Rule #133 : Tell no one – Debbie Wasserman Shultz Rule

Rule #133 : Tell no one – Debbie Wasserman Shultz Rule

Rarely does life show such a clear example of one of our family rules. I felt since she went to such great lengths to show what not to do, the rule has to be named after her- so thank you Debbie for such a stunning example of what not to do

Let’s talk about secrets- everyone has them some small, some large- things about our lives that we basically want to keep private. It may be something as significant as a past crime in a misspent youth, or something as trivial as dying the gray out of your hair, but it is something you want to keep private. You don’t want the world to know, you want it to remain something your keep to yourself.

The first rule of keeping your secrets safe is to tell no one. This is the safest and guidance to follow, and the one that absolutely guaranteed to never fail. If this is something about you that you do not want known, do not share it. Don’t share it with your wife, your trusted life long friend, you parents or priest- keep your month shut and it will remain a secret. A secret can only be exposed by telling someone else.

The second rule of secrets is that if you can’t follow the first rule only tell one person. If you need this second rule you have already failed at keeping the secret, but if you feel a absolute undeniable need to tell someone else- limit it to one trusted friend. But know in doing so it is now likely that your secret will at sometime will be disclosed.

People don’t intentionally violate secrets, but they too have their one trusted friend that they may share something with that is personal to you. People tend to become more careless with other people’s secrets turning them into gossip or stories- sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose.  People aren’t built to keep secrets or they would be born mute. The ability to communicate has been a weakness in human secret keeping.

Personally I tell my secrets to my dog Nittany. Unlike my other dog Piper who is a gossipy bitch, Nittany knows how to keep a secret and can’t be bribed by peanut butter or walks. Piper would give me up for an old milkbone and table scraps. Even dogs can’t be fully trusted.

The third rule of secrets is there is no third rule.

Telling more than one person makes it no longer a secret and you should assume that the whole world will eventually know.

Debbie pointed out in her actions the third rule also means you don’t write down, record even in code the secret. And above all be sure never, ever to email anyone your secret. Emails, even on private and secure servers are no more safe than writing messages on billboards on Broadway. Communicating confidential information by emails is just telling the world that you are stupid. Do not use email to communicate secrets.

Bill Clinton has lead a life of loving women, some he was even married to at the time. But I have to admire his ability to avoid using emails and text. He claims he has only send two emails in his entire life, and for his lifestyle that is probably the right amount. I would trust Bill with keeping a secret, especially his own. This is a mark of a two term president.

If for some reason you did not follow rules one or two, and your secret is now exposed there are two directions to take and you must quickly chose one or the other and not both. Option one is to deny. If you have assessed the situation and followed rule one  there should be no one that can collaborate the story and your truth is as good as anyone else’s. Deny, and continue to deny until people get tried and go away. They will eventually go away.

The second option is what I call “so what”. So what that I lied, so what that I cheated on taxes , it is all in the past, and the past is the past and none of it matters. Of course it does really matter, and actions have consequences but the “so what” defense plays on the fact that everyone carrier some degree of guilt. Pretending that its all meaningless dredging up of the past is a good way of deflecting a secret that has come into the light.

The one thing you can’t do is blame it on someone else. Debbie’s , ” its the Russians fault” will fail because it is obvious to everyone that you had lied, got caught and now want to blame it on someone else. It didn’t work when you tried to get out of trouble by blaming your big brother for a larger crime, and it won’t work now. Boogiemen are rare in this age, and no matter how the truth got out pretending its someone else’s fault make you look like a bigger liar.

Debbie’s emails should be a reminder to all of us that something’s are best unsaid and to kept a secret. Good luck Debbie, I think its going to be a very long week for you.













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Its a Girl!

This one is for Andrew..

Ok its not a rule, its more of a declaration – It is a GIRL!

I attended my first “gender reveal” with my son Andrew and his wife Ashleigh. So sometime in late summer the world will welcome my first grandchild, and we now know with certainty that she will be a she.

“She” is a powerful word in our families. There are families that have a variety of women in them, but the Hill  family have a long history of remarkable women in them. Women who are fearlessly independent and strong willed. Women who don’t take crap from others, and are fast to call a spade a spade as they are dealt the cards of life.

Our families’ women can be difficult, opinionated and at times challenging.  These woman can be demanding, setting high expectations for themselves and the people around them. They can be exhausting at times, taking every ounce of patience you have to offer. I guarantee there will be times when you are ready to give up and run far away.

Everyone of them- your mother, wife, step- mother, grandmother, aunts and sisters fit this description, not a go-with- the- flow girl among them.

Andrew,you have a great responsibility to the world and to these women, especially your future daughter.

Don’t Give up because your daughter enters into long line of very special women.

These are the women who will stick by you regardless of you being in a financial crisis or a bar fight. They know how the swing a mean pool cue.

These are women that will help you solve problems, and not look to you to be the solution to all of life’s challenges. They will pick up the shovel and help you bury the bodies and give you good alibis. (Trust me Bobbi knows where all the bodies are buried)

These are women who will love you with their souls, not just their hearts. I know my daughters have made me feel loved as completely as a man could be, and one of the great certainties of my life is that I am loved by them. These women give you that certainty- it is wonderful.

Andrew know they need you.

Your daughter will need you to teacher her to not settle or to be defined by her sex or by others.

Your daughter will tell you she can handle anything, but secretly need to be told that everything will be ok and he hugged so she is certain of it.

You will cry when they she falls and cheer when she gets back up.

Men in these women lives have to be strong and confident, we have to be both caring and tough. But the rewards are amazing, and seeing your daughter grow into a confident ( difficult) Young woman will be the defining part of your life.  They will bring you to your knees but lift your soul to heaven. Being a father to one these strong women is a blessing beyond all others.

Enjoy it all.. Every smile, tear, heartbreak and accomplishment. It will be the ride if your life, hang on tight and enjoy it.



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Rule# 91: Enjoy the meal

Rule# 91: Enjoy the meal

I just left a wonderful Italian restaurant after enjoying a long meal with friends. It was a unique restaurant in New Hope, named “Italian Cucina”, where there is no printed menu and everything was presented a course at a time. We arrived for an early seating, and the owner sat with us and told us his story of how he and this restaurant came into being.

Joe told us the story of how past failures and a heart attack lead him to developing this cool experience of great food and friendship. It was a slow, lingering meal which everyone at our table loved- we will be back.

It made me realized that it took me almost 57 years to relax and enjoy a meal.. It took me that long to take the time to actually listen to an owners’ story and know his name.

I was always a fast food type of eater. Food was a means to an end, I was always in a hurry to get to the next thing, barely tasting what I was consuming. It wasn’t about what I was eating, it was about what I was going to after I was finished.

When I was in my 20’s I was always in a hurry to get where I was going. I graduated college in 3 years, doubling up on courses and going summers. I then went right into grad school first at Drexel then at St Joes finishing with a CPCU and a masters before I left my 30’s. It wasn’t so much about learning as much as passing the courses and getting to the next thing. Normally people take 4 or years or more to get the CPCU, I of course wanted to get it in 2. Not enjoying it as much as consuming it, barely tasting the experience.

I had my first house a 26, the second a 27  and the third at 29- each bigger and better than the last. Some happened so fast that I barely remember living in them. I treated everything like it was a race- checking off mile markers as I passed them. I was on my own personal race, and although to most people it looked like I was winning I wasn’t enjoying any of it because I was off to the next meal.

I made my first million about the same time I had my third child in my early 30’s ( that would you Stephen). To get there I had to work two or three jobs- doing things a diverse as working at night at tennis club and setting up new Toys R Us’ in the mid-80’s. I worked nights, weekends and traveled constantly with my businesses. I got there really fast, even though I didn’t know exactly where I was going. In fact the faster I went the more lost I became, unsure of where this was all leading.

Fortunately you kids always had a way of slowing me down, making me experience the moment- forcing me to realize that it was relationships that mattered. If it wasn’t for you guys saving me I may of missed the whole dinner. I think my obsession about family dinners and meal conversations come from the happiness I felt at those tables. It is those moments with my kids that saved me from the drive through window experience of life. You kids and those meals saved my soul.

My regrets in life at 56 now stem mostly from failures of building deeper relationships with people encountered in that race. I was offered friendships from business partners like Mike and turned them down because I did not see them for what these offers were..offers to enjoy what was happening. In the case of Mike, God gave me a second chance for this experience and I try now to spend as much time understanding his life as the business this time.

Greg my business partner invites me to his lake house often, and in  3 years I have not gotten there. Getting to that house and building  relationship is now more important to me than making the next sale or closing the next deal. -(Greg warm up the pizza oven, Bobbi and I are getting there this summer)

I think I focused on the accumulation of things and accomplishments because it made me feel safe and validated. I neither attended my MBA graduation of my CPCU designation, I picked them up in a dead run and moved faster. The validation I felt was always short lived because no matter how many businesses I started/ran ( by my count 32) or raises I was given it never was enough because I wasn’t tasting them as they went into me. I charged to each new thing with the misguided thought that when I got MBA or got the next promotion things would be feel better, that I would find happiness- sadly they left me empty and confused.

God gave me in my second wife a demanding woman who has brought real joy to my life. Bobbi is a woman who does not sit in a corner well. She is constantly reminding me that the stuff we accumulate means nothing if it isn’t about the people we experience though. She forces me to slow down and chew my food of life. Without my kids and her I would have never found happiness.

Abby being born special with Asperger’s makes me learn to view the world from an entirely new perspective. She forces me to understand that sometimes a meal isn’t just about the eating. God does that to us, when we think we figure it all out, he slaps us in the head and says “slow down , that’s great sauce- enjoy it”.

I take the time to drive her to school everyday, and in each trip I have learned important lessons. She teaches me how to be happy everyday.

As a restaurant review I give this new place 5 stars, and a consumer of life I give myself only 3. My personal review is lower because it needs more heart, I need to enjoy the stories as much as the meal. My hope for you my children is that you accomplish many great things in your life, slaying many dragons.  But along the way take time to celebrate the victories with the people who believe in you, and enjoy a long Italian meal with them. I recommend the scallops and a couple bottles of wine- its BYOB.








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Rule #92: Forget the selfie

Rule#92: Forget the selfie

In life I think we all have bucket list, things that we would like to do before our time runs out. In my case it includes such things as drinking at Oktoberfest in Germany, riding the Orient Express and taking a cooking class at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. They are experiences that I want to have memories of, and likely will not take a single selfie while doing it. I want to be focused on tasting the stein of bier, and maybe the attractive Kellnerin bringing 4 liters at a time to the tables. I want to be present in those moments, so that they become memories and not just Facebook posts.

When the Pope visited Philadelphia last year I watch in amazement as people came close to the Pope turned to have their face in a picture, with the Pontiff in the background. They were not experiencing the moment or feeling, they were focused on having a great Facebook post. It was a once in a lifetime moment for most of the people there, and except for the image in the i-phone many people didn’t experience it fully.

Don’t miss understand me, when Rachel goes to her prom I will be there taking the required 100-200 i-phone pictures and posting like the rest of the Archbishop Wood parents. But I want to make sure I experience the moment, and feel her happiness as she approaches graduation mile-markers like the prom. I want to experience the moment with her..not just the picture.

I think among the hundreds of ways that the Kardashin’s have ruined our culture, one that has been more damaging is obsession of getting in the selfie. The selfishness of everything in life being a photo-op has lead to a belief that we really don’t experience something unless we have a picture of it. Of course I believe the most damaging thing they have done is name that poor kid North, but that’s another rule for another day.

I have learned recently that being present is something that I have forgotten and that the selfie is reinforcing  the loss of opportunity. When I go to watch Abby’s rugby match tomorrow I’m leaving the phone in the car, and focusing on experiencing the game. I think the obsession of proving we were there has made experiencing these moments more shallow- I think I can do better, and that we all can do better.

My father lead a remarkable life and visited over 100 countries, he had incredible stories about each place he visited. I think the fact that he didn’t have the pictures to share lead to him being able to retell the story..each time with more color and emotion. Yea, sure sometime the stories became larger than the truth, but they were his stories and the emotions were very real. I’m sort of glad I have the stories and not the pictures, it would somehow make the experiences smaller. He told me of his visit to the Egypt and riding a camel, I know the picture would make the story much less wonderful than my mental image of that moment.

I’m challenging myself to experience my bucket list, my family and my life in less detracted, non-selfie sort of way. I think it will make my experiences and relationships deeper and I don’t think the world will miss many of my Facebook posts.

But I do want to warn you that I’m not abandoning the pictures and there will be postings of Rachel’s prom, Stephen’s graduation and of course my grandchild. But there will be a few less as I work and I urge all my children to as well, to experience these wonderful moments more fully.






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Rule# 81: Take the stage

I’ve just watched by youngest daughter, Abigail, in her first middle school production of      “Beauty and the Beast”, and she did fantastic.

No, she was not “Beauty”, nor one of the major speaking rolls, but she was the best damn villager in the kingdom. She was at every practice and spent hours on her contribution to a wonderful show and experience, it was very important to her and our family.

As you all know I’m not a fan of “participation” trophies or giving people acknowledgements for just walking through the paces of their lives. I have repeatedly said that just showing up should be the minimum expectation, not a goal to be celebrated.

However, to take even minor role in a show isn’t showing up, its taking a risk and starting out.  The best things in life comes to us when we show courage, and it takes courage to be in any situation where you are put out in front of a group of people. I’ve been told that fear of speaking in front of a crowd is the most common fear. For a 13 year old girl overcoming that fear is an amazing feat of courage.

In Shakespeare’s play “As You Like it” there is a monologue by Jaques in Act II Scene VII that I’ve always like;

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances…”

The disappointments in life do not come from the failures on the stage, or by delivering a poor performance. The disappointments in life, the ones you regret at 2am in the morning while you are struggling to sleep, are the ones that come form the failure to take the stage in life. Missing a opportunity to be part of the play is the only real failure.

Abby’s blessing of having Asperger’s has taught me a great deal about life that I did not fully understand till she showed it to me through her unique interaction with her world. She lacks the limiting social cuing of fear of rejection that most of us feel, she charges into every new situation full of hope and confidence. She takes the stage of her life with the certainty of purpose that most of us search our whole lives to obtain. Its hard to fully explain to someone without an Autistic child but within all the limitations of autism is hidden the some remarkable gifts of truth and perspective. She see the world as a stage and is ready for the next act.

My hope for all my children that they see the world as this wonderful stage, and that the seize every opportunity to be a part of every act. The exits come much too soon, enjoy the moments and the limelight.



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Rule 74: Winning is a deodorant

Rule 74: Winning is a deodorant

I was reading about the recent firing of Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly and found a number of sports writers were fond of the expression…”winning is a deodorant”.

As I thought about the Eagles season, and Chip’s firing I believe that if Chip had 1 more  win he would have been allowed to run the team as he wanted, for at least another year. When it came down to it, how he did it, and how much he stunk up this city and this team in the process didn’t matter. What covered up the smell of all those crappie decisions was winning…and when the winning was gone the smell became intolerable.

I’m not advocating for a Machiavellian view of the world that every “end” justifies every “mean”. But I do think why we embrace the sport of football so passionately is that  winning  is understood not only as the goal but the whole purpose of the game.  We as Americans embrace winning as a culture.

I think in the current Presidential elections the reason Donald Trump is getting so much support is that he understands that desire to ” win” is fundamental to our society. That people like to feel their leaders will do anything to keep the country winning as the world’s leader. I think the reasons Republicans are embracing his sometimes insane statements is that they are sick of losing.  Losing stinks. (personally I think he is crazy, but people miss winning)

Right now if  a convicted murderer came into Philadelphia and showed a path to having ANY Philadelphia team win they would be given a pardon for all past failings as long as they put wins on the board. As bad as the Eagles and Phillies are, the 76ers are worse… I think OJ has a job waiting for him when he is paroled as long as he can win.

There is a stink to losing that no matter how many participation trophies are given out nothing but winning can cover up. In business I am often frustrated by those who have learned to live with the smell of an almost win. They do a good job, work on a lot of projects but never get to the objectives and get a win.

Its hard not to appreciate a job well done, and  the effort made. But you run 26 miles but don’t finish the last 385 yards, no matter how you look at it you’re a good runner but not a marathoner.  Doing well matters, but winning and finishing matters a little bit more in our world.

I know this rule will upset a lot of moms and dads who want to see the world treat their children a little more compassionately or a little more kindly.  That the grim message of the rule that “winning” matters will make it world seem a little more nasty and hard.

But I am finding a lot of people struggling to understand why they are not getting promotions, raises or achieving business success. After all they show up for work, they don’t steal and they try really hard most days. Sure they aren’t driving the ball forward, but they aren’t doing any harm either. Shouldn’t this dedication and focus count for something?

In life winning matters. Getting the account, selling the car or fixing the air conditioner matters more than just giving out a good proposal or almost getting the cold air to work. Value comes from delivering a result, to achieving the win.

I think I do a disservice to my children by keeping the idea that winning matters from them, and hurt them by telling them its about having fun and enjoying themselves.  Because winning is hard, and effort is require.

I worry about our society when the focus in on not finding pathways out of minimum wage jobs at McDonald but on making these jobs more attractive. Cooking fries at McDonalds, although noble in that it is honest work, isn’t winning- its participating. Making it $15  instead of $7.50 an hour doesn’t make it winning either, it just makes it a shinier participation trophy.  The job still stinks, just pays more.

Using this job to get a better job, by doing well at it is winning. Becoming an assistant manager then a manager is winning. The people who “win” their way out of these participation roles deserve our greatest praise, they have earned their wins they were not given them. They smell the best.

Life stinks a lot of the time. As I have said repeatedly in this blog, life is hard. But life is also a wonderful gift, and although hard to achieve,  the rewards of winning are real and can bring true joy to our lives. Winning is also highly addictive, when you have tasted nothing ever smells as good .. ask any Phillies fan that can remember 1980.  Once you smell it everything else stinks.

And the stink of the Eagles is particularly pungent today.
















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Rule # 88- Santa is real

Rule # 88- Santa is real

As we approach Christmas  I am quick to remind my children of the Hill household rule that when anyone stops believing in Santa, Santa no longer visits them. This rule has kept my teenagers from sharing there skepticism of the jolly guy with any impressionable toddler.

This year I have to face the real possibility that I am left as the only true believer in the household. That even Abby at 13 has serious doubts as to St Nicholas’ existence.

But even in the face of these non-believers I stand hard on my rule, and my belief that he exists.

Yes, sure I have heard all the reasons to not believe- that he would be hundreds of years old, that he could not possibly visit all the world in one night and that reindeers flying is a physical impossibility. But I argue that there are three very good reasons not to give up belief and encourage others to believe…

First, life is hard and true happiness is challenging to hang on to for long. When I find someone that is truly happy, harming no one and helping others I generally leave that someone alone. If someone has found a way to be positive to others I think they should be praised and encouraged for their behavior and questioned very little.  If a fat old man came up to me today and handed me a present I’d ask very few questions about his existence. By all accounts Santa meets the definition of this type of person.

Second, as I’ve gotten older I have become far less certain about the world and what is true and not true. I have seen many things that I was absolutely certain of in my 20’s fall to the dust over time. When I was young I always wore a hat in the winter because I knew with certainty that a person lost 40% of their body heat from their head. Only  problem was I was absolutely wrong, at maximum its 10% that is lost. If I can be wrong about that and Aerosmith being the best band ever, I can be wrong about Santa. Nothing is absolutely certain.

Finally our world needs people with grateful hearts, people that want to give more than they take in the world. I look at the phenomenal success of Pope Frances recent visit to the US and realize that he is loved because his central message is to give to and care for the poor. I’ve never met the Pope personally but have seen him on television, the same can be said of Santa. If I can give a man with a grateful heart like the Pope the benefit of the doubt that he exists I can certainly extend the same to a man that gives to everyone each year.

We live in a cynical world full of negative people doing bad things to others. I chose to put my belief is a man who is perhaps the most positive, kind and grateful creature that ever existed. I personally hope that he lives on for another thousand years, delivering the messages of hope and joy.

And as tradition dictates as I distributed the gifts that the big guy left this year I expect each of my children to affirm their belief as well. No Santa, no gift.








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Rule # 25 : There is Evil in the world

Rule # 25 :  There is Evil in the world

In this blog I focus on “life’s rules”  that I can share with my children in a more lasting way than just a talk. I hoped that by sharing my experiences they could find their path with less unnecessary turns or without hitting some of the big bumps in their  travels.

Occasionally I am slammed with the reality of life’s dangers and forced to find a way to give advice when the world seems to make no sense at all. I find myself at one of those moments in trying to make sense of the mass killings in Paris and San Bernardino- what lesson do I need to share to protect my children?

After thought I have come to the conclusion that they must understand there is Evil in the world and they must deal with it on their own terms.

As my children were growing up I taught them all to respect different views of the world, that there are more than one approach to a situation. I reinforced the values of tolerance, understanding and compromise- that with discussion and love every situation could be solved by finding common ground, relying on the basic good that exists in people. I believed that by teaching my children how to be kind, they would know kindness.

I may have taught them to be sitting ducks.

Unfortunately this all works well in 99.9% of situations until you are confronted by Evil. Evil is different than just someone doing something bad to someone else. People that do bad things generally know it, and feel shame and guilt for their actions. It is the shame or guilt that ultimately stops bad things being done by most rational people. Evil to me is when bad things are done but rationalized as acceptable because of some internal lie being told.

Sometimes this lie is hidden in a political belief, other times inside a religious theology and other times inside a talking cat that  tells you to kill your neighbor. Its is the lie that allows all the bad things to exist. Without the lie the bad deeds would be seen for what they are and never become evil, but hidden in that lie the evil grows and becomes more dangerous.

If you had a neighbor that told you that his Cat was telling him to kill you I hope that you would do two things. First protect yourself through avoidance, calling the police and taking defensive actions against that neighbor, and second not blame the Cat.

It gets more complicated when a bunch of people think that neighbor’s Cat is actually talking and start to agree with the neighbor and think killing you is a good idea. No matter how many people agree killing the Cat won’t help, because there are lots more Cats they can listen to. But the more people live the lie, the more difficult it will be to contain the Evil. Shooting the Cat will seem like a better and better solution as the group becomes more comfortable with doing Evil things, but it will not solve the problem.

There are three things you need to do in situations which you are comforted with Evil.

First, recognize it for what it is- Evil. It frustrates me that the current media debate as to motive on the California killings, trying to explain it away as not Evil but just a bad thing done in the name of workplace violence. A co-worker just got upset and decided to seek revenge, more mental illness than Evil they will have you believe. These people are dangerous because they are masking the lie, hiding it in layers of rationalization and self-loathing.

But Evil is not hard to find. Its obvious and sloppy. Someone building bombs in their home, stockpiling weapons and ammo want one thing – to hurt many people. People pushing the lie will want you to not think of this as Evil, but to explain and rationalize it as good people’s fault. They will tell you we were not accepting enough, our gun controls not strong enough and our mental health systems not responsive- everything will be our fault or the fault of another group. Someone protecting  lie will want the conversation to move away from evil- on to any other issue that will distract us from seeing the Evil. It is important that you recognize the lie, and you understand that when you see 14 people murdered in cold blood that the thing to blame is the people that did it and the people that are pushing the lie that rationalized it.

After you identify the lie you need to protect yourself from it, and the Evil. The same avoidance, calling the police and taking defensive actions are key.  I’m not encouraging you to buy guns, but I am encouraging you to take action to protect yourself anyway you feel is appropriate. Evil has the lie driving, it will not stop, you have to be prepared to defend yourself.

Finally call the lie for what it is – a lie.  When others say the Cat is talking to them, tell them it is not and warn others that the lie exists. People in their hearts know when something is wrong, focusing on the Bad things and the Lies that allow them is the only way others can help you stop it. Knowing that no lie can support these actions is the only thing that can restore the truth.

And remember never to trust anything a cat tell you- the are liars and evil.





















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Rule # 83: Be thankful for crying babies on planes

Rule # 83: Be thankful for crying babies on planes

I recently was on a red eye flight from San Diego to Chicago on my way back home to Pennsylvania. I was expecting a nice quiet flight after what had been a long couple days of meetings. I was in first class so I knew I would have the opportunity to stretch-out in the big comfy seat, put on an inflight movie and fall to sleep.

While I waited for the flight to board I noticed a young woman alone,traveling with a very young baby girl. I thought,

” that’s weird to be traveling this late, I feel sorry for the  coach passengers that have to sit beside her”.

I was smug I my certainty that the burden would  fall the coach passengers while I slept soundly in my  row 2 seat after sipping my nite cap.

Boarding with the other first class passengers I waited for the window seat passenger to arrive, and watch in horror that the woman with the baby was going to be my seatmate for the 4 1/2 hr flight.  I was upset.

But then a saw it…the glares and scows of the people in the cabin with me, looking at this woman in that same..” what the hell” stare. And I realize this was not a burden or bad thing, it was a gift from God.

How often do we get given the opportunity to be kind to someone in need, to be a protector of someone who is vulnerable. I decided at that moment not to be the asshole but to embrace the experience and put myself not only in the place of that mother but that baby. A baby who was tried and scared, and likely did not want to be sitting next to a 55 year old fat man who she did not know. It must have been terrifying for her.

I told the woman I had 6 kids and to relax and nothing would bother me. She seemed releaved.

Each time the baby fussed and cried I tried not to react at all, but just offer help. I saw the light from the backseat video monitor was keeping her up, and turned it off. I was placed there for a reason, my purpose was to make this trip a little less uncomfortable and a little less stressful for that baby.

I think life gives us opportunities to be the ‘good guy”, the champion of others and we pass them by not realizing that the gift is to us not to the person we are helping.  By helping we do very little for that person and get back a great deal more for your soul.   You are given the gift of purpose.

Don’t get me wrong I’m like everyone else an asshole at heart.  If I had not by fate or happenstance been seated next to this mother and child, I would have likely been one of those people glaring and complaining in a hush to my seatmate. Basically we get lots more chances to be assholes than to be champions. I miss most of my opportunities while I’m in a rush to get somewhere else.

Crying babies are one of those things that can not be ignored. They won’t go away  no matter how many distasteful looks they are given.  When you hear one don’t think of it as  a problem but as a reminder that we have a common purpose on this earth, to help each other survive.

I think that there are fewer champions in the world because many of the people in distress are taught to keep their problems to themselves. I think the champions are out there, but they have lost the ability to hear the cries of the damsels in distress and forgotten how to help. Babies crying on a plane helps wake up those hidden instincts.

I also like the fact that the Babies will not be able to thank you or remember any kindness. We don’t expect it of course, but I think they remind us through their inability to respond that its about us defining who we are and not them thanking us. Its the baby who is giving the gift, we are the one’s who should be grateful.

Not looking the act for what we can get out of it, but understanding how an act can defined us is key. Babies are easy…but learning that skill and applying to be people you work with, live with or maybe just know from some social forum is the real skill. We can change the people lives we help at those moments, but we change ourselves a great deal more.

Look for the crying babies….and thank them.








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Rule# 16: Rachel’s Rule

Rule# 16: Rachel’s Rule

“Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen.”- Karl Marx

“From each according to their ability, to each according to need”

I have a confession I am a communist.

At least at home I am a communist when it comes to raising the kids. I have little tolerance for making sure everyone gets the same slice of the pie in our family, I focus on what each of us can contribute and what  each of us needs. The fairness of the system is that the central government ( Bobbi and I) can focus on the issues of the family and not focus on who is not getting their ‘fair share’.

I asked Stephen once when I was worried about being “fair” to him and concerned that other kids in our family were being spoiled at his determent. His insightful response was ..” face it dad we are all spoiled”.  Very wise and very right.

Our family does not live in a world of scarce resources and everyone will get more than they truly need. We live in a world were needs tend to situational and vary greatly from child to child based on the circumstance of the moment. Its not a question of who gets enough to eat, its question of how the excess resources of the family are allocated.

But every once in awhile my capitalist heart bleeds ( green of course) and I worry about fairness of the situation. Effort doesn’t always match rewards and I think the disconnect sometimes feels unfair to me.

Yesterday the boys, who obviously have way too much free time, pointed out to me on by word count analysis Rachel had far less mentions in this blog than the other children. The mean number of mentions was 15, but Rachel had only 3.  I had to stop and ask myself had the central government of our family failed? Is some thing not working?

I have been blessed with 6 wonderful children. 3 of whom if left in a house alone with a fork we would come home to seeing the fork unmoved, and them involved with some productive ( or at least not destructive) activity.  3 of which if left with the same fork would have stuck it into at least one wall socket and been shocked at least two times. All the same family, but very different responses to the environment. Rachel falls into the first category.

She is a very easy child. Homework done, room clean, and rolls with virtually every obstacle facing her in life with a quiet dignity and resourcefulness that is all to rare in this world. She even deals with the indignities of being the oldest girl with 4 older brothers who pride themselves on ways to torture and tease her.  Whether its calling her names or making fun of her school work she handles her brothers with the skill of a lion tamer. All of her brothers know whether its a witty response to  an insult or a left upper cut Rachel can handle them both physically and mentally. She can keep them all in line.

The problem with a child that is consistently on the honor roll and so positive about tasks is they can get lost. Their voices can be muffled by the brashness of brothers or the needs of a younger sister.

I think that’s the way it is in life. Many of the most remarkable people in our lives go unnoticed because they do what they need to do so well. I know in business it is the quiet professionalism of a few that keeps our company moving- and sadly they often go unnoticed because everything works so well.

As a Rule in our family, and in life we have to keep in mind the Rachel’s Rule- find those people in life doing the right things and praise and recognize them. It is those people that make life easy and fun. We have a duty to them to give them a voice and teach them they to deserve to be heard.

I’m not ready to abandon the central government control yet, but I think that keeping people like Rachel in mind in the chaos of our world will point us all in the right direction.
Regardless if you are fork in the socket person or not recognizing the people of your life that make it easier for all of us is an important rule to follow.

And Matthew, I have not abandoned my Rand Paul ultra capitalist leanings, but I do acknowledge that a little bit of communism from time to time isn’t a bad idea.







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