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Monday, May 25, 2015

Young George

Last weekend I played golf at San Juan Hills and they paired me up with a feisty older gentleman named George. I always like meeting new people at the golf course and I especially enjoy hearing their “stories” while we get to know each other. George was older than me but he had a really nice swing and he definitely had an interesting “story”.

After some coaxing I found out George was 71 and that he grew up during the Vietnam War era. He lied about his age at 17 so that he could join the Navy and fight for our country. When he snuck out of his parent’s house and went to the recruiter’s office, he discovered it was a combination of several different military branches. As it happened the Navy Recruiter was at lunch, so George spoke to the Marine Corps Recruiter who easily talked him into joining the Marines with the promise it would be much more exciting.

George did two full tours of duty in Vietnam. He served his country with pride, garnering several medals for valor during combat and he told me that on his way home he felt pretty good about himself despite all the physical and emotional trauma he had suffered. As soon as I heard George was a military veteran, I put out my hand to firmly shake his hand and thank him for his service.

George smiled and said, “Thank you! A lot of people have been reacting the same way the past few years, thanking me for my service, and it’s quite the opposite of the reaction I received when I first came home from the war. I asked him what he meant and he said that when he landed at the JFK Airport in New York in 1969, still proudly wearing his military uniform with multiple medals, a young long-haired man with a beard and beads around his neck approached him with his hand out. George assumed that he was being greeted warmly for his service, but instead the young man asked him if he was just now returning from Vietnam. When George said yes, the young man spit in his face. George told me that he reacted without thinking and punched the man squarely in the nose. A New York Police Officer just happened to be nearby, saw what happened and immediately took George into a back room area. The policeman didn’t say much… just that the “dirty hippie” got what he deserved and then he graciously let George go on his way.

George’s story touched a nerve inside me, probably because my Dad and Grandfather were both in the Marine Corps and for that reason I have the utmost respect for all military personnel.  I don’t know if America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was right or wrong and it’s not for me to decide. What I do know is that the servicemen and women who bravely put their lives on the line every day for the rest of us…deserve our total respect. I am so glad I shook George’s hand and I am extremely thankful that there are people like George who have made life easier and safer for all of the rest of us. If you know someone in the military, take time today to thank them for their service. Let us not forget our “he-roes and “she-roes”!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Minimum Wage

Last week my Sales Manager and I made a presentation to a very large Company. The purpose of the meeting was to present our products and services to a very important potential new client and although I have made hundreds of presentations like this during my career, I still get nervous because I take pride in what I do. I always want to do my best to present our company in the best possible light. (Pun intended!)

The meeting was held at noon at a beautiful glass skyscraper in Irvine and a few minutes after we got there, a pizza delivery man showed up with the food we ordered for our lunch meeting. I signed for the Pizzas and tipped the Pizza man generously because back in the day I delivered pizzas myself and I know how hard it can be to deliver hot pizzas to lots of locations and not get lost. Five minutes later the Pizza man came back up to the top floor meeting room because apparently, although I had written in a decent tip, I had added up the total way higher than it was supposed to be. The Pizza man wasn’t sure if I meant to write in that high of a total, so he came back to ask me if I wanted to correct it. I thanked him for catching the mistake and praised him for his honesty. He smiled and as he headed off, I was instantly reminded of one of the first Pizza deliveries that I ever made that taught me two huge life lessons.

It was 1974 and I was 19 years old. I was attending UC Berkeley during the day and delivering food at night for a combo Pizza Man/Chicken Delight Restaurant. My second day on the job, I had a long list of stops including a large delivery to a mansion in Burlingame Hills. When I arrived, I set a bucket of chicken on the roof of my small Datsun pickup. When I grabbed the pizzas and shut the door, the bucket of chicken slid off the roof and hit the ground, spilling several pieces of chicken onto the driveway. My first thought was to wipe off the chicken and put it back. My second thought was to throw those two pieces away and act like it was a full bucket. My third thought and my ultimate decision…was to tell the customer what happened and go back for more food. When I told the customer what happened, he didn’t seem that upset, which surprised me. When I returned a half hour later and completed his delivery he gave me a huge $20 tip. Considering I was making minimum wage ($1.65/hour), that tip was a ton of money in those days! Not only did I receive a huge tip, I also received praise for my honesty. Apparently the customer had been watching me through his window and saw me spill that food all over his driveway.

I learned two important life lessons that day. The first one is obvious; honesty is the best policy and will reap you major rewards. The second lesson was more subtle; an appreciation for the working class people in this world. I have never forgotten how hard it was to go to school all day and work long hours at night. To this day, every time I meet someone who is making minimum wage, I smile and sincerely thank them for their service. Minimum wage doesn’t necessarily mean minimum effort!

Without honest labor nothing prospers. 
~ Sophocles

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

This Smile's for You

This Week's Monday Message... is by Debby Thrailkill

It’s the simple things in life that truly make a difference….like a smile!

This morning when I went out jogging, I noticed that I received friendly smiles from just about everyone I passed and it really felt great. Several people went out of their way to nod and smile to greet me, and it really lifted my spirits. These days it seems so many people are hesitant to smile at other people as they go about their day. In fact, well known celebrities are purportedly not smiling for the cameras, so that later in life they won’t have as many frown lines. Can you believe that!

A smile can make a big difference in every situation. I’ve been conducting interviews this week for a few new positions at our company and I was surprised by the demeanor of one of the hopeful respondents. About 15 minutes into the interview, I was really put off by his negative attitude and asked him, “Tell me something positive, because if you were representing our company, I need to know that you would have a positive attitude and a friendly smile”. This stopped him and he immediately understood that the image he was presenting was negative and depressing. I could see in his eyes that the weight of the world was on him and I began to feel sorry for him. So I smiled at him and his demeanor immediately changed and we moved on with our meeting.

As you go about your day, pay special attention to those around you who take the time and make the effort to smile! I’ll bet there are a lot of world class smilers in your daily life that you might possibly take for granted. And pay attention to those who could use a little cheer by offering your smile as much as you can. A shout out to a few of my favorite world class smilers… Brenda Cunningham, John Woodman, and my Mom, Jan Micheil. My mom, our loving family matriarch, provides an excellent example of what a bright smile can mean to a family. Like everyone, Mom has experienced life’s ups and downs, but she has never once lost her smile.

A smile can do amazing things! A smile can heal a relationship, as well as help in healing an illness. A smile can lighten a load, encourage a young mind, make a new friend, pick up a neighbor, a colleague, or friend’s spirit. A smile is free, but worth a million bucks. You may never know the effect of your smile each day, but others will…and many times they won’t forget it. And smiling doesn’t just brighten up someone else’s day…it can brighten your day as well because you just can’t look bad when you smile. If you want proof, check out the photos below and decide for yourself.

Kim Kardashian Smiling.... And not Smiling

Ashley Olsen Smiling.... And Mary Kate not Smiling

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine they see all day.
                                   ~ Anonymous                                       


Monday, May 4, 2015


Here’s a funny story…or maybe it’s more irony than humor. As I was sitting on my patio yesterday afternoon I noticed the waves were kind of big and really cool and they were creating huge white caps way out in the ocean. It was fun to watch and quite beautiful. But then I noticed something that wasn’t so beautiful, my neighbors Fire Ring.

Almost every home along the shore in Capo Beach has their own Fire Ring and since our home is a duplex there are two matching Fire Rings out front. My neighbor isn’t here very often because his main home is in Scottsdale and over the last few months most of the bricks that support his Fire Ring have been knocked over and broken. It was looking pretty bad and since I know that he will be coming out for the summer pretty soon, I decided to get off my lazy butt and go rebuild his Fire Ring.

I broke out a shovel, a sand rake and some spare bricks and got started. After a couple of hours I was finished and his Fire Ring was now much sturdier and stronger. I even relocated it in a few feet closer to his home so it wouldn’t be so susceptible to the bigger waves that sometimes wash in over the sand. As I stood back and surveyed my work I mentioned something to my wife. I said, “You know what, I messed up. I made Bill’s Fire Ring look better than ours!” She laughed and said I did a good job and that they both looked great.

At 9:30 last night, we noticed the sound of the ocean getting really loud. All of a sudden huge waves started crashing down on our beachfront. Within minutes water was rushing over the sand and slamming against our sea wall. By 10:00pm the water flooded our patio and was threatening our home. I threw on clothes and waded out to save our patio furniture and in the process got soaking wet and covered with seaweed and saltwater.    

This morning when I woke up, I am proud to report that my neighbor’s Fire Ring withstood the storm and looked just great. However, my own Fire Ring was absolutely destroyed. As I stood there looking out at the seaweed floating on our patio, the beach littered with ocean residue and the bricks from our Fire Ring scattered all over the beach…all I could do was laugh at the irony of it. You could make the argument that I wasted time working on my neighbor’s Fire Ring when I should have been working on my own, but I look at it a little differently. Yes, I could have rebuilt my own Fire Ring and that would have felt good…but doing something good for my neighbor felt a whole lot gooder!

Before the Storm
After the Storm
Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good… is it useful.
~ Anonymous