Remaining Lessons Learned

These are the rest of the 10 things I learned during 2020…

Breaking Fad – After talking about it for several year, we finally ‘cut the cord’ this summer and entered the streaming era. Of course, we then needed to increase Internet speed by adding fiber optics… and since our TV’s are older, we had to purchase a Roku. Then it turned out one TV isn’t compatible, so we ordered an over-the-air HD indoor antenna for local channels. After testing a free week of Hulu, we settled on YouTubeTV for the major networks. Everything works great; however, when you add in Disney+, Peacock, Prime and Netflix, the cost trends right back toward the amount we were paying for cable. We’ll be dropping a few in the New Year.

Century Mark – He broke into the Majors in 1942. Then he enlisted in the military and served three years during World War II. He made it back to the Bigs in ‘47, playing 11 more seasons and for seven of the eight American League teams. Ted Williams said he “was the most underrated and clutch hitter I ever played against.” After retiring he became a baseball executive and was president/GM of the Texas Rangers for a time, which allowed me to start a lifelong friendship with his son Paul. On December 15, Eddie Robinson – the Oldest Living Former Major League Baseball Player – turned 100. He started a podcast a few months ago, which proves you’re never too old to try something new.

Lasting Legacy – One hundred years from now historians will still be writing about the 2020 Global Pandemic, just as they continue to chronicle World War I, the War of 1812, the South Sea Bubble and the Mayflower. There will be books about how governments handled their responses, how so many suffered, how elected officials and citizens took sides. All that is for others to reflect on down the road. This year taught me that what we think we know changes quickly. There is another ‘something big’ down the road that will impact our grandchildren. My hope is that when that time arrives, they learned some things from us, and they, too, will have faith, discipline and patience, to see the challenge through to the other side.

Gift Giving – Covid greatly increased the numbers of those in need; right now, one in five people in Southeast Texas don’t have enough to eat. In lieu of client gifts, once again this year, we contributed to a nonprofit that is doing wonderful things in our local community. The Houston Food Bank distributes fresh produce, meat and nonperishable items, and prepares nutritious hot meals for kids. Each dollar donated provides three meals and they are currently serving more than 90,000 households each week in 18 area counties.

I’ll conclude with a quote about the most wonderful time of the year. This one courtesy of Agnes M. Pahro: “What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.”

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. Here’s hoping the world gets well in 2021… and continued success in all things.


More Lessons Learned

Part II of III

Here are more things that struck me as meaningful this year…

Funny Pages – I enjoy reading the Comics – and this year I committed to doing it daily in order to bring some light-hearted humor into the monotony of WFH and same-old, same-old routine. My favorites? BC, Blondie, Family Circus, Funky Winkerbean, Crankshaft, Baby Blues, Red & Rover, Pearls Before Swine and, of course, Dilbert. (As I said, I enjoy reading the Comics!) Since our newspaper is in electronic format, I take screen shots and forward the ‘best of’ to family and friends. Hopefully, it adds a few smiles to their days.

Print This – As part of my Journalism major, I took 15 hours of English in college. One of my TA’s was working on a Ph.D. and had written a novel. I remember her telling me, “There’s a book inside everyone. Someday you’ll publish yours.” Well, 40 years later, I did. Words Flow Through Me is a compilation of my favorite newsletters, blogs and magazine articles written the past 15+ years – and even includes the best thing I wrote in college: the final essay for her class. You don’t have to be John Grisham or David McCullough to publish. You just need to organize your thoughts and enter them in a document… even if for your eyes only.

Best Book – Robert Iger is the executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company. His recent memoir – The Ride of a Lifetime – is a wonderful trip through his career at ABC and Disney, including reflections on acquiring Pixar and Lucasfilm Ltd, and the opening of Shanghai Disneyland Park. While many of these type books are ‘Look at all the great things I did,’ Iger’s is more ‘Here are the things I should have done better.’ He’s also candid in sharing thoughts about many people you’ve heard of, including Roone Arledge, Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney.


Lessons Learned

Part I of III

Each December since 2007, I share my biggest lessons from the previous 12 months. Given the challenges of 2020, this list could be really long. That said, here are my favorite lessons during this ‘year of all years’:

Home Life – Imagine if one year ago I had written: “You’ll spend nine months working from home while participating in video sessions using an app named Zoom.” (If I had, you could have bought the stock and made nearly 500%!) Yet here we are… and it looks like we’ll be this way a while longer. There are many videos of epic mishaps during online meetings: kids in the background, cats walking across keyboards, people forgetting they’re on camera. Still, think of how far we’ve come with our comfort level. What once seemed strange is now natural. What once was perceived as ineffective is now productive. What once was a non-starter is now accepted. Evolution takes centuries. Most of the time. Occasionally it happens fast.

Simple Stroll – The arrival of Covid meant the end of my weekday lap swimming exercise at Life Time Fitness. So I started walking every morning at the crack of dawn. For 34 weeks, I kept the streak alive: 170 straight weekdays. In the beginning, I could do about 45 minutes – roughly 2.5 miles. Within a few months, my time on the trails behind our neighborhood averaged more than five miles… with a few two-hour seven milers mixed in for fun. Alas, the streak ended on Tuesday, November 10, and it’s been hit or miss since. The lesson here is, at least for me, it’s much easier to keep doing something than to take a break and start anew.

New Hobby – I hadn’t put together a 1,000-piece puzzle during the past 45 years. Then came the Spring Shutdown. Our daughter Kelsey and I sat down at a table to work on one… and a couple months later we’d completed seven. There are four waiting in the wings – and I’m guessing the holidays just might include more peaceful and relaxing jigsaw journeys.


Choose One

In November, 2008, I wrote the following for my monthly e-newsletter. As this is Election Day in America – and there are a lot of fears about what reactions people will have based on the final outcome – it seemed like a good time to publish it again…

History walked among us last Tuesday – regardless of whether you’re liberal, conservative or squarely in between. The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States will be studied by schoolchildren in the year 2227, just as our kids today read about George Washington. As eye witnesses, we are privileged to have experienced it in our lifetime.

Full disclosure: I voted for the other guy. While that may cause some of you to immediately stop reading and hit “Unsubscribe” – and others to say, “I knew it, Martha! He’s one of us.” – the deciding issue for me was balance. I didn’t want to see the Executive branch and
Congress controlled by one party. That weighed more heavily on my mind than whether Republican values were a better choice than Democratic change.

Mr. Obama is a great orator, and the impact his victory is having shows he has the potential to inspire action. In 71 days, he’ll take the oath of office and be thrown into the fire, with our nation facing its greatest challenges in a generation. Like all leaders, he’ll make right decisions and wrong ones, and he’ll ultimately be judged on which way the scale tips most often. At this time, in this nation, all of us need him to succeed. When you hit your knees tonight, set politics aside, and pray hard for him to receive the gift of wisdom.

Mr. McCain easily carried Texas, receiving this red state’s 34 electoral votes. Our 18-year-old daughter cast her first presidential ballot this year. During the primaries, she said: “Tell me again how my vote matters? A Republican is going to win Texas regardless of who I vote for, so does it really count?” Kids say the darndest things, even after they grow up.

Our forefathers did an amazing job laying the foundation for this country; however, we’ve found it necessary to add 27 Amendments to the original ratified document. In these wonderful days of so many citizens feeling included in the future of our nation, perhaps it’s time to consider abolishing the Electoral College, and truly make Election Day a one-person, one-vote process.


Words Count

The hometown Texans fired their coach and general manager this week – four games into a season with no wins. Stories are coming out about his treatment of others during seven years at the helm, and in particular how he acted recently.

When he was offensive coordinator in New England, Bill O’Brien’s nickname, given him by quarterbacks Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer, was ‘Teapot’… because he tended to boil over under stress. When HBO Hard Knocks featured the Texans in 2015 preseason, cameras captured O’Brien dropping F-Bombs.

“Yeah, I need to stop swearing, or cut it down at least,” he said. “My brother texted me, he thought it was awesome. My mom texted me, she didn’t think it was too awesome.”

In recent weeks, O’Brien allegedly got into shouting matches with players and assistant coaches – and there are reports he screamed at employees at the team’s headquarters.

As long as O’Brien was winning four AFC South titles in the past five seasons, the Texans overlooked his inability to control emotions. Lose a 24-0 lead against Kansas City in the playoffs, start 0-4, scream at the face of the franchise… and… Goodbye.

Perhaps it would have worked out differently had Bill O’Brien treated people better.