Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller
Of course, that was really John Hughes who wrote that line for Ferris. But it’s still smart. I’m stepping away from the day-to-day work life, into a retirement that has yet to be defined. It’s time to look around, and to realize that little sayings like that from Ferris can be powerful influences on life.
I’ve been fortunate to have had a great family growing up, parents and siblings who sacrificed more than I knew so I could attend college. Folks who helped me learn the journalism biz and then public relations. A wife and daughter who supported long hours, many trips and job changes. A business partner, Roger Martin, who took a leap of faith in 2004 and joined me in starting Martin Waymire.
I was able to cover great stories:
- The 17-year-old girl who hijacked a plane to Carbondale, Illinois to try to get her mom sprung from the federal prison cell she was sentenced to for hijacking a helicopter to help her prison boyfriend escape – a boyfriend she met via prison mail. (Yeah…read that twice.)
- Meeting Paul Simon, a reporter turned editor turned publisher who became a great U.S. Senator.
- The night the new Black mayor of East St. Louis walked into the all-white victory party of the new mayor of Belleville to propose a new level of cooperation between the communities.
- The growth of the political right in Michigan.
- The collapse of the auto industry as a force for a middle-class lifestyle.
- Political scandals and elections.
- Using the first searchable database of political contributions (developed with Booth Newspapers Lansing Bureau Chief Ed Petykiewicz) to show the close relationship between money and votes in Lansing.
And I had the opportunity to make a difference in public relations and communications:
- Helping pass tougher mandatory seat belt laws in Michigan.
- Supporting successful efforts to boost competition in telecommunications and electricity.
- Assisting Michigan’s Anishinaabe peoples in gaining compacts for casinos – and playing a role in naming two.
- Advancing and expanding access to health insurance to more Michiganders.
- Working with MSU to “bring FRIB to our crib,” creating a major on-campus national laboratory for physics research.
- Putting citizens, not politicians, in control of legislative and congressional redistricting in Michigan.
But I’m most proud of helping create teams and working with teammates who have made a real difference in the state. And it takes communication to build those teams. I’ve found short sayings are more powerful than long speeches. Some are original; most are stolen from others. All have helped me and maybe others.
It’s all about messages, messengers and delivery systems: That’s a simple way to understand the complex world of communications. You need research to understand all of these. But a good message, delivered by good messengers, to audiences in ways they accept can go a long way.
The best idea goes nowhere without communications: A concept carried in one person’s head can’t change the world. Letting others hear it can.
Not too high, not too low: I’ve seen a lot of winning (so much winning) in my career. And suffered through a lot of down times, too. Keeping an even keel helps you focus on the future and not get bogged down when things go wrong.
Be a shark: Sharks move forward. Never backward. Learn from the past, but always keep moving forward.
You aren’t working for me, you’re working for you! Every day you can learn more and build your storehouse of knowledge and experience. That’s especially true for younger folks. Don’t work for a paycheck (or a boss). Work to make yourself better.
Don’t confuse action with progress: Sometimes you find yourself going through a routine without thinking through whether you are really making a difference. Action might not be progress.
Action begets action: When others see you are creating change, they start to engage. When you see letters-to-the-editor from people you never met using your messages, you’ve multiplied your forces in a smart way.
Get your work done and go home: You have to put in the time, but at the end of the day, working smart and hard is usually better than just long hours. And balance is important.
There’s no profit in peace: This is the Lansing version of “run to fire.” Being in difficult frays is how you can make a difference – and maybe a dollar or two.
No sins of commission; just sins of omission: A version of “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” Don’t be afraid to act when you know what to do, even if you can’t quickly get approvals.
Look it up yourself: Do some research before going to other folks to answer questions. Looking it up helps you remember the answer better.
If it were easy, anybody could do it: The difficult jobs are the most rewarding – psychically and (hopefully) financially.
No stress, no gain: This one’s not always popular with everyone. But I really believe you must push yourself at least a little to make important progress. Productive stress is different than destructive stress.
Change what you can; don’t worry about the rest: So easy to say. So hard to do.
Be prepared, but take advantage when you get lucky: As noted above, I’ve surely been lucky in life. Anybody who doesn’t understand the meaning of luck and serendipity in life isn’t really paying attention. But being prepared and ready to work hard will give you the best chance to take advantage when luck comes knocking.
Work hard and listen to your coach: I said this to my daughter every day as she headed out the door to school. Working hard is necessary but not sufficient. Listening to a wise, experienced coach – or a teacher, or a manager or sometimes even your dad – can help you work smarter and be more successful.
I’ve got broad shoulders and a little dog – I can do anything! My newest saying. The first part makes you smile. When you smile, you are more likely to remember the last part, which is important. The first step in moving forward is believing in yourself.
I’m taking my little dog with me on my next adventure. And I’ll be carrying with me these little snippets for guidance. I hope they can help you as much as they have me.