Monthly Archives: October 2016

The One I Took for Granted

Yesterday, I watched a leaf dressed in orange, red, and yellow let go its hold of the mother tree and spin lazily to the ground.  A leaf,when green, I barely noticed.  Watching its descent, I marveled at the grace frozen in that simple moment.  No struggle, no effort to delay the journey, the leaf simply let go.  The green leaves whispered goodbyes as it danced downward pass them limb to limb before breaking free beneath the canopy.  It spun, dipped, and hovered over color clad siblings waiting in loose piles; piles until now I had barely noticed.  Settling, it lent its color to the harvest hues of others, and there it lay stirred only by the slowly dissipating murmurs of its brothers and sisters turned brown at the edges.  The leaf, when green, I barely noticed – the one I took for granted – closed its eyes and slept.

Today, I chose to stay glued to my cell phone while visiting with family.  There was nothing they were saying we wouldn’t talk about later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My family, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to go fishing with buddies and miss my daughter’s recital.  There would always be another I could go to later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My daughter, I took for granted.  Today, I failed to call my parents just to say I love you.  It was nothing I had not said a million times that I could not say later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My parents, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to be miserable and unthankful.  I felt like wallowing in self-pity; I could be thankful later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My life, I took for granted.  Unlike the leaf sleeping at journey’s end, I chose sleep as my journey.

Life is at its fullest when we live to make memories with those that matter.   When the leaf was green and full of life, I barely noticed it at all.  I missed it budding, the first time it celebrated the warmth of sunlight, its first taste of rain, and the spider that wove its web from its stem to the branch.  I took it for granted.  Not until, by chance, I caught the leaf’s last dance did I understand the finality of waiting for tomorrow – tomorrow can never replace the warmth and joy of the present.  The time to embrace family, friends, and even a leaf is before each becomes a memory.  As sad as it may be, candles often burn out before tomorrow.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 31, 2016

Riding Tall in the Saddle

As a young principal, I wish someone had sat me down, unscrewed the top of my hard head, and poured some common sense into my empty skull.  I would have been a much better leader if they had.  I learned about leading through trial and error with, unfortunately, more error than I would like to admit.  I now realize what many of my colleagues and staff could have told me years ago if I had been more inclined to listen – I blew it as often as I got it right.  Looking back at those early years, I thank the good Lord in heaven for having a sense of humor and allowing me to continue to learn and grow – heaven knows I didn’t always deserve it.   However, leadership is a journey, and learning from your mistakes is as much a part of the journey as getting it right – maybe even more so.

I learned the hard way that leading people is basically the same whether you are motivating a class full of middle school or high school students, coaching an athletic team, or involved in leading an organization with hundreds of employees.  Leadership is about being prepared to lead, establishing and building a foundation or platform from which to lead, and sustaining a clear focus on the cornerstones that lead to success.  Leadership is about knowing when to build fences and when to tear them down.  Leadership is about leading, not controlling, and most of all, it is about understanding THERE IS NOTHING SACRED ABOUT LEADERSHIP.  It is a people thing that will and should change to some degree as often as the people may change.  However, this takes time to learn, and although I wish I could say otherwise, I was a slow learner.

Being a leader is hard sometimes rewarding work, but more often frustrating and tedious work.  It is never ending, and it is all consuming.  It is unfortunate, but when you take a leadership role, such as principal, more often than not everything else takes a secondary role in your life.  That is why it is so important to have a spouse and family who understand the commitment and sacrifices leadership demands.  A supportive spouse and family are a must, especially if they understand the rank order of family and work are more often blurred than concise.  Family should always take precedence over work, but there are times when for a leader to function effectively, his job may briefly take priority.  The leader, on the other hand, must guard against such moments of necessity becoming the norm; he must always remember relationships are about balance, and he must do whatever it takes to maintain the balance between work and family.

Although I never did it well, I learned balancing relationships is crucial to successful leadership.  It is difficult to move an organization forward if relationships are rocky at work or at home.  Leadership is the art of moving people toward a common goal, and that cannot be accomplished effectively without strong relationships both at home and on the job.  Although there may be nothing sacred about leadership, relationships are the glue that holds everyone and everything together and enables the leader to focus on leading.  Relationships are critical and must be nurtured and cared for carefully as well as tenderly.

Relationships can be scary, especially for a first-time leader.  Relationships take trust, and at first, trusting anyone other than yourself is hard to do.  Therefore, the young inexperienced leader tends to read, research, and pray – pray a lot – for a secret formula or magical spell that makes his job easy.  In the beginning, I knew such formulas and magic had to exist.  Everywhere I turned, I saw people in leadership roles that carried themselves with such confidence that I knew there was something I was missing.  They possessed a confidence to ride tall in the saddle that was magical almost majestic.   I wanted what they had!  Fortunately, after years of trial and error, I finally discovered that great leadership is the result of an uncompromising work ethic, perseverance, getting up when you are knocked down, and luck as well as maintaining relationships that cushion the falls and brush you off when you climb back to your feet.  It wasn’t magical at all!

As my experiences grew, I learned through osmosis and hard-knocks when it was okay to bend and break the rules, when to stand alone, how to pick my battles, and when to challenge and cross over established boundaries.  It probably took too long, but I finally learned the secret to leadership lies in the ability of people in leadership roles to do whatever it takes to make positive things happen around them.  Leaders make things happen even when it is not popular, and they do not compromise success by taking a wait and see approach; they are proactive.  In other words, leaders learn to do two things: they learn to build relationships with others and they learn to build a relationship with themselves.  They do that by developing an inner confidence and trust as well as confidence and trust in others.  It is that trust that gives a leader the courage and confidence to ride tall in the saddle.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 23, 2016

LSU vs USM or How I Almost Got a Date with a Louisiana Goddess

This past Saturday my wife and I along with my daughter and her two kids rode the fan bus to the USM vs LSU game in Baton Rouge.  Taking the bus and not having to drive in the traffic was a great decision!  The trip and the first half of the game were perfect, but because this is a family blog, I will withhold my thoughts on the second half of the game.  However, despite the second half disappointment, the trip was a success.  Not only did my grandson, who is a big LSU fan, get to see the campus and attend a game in Tiger Stadium, I had a whole day and night to pick on and aggravate my beautiful granddaughter.  Life does not get much better than that!

Our seats in the stadium were located just above cloud level.  My acrophobia, which usually kicks into high gear on the first rung of a ladder, never loosened its grip on me the entire game.  Fortunately, most people were too busy tending nosebleeds to notice my white knuckles gripping the seats.  Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed being in Tiger Stadium.  Watching football from cloud level is like watching ants line up in formation and then scatter across the field, or was that the band?  It was really hard to tell from such a high perch.

For me, the most refreshing part of the game was the pregame music.  They actually played music people could get into and sing like “Louisiana Saturday Night” and Garth Brook’s “Baton Rouge.”  You didn’t hear bone shattering high pitched rap squealing through the stadium speakers like you do at USM football games.  There is a big difference in music designed to make you shake your booty and have a good time and music designed to make you twerk your booty and do the dirty.  I love USM home football games, but with the racket that constantly shakes The Rock, I swear sometimes I don’t know if I should be celebrating the Eagles taking the field or looking for a bomb shelter.

The music, the game atmosphere, and even the LSU fans were all fantastic!  It has been over thirty years since I last attended a game in Tiger Stadium, and I was a little apprehensive as to how we might be greeted by Tiger fans that have been known on occasion to get a little rowdy.  My concerns were addressed soon after we arrived in Baton Rouge.  Shortly after leaving the USM alumni tailgate party, my little group and I were walking toward the stadium when I decided to stray off course to drop my now hot cup of tea in the trash.  No sooner had I dropped the cup in the trash than I hear, “Hey bro, you need a cold one?”  I turned and there stood a guy in a purple and gold T-shirt holding a quart container of what I am sure by his demeanor was not lemonade or ice tea.

“No, I’m good,” I said, and started walking toward my wife, daughter, and grandkids who were gawking and pointing at their surroundings a short distance in front of me.

The guy stepped to my side and started walking with me.  “Hey, Mississippi,” he said.  I suddenly wished I wasn’t wearing a “Beat LSU” sticker on my shirt.  “You guys gonna beat them Tigers, yeah?” he asked.

Like a dumbass, I said, “That’s what we’re here for.”  He gave me a puzzled you dumbass hick look, so I quickly added, “but we’re going to spot you guys 50 points first.”  He seemed to like that, but at that moment he was distracted by two unbelievably beautiful college girls walking toward us.

By the way they were dressed they didn’t look to be too interested in football.  In their platform heels, they were at least six feet four inches tall.  They had to have been born into the dresses they wore; there was no other way they could have squeezed such tiny pieces of material over their long exotic frames.  My new friend grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop.  “Holy mother of Jesus, do you see that?” he asked as if any human male was capable of missing such a sight.  “Bet Mississippi got nothing like that, huh bro,” he said, releasing my arm and taking a long drink of cool aide or whatever he had in the quart container.

“Not bad,” I admitted, “but Mississippi girls can compete with anybody.”

“Nah, no way!” he said stepping back and looking at me in disbelief.

“Yeah,” I said, “Mississippi girls are second to none.”

Now, I was only trying to defend the honor of the Mississippi ladies, but my new friend took my response as a challenge.  “Bro, you ever had a Louisiana woman?”

“No,” I said with a laugh and started walking.

“You like to?” he asked following me.

“Not today, I need to catch my group,” I said.

“Come on Bro, you in Louisiana,” he said.  “Let’s go get a couple cold ones and go talk to them girls.  Say, which you want.”

“I’m a bit old for those girls,” I said, wishing my wife and daughter would slow down so I could catch up.

“Naw, man,” he said, keeping stride with me.  “Age ain’t nothing.”

“Well, they’re too tall anyway,” I said.

“You really think so,” he said and took another long drink.

“Yeah, I do,” I said with a laugh.

“We make ‘em short too,” he said and stopped walking.

Why I stopped I don’t know.  “I have a short one,” I said, pointing to my wife up ahead.

“I see,” he said and extended his hand.  “You guys have a good time, and if you change your mind ‘bout a drink and them girls, come see.”

“Maybe, next time,” I said and shook his hand.

“Gotta go,” he said with a huge smile.  “I need a refill.”

After catching up with my wife, I told her about my new friend.  I am not sure she believed me, but she did keep me close to her side for the rest of the trip.  I admit that once or twice as we were plodding our way to the top of Tiger Stadium, I thought about turning around and going for a cold drink with one of the tall Louisiana Goddesses and my new friend.   However, I didn’t turn around because I was not ready to die at the hands of the Mississippi woman traveling with me.  I may be many things, but I am not a dumbass.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 17, 2016

Why We Shouldn’t Worry about Clinton or Trump

Why in the world would the Republican Party back Donald Trump, maybe, the most divisive presidential candidate in history? Why would anyone, especially Christians, support a candidate they would lynch if he said about them the things he has said about Hispanics and women? Supporters of Trump laugh and say it doesn’t matter that he is offensive and abrasive because he is not a politician. Holy Hogwash! The truth is he became a politician the moment he announced his intention to run for the Presidency, but politician or not, as the potential President of the United States, it matters what he says, how he says it, how he acts, and what he does! Politically, it matters because he is running for the supreme public office in the nation – an office that represents the integrity of the nation! There is no integrity in demeaning people, and I doubt seriously if the rest of the world will be as forgiving as his supporters of a President with a demeaning mouth and disposition.

On the other side of the fence sits the first serious woman candidate for the Presidency, Hillary Clinton. However, why in the world would the Democrat Party hitch their wagon behind maybe the most untrustworthy presidential candidate in history? From her numerous shifts on political positions and subsequent patented denials to her blatant lies regarding her misuse and destruction of classified emails, she has proven over and over again she cannot be trusted. Supporters can argue she has apologized all they want, but how far will apologies take a President with poor judgement? It matters that a President is trustworthy – at least above the table.

The dilemma we find ourselves in did not happen overnight. It is the result of years of voter apathy that has allowed the politicians, Democrats and Republicans, to do as they please without accountability. The only accountability is the vote, but due to lack of long term memory, by the next election, voters have forgotten the issues and 90% of what was said the first go around. Voters rarely hold politicians accountable for their promises, so why shouldn’t politicians promise the world when all they need deliver is peanuts such as Clinton and Trump? Why shouldn’t they lie as long as they keep straight who they lie to and keep a smile on their faces (i.e. Clinton and Trump)? Bottom line, the people – the voters – are as much responsible for the mess we are in as the politicians and the political parties we blindly follow.

So, how do we get out of this? We don’t, and there is little need to waste time worrying about it. Prayer may help, but I am afraid the good Lord is going to let us wallow in the bed we have made for ourselves for a while. The conservatives can blame the liberals and the liberals can blame the conservatives, but name calling and bellyaching will do nothing but hurt our ears. Regardless of how much we moan and groan, one of the two misfits will be elected in November. The only bright spot is that America has made it through tough times before, and we will most likely make it through this as well. After four years, we will be invited to the dance once again, and hopefully, the next dance card will be a little more balanced in favor of sanity.

Until we dance that dance, “We are stuck with the ugly duckling,” as Trump might say. The Presidency will not change Clinton or Trump for the better; they are who they are, and those two old dogs are not about to change for anybody or anything. So, we might as well suck it up and have a hardy laugh. The rest of the world is certainly laughing, so why not join in and save our concerns and worries for a later day when it might matter. Unfortunately for America, the train has left the station, and all tickets have been punched for the next four years.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 8, 2016

Three Kinds of Facts

“Just the facts, mam,” Joe Friday, Dragnet.

There are three kinds of facts – my facts, your facts, and their facts – and somewhere in between lies the truth.  In today’s society, people embrace the facts that come easiest or the facts they want to believe.  Therefore, truth does not exist outside my facts, your facts, or their facts, and that, my friend, is a fact that results in a factiction.

Today’s Factictions

  1. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in cahoots to ensure she wins the Presidency;
  2. In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1523, which protected certain religious freedoms and banned Dirt Devil and Rainbow vacuum cleaners;
  3. Bill Clinton says Hillary likes it rough; their breakfast table is made of rough-hewed planks;
  4. In Washington D.C., Republicans are only permitted to use elevators that go up, and Democrats can only use elevators that go down;
  5. After over twenty years, a research team sponsored by Republican Conservatives for the Purification of America (RCPA) concluded Jesus was Jewish;
  6. Supreme Court Justices are required to be blind or at least sight impaired;
  7. Hillary Clinton’s issues with her health are an attempt to get the sympathy vote;
  8. Donald Trump has backed off making Mexico pay for his border wall. He now plans to import The Great Wall of China to the Mexico/USA border and have the Chinese pay for it;
  9. The reason Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton despise each other is because they dated in college; and
  10. The 2016 Presidential campaign is actually a Saturday Night Live skit.

My facts, your facts, and their facts, and somewhere in between lies a truth we are blind to or choose to ignore.  Unfortunately, the resulting factiction is the present foundation of politics and civil unrest in America.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 3, 2016