Time to practice the preaching

Since the time the economy fell off the proverbial cliff the second half of last year, I have taken a couple of opportunities to offer sentiments that have amounted to “keep your chin up.

Since the time the economy fell off the proverbial cliff the second half of last year, I have taken a couple of opportunities to offer sentiments that have amounted to “keep your chin up.” I have tried to avoid pulling out tired clichés, but the message has been consistent: Don't look for a leader; be a leader—that kind of thing.

Very recently, I had the opportunity to evaluate myself in that light, and what a humbling experience it turned out to be. Someone asked if I had a gauge for the extent to which I spoke of positives versus negatives. Sure, I said, I'm an extremely positive person. I'm pretty much like one of those motivational speakers who gets invited to conventions to rev up the crowd.

Then, however, I actually started paying attention to, and even documenting to some extent, the tone of my conversations. So much for my self-assessment. While I originally put myself on the Tony Robbins end of the spectrum, upon closer examination, I sounded more like Matt Foley. You may remember him as one of Chris Farley's most hilarious characters from his Saturday Night Live days. Foley was a motivational speaker gone awry, who ended up insulting virtually everyone in his audience and famously threatening them that if they didn't shape up, they'd soon be “living in a van down by the river”—just like he did.

While that character and his skits are great comic relief late on a Saturday night or any time, nobody should ever really sound like that. And admittedly, I'm being a little dramatic when I compare myself to him. But when we take the chance to look in the mirror—figuratively or literally, we tend to see extremes.

Each June, I have the opportunity (or obligation) to watch myself and my demeanor when we post our anchor-desk-style news report on our Web site and distribute it via e-mail. So, I'm forced to keep my chin up in a literal sense. When developing that kind of report, however, I get the opportunity to mess up several times and simply re-take the shot until I get it right. It's not like real life, in which each one of us is live, without a net or much of a script.

Why do I bring you a column this June that's all about me? Kind of self-centered, isn't it? I hope not. This recent exercise of listening to myself, monitoring what I say, and how I say it, provoked what I believe is a change for the better. Because I see my job as a service-oriented one in which everyone reading is a customer, I pass this story along in hopes that one person will find this type of exercise worthwhile enough to try.

If anyone does, please let me know how it turns out.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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