Values and rants

40 Words of Wisdom to Give Your Child

What follows is from Rebecca Perkins, Founder, Best Knickers Always.  Here’s my addition to the piece.  Feed the basic points ( shown in red)  to your children in an age appropriate way as soon as they can understand concepts.  Not all at once, but feed them as regularly as you feed them cereal and meat and vegetables.  As they grow, continue to feed them in age appropriate ways that they can understand.  Add some of the more complicated ones.  If you are fortunate enough to be a teacher feed them to your students.  But it will only make a difference in your child’s development if you model them—all forty of them.  And by the way, feed yourself a daily dose.

40 Words of Wisdom Every Parent Needs To Give Their Child

Rebecca Perkins, Founder, Best Knickers Always

I wanted to give my eldest a different birthday present this year and seeing that ‘words’ are what I do best, I chose to pass on some wisdom that I’ve learned over the years. Who knows whether they’ll be listened to! Would I have listened to my parents at 24?

Perhaps these are words of wisdom for us all, whatever our age. Perhaps if our children are younger, we can set the intention to parent in such a way that we teach them this wisdom by example.

  1. You are not your job. You are not the amount of cash you have in the bank. You are not your possessions.
  2. Find your passion. Look for what inspires you. Find what you love to do and pursue it with all your heart. You may well find a way how to make money from doing it.
  3. Love hurts. But it is so much better than closing yourself off for fear of being hurt and not experiencing love.
  4. Communication and respect are the foundations for a lasting relationship.
  5. Three things are needed in a relationship — lust, love, and shared values.
  6. Never compare yourself to others. It’s a waste of energy. You are unique and have your own gifts to offer the world.
  7. Look after your health — physical, mental, and spiritual.
  8. Don’t complain. Decide what you will tolerate and get on with life.
  9. Set boundaries — work, family, and friendships.
  10. Little stuff matters — manners get you a long way.
  11. Be grateful. List the things you are grateful for every day.
  12. Expect to fail. Failure is not fatal. Learn the lessons, then get back up and try again.
  13. Have outrageous dreams. You’ll be amazed at what comes true.
  14. Act with integrity at all times.
  15. Call your parents. They may well have screwed up but they raised you to the best of their abilities.
  16. Know your values. Let no one violate what you hold as important be that a boss or your partner.
  17. You don’t need to have it all worked out. Tomorrow is another day.
  18. Lighten up on yourself. Breathe deeply and slowly.
  19. Listen to your inner dialogue. Would you speak to someone you love in the same way?
  20. Take risks, take leaps of faith. You’ll grow wings.
  21. Be of service to others. Be interested in others. People will always remember what you did for them.
  22. “No” is a complete sentence.
  23. Don’t stress so much over decisions. Decisions needn’t be forever.
  24. Cultivate and nurture friendships. With love and care they can last a lifetime. At the same time don’t be afraid to edit friendships.
  25. You are enough just as you are. Perfect in your imperfection.
  26. Learn to accept compliments. Simply say ‘thank you’.
  27. Be willing to show that you are vulnerable. It is in fact the greatest act of courage.
  28. You are never alone.
  29. Yourself first and then others. We are all in this together.
  30. Your attitude is always a choice.
  31. Laugh a lot. Have fun.
  32. Magic happens outside your comfort zone.
  33. Learn to love yourself now. It gets harder if you leave it until you’re older.
  34. Don’t worry about what other people think. They think about you a lot less than you imagine.
  35. Follow your intuition. Your guts have the answer. Every time.
  36. Happiness starts within. Do not expect anyone else to make you happy.
  37. Be financially savvy right from the off. Save 10%. Debt is not pretty. Make your own lunch for work. A cappuccino and a sandwich a day soon add up.
  38. Life isn’t a race. Stop and smell the roses. Really.
  39. When overwhelmed ask yourself, “Will this even be an issue in 5 years’ time?”
  40. Change happens. It’s one of the great certainties in life. Learn to roll with it.





You may think it presumptuous of me that, of all the work we have to do and problems we have to solve, I would anoint any one item as “the most important.” Yet after seventy-plus years of observing the world we live in, including the last seventeen dealing with social issues, I am so certain that I am willing to put myself out there. What do you think? Is it the national defense? No—we spend way too much on that already. Is it education? No—that is step two of my issue. Is it climate change? No—although that is high on my list, and if it as serious as some believe, it will trump everything else. Is it homelessness? Hunger? The environment? Unemployment? Equal treatment and acceptance of all people? Terrorism? The growing gap between the haves and have-nots? The growing prison population? Oil? No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, and no, although every one of those problems requires a huge amount of our attention as soon as possible.

I contend that the number one issue that we need to address with all the vigor and all the resources at our disposal is early child development. On the surface, this seems minor compared to the other possibilities listed. Here is my reasoning. There is indisputable evidence that human brains are 80-90% developed by age three. The necessary wiring is connected in those first three years, and if it doesn’t happen by then, the child’s potential is greatly reduced. The opportunity is lost; those connections will not happen later in life. By age five, values are formed. Those will be the basis for the child’s entire life. It will be determined if he will be honest or devious, industrious or lazy, ethical or deceitful, trusting or defensive, generous or selfish, and all the other characteristics that are relevant to one’s makeup. Once the values are ingrained in an individual, it is highly unlikely that she will ever change to any great degree.

To make the case, let me proffer an analogy that goes to back to the beginning of my manufacturing career. At Kane Power Industries, our primary raw materials were large iron castings, which we machined to specifications. They were used as housings for our products. The quality control procedure in 1980 was to machine, let’s say, 300 of castings in a run. When the run was completed, an inspector, was called in to measure them against specified tolerances and pass judgment as to whether they were acceptable for use. There were three possible results of that inspection. (1) They met specifications and could go to the assembly line. (2) They varied hopelessly from specifications, and they went to the scrap heap. (3) They were close but not quite to specifications. In this instance, they were sentenced to a purgatory we called rework, from which some more machining and labor might save them for use. However, the additional labor cost us any profit that might have been attainable if those castings had been machined correctly in the first place.

In the late seventies and early eighties, American manufacturing began to embrace a quality control called statistical process control. This procedure called for the machine operator to measure every tenth casting to ensure that it met prescribed tolerances. If the measurement was drifting toward the edge of a given tolerance, he adjusted the machine to bring it back to the middle of the tolerance range. In effect, he measured to predict if he would later produce an unacceptable product. If so, he prevented the making of a reject by adjusting the setup. A little later, we learned that if we went into the foundry of our supplier and imposed some production standards on it, we would prevent the receipt of out-of-tolerance raw castings.

Statistical process control is still used today. It has been enhanced by some other more sophisticated procedures to ensure quality. Together they lead to earning an ISO certification, which is almost universally demanded of suppliers in the twenty-first century.

So what’s the point? In life, our raw materials are infants. The processes to make them a useful product are pre-natal care, parenting, child care, a wholesome and healthy environment, diet, exercise, and various programs that are a positive influence on their development.

Yet, we continue to produce scrap and rework. Children who are raised from birth within the prescribed tolerances usually turn out to be pretty good citizens. They get an education, hold a job, become good parents, and are assets to their community. Those who are raised carelessly are often not ready for kindergarten when the time comes. From there, it’s a downward spiral. They aren’t equal to the other kids intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Being behind, they become disenchanted with school and often rebel in various ways. This frequently leads to dropping out, unemployment, welfare, trouble with the law, poverty, and on and on. Then they continue the cycle with children of their own.

Are you not yet in agreement with me that this is the single most urgent issue of the day? Those children comprise the generation that might solve some of the other problems I listed. We need to equip today’s two-year-olds to be ready to do a better job than we have done. In my opinion, that doesn’t set a very high bar. We’ve worked on these problems for decades with no solutions. We manage the problems as best we can, but we don’t solve them. Until we cut off the pipeline of people becoming scrap and rework, we will perpetuate the cycle. That is not debatable. The big barrier is that the solution will be horribly expensive. We have to run parallel programs for twenty years while we clear the pipeline of those children we have already mishandled.

We have become a society of short-term thinkers. We are not willing to invest in a product or process that won’t pay off for several years. Instead, we put band-aids on our existing products, or we make cheap, inferior new products that will break as soon as the warranty expires.   That is a practice that leads to mediocrity, which is where we are today.

It is essential that we build a child care system for working parents that is high quality and taught by professionals educated in child care. We also have to make it affordable to all parents. Child care is a common ground where values can be taught.

There are two other traits that are not exactly values. Yet, they are as important as any values we can imagine. Those are intellectual curiosity and hope. We want our children to be insatiable in their thirst for knowledge. And a child without hope is a child lost.

All of these characteristics need to be modeled rather than preached. Many parents don’t model any of these traits, because they neither possess nor value them themselves. When that is the case, it has to be done outside the home. Child care is the most likely influence to make a difference. Kindergarten and first grade are too late.

We also have to build an enormous parent education network for those parents who are willing to admit that they shouldn’t necessarily raise their children as they were raised and are open to learning better methods. By the way, bad parenting crosses all socio-economic lines.

These are not the only actions necessary to turn the ship around, but they will do for a start. I only know that we need to address early child development in a big way, or the results of our education system will continue to decline at an accelerated rate, and proliferation of drop-outs, poverty, crime, and our prison population will continue.

The cost will be in the billions every year. Where would the money come from? The only possible answer is tax dollars. You can’t pass the hat among individual and corporations and expect to reap an amount necessary to make a difference. The financing of the solutions has to be mandated. Money could be made available from a major tax increase or from a redeployment of existing dollars. I suggest reducing the bloated defense budget and reallocating the money gleaned from that.

Stay tuned in my next blog, I will bring forth a utopian idea that might cause you to label me a lunatic if you haven’t already.  I promise it will be shorter that this voluminous offering.

Article published in Smart Business Magazine, 3/20/14

Article first appeared in Smart Business Magazine: Riding the roller coaster

When I was a kid, I always enjoyed a day at the amusement park. I observed there were those who preferred the merry-go-round and those who chose the roller coaster. I loved the roller coaster — the one with the drop so steep I thought I would fly out of my seat. As business executives, some choose the merry-go-round because it’s safe and smooth. And some choose the roller coaster because they love the rush it yields.

Throughout my career, I have chosen the roller coaster four times. In the business world, whether for-profit or nonprofit, the rough ride usually means a turnaround is needed. Several have labeled me as unconventional. That’s OK, because all four organizations I have led are thriving today. In fact, I believe that characteristic is an asset in crisis management.

In my 34-year career in management, divided equally between those two sectors, I have developed five principles for dealing with the difficulties I inherited when I took the jobs.

  1. The Golden Rule. I’m not a religious man, but I accept this as a secular cornerstone for success. If everyone adhered to this rule, the only laws we would need would be those to ensure safety. You need to gain the trust of your teammates, suppliers, and customers, and that cannot be achieved without making this a policy.
  2. Be deliberate in listening to the aforementioned colleagues. Set appointments to solicit their suggestions and complaints. Go where they are comfortable — avoid your office or conference room.
  3. Perform over-the-top actions. They can change your culture. I once cut off production in a manufacturing plant that was the poster child for disorder. When everyone reached his workstation one morning, I played a rockabilly tape over the intercom. After the initial shock, I told everyone to clean for two hours and then meet me in the courtyard. For the remainder of the day, they were put into groups of 10 to identify a problem or opportunity and present a plan to resolve it. Management delivered doughnuts and coffee during the cleaning and pizza for lunch. We not only got some great ideas, the workforce felt included and still talk about it today.
  4. Eliminate naysayers. They are a cancer in your organization.
  5. Encourage questioning authority, including you. With the proper attitude 4 and 5 will complement each other.


            Early in my management career, I thought it was advisable to list the values by which I was going to be guided throughout my professional and personal life.  I have amended the list a little over the years, but it is still pretty much as I originally wrote it.  There are ten tenets.

  1. THE GOLDEN RULE.  I am in no way a religious person.  However, I believe this is the most valuable guideline for anyone.  If everyone lived to the letter of this rule, the only laws we would need would be housekeeping items such as “Drive on the right side of the street.”  There would be no murder or theft or lying or screwing each other’s spouses.
  2.  LOYALTY.  I am fiercely loyal to those people I care about and/or to whom I have made a commitment.  I will never knowingly betray them in any way and will support their every endeavor to the best of our ability.
  3. TRUST.  My take on this is possibly a bit counter-intuitive.  When I meet a new person, my default position is to trust her.  I believe most people are wary until the new acquaintance earns their trust.  Do I ever get burned by taking this position?  You bet! On those occasions where my trust has proven to have been misplaced as shown by a deliberate act of betrayal, the guilty party is scratched from my trusted list, and it is very difficult for her ever to return.  However, most of the time, the relationship develops faster and becomes stronger than it would have by waiting for trust to be earned.
  4. AVOID TOO MUCH POLICING.  Too much time, money, and energy are spent in protecting things that are not worth protecting.  We stand on nickels while hundred dollar bills blow out the window.  “Let’s put a $10,000 security system in the vending machine area so that no one can break in and steal a candy bar.”  Bullshit!  Employ some common sense for decisions that pertain to policing.
  5. BUILD MUTUAL RESPECT IN RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS.  While I believe trust can be given, I think respect develops over time based on shared experiences and observed actions.  It starts with being considerate of the feelings and needs of others and grows through a combination of continued consideration, honesty, intelligent decisions, hard work, and a variety of other factors.
  6. A BIAS TO SAY YES.  When an employee or an acquaintance asks me for something over which I have control, and I don’t have a specific reason to say no, I say yes.  Why wouldn’t I?  I see many authority figures put people through the wringer just because they can.  Apparently, they like to show their superiority of position.  An employee might ask me, “Can I have tomorrow off?”  If saying yes doesn’t put me or my colleagues in an untenable situation, the answer is yes.  She might want to tell me why as a courtesy, but I really don’t have to know.  The only important facts are that she wants off and that granting the request will not cause undue hardship to me or others.
  7. INTELLECTUAL HONESTY.  Everyone should have honesty as part of his philosophy, but this is an extension of basic honesty.  Intellectual honesty is the answering of a question that the other person did not ask.  However, it  is a vital extension of the question he did ask.  A customer calls to say, “I will be flying my small private single engine plane to your town today, and I want to know how the weather is?”  I reply, “Oh, it’s beautiful—sunny, 75, no wind.”  That’s honest as far as it goes, but there should be more.  What I didn’t say was, “You’d better plan to get here before 4 o’clock because severe thunderstorms with high winds are in the forecast for late afternoon.”  That is intellectually honest.  Yes and no answers are fine for the witness stand, but when you know what a person is looking for, it is intellectually dishonest not to give it to him just because he didn’t ask all the right questions.
  9. KNOW YOUR PRIORITIES.  Many years ago, I identified my priorities: family, job, friends, and community.  Everything else falls in line behind those.  I only pay attention to the others when there is no demand from the top four.  My parents grew up in the depression era.  Standards were extremely different back then.  They used to tell me that clothes make the man.  How shallow I think that is.  As important as that was to them, it could never have been a priority of mine.  I think it has been a reaction to that belief that I have not made it a priority to be fashionable in my choice of clothing.  I have extended that to an opinion that is not necessary to gather material things.  I do wish I had my baseball cards back that my mother got rid of when I went to college in 1958.  I had a Mickey Mantle rookie card among them.
  10. QUESTION AUTHORITY.  We are all fallible.  Just because someone outranks you, is no reason to assume she is always right.  Whether it comes from an individual or a company or a government, we should not accept an idea that, after a reasonable amount of investigation, we believe is wrong.  I’m not recommending that you become a scofflaw, but if your disagreement with a law or a rule or a decision is serious enough, you should give it your best effort to get it changed.  Actually, I don’t consider civil disobedience out of the question, but you had better understand the possible consequences before you act.  Following simple logic, the other side of this coin is that we should listen and give consideration to those who question us when we are the authority.

I hold myself to these principles.  When I slip, it is never deliberate, and I correct the error as soon as possible.  I also require others in management or supervisory positions in my jurisdiction to abide by them.  It is a condition of ongoing employment, and disregard of them cannot be balanced by any amount of positive characteristics.


The following is an excerpt from my book, Machete Moments.

Words and Beliefs That I Just Don’t Understand

I would never want to insult anyone because of the terminology I use.  However, in America, we have diluted the English language, in the name of political correctness, to such an extent that often I don’t know what the speaker is talking about.  Many of the changes are totally artificial.  I think the primary reasons to change a traditionally understood term would be to avoid hurt feelings or to be more accurate.  Many of the changes we have had thrust upon our population do neither. Here are a few examples of changes to which I see no point.

  • Drink to hydrate
  • Secretary to administrative assistant
  • Husband/wife to spouse
  • Angry to upset
  • Arguing to being defensive
  • Die to pass
  • Religious to faith-based

The ones I’ve mentioned so far are pretty harmless, driven by pretentiousness or by the much overpopulated advertising world.  Other than to be irritating, they don’t affect my life one way or another.  Although relatively benign, they provide the slippery slope from which the language is diluted where it matters.

Here are some changes that do make a difference because I face them in day-to-day life.  They are examples of political correctness gone berserk.

  •  Mexican to Hispanic (This is a term that was invented by the U.S. government for the 1980 census.  It is a convenient term that Americans created to make it easier to complete forms.  There is not total agreement among those to whom we apply this label as to whether Hispanic or Latino is better.  Or would they rather be attached to their country of origin?  There is nothing wrong with referring to a person as a Mexican or a Cuban.  If I am in another country, I prefer to be called an American—not a Caucasian from the Western Hemisphere.)
  • Poor to socially marginalized or vulnerable
  • Mentally ill to emotionally impaired

And then there are some that have gone through so many changes that you need a scorecard so that you use the right term.

  • Retarded to slow to intellectually disabled (I agree that we needed to find an alternative to the word retarded because it has been misused so frequently as an insult.  What I don’t understand is that the national advocacy organization, which used to be called the Association of Retarded Citizens, is now called ARC.  If they want to do away with the term, how can it still be part of their acronym?)
  • Shell shock (WWII) to battle fatigue (Korea) to operational exhaustion (Viet Nam) to post-traumatic stress disorder (today)Illegal aliens to undocumented to unauthorized (I was in a meeting with 30 people the first time I heard that last term.  Not one of us knew the meaning.  Everyone wondered “authorized to do what?”)
  • Slum to ghetto to inner city

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in human services and education—more than we can complete if we work 24 hours a day for life.  Time spent in making irrelevant changes to terminology is wasted and absurd.  We should simplify our speech and writing so that it can be understood by those who don’t work with the subject in their day-to-day lives.  Does anyone actually believe that a poor person feels any better being called socially marginalized or vulnerable?  She’s poor—not stupid.  All of the original terms on the list bring a clear picture immediately to mind.  That is what good words do; they have impact.  The reason we have words is to communicate a clear picture of the subject, thought, or action.  Why do we want to dilute any emotional or logical impact by making up words that don’t describe the subject in a simple way that is understandable to all?  The new words bring absolutely no emotional reaction to me and do not stir me to action.

While I’m ranting over the use of our language, when did the polite people start calling everything they disagree with inappropriate?  If you disagree with someone’s comment, have the balls to own your disagreement.  Then you and the speaker can fight about it.  To say that someone is inappropriate disarms the speaker.  You have made a unilateral judgment to which there is no reply.  Appropriate and inappropriate don’t mean the same to everyone and have different connotations depending on the crowd and setting.  I’ve been in places with people who had no objection to my saying to someone, “What the f… are you talking about?”  This is most likely to happen when they are prattling on with no real point to make and with no end of the prattling in sight.  In fact, it happens on a fairly regular basis.  On the other hand, even I would not stand up in a town meeting and say that.  (Usually not—there could be exceptions.)  If you grew up in a church atmosphere, different things are inappropriate to you than if you grew up in a locker room environment.  I will close on this subject with the summary comment that it is inappropriate for us to judge one another as inappropriate just because we disagree.