Thursday, November 29, 2012

Positive Reinforcement

A great man with a great story died yesterday and a world of positive thinkers will mourn his passing.  The name Zig Ziglar is synonymous with inspirational speaking and his life was a testament to positive thinking and tenaciousness.  A devout Christian and force for wringing the most out of life, Ziglar once said, "I am not going to ease up, let up, shut up or give up until I'm taken up!   As a matter of fact, I'm just getting warmed up!"

Many epitaphs will be written about this man, who died of pneumonia at age 86, so I won't attempt to compete for the job of recounting his amazing life story.  However, I will recount how I felt the only time I heard him speak in person.  It was at the old Dallas Reunion Arena in the early 1990's.  He was the keynote speaker for a seminar on salesmanship and leadership skills attended by nearly 15,000 people.  Other speakers were Bryan Tracy, a world-renowned author and motivational speaker; Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People"; and even Troy Aikman, 3-time Super Bowl Champion and Hall of Fame quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

As each speaker came forward that day, the crowd became more and more motivated.  They applauded, laughed and cheered and, basically, were whipped into a frenzy of positive thinking.  I was right there along with the crowd and wondered at one point how it would be possible to get any more motivated.  Then Zig Ziglar came to the podium.  In the vernacular of our time, I was like OMG!  This man had the ability to have you hanging on his every word and from his first sentence the audience was hooked. 

My brother-in-law and then Manufacturing Manager for my six-year old companyADvent Supply, was with me that day.  I thought it would be great for him to hear and see what great training and motivation was all about.  Frankly, while hopeful, I was concerned that David might not be impressed.  He is a laid back person and gravitates toward the basics without a lot of appreciation for high-powered rhetoric or sparkly foo-foo.  Half way through Ziglar's presentation I looked over and David was totally enthralled, riveted as I was to this man's charismatic style and rock-solid principals.  At the end of seminar I felt like I could run through a brick wall.  I felt empowered to go back to my business and fulfill the vision I had for it, my customers and my employees.  David felt the same way.  And the reason for that was Zig Ziglar.  It is often said about people when they leave this earth they will be missed.  In the case of Zig Ziglar, it could not be more true.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake, Baker's Man....

Anyone remember the pure pleasure of sinking your teeth into a lighter-than- air Hostess Twinkie snack cake or creamy chocolate Hostess cup cake with the little white squiggle of icing on top and your tongue lavishing on the rich hidden filling inside.  Or how about the pink, coconuty sponginess of a "Snowball"? Forget calories.  Forget cholesterol.  These were just devilishly sinful delights.

Well, better go stock up this next week because Hostess Brands, Inc., also known as Interstate Bakeries, the company who has brought you not only Twinkies but Wonder Bread, Nature's Pride and Dolly Madison products since 1930, is shuttin' it down! 

Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy back in January, citing the rising cost of labor and pension funding as the principle reason for their financial woes.  As a part of the court-supervised restructuring, Hostess bargained with their two largest unions, the Teamsters and Bakers/Confectionary/Tobacco Workers, to gain concessions which would keep the company afloat.  Their final offer did include some wage (8 % cut), benefit and work rule concessions but it also gave the twelve unions a 25 % ownership stake in the company, $ 100 million in reorganized debt AND representation on the Board of Directors.  The Teamsters approved the offer by a narrow margin but the Bakers decided that dough wouldn't rise.  They voted "No".

The bankruptcy judge decided the offer was a good one and gave Hostess management the authority to implement the contract anyway.  The bakers went on strike crippling the operations at 33 of their plants nationwide and bringing production to a virtual standstill at less than 50 % of capacity.  Management threatened that if the bakers did not return to work by yesterday at 5:00PM they would be forced to cease operations.  The bakers thought management was bluffing and refused.  Oopps!

Today Hostess announced the layoff of all 18,500 of its workers, keeping a skeleton force of 3,200 for several months to "wind it down".  A year from now only 50 workers will remain of this once thriving 82-year old company. 

Now, I am not anti-union.  Honestly.  I do not always take the side of management in these confrontations.  And I am certain there was a degree of mis-management even at Hostess.  Forget I grew up on Wonder Bread ("Builds strong bodies twelve ways").  Forget I went to school for years with a Twinkie in my lunch box.  But, for nearly 20,000 workers to ignore a court order to return to work and give up their jobs in this economic environment?  Seriously?

There is something wrong with an organization of workers whose leaders so mis-read the handwriting on the wall that they allow nearly 20,ooo jobs to evaporate, never to return.  This is unionization out of control and at its worst.  Let's hope there are 20,000 donut shops who need bakers to take up the slack.  Frankly, I would not give that scenario a  "Snowball's" chance in Hell.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veteran's Day 2012!

Happy Veteran's Day!

Just thinking about all of the men and women who are serving and have served our country over the past 236 years; their sacrifices, their courage and their patriotism.  Every American owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.  For those who paid the price of freedom with their lives, it is a debt we can never repay.  I sincerely hope we, as a democratic nation, understand how valuable a gift we have been given to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

My youngest daughter, Brittany, just called me to thank me for my service.  I was surprised, first, because I do not think about myself as a veteran and, second, my service, as it were, was completed before either of my girls reached the age of reason.  I have told them a few stories of my time in the Army and Air Force National Guard, but they are more humorous than tales of daring do or bravery.

It was December, 1967 and I was about to end 48 hours of non-stop studying and take the mid-term final in my history class.  I was struggling that semester in all my subjects; a consequence of having discovered beer and the love of my life and new fiance, Vicki, both of which I spent entirely too much time with that fall instead of having my nose in the books.  On the way to the test I heard a public service announcement on the radio  about the formation of a new Airborne Army National Guard unit opening up at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.  The radio said that only 40 recruits would be taken starting the next morning.   As I miserably failed the test that evening I realized that not only was my semester in the dumpster but my student deferment was about to hit the trash heap as well.  The next morning I withdrew from UT so my potential string of F's would never hit my transcript, drove out to Camp Mabry and enlisted.

I shipped off with my fellow recruits on February 9th to basic training at the aging Fort Polk, outside Leesville, By God, Louisiana.  There I learned to love my poncho, shoot an M-14, do the low-crawl through 200 yards of ice cold mud, and tune out a 20-year veteran drill sergeant hell bent on breaking my ear drums and turning me into a 180-pound block of chiseled steel.  Try three months of that for a living while you feast on S.O.S and something we called "the brown meal".

Next up...MOS School.  MOS is the acronym for Military Occupational Specialty and I spent my time at Fort Sam Houston, Texas training to become a Medic.  It was actually excellent training and I learned a lot about medicine, anatomy, biology and emergency human repair.  Unfortunately, our company commander, a brand new Captain with an alcohol problem, had us white-washing everything that didn't move during the day while we were not in classes and scrubbing the barracks floor with a toothbrush half the night.   No problem for a 180-pound block of chiseled steel, right.

Now it was crunch time.  Off we went to Ft. Benning, GA.  As cold and rainy as it was in Louisiana in February, central Georgia in July and August was hotter than hell and HUMID!  Bottom line on Airborne (Jump) School?  Fantastic training but even louder drill sergeants.  At least it was all designed to keep you alive as we jumped out of perfectly good C-119's five times before graduation.  After five weeks I emerged as a 169-pound block of even more chiseled steel and ready to get the hell out of active military duty.  Six months total plus six years of monthly duty with a two-week summer camp every year.  I served, I guess.

We were attached to the 101st Airborne Division.  A similar group up in Columbus, OH was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division.  Their National Guard unit was called up to Vietnam.  Ours never was.

So I was a veteran and put in my time, but have never considered my service in a league with those who have fought, died, or even put themselves in harm's way.  Those are the real heroes of our nation....and we honor them today.

God bless our service men and women!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Sun Came Up

Well, some would have had you believe, if President Obama got re-elected for another four years, the sun might not have come up this morning.  But, I am here to tell you, unless my eyes deceive me, it did.  In fact, I was ready for it.  I was well rested because it didn't take but until 10:30PM CST for the major media pundits to call this election with less than half the vote in across the country.  Of course, Florida is still out but it is not due to hanging chads this time, but perhaps just a bunch of retired and transplanted New Yorkers who apparently can't count too fast.

They used to call Ronald Reagan the "Teflon President" but he had nothing on one Barrack H. Obama.  It seems that the still stagnant national economy, the unacceptable unemployment rate, the skyrocketing national debt, the tragedy of American lives lost in Libya, non-existent energy policy, weak trade policies, an impossibly unfair tax code, and a host of other failures, foreign and domestic, are still George Bush's fault. 

I thought the Tea Party might be the "wild card" but it never materialized.  The Senate still belongs to the Dems and the GOP's grip on the House will guarantee at least two more years of gridlock.  We will hear a lot more in the days to come about "The Cliff" and how close we are or aren't to going over it, financially speaking.  We will hear much more about jobs that have or have not been created.  We will hear who was really responsible for the tragedy in Libya but it will be too late by then.  We will have to endure much more haggling about ceilings; debt, glass or otherwise and no one will mention abortion again until the next election cycle.

My opinion is, for all the hundreds of millions of dollars which were spent on this election, nothing will change.  We didn't get the change promised to us in the last four years (except for a health care plan we cannot afford) and no change was promised for the next four years, so it will be same ol', same ol'.  We will survive the new four to six trillion dollars in new debt that will be added to our almost seventeen trillion we have now and it will be Bush's fault I am sure.  I liken it to jumping off a cliff with a parachute but with no rip cord.  The ride will be exciting and there will be at least the feeling of safety, but the landing will be disastrous. 

My concern is not for my wife and I.  We are as old as the people counting ballots in Florida.  It would be difficult for any President or policy to screw up our last 15 years or so on this planet.  My concern is for my children, grandchildren and our great grandchildren.  They are the ones who will pay the price for this election.  They are the ones whose lives will be unalterably affected.  They are the ones who will wonder where the rip cord went.