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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

In my busy life of work, parenting and doing other things that I enjoy equally when not working or parenting, I make time to connect with friends from my past. Two or three times a year I have lunch with one of my high school friends. Craig and I were friends from the time we attended kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School all the way through high school. We have continued to stay in touch for the past 24 years of our lives – through marriages, children, jobs, and other events.

Today at one of our occasional lunches, we got on the topic of the relevance of good teaching and how several teachers from our high school years impacted our lives in positive ways. For example, our high school band teacher seriously helped to form our young minds and teach us about the importance of showing up in life, doing our best and taking pride in everything we touched. To do this day, that teacher continues to take great pride in hearing and seeing the successes of the students he taught.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of teachers sitting in front of classrooms today are unfamiliar with this concept. It’s a disservice to the kids who they teach and, what’s more, it’s their own poor attitude that helps to propagate the negative behaviors found in classrooms and schools throughout the country.

There are likely hundreds of reasons excuses for the attitudes and philosophies teachers have adopted or evolved to since the early ’80s when I was a high school student. There are, no doubt, endless piles of theories on what makes a good teacher today. But I’ll share with you one parent’s view on what makes a poor teacher.

What makes a poor teacher is when sheer laziness becomes the standard operating procedure. When simple basics, like having due dates for homework assignments, aren’t adhered to and when penalties for late or missing work aren’t levied. Teachers have forgotten what life in the real world is like when all they do is coddle their students and tell them, “Just hand in those missing assignments before the semester ends and you’ll receive credit.”
What happened to rules, authority and setting examples? What happened to expectations and ramifications of poorly done or incomplete work? What happened to teaching kids not just an algebra equation, chemical formula, or how to interpret Shakespeare’s sonnets but the importance of showing up (on time), giving a damn and being responsible?

Sure, as a parent I teach and mentor my kids on morality, ethics and the concept of how hard work pays off. And, in time, these lessons will rub off on my two teens. But when I was a kid in school these lessons were taught and reinforced by the teachers who gave a damn – the ones I spent six-plus hours a day listening to in the classroom. When I arrived home after school, I was often given more attention from two parents who – say it with me – gave a damn about the work I did (or didn’t) do at school.

It’s a soapbox that’s ready to crumble thanks to how our society has “evolved.” Unfortunately, this evolution to learning that we’ve adopted will be the formula to which our future becomes unhinged.

Satisfaction with mediocrity: What do we have to be proud of any more? What do we have to look forward to as the next generation enters their career path with a “who cares” attitude?

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Did you notice how few words the Coen brothers had for the masses on the Oscars Sunday night?

Their movie, “No Country for Old Men,” (NCFOM) won four major awards including two directly attributable to the St. Paul St. Louis Park, Minn., writing duo who also won an Academy Award for their original work, “Fargo,” but they barely could get out a thank you to the millions watching the tome-length, dinosaur-ish awards show.

I’m a fan of Coen movies from the get go. “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo,” “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and NCFOM all could easily make my top 100 list of all-time favorite flicks. The brothers got game when it comes to adaptations of Cormac McCarthy’s novels or writing their own schtuff.

And apparently they still have a little Minnesota Modesty within them from their hometown roots, which keep them slightly bashful and soft spoken on the stage and in the lights of their peers (imagine giving an acceptance speech with Jack friggin’ Nicholson sitting 10 feet away from you). So saying a simple, “Thank You,” seems to fit quite well…even given their mighty success.

As for the Oscar production itself, the show’s host, John Stewart, did his best to keep it light but the pure length and boring productions make it impossible to really enjoy. And the songs nominated this year all blew chunks. The only real surprise of the night was Tilda Swinton’s best supporting actress award for her character in one of my favorite movies of the year, “Michael Clayton.” Swinton was humorous and charming accepting the award – which clearly surprised her as well.

Now I’m off to my first screen-writing class. Since the Coen’s have their mantel full of Oscar, I’ll let that Midwestern modesty work its magic on me.

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A Day Like That

Most weekday mornings begin the same way. Alarm chimes from my mobile phone – followed by 10 to 20 minutes of snoozing. It’s harder to get out of bed this time of year – pulling the blanket and comforter back always results in goosebumps.

There’s not many better sounds than that of coffee percolating. I make just two large cup fulls. Freshly showered, shaved, dressed, and (partially) caffeinated and awake, I commute to work. Garage to parking ramp is 20 minutes.

My job is the type of job my dad would have hated – and not understood. I spend most of the day at a desk in front of a computer. Part of my role in PR is monitoring news for the company about the health care industry, including competitors and general local business and economic news. The other aspect of my role is talking to news journalists about various aspects of the medical device business and the role my company plays in the trillion dollar health care industry.

Today included two unusual events. First, a quarterly briefing from the CEO. With 38,000 employees worldwide, keeping everyone up to speed on the company’s successes and challenges is a challenge in itself. A live webcast reaches everyone’s desktop and is available for replay for those sleeping in Japan, China and Australia.  The main message today: It’s been a difficult quarter, but the company managed the adversity better than anyone expected. There’s still reason to feel optimistic for the rest of the fiscal year and several good initiatives in place that will enable the company to achieve its financial goals.

After a few phone calls, lunch, and a couple hours tweaking on a report I’ve been putting together for the past two weeks, I meet with my vice president – another irregular event, but welcomed. The VP who runs the comms department is a driven, 30-something, sharp-as-a-tack professional who knows how to get things done. She also values good people on her team and I’m fortunate to be one of those good people (there are many – in fact the halls of this company are filled with Rhodes Scholars, medical specialists and Ph.D-ed people, making me often wonder what I’m doing among these people with maximum brain power full on all the time).  Twenty minutes later I’m back at my desk. It’s now too late in the day to start anything new, so I fire off answers to a few e-mails and do one last check on breaking news sites to see if a certain Wall Street Journal opinion piece is posted online just yet. It’s not.

My role includes not just tracking news but helping journalists frame their stories and tell them – at the very least objectively. When lucky, we obtain a few quotes that convey the right messages we want to leave with the general public. It’s all about the message. The form of delivery and the way it’s received. On a good day, all questions are answered (there’s no such thing as “no comment” anymore), the positive stories outweigh the negative and there are no bad surprises.  Good surprises are always welcomed.

Time to go home.

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Much has been written on Senator Larry Craig’s ability to stare awkwardly through cracks, toe tap and give improper hand signals. I once found myself on the receiving *cough* end of a similar situation. 

Allow me to explain.

When I was 16, someone (perhaps Senator Craig), gave me hand signals from a mall restroom stall where he sat.  You see, while in high school I worked part time at a drug store located in a shopping mall. It was an old mall on the north end of town. A mall that had more store vacancies than actual retail outlets doing business.  The drug store where I worked was a center of activity at the mall, along with the Younkers department store.

RestroomPublic restrooms at malls are always tucked into nooks, hiding behind dimly lit corners. I suppose that’s why certain people attempt to get their freak on in them.  (I shudder at this, because a public restroom is SO completely and disgustingly filthy and therefore how is that atmosphere remotely condusive to doing anything sexual?)

So there I was. All of 16, standing at a urinal wearing my blue drug store vest doing my business. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a hand appear from under a stall wall. The hand is palm up and wagging side to side. The faceless dude with the hand under his stall wall says nothing. No grunting. No audible sounds whatsoever. Standing there, I have the urge to piss on this jackass’s hand. But he’d probably like that too much. So I zip up and leave.

I never went back to that particular mall restroom. The thought of someone lying in wait to do the nasty with a teenage boy freaked me out a bit too much. And I’m particularly thankful that I was never able to match a face with that hand I saw in my peripheral vision. What if it had been the mayor, the police chief, the Catholic priest, or the pharmacist at the drug store where I worked! 

Awkwarddddddddd!!!

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Work should never feel like work.

To pay my way through college, I labored long summer hours for a moving company owned by my next door neighbor. It was the dirtiest, hottest, most physically challenging work I’ve ever done (far more difficult than completing a sprint triathlon). For $6.25 an hour I worked 70 hour weeks during my summer breaks hauling pianos and boxes filled with books and sofa sleepers and, my favorite, the family deep freezer up basement stairs and into a moving van. That, my friends, is labor. I would wake up hating my work. Understandably.

Flash forward 20 years and my life’s work is quite the opposite. After obtaining that degree in corporate communications from Buena Vista University located in toney Storm Lake, Iowa, I have been practicing my first choice in a career field, public relations, ever sense. I love my work. But more than practicing a craft that I was well-educated and trained to do, I’ve found the place to do it where I really make a difference. Don’t jump to conclusions, I’m not changing how PR is done, because like most career options, there are very few original PR strategies. But I’m practicing a craft that I love for a company that, at the end of the day, does amazing things. The work I do ultimately impacts the lives of millions of people and that makes work not seem like work at all.

It’s cause to whistle…not while I’m working, but out of amazement to my fortune.

One’s life work can be filled with despair or boredom or a lack of direction. For me, though, I found my strengths early, honed those skills carefully and the result is in working for a company where what I do matters.

I don’t work. I don’t toil. I don’t labor.

I just do…happily.

Have a great Labor Day everyone!

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