Monday, January 21, 2013

Back in the 1970s and '80s motivational posters were all the rage. Some were sort of cool, most were a little hokey... ignoring that no one can truly "motivate" someone else. Inspire by example with a shared vision of what can be, yes. Motivate, no.

Personal opinion - motivation must come from within our selves. We are what we are because of what we want to be. If someone wants to be a leach on society while the rest of us allow it, and are willing to pay for it, they will. If someone is happy performing a job, any job, earning his or her own way in life without making demands on the rest of us, not bothering anyone else, they should.

All work is honorable work. Whether it's driving a delivery truck or digging ditches or building supersonic fighter jets or operating a nuclear power plant, all work is honorable work. If someone wants to sacrifice in order to obtain an education and develop his or her career skills, then keep up on a continuing basis to stay current, to learn the skills necessary to advance that career, and the rest of us can encourage them to do so, they should. And we should.

When our company outgrew the garage and we moved into a "real shop," as someone commented at the time back in 1980, it wasn't long and a box started showing up every month. Inside was always a nice metal frame with a poster, a unique picture with an inspirational motto of some sort. I never knew for sure who'd subscribed us to that service and then kept it going for several years. There was a suspect, but all he ever did was grin and deny involvement when asked. Anyone who knew Mr. Newman, though, might easily imagine him taking pity upon a dumb kid who had a way to go to hit 30, was in hock up to his eyeballs, had two technicians working with him, one full and one part time, and who was too ignorant to know he wasn't supposed to call on, much less do work for, some of the largest companies in this nation. Mr. Newman's was in the little bitty numbers that year according to Fortune Magazine. I kept that first poster for a long time, only passing it on to someone pretty special a few years ago.

Climb high, climb far
Your goal the sky, your aim the star

Your aim the star... such a simple phrase with such powerful, and positive, imagery. A star, a light, a beacon... such a powerful image one of our past Presidents, President Reagan, even used it in one of his speeches... his farewell, when he stated "America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere."

And what have we become since that day in 1989, 24 years ago?

I lived in an apartment for a time on Mountain Creek Road, one with a large vacant area at the back of the property. We happened to have a security guard who imagined, emphasis on imagined, himself a tough guy. He was an NRA member, but one the NRA would cringe at. Anyway, he was at the back of the property one night, apparently pretending he was Wyatt Earp or something, and shot himself in the, uh, let's just say he shot himself in the gluteus maximus. How many times does exactly that happen day in and day out, either figuratively or literally.

What are many of us aiming for now. Anything? Or, like that security guard, are some just trying to play Wyatt Earp, but winding up looking more like Qweeeksdraw.

Aim... the NRA gets their spanx in a wad every time they perceive someone is "trampling on their rights." They want to have weapons in the trunks of their vehicles when they go to work. Whose property is that? Do those NRA members own it? Property rights are basic rights. Who is someone else, who doesn't own that property, to come in and tell the owner what he or she will and will not do on what they own? But those republican legislators, the ones attempting to garner favor with the NRA faithful, will make one person's right to bear arms superior to another's right to own property. A slippery slope if ever there was one. Those gun owners knew the deal when they accepted the job, then accepted their first paycheck. To subsequently complain and make demands is nothing more than to do like that security guard, his gluteus maximus deal.

But they're conservatives, those politicians are, don't ya know... because they're going to take care of us, if it takes every dime we've got.

Aim... for a lot of years I've worked with divorced fathers. For years the SE Tennessee hotline actually rang into my apartment and one day a young guy called saying he'd been referred by his State Representative over in Dickson. He first asked if I could call him back since it was long distance and we're a non-profit organization. I explained that I paid for the phone line and would a whole lot rather he pay the bill for his call than me. He went on to explain his problems with the child support bureaucracy, that they were taking so much of his income that he didn't have enough to live on. He was a painter.

"How many kids do you have?" asked I.
"Eight," said he.
"Uh, what else did you and your wife do?"
"Oh, no, that isn't all with the same woman."
"I'm afraid to ask how many."

At 28 years old he had eight children with seven different women. What's wrong with this picture? I explained that he probably called the wrong number and suggested he might enroll in a knot tying class of some sort, one that used short pieces of hose for practice. Somebody was aiming at something, but it certainly didn't sound like becoming a model citizen was his star. And while he's having a good time, the real fathers are the ones being blistered as a result of his irresponsibility.

But the flip side of that record, for those of us old enough to remember vinyl, is cited in the 25 December 2012, Christmas Day, edition of the Washington Times entitled "Fathers disappear from households across America." In the first paragraph it states "Nicole Hawkins‘ three daughters have matching glittery boots, but none has the same father. Each has uniquely colored ties in her hair, but none has a dad present in her life." Three children with three different daddies, none of whom were involved with their lives. Government is Uncle Daddy. Someone else aiming at something, but it certainly doesn't look like being a productive member of society. And the real unfortunate among us, those who truly are deserving and in need of assistance, suffer as a result of her, um, poor aim.

Aim... our elected officials, and their appointed functionaries, what are they? Are they our masters or are they, since we elect them, and thereby appoint those functionaries by proxy, and all are paid with our TaxBucks, nothing more than our hired help? And they don't have time, while working on our payroll, to look at what the true causes of so many of our problems in society are? What are they doing with our money? Would any of us allow a direct employee, or even a contractor, to fritter away valuable company resources? Would we allow them to goof off while on the company time clock which, in and of itself, is nothing more than theft? Where are they aiming... besides, of course, our wallets?

Aim... let's all take aim at those dastardly union thugs. Has any one of our illustrious elected officials, or their appointed functionaries, stopped to consider the majority of union members work for government? But they're all, especially republicans, quite willing to attack union members if it diverts attention away from them and their poor behavior.

You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, you put your right foot in, and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around... and hope that nobody sees you aren't walking your talk.

Some days I wish I'd paid more attention to versology in English class.

I've been rediscovering Emerson lately, Ralph Waldo not Lake and Palmer. His essay Social Aims seems oh so fitting right now. Birkie, my favorite BirkenstockBabe budette, who keeps saying I'd get thrown out of that section of the grocery store on my ear, snagged onto his statement "Yes, they adopt whatever merit is in good repute, and almost make it hateful with their praise." right away. Oh my, have more true words ever been uttered? Fiscal cliffs, too big to fail, home mortgages, student loans, bubbles of all nature and sort, racism, ad infinitum... and of their own making, not ours, but we're the ones who must pick up the tab to repair what they fixed.

Aim... as our elected officials stand and argue over minutiae while our nation, our society, the heritage we leave to our heirs, spirals around and around and around in that big white porcelain bowl. Why? Grandstanding, political positioning, embellishment of their accomplishments, imagery, and fluff are their goals instead of true accomplishments. It isn't what they do so much as what we, the great unwashed, think they do. That's their goal... oh yeah, and to get re-elected.

But in the words of Mr. Emerson, "Don't say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary. A lady of my acquaintance said, 'I don't care so much for what they say as I do for what makes them say it.'"

Leave it to a girl...

Aim... politicians, party politics, are any of us impressed in the least at the results of our "business as usual" so-called party leadership? They claim to be leaders, but are they? Why are both major parties, both democrats and republicans, from the national level down to local, having financial difficulty? Lack of donations? Could it be that we, the people, the great unwashed, in the inimitable words of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, have had enough?

But even she, who espouses the Tea Party mantra often and loud, has partaken of more than her fair share of the public dole, hasn't she.

Aim... our politicians, those of the elite class... what is their primary goal? First it's to get elected, then it's to stay elected. Oh, they speak of high ideals and service to the public and doing what's right and paying attention to the greater good instead of their own self interests. But do they really? They, both parties, scream that they must win so they can get our nation back on track. Do they? They scream that their goal is to improve our economy so business can thrive. Do they? They scream they must have a majority of their respective arms of government so they can take care of us. Do they? Should they? Do they need to?

Or do they emulate Qweeeksdraw, "ready... fire... aim!"

If we look at another statement by Mr. Emerson those shouts and screams might gain a bit different perspective; "Must we always talk for victory, and never once for truth, for comfort, and joy?" With respect to our political elites, I submit...

Qweeeksdraw, "ready... fire... aim!" but the gluteus maximii they keep hitting are ours, we common folk, the great unwashed. They've never learned how to breath and relax before they take aim at their goal. They just try to take a shotgun approach to everything rather than a surgical, one shot one down tack. It's just all of our lives and fortunes, not theirs, isn't it.

We live in a constitutional republic. The basic law of the land is our Constitution wherein the functions of government, and the only functions authorized for government, are to provide and support a military to protect our citizens, build our roads, protect our borders, regulate commerce, ensure a stable currency, and keep the peace. That's all. We, citizens, are charged with the responsibility to tend to our own needs, to be all that we can be, to take care of one another as we see fit.

I thought about Mr. Newman the other day while out with a customer, and the subject of our respective first order came up. I remember the first time I sat in his office, he sitting quietly and allowing me to give my schpiel, all the while looking me straight in the eye. When I was done he leaned back in that big brown high backed leather executive chair, put his hands behind his head and just stared at me for what seemed like hours, but was probably only seconds. Then he leaned forward and reached for his in-basket, grabbed the stack of purchase requisitions, and started going through them. "Can you do this?" "Yes sir." "Can you do these?" "I'm not sure." "Yes you can. Take a look at them and if you don't feel comfortable send them to someone else you feel comfortable doing them." "Can you do this?" "We don't have the equipment to do those but I know someone who can." "Send them to me, please." And so went the next hour or so.

Every once in a while he would call and ask if I knew someone who could do some specialty type of work, or some off-the-wall product. "Do you have a book on pulse code modulation?" he asked one day. "May I borrow it? They just gave me responsibility for anther project and I don't have a clue about this stuff." When he found out about our library, I received more of those calls.

You see, Mr. Newman had taken aim at giving back. He once said he really appreciated small business and what we helped him accomplish for his company over the years. But he gave none of us anything but an opportunity to strut our stuff... whether we failed or prevailed was totally in our hands from that point on.

Mr. Newman's no longer with us but I remember how he would occasionally call the shop and invite me and the shop manager to lunch. He would never let either of us pick up the tab, always saying we didn't make enough money yet to be buying his lunch. After he retired we stayed in touch and then one day he finally allowed me to take him to lunch... and even pick up the check. Because it had been killing me for all those years, I had to ask about that first day in his office.

"The first time you called on us?"

"Yes. What was going through your mind when you leaned back in your chair and just stared at me? Some of the other guys have told me you did the same to them. Will you tell me now?"

"I had a lot of you guys, and some ladies, come through my office over the years. I remember you because we were both new, me to purchasing and you to the world of business. I almost felt sorry for you that first call. Figured you were probably competent technically, but new to business on your own. There you sat, sweating, stammering and stuttering (I thought I'd gotten over that), and turning so pale I thought I might have to call me secretary for some water. Then when we started talking technical you seemed to smooth out, like trimming the flaps, and settled down."

"So what were you thinking when you leaned back in that chair?"

"I was thinking to myself 'this kid's either nuttier than a fruitcake or he's got a little something on the ball, let's find out which' and here we are. I wondered that about a lot of you guys over the years."

"Did you ever decide which it was?" I asked.

He just grinned.

America... Americans... is this a great country or what? For our elected officials and their bureaucracy to believe they can do anything to encourage individuals to do what we do best, other than to get out of our way, is the epitome of clueless disconnectedness... perhaps aggressive and intentional ignorance, but disconnected and clueless all the same. To cite my budette Birkie again, to paraphrase, it would seem that if everyone was working more they wouldn't have time to worry so much about everybody else's business would they. Just exactly who is some government person, a legend only in his or her own mind, and who needs a shotgun to dispatch an aggravating fly, to tell us how to take aim upon our individual problems?

You get your left hand off our wallets, you get your right hand out of our pockets, you keep your nose out of our business, and you turn yourself around. Okay, so versology isn't my bag.

At least BooBoo Bear likes my singing, as we're driving down the road in our new-to-us GrampieMobile.

Royce Burrage, Jr.

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