Thre are three types of people, he said, and my mind has been racing ever since.
In a Zoom call this week I chatted with another speaker for an upcoming conference. He and I want our messages complement each other and he offered some of his presentation highlights and one thing he said has rattled around in my head since our call.
He said there are three types of people – and when he said this he was quoting someone else but I don’t remember who – he said there are fragile people who when pushed or dropped or damaged, they break. Once broken, they don’t heal. We all kinda know people like this.
The second type of person is resilient. When dropped, they get back up. They don’t break. And though it sounds laudable, they don’t change. Each time they’re pushed or dropped or damaged, they simply get back up and resume.
And there’s the third type which he very inelegantly referred to as anti-fragile. When pushed or dropped or damaged, they get back up, learn from what’s happened, and change so that it won’t happen again. These people prove remarkably successful over time, he said, in both business and in life.
And he went further and applied this concept to organizations. In this post-pandemic business climate, he said, we’re seeing organizations who were fragile and broke due to the pandemic, the organizations who were resilient but simply resumed what they’ve always been doing, and the ones that are anti-fragile and are using pandemic-learned lessons to become stronger.
Well, I can’t hear stuff like this and not start thinking about the people around me. My wife is anti-fragile. She learns from her mistakes, and they’re seldom made twice. My business manager is definitely anti-fragile. She negotiates for me and though we may have been taken advantage of in the past, it’s never happened the same way twice. She learns. She changes. Which is good.
And, of course, I think about my kids. They’re a mix and it’s situational. I have children who have their athletic weaknesses revealed and they change to fix the weakness. However, they may make mistakes with friendships and get right back up to only to have those same mistakes happen again and again – a resilient behavior. They’ll learn what’s necessary to perform well in class but repeat the same mistakes regarding rules my wife and I have about our home – again, a resilient behavior. None of them are fragile, they’re either resilient or anti-fragile depending on the situation.
And the questions continue: how do we raise our kids or groom our colleagues or employees to become anti-fragile. Are we born one way or another or is this a learned behavior? And is today’s coddling society today raising our kids to be fragile and can we fix it? Or them?
And what am I? I don’t think I’m fragile but am I resilient or anti-fragile? I don’t know.
I do know this though – this other speaker needs to bring the goods next month. He’s started my head spinning and I didn’t allot enough time in our Zoom call to ask these questions and we had to cut it short – a simple mistake I’ve made too many times.
And, well, I guess that answers it.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
There’s a tale radio people tell about why they got into radio. Does it apply to me? Well…
A story I’ve heard about people in radio is that many of them share a similar childhood experience: They tried to get their parent’s attention but their parents shushed them – told them to be quiet – they’re trying to listen to the man on the radio. The children begin to think that whatever is coming through the radio speaker is more important than what they want to say and later, those children begin a career in radio to get their parents to listen to them.
Is it true? I don’t know. Regardless, when I heard the story, I had to assess if that’s the reason I’ve begun these commentaries and the business talk show I have on other stations across Alabama.
My earliest memories of the radio are as a young boy of about ten. My father would wake me early in the morning on Saturdays in the winter and we’d drive north out of Mobile for a hunting club in the small dirt-road town of Suggsville, Alabama deep in Clarke County. We left well before daylight and I lie across the bench seat in the old yellow Jeep Cherokee in my hunting clothes with my head on my father’s leg trying to get back to sleep while he drove. This was long before using seatbelts was a thing. The radio dial was the only light in the car, and it shined in my eyes while the radio played country music. I remember hearing the piano in Crystal Gayle’s song “Don’t It May My Brown Eyes Blue” and thinking, “Wow. I really like that” and I still really like it to this day.
After that the memories jumble. I remember the Top 40 radio stations of the late seventies and eighties and one time as a pre-teen calling a station over and over again to request a song. When the DJ finally answered and I told him I wanted to hear – “Emotions” by the Bee Gees and I’m shocked that I can remember that – and he said “Well…It’s playing right now.” I had become so focused on dialing and redialing I stopped noticing what was playing. Alone in my bedroom, my face burned bright red in embarrassment and hoped that DJ couldn’t ever figure out who I was.
And I remember hearing Paul Harvey. There are over 3000 episodes of his The Rest of the Story. 3000! He did six per week, all about four minutes long. You can find his catalog online. Today when I listen, I hear that remarkable voice, that remarkable control in his delivery. His word choice, his inflections, his tone, his variations in speed to perfectly sculpt the story he was telling. Today I recognize those as the tools of his craft. Back then though, I just listened. Probably impatiently. Sitting in the car with my father or my mother in a parking lot somewhere in the middle of running an errand.
“Mom” or “Dad”, I very likely said. “Can we get out now? Can we go?” “No,” they said. “Not until this is over.”
And, here I am.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real. Oh, and welcome to my new listeners with public radio station KXCR in Florence, Oregon. I’m happy you’re along for the ride.
A friend’s fortunes have turned…
I met with a friend yesterday. I haven’t seen or spoken to him much for the past six months. His business has exploded over the past three or four years. He’s a good guy, an honest guy. He’s created a niche product, the market found him and he’s grown it masterfully. Until he and his business partner got sideways with each other, and the last six months have been tough. Accusations. Finger pointing. He finally told his partner, “We have to split up or it may get violent.” They both lawyered up, money changed hands with both teams of lawyers scooping up piles of it and it’s now finally over. Diminished, depleted, and emotionally exhausted, my friend is now free of that turmoil and can focus on growing what’s left of his business and moving forward.
Word got out and his phone began ringing. Old influential customers that had fallen off the radar were calling. “Hey,” they were saying, “now that he’s gone, let’s work together again.” Turns out a lot of his former customers didn’t like his business partner – didn’t trust him – and quietly went away. Now that the partner is gone, those customers are coming back.
My friend was also able to secure the distribution rights to a new product that, he predicts, will change his marketplace. Word is out and people are asking to partner with him, offering him big sums for a piece of the action. My friend, despondent and over his head in turmoil six months ago, is now worried about controlling the growth of his business. His reputation and his integrity are stellar, his customers and colleagues know this and are rushing to transact with him, and I’m thrilled for him.
Years ago, I was given an adage that I’ve never forgotten: time either promotes you or exposes you. Time reveals who you are. Time will deliver situations where your integrity, humility, your character, your soul, maybe, is revealed. Many can mask their true character for short amounts of time, and they do. Some mask it for years. In the end, time eventually reveals the truth. Time either promotes you or exposes you. And time is now promoting my friend. He could have given up his battle with his partner when it got nasty, when the terms of the buyout got ridiculous, but he stayed the course to serve the customers he’d begun relationships with, and he wanted to continue serving new customers because they need the new product he brought to market. There were many times when he could have made small decisions that would have made things easier or resolved the issues more quickly but not comprehensively, but he stayed the course. And it wasn’t just the decisions he made during the acrimonious buyout, it was years and years before that, in how he treated bankers who were now eager to help him, the lawyers who were eager to represent him, and so many others along the way.
Time either promotes you or exposes you. I’ve seen it over and over. Time always pulls back the curtain and reveals the truth. I’m so happy for my friend. Time has revealed him to be a well-deserved champion.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
Time for a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s make it a BHAG.
Perhaps you’ve heard the word BHAG. It’s actually an acronym. Stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. A BHAG. BHAG is also, incidentally, a city in Pakistan. Certainly pronounced differently and now that you know it’s also a city, the next time someone mentions a BHAG you can ask them to clarify: Are you talking about the acronym or are you talking about the Pakistani city, which, also incidentally, is really fun to say. Not BHAG but Pakistani city. However, I’m referring to BHAG the acronym. A big, hairy, audacious goal.
And, tis the season for BHAGs. New Year’s resolutions are a part of the fabric of our world. And as of this moment, I’ve set no resolutions, no goals, for the new year. I need some, I just don’t know where to start. In years past I’ve resolved to select my curse words more carefully, choosing ones that truly reflect how I feel versus the ones that just fly out without consideration. That lasted a little while. Another year I resolved to teach my children the roots of New Orleans funk music when I drove them to school and they sat captive in my car. I even printed out the words to the songs I felt they should know. And that lasted a very little while.
I’ve set New Year’s goals for my business and my hobbies. The fact that this commentary even exists is a result of a BHAG I set out for myself about five years ago now – to be a commentator on Public Radio. And while there are many goals I should set out for my business, nothing comes to mind that really excites me.
In year’s past I set goals for exercise and road races. I set out to run a 10k in under forty minutes. That was a significant BHAG. I didn’t make it, by the way. I was about a minute too slow and as I crossed the finish line was I pretty sure I was about to experience a big hairy audacious death and have never tried again. And athletic pursuits have been shelved for a while due to mystery pains in my right knee known clinically as hurto-knee-e-osis. I’m nursing it back to health so I don’t need what orthopedists call a knee-ectomy. So, anything stressful involving my favorite right knee is out.
The trainer who runs the boot camp workout I do three days a week is a horrible, mean, miserable and unpleasant man which makes him very good at his job and I’m proud to call him my friend. He suggested a full body scan giving me a readout on everything from my weight to my bone density to my muscle mass to my sub-cutaneous fat which, I’m told can only be altered through a change of diet. I could target some numbers to change and set about it via a mixture of dieting, changing what I eat, and exercises that don’t inflame my favorite right knee.
Or, I could put a travel goal out there of, let’s say, travel to BHAG, the Pakistani City. It would probably be easier. Pakistani City. You just gotta say it – it’s so fun.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
One condiment in particular kept my kids alive.
There’s no ketchup in my house right now. I made burgers for the family Sunday night and we had no ketchup. This may sound trivial but it’s an extraordinary landmark in our family’s life.
When my kids were much younger, my wife and I relied on frozen chicken nuggets about five nights a week to feed the kids. Our four kids are two years apart with the last two being twins. Imagine dinner time with a six-year-old, a four-year-old, and two-year-old twins. It was pandemonium. We’d pop a cookie sheet full of nuggets into the oven. They were quick. They were easy and though they weren’t particularly healthy, they kept the kids alive until the next day which, at that point, is all we wanted. Chicken nuggets were our bread and butter. They were our life saver.
In time, though, the kids tired of them. We experimented with different brands, with different shaped nuggets. We learned that rib meat nuggets were too chewy and who knew chickens had ribs? And the kids were unimpressed by the dinosaur shaped nuggets.
We then told them they weren’t eating nuggets anymore. These were new. These were different. These were chicken nuggettas. They’re different and better and that bought us a little time.
Then we added a small dollop of ketchup on the side of their plate and…boom. The kids loved the nuggets with the ketchup. They wanted more ketchup. And more. Soon it became a plate full of ketchup with chicken nuggets somewhere underneath. I told my wife that the word KID was an acronym for Ketchup Infusion Device because that’s what the nuggets became.
We bought the ketchup at the warehouse clubs. Three giant bottles shrink wrapped together, wondering how long the ketchup last before we’d need more. We’d walk through the back door with the bottles of ketchup over our heads like warriors returning with the spoils of battle. The kids saw it and knew everything was going to be ok.
The kids liked chicken nuggets with ketchup so much that my wife and I began calling everything we cooked chicken. We’d have pork chicken, beef chicken, turkey chicken, each of which was served under ketchup. We tried weaning our kids off the ketchup but when food hit the kitchen table, they’d be looking for the bottle. We wondered if we’d gone too far but…they were eating and they weren’t complaining which, if you’re a parent, you understand.
If my kids were like trees and we could cut them in half and count their rings, their inner most rings would be made entirely of chicken nuggets and lots and lots of ketchup.
And then last Sunday night, I bring the hot burgers in from the grill and start putting the toppings on the countertop and…no ketchup. Not even the secret reserve bottle which we keep in the back of the pantry for emergencies. None. And when I announced we had no ketchup I braced for the blowback. Years ago, this news would have fueled an insurrection. Instead, they shrugged and fixed their plate.
My goodness, how things have changed, thank the Lord.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to keep it real.
It just feels like everyone’s hand is out, asking for more for simply doing what they were asked to do.
It was a convenience store. Just like all the convenience stores you’ve seen. I grabbed a drink from the refrigerator, walked to the counter and handed the drink to the guy at the register. He scanned the bar code, I give him my card, he processed the card and handed me the receipt to sign. And there it was, big as day – a line for me to add a tip. A tip. For buying a drink at a convenience store. I froze. Really? Asking for a tip for buying a drink at a convenience store. The store offered no foodservice, no delivery assistance, nothing that traditionally begs a tip that would explain the tip line on the receipt. He simply scanned the drink, swiped my card. I wanted to ask him about it but the line was getting pretty long so I signed the receipt, put no tip, and walked out shaking my head. My buddy was waiting outside for me. “Can you believe they wanted a tip to sell us a drink?” he asked. He saw it, too, and was as taken aback as I was.
Is it me or does everyone seem to want a tip these days? For simply doing the job they’re there to do, like selling me a canned drink at a conveniences store. That guy behind the counter likely had nothing to do with the tip line on the receipt, but I assume he would be the beneficiary of any tips he got that day. I don’t know what to think about it, but my initial reaction was, “that’s offensive.”
I took an Uber from my hotel to the airport in California a few weeks back. A hotel employee jumped in front of me as I reached for the car door and opened the door for me. I climbed in and he stood there with the door open for a moment or two looking at me. I assume he was waiting for a tip. As soon as the Uber got started towards the airport, the Uber app on my phone asked if I wanted to tip the driver and we had hardly started rolling. There was a note on the counter in my hotel room asking me to consider tipping the housekeepers. A club where I’m a member once forbade tipping in cash. Now tipping in cash is done openly everywhere, and employees seem to expect it though the rules remain unchanged.
I understand the need for tips on some jobs – those tips provide necessary income for the people doing the job. And the origin of the word Tip, as I understand it, is “to insure promptness.” However, that’s not the case in most places where tipping has become expected, like the convenience store.
To change the subject a bit, I also understand there’s a reason we’re called grumpy old men. It seems, as men age, we find new things that make us grumpy and for me, tipping is the thing du jour. It just feels like everyone’s hand is out for simply doing what they were asked to do.
By the way, if you liked this commentary and agree, please feel free to Venmo me a few bucks to show your support.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep it Real.
Nearly the whole house is suffering.
A slew of fall and winter maladies has infiltrated our home. ‘Tis the season after all. I sat in the emergency room with my favorite oldest daughter early last Wednesday morning as she suffered with what we think were cluster headaches. Right now, my favorite youngest daughter is home from school, in bed with a stomach bug and my favorite oldest son just walked back inside after dropping his brother off at school. He felt bad when he woke up, but his head began pounding when he got active, he returned home, and he’s now back in bed. Cold and flu season is here. And I mean right here.
I, myself, was in the orthopedist’s office yesterday. I had a meniscus repair a couple years ago and should have addressed it when I first felt the pain. Instead, like a testosterone poisoned male, I kept going and tried to push through, hoping that I’d arrive at the other side of the pain and be pain free. Well, the surgical procedure lasted only a short time a few months after realizing there was no other side to push through to.
A similar pain is now in the other 50% of my knees and I went to the doctor in short order after having learned my lesson. He took X-Rays, examined it thoroughly, and said “I think you have a sore knee.” I said, “Yep. That’s why I’m here.” “No,” he said. “I can find nothing wrong with it. When’s the last time you stretched after your workout?” “Oh,” I said, “Maybe last year or the year before that.” “Go home and stretch and let me know.” So, I did. And, no knee pain today. “Don’t forget how old you and your knees are,” he said as I stood to leave and then he said, “Hey, let me check your prostate.” I’m kidding. He didn’t really say that.
Last night at 2AM my wife sent me to the kitchen for Advil. A mysterious foot pain surfaced in the middle of the night and, as of this morning, is thankfully gone. And our dog, Lucy, started showing a limp after long walk over the weekend. At this moment there is only one of us living here not suffering some sort of ailment. But, it’s just a matter of time. He’ll catch the “something’s wrong with me bug” soon once he sees all the school his siblings are missing. Stands to reason, he’ll want in on it, too.
I’m a pro-vaxer. Covid, Covid-boosters, flu shots every year for well over a decade. I’ll schedule a shingles vaccine as soon as I can find time on my calendar. Vaccines won’t help my knees or my wife’s foot but if there were one, I’d get it. I’m all for science, it’s good stuff. Until then, though, if you see me or any of my family, stay away. We’re all in in pain, in bad moods, or contagious or all of the above. Avoid us. Just come close enough to drop off a casserole. We’re plugging a refrigerator in on the front porch so you don’t have to ring the doorbell.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
I think by talking too much about my superstitions, I ended up jinxing the team.
Well, I think I jinxed them. My sons’ football team fought hard all season and last Friday night they were bested by a very fast and athletic opponent. The boys were gloomy for just a little while. They quickly realized they had overachieved and then they held their heads high. I’m very proud of them.
I guess a jinx and a superstition are two different sides of the same coin. Superstitions are proactive and meant to bring hoped-for results. I once carried a tiny single serving bottle of Tabasco in my travel computer bag because I had never died in an airplane crash as long as it was in there. Superstitions are intentional. And it is my considered opinion – meaning I’ve thought about this for about thirty seconds now – that jinxs bring bad luck and are a realized in hindsight. Such as me talking so much about my superstations for my sons’ football team actually jinxed them. It’s in hindsight that this has now become abundantly clear.
Since it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving you’re wondering if the food hall-pass you gave yourself yesterday to eat and drink much more than a responsible human should is still active. Well, it is. That hall pass lasts until midday Sunday. So, yes, go get the mashed potatoes and a half-dozen Sister Shuberts for breakfast. Dinner, too! Carbs don’t count until midday Sunday. Myself, I’ll be cooking a pound of Bill E’s bacon in the oven and putting it on my Sister Shuberts. It is my considered opinion that Bill E’s Bacon is the best in the world. They’re based in Fairhope. Please don’t even consider raising your voice to argue. I won’t have it.
It’s the Friday morning after Thanksgiving that I carefully go through yesterday’s family conversations and try to remember if I offended anyone. Happily, that rarely happens anymore. The whole Marston family – seventeen of us – will have been under one roof last night. Those tight quarters along with the delirium of a food comma and, perhaps, a glass of wine too many may have caused me to run off at the mouth. Friday mornings I retrace my conversational steps and begin rehearsing my apologies if needed. I’ve learned that one pre-emptive apology at 2pm Thanksgiving Day for everything that I might say later in the day or that night doesn’t count. I wish it did.
However, my family seldom goes down those paths anymore. We’re able to keep controversy out of the celebration or, more likely, avoid dangerous topics. And it helps when you really like your family, your in-laws, and your nieces and nephews, and I genuinely do. I don’t want to get sideways with any of them. The same is true with my wife’s family gathering every summer on the Carolina coast. We had sixteen people under one roof for a week last summer and everybody got along. I kinda miss the days when there’d be a misunderstanding, someone would get angry and, if we got lucky, they’d blow up and make a scene. It offered some wonderful diversions from good cheer and wholesome togetherness and family bonds and all that.
Aww, heck. I’ve probably just jinxed myself again.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep It Real.
I don’t believe in superstitions unless they work.
When I told my wife the topic of today’s commentary, she warned that people are going to get tired of hearing me talk about this. However, I feel I’m kind of obligated to discuss it. Let me explain.
I think it was Dr. Gerald May – who’s an author, psychiatrist, and theologian – who wrote in one of his books that superstition is best defined as “trying to control the magic.” And I like that definition. And I like that a guy who is both a medical doctor and theologian acknowledges magic, almost admitting that magic exists. Seems very out of character for a person with these qualifications.
So, why is superstition important and what does it have to do with today’s commentary?
Well, they won again. My sons’ football team. They won again. Another upset. Two weeks in a row of outperforming all expectations after winning in a season in which they weren’t supposed to win hardly at all. For those who need catching up, my two sons are on their high school football team, and they’ve made it through the first two rounds of football playoffs and play again tonight against the state’s top ranked team in their division. My sons’ team, by the way, is playing up two divisions. Pundits have picked them to lose all season long and…they’re still playing. Against all the odds, they’re still playing. Well into the post season. They are the little engine that could with nothing to lose. And it’s teams like this with attitudes like this that strike fear in their opponents and they should and it appears they have.
Which brings me back to superstition. For the past two weeks I’ve mentioned my sons and their football team in this commentary the Friday morning and afternoon before their game that night and…they’ve won. Is me mentioning them and their team what’s making them win? Of course not, but maybe. Maybe. I would never discredit the team’s hard work, their long hot hours of summer practice, the hours the coaches spend planning practice, watching game footage, creating new defensive schemes and new plays for the next game. That’s certainly where the wins are coming from.
So maybe I’m just superstitious and I’m just trying to control the magic. That this mention somehow mystically, cosmically, superstitiously helps. And it is magic. The smiles on my sons’ faces last Friday night after their win was magic. The hugs that I got and gave my sons who were so dirty and smelly was magic. The parents were beaming, too. Can you believe it, we said. This is amazing. And it was amazing. And it felt like magic.
I don’t believe in superstitions unless they work. And so far, this one’s working. As I’ve said for the last two weeks, my oldest son is a senior and each game may be the final one of his football career, which my wife and I have loved. So I’m mentioning my sons and their football game and their football team here, now, one more time.
I’m Cam Marston and it may be too much to ask, but I’m just hoping for one more week – of magic.
My sons won their football game last Friday night in an upset giving parents like me one more game and…it’s a home game.
If you heard last week’s commentary, you might like to know that my sons’ football team won their playoff game in an upset in Montgomery Friday night. My favorite oldest son – a wide receiver – made a nice catch on a screen play and was tackled from behind by a savage mountain of a full-grown man. My son said it was a clean hit and was all good but…I can’t bring myself to like that guy. I’m going to have a hard time liking anyone that smashes my favorite oldest son to the ground. My wife and I both said, at nearly the same time, “Wow. He got walloped” and that’s because what we heard when my sweet little boy got hit by a mountain of a full-grown man sounded like WALLOP. My son bounced to his feet and trotted back to the huddle hoping the ball would come his way again. My wife and I sat frozen in the stands hoping it wouldn’t.
When they upset last week’s opponent, parents like me felt like we were awarded with a bonus week plus a home game. Like last week, this week could be the last game of their season and the last football game of my senior’s career. If tonight is the last game, it’s only fitting that it finishes on the field where the seniors began playing as children years ago. It was a while back but only a flash in my memory. Wearing their helmets, they looked like bobble head dolls.
A friend counsels professional and elite collegiate athletes on their transition from sports into the everyday world. When their careers end, many of them struggle with identity. Without sports, who am I, they ask? What do I do with my time? What’s my purpose? I fear for some of this with some of the kids on the field tonight. They’ve played this game on this team with these people since they were about eight years old. What happens when it’s over? Some will have no problems with the transition, eager and curious about their next chapter of life. Others will struggle to let it go. You see them today as adults, living vicariously through their children who are out there on the field. That identity must be a powerful hold. I was never an athlete so I can’t really relate.
However, I’m not immune. When my favorite oldest daughter played her final volleyball match, I sighed and then went on to the next in line. What happens when my favorite youngest son and favorite youngest daughter are done with sports? When they transition out? So much time has been spent cheering for them on the sidelines that I worry a little about myself. It’s become a part of my identity, too. Who will I become? What will I do with all this newfound time?
I don’t know. I guess acknowledging that an inevitable transition is ahead is valuable in and of itself. Until then, though, I’m all in.
Good luck tonight, boys. I love you both. I’ll be in the stands with many others just like me, screaming my head off, hoping for all of us that tonight won’t be the last night.
I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to Keep it Real.