Posts filed under The Real World

The Best Gift of All!

January (2008) I received a beautiful email from a client who I worked with many years ago. Even in 2014, we stay in touch, speaking every few weeks.

Subj: Happy New Year 
Date: 01/09/2008 10:02:43 AM Eastern Standard Time 
From: JSawler 

Hi Miss M -

Thank you for your New Year wishes - I send the same to you.

I hope your holiday celebrations were wonderful.

Guess what I asked for as my gifts from family and friends - time ! That's right, the amazing Miss M gave me another idea this year - If anyone complained that they wanted to "BUY" me something, I would just tell them that time was money, only even more valuable.

These are some of the gifts I received: 

  •   Time alone with my grandson 
  •   A promise to have a Sunday afternoon dinner/or breakfast once a month for 2008 with our dear neighbors who we never spend enough time with 
  •   An out of state friend donated 1 hour biweekly to a local Boys and Girls Club type facility to read to the little ones. 
  •   An elderly friend is donating time on the telephone with other shut ins each month 
  •   Time with me to teach me how to improve my basket weaving techniques 
  •   Shorter but more frequent telephone calls when I am not feeling my best (from my friends mom in AZ) 
  •   A week long Springtime visit from my NY daughter and granddaughter - just for us girls.

Got to say, this is one of my best holiday gifts in many years.

Just thought I would share.

Joan E. Sawler 

Let me tell you a little bit about Joan. Joan is an wonderful wife, mother and grandmother.  She values each and every day not just in words but by her actions.

The reality is Joan has not been well for many years with Behcet's Syndrome. Most of us have never heard of it but the results are very debilitating. Through all of her pain, Joan maintains her sense of humor. She is remarkable.

I held on to this email to share it with you at just the right time and that time is now. Before you read her email, let me tell you a little bit about Behcet's Syndrome.


Behcet's syndrome is categorized as an auto-immune disease although it does not follow the usual pattern for other auto-immune diseases. It often takes years for doctors to make the diagnosis.

The immune system attacks itself which produces unwanted and highly exaggerated inflammation throughout the body. The syndrome brings on extreme exhaustion, muscle fatigue, cardio vascular and digestive problems, sharp and overwhelming pain in joints and organs, and often blindness and stroke due to vasculitis. Numerous, harsh medications somewhat lessen the painful symptoms and exhaustion but can bring along their own difficult side effects. 

Posted on December 23, 2014 and filed under The Real World, Personal Productivity.

The Impact We Can Have!

How much do we impact someone’s life?  On March 17, 2011, my father Ralph, at age 93, unexpectedly passed away.  My world for the past several weeks has been shaken, as we were quite close and I miss him dearly.  Now I could be cliché and remind people that we need to appreciate each and every day we have with our family and friends; or that we need to stop and take time to enjoy our surroundings and “be in the moment” when we are spending time with someone.  Sometimes we just need to stop and let work wait.  Or how when a crisis or event, such as death, occurs, it is amazing how our priorities and those of our friends and family shift and we have time to spend with each other.    But I’m going to refrain from these commonly used, though quite meaningful sentiments.

As I have been thinking about my father, I spoke to several people about his professional career in radio, as a general manager of WBOS A.M. and F.M. radio station in Boston.  I realized how much of an impact he had on many people’s careers.   For example, he started the career of a California music producer/supervisor involved in such TV shows as “Dallas”, “Knots Landing”, & “Falcon Crest“ and movies like,” Gods and Generals”, “Sea of Dreams” and many, many more.  In talking to David recently, he said, “I owe my career to your father.”  And quite a career he still enjoys.

He championed the careers of several local Boston TV and radio personalities, including Arnie “Woo Woo”Ginsburg (well-known disc jockey inthe Boston radio market from the mid-1950s to the 1970s); John Henning (TV Newsman); and Ron Della Chiesa, a fixture on public radio broadcasts hosting live Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts and his own show, playing only Frank Sinatra.  He, too, credits his career to my dad. 

My father also started sports talk radio in Boston in 1970. My dad overheard some guys talking about sports in a restaurant in downtown Boston.  He approached them and asked them, if they would like to do a sports talk show and have listeners call in and talk to them.  5 days later, these inexperienced sports lovers were on the air, taking calls – thus the start of “Sports Huddle” with Eddie Andelman.  Mr. Andelman’s career continues today as he is a well-known radio personality in Boston.  And his son’s have a popular TV show, the Phantom Gourmet.  They may have been able to have a show without the influence of their famous dad but who knows…?  And if their dad didn’t get his radio career start…well again, who knows? 

It is like the holiday movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Our lives touch so many people’s lives, knowingly and unknowingly.  We can influence a person by a kind word or taking a chance on someone by giving them an unexpected opportunity.  We may never see or know how we’ve touched someone’s life but that’s OK – that’s what makes it so special. 

What ways do you influence or impact those around you, either obviously or perhaps in a more subtle ways?  No matter what, we all impact each other and hopefully we can affect those we meet and those we know and love in a way that is positive –we can change a stranger’s life or that of someone we see every day.  We all change the world.  And my  father did, through his career in radio, World War II heroism, love of his family and music, sense of humor, and so on--in ways too many to count with very little fanfare.

Posted on April 13, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Widening Our Lens

The other evening, we attended a concert at the local high school.  The concert was part of an exchange program with a group of young students from China who were here in Needham, MA to spend time with students in our schools and in our homes.  Because my son wasn’t in the concert and we weren’t a host family, we didn’t bring any cameras.  The concert was magnificent.  The students had worked extremely long and hard to perform a 90 minute program, including singing, playing musical instruments and dance. 

 What I did notice, during the concert, were all the cameras that were taking pictures and videos, all trying to find the right shots throughout the performances.  There were so many hands -raised, holding up some kind of device to capture these special moments.

I was wondering, and maybe because I didn’t have a camera in-hand, do we miss something when looking through the eyes of a camera?  Or trying to watch a performance or exhibition or event when we’re trying to focus on what’s in front of us but at the same time trying to hold the camera steady and on our “target” in the viewfinder? 

Can the feeling and excitement in a room be captured in our pictures or videos?  Or does our lens create a tunnel view where we don’t see the bigger picture of what we are watching?  As we work each day, it is important to have focus and tunnel vision to get things done.  But our companies and even if we have our own business, need to place importance on of the bigger picture; it is vital to the survival of our business. 

So there is a place for our tunnel view of work and life but it is essential to remember to widen the view of the lens to not miss out on the panorama that life presents to us each and every day. 

And even though I don’t have any pictures or videos of the children from China performing, my memories are vivid; not just of what I saw with my eyes or heard with my ears, but of the warmth I felt in the auditorium that emanated from the Needham families and the special visitors from far away.

Posted on February 21, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Saying a Positive "No"

I concluded an email the other day with the following:  Wishing everyone safe driving in the snow.  Being able to back up on the ice is a handy skill to have in getting down narrow streets!  A colleague asked if this was a metaphor for backing out of a commitment or a potential commitment.  I didn’t mean it at the time but the email did have me saying that I would not be able to participate in what was being asked of me:  to help plan an event. 

 To stay productive and focused on priorities, it is ever so important to be able to say no.  Bowing out of your commitments that don’t make the most of your talents or interest is often a key to focusing your time.  Other helpful suggestions:

  • Define the list of your priorities; when you are in tune with your priorities it makes it easier to say no; it also help in being able to say yes.
  • If someone asks you “on-the-spot”  to work on something or be on a committee, etc. , tell them you need to check your other commitments and will get back to them -- don’t feel pressured in the moment to say Yes.  Think about it.
  • Think about the implications and what is being asked of you. Get as much information about the commitment as possible; ask the right questions
  • Say thank you before saying no; remember being asked is a compliment.
  • Don’t make a lot of excuses when saying no and never use the excuse of being too busy.  Everyone is busy!  You might say that this is not a good time for you but please consider me in the future.
  • Offer an alternative solution:  suggest someone who may be available or offer to take a smaller role, remaining less involved.

 Whatever you are being asked to do, make sure you think first and think again before saying yes.  Ask yourself, “If I click yes in responding to this email will I regret sending an affirmative response. Will I wonder what I was thinking?”  If that answer is yes, then say no! 

 Remember, the roads (especially in the east) are treacherous – so go forth very carefully and guard one of your most valuable assets – Your Time!

Posted on February 7, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Does Anyone Ever Arrive Early for Meetings?

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it - Franklin P. Jones I chair a committee for a nonprofit and the other night was our rescheduled (due to snow) monthly meeting.   This month our meeting was to begin 15 minutes earlier than our past meetings.  In various emails that I sent out, I highlighted and highlighted, reminding folks that our meeting would begin at 7:15 p.m. Because I had carpool duty, I picked up my son and some other children at 6:00 p.m. and drove home through heavy traffic.  Got home, made sure everyone had dinner and turned around to leave for my meeting.

I arrived only a few minutes early.  I truly feel compelled to be on time because of what I do for a living.  It goes with the territory and as chair, I need to be on time.  

I settled into the room that we would be meeting in, not our usual meeting room.  7:15 p.m., 7:20 p.m., 7:25 p.m. …still no one.  I was thinking to myself, of course, because I was the only one there, “If I can be on time and have to travel the farthest distance, why can’t anyone else be prompt?” As I was waiting in the foyer, looking out to the parking lot, in hopes that someone would arrive, I noticed a piece of paper on a table in the room we usually meet in.  I thought that someone may have left me a note so I checked it out. 

There was a slip of paper on the table that had a quotation on it from Rabbi Hillel, “Judge not thy friend until thou standest in his place.” Perhaps this was some divine message meant for me at that exact moment.  After reading it, I took a deep breath and smiled.

Posted on January 27, 2011 and filed under The Real World.

Self-Checkout and the Cell Phone

The other day, in the self-checkout line of the grocery store, the person in front of me was all set to pay and be done.  However, the cell phone attached to her ear was causing this "finish and pay" transaction to go on and on and on.  The shopper was paying more attention to the phone call (of course) than to the money she was trying to insert into the various available slots.  The line behind me was getting longer and I could feel my patience drifting away.  Do I think that she cared about her lack of efficiency or lack of manners?  No, not really.  But I do wish she was more aware of how are actions and their affect those around yes.  Absolutely!

Was this an isolated incident?  Unfortunately, no!  How I wish that we were all more aware of our actions and how they impact those around us.  Don’t you? 

Also, as in this instance, multi-tasking (and research has proven it) reduces our productivity and efficiency.  You know, from experiences and I know from mine that this is so. 

Multi-tasking is overrated while being mindful of others is not!

Posted on January 17, 2011 and filed under The Real World.