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.