Bob Howell

Over the days after Christmas, I was thinking back on some of the special sayings my dad and others passed along to me. When asked how to handle a particularly sticky situation, Daddy would remind me of one saying that he swore by. After hearing the particulars of the situation, he would take a moment to ponder the issue and then would say, “most things will get better if you just let them.” I suppose this falls into the category of “time healing all things.”

I remember a conversation I had with one of my college roommates' father who was a senior pilot with Eastern Air Lines. I will never forget the answer he gave me when I asked how he dealt with the fact that the safety of a plane load of passengers was in his hands. He looked me straight in the eyes and told me this: “When I am flying a full load of passengers, there is only one person I think about ... and that’s me. You see, if I get myself up and down safely ... all rest of the passengers sitting behind me are going to be safe, too.” To this day, I have never forgotten that conversation or how confident he was when he passed it along to me back many years ago.

The high school band director during my junior high school days was a big man — literally and figuratively. As you might imagine, he left many lasting impressions on those kids who were fortunate to have had him as their band teacher. 

I remember distinctively one day in band class an incident that made me shake with fear. It seems as though the bass drummer for the concert band was not keeping the beat to the band director's liking. He had told the drummer — on more than one occasion — exactly how he wanted the drum beat played. When the drummer failed to get the beat played, the band director got so angry that he threw his baton in the general direction of the drum section.  Then he shouted the words I remember to this day: "If you're going to make a mistake, make a BIG one." The director later amended that line to include the phrase, "At least they'll know you're trying."And there is something to be said for that.

When it comes to humor with a message, no one does it better than Mark Twain. Here's an example of what I mean. It's a couple of lines that are just as appropriate now as when they were first spoken: "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." 

Another of Twain's jewels has to do with the value of experience. See if this strikes a chord with you: "Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions."

I recall a man I worked for when I was in college.  He called me in his office for a man-to-man, heart-to-heart talk about taking responsibility for my actions. Apparently, I had not been following his verbal guidelines and needed a little attention when it came to my part-time work performance. He ended our meeting with my pledging to do better and this unforgettable line from him: "Remember, son, you don't learn from the things you do right, you learn from the things you do wrong." I've never forgotten that instruction.

Hope you have a great New Year's holiday!

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