Main Street: Dec. 26, 2018
“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” — Cavett Robert
Christmas is past; New Year’s ahead. Most of us will make a resolution list, but few will fully keep it. Resolutions are as much a part of New Year’s as Frosty, Rudolph, the Grinch and Santa Claus are a part of Christmas.
Sad but true, when the heat is on, our resolutions will melt like Frosty; with time, stop glowing like Rudolph’s nose, restore the Grinch to get ready for Christmas tricks for 2019, and the ho, ho, ho of Santa will become, “Oh, no, no, whoa.”
I’m not necessarily a pessimist, but after living with my own human nature for 67 years I’m realistic. Americans like to make resolutions. According to a YouGov poll, in 2018 the most common self-promises were to eat healthier, get more exercise and to save more money.
The problem with many resolutions are they tend to be too ambitious and involve “all or nothing thinking.” Any significant change and development needs to be celebrated. Secondly, having a personal set of core values that drive you and then tying the resolutions to these values will more likely result in success.
I’m going to share several possible resolutions based on the life of President George H.W. Bush. For those of you who watched all or part of his memorial services and celebration of life, you were no doubt touched by the remembrances by family, friends, political supporters and foes and, perhaps most important, the American people.
Bush was far from perfect, but when he became president, according to modern historians, he was one of the best qualified ever. And yet he remained both a humble man and appropriately proud man that drove him to high standards of achievement.
Much of that had to do with surviving a crash into the sea in 1944 as a U.S. Navy pilot. He said, “I thought I was done.”
He came very close to perishing. From that point forward, he saw his life as a mission from the divine to be a true servant-leader.
Whether people agreed or disagreed with Bush, he had very few real enemies. His call for a kinder, gentler American was scoffed at and mocked by some, but we could really use that philosophy today. Below I have summarized four resolutions inspired by President Bush’s 94 years. These are ideas for myself and hopefully you might join me in one or two.
• Tone down the rhetoric and turn up the listening. In a functioning democracy, we need to have strong, public debates, but whether it is in the media, social media and everyday conversations we need have more genuine listening not just talking pass each other.
In fact, I believe we can discover many common areas of agreement (ends) even though we might not at first agree on means. This applies equality well to at work, in our communities and family situations. In the end the resolution is to find ways to get things done, keeping a sense of proportionality, fairness and a sense of humor.
• Learn to say thank you in a meaningful way. Bush was well known for personal, hand-written notes. He wrote literally thousands of them during his life. Telling someone in person is important. An email is OK, but there is nothing like the hand-written note. I have kept many of the notes I received across the years from student.
When I reread them, it’s like finding a $100 bill. Resolve with me in 2019 to write more personal notes, whether it is one per month or one per week or more often. You don’t do this so people will say how kind and thoughtful you are, but that is the effect it will have. For our younger readers, it is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the crowd.
• Don’t get into a comfortable rut. Take opportunities and suitable risks. Bush 41 grew up in a privileged family and could have sailed through a life of ease. But what did he do? Flew 52 combat missions and left the comfort of a wealthy Connecticut family to move to Midland, Texas, to start a business.
He ran for Senate and lost. He ran again for a House seat and won. He became an ambassador to the United Nations, director of the CIA, vice president and, finally, president.
Well, that obviously is not going to be our future, but the lesson is to step out when the opportunity presents itself.
He still was parachuting at age 90. (For me, in my 60, that is a sky too high!) Knowing when to say no and knowing when to say yes, even in the face of fear, will make 2019 and beyond better.
• Be one of those “thousand points of light.” At the time Bush presented this idea, certain so-called intellectuals, self-important media mavens and political enemies mocked him regarding the concept. But in 2018, no one remembers those ne’er do wells. The idea that each of us have a divine role to play in our work, families and communities has gained wide acceptance.
The Millennial generation, in particular, I think, is so much better attuned to this than Baby Boomers. While government, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations and businesses all play a role in making the world better, in the end, we as individuals shining our light makes that possible.
I recorded and saved many of the events commemorating the life of President Bush. In 2019, I plan on replaying these programs to inspire my commitment to keep these resolutions. I have typed them up in large, bold letters and posted them in a prominent place in my home.