Most Read Posts Of 2020 #3

As is my custom, I will be reposting the three most-read posts written in 2020 this week along with the most-read Foodie Friday post. Thanks to you, the readership was up 17% this year. I’m taking credit for better writing and not the fact that many of you probably didn’t have much else to do.

This post was written in October after my Mom followed my Dad into eternity. I wanted to get a few things off my chest that I hoped would prove useful. Maybe it was a form of mourning too. Originally called “Lessons From Mom and Dad,” I hope you take their advice.

Among the myriad reasons 2020 has been an absolute horrorshow is the passing of both my mother and father. Dad left us back in July and, as my sister and I have been saying would happen for years, Mom was right behind him 90 days later.

As I’m sitting here unpacking the boxes of stuff from their apartment, a lot of thoughts are crossing my mind. I don’t know if it’s a form of therapy or just a desire to share some lessons they taught me that I know are useful to any of us in business but today is about them.

I wrote some words for each funeral. I wasn’t able to attend in person because of the pandemic. In Dad’s eulogy, I wrote that

Those three senses – the importance of family, of taking responsibility, and of being humble – were things I know he tried to convey to the three of us.

In business, I would mean a family in the broadest sense. Your business family – your coworkers, your partners, your suppliers and most of all your customers are what’s important. I did expand on the responsibility part later on:

Any time I went to Dad with a question, the answer was inevitably the same: do what you think is right. It was never “do what’s expedient” nor what’s easy. Do what you think is right based on all the information you have…When we were wrong, Dad never asked why we made a bad decision but reminded us that we’d tried our best and we’d do better next time.

I’ve been in toxic work situations where bad decisions were followed by long periods of blame-placing and recriminations. The lessons learned usually led to paralysis. If you don’t make any decisions, you can’t make any bad ones. People were more focused on finding another job than on advancing the organizational goals.

In Mom’s eulogy, I expanded a bit on that lesson:

So much of what was true about Mom was true about Dad. Certainly the importance of family and of taking responsibility. “Actions have consequences,” she would remind us, both good and bad. Consequences could be pleasurable or, as I found out often enough, not so much…At the height of the Vietnam War protests, like many my age I informed Mom I was going to skip school for Moratorium Day and go march. Skipping school pretty much for any reason was not ok and doing so to participate in a march as a newly-minted high school freshman when I should be learning where the heck my locker was was even worse. Mom’s response was pretty much “do what you think is right.” Maybe she was looking ahead a few short years when her son would be draft-eligible but I prefer to think she was telling me to use my brain, make good choices, and be prepared to live with the consequences. If I recall I was informed those consequences would not involve her posting my bail had I been arrested.

This is perhaps my pet peeve, both in and out of business. Some folks just won’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault or bad luck or the weather or ANYTHING but their own doing. The pandemic, for example, wasn’t any of our doing. How we’re managing our businesses and our own health is completely our own doing.

Here’s the last lesson and it’s one my folks probably didn’t know they were conveying. My parents worked very hard their entire lives. Like many of us, they accumulated a lot of stuff. As time went on, there were fewer and fewer things as homes were sold and downsizing occurred. When they couldn’t live on their own anymore, more things were given away or sold. Finally, here at the end, my sister and I and their grandchildren received some boxes with pictures and mementos. Not much “stuff.”

I guess I’m trying to remind us that “stuff” doesn’t last. What matters are the memories in those pictures and the people who keep you and your memory alive. Try to remember that when you’re pushing yourself to make more money to buy more stuff. If there is a silver lining to the horror of this year, it just might be that we all got a little time at home to reflect on what’s important.

I’m thankful for the lessons my Mom and Dad taught me. I hope you find these few of them useful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Problems With You People

This will be the last post of this annus horribilis. Beginning next week, I’ll be posting the most-read posts of this year. I’m writing this Christmas Eve, the morning after Festivus. If you’re unfamiliar with this holiday, you can read up on it here or, even better, watch the video below.

So it’s in the spirit of Festivus that I say I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it! That’s right – I’m ending the year with a little self-indulgence but I hope some of it rings true.

First, what kind of idiot conflates science with politics? I refer, of course, to those folks who deem wearing a mask or staying at home a violation of their fundamental freedoms. Here’s the problem. Your freedoms end where mine begin (and vice versa). You have no right to infect me, even unknowingly. I’ve written many times here that each of us should know our limitations, and unless you have an advanced degree in virology or epidemiology, maybe you ought to be listening to those who do when it comes to dealing with the horrible pandemic. Rather than violating temporary bans that officials place on bars, restaurants, assembly, etc., maybe you ought to look at how other countries have been dealing with the same issues and what their results have been. I think you’ll see that there are solutions that have kept the citizenry and many businesses quite safe while reducing the incidence of infection and death.

While we’re on the topic, some of you have got to quit believing everything you read on the Internet. Here is an article published in Forbes (a reputable source) that discusses how to identify a reputable source of information along with a list of sources you can check. Get your news from these places and you’ll be less likely to fall for “fake news.” More importantly, you won’t do your friends and others a disservice by spreading lies. You don’t like being lied to, do you? Neither does anyone else.

When I traveled with my eldest child in Italy many years ago, one thing she took away from our nightly dinners was that life is too short for sh$tty wine. What that really means is to treat yourself well. Don’t be so hard on yourselves. I realize that not everyone can afford everything they’d like to have but spending a bit more or fewer things or even just granting yourself an hour to do nothing. The problem I have is that as an older person now I realize I should have taken more time to smell the flowers. Maybe the pandemic has given you that insight was well since we’ve all got a bit more time without commutes, business trips, etc.

My final grievance is this: we need to be nicer. The pandemic has brought out the worst in many of us. Just be nice, as the T-shirt from one of the barbecue joints I frequent reads. Wearing your damn mask is being nice. Not wearing it is being disrespectful to the rest of us (you don’t want to kill someone’s grandma, do you?). Getting the vaccine when it’s your turn is being nice (funny how many folks who denied the virus was really a problem are rushing to the front of the line, right?). One silver lining of this hellish year has been that it demonstrates how we really are all in this life together and how many of the people we depend on might not have been on our radar before. Don’t forget that when this year and this virus are behind us. 

Happy New Year. See you in ’21!

Leave a comment

Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks

Public Houses

I’m sad, this Foodie Friday. If you’ve hung around the screed for a while, you know that Friday used to be the day when I’d traipse down to my local and quaff an adult beverage or two to celebrate the end of the week. I’ve written about the place before, and while I still patronize it via takeout food, sitting at the bar with the other regulars is not an option for the foreseeable future. Thanks, COVID.

You are probably aware that pubs take their name from the public houses that first appeared in the late 17th century, and was used to differentiate private houses from those which were, quite literally, open to the public as ‘alehouses’, ‘taverns’, and ‘inns’. Much earlier, the Romans established tabernae in Britain, alehouses along their network of roads. Yes, that’s where the word “tavern” comes from.

Here’s the thing. Those alehouses weren’t just places where people went to get drunk. They were meeting places where people could socially congregate, share gossip, and arrange mutual help within their communities. Until last March, that’s exactly the role that my local served as well.

Now before you ask me if I’ve ever heard of Facebook or Next Door, hear me out. I want to make a point that applies to the business world as well. Ask yourself if your social media interactions with your friends and family are as satisfying as Facetiming or Zooming. Probably not. Then ask yourself if those video-based interactions are as good as sitting in the same room or on the next bar stool with a friend. I highly doubt it.

What’s been lost during this pandemic, an economic crisis that has decimated the restaurant industry, is not just jobs. It’s our ability to do what pubs, and by extension, restaurants, were in part created to do: socially congregate, meet new people, have a laugh or a cry with a friend who you can hug. Every business has suffered that loss to a certain extent. Whether it’s customers, suppliers, or staff, I’m pretty sure none of them are coming to an in-person holiday party this year (at least I hope not).

So the real question isn’t how will the bars and restaurants that survive this get back to that happy in-person social place once this is over. The real question is how will your business?

Leave a comment

Filed under food, Thinking Aloud