July 23, 2018

Character revealed……

by Rod Smith

Rearing two boys has given me a hyper-focus on my own behavior. It’s made me think a lot about what they are learning from me as we accompany each other through life.

Character, and what it means and stands for, is something I try to teach my sons – and, of course, mine is therefore tested day in and day out. I am willing to bet that that is your experience too.

Here are a few observations.

Things that reveal character, or the lack of it:

• How people respond when coming into unexpected wealth or poverty.

• How people respond to those who can offer them nothing.

• How people handle their anger, disappointments, and losses.

• How people handle gossip and whether they pass it on or stop it in its tracks.

• How people handle stress.

• How people talk about and handle people who are “different” for whatever reason – race, gender, sexual identity, academic differences, or matters of national origin or language.

• What people consider good humor and where they draw the line with what they consider targets of their humor.

• How people respond to the poor and the needy.

July 18, 2018

Good with people?

by Rod Smith

Do you want to be an excellent employee especially when working with people?

  • Look people in the eye. Listen with your whole body. Listen to others before you speak. When you do speak, speak up and speak clearly. Avoid thinking you already know what a person is going to tell you or is trying to tell you.
  • Anticipate needs and wants of your clients (customers) while simultaneously being aware that you may anticipate incorrectly. It’s a fine balance. When you near perfection at this you will regard your work as art and not a job.
  • When faced with complaints or problems do not escalate matters, take sides, or assign blame. Focus on understanding and solving, not diagnosing.
  • Don’t chew gum at work, ever. Dress well and be well groomed, always. Shower, often (not at work).
  • Tell the truth efficiently and kindly. A good reputation, which can take years to build, can be permanently ruined with one lie.
  • Don’t date co-workers or anyone with whom you work. You’re at work to earn a living not find a spouse.
  • Turn your phone off at work.

Seeking a fellow teacher: A teacher, whom I know well, wants to have her 40 students (eight and nine-year-olds) correspond with similarly aged students in KwaZulu-Natal. Teachers, please reach out to Stacy directly at SGraber@SRESDragons.org.

July 17, 2018

Family visits

by Rod Smith

In a couple of hours Nolan Smith (former Beachwood Boys’ High School) will drive the few blocks from his house in Indianapolis to mine and we’ll head together to the airport.

My sister and Ursula, Nolan’s mother, are waiting at their departure gate at JFK in New York. They will arrive in Indianapolis after a long night over the African continent and  the Pacific before descending into the Big Apple.

Both women have visited numerous times but this time they are flying together.

The joy of their coming is not in the sights as wonderful as they are.

Ursula’s grandchildren will be so excited to see her. My sons, while budding adulthood may get a little in the way of the sheer joy they once expressed when Jenny arrived, really love their aunt.

Visiting family is expensive. Long-haul flights are hard on the mind and hard on the body, but such visits keep us sane. They keep us hopeful and service the invisible loyalties that come with being family.

We will laugh a lot, talk a lot, and spend hours spinning old family stories but what we are really doing is paving and repaving the platform on which our children will build their beautiful lives long after such pleasurable visits have ended.

July 15, 2018

Teaching personal responsibility

by Rod Smith

It’s never too early to model and teach children about personal responsibility. There are people of all ages who persistently refuse to assume it for their lives, treating it as some heretical or selfish notion:

  • It is not selfish, unkind, or “unchristian” to expect people of all ages to be responsible for themselves. Of course there are exceptions like the ill and elderly.
  • It is usually unkind and selfish and “unchristian” to expect others to bail us out of the consequences of our own irresponsible behavior.
  • Teaching personal responsibility is more modeled than it is taught, but it must also be taught and talked about.
  • The sooner a person assumes full responsibility for his or her life the better. The evolving plan, beginning at birth, will hopefully have children fully prepared to be responsible for their lives by age 15 or 16.
  • If we rescue and enable others (especially those whom we love) we deny them the joy of taking responsibility for their lives and endorse a message that they can’t get on without us.
  • Rescuing, saving, running interference for a sibling, parent, child teaches that person a way of life and sets the rescuer up for a lifetime of rescuing. Avoid behaviors you are unwilling to perpetuate.
July 12, 2018

Volunteer, or, Victim?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday / Volunteer or Victim?

I am all for loyalty, commitment, and seeing things through. But, some loyalty can be horribly misguided. This is especially evident in churches, schools; organizations where there’s a high need for volunteers. It can also happen in a job, especially when someone has been employed to “help out” and where there’s no specific job description.

Here are symptoms that you may be too loyal, too committed. It might be time to jump ship or throw in the towel if only to preserve your sanity:

• You are discovering that your level of commitment seems to exceed what you see others offering. You are taken by surprise at the discovery. You thought people were equally invested.

• You seem to get landed with the tasks and responsibilities it appears no one else wants to take on. You thought everyone was willing to make sacrifices for the good of the organization.

• Your areas of responsibility seem to be growing, and growing, and growing. You can’t find it in you to say no. Even thinking about it evokes guilt. Others seem to be able to say no quite easily and apparently experience no guilt.

Is even one out of three true for you?

It may be time re-evaluate, time to speak up, or ship out. Your loyalty may be transforming you into a victim.

July 12, 2018


by Rod Smith

Why is it so hard to get obvious alcoholics to see or to admit they are addicts?

Here are the three indications (only one is needed) of an addiction whether the addict is willing to recognize them or not:

  • Physical craving
  • Loss of job or status
  • Loss or threat of loss of a significant relationship

For the typical alcoholic the label “alcoholic” often suggests someone who is more desperate, more out of control, than he or she perceives him or herself to be.

Many alcoholics are well-controlled men and women who have perfected the art of charade. They hold important roles in our communities and appear successful.

To admit there is a problem with alcohol (or drugs, sex, or gambling) is costly. Denial is at least perceived as the better option than exposure, than seeking help. The closet is safe, it’s routine, and there are usually family members well trained in the art of enabling.

“Rock bottom” is a frequently used term suggesting that an addict will usually resist the label or resist getting help until he or she reaches rock bottom. It’s a sad place to reach for the addict and for all who love the addict and for all who are caught up in the addict’s web of denial and survival.

July 11, 2018

Love is always the better option

by Rod Smith

A significant problem with disdain, contempt, rejection, or downright hate is that it impacts the source more than it usually does the victim.

If you (or I, of course) harbor negative thoughts and feelings toward a former spouse, in-laws, parents, or neighbors we poison our own wells. We damage ourselves, and the self-damage usually outshines the impact on our victims.

Hate (or contempt or disdain – people usually like to euphemize hate with “softer” terms):

  • Poisons our view on the world and on all other people, even those we love.
  • Even the beautiful things and beautiful experiences life has to offer get contaminated if we harbor hate for even one person.
  • Hate has trouble being contained and its power infects everything we do and see and experience.
  • Makes us cynical and we become cynical for so long it becomes a way of life making us contemptuous of those who are hopeful and who express optimism.

Love, forgiveness, grace, and goodness are better than hate – yet hate has quite a following.

Grace, goodness, kindness will lift our spirits and open a world of fresh and wonderful possibilities.

Love is courageous and creative. It’s always the best option.

July 10, 2018

Your boyfriend is a bully…..

by Rod Smith

“My boyfriend doesn’t agree with me when but he shows off when he’s in a restaurant or dealing with people who serve him.  It embarrasses me. Sometimes don’t even want to go out with him. He says he’s earning good money and paying good money and so he expects high quality and good service. I tell him he doesn’t have to be so demanding and make the waiters feel so small. Please help.”

(Transcript from “live” conversation)

Your boyfriend is a bully. If you want to be with him and you want this relationship to endure you have to repeatedly point out when and how he’s being publically inappropriate. You have let him know as clearly as possible the impact his behavior has on you.

Here are certainties:

·      If you remain silent you are complicit in his behavior.

·      How he treats people who serve him is a litmus test, a window into his character. How you respond is a window into yours. While his behaviors show who he is, your silence reveals who you are.

·      The manner in which a person can treat anyone is the manner in which he or she can treat everyone. What he’s doing to others he will soon be doing also to you.

July 9, 2018

Looking for love ?

by Rod Smith

If you are looking for love:

·      Resist the urge to buy it though gifts or paying for meals or through loaning money or giving resources to someone whose love you desire.

·      Resist the urge to pay back every compliment or downplay every positive thing that is said to you by someone whose love and attention you desire.

·      Give up the jesting and the jousting in conversations, especially when talking with someone whose love and attention you desire. It gets old and it puts up intimacy blockades and stops the very closeness you desire.

·      You won’t find it if you seek it through sexual contact when you haven’t had the time (yes, months or even years) to get to know the person whose attention and love you really want. If you think sex will keep him or her close or that it will “bond” you together as “soul mates” then you have some really tough lessons to learn. It won’t.

·      Drop your playacting, be yourself. Firm up your boundaries. Know what you want from life, with or without a partner. People who know what they want and who are set on achieving their goals give off an attractive air to similarly motivated people.

I hope you find the love you are looking for. Really, I do.

July 4, 2018

What are you planning?

by Rod Smith

Are you planning to get a great education? Do you want to travel the world? Perhaps you want to land a great job or buy a house. Are you planning, actively planning, these things?

You do know, I am sure, they won’t happen without you.

They won’t happen without the development of a blueprint.

Unless you sit down, plot, assess what you will need for the journey and what you will need to sacrifice in the immediate in return for what you want in the future, the future will be here before you know it and none of your plans will have come to fruition.

The upside of planning is that even if your plans don’t all work out as you’d hoped, something close or something better may greet you in the future.

The results of having no plan at all, or thinking and believing things will just happen or fall into place is that they usually don’t.

The default, that which will happen if you just go with the flow, which will always take the path of least resistance, will be a journey to a place of inertia, laziness, and a life of regret. 

Get planning, it’s worth it.