself tap dancing onstage with my lovely daughter, Nancy at my side.
In my imagination it was spectacular. About a month before the booking, I took a deep breath and approached Nancy with the idea. To say that she gave a cool reception to the idea would be a real understatement. After a few days of coaxing plus the promise of a monstrous bribe, she consented to join me in the basement rec room together with a tape player on which I had our proposed music.
I explained that we’d need less than a minute of actual dancing in the arrangement I had written and I played the tape and did the go-in that I had prepared.
As we got to the point where I visualized the dancing, I cried out, “Now! This is where you come onstage in shorts and black tails, toss me a cane and a top-hat and together we go, ta ta ta ta - tata - ta-ta-ta - tatatata - ta ta-ta.”
“Dad,” she said in disgust, “do you mean ta ta ta ta - ta ta -tata?”
“Yeah!” I said. “Something like that. Just something that will look smart and absolutely show that I know how to do the soft shoe with you.”
Nancy told me to shut off the music. She hated that music. It was old fashioned. It was stupid and it just wouldn’t work.
“We’ll try to make it work for us.” I pleaded.
I won’t go into all of the gruesome details, but we struggled with it for a full hour and the next evening we struggled even harder and finally after another hour of struggle. I was awful. Nancy suggested that I sit down and listen to what she had to say.
“Dad, “she began. “I love you and I think you have a wonderful talent for giving speeches, but a dancer you are not and a tap dancer you will never be.”
Coaxing didn’t work. Bribes no longer had any effect on her. Her mind was made up. I was a klutz. I didn’t know my right foot from my left. I was positively hopeless. After two hours of struggle, I was not one bit better than I was to start with. She was right.
She finally summed up the situation by saying, “And not under any circumstances would I be caught dead dancing with you in front of two thousand people onstage at the Conrad Hilton Hotel.”
I got the point. I was heartbroken. My dream was fading. I tried half a dozen times to veto her edict without success. Eventually I gave up my dream and replaced the soft shoe idea with a wonderful story.
Nevertheless that old dream of tap dancing remained in the back of my mind and continued to haunt me. Every time I saw an old Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly movie, every video that shows Sammy Davis Jr., or Tommy Tune dancing brought back that dream and made me wish that I might have done that wonderful close.
The years passed, I got older and grew an enormous pot belly and the chances that I would ever fulfill my tap dancing dream diminished with each added pound and passing year.
My wife, Ruthie, contacted cancer and after a nine year battle, she died. At first, I mourned and found some solace in half gallon binges with ice cream.
Finally, I got sufficiently disgusted with my weight and physical unfitness, I went on a reconstruction program. In all, I guess I must have lost some fifty pounds or more and with it that ugly pot belly.
With that weight off, I felt so light that I felt like skipping. I felt like just flitting around. My feet were like feathers.
It took a while for the possibility to return to my mind, but one day, after my sixty fifth birthday, I joined a senior center and when I checked the list of programs they were offering, I spotted one that said, “Tap Dancing for Seniors." The instructor was Sherri Rarick.
Imagine, Sherri Rarick, the same wonderful woman who had taught our Nancy to dance so many years before.
I called Sherri. “I see you are offering a tap class,” I said, “I was wondering if I could take your class?”
“Certainly!” she replied, “We’ll take anybody.”
Then for an hour each week I submitted myself to a session of complete humiliation. There were about twenty women in our class and me. The women were so cute flitting along so beautifully in time with the music and there I was stumbling around like a complete klutz.
If you are reasonably coordinated, then I’m sure it will be difficult for you to understand this, but my feet and my mind seem to have a broken connection.
I’d visualize a step and see my feet going in the right direction in the proper sequence. Then as I tried to do the step, my feet, as if they had a mind of their own, would go off in a completely different direction.
It made no sense at all to me and it was a source of great disappointment and frustration. At the end of the six week course, I did not sign up for another term.
I had gone to Chicago and purchased a pair of patent tap shoes. Then one afternoon, I was looking for something in the basement and I discovered a miniature plywood Ping-Pong table just 3’ x 4’ in size. On a whim, I took the fixtures off it and brought it upstairs for a minor experiment.
I placed it in front of my television in the den and put on my shoes. Then for about a half an hour I tried the steps I had learned. Then I tapped my way around the board searching for something that might work for me.
I’ve played at playing the drums since I was a kid thirteen years old and so rhythms are not something new for me. I tried out a couple of old beats and I soon discovered that if I did a step very much like running in place it sounded just great. In fact, the heel and toe taps seemed to magnify everything and with a little practice I found that I could do a whole series of variations on that one step.
Within a week I had located a CD of Louis Armstrong and his all-stars playing a blazing rendition of Tiger Rag. My original goal set over twenty years before was to do a slow soft shoe. But now that I had discovered this new step, I felt that instead of a sedate soft shoe, I could set my sights much higher and go for a higher goal.
I practiced with just the last one minute of Tiger Rag. Then I put it onto a cassette tape several times for practice sessions.
One minute might not seem like a whole lot of time, but as Mark Twain used to explain; time is relative. It depends on whether you are kissing a pretty girl or sitting on a hot coal stove. I soon discovered that you can deliver a whole lot of variations on a running step in just one minute.
Describing a tap dance is a little bit like trying to tell how a melody goes with just words, but I will try to put a picture in your mind of just how the dance goes now after a couple of months of daily effort.
While the music starts out fast and just gets wilder, I start out slow, just tapping around like I’ve just discovered the taps on my shoes.
Then I begin to experiment and try them out a bit. At the end of the first chorus I double the speed of my steps and it’s not bad. I do a couple of turns and then I put my hands in my pocket and kick my feet out to the sides just sort of enjoying the experience.
There is a certain jaunt to the theme of the music and I seem to be caught up in the music. There is a break, I stop for an instant, then that jaunt takes over and suddenly my feet are flying. My arms begin to swing in circles and I look a bit like a two bladed helicopter that is about to take off.
Again there is a two beat break and I stop as I holler out - “Big finish.”
I now double the steps of my flying feet and my arms are flying twice as fast now and as the song comes to an end, on the final five beats, I throw out exploding caps that accentuate the beats with Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!
I guess you had to be there and I will never forget it because when I first did it in front of an audience of seniors, they went wild. Later I did it to close a presentation for the United States Air Force and they caught it on video. Now I know I still can't tap dance. I remained a Klutz. But I was demonstrating how we should never quit trying new things. You can see it on Youtube by CLICKING ON THIS LINK.
Squirrels climbed up under the hood of my Ford Escape and chewed up a mess of wires again. AAA sent out one of those long, long hydraulic flatbed rigs to move it to a repair shop. It looked like overkill to me. Remember when they would use little rigs with chains or a friend could just get his car behind your solid bumper and shove you to the repair shop? Maybe you are too young to remember when we had bumpers and you could bump them. Bump the front end of a new car today and you are looking at a thousand dollars damage at least. Oh where are those young boys with their bb rifles who use to regulate things like squirrels? Things just ain't what they used to be.
A Prison Visit -
I went to prison last night here in Hillsborough. It took about fourteen months to get me through that gate but it was worth it. For me and I truly believe in my heart that for that audience it was a truly memorable experience. I gave a talk to a group of prisoners in a trailer and every seat was filled. You might say they were a captive audience but it might just have been one of my finest presentations ever. First of all I was so excited making preparations that I left all of my speech notes at home. I realized this just outside the prison gates but I figured it might be more fun to see just how well my memory was still functioning. The guards were very kind and efficient at the gates and ushered us into the meeting site. I talked for almost an hour and during my presentation we shared three of the songs I had written and recorded with Greg Brayton over the years. One song was titled, Don't Wait Too Long To Make Your Dreams Come True and they sang the background blues chant for me like no other audience has ever sung it. Oh it was fun. We laughed together and shared some serious moments. I just poured my heart out to them and they applauded twice at the end and every prisoner came up and we shook hands and they thanked me for coming. I was sort of celebrating my 56th anniversary of continued sobriety with them and I am so grateful that I could share that experience.Let's just say we touched each other's lives.
I don’t ever want to do those things I ought to do
There’s always something new out there for me I swear it’s true
There’s something bigger or better or lovelier that I see
There’s always something more exciting out there just for me.
I find joy in acting, just for this moment, yes
You just might find me irresponsible, I guess
Still, ‘til my life is over and my final breath is spent
Let me keep on doing things that make me hypervent.
The above is something from my new poetry booklet titled "New Stuff From the Quill of Art Fettig".
Teaching and Learning -
I have often heard instructors say that they learn a whole lot more by teaching a subject than the students learn. I gave a three hour presentation in Buffalo recently and as I was speaking I suddenly discovered that I wasn't in the safety field at all. In fact, I guess I never was in the safety field, I just thought I was. I have always been in the people business. For over a half a century now I have been trying to figure out what makes people tick.
Disturbed by our railroad's horrendous safety record I set out to find ways to change behavior and to improve attitudes. I also worked at helping people communicate with one another better. Does any of this sound like safety to you?
What I discovered again and again working with hundreds of safety leaders at national conferences, with major corporations nationwide and worldwide was that if you can help people improve their behavior, their attitudes and their communication skills, then you will suddenly wake up one morning and discover that you have made breakthroughs when it comes to safety.
Now I discovered that about half way through a sentence as I was giving a speech. I had wandered quite a distance from what people generally consider a safety speech. I had nothing on the 5 or 6 or 7 E's of safety. Education, Engineering, Equipment, Enforcement of rules, Ergonomics, Environment, E Gads - you know - the stuff that we all work on in safety. I found myself talking about Mary Poppins and the fact that in any job that's to be done has an element of fun, find it and Zap, the jobs a breeze... That is, finding enjoyment in our work. I work a lot safer when I am enjoying what I am doing.
And I talked about Bloody Mary from the stage play South Pacific. She sang, "You've got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how you going to make that dream come true?" And, of course, my dream as always was Zero Injuries. Nobody gets hurt on the job.
I didn't talk about Processes and Audits and I didn't even mention OSHA. So there. And when I shook hands with the audience as they were leaving the hall they all thanked me. They didn't tell me what a great speaker I was or how much they had learned but they said "Thank you," and I knew that they got the message...Work harder because it is required today. Take responsibility for your own safety and that of your fellow worker. You are somebody special.
Everybody but a few engineers in the back row caught on. (Sorry about that.)
Here's how the Chicago Times in 1865 evaluated President Lincoln's Gettsyburg Address in commenting on it the day after its delivery. "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dish-watery utterances of a man who has to be pointed out to intelligent, foreigners as President of the United States."
When it comes to Presidents, sometimes they just can't please the press.
Aren'tchaglad you're not working in Washington, D.C. right now? Aren'tcha?
And aren'tchaglad you're not a commentator on one of those TV news shows where they line up a mess of broadcasters or so called experts and they all talk at the same time?
And aren'tchaglad life is so sweet that you never ever learned how to Tweet? Oh yes, aren'tchaglad?
Yes, aren'tchaglad sometimes that you have a delete on your cell phone or on your computer and you can go Delete Delete Delete Delete Delete and, that easy, there is no breaking news at all to deal with because too many times it turns out to be disgusting or even heart breaking.
Aren'tchaglad? Well I am.
The Binge -
I've been on a binge for over a month now and it just beginning to show some positive results. I've been working on a booklet tentatively titled "Stuff I Wrote". One by one I have sorted all of the books or booklets I have written in the past fifty five years or so.One or two booklets are as few as six pages.And a few of the books are over 300 pages. Before I began to take this gathering seriously, if you had asked me how many there were I would have guessed a hundred all together. Well, right now the count is up to 119 and there are one or two yet I haven't found.
I scanned the covers of most of these and wrote short summaries on each book's contents. I'm showing them in chronological order. I'll also make a list of all the books and booklets showing them in categories such as Speaking, Safety, Sales, Children's,
Memoirs, Creativity, Photography and such.
So what does all of this have to do with a Binge? Well, as I keep pulling masses of books off my shelves and out of nooks and crannies and from places I didn't even realize there were books, well I got this tremendous urge to get rid of some of this stuff. All of this entails hours of moving stuff around, carrying boxes filled up with other authors downstairs.
Last week I took a big load of books to the shelter at the dump and they were gobbled up by visitors in the half hour I was there. I met a famous mural artist there who helped me move some boxes. What interesting people one can meet at our local dump.
I figure a couple more weeks and I should have this mess under control. Then I will move on to sorting boxes full of VHS videos and Cassettes of speeches we've taped along the way. So many of them haven't been transferred to DVD's or CD's and there are about a dozen of each of these I'd like to preserve. If any of you have found a good place to have these transfers made please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can phone me at 919 732 6994. Many thanks.
Aunt Jean -
My wife, Jean, just celebrated her 82nd birthday and the cards and candy and flowers and phone calls and the messages on Facebook - they were inspiring.
Some of those messages written on the cards were so sweet they might make a grown man cry.
I’ve noticed that some folks without even a hint of kin have takin’ to calling her “Aunt Jean.” Like, “Aunt Jean sez.” No doubt, her sayings will soon start showing up on those Quote sights.
I can just see them now. “Aunt Jean sez take out the garbage.” Or maybe, “Aunt Jean says it is time for me to go to the dump.” I hear that one a lot lately, especially when I don’t go there right away.
In truth Jean can be the sweetest, most caring, patient, attentive, consoling, hardworking, dedicated, generous, kind, soft-spoken, genial, loving woman on this earth.
On the other hand--- Oh, I was just kiddin’. There ain’t no other hand. Let’s just leave it the way it is and I’ll say this.
I sure do love that woman.
My Mama didn’t raise no fool.
The Upstairs Room -
In our home located just a couple of stone throws outside the quaint and growing town of Hillsborough, NC I have an upstairs room. Until just recently I seldom went upstairs and that was just to get something I have hiding up there or else to play my set of drums. I seldom play more than a couple of songs and I play so poorly I cannot stand listening to myself for long periods of time.
Since I began my new fitness program in October I go up there most days and ride my stationary bicycle for sixteen minutes a day. I have an ancient but good sounding CD player which also plays 33 RPM records and cassette tapes. As I exercise I listen to my old CD's and it has been a wonderful experience. As I ride my bicycle I look around the room and I have been taking time to look at the hundreds of books I have up there. All of the walls are covered with bookcases jammed full of books and other items. I also have a huge collection of educational cassette tape albums, many featuring friends I have made through the National Speakers Association in the past. Occasionally I listen to an old motivational tape and my mind seems to be getting a little sharper with this review of what I once knew.
I am accumulating quite a number of books and tapes which I will soon take to the dump or to a Charity resale store.
Every day I manage to procure just a tiny new space in which to move up there. I have some spaces I've made on the book shelves. I am losing that claustrophobic
feeling I used to get when I went up those stairs. Perhaps if I stick to it for another month there will be some room to breathe.
One might say that my "Stuff Room" was overstuffed. I have half a shelf full of old 33 RPM Vinyl Comedy Records that I hope to get around to listening to. I'm getting eager to find the time to listen to some of that old stuff.
Have you ever experienced an AHA! moment in your life? It is a time when you learned a great truth that might influence your entire future. I had such a moment one day in February in 1961. I was attending my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I arrived early and I walked up to the front of the room and started reading those 12 Steps of AA.
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over the care of God as we understood him.
Yes! Yes! I shouted to myself silently. Instantly I felt relief. I would no longer have to try to drink like others do. So many of my friends might have one drink or two and that would be all. Me? Something inside me made me have another and another and another.
No it wasn't easy but with that support group sharing their experiences and their wisdom and with the help of God, it worked. That AHA! moment changed my life.
Over the years there have been many AHA! moments that impacted my life in other ways too. Those precious moments when suddenly you understand something that has troubled you for years. I'll be looking for another today.
I've Still Got Rhythm -
My first musical instrument was a telephone book. It was a hefty instrument being from Detroit, Michigan. I bought a pair of jazz brushes and sat down on a stool right next to the old seasoned piano in the basement of the home of a guy named Pat Boyer and we would play for hours the two boogie woogie songs we had in our repertoire. One was Pinetop Boogie and the other wasn't. I can't recall ever playing in public with that telephone book but a few months later when I graduated from the 8th grade I moved up to a set of drums. I just now pulled up Pinetop Perkins and found him on the net playing his famous Boogie Woogie number at the age of 95. I pulled out my Research Triangle Park Greater Durham, NC yellow pages and then ran upstairs for my jazz brushes and played along with the original Pinetop Perkins and life was good, believe me. They asked Pinetop his secret to longevity and he said, "I like it here." Sounds good to me.
It was December 15th, 1989, my final speech booking of my busiest year yet as a professional speaker and I was booked for a full day of speeches in the Catskill Mountains in New York.
Here is how Dennis H McLean, Superintendent of their Margaretville, New York School summed it up.
"Dear Art, Our school and community at this little mountain town were touched by your inspirational program on Self-Esteem. Your speeches and poetry were enjoyed by people from five to ninety-five years old as witnessed by your visit to the skilled nursing facility at the local hospital and by our young people, kindergarten through senior high school. Best wishes to you and keep up the good work."
I'd made ten presentations that day, the most ever, and when I arrived back home in Battle Creek, Michigan my throat was sore and voice was gone. I decided to get to a specialist immediately and luckily got right in to see a throat doctor. She explained that I had strained my vocal cords and prescribed an inhalant. She said I must not talk for at least two weeks. "No talking at all." She said. "If you do you might permanently damage your vocal cords."
I had a silent Christmas and on the 26th I received an urgent phone call from a Booking Agent in Charlotte, North Carolina. She explained that the DuPont plant at Kinston, North Carolina had a speaker cancel out for their Safety Kickoff, January 3rd, 4th and 5th.
I swear I limited my conversation to four or five words. "Yes" I had the dates open. "Yes" she had my top fee right plus travel. "Yes" she would e-mail me a confirmation and "Thank You!"
I hung up the phone and realized that DuPont was the #1 corporation in America in Safety and I recalled that the Kinston Plant held the all time record for safety. What an honor to be working for the best of the best.
I began praying extra hard. I still hadn't talked on my way to Kinston and I arrived early in the morning and met with the sound crew. I was both anxious and scared and a guy named Mike was in charge. I explained to him about the trouble with my throat and how I needed his help. His response was music to my ears. "No problem, man! If you can whisper I can make you sound like radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. With our equipment I can turn up the volume and give you some echo and we'll do fine."
I did nine presentations in three days and this is what John & Libby, the folks in charge of the Safety Kickoff at Dupont wrote me.
"Dear Art: Thank you for the excellent job you did at our Kinston DuPont Site 1990 Safety Kickoff and Business Meeting. We particularly appreciate the effort you made to meet our requirements on such short notice.
You were well received by all of our employees. Your message was so sincere because it came from your personal experiences. Most of the time the audience was spellbound. I asked several of our employees to give me a one-word description of your presentation. They choose entertaining, humorous, sobering, inspiring, uplifting, rewarding, rejuvenating and caring. All were very complimentary of both your formal presentations and your casual break-time conversations.
You put an enormous amount of energy into your work and it pays dividends in the impact you have on those who come in contact with you. Keep up the good work."
We will definitely recommend you to others in our company and community who are looking for an energetic, well-informed professional speaker."
That was 27 years ago and I haven't stopped speaking since.
Just A Nudge -
My daughter, Nancy, phoned today to say that she had been reading through the achieves of our newsletters and one article about how I called John Burdakin, the Vice President and then soon to be President of Grand Trunk Western Railroad and asked if he would come to Kalamazoo with me and visit our employee who had suffered triple amputations when some box cars rolled over his body. "He's a tough guy and he is going to recover." I explained to Mr. Burdakin. "Yes, I would love to visit him." he responded and that visit was what was responsible for a major change in our safety program and soon GTW started winning national awards for their safety performance.
Nancy told me that what struck her about the story was that Mr. Burdakin was not some untouchable corporate figure at headquarters, he was a real person with compassion. All he needed was a nudge. Then she said that so often she hesitated when she thought of inviting someone to a meeting or an event and how life changing and important that invite, when she made it, turned out to be to her friends.
Sometimes all we need is a nudge. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all made 2017 the year of the nudge where we all reach out to touch the lives of those around us in a positive way? Thanks Nancy, for the nudge.
Stayin' Alive -
Recently somebody asked me,"Art, what are your goals for 2017?" and I began singing that old Bee Gee's song from 1977, "Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive. Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive."
When you ask a little kid how old he is he will hold up four fingers and say, "I will be five next month." Ask me and I will tell you, "I will be 88 in July."
My friend Ed Myles who is the same age summed it up this way. "Art, I don't have an enemy in the world. I outlived all them bast - - - s."
One of my goals for being 87 was to finish my autobiography but to really finish that I would have to drop dead. I would much rather carry on and face the challenge of discovering new ways to help make this a better world. I want to discover different avenues for reaching people and touching their lives in a positive way.
As long as I can still walk into a room and share a smile or a laugh or bring just one ray of sunshine into somebody's life then I plan to do it. And if I can no longer walk into a room then I pray that I will find a way to ride into a room somehow and share the joy of living.
So what is my goal for 2017? To "never give up! Never give up! Never give up!" Winston Churchill said that so many years ago and it saved a nation.
I'm stayin' Alive! Stayin' Alive!
Let There Be Peace -
"Let There Be Peace On Earth: And Let It Begin With Me." Vince Gill recorded that song years ago and every Christmas that song comes to my mind. Peace is very popular at Christmastime."Peace be with you." "And to you too, Brother."
I visited an Alzheimer facility recently and approached a middle aged man who was holding his head. He looked really stressed out and hurting. I asked him if he was OK, if I could help. He said "All I want is someplace where I can have peace and quiet." I asked him where was the most peaceful place he had ever found in his life." He said he would have to give that some thought. I said that the most peaceful place I ever found was in my own mind but I had to really work at it. I'd think about a peaceful valley with trees and grass and a small stream. I'd be alone, just watching the water flow and I'd think about a peaceful world where everybody loved everybody and there was no war and people were at peace with one another and most importantly with themselves. That fellow who was holding his head looked relaxed and smiled at me and I said, "Now you have a good peaceful day." I smiled back and went on my way. I felt much better about peace and goodwill and life in general. Peace be with you all.
A New Point of View -
A New Point of ViewFrom my office desk I can look up the stairs to my music room and see this big half-round topped window which faces West. It just dawned on me that if I were to move a few of my drums I could put a chair in there and witness these breathtaking fall sunsets we are being blessed with right now. That window has been there some fifteen years and I never took the time to figure that out before. I can watch them from my lazy boy chair in the living room but this might give me a fresh perspective. What do they say about changing your point of view? Adjusting your focus? Zooming in on the real beauty all around us?
'tis The Season -
'tis the season to be Jolly, Fa la la la la , la la la la. So how Jolly are you?
happy and cheerful. "He was a jolly man, full of jokes."
Snyonms" cheerful · happy · cheery · good-humored · jovial · merry
When is the last time someone described you as “jolly”?
Whatta ya say we all set out to become “Jolly” for the rest of this month of December? For some of us that would really be a stretch. I’m afraid that sometimes, if I smiled for a whole morning my lips might break up and fall off my face. But, somehow, there might be hope for me. Just the other day I was riding my stationary bicycle and I caught myself smiling and singing right out loud. I felt like my head was above the clouds and I could see the stars up real close. It was a magnificent feeling as though I had an excess of oxygen in my system and I was experiencing a happy high. I might have even expressed it as being “Jolly!”
Now I must remember those jolly lyrics, they go “Fa la la la la, la la la la”
And I just tried out a full smile and it didn’t hurt me at all. This just might work. I feel Jolly. Join me.
Baaad Dude -
Is that really December coming on up the road right there? Will we so soon be running out of 2016? What were those goals I set last January 1st?
A couple of days ago I went to the back of our front closet in our living room and brought out my old black leather jacket purchased from a street merchant in Istanbul, Turkey in 1999. I say "my old black, etc."
Actually its condition is brand spanking new. It has been tried on annually since I bought it, but never really warn. Never, since I purchased it, has it felt so roomy. Finally I somehow mustered up the discipline to stick with my own exercise-diet plan and twenty pounds has vanished, one ounce at a time.
In the interest of credibility I just went back to that front closet and donned my now precious leather jacket. I zipped it up, snapped the snaps and glided up the steps in my office on up to my music room and stood tall in front of that big full length mirror and there wasn't a bit of bulge in my middle section. There was plenty of room in that jacket in the shoulders and arms. Haughtily I raised my collar and put on my Marlo Brando bad look and sure enough I looked as baaad as I've ever looked and for a while I forgot that I was 87 headed into 2017 and 88.
We have a local poets meeting this coming Saturday at Anna Maria's Pizza and I plan to wear my jacket. Right next door to Anna Maria's is a bar where, on Saturdays, it is filled with people wearing black leather jackets. The parking lot is filled with several dozen motorcycles. Inside they have a heavy metal band blasting out. I just might find the courage to enter that bar after our poetry meeting and model my fit fitting leather jacket. I just might unsnap and unzip my jacket and display my big silver Harley Eagle belt buckle and strike a pose standing at the bar with my diet coke in my hand. I look forward to December and the new year because I have become one baaad dude.
John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad -
John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad provides a look at the principles and personal values that guided John H. Burdakin through a long, successful career as a top manager at three railroads—the Pennsylvania, the Penn Central, and finally the Grand Trunk Western, where he was president of the regional carrier from 1974 to 1986. The book, written from interviews with Burdakin before his death in 2014, gives real-life examples of how Burdakin’s management principles and personal qualities helped him solve labor- management problems, update railroad technology, protect worker safety, and improve employee morale while managing a four thousand–person workforce. It introduces colorful characters who were involved in American railroads, as well as the serious, life-threatening issues that confronted railroads in the last half of the twentieth century in America. This book will provide insights for managers of any business as well as for those seeking to balance a successful career and a rewarding home life.
The Santa Train -
In 1972 the first Grand Trunk Western RR Santa Train pulled out from the Car Shops in Port Huron and now 24 years later it is still on the road every Christmas.
There is a nice story about it in the new book from Michigan State University Press' "John H. Burdakin and the Grand Trunk Western Railroad by Mary Sharp. Commenting on The Santa Train John Burdakin said, "It did its job. We didn't have animosity between management and workers from that point on." Personally I sensed a new spirit of unity and respect. Grand Trunk began making profits for the first time in 20 years. I understand that today the train might still be running but no senior management rides with the train. Unfortunately,the Spirit is dead.
A whole lotta shakin' goin' on -
Singer Jerry Lee Lewis used to sing about "A whole lotta shakin' goin' on." Well I predict that in Washington in the very near future there will be "A whole lot of shakin' goin' on." Already there are some real signs of stress from the leaders of several of our Allies. And there is uncertainty about how changes that will soon occur in Washington might impact our own personal lives.
So many times I have thought, "Somebody ought to go into that Immigration Department and really shake things up." Or the same for so many others like V.A., FBI, CIA, Drug Administration, Criminal Justice, etc. etc. etc.
The winds of change are picking up speed. Who knows the extent of possibilities for changes and how they might impact our personal future and that of our nation for good or for bad.
A Little Love -
Maybe it is me, but I have never seen so much anger, so much hatred on display as I have in our current political campaign. I am reminded of the lines written by Roger Hammerstein for that wonderful play and movie South Pacific. They went...
"You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year.
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear.
You've got to be carefully taught"
I recently discovered a biography of Oscar Hammerstein by Hugh Fordin which has been gathering dust on a shelf upstairs in my music room. Mr. Hammerstein wrote a second verse that did not appear in that play.Few people have ever heard this verse. I think we need his message more than ever today.
"Love is quite different, it grows by itself
It can grow like a weed on a mountain of stone
You don’t have to feed it or put fat on its bones.
It can live on a smile or the note of a song
It may stop for a while but it stumbles along
Stumbles along with its banners unfurled
The joy and the beauty; the hope of the world."
Let's all give love a try now.
Smart or Stupid? -
The other day I was in BoJangles with a yellow pad and a pen and for no reason at all I started making a list of the smartest things I have ever done in my life and the another list of the stupidest things I've done. On the wisest things list I noticed that following up with new acquaintances came up again and again. Becoming active in an Association ranked high too. Listening to taped messages by people I respected ranked high. In fact, I still have a cassette tape player on my desk so I can pull out the tapes of some speakers who have long passed but their humor and their words of wisdom endure forever. One thing I wrote on the list was "Studied creativity." Another was "Studied humor." Another was "Phoned John Burdakin, then the new Vice President of Operations at Grand Trunk Western Railroad and invited him to go with me to a hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan where our locomotive fireman laid in a bed with two legs and one arm cut off. Mr. Burdakin said "Yes," and it changed my life. I was scared to death making that phone call but somehow I overcame that fear and plunged on ahead.
I keep adding things to my two lists and you know, this process really leads you to make some unusual admissions, perhaps some you have never made before. It is fun but it can be painful too, because I would guess that we have all done stupid things in our lifetimes. I won't tell you about my stupid list. Maybe if we will just admit some of these and learn from them we might make a lot wiser decisions as we move ahead.
Examining my life -
In 1948 I went to work for the Grand Trunk Railroad in Detroit. Then in 1951 I was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Korea as a combat rifleman. I was wounded in combat and awarded a Purple Heart. When I returned to the railroad in 1953 I was given a low grade management job. I married and we had children and then In 1961 I was transferred to Battle Creek, Michigan. Then in 1972 a new vice president recognized my creative talents and I was named Corporate Employee Communications Officer. Few years later I was promoted to Corporate Communications Officer.
In 1983 I retired and formed my own corporation, Growth Unlimited', with the corporate slogan, “Touching Peoples Lives.” My goal was to follow wherever my muse might lead me. I gave myself the freedom to do whatever I felt I wanted to do. To write whatever I felt like writing; to find clients and give speeches on whatever topic I felt like pursuing. First I did humor banquets. Then a friend told me that if I could include something on increasing sales I could immediately double my fee. I became “Mr. Lucky of the American Platform.” Sure enough, I doubled my fee and then I doubled it again….and again. I wrote books…first "Selling Lucky" and then "Selling Luckier Yet". I wrote a series of Lucky Ideas for a magazine and then one day at a Success Rally where I shared a stage with many of my heroes in the positive thinking field I realized that what we were doing was instant rehab for people who had somehow messed up their lives, perhaps with alcohol or drugs or people who had just gone through a divorce or maybe bankruptcy. And I had the idea how wonderful it might be if we could somehow teach children and their parents to become winners in life by reading my books and listening to our cassette tapes. I wrote The Three Robot Series of books and we created tapes and I went to schools and spoke for teachers and parents and students from kindergarten to grade 12. I even spoke to students at Notre Dame. I followed my muse and some called me The Wizard of Pos.
In 1975 I joined the National Speakers Association and it enabled me to associate with some of the most brilliant and successful people in the world. It changed my life and instantly broadened my horizons.
I never went to college but my goal was to learn something new every day. Never had a business plan. I had an accountant who managed my stuff and made out my taxes. I kept writing books, generally at least one a year and sometimes two or three. We did O.K. I didn’t have any grand ideas about making a fortune as some of my speaker friends did, still I made more money than we needed.
In 1988 I spoke at the National Safety Council and one of my clients tagged me as The Art of Safety. My clients that followed that exposure at their major annual meetings included General Motors, Toyota, some pharmaceutical corporations and then a long string of power companies and petrol companies. I wrote a bunch of books on corporate safety and turned out a lot of safety booklets for workers.
1n 2002 The National Safety Council presented me with their Distinguished Service to Safety Award which is their highest award given to an individual. My work in the Safety Field had improved the safety records of many, many corporations. They said that a whole lot of workers were not injured on the job because of my efforts.
Along the way I was widowed, moved to Hillsborough, North Carolina and married a real “Southern Lady” where I’m living happily ever after, still following my muse, doing what I feel like doing and still intent on touching people’s lives in a positive way.
What are my words of wisdom for somebody just starting out? Don’t let greed become your master. It takes away all the fun. Give to get. But do not give to get something in return, that isn’t giving, that’s trading. Learn to give for the pure joy of giving. That is the secret to happiness and the pursuit of happiness makes for a pretty rewarding life.
In the great musical, Fiddler On The Roof, Tevia the philosopher explains a summary of total beliefs when he says, “Life is like a fiddler on a roof trying to eke out a simple tune while simultaneously hanging onto the roof to keep from falling.”
When I studied human behaviorist, Alexander Maslow’s, Hierarchy Of Needs, I learned about motivation and why people do things. Maslow explains with a pyramid. At the base of that pyramid are the survival needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and sex.
The cave man and woman were kept pretty busy just filling those basic needs. After all, that was where most of the action was. Eventually the cave man got smart and said to himself “Himself, it would sure be nice if I could get my food, shelter, clothing without getting all scratched up. And the same with sex. Some of those women fight back and get ugly.”
And so man climbed up to that second step on the pyramid of needs and that was the need for safety. Now let me explain before we go any further that whenever one of the needs that is lower on the pyramid is threatened or not filled then the lower need becomes the real, prominent motivation.
Once the safety need is met, we move up to man’s need for acceptance by his peers. He wants to be one of the guys. A woman wants to be accepted too. With acceptance we move up to the need of self-esteem. We want to feel good about ourselves and about what we are doing.
At the top of Maslow’s pyramid comes what he calls self-actualization. I like to think of self-actualization as the point where you have discovered your special talents and you have taken the time and effort to sharpen your talents, to hone your skills and you commit your time to using your blessings for the good of all humankind.
It is singing your song and letting that special music inside you come out.
Then someone said that the greatest tragedy that could come to a man is for him to die with his song unsung, with that music still inside him.
Now what I believe Tevia was saying was that we are all fiddlers on the roof and we are all trying to make beautiful music on our violins, but that life is not easy and we must take care of all of our other needs. So we spend most of our time just hanging onto the roof for survival.
If there is one thing I have learned in my years of striving to make beautiful music in my life it is this: You can’t make music unless you have the courage to take chances and let go of the roof.
I also learned that you fall off the roof now and then and sometimes you get hurt and you’ll feel a lot of pain.
But I’ve also learned that it is worth it,
If you hope to soar, then you have to let go. An abundant life demands letting go and soaring with the eagles.
We were driving to Metro Airport in Detroit from a visit to Battle Creek and fog set in. At first there were other cars in front and in back of me and with that group around me visibility really wasn't a problem. Then the cars in front pulled off and as I drove ahead it became a little different. There were some cars behind me and they allowed me to stay in front. I was sort of in a role of leadership you might say. I began to feel responsible for those behind and wondering what might lie ahead. I slowed down to sixty. Those behind me slowed down. For no reason I began thinking about how driving in fog is a lot like other things that happen in life. How we confront new challenges and some pitfalls and how we aren't certain which course to take or what move to make next. On that drive I never lost my way. Just before we arrived at the airport the fog slowly lifted. I felt so relieved.
I must admit that when I got out front I did say a prayer or two for insight and focus and for wisdom too. I do that a lot when I feel that I might lose my way.
Just now I checked my computer and found something I had saved about fog several years ago.
"A fog covering seven city blocks is composed of 1 glass of water. According to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, a dense fog covering seven city blocks to a depth of 100 feet is composed of less than one glass of water. That amount of water is divided into about 60 billion tiny droplets. Yet when those minute particles settle over a city or the countryside, they can almost blot out everything from sight."
It reminded me of many times in my life when I felt a tinge of fear, anxiety, just unsure of the way and how my doubt turned out to be just about like that one glass of water. And it made me all that much more grateful that I had that Higher Power to turn to for the vision and the insight and the focus to carry on.
Huh? A guy calls the local airport and asks “How long does it take to fly to Detroit?” The clerk says, “Just a moment.” and the guy says, “Thank you." and hangs up.
Everybody seems to be in such a hurry these days that there just doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of real communicating going on.
I was about to type “People just don’t listen these days.” Then I gave it some thought. Who am I to be writing such a thing as that? I’ve always been a rotten listener and I realize that I am getting worse at it. Some things I don’t hear these days. Some things I unconsciously “selectively” don’t hear. I have this hearing disability whereby I don’t hear some things I don’t want to hear. There seems to be a lot of that going around. In fact, I do believe there are more and more people these days who do not listen to their conscience and even more who are deaf and blind when it comes to using their good sense.
If you have ever been a parent then you know that “DAH!” look you get back from your children when you try to tell them something they don’t want to hear. Especially teenagers. Today that "teenagers" means children over ten or even nine. In their own mind kids nine or ten consider themselves teenagers and teenagers consider themselves young adults. Me? At 87 I consider myself middle aged. It’s all in the way you look at it. Moses was 120 when he died. Now I’m not Moses but I’m not dead yet either. And I’m not stone deaf. It’s just that I don’t hear some things, especially when my mind is preoccupied and that is most of the time because I turn a lot of stuff over to my subconscious mind to work on and I’m often receiving answers which I called for from my subconscious and if you happen to try to tap in on my conscious mind just when I am getting a delivery I might try to wave you off. I might just hold up my hands face outward and if you’d don’t happen to be looking my way you might not realize that your communication to me is not getting through. I can’t help that. I’m not responsible if you don’t realize you didn’t get through to me. Maybe you should weave in some test questions when you think you are communicating, and if all you get back is a “Dah!” look then you will make a note go over that topic a while later when I look more receptive or perhaps send me an e-mail to remind me.
So while we are on the subject, “How long does it take to fly to Detroit?” Well, if you take Southwest for the good rates you will first have to fly to Chicago and change planes. Then it depends on how long you have to wait in Chicago for your connection and if you get out on time.
There are just no easy answers these days when it comes to communicating.
The Use of Poetry -
I heard this question the other day and it stuck in my mind. “Art, you have been writing poetry since you were thirteen years old. What good has it done?”
I’ve given that a lot of thought lately. My brother-in-law Jack Monahan was a builder. He could drive anywhere in the Detroit area and show me a building or a hospital or a special home and point to it and say, “I was in on building that building.” Even a plumber could show me the buildings he’d plumbed. A roadbuilder could take me for a ride on the highway he’d helped create. A high school teacher could show me year books of the students she’d taught. But a poem?
I’ve distributed many thousands of my poems at my presentations but I wonder how many have made it past the first waste basket they encountered.
I’ve closed most of my speeches with my poems and most folks have applauded and some even stood on their feet.
Others have read my poems to their listeners on radio and TV, sometimes to audience of several million but what good did that do? I haven’t a clue.
A few of my poems have been published in the books of others. Some magazines have published my poems. But what good has all of the above done?
It is difficult to explain why things are written but I must admit that I had no choice but to write those many books and poems and newsletters and endless ideas that have passed through my mind onto paper. I’m a writer. That is what I do. I’m a speaker. I’ve been giving speeches since the late 1960’s. Thousands.
I have no choice in this matter of capturing thoughts on paper and sharing them. That’s who I am and how I function. And here is a little secret. I write because I must. The real joy to this writing thing is in the actual doing. Anything that happens after the writing is either the price or the joy or pure gravy.
Here’s a little poem I wrote recently following a group poetry recitation.
Poetry Reading Art Fettig
One lady told me she was ninety-five
Another one looks just barely alive
There’s one who wears a perpetual smile
And a man who suffers from liver bile.
They’re a peppy group and we’re happy to be there
Otherwise we haven’t been invited anywhere
Everyone adores our work and how!
But they’re just too busy for it right now
The poet’s life is just not easy
Right now my stomach is a little queasy
I Just might put my career on the shelf
Stay home and read my poems to myself.
About once a month Jean and I visit an Arby's in Durham to enjoy a sandwich loaded with beef and I savor their special Arby sauce and their Horsey sauce too, mmmm. On a recent visit I noticed that the young woman who took our order was wearing a Woodstock t-shirt. I commented, "Woodstock." She looked up and I said "Your shirt says Woodstock." She brightened up and smiled and then asked, "Yes, what does that mean to you?" I thought for a couple of seconds and responded, "Thousands of young people out in a meadow listening to rock music." She nodded. When our food was ready she brought it to the counter. I added, "I hated that music. I loved big band music and jazz, even B-bop." She was very busy and nodded and I moved on with my wife who was getting diet coke from the machine.
The food was especially good. And last night I thought about Woodstock and how confused I was back in 1969 by the young people and the music and the cultural revolution and what was going on in the world back then and about how so many of my beliefs and values were being questioned. And then I thought about how confused I am today about the young people and about the political battles and about the America we live in today and I became all the more confused. Like that old Bob Dylan song says, "The times they are a changing."
The I Love You Waltz -
Here is the chorus of a song I wrote in 1999. It is a slow waltz and you don’t stumble onto many new waltzes these days.
I love you, I love you, It’s you that I adore
I love you, I love you, I will forever more
I love you, I love you, I’ll never let you go
I love you, I love you, my Dear I love you so.
You don’t stumble onto that many declarations of love in one chorus either. If you listen to the current news you might believe that “I think you are crooked.” “I despise you.” Or perhaps “You are unfit.” might be more on target.
My old friend now deceased, Greg Brayton, recorded the song and I never thought I would do much with it but lately I have been making monthly visits to a senior day care center here in Hillsborough. In my presentations I talk about different songs I’ve written and share information on how I wrote the song and how we recorded it and such. Usually, as I am closing my session I would walk around and shake hands with each attendee and look them right in the eye and thank them for attending. Then one time I played my "I Love You Waltz" as I walked around and I’d say “I love you” to them individually. Many of them would say it back to me and smile. I could just feel so much love in that room at that time. It was wonderful. And so it has become my custom to close each session with that song.
As I introduced it recently I commented that there appeared to be a horrible lack of love in this old world right now. That the politicians are filling the headlines daily with horrible statements about one another. A recent photo of our President Obama and Soviet leader Putin as they stared at one another appeared to me to be reeking with hatred. There is an old popular song that became popular that said, “What the world needs now is love sweet love, that’s the only thing there is just too little of.” And I think that song would be more on target for these times than ever before.
Never Being Poor Again -
Many, many years ago when our family was young and needy I heard about a way to never be poor again. I decided to try it. I guess you could say it was a sort of mind game you played with yourself. First I had to get my hands on a one hundred dollar bill. With one paycheck coming in and a wife and four children to feed on my meager salary from the railroad it took a long time to accomplish. I had to find ways to make additional income and practice real discipline but after several months of exaggeration on my railroad expense account and some profitable visits to yard sales, I managed to go to the bank and have a lot of $1 and $5 bills exchanged into one crisp fresh $100 bill. I folded it over twice and put it in my wallet along with my cards for memberships and such. There were so many things I was tempted to buy for myself and whenever I was tempted I would think about that $100 bill and often I would say to myself, "I could buy that if I really wanted it." Suddenly I no longer wanted whatever it was that was tempting me. The simple fact the money was there in my pocket made everything different. I can't remember ever spending it. I gave it away a few times to someone who really needed it, then replaced it. That felt better than anything I guess. I still have that $100 and it still stands between me and a lot of dumb things I don't really need.
Many, many years ago when I had the opportunity to give some talks in the classroom of my friend and mentor, Dr. Herb True, the students were told that much of what they learned would be obsolete within ten years. Back then I hinted that some of what they were learning might already be obsolete and that some of the stuff they were learning should last them a lifetime if they got it straight in their heads.
I mentioned a few things like ethics, loyalty, honesty, dedication, commitment, friendship and persistence.
Now I realize that in the thirty or forty years since then a lot of leaders in government and in business and in many other segments of our lives have lowered or abandoned their standards in several of the above but I do believe that those who held on to their high standards in their lives are a much happier lot today.
Those who bend to a mild wind may not survive in a real storm.
It now appears to me that in a number of important areas we have hit rock bottom and the only way we have to go is up. What would happen to this nation if we suddenly had a rededication to ethics, loyalty, honesty, dedication, commitment, friendship and persistence?
Now I just wrote down that list above off the top of my head and I’m sure that most of our readers might create a much better list than mine. For instance I left out “patriotism, unselfishness, and a half ton, at least, of better thoughts
Remember that old nursery rhyme, “Jack be nimble, jack be quick, jack jump over the candle stick. Do you? Well I am afraid that this Jack would get his rear end burnt if he tried to jump over a candle stick. Neither his mind nor his body is its old nimble self.
Have a dream -
As I watched a number of Americans receive their gold medals my thoughts went back to that wonderful Broadway Musical South Pacific and to a song sung by that big ole tough woman they called Bloody Mary and the lines of that song that went “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream. How you gonna make that dream come true.”
When I was younger I had a list of dreams. When I got older I even started a Bucket List but somehow, along the way I misplaced that list. One time in my career I realized that I had made presentations in a whole lot of our 50 United States. It took me a while to dig around in my memory and in my files but in time I wrote down occasions where I had made presentations in 48 states. Of course I wrote down the names of those two remaining states which were Hawaii and Alaska. I started promoting my services to some Associations in Hawaii and Alaska. In time I booked the Hawaii Safety Council’s annual meeting, spoke for them, then booked it again and over the years made presentations for the U.S.Navy at Pearl Harbor, then the Marines booked me. In Alaska I first booked their Safety Council and they had me back twice more. I worked there for a week another time for BP Amoco at Prudhoe Bay and so yes, I have made presentations in all 50 of these United States. If I hadn’t set those specific dreams and goals I doubt that I could make that claim.
What about you? And what can we bring home from the Olympics in Rio that might make our lives a little better? What specific goals might we set? If you just search Google and Goal Setting you can get a world of instant advice.
So often when I am writing and I ask that question, “What about you?” I am reminded that when I point my index finger at someone I look down at my hand and three fingers are pointing straight at me. And so I must now ask the question, “What about me?” What are my dreams going to be; what goal will I set, and when will I begin? And if I can’t locate that old bucket list when why don’t I start a new one?
Bloody Mary was a wise old woman. “We’ve got to have a dream. If we don’t have a dream, how we gonna make that dream come true.?”
Re Imagining -
Watching a Ted Talk one day I discovered Sir Ken Robinson, a leading thinker on transforming education. He argues that the education system should focus less on standardized testing and more on developing an environment where students can realize their potential – not just through STEM curriculum but also through imagination and creativity.
As I listened to his talk I went back to my youth and remembered the continuing penalties I paid because of my habit of thinking differently, of exercising my imagination.
Dr. Robinson said this, “Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not — because the thing they were good at in school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”
Here is another quote from his lecture. ““We are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
And another, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Here is the source. Schools Kill Creativity (TED Talk 2/2006) You can find this at Ted.com
Just hearing the words “Creativity” or “Imagination” makes my heart beat faster.
One thing about getting older is that you can keep discovering sites like the above again and again and each visit it seems all new and triggers your imagination with yet a new direction. Someone said, the good thing when your memory is failing is that each meal is a new adventure.
B.S. Alert -
Recently I watched both the Republican and then the Democratic National Conventions and I listened to and studied the speakers and it suddenly hit me as I watched Bill Clinton speaking, just how far the Art of speaking had come since I first started studying this craft back in the early 1970’s. The proper use of the teleprompter has brought elocution to an all new level.
I pulled up the text for Bill Clinton’s speech and then I looked again at the speech Michelle Obama had delivered and studied that cold bare print. I tried reading the text of both speeches and my words sounded empty and lifeless.
I have never been able to read a speech.
When I watched Donald Trump reading a speech he lost all of his magic. Working from just his list of prompt notes I’d call his style “Rantin’ and Ravin'” but he has a powerful impact on his audiences and he proved that what he was doing brought in the votes in the primary elections, so much so that he beat out sixteen other candidates and won the nomination.
I was dazzled by both Bill Clinton and by Michelle Obama. Their mastery o using telepromptors was magnificent.
Donald Trump has a somehow hypnotic impact on his followers. Adolph Hitler had that same sort of hypnotic effect on his listeners too. In his book Mein Kompf, Adolph Hitler devoted a whole chapter to public speaking and handling mass audiences. If you check out old newsreels about how Hitler came into power you can see his mastery of speech with massive audiences. He was a spellbinding speaker. Don't get me wrong. Hitler was an evil, demonic dictator, but he was a heck of a speaker.
When Trump reads from a script, no matter how good the speech prompters might be, for me, he loses his magic.
So what have I learned from all of this hours of TV I have been exposed to? First, please let me tell you of a little experience I had sitting in a doctor’s office the other day. A heavy set man came in with his wife and sat down across from me in the waiting room. After about a minute his telephone made some noises and then a solemn voice said loudly, “Bullshit Alert!” “Bullshit Alert!”
He took his phone from his pocket, looked at it and determined that is was a nuisance call and erased it.
I sat there mystified for a moment and then I leaned over and said to the man and his wife, “Excuse me. Did your telephone just say “Bullshit Alert! Bullshit Alert!” and his wife got red in the face and apologized. I was reading a book about writing comedy and I showed it to her and said, “Oh, don’t apologize M'am. That was great! It applies to most of the phone calls I have received lately."
After listening to the first hour of convention speeches I wished, oh how I wished I had that man’s phone available to me. If I had it I would play that message every fifteen minutes or so just to keep things in perspective.
Our First Newsletter -
I remember the day I first started writing a newsletter. It was in 1988 and I had just returned from the National Safety Congress at McCormick Place in Chicago. As I recall I had done the Early Morning Sessions two days and also a Keynote for the young people at the conference. I had a booth and had manned that for three days. No sales were allowed and I had given away over 2,000 copies of a book I created for the Congress, titled modestly, “World’s Greatest Safety Meeting Idea Book and had come home with nothing but about 500 business cards. I can still feel that disappointment I had as I looked at those cards. I had hoped to lock in several bookings and sell many books but sales were not allowed. I had closed no bookings and the fee they paid me did not even cover what they charged for the booth space.
As I examined that stack of cards I wondered how I might contact 500 people. All I had was a part time office worker. Paula had enough work on her hands already keeping up with the books I was writing and the financial books and such. I visited my local printer and we figured out a format we might use. It would be four pages 8 ½ X 11” folded in half for mailing.
When I sat down at my typewriter those four pages seemed enormous to me but I soon had them all filled and I’d had a friend take the cards and make a set of mailing labels. We made copies and we were set for four mailings. I already had ad sheets on my books and tapes and another on my services and that first day at my typewriter I was already wrestling with the material to get it all into the four pages.
I had an artist named Bill Tatroe who illustrated my books and he came up with a logo and a cartoon and then I hired a mom of three children who was overjoyed to place commemorative stamps and labels on each item and in no time we had a mailing out to everyone who’s business card I had obtained. (How easy that would be now - 28 years later! Should I ever complain about how everything has changed Jean will likely ask me to read this again.)
I can still remember taking that load of mailings to the Post Office and then we all crossed our fingers and waited for the results. The first phone call came on the third day and ordered just one book. Later in the day a lady from DuPont Corporation called and I sold them 1,000 copies of the book on Safety Meetings which more than paid for that thousand and the 2,000 I had given away. A little profit allowed us to do the first of many reprints of this little book.
The results from that first newsletter were amazing. In fact, they kept me busy speaking for the following five years. I sent out four newsletters the first year and then I bought a mail list of safety directors and sent out 10,000 copies of that fourth one.
A friend of mine named Charles “Tremendous” Jones did a great speech that said “You’ve got to give to get. Give to get! That’s right. You give to get but you don’t give to get something back. That isn’t giving, that is trading. You give for the pure joy of giving. When you do that you are generally blessed.”
That is what we did with those 2,000 books we distributed at that Congress. That is what we did and still do with our newsletter. We have tried to put a smile on people’s faces. To share an idea or two. To let people, friends and customers know we are still alive and to just say “Hey!” We have been truly blessed.
Lord make us instruments of Thy peace -
“Lord make us instruments of Thy peace.”
This idea came to me recently as I watched a press conference involving those police leaders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, following the murder of three policemen. One opened his comments with “Lord make us instruments of Thy peace.” How perfect this seemed to me. Using this prayer of St. Francis as a tool to bring change and understanding and love.
Do you ever look at the world news these days and feel totally useless, absolutely powerless to do one single thing to make this a better world?
Sometimes I think we all feel that way. In 1992 I set out on the first of the year determined to make a difference, every single day. It brought me a great deal of joy and contentment. Then I wrote my book titled “Love Is The Target”.
For my guide I used The Prayer of St. Francis.
This prayer begins with what I call “The seven petitions.”
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;”
Since there are seven I singled out one for each day of the week and thought about it, prayed about it and watched for opportunities where I could work to put this into action and then I did my best to make something good happen.
Next in this prayer are our requests followed by words of wisdom.
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen! So be it! And this is our call to action, “Now let’s get to work making this a better, more loving and peaceful world.”
Want to make this your prayer? Just add the word “Please” to the front end.
At the bottom of the prayer sign your name and you might write the word “Together” Thus you join hands with others all over this world who are striving to make this a better world.
Here is the Prayer with my suggestions.
(Write “Please” here to make this your prayer.)
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(Write the word “Together” bonding with others who will join you in this plan.)
Now sign your name here. _________________________________
It is your signed commitment to making this a more loving, peaceful world.
The Power of Music -
At a Yard Sale recently I purchased a CD Set titled "The War Years, Your Hit Parade." I'd been playing it for about a week in my office when I received a phone call from my sister Barb. She is a year and a half older than I and we exchanged chatter for a couple of minutes and then I tried an experiment. I told her about my CD's and as a test of her memory I would give her the first few words of a song title and asked her to finish it. For instance, I said, "I've heard that..." and without hesitation she said, "song before." I said, "That old black," and she said, "Black Magic." I said, "When the lights go," And she said, "On again all over the world." She got eighteen out of twenty-four instantly." When I asked her favorite song she said, "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."
And when I asked, "Who sang it," She paused and then said "Judy Garland." I went straight to YouTube.com and pulled it up and asked, "Did it go like this?" and I played the song sang by Judy Garland and she loved it. In fact, she sang joyously along with it and I cannot recall hearing her sing anything in the past fifty years. Oh maybe, "Happy Birthday to you" but the crowd drowned her out. She has a sweet voice. The next day I mailed her copies of everything, 146 songs. What a wonderful experience of sharing. We both ended that phone call feeling elated with the joy of remembering.
It Only Hurts When I Frown -
I can still remember that Sunday morning in 1973 when a Father Farrell visited our Catholic Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. He spoke at all the masses soliciting subscriptions for a monthly magazine called Liguori. Our pastor introduced him as the Editor of Liguori Press. “Cha Ching Ching!” went those little sound effects in my mind. I had been writing short humor articles about raising our four children and some other material on our choir, our ushers and on being a Lector. I’d sold a number of things to various church magazines of different denominations and to parents magazines and even a diaper magazine..([The latter might give you an idea of the quality of my humor.)
I must admit I wasn’t much of a participant that morning. My mind was spinning with a new book idea and when the service was over I was headed to the church sacristy intent on meeting Father Farrell.
I rang the back doorbell and explained my mission and Father Farrell came out and joined us. When I explained my mission he reluctantly sat down with me and I asked “Father, how would Liguori Press like to publish my humor book on a Catholic family raising kids.?" I went on in more detail and after several minutes Father asked “How long would it be until you might be able to send me a completed manuscript?" My mind went into fast forward and I responded, “How long will you be here?"
He said, "Until 3 this afternoon." And I said, “I will have it ready by three and bring it to you here.”
We shook hands and I raced out the door.
I went straight home to my attic office and dug out the carbon copies of those articles I had sold to magazines. Then I went to the pile of articles which had been rejected and others that had recently been sent to magazines and after about an hour of sorting I had 29 articles in all. None of this was easy because my office was a real mess.
I sat down at my typewriter and typed out a title. “It Only Hurts When I Frown”. Then I typed out a short pitch for the back of the book that said, “It Only Hurts When I Frown. A funny, happy, loving look at life." By Art Fettig
And then I raced over to my office at the Railroad Station. I took that stack of 29 articles into the Train Dispatcher’s Office where I had the unlimited use of the copy machine and I spent a long time producing two copies of everything. Then I laid the whole thing out on a giant picnic table we had in the lobby and I danced around it moving the different articles around here and there and at a quarter to three I put it all together with a cover letter to Father Ferrell, into a manila folder and I got in my car and raced to the church which was just a few blocks away.
Father Farrell answered the door, smiled and looked at his watch. “You made it! I was just getting ready to leave.” He pulled the manuscript out of the folder, looked through it quickly and all he said was “Hmmmm.Hmmmm"
Just a few weeks later he called me and said they planned to print 3,000 paperbacks.
It was my first book sale. Imagine, a book that didn’t even exist until I got that flash in my mind there at mass that morning. Certainly I had all of the ingredients for the book but I never looked at it that way until that morning.
We sold out the original edition and then republished it in 1986, 1990 and 1993.
It was a good start and I tried to make up with my prayers the following Sunday.
America 2016 Art Fettig -
Happy Birthday America and Congratulations!
It continues to amaze me how an old timer like you just goes on and on. It must not be easy to survive as a nation these days.
What is it this year, Your 240th? WOW! You are lookin’ good. Oh, your infrastructures are a little worn down, and I hear you have some financial problems, what is it now, minus 19 Trillion?
I hear you have leadership problems and you aren’t doing well finding replacements.
But I know you. You are resilient and you always bounce back. Just wanted to send our best wishes and congratulations on surviving another decade.
OH, P.S. I understand there will be no firecrackers this year.They sound too much like the automatic rifle fire heard in Orlando recently.
Driver License Renewal -
My 87th birthday is coming up and my driver’s license was about to expire. When I got it five years ago, I figured that I would expire long before that license did but such was not the case. I have been having trouble with my eyes recently. I have one of those “ism” conditions that comes and goes every now and then. Well this time it wanted to stick around. The air conditioning seems to dry my eyes out a bit too and I have been reading and writing on my computer and watching old movies way too much. Anyhow I had some anxiety about taking that eye test for my new license. I went in to our DOT License Renewal office arriving at five minutes to ten and the computer in the outer lobby printed out a ticket so we’d be called in order, sort of. Then I waited to be called. It was twenty minutes before they called anybody and then just one and five minutes later another. And there were over twenty of us waiting to be called. It was not encouraging.
One hour and thirty five minutes in, my left eye started cloudin’ over. Between that crowd and an air conditioner which had been blowing on me, my eye had plumb dried out. It did. I tried every manner of blinking I know of and it stayed dry. I’d forgot and left my eye drops on the kitchen table so then I tried spittin’ on my finger and trying to work a little spit up into my eye. It didn’t work. Well, there was this here African American young man I had talked to some sittin’ there and we seemed to get along well and so I felt comfortable asking him. I explained my dry eye and I asked him plum out if he’d mind a spittin’ into my eye. He looked kind of funny and then he turned away from me and looked all around the room. About 80% of the folks were Afro-American too and I was the old white guy in the crowd. He smiled at me real friendly like but then he explained that this just wasn’t a good time in our community for him to be spittin’ in my eye and he hoped I would understand.
Just then this big ole white woman with a cane came a limping into the room and she took a ticket and looked around and I was about to stand up and give her my seat when she asked a fellow near her if it was possible to make an appointment. I had just read a card they had there and I spoke up and told her about the card and appointments and she picked one up and smiled and thanked me and left.
Well, that encounter had took my mind off my dry eye and darned if the eye hadn’t wetted up by itself and my number came up and I was called in. It wasn’t more than seven minutes or so and I had gone through the whole test and I had all the right answers and I sailed right through that eye test and sure enough, they gave me a temporary license and this lady promised me that I’d have my new license sent by mail and it would be good for five more years. So there it is. Just more proof that when you figure out a way to do something nice for somebody then sure enough you will soon be blessed back. You will. (Andy Griffith might have given the account of this true story in just this way. He joined Barney and the others in the next life four years ago - July 3, 2012.)
In 1999 I wrote a children’s song which Greg Brayton and I recorded. Here are some of the lyrics.
Punctuality, punctuality, That rare quality Of being where you oughta when you oughta be. Being where you oughta, when you oughta be
I once knew a fellow named Clay. Clay was late for school, he was late for play. Clay got home so late one day, he discovered that his family had moved away.
He soon learned Punctuality, punctuality, that rare quality of being where you oughta when you oughta be. Bein where you oughta when you oughta be.
We've just heard a silly old rhyme about being there and being on time.
Yes it’s important to learn you see, because winners always practice punctuality. Now all my life I have been a nut for punctuality. When anyone hired me for a speech they could bet on the fact that I would be there and be there on time for a performance. Isn't it strange how it sometimes takes many decades just to figure some things out? For instance the need in my life for punctuality. Not just for speeches but being on time for most everything. Just this morning I was thinking about that need and I tracked it all the way back to Gesu Elementary School in Detroit. I got recruited by one of my teachers to become an altar boy. I learned to recite the Latin, ring dem bells and all of the other duties involved but most of all I learned the importance of being on time. Gesu Church was located right across the street from the University of Detroit and so at 6 a.m. a parade of Jesuit Fathers would come across the street and our five altars were busy until 8 a.m. when just one altar continued on.
Why, being on time was like a sacred duty and I guess I got that value implanted in my mind and it never escaped. It has served me well in my business and in my life but it sure can be a pain in the rear end when others are running late.
The Greatest -
When Cassius Clay was interviewed before his first world championship boxing fight he announced to the world "I am the greatest!". Now, Muhammad Ali has died and all over the world reporters and news people are writing stories about the former Cassius Clay that begin,"World''s greatest heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali..." During the Olympics held in Beijing he was cited as "the best known person in the world". Truly he became the greatest, especially in the way he fought his long battle with Parkinson's disease. The world mourns.
Talking to Cell phones -
He was just six weeks shy of his 87th birthday that morning when he walked into the Hillview High School main door and before he even got to the front desk he was met by his grandson Darin who was a senior there. Darin was the one who invited his grandfather to visit his Music Appreciation Class and make a presentation on The Music In My Life.
Darin was standing there with his cell phone in his hand, texting or whatever. That is the way his grandfather saw him most of the time—with the iPhone in his hand and ear phones on and they hardly ever got beyond nodding to one another at family affairs. The old man was absolutely amazed when Darinhad called him with this invitation. Making presentations was the old man’s profession for nearly fifty years and although he didn't really understand the assignment he figured he could have his way with almost any audience somebody might put in front of him. Still, there was some anxiety because if Darin was representative of most high school seniors today, then it just might be a long afternoon ahead.
“Anything you want me to say to introduce you, Gramps?" Darin asked as they walked to the classroom. "I read that introduction you sent me but don't you think it is a bit long?”
“I've had a long life, Darin, but you can say as much or as little as you want to.”
The class of 19 students was already seated and their teacher, John Sherwood, was seated in the rear of the classroom and just waved. The old man took a chair facing the class and Darin went right into the introduction.
“I brought along my grandfather today and he gave me this long introduction. He has been a professional speaker for nearly fifty years and has given talks in every one of the United States and in all of the Canadian Provinces. I know he used to be funny but I haven't seen any signs of it lately.” The class laughed and so did the old man. “He has written a whole shelf full of books and booklets. We have some at home but I haven't read any of them.” Again he was interrupted with laughter. Darin looked over at his grandfather and just shrugged, not knowing what to say next and so his Grandfather stood up and put out his hand and Darin shook it and the old man stepped forward a few steps and Darin sat down. The old man applauded with real enthusiasm, smiled and waved down the applause as if it was his own and began.
“It is a real pleasure to be here. In fact, it is a real pleasure for me to be anywhere these days. I will soon have my 87th birthday and so it is a real pleasure just to be.” One of the students applauded and laughed and other students joined him.
“I understand that this class is about ‘music appreciation’. When I was very young, maybe 12 years old, I lived in Detroit, Michigan and I used to take the 2nd Avenue Bus from our corner downtown and see all of the great big bands. Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, and then I used to go to the Paradise Theatre and see the black bands. Those I really loved. There was Duke Ellington, Count Basie, once I saw the Will Mastin Trio featuring Sammy Davis, Jr., Billie Holiday. What parades of super-stars. I used to go alone to this theatre for blacks and nobody ever bothered me. All I got was smiles from folks when I smiled at them. Music was what was important to that audience, not the color of your skin.
The old man looked over at Darin who had his cell phone in his hand and was evidently punching out a message to somebody. The old man stopped and looked around at the students in the classroom and they all had their cell phones out and were messing with them. The final straw was when he looked over at the teacher and he was busy on his cell phone too.
The old man figured he was just talking to himself and was sad and disturbed. In the earlier days of his career he would often be a featured speaker at ballrooms, theatres, a hockey rink, a football stadium and even the Charlotte Coliseum where he could spellbind each audience and hold their rapt attention for a full hour, and now here he was with just a few students and they were all playing with their cell phones!
He stopped what he was saying mid-sentence and walked over to Darin and said, “What are you doing on your phone that is so important? After all, you invited me here to talk to this class on music appreciation.”
Darin looked shocked but quickly recovered. "I was looking up Duke Ellington’s 'Take the A Train' ”. "Gramps, did you know that Duke Ellington’s theme song, "Take the A Train" was written by Billy Strayhorn who grew up right here in our town?"
“Let me see that” the old man said as he looked at the screen, and sure enough that was what it said.
“I’ve found it on YouTube” Michael, the young man in the front row, said as he handed his ear phones over to the old man.
“That’s it,” the old man said excitedly... “Duke’s band playing his theme song.”
The young lady sitting next to Michael said, “ Here’s a picture of Count Basie, Sir!”
And next to her another student had pulled up a Count Basie recording of 'Two O'clock Jump' and offered his ear phones.
The old man got a big smile on his face and walked down the aisle. On one cell phone he saw a photo of The Paradise Theatre, on another a photo of Sammy Davis Jr. and on another a Wikipedia write up on Benny Goodman.
Every cell phone in that room had something on somebody the old man had mentioned in his presentation. All but one. The old man had worked his way to the back of the room where the teacher, Mr. Sherwood was sitting. He had his hand over his cell phone and old man signaled for him to uncover the screen. He did and there were a dozen pictures of the old man from the various stages of his long career.
Slowly, the old man worked his way back up to the front of the classroom. There were tears running down his cheeks. The students all began their applause and the old man held up his hands for silence. “Thank you for having me here. I want you all to know that I learned a whole lot more than any of you did here today. Thank you so much.” (Note: Thought I'd take a crack at Short-Short Fiction for a change. It felt good. Art )
Memorial Day -
Letter to Max
It's Memorial Day and I'm thinking about Korea and about you, Max. You and those other G.I's they carried off on liters from that damn, beat-up powder-topped hill we called Old Baldy. We were fighting so that the world would be safe for democracy. Maybe we did a lousy job of it Max, because people are still killing each other for the same reason.
Oh, I remember you Max. You didn't talk much, but we spent every moment together, sitting in that stinkin' bunker, through those long nights. We took turn on watch, putting our lives in each other's hands for a couple of hours sleep.
Max, I remember how we went without food for two days because somebody screwed up in our supply lines. Finally, I got so disgusted that I crawled up to the Command Post. While I was there those rounds came in.
Later, when I went back to our bunker, I found you Max. You and that other guy I'd never known before. I guess he was just passing by when that barrage came in and he jumped into our hole and he met death there for me.
So I'm still here to remember you Max; you and that other guy and that beat up hill where we chose to meet the enemy and say, "Hold it! We've come to make this world safe for democracy." They didn't listen, Max, and they killed you.
Max, I've got the feeling that maybe we made that trip overseas in vain. That the place to make the world safe for democracy is right here and the time is right now. What we've really got to remember today is that war is hell and that death is real and what the world needs right now, Max, is love. Love and a lot more love. Not a lot of men running across oceans to make the world safe for democracy.
You didn't say very much, Max, but I remember what you did say. It seemed pretty corny right then. You said, "Man must learn to love his fellow man."
Max, it is finally beginning to make sense to me. Like you said, Max, Love is the answer
Your buddy Art.
They Can't Stop! -
I was driving out of Hillsborough on Old US10 and turned left onto Mount.Herman Church Road when I came to a railroad crossing and as I drove over it I noticed an old cemetery on my left. Immediately the thought jumped into my head, "How appropriate, a railroad crossing and a cemetery." So many times I'd traveled to railroad crossings and walked down the tracks to examine the shattered remains of autos and the dead bodies of crash victims.
I worked for the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in Michigan for 35 years and in my work the first twenty-five years I investigated railroad crossing accidents between trains and motor vehicles. Most of them were fatalities and then when I got a promotion one of my jobs was producing audio-visual presentations. With the help of Roger Thurgaland who worked with me we produced a presentation titled "They Can't Stop!". The theme was, "The only one who can prevent a railroad crossing accident is you the motorist." Our trains traveled at speeds up to 69 MPH and with a hundred cars or so, it took half a mile to stop a train. Our filmstrip was used in Michigan's Operation Life Saver and over a million driver education students saw it. Then it was used nationally.
Today I still keep reading about people being killed at railroad crossings and even with flashers and gates at so many crossings, people are still getting killed. Unfortunately in most cases folks still haven't gotten the message. They Can't Stop! The only one who can prevent a railroad crossing collision is you the motorist.
An Early Alpha Session -
As I was waking up this morning thinking about my life, some of my failures and some of my achievements, I could suddenly see things so clearly. It all seems so simple, the fact that I was born a Change Agent. Why did I have so much trouble in high school with the Jesuits? Because I was a troublesome student who wanted change. I wanted them to open their minds to allow a different thought from what they had been taught. Fat chance.
And in the Army? I questioned the value of what was in their book. Why did they send platoon after platoon after platoon up that damn enemy hill and then watch them carry us off dead or wounded? And oh the potatoes I peeled.
I can see now how the parent owner of our railroad sent their very best leader in from Canada to either change our failing railroad or else they would sell it; and how I, just by blind luck and passion, happened onto the scene stumbling in with all of my badly needed ideas on employee communications and compassion and challenge and how they were a fit for what was required and although there was resistance from the status quo still we managed to succeed somehow and create the needed change in time to save the organization.
And this morning lying in my bed it was like an open sesame experience and I could see why many of my concepts were welcomed in the speaking industry and then into a few children’s classrooms and then into the safety departments of major industries and even in small ways into the military.
And am I trying to imply that I was a brilliant guru, the wizard of change? Of course not. It is just that for a brief moment this morning in my mind I could see a tiny spark of understanding, just why as one woman I met explained to me, the reason she had her second marriage annulled just a week after the wedding, “He wanted me to change.”
People resist change. Organizations resist change. It makes them uncomfortable. It is a threat to their status quo. There is fear that change could threaten ones very presence within an organization or maybe even lives.
I was born with an overactive “what if” factor in my mind. And perhaps with such a factor came a large lack of tact. That inability to suffer fools gladly. And, of course, overdoses of impatience and ego.
I did alright, you know. Not great, nor fantastic. Not brilliantly. But considering my lack of further formal education and lack of organization in my life it is amazing how I survived and landed on my feet so many times.
So what have I learned being a change agent? That it takes an awful lot of luck and tenacity and the support of a lot of other special people at the right time to survive.
And now after that dream or that Alpha session I experienced this morning I feel better about the whole thing.
My Music -
In 1997 I went on a songwriting binge and it lasted thru 2001. When I discovered a recording studio in Coldwater, Michigan manned by a musical genius, Greg Brayton, I managed to turn out at least one song a month and Greg and I turned out a total of 57 recorded songs. When people asked me what genre my music fell in I said, "Da?". We turned out folk, comedy, country, blues, spiritual, high drama and stuff we still haven't found a category to drop into. One of my favorites is a love song I wrote for my wife, Jean. Its title is "If I Loved You Any More You'd Be My Dog." It wasn't about her or me but about a cowboy sort of guy trying to express his deep love for a particular girl. Same with "I Never Slept Alone 'til I Got Married." I'd slept alone a lot, believe me, because at the time I wrote it my wife Ruth had died 5 years earlier. Like with my writing books and articles and such, I gave myself permission to write anything I pleased when writing songs. I penned, "You're The Most Pathetic Person That I Have Ever Met," long before I met my wife, Jean. Same with, "Have a Good Life Because I'm Movin' On."
Recently I have started talking with audiences about my songs, how I wrote them and then I play the song on a CD. I invited the audience to chime in on some of my blues songs such as "Don't Wait Too Long." and "Too Long Partyin' Blues." I generally close these sessions with my "I Love You Waltz." I figure it is time that we all say "I love you" to one another here in America. There is just too much hate going around lately.
You’re Somebody -
In 1981 we came out with my first children’s book titled The Three Robots. My goal was to teach children positive living concepts. My vision was of parents reading my books to their children while they hugged them and thus learning these concepts themselves. The following are the lyrics of a song that my Positive thinking robot Pos sings to her friends.
I'm happy, I'm healthy, I'm somebody
Not a sad nobody, I'm somebody.
And I wear a smile just to let the whole world know
That this somebody's happy inside.
I'm somebody special just one of a kind.
I'm unique with a greatness I'm seeking to find.
I'm happy, I'm healthy, and I’m somebody, true,
Yes, I'm sure glad to tell you, "You're somebody too."
Throughout my career I have used poems in my live presentations. I had the honor of making presentations in schools throughout the U.S. and Canada and it was with real joy that I would sing this song to the children. So many children had never been told “You’re Somebody!”
Just in case you might have missed this in your lifetime, I’m telling you right here, right now. You are somebody special!
For most of my life I have been a book nut. When I go to a yard sale I'm a real sucker for a stack of used books. I've got seven book cases in my office and music room combined and they don't come anywhere near holding the books I have around here. There is always another stack accumulating. It's like they are breeding. I keep threatening a major purge but every time I go on a clean up kick, I find that instead it had turned into a reading binge instead. For months I have been trying to get rid of my Ultimate Visual Dictionary of Science. It weighs a ton. 448 pages of illustrated knowledge that would be a real gem to someone interested in that stuff. I picked it up for a dollar at a yard sale and I buy books like that now and then just thinking I might run into someone who would treasure it and I'd make a gift of it. Of course, now, most of the stuff in that book can be found at your fingertips online. There is that big Picasso art book over there in the corner just drawing dust. Another dollar investment. I've tried four times to give that sucker away.
Some days I get so desperate for space that I tell myself that I'm going to purge every book that is more than an inch thick. I've got some thick joke books here and I can search through hundreds of pages and not find one joke I think is funny any longer. Maybe it's me? Well, I've got to get on with it. Lookout Goodwill, I will be headed your way with a load of books to contribute. I hope I will anyway. My intentions are firm.
For most of my life now I have been watching people. I remember doing it in Chicago in the mid-fifties,backed up against a building so I didn't get knocked down and trampled. I'd be standing on a really busy street downtown during the rush hour and just watching the people rushing to get somewhere. Now I go into town here in Hillsborough and watch both locals and tourists and sometimes wonder what their lives are all about. If I sit outside at Cup A Joe's, across from the old hardware store for an hour or more there is just no limit to the assortment of unique characters I might encounter. Sometimes I try to listen too but if I plan to use anything in my writing from what I might hear or see, hell, by the time I get done interweaving a couple or more of their looks or sounds or characteristics there just ain't no way anyone might recognize themselves. I might sit near the steps to our Riverwalk and fill my head with images sometimes, and underneath my breath I'm humming a wild solo in a 1950 jazz rendition of How High the Moon. Music flowing through my mind helps me enjoy my people watching all the more. Gosh, Hillsborough is a treasure with all of these absolutely unique folks to keep a watch on and every now and then I get the feeling that some of them are keeping an eye on me.
We have, in our garden, three healthy Coral Bell Azaleas that came into full bloom last weekend and as we drove up our driveway Jean and I both noticed a mass of gorgeous yellow butterflies fluttering all around the area of the bushes. I just sat there sopping up that joy those butterflies brought along with them, storing it up. You know, I think that often God, along with burdens, sends along special moments like that for us when He feels we need them. Sometimes we just need propping up and, through nature, He provides us with uplifting moments like that to help balance the sorrow that invades our lives. Maybe it is a dove landing on our porch rail or out back sighting an oriole or a bluebird. I'm certain that we won't be sent anything that we can't handle, together.
I visited Battle Creek, Michigan the other day and an old friend and his wife approached me and said, "You might not remember me Art, but I will never forget you because you changed my life many, many years ago. I was trying to get started in the real estate business and I knew nothing about real estate. You gave me some audio tapes and showed me how I could turn my car into a traveling classroom. I listened to those tapes again and again and in the first year I sold a million dollars worth of real estate. I bought new tapes and listened to them and I did what they told me to and the second year I sold two million dollars worth."
He is one of the most successful men in town. It was around 1975 when I gave him those tapes.
When I first began speaking I discovered the process of spaced repetition for learning. I put tape players in my car, in my life. I carried tapes around with me and whenever I had a few free moments I listened to motivational and educational cassette tapes. I would select tapes that I felt were most helpful and listen to them about five times. In this way I could absorb a concept to its fullest. I'd listen to the way the speaker spoke. Check out the vocal varieties, manners of repetition, different speeds in which the message was delivered. I would experiment with talking in the manner of the speaker. After five times I understood a great deal more than from a single exposure. It sort of amazes me how our universities do not provide recordings of their great professors doing their most important messages. Spaced repetition could double or triple what a student might absorb. I'd like to invite you to a magic place, perhaps you have already visited it or maybe you have the Ted.com habit already. It is a web site you can visit that provides the opportunity to listen to a twenty minute presentation by some of the best speakers and the best teachers in the whole world. This is how I got my education by listening to the very best on audio tape. I turned my car into a traveling classroom and it changed my life. I was invited to speak throughout the U.S. and Canada. I began writing books triggered in my imagination by the marvelous ideas I listened to. My mind was opened and it keeps producing new ideas even though on July 5th I will be 87 years old. Please, check out Ted.com for me and then check it again for yourself. Get in the habit of daily personal growth.
Open your mind up to the awesome wisdom that is all around you free for the taking. Don't let your cell phone or your computer dim your wit and your mind. Use them to learn, to improve your mind, to tune in on life.
Caution Ahead -
Sunday evening, March 13th, Jean and I were returning home from Raleigh westbound on Interstate 40 and as we approached highway 15-501 an Information sign warned us of a delay ahead at I-40 and I-85. Jean was driving and she immediately turned off I-40 and took an alternate route. We were home safely in no time. Now here's what happened ahead.
The first incident, which involved about 25 vehicles, happened on eastbound I-40 near the Jimmie Kerr Road overpass, in Alamance County, at about 3:30 p.m., according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
As emergency crews worked to clear eastbound lanes, drivers headed west began to reduce speed, leading to several other collisions over a four-mile portion of I-40 West, troopers said.
"All four lanes were running into the back of cars," said driver Mary Holmes, who was driving from South Carolina to Raleigh. "It was like something you see out of a movie."
Robert Turner, a tow truck driver who responded to the wrecks, said he had never seen a pileup so large.
"We get 3- 6- 8-car pile-ups all the time, but we have never had one of this magnitude," he said. "Every time I went out to get another car...I would be like, ‘I am going to get called again because there is a lot of cars.’"
A Highway Patrol spokesman said wet roads, fog and speed were all factors in the collisions on eastbound I-40.
In total, 134 vehicles were damaged and 25 people were taken to Alamance Regional Medical Center.
"I am thankful no one was seriously injured," Holmes said. "Everyone got out of their cars, and this was the first time people were helping each other."
Troopers from Alamance, Guilford and Orange counties, along with the Alamance County Sheriff's Department, Graham Police Department and Mebane Police Department all responded to the area following the crashes.
Westbound travel lanes of I-40 were reopened at about 10:30 p.m."
Thank God us old coots can still read a sign and that Jean is as agile a driver as she is, to make a quick turn safely. Times like these I realize how sweet and sharp she is.
Upon Examining -
We have a stand of trees out back of our house running up hill some and another out front and we have been experiencing some awesome dawns and sunsets that shine on through those leafless trees. Soon fresh leaves will blossom blocking our view of these glorious color shows. Of course the trees themselves have beauty to enjoy all summer. I wonder how long this has been going on? I've never set down and become so aware of this before. In writing some poetry I find I take a closer or a broader view of things around me. Sometimes it takes my breath away.
Working with older folks has created my interest in memories and how they work. I had eight writers in our group the other day. One from England, one from Africa, another from Germany- a nice mix and I asked how many ever read the book or seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? Everybody smiled and raised their hands. I fumbled around and asked "What was that main character's name? And simultaneously I received eight correct answers. I said "Who?" and they really sounded off? I went through a series of questions and they all responded immediately. "Where did she live?" "What was her dog's name?" And along came a really awful "what?" Again the right answers. "And who walked with her down the yellow brick road?" I watched them think just a bit and then all eight of them started spitting out more correct answers. "Who were they goin' to see?" "Right! The wonderful Wizard of - Where?" They nailed it. And what was it the three characters wanted? The scarecrow wanted a brain. The Tin man, a heart. and cowardly Lion ..courage and Dorothy wanted to go home. And although the Wizard was a fraud and a con artist just the same they all left with what they wanted because they realized they already had inside themselves what they thought they were lacking. And Dorothy and Toto got to go back to Kansas. All we need is a little more confidence, a bushel more courage, a lifetime of experience and dedication and then, Look Out World!... because we are going to make this a better, happier world for everyone. Everyone in our room now realized that he or she had a fantastic memory. We just have to be patient and dig a little deeper as we age, but we have some wonderful memories stored up there and it is fun digging them out and capturing them on paper too.
How many? -
Jean and I visited Food Lion after a hearty breakfast out and when we entered the store, Jean discovered that she had left her shopping list back home. No problem. She just needed a few things and she remembered most of them. It started raining and so I planned to go out and bring our car to the front of the store but Jean came up to me and said, “I really need your help right now.” She walked with me over to the shelves of bread and pointed to a sign on a top shelf indicating where the Pumpernickel Bread should be located. “Way in the back!” she explained and sure enough, way back on the shelf was one last loaf. I stood on my tip toes and decided that in no way could I reach up and back that far. I took a deep breath and figured that I had to try anyway and so I reached up and stretched. I stretched further than I believed I could and sure enough the tips of my fingers touched the package and I was able to snag it and bring it down. I had an amazed look on my face but I felt proud of what I had achieved.
I sort of strutted out to our car and drove it over to the front door of the store. I thought about that top shelf and my stretching successfully to bring down the bread I love so for breakfast. It dawned on me that I hadn’t attempted a stretch like that one in a long time. I asked myself this question, “How many other achievements have you failed to stretch for in the past few months? How many in the past year? How many failures have you had because you just didn’t stretch enough?
Jean read an article online about keeping your brain active. It suggested that one might ward off simple mindedness with brain challenging games such as working a jigsaw puzzle with ones mate.
She came into the dining area with four boxes of puzzles and said, “Choose one.” I figured I would humor her for a few moments. I chose one with lots of pink - 1,000 pieces. I dumped it all out on the table. That was six days ago. The only thing we've managed since we started other than working on that puzzle is Jean has been taking a few phone calls. The length of her phone conversations has dropped ninety percent. Friday we both remained in our sleeping wear all day. We get to bed around 1 a.m. each night. Then we did manage to eat and take a break to attend church on Sunday. It is Monday and we are down to just 55 pieces. They are all waves and trees. They all look exactly alike. When I take a fist full and try to just find one slot where one will fit I swear my eyes blur and I can hear the remaining pieces joining together in a chorus sneering, “La La Lala La La!”
Two and a half hours later we had slots for only two pieces, but the sad fact was we had run out of pieces. Jean got out her broom and swept the floor. She found a red piece that we hadn't noticed was missing. We were still down to two pieces. She found another but when she put it in she discovered another piece that was missing so we still had two pieces missing. Those darn yard sale women! I can distinctly remember that lady saying she was pretty sure that all the pieces were in the box. If I had known some pieces were missing I never would have paid her the fifty cents she demanded. I looked in my nightshirt pocket just in case a piece had fallen in there but it was empty.
Jean found a nickel under the table. Well we can put that to the fifty cents we wasted on a useless partial jigsaw puzzle. Later she found a piece in our living room. “I guess they can stick to your clothes,” she suggested. “Well in that case,” I responded, “that can open up our search to include the whole world."
I’m tearing the puzzle down now and putting the pieces back in the box. I finally got done and back to my Lazy Boy and my TV control. When Jean came back into the living room I confronted her. “Jean, why did we start working on that crazy puzzle in the first place?” She smiled. “Because of that article I read online, Dear, remember? It was supposed to ward off simple mindedness. To keep our aging minds nimble."
I frowned. “Well my mind does not feel nimble. My mind, my eyes and my patience feel all worn out; I’m six days behind on the stuff I wanted to get done and I’m sure you are too and ya know, I think that working on the puzzle was sort of simple minded to start with for both of us." The instant I said it I regretted it when I remembered that she likes puzzles. Jean smiled her loving smile. “Honey, at least we tried something different. I believe that is the secret for both of us to reach our nineties with a full deck.”
God, how I love that woman. I think I'll burn all those puzzles.
As the expression goes, I'm acting like I've got ants in my pants today. I must have set down at my computer a dozen times and pulled up this newsletter to write a little article for this space and I must have deleted what I wrote the same number of times. I'm sure you've all done this sometimes. Fact is, I'm sort of rattled from watching too many presidential primary newscasts. As I watch and try to listen to the interviewers and the candidates and some commentators I find myself saying, "There is less to this than meets the eye."
The recent conduct of many of our candidates makes me think of little children standing on a street corner hollering at each other and making faces and calling each other bad names and saying that they are liars and I don't know what all. And one of the kids notices that reporters are watching and that he or she can get their name out there every day if they say something shocking and controversial or maybe extra spicy. They use Twitter and Facebook and call in radio and they employ the ploy of doubling down and making their nonsense even more stupid and I find myself tempted to get right in there with the kids telling them that is time they grew up.
Those politicians are like Barbie Dolls, men and women acting like they have a string in their navel and if you pull it then a tape is released that says the same thing over and over again. If I were a political reporter, God forbid, I would tape about twenty of these sound bites which are stored in a politicians head. Then when I asked a politician a question and he or she started spinning out one of these prepared spiels which has nothing to do with my question, I would have my sound engineer turn out that prerecorded message. I'd show how the candidates are not just redundant, they are also deceitful and boring and elusive.
At these town halls I can see plants, that is, folks planted in an audience by the candidate who are rehearsed to ask a question. Amazingly they get called upon and spin our that magic question. And the candidate looks stunned by the fact that they have been confronted in that manner. And then, sometimes showing a bit of anger, they rise to the occasion with a response that not only answers the question but goes on to show us what a wonderful president that candidate will make and how they have been performing like saints for years, fighting every day for our rights and to eliminate wrongs and stuff like that. Sorry for that rant. I promise you I will endeavor to stay away from that spitting contest we call politics.
I pray that this spittin' contest settles down and my mood will change and I will realize that there is one candidate is outstanding and one that will bring our nation together.
On Talents And The Use Thereof -
Many years ago I came up with the idea for a musical comedy about an old man having a vivid dream about God visiting him in the middle of the night and God told him that He was thinking about taking the old man’s talents away from him. That there was some question as to whether this old man had used his talents well in his lifetime. This old man had been given several special talents such as writing, and creating songs and the gift of speech and the ability to make presentations with live audiences and such. The old man is told to gather up the evidence of his accomplishments and to report at a certain theatre on a certain evening and to make his report.
The old man gathers up his best material, poems, songs, stories... oh so many stories...and he goes onstage that evening and explains to the audience that this is his trial and he will attempt to justify the good use of his talents and to convince God to let him retain his talents a bit longer. Near the end of his presentation he looks heavenward and pleas that God will let the audience's opinion of what he had presented that evening determine his future. God agrees.
Now this question comes up: what if you were placed in that situation? No, not as a speaker or a songwriter or such but with whatever special talents you have had in your lifetime - a brick layer, a lawyer, a doctor, a farmer. Do you think you could make a good case for retaining your talents?
It was a cold dark night and I looked up and down the street to make certain that nobody was watching as I entered that narrow doorway to a set of stairs and I walked up what seemed forever before I reached the second floor. A sign on the door said “AA Welcome.” I entered and a fellow at the back of the hall was standing by a big coffee urn and he said, “Hi there. Would you like a cup of coffee?” I said, “Sure” and I walked back and he said, “I’m Joe,” and I said “I’m Art. I’m supposed to meet a guy named Bill.” Joe said, “He should be along any minute. Your first visit?” “How did you know?” I asked. “Oh, you just look inquisitive I guess.” Joe handed me a cup of hot coffee and pointed to the table nearby. “Help yourself to the fixin’s.”
I could hear someone walking up that long flight of stairs and then the door opened. It was Bill. At least he fit the description Bill had given me over the phone. 5’7”, hair graying, 51. He walked back to where we were and held out his hand to me. “You must be Art.” "I'm Bill and Welcome! You look like you made it just fine since I talked with you on the phone. What do you know about A.A.?” “Not much,” I admitted. “I just came here to learn.”
We walked together to the front of the room and on the wall was a huge copy of a document titled The Twelve Steps. “Art, take a minute and just read the first few steps and see if they make any sense to you. I’m going for some coffee and I will be right back."
I looked up at the sign. It read. The Twelve Steps of Alcohol Anonymous
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. I nodded. Oh, I am still working and functioning but my life sure is a mess.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. I shrugged. Well I’d tried prayer but it didn’t work but I was sure ready for a change in my life.
- Made a decision to turn our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Makes sense to me. I’m ready. Since I was sixteen years old I have been trying to learn how to drink like a man. Maybe I won’t have to learn how.
Bill returned and I told him that so far it made sense to me. More people were coming up the stairs now and he introduced me to them. They looked normal to me. About a dozen more people, two were women. I was the youngest person in the group. I was thirty one.
I guess what I learned from those folks and others along the way made sense. It wasn't always easy. There were a lot more steps to AA and I walked up that two flights of steps regularly. And now, here it is, what... fifty five years later on February 13th and I’ve never taken another drink. Life is good.
The Volunteer -
Over the past forty plus years I have written special poems which I presented to audiences paying tribute to various professions and groups. I’d like to make them available for printing and distribution to those who might like them for special occasions or awards.
Here is a sample. Feel Free to use it. - Positively, Art
That's Terrible -
In a News story about shoppers stocking up on food for our impending great snow storm here in North Carolina a reporter and photographer caught a shot of one woman standing in the produce department at her wits end. "Imagine," she said. "they have run out of organic carrots." In another part of the city a single mother was worrying about how she might get to the Food Pantry in the morning so she could feed her children.
I recall a morning in Korea back in 1951 when our food supply was cut off for a couple of days and we had no food and no water and how it felt to have an empty belly and an empty canteen when mortars were exploding all around us. I guess we all have a different definition of hardship and that definition changes throughout our lifetimes.
We were snowed in Sunday and our tiny road has a steep hill we go down and then back up again and when it gets icy you just can't drive up it without four wheel drive. Our next door neighbor left her car at the top of the hill and walked home and the next morning she called to say she was going shopping...could she bring us anything? I confessed to Jean what I would like, Sure enough, an hour later our kind neighbor knocked on our front door delivering the Fudge Royal ice cream I had requested. I wonder if that lady in the other part of the city got to the Food Pantry OK and found it stocked with food to feed her children and if that disturbed lady found some organic carrots...
Shifting Loyalties -
Watching the Duke Devils play Notre Dame in basketball recently gave me some mixed emotions. When I moved here to North Carolina I decided to root for UNC (Carolina) and I don’t want anybody to mess with them but when Duke is playing any other team I’ll generally root for Coach K. I believe in Coach K, and his players graduate with an education too. But then recently I watched Duke play Notre Dame and I found my loyalties bouncing back and forth across that floor just as fast as the ball did. I wanted both teams to win and the lead changed throughout the game.
My loyalty to Notre Dame dates back to the eighties when Herb True, PhD would invite me into his classroom to make a presentation for his students at Notre Dame. I’m not sure what title they put on his class but it involved psychology, public speaking, interviewing for a great job and how to become successful. About once a month, Herb would call in one of his speaker friends and that class was always filled and always successful. Sometimes he would bring in some of the Saint Marys students also.
Herb became my Mentor, my supporter, my friend and in time we both had a major impact on one another’s lives. Evidently my presentation and Herb’s class made a good mix because I was invited back again and again and again.
It was a great game to watch last week and my team won and the final score was 95-91. I can’t remember which team won but I know that at the end of the game I had a warm feeling inside.
One of the fringe benefits or some say “liabilities” of being a professional speaker is the fact that often just before or just after a speech there is the presentation and some kind of honor bestowed upon that speaker by the host organization or some other source. Sometimes University commencement speakers are presented honorary Doctorate Degrees in lieu of their fees or in addition to. Sometimes the honor is just a fancy plaque. Over the years those plaques accumulate. In Michigan I had a big box I would toss them into. Not Doctor Degrees, mind you, but plaques. When asked what he might do if he gave up speaking the late Doctor Kenneth McFarland said, “I think I might open a plaque factory.”
Here are a couple of plaques I selected from my Plaque Collection
On October 31st,1986 then Governor Bill Clinton of the state of Arkansas, presented me with a plaque which appointed and commissioned me, Art Fettig, as an "Arkansas Traveler and an Ambassador of Goodwill from Arkansas to the people of other states, the people of nations beyond the borders of the United States or wherever this Ambassador of Arkansas may hereafter travel or reside." I was presented this certificate by Governor Bill Clinton who later became the President of the United States.
I had just been introduced to a convention audience of a couple of thousand attendees. Then, onstage I was introduced to somebody I didn't know who read the plaque, handed it to me, the crowd cheered and I accepted the plaque, smiled, said “Thank you,” and began my presentation. I hadn't a clue as to what was going on. I just wanted them to clear the stage hoping I could remember those opening lines of my talk I had worked hours on the night before. Bill Clinton was reelected governor of Arkansas just three days later.
On July 3 1990, then Governor Guy Hunt of the State of Alabama and Commander in Chief of the Alabama State Militia, appointed me his Aide-de-Camp in the Alabama State Militia with the Honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel and presented me with a certificate at a major convention where I was speaking that day. Again, I didn’t know the governor and didn’t have a clue as to what it was all about. I might have been inducted into the Nazi Party for all I knew. Hell, it took me months in Korea to just make Private First Class in the U.S. Army and there I was a Lt. Colonel just from walking onstage to give a speech. That was on July Third, mind you and the Governor was probably racing around to a hundred Fourth of July Celebrations with an arm full of plaques passing them out like candy apples at a State Fair prior to the November election.
Now I just wish I hadn't thrown all those other plaques out when we moved from Michigan. Who knows, I just might be indicted some day for belonging to some subversive organization I never heard of.
Getting Into Halifax -
Another foggy time in my life.
I've got three or four big notebooks crammed full of testimonial letters from clients and whenever I get to feeling insignificant I pull one out and read some of them. I cherish some of them and just reading them I often go back in my memory and can see that audience as if I were there. The other day I read one from Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was from the Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company and every time I read it I recall that plane flight into Halifax. I flew in from either Toronto or Montreal and it was a small craft of Air Canada. We made the regular approach to landing and at the last second we aborted the landing and zoomed back up and taxied around. As we were about to approach again the fellow in the seat next to me said, "No sweat. It is just the fog. Sometime it takes five or six passes before we hit a break in the fog. Just relax." Sure enough on the third or perhaps the fourth try we did hit a little break in the fog and landed safely. I think back on that landing every now and then when something isn't going smoothly in my life. Sometimes it takes three or four, yes even five or six attempts to find the right solution to a problem but most times if I keep cool and keep looking for solutions I will find a way to make a safe landing. A positive attitude and a little time can often get you where you want to go in your life.
What's your brand? -
If you asked me what my "Brand" was way back in 1947 when I graduated from High school I would have replied, "Lucky Strike". That was the brand of the cigarette I smoked. Then in 1976 I decided to become "Mr. Lucky of the American platform." That was my new brand. I wrote a book titled "Selling Lucky" bought a green and white set of tails with a bow tie. I gave a lot of speeches for some major corporations and state and national associations and it launched my professional speaker and my career as an author.
In 1980 I became intrigued with the concept that most of what we were doing in the field of positive living and success training was rehabilitation. I figured that we could teach the secrets of success to children and their parents and I wrote a series of books and gave hundreds of presentations about my Three Robots, Pos, the happy successful robot, Semi-Pos, the robot who believed in success but wasn't ready to try it, and about Neg, the negative robot who brightened up the room just by leaving. A newspaper writer came up with my new brand name, "The Wizard of Pos." Now I had two brands.
When I wrote books and became a national speaker on corporate safety I found that I could go into an organization and win signed commitments to safety from everyone in an organization and that it immediately improved their safety performance then I wrote my book titled "Winning the Safety Commitment". I then became the "Safety Commitment Guy". In 2002 the National Safety Council honored me with their Distinguished Service to Safety Award.
I had a great career for over forty years as an author and professional speaker.
Years later for my 80th birthday I took a course on comedy and they convinced me that since I was a dead ringer for Andy Griffith as he looked in his TV Series titled Matlock I should use that resemblance in my comedy. People were always stopping me in airports, restaurants and malls and wherever and insisting that I was the real Andy.
I developed a routine and wrote a book titled "You're Andy Griffith Aren't You?" My Adventures as Almost Andy.
"Almost Andy" rode in parades and shook hundreds and hundreds of hands and appeared at the Andy Griffith Theatre four times with short, short comedy bits. We created a DVD, post cards; I did a play and had my photo with our governor in many of the newspapers throughout North Carolina.
Now, at 86, I'd rather be me. If you asked me what my brand was I'm not too sure what to answer. "I'm Jean's husband." "I'm little Cy's step-great-grandfather." "I'm the guy that writes this newsletter every week." Take your pick.
Frank Sinatra Sweats -
Many, Many, Many-Many-Many-Many-Many years ago I had a booking in Las Vegas and there was a sign in the lobby indicating that Frank Sinatra would be opening his new show the next evening. I went straight to the box office and attempted to buy a ticket. Of course the nice lady informed me that the show was sold out. I expressed my disappointment and she got more confidential and said, "Sir, they will open this ticket office tomorrow morning at 9A.M.and sometimes people return tickets because they go home early. You might get in the line very early and try it. I said to her, sounding rather exasperated, "I can't be waiting in line tomorrow morning. I've got a show to do." She suddenly looked embarrassed and apologized and said, "Oh, I am so sorry, Mr. Griffith, I didn't realize it was you. Imagine, Andy Griffith. Mr. Griffith, for you the tickets are complimentary. How many would you like? I said, "One" and she gave me the ticket with a big, adoring smile. Now I am not known as a wild tipper. I've developed a sort of inner anger about those men who seat you in casino theaters. If you give them a twenty dollar chip or bill they will give you a seat requiring binoculars.Give them fifty and you move closer. A hundred dollar tip gets you within viewing seats. Give them a thousand and you are really movin' on up. Give them ten thousand and you can dance on the stage with the naked chorus girls. I generally end up in the back row. When they hold out there hands I shake it. I walked up to the usher and expected that same shabby treatment but when I gave him my ticked he grabbed my hand and shook it and said, "Yes Sir, Andy, just follow me." Instead of heading for the rear seats this time we went marching through that casino like General Grant through Georgia. We finally reached the front and there was a half circled ringed off area they call "The Sinatra Circle." I was seated right next to Paul Anka, the fellow who wrote the song "My Way." In this short space let me say that everything was magnificent. The orchestra, the songs, the arrangements, the lighting, and the hour went by like lightning. Frank did great humor, the comic who opened was really funny, Frank joked and sang and danced and did over an hour and he never quit giving this audience everything he had... and then for one brief second after a fast number I saw it. There was a tiny bit of perspiration on Frank's forehead and I will never forget it. As rich and as famous and as old as Frank was that evening he never let up. He gave that show everything he had. I've tried to set those standards in my own presentations. I've always tried to prepare and to be ready and then to deliver everything I could. Frank is gone now but for me he set the bar. Recently I saw a memorial show on TV celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday. I can still remember those beads of sweat on his forehead. Yeah!
Goals! Goals! Goals! -
Another new year is creeping up on us and about this time each year I used to sit down and write down a whole mess of goals. Many were career goals, financial goals, a veritable bucket list with many categories. Travel, income, marital, family, spiritual...I would get really into it with all sorts of wishes, dreams and hopes. Then January 1st would arrive and I would look at the list and say to myself, "Duh!" Today instead of an elaborate set of goals I just start humming that old song "Stayin' Alive, Stayin' Alive!" it is a 1977 disco song by the Bee Gees from the Saturday Night Fever motion picture soundtrack.
Now, I've got a question for you? What sort of list do you have? Are you going to change the world this year and make it a better place? Will you accomplish some major breakthrough? One thing I am sure of; if I had not set goals earlier in my lifetime a lot of good things might never be.
I Still Believe In Miracles -
Some days when the whole wide world seems to be falling apart all around me it is difficult, but I still believe in miracles. When it is darkest I believe that tomorrow the sun will shine, somewhere. Perhaps not at dawn through my back bedroom window but soon. I believe the birds will sing and the squirrels will run their chase on past my front window. I am expecting something wonderful to happen in this world. I expect the phone to ring soon with good news. Didn't I receive an e-mail requesting a poem for next weeks' newspaper today? Wasn't The CN Railroad's Santa Train running this past weekend?...that idea I came up with some forty three years ago that came alive and still comes alive each Christmas and thrills thousands of people, and now,instead of just one railroad it now runs on three. Didn't I move thousands of leaves last week and survive? We must believe things will get better, that peace will come and that tomorrow will be an even better day. Believing. That is what makes better things possible. Believing and working together to make those miracles happen.
I've been staring at what WAS this blank space in my newsletter questioning if there was yet something I hadn't said when I suddenly realized what a wonderful thing that blank space really was. For too long I have just taken it for granted. There it was, waiting for me to fill up with my thoughts, my dreams, my memories. I could use it in most any way I wanted within some reasonable boundaries. There are some "Thou Shalt Nots." I should avoid inciting readers to rioting or killing or such but for the most part I enjoy the freedom of speech here today in America. I am free to speak my thoughts and then click on "Send now" and words will be sent out to the thousand or so readers of this newsletter. In some parts of the world that is not so. In China, for instance, I might be executed for sharing what is on my mind. In many other places I might be jailed. And so I treasure that blank space I find each week and I go to sometimes great efforts to fill that space with something useful. There is truly an abundance of blank space available to everyone that might be reading this newsletter right now. Most of you can just take your cursor and click on "Write" and in just a few moments you can be in touch of most of those people you know. Chances are you have a pretty good address book at your fingertips. Just think, you have the power to be writing to a distanced loved one right this instant saying, "Forgive me" or maybe "I was wrong" or "I'm Sorry!" Or maybe you might just say "I love you." What about "Can we still be friends again?" With Facebook and a dozen other sites it might be even easier for you, and they too will allow you an abundance of blank space.
I challenge you to try it, right now. Or what about "Thank you from the bottom of my heart"? You figure it out and let me know how it all turned out. Positively, Art
Becoming a Speaker -
I've heard it said that today, half the people in America claim to be motivational speakers. The driver on a crowded bus who calls out, "Step to the rear of the bus, please," is a motivational speaker. I can recall talking with the president of a power company before my talk and he asked me what I do and I replied, "I am a motivational humorist." and he replied I never met a motivational humorist before." Ninety minutes later when everyone stood to give me a standing ovation he came up to me and said, "You sure as hell are a motivational humorist." I was lucky enough to be in on the early days of professional speaking. The majority of professional speakers in the early 70's were either famous athletes, former Miss Americas, college professors, sales super-stars like Zig Ziglar, authors or clergy. $500 was considered a good fee plus travel and I was amazed at the number of speakers who held to that fee for so long. I sold my first book to audiences for $1 a copy and made a good profit. For the first ten years I was a part-time speaker still working as a Communicatons Officer for the railroad. I managed an early retirement when I was 53 and at that time I had 35 years with the railroad. Two of those years were credits while I served in the Army.
There is just some kind of magic that is kind of hard to describe when you hear an audience laughing in the right places and then applauding . It can become something like a drug that drives you to get better and better every time they introduce you and when you get a dozen or so standing ovations in a row you begin to suspect that you are on the right track. When you learn that the members of that audience will sell more, manage better, work safer, become more professional and productive no matter what they do then you know for sure that you are on the right track.
In my youth someone suggested that I find something that I love to do so much that I would do it even if they didn't pay me and then get so good at it that they will pay you a lot. Somehow,with abundant help from many others I figured out how to do that and then every speech was a blessing for me.
Adieu To Railroading -
I retired from Grand Trunk Western Railroad in 1983 with 35 years’ service. When somebody asked me who was promoted to fill my vacancy I explained that I hadn't left any vacancy. I figured I’d done my job. Instead of being rated one of the most unsafe railroads in our class in America, our railroad was winning Harriman Safety Awards several years in a row. Instead of multi-million dollar losses GTW was showing profits. There was peace in the valley, or at least management and labor were speaking to one another and the morale of the workers was much improved. I had hoped to leave the railroad at age 52 so that I could do my writing and speaking full time. My dream of having a Santa Train had been fulfilled and was running each year allowing workers to bring their families to visit the train and for workers to meet the GTW president, John Burdakin and other top railroad officials and their families. Yes, John Burdakin had brought about so many amazing improvements and I felt in my heart that I had helped.
I remember when we finally worked out my pension arrangements and I spent my final day on the railroad, as I walked out to my car I felt this tremendous relief as if a heavy yoke had been removed from my shoulders. I wanted to shout and skip down the driveway singing “Zip a de do da, zip a de day, my oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine coming my way. Zip a de do da, zip a de day.”
I wanted to quote Martin Luther King Jr. “Free! Free! Thank God I am free at last!”
Unloading Stuff -
I talked with an old fella who's wife divorced him because he had too much stuff. It ain't easy to get rid of stuff and he still has all of it. My office and my upstairs music room are both stuffed with my stuff and I have a garage dedicated to storing my stuff too. Oh, there are the charities like Goodwill and some folks have yard sales but at those resale stores there is the danger that I might forget I gave it to the store and go back in and buy it back again because it is just what I am always looking for. Selling stuff for almost nothing rips my heart out. These slick dealers come in early and beg to take a look at your stuff and then they make you an offer for all of the good stuff for about $10. Right now I have on my desk about 150 photos of old railroad engines, all carefully identified and I am just about on the edge of donating them to a railroad museum. I started looking at all of them the other day and well, gee it is hard parting with them. When I was a young man I used to buy picture frames at auctions, spray them with gold paint and put a reproduction of a masterpiece in the frame and they would sell pretty good. I managed to provide pocket money for our trips to Europe several times. We had free air passes. Well I have never been able to break the habit of buying picture frames. I must have a couple of hundred lined up in the garage and I keep saying I will have a sale but I never get around to it and I keep on bringing home more frames.
I'm feeling like I will soon have a stuff crisis. With those photos and those trays of slides and the frames and all I have the feeling like it is all closin' in on me. I can barely get to this computer I'm workin' on. I'm toying at writing and editing four different books at one time and there is no space on my office tables to spread out anything. I can just see what might happen when they write my obit. "Art Fettig was devoured by his stuff recently. Services will be at 10am Saturday at the local church. There will be a giant housecleaning and yard sale immediately following the service. Lots of books and frames and interesting stuff."
We were visiting The Durand Union Station which is a 110-year-old historic building on the Grand Trunk, now CN Line. The restored Depot houses a wonderful collection of railroad history. As we were leaving that tiny town, the flashers at the crossing started flashing, the bells rang and the gates came down and soon a train came along. I decided to count the number of cars and I soon passed the hundred mark and continued counting. I hardly believed it when my count got up to 185 cars. Later when I discussed this with my son David who works for CN in Battle Creek he said my count could well have been correct. He said that each night their train #399 comes through with a train that is 12,970 feet long, that being over two miles.
As I watched that train I visualized that same load traveling down an expressway. There would be twice that number of trucks because rail cars are generally twice as long as trucks on the highway. Imagine 370 trucks for this passing train. These trains often travel at 70 MPH with clear sailing all the way.
Recently I have been taking a good look at hundreds of notes on what sort of material I used in my many speeches. Over the years I have written hundreds of poems and they were often created just to make a certain point. If I wanted to make a particular group happier about their profession I might recite a poem such as Teacher, Teacher! Or maybe, "We Are Sales People." Or even, "We Are Asphalt Road Builders." Members of an audience take them home and frame them and put them on their wall or maybe on their desk or in their locker at work. It reminds them, long after I have flown home that what they are doing in their job is really important.
I might do a poem for relief from a serious subject. Maybe a dad talking about his son."That's My Son Out There, the one with all that hair. Ain't he great? Four fouls and it's only a quarter after eight. Yeah, that's him. Number forty two...two...two. Now he might not look like much to you. But I'm darn proud to tell you, that's my son out there."
I presented poems to win commitment in the safety field. We must have reached a hundred thousand people with my Brother's Keeper poem from 1979 to long after that. A whole course for children to bring them positive goals and values evolved from another poem. "Just say yes to believing you're special, just say yes to being kind, Just say yes to growing daily, just say yes to improving your mind." And thousands of kids became better students singing that rap daily.
And some claim my poems can help them carry on and to get closer to their Savior; and to love America just a little more; and share their sorrow and face new challenges. For me, sharing my poetry has been a source of pure joy.
Some Clients A-Z -
Please don't ask me "Who have you worked for?" Over the years I have been blessed with some major clients. Allthough I no longer retain client lists or such just for fun I tried to list some alphabetically. Oh the wonderful memories that jumped out of this simple listing. AT&T, BP, Chrysler, Du Pont, Enron, Florida Power & Light, General Motors, Halliburton (Tabasco,Mex.), Intel, Junior Achievement, Kellogg's, Lansing Sales & Marketing Execs., Maritime Telegraph & Telephone(Nova Scotia), Newfoundland Safety Council, Optimists, PBS, Quebec (Abatibi-Price), Ralston, Shell, Toyota, United States Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy, V.A.,Wright Tree Services, eXXon, YWCA, Zeeland High School Commencement. I have presented in all 50 United States and most Canadian Provinces and as far as I am concerned, the fat lady ain't sung yet. One prospect looked at my resume and said, "Art, you just can't keep a job, can you? Keeping a job wasn't my goal. Finding a new challenge was, and every place and every audience was a new and exciting challenge.
Alexander's Place -
In June of 1991 I flew into the airport at Halifax, Nova Scotia and in a dense fog. At the last second we aborted the landing and climbed back into the sky. We circled for a few moments in that fog and then we went down again, and again we aborted the landing and zoomed back into the sky above. The passenger sitting beside me seemed unconcerned. I asked him what was happening and he said, "Oh, the fog is comin' in thick and sometimes it takes three or four tries before the pilot can see the ground." Sure enough we made it on the third try. That was my introduction to Nova Scotia. Folks there don't seem to get real riled up about things. They take them as they come.
I was working for the Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Company there and I made safety presentations for two days and we created some wonderful videos which were shown all over Nova Scotia to their workers. I had decided to stay over an extra night and my host said I might take a ride over and see the home of Alexander Graham Bell. It wasn't open to the public but he gave me the name of the grounds keeper and suggested that he might show me around. I can just remember now that I drove for a while and then I found the lake that it was on and by askin' and driving around I found it. Mr. Bell had his own plane and he used to land it on the lake and pull up near the house. It was a big sprawling home with a long front deck on the lake. I couldn't find anyone around there and so I just mosied. I like to pretend that I'm walking in someone famous's shoes sometimes and there was a rocking chair on the porch so I sat there looking at the lake and whoosh! This big eagle landed on the grass just about ten feet from where I sat. Now I love eagles, I collect everything there is about eagles, big brass statues, all sorts of porcelain eagles, eagles carved on whalebone, gold and silver eagles. All sorts. And here was this big, absolutely awesome eagle sitting with me there at Alexander Graham Bell's old house and well, I was really feeling special being called all the way to Nova Scotia. It was one of those special moments that sometimes comes to a fella and I just thought I'd share it.
On Great Songs... -
I wrote the following back in 1998 when I was churning out songs one and two a month and then recording them. That was a period from February 1997 to February 2001.
Sometimes when I hear Barbra Streisand sing a series of songs like You Don’t Bring Me Flowers I am so moved that I say to myself, “What in the the world are you doing, trying to write great songs? There are enough of them out there to last anybody in their right mind. Why don’t you just sit back and enjoy them?”
Of course, the great songwriters who wrote some of the really great songs could have said that same thing and then there wouldn't be all of these other marvelous, moving, enchanting songs.I guess the real truth is that I never wrote my songs because I choose to but because I had to survive. Otherwise, when they came to me and I ignored them they might explode inside me and I would probably have died.
And when I wrote down those lyrics and captured the melody on my little $20 Casio keyboard I would probably not be able to survive if there was not Greg Brayton. I would take my rough concepts to him and have him work with me to turn them into what was rolling around there in my imagination to begin with. Somehow, though, the results were far beyond my original conceptions. We would get through this process of creating and recording a song in just four hours. I guess this was my therapy.
I’ve often explored the idea that most people who have addictions are blessed with special talents and quite often their addictions and abuses come from the frustration of suppressing that greatness that is stirring up inside them.
O. J. Acquitted -
Twenty years ago October 3, 1995 O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of killing his wife by a jury in California. That evening I was guest speaker in Detroit for members of several Toastmaster clubs in that area. It was eerie. As the audience entered the room there was very little conversation going on. All of the Afro-Americans sat on one end of the room and the rest of us on the other. I quickly observed that the one end of the room was not talking with the other end of the room. Shortly after eating I was introduced. As a professional speaker I feel it is better to try to tidy up the little challenges in the room at the start so I can have an all responsive group to talk with. I noticed one Afro-American man scowling at me and I could sense his hatred coming down on me. I told a couple of jokes and there was silence in the room. (Not a good sign.)
I went ahead and said, "I guess by now everyone has heard about the Jury decision in the O.J. trial. There was some murmuring and nods. "Well isn't it amazing how it has suddenly changed the feelings we have toward one another? When I came down here I expected to have an integrated, enthusiastic audience but instead just look at you. I can just feel the hatred pouring out of some of you right now." Then I asked them all to think about this and get up and come back into the room like responsible, intelligent, caring people. I was surprised when they all come back in, talking with one another, there were a lot of hand shakes and even some hugs. When I got them all seated I was about to start my speech but one of the men, the one that looked like he would very much like to kill me asked if he could speak. I invited him up and he stared me in the eye and said, "I want to apologize to you. You were right. My heart was full of hatred. I didn't realize just how polarizing that long trial had been. Please forgive me." And I did and we shook hands and we gave each other one of those man hugs and I proceeded to give a strong but entertaining presentation and this time they laughed in all the right places and it seemed almost like it used to be.
Did you ever look back on your life and endeavor to break it down into segments? Maybe you might name one segment the growing segment, another the learning segment, the struggling segment, the real success or failure segment, maybe the giving up and accepting mediocrity segment, or more hopefully, the growing up-up-up segment, the sharing segment, the peak segment and then the coming down, aging, retiring, just staying alive segments, the becoming renewed and sharing more segment. However you care to name your segments or mingle them is totally up to you, of course, but when I try to do this myself I am amazed at how I discover they are genuinely so revealing. I am exposed to my generosity and to my selfishness, to my apathy at times, my self-centeredness, my foolishness, yes, even at times to my unrevealed wisdom and my utter stupidity.
I've done some really smart things in my lifetime and many more unwise things. Some things I am proud of and some I must confess that I am ashamed of. I've been a spectator to life far too often, standing on the side lines and muttering complaints. I've worn too many shirts who's sleeves I have never rolled up, shirts that have never been wet with my sweat from honest toil. Overall, I am enjoying this process of examining my life. I'm discovering that I am no Mother Theresa but thank God I am no Adolph Hitler either.
I would recommend that if you think that you might like to explore this segment concept that you do it now, don't wait until you are too mentally or physically spent to give changing a try.
Speeches don't always turn out the way one plans. Although most of my presentations were done with almost no notes other than one or two words for each segment written on a card, I had a goal to do one thing different or new in each presentation, always working on new material. My first wife, Ruth was with me and I was speaking for a business group somehow connected with U of M at Ann Arbor. The audience had been great stopping me several times with prolonged laughter and even applause and I was doing my musical close. I had the background music for the wonderful song "People" made famous by Barbra Streisand but I did not sing. I talked over the music about them and their work and working together and such and I used the new material I had prepared that went, "I guess you could sum the whole thing up with just one word. "reciprocity". Unexpectedly, I received a big laugh from about half the audience and the other half looked rather solemn as I expected. I finished with just two more sentences. The music ended and so did I and they gave me a standing ovation. I rushed out of there as quickly as we could and headed West on I-94 where I'd take Ruthie home and then drive on to Chicago for a noon luncheon speech at the Conrad HIlton the next day.
Before I could pull out of the lot that evening Ruthie looked at me solemnly and asked, "Do you know what you said?" and I told her I thought I did. I'd just done 45 minutes of talking. "What part are you referring to?"
and she said, "the closing." "Do you mean my using the word "reciprocity?" and she said, "That's not what you said. You said "Recipissity." And I laughed. "That accounts for the fact that half of them laughed."
At the Conrad Hilton Hotel next day, after my luncheon speech and receiving a fine standing ovation from a wonderful audience, a fellow came up to me and shook my hand. He said "Mr. Fettig, I was with that group in Ann Arbor, Michigan last night. That was a fine presentation and after you left we had to fill out our report on our two-day meeting and your talk was voted the most entertaining and the most enlightening part of our conference." I was thrilled to hear this and thanked him. He paused a moment and said, "There was just one thing. We couldn't agree about your musical close. Half of the members thought it was the most unique and moving part of your whole presentation and the rest of us thought it was the funniest." Now it was time for me to pause. Finally I decided that truth was in order. I confessed that last night was the first time I had used that word; it just seemed so right for the occasion, and later my wife informed me that I had said, "Recipissity." Once more he laughed and asked, "May I make a suggestion?" I told him to go ahead and he said, "I'd leave it in that way." And I did.
I have neglected my vocabulary ever since I sat through a trial in Charlotte, Michigan in the late nineteen sixties where a jury awarded our railroad $100,000 in damages in our suit against a trucking company. The only problem was that we had an air tight case and our damages exceeded a million dollars. Our stuffy corporate attorney had managed to sweet talk that rural jury with his Harvard vocabulary so that not one soul in the jury box had a hint of what he was talking about. I’m serious. He was tossing around words up there that even the judge couldn’t translate. The trial lasted three times as long as it should have just because of that haughty and stupid counsel of ours and for his every utterance we paid dearly. He had cost the railroad $900,000
I believe it was the day that jury rendered its verdict that I stopped my practice of learning a new word a day and started concentrating on how to use the words I had already stored up in my mind with greater conviction, more precision and with deeper meaning while adding a touch of humor and humanness.
That approach has served me well. I’ve enjoyed a wonderful career as a wordsmith and so today when I meet with fellow poets I chuckle inside my head when I see a bard exercising his excess, obscure, sleep inducing vocabulary on a yawning, unappreciative audience.
I must confess though, that now and then a single word catches my attention and holds me captive until I do something with it. Such was the case recently when I heard the word “Prolixity”. I looked the word up online and came up with the following.
prolixity - Dictionary Definition : Vocabulary.com
Prolixity means about the same thing as long-windedness. If someone is yammering on and on and on — that's an example of prolixity.
That's My Daughter -
Just about 45 years ago I wrote a poem bragging about my son playing basketball titled "That's My Son Out There!" Now I'm thinking about writing one titled "That's My Daughter Up There"! Wife Jean and I recently made an unplanned visit to California to watch our just turned sixty year old daughter Nancy participate in the San Diego Follies Hit Parade show. They had a huge cast between ages 50 and 86, and Nancy was listed in the program along with a total of a dozen dancers. We didn't announce to her that we were making the trip. Daughter Amy and her husband Robb met us at the airport on Saturday, we had a great time together and then all attended the Sunday afternoon show with Nancy's son Rory. It was a wonderful show and Nancy appeared in about a half a dozen numbers. In my heart she scored in every number. There is just something I can't express, seeing your daughter out there giving that audience her very best, knowing that she endured a month of rehearsals, pushing herself to reach top physical shape and memorizing all those complicated routines. We were so proud of Nancy and what she had accomplished. And when the show ended and the audience was leaving, together with many other members of the cast, Nancy came out on the stage and was walking to the steps when she spotted Rory waving at her. Was so excited because he had told her he would not be able to attend. Then he pointed Jean and me out to her and she looked so pleased and shocked that she sort of swooned into the arms of her friend Claudia who was standing next to her. Nancy was ecstatic, as I believe we all were, and tears were running down many cheeks in our group and right then I wanted to hug her so we made our way through the crowd and had a good hug.
Food to Go! -
It is great to remember the big rallies and some of the wonderful audiences but as a professional speaker sometimes you you discover too late that some assignments aren’t all that glamorous.
One afternoon the owner of J&J Excavating Inc.called and told me that he had a special employee banquet coming up and he thought it might be a good idea to have a motivational speaker for a change.
When I arrived at the restaurant the audience was already in high form. It seems that they had quit working at noon and they had all been drinking since then. They had about a six hour start on me.
Then I found out that they did not know just what to expect in the way of after dinner entertainment. The year before they had a stripper and I had been advertised just as “A big surprise.” I think they were expecting something really nasty.
I did mostly humor for a half hour and they weren’t too bad an audience. Most of the attendees were foremen and laborers and they dug trenches for a living. In fact, they seemed so attentive that I decided to do a full forty minutes. I had agreed with their boss beforehand that I would do thirty minutes and see how it was going and if they were OK I might do a bit more. That was major error.
About thirty-three minutes into my talk one fellow who was pretty well in the bag picked up a chicken bone and threw it across the room at a fellow worker. The fellow got hit right on the face and he couldn’t see where the shot came from and so he simply picked up all of the chicken bones on his plate and threw them across the room in the general direction of where his attack had come from. Well that really started it. Tables were tipped over. Glasses and plates were flying everywhere. It was the darndest food fight I had ever witnessed. I headed for the door and so did their boss. He met me on the way out and handed me my check.
He was laughing. “Nice job, Art,” he said. “You should have quit at thirty minutes.”
Any time a corporation has a six hour open bar I make sure I know where the emergency exit is located.
My Role in Life -
When I was in my Junior year as a student at the University of Detroit High school, I was the Staff Poet for our student newspaper. My English Teacher, a Jesuit priest, Father Skiffington, was examining some of my work one day and he said to me, "Art, I believe that God had a master plan and he gave each of us a special talent. Now if we can discover that talent and if we learn to hone it and put it to work in our lives then we might work out to become a very special person. He paused for a little drama and then said, "I do believe that God put you on this earth to serve as a bad example." And I said, "Yes, it is true, Father, and you've got to admit that I am doing a great job of it." In our class yearbook it reported that I had the distinction of spending more time in after school suspension than any student in the school's history. Over the years, so many writers and speakers have told me what an inspiration I had been to them. They said they observed all of the things I was accomplishing with the few talents I had and just knew they could do much better with their special talents. "It's true," I would tell them all. "There is greatness in you."
A Shirt Tail Tale -
No doubt every one of us has an old golf shirt or such from some place we've visited that brings back a special memory. This morning I pulled out a shirt and put it on without thinking and later when I gave it a good look I realized that it was a gift from a contractor who was working for BP Mobil at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska back in summer, 1998. I had been at Prudhoe Bay which is located right on the Arctic Ocean for over a week. I did three days for them and then flew back to Anchorage for the weekend and rented a car and drove over to Homer, Alaska and I swear I saw eagles on every boat bow in the harbor and then later I watched a hundred eagles landing and taking off and what a thrill. Then I returned for more safety programs on Monday thru Wednesday and I had a flight back to Anchorage and home on Thursday morning.
This Safety guy from Veco asked me how much I would charge them to do a 45 minute presentation at their safety meeting the next morning before my flight out. Frankly I already felt so overpaid for that wonderful experience in Alaska that I told him I would not charge him anything but I would like to get a t-shirt that said Prudhoe Bay on it. Early the next morning he introduced me and as he did he presented me with an Arctic jacket and under jacket that could be worn in the Frozen North. Then he gave me the T-shirt as promised. They were a wonderful audience and put the topping on this adventure. I felt sort of strange carrying that jacket on the plane. It was a hot day in July. Later I was invited back to talk with all the contractors' employees but it was for February and it sometimes gets 50 below zero up there. Thank goodness I was already booked for February. Now I am going to look at some of those other shirts in my bottom drawer.
Success and Positive Living Books For Children -
If anyone ever asked me, “Art, when did you first think about writing children’s books?” I could honestly reply, “April 24th, 1979 at the Aim For Your Future Rally at Wing Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had the honor of appearing on a program with the following speakers. Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Robert Schuller, Earl Nightingale, Denis Waitley, Joe Girard and Marilyn VanDerbur. You can check any of them out on the internet and you will get a real eyeful. They are world famous authors and such. The occasion was the Aim For Your Future Rally held at Wing Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
We had a full house of 3,500 attendees and during a conversation with these folks on the program I asked the simple question, “Just what do you believe this audience expects from me?” I got a series of responses but one of them, I can no longer remember who replied, “Art, you have forty five minutes and these people want you to come onstage and say something so powerful, so profound that it will change their lives.” I laughed first and then I replied that it sounded so simple, couldn't they give me something more difficult. I then continued on to say that the secrets of success were so simple that you could teach them to a little child. We were evidently in the rehabilitation business because nobody taught many of us about success when we were children.
That simple statement seemed to hit everyone present like a club to their head and all of us realized that most of the people in that audience had either gone through painful divorces, losing their jobs, bankruptcy; many were on 12 step recovery programs and such. “In other words, Art, “one of them added, “They are people just like you and me.”
Well, after that rally, like most of the other speakers, I went home and set out to bring positive living, success concepts to children.
I had a vacation in Europe scheduled with my two teens, Nancy and Daniel and we went to Spain where I wrote my first children’s book The Three Robots. I followed that up with a parenting book and a parade of Three Robot books, and Nick Carter of Earl Nightingale’s company made cassette tapes of all of those books. Most of the other speakers wrote books, produced CD albums and Marilyn made three movies for teens all in an effort to reach younger folks with the very concepts we were sharing at that Rally.
Then I started making live presentations in schools for K-12 students, teachers and parents and some folks started calling me "The Wizard of Pos." We hope we changed a lot of lives. I’m still I trying. It is strange how life sometimes leads us down different paths and each one presents a new adventure.
Grand Trunk Lore -
In 1859 Young Tom Edison got a job as a news butcher on the Grand Trunk Railroad selling newspapers and candy. He was just twelve years old. He set up a chemistry lab and a printing press on the train. He'd ride the train from Port Huron to Detroit and since he was an avid reader he would often walk up the hill from the depot in Detroit and walk east on Jefferson to the Detroit Public Library. They say he read almost every book they had. In 1948 I went to work for the Grand Trunk Railroad in Detroit. I would sometimes park my car next to the Detroit train Depot and walk up the hill to Jefferson Avenue and walk east just a block to the General Office of the Grand Trunk. One of my first duties in the morning was to go to the telegraph office and pick up wire reports on fatal crossing accidents and employee injuries. When I would go into that office I would imagine Tom Edison the telegrapher sending those wires to me. I was eighteen and when Tom Edison was eighteen he was a telegrapher.
Around 1975 I was Employee Communications Officer for Grand Trunk and I had my A-V Production office in Battle Creek. A fellow we called Old Jim would stop into my office occasionally and we would have a chat. Old Jim was around 70 and he talked very British. He was a news butcher and he rode the trains from Port Huron to Battle Creek and then back home. Battle Creek was about half way to Chicago. Old Jim was a master salesman and he would sell fruit and candy, sandwiches and newspapers, toys and fancy ladies handkerchiefs to passengers and he reminded me of something out of the nineteenth century. We'd often sit and tell stories about Tom Edison.
Sometimes when I lived in Clawson,Michigan I would take a commuter train into Detroit from Birmingham and as I walked up the hill I would imagine that Tom Edison was walking beside me. I felt proud to be working for the same railroad where Tom had begun his career. That was in the early fifties after I had returned from Korea. I still have a couple of books on Edison on my book shelves in my office and ever so often I read one of them and I must admit, sometimes I can visualize the two of us, Tom and I walking up the hill together from the old train station at the foot of Brush Street at the river.
I-85 Nearby -
I've been sitting here staring at the blank space on my computer for two days now trying to settle in on a subject that might be uplifting but no matter what I try to write it all seems to be just a lead in to those murders in the theatre in Louisiana or on a triple fatality we had recently on Interstate 85. It was a DWI incident involving a 20-year-old UNC student who was driving northbound in the southbound lane on the interstate. Alcohol was involved. One child is dead, one is in critical condition in the hospital and the driver and one other passenger are dead. The student who was driving alone had an open container of alcohol in his vehicle, a carton of beer, and was hospitalized with non life threatening injuries. What a tragedy. What a waste. Alcohol and gasoline do not mix. That triple fatality occurred just a couple of miles from our home. This is not something six states away or over in Afghanistan.This is just down I-85. I worked in the safety field for 35 years with the railroad, less two with the army, and then another 32 years since I left the railroad. A lot has been done in the schools to discourage drinking and driving among teens and youth but somehow this one fell through the cracks as he completed two years of college... and all I can do about it is say a prayer for those who are hurting and make a vow to find something uplifting for next week. May God bless America and keep our troops safe and our students too.
The Reckless Tree Incident -
The other day I had an incident in our front yard involving our big old pine tree and my 2004 Ford Escape vehicle smashing the tail light assembly on the passenger side.
My guesstimate was around forty bucks but when they looked up the part for me at Auto Zone their computer showed it priced at $119 plus tax and that was not installed. I asked the kind gent if he thought I might find a used one.
He was kind enough to refer me to Isaac Torain,. owner and proprietor of T & T Auto Service & Repair on Highway 86 N. in Hillsborough, just down the road a piece.
I drove into his establishment and declared, “A tree has rear ended my vehicle and destroyed the tail light assembly, Sir.” It took Mr. Torain a few minutes to get adjusted to me. He was working on a truck in his shop. After a nice visit he promised to look up the part and see if he might find a used one for me and, true to his word, he called me the next morning to report that he had located just what I needed at Wagner’s Auto Salvage over at Durham, just down I-40 from us a piece. I drove over there and picked up the assembly. Looking brand spanking new it cost me just $35 plus tax and when I brought it back over to Mr. Torain he quickly installed it and graciously accepted $20 for his service. The slogan on his business card was, “Service at reasonable prices.”
Now if I had taken that into my Ford Dealer for repairs I could just imagine sitting in their air conditioned customers' lounge while they drummed up an estimate that would exceed my deductible. I would have to report it to my insurance company and they would consider it a “moving collision” and they would either cancel my insurance or raise my policy cost for the remainder of my lifetime.
The tree? Not one little bit of damage.
And you ask me why I love it here in beautiful old Hillsborough, North Carolina. Well, because of the people like Isaac, that’s why.
Bein' 86 -
Since my 86th birthday I have been examining my life, my body and my brain in an effort to determine what direction I might like to follow for a few years trial. I've worn enough paths to my past in these recent years and now I hope to find a way to look to the future. I wrote a tribute book on John H. Burdakin and our experiences on the Grand Trunk Western Railroad and for too long now I have been working on a stab at an autobiography. After over 700 pages and countless illustrations I have concluded that possibly I should condense it down to just one photo and a maximum of 500 words. Otherwise who might possibly read it?
I also wrote an illustrated booklet thanking those people who have truly touched my life.Then I also tracked down the life of one poem that I had written so many years ago and of the merry life it has lived.
Then I put together a humorous illustrated booklet demonstrating how my weird sense of humor performs in the middle of the night while I'm still half asleep.
Jean says I've had enough of the past and it is time for me to live in the present. A recent visit to Raleigh found me with Cy, my awesome 6 month old step-great grandson in my arms and I couldn't help but thinking about the fact that Cy is the present and the future. He and his mom Michelle and his dad Derek. They represent the future and I'd say that it looks to me that the world will be in pretty good hands. I guess that my role now is to learn to enjoy their victories and console their setbacks and to smile the best I can.
A friend of mine once told me that I was the luckiest person he knew because I managed to turn all of my hobbies and talents into a successful full time job. When I think about it I know my friend was right. I've said it before, since I went full time with professional speaking and writing I haven't worked a day, it was all pleasure. Since I loved what I was doing I didn't call it work but I sure did put in some long hours following that road. I have always chuckled inside when people come up to me and ask about how they might become a professional speaker. They wold see the fun I was having delivering a speech and somebody might tell them about the fees I was demanding and then visions of sugar plums would dance in their minds. "That is what I want to do." They often say. Just work an hour a day and let the money roll in. Of course The speaking and the applause is just a tiny part of what I have done successfully for over 40 years now. What I don't harp on is that it took me over twenty years of trial and failure before I finally got the ear of somebody that was in a position to help me get rolling with my talents. At one point in my speaking career I wrote a book titled Selling Lucky. Then I gave hundreds of presentations as Mr. Lucky, a guy in a green and white tuxedo. My business cards were Lucky Bucks. I wrote Lucky Selling Ideas for sales magazines. I had special music that went with my introduction. Mr. Lucky was my brand. My only problem was that I didn't believe in just luck. I finally found a quote that was right for my way a thinking. it went, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." This quote is attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca. So I guess you might say that I spent over twenty years preparing and seeking out the opportunity and then those other opportunities I needed to suddenly become "Lucky."
Let me ask you, What are you doing in your life right now in the way of preparation?
Mind Exercises -
I figure writing this newsletter is a lot like exercising my mind. Some days it just doesn't feel like exercising and others it can't wait to get at it. All I need is a seed of an idea and I can make it grow into a column. Oh yeah, some days I have had a crop failure.
It is hard for me to remember back to when I wasn't writing. And harder yet is the thought of going through a whole week without turning out something on my computer. I'm forever working on books and booklets, knocking out something new or at least a different approach to something old. When I get rolling on a new idea I can feel the blood rushing to my brain and I can often go for weeks with daily inspirations. My 86th birthday is coming up on July 5th and I can still remember going to a printer and having business cards made that read, "Art Fettig, Freelance Writer". What a brave and wonderful declaration. That was back in 1961.
I believe that business cards are a good idea...making a printed declaration to the whole world that you are serious about your hobby and ready to buckle down to the hard work of making your dream come true.
Right this moment I have to finish this thing because it is time for me to drive over to the Sportsplex and exercise some of my other muscles. I do believe though that I exercised the most important ones writing this article. Why don't you give this mental exercising a trial? Stretch your imagination. Exercise your body, exercise your mind and one day a week exercise your prerogative to not exercise at all.
There is Greatness in YOU! -
I've looked at thousands of people in audiences all over the world and said, "There is greatness in you." I just figured that many of those people had never heard that message before and they needed to hear it. I believed that what I was saying was true and I hoped that I could get them to believe it. From some of the feedback I have received over the years I do conclude that many of them started believing that and with that belief then went out and found some measure of success in their lives. Compare that with what many kids have heard again and again. "You rotten kid. You're just like your father. You are going to be nothing but trouble the rest of your life." “We become what we think about all day long.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said it. Earl Nightingale repeated it. Budda said it too. I had a record by Earl Nightingale in the years when my life was most troubled and I listened to it again and again and again. "We become what we think about." Try thinking, "There is greatness in me." Drum it into your subconscious mind. Next start searching for some inkling of greatness in yourself. Oh, you won't see greatness when you first look for it. It might just be a rough talent that has made itself known. Look for something that you enjoy doing. I discovered writing and speaking and I worked for many years honing those rough talents and it was years before I found success using these talents.
Search for a Mentor that might see that spark of greatness in you. A mentor who had shown the world his or her greatness, even if it is in the early stages. Get online and check out Ted.com and seek a segment that ties in with your talent inkling. Never forget...There is greatness in you. Now get out and find it.
This morning I inadvertently sent off my newsletter without this lead article in it. Oh, I had written a lead article alright but I had the good sense to delete it. Don't you wish you could just go back in your memory and delete some of the things you have said or written in your past? Things you said in anger, in spite, with the aid of stupidity on your side? I wonder how my life might have been changed if I had just carried a delete button around with me in some of my business and my personal dealings. Did you ever have a phone conversation with somebody only to learn later that you had the wrong person on the line? Delete.
Maybe you are a bit like me? Maybe you wish you had a great editor walking through life with you to cheer you on or to flat out tell you to "Shut up!" when it is called for. But no, we don't have editors, most of us, and we stumble along through life just doing the best we can. Someone at IBM once captured some of the best advice ever offered and they did it with just one word. Here it is, are you ready? THINK