August

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

August 27, 2016

From Fat Man To Body Builder

Pat Brocco

Before and After Pictures of Pat Brocco

Earlier this month, there was a story on the internet about an Arizona man who had lost 335 pounds. His name is Pasquale “Pat” Brocco, and he’s 31 years old. His nickname used to be “Fat Pat.”

Three years ago, Pat was warned by his doctor that because of health-related problems associated with his obese condition, there was a strong likelihood that he was going to die in his sleep at an early age.

After meeting with his doctor, Pat went home, put on a pair of shorts, and took a side view picture of himself in the mirror. At that time, he weighed 605 pounds.

Pat commented on the picture during a recent interview with an ABC News reporter. He told the reporter that when he took the picture, he was disgusted with himself. His stomach was down to his thighs, and his chest was down to the top of his stomach.

After Pat took the picture of himself in the mirror, he threw out all his food and made a commitment to himself that he was going to walk to the local Walmart, and then back home, every time he wanted to eat something. The Walmart was a mile away, so every time he wanted to eat, he had to walk two miles, which meant that he began walking at least six miles every day.

Over time, Pat modified his diet. He said that he came to the conclusion that he needed to stop eating dairy products. After that, he started losing weight. He eventually added vegetables, meats, sweet potatoes, and steel-cut oatmeal to his diet.

After Pat lost about 200 pounds, he began working out at a local gym. Instead of walking to Walmart, he walked on a treadmill and lifted weights.

Now, three years later, he is 335 pounds lighter and weighs 270 pounds. When he began walking, he looked like a whale. Now he looks like a bodybuilder.

Because he lost so much weight, Pat ended up with about 30 pounds of excess skin. The extra skin was recently removed by a plastic surgeon, which reduced his weight even further.

August 20, 2016

A Cyberbully Retaliates Against Me

bad-reviewLast week, I received an email from Google that included the following notification concerning one of my law firm websites: “You just got a 1-star review.” Underneath the notification was a place for me to click to read the review. I immediately clicked on the link and found the review. The only thing on the review page was a company logo with one star that was an orange color.

The logo included the name of a company. I googled the company name, but because the name was similar to several other local and national companies, I was unable to find a link to the company that was represented by the logo. I navigated to the “Images” page of Google and again searched for the name of the company. A page of images appeared. I looked for and found the same logo that was next to the 1-star review.

If you’re familiar with the Google Images page, when you click on an image, the area around the image expands, and to the right of the image there is a link that will take you to where the image originated. I clicked on the link and was taken to the Google+ page for the company.

I located the contact information for the company, and there was a phone number listed. I called the number and a man answered the phone. I asked whom I was speaking to, and he told me his name. For the purpose of this email, I’m going to call him “Burt.”

I didn’t recognize Burt’s name. I told him who I was and asked him if he had posted a negative review on Google. In a defensive tone of voice, he said, “Yes, I did.” When I asked him why he posted the review, he said that the reason was because I was not willing to help him with his case. I still didn’t know who he was, so I asked, “Have I ever met with you?”

He answered yes and told me he had met with me about an accident he had been involved in. He said that I was not willing to assist him with his case and had referred him to another lawyer. He said he called the other lawyer, but the lawyer wasn’t returning his calls, so he gave negative reviews to both of us. His recitation of what happened jogged my memory, and I remembered who Burt was. He had previously called my office, and my client services manager scheduled him for an appointment to meet with me.

August 13, 2016

Often a bridesmaid . . .

Listerine_bridesmaidDid you know that 100 years ago, very few people were concerned about body odor or bad breath? Back then, people weren’t focused on covering up the odors that were produced by their bodies. Their primary aim was to just get through the day. Simple things, like taking a bath, were difficult and time-consuming.

Because homes were not equipped with electricity or hot water, when a person wanted to take a bath, he or she had to pour water into a large pot and then place the pot on a stove to heat up the water. After the water was hot, it was poured into a wash-tub that was placed on the kitchen floor next to the stove.  After the wash-tub was filled, the person sat and bathed in the wash-tub near the stove, where it was warm.

Life started getting a little easier during in the early 1900s, when electricity and hot water became available in people’s homes. It was also at that time that companies started becoming more sophisticated about advertising personal hygiene products. One such company was Lambert Pharmaceutical Company, the maker of Listerine.

During the 1920s, the men who were running the Lambert Pharmaceutical Company came up with a brilliant idea. They decided to sell Listerine to consumers as a remedy for bad breath, which was commonly referred to as “halitosis.” Prior to that, Listerine was sold in small quantities to hospitals as a surgical antiseptic.

A year after Lambert began selling Listerine as a remedy for bad breath, the company was running ads in 80 magazines and 300 newspapers. After the first year of advertising, Lambert generated revenue of $4 million from sales of Listerine to consumers. In today’s dollars, that would be $57 million in revenue.

The most successful ads for Listerine were the ones that began with the headline, “Often a bridesmaid but never a bride!” The ads featured attractive women who looked sad and upset because they had not yet found a groom.

August 6, 2016

Perfect Hate

Hate YouDuring the late 1970s, while I was in college, I met a young man — I’ll call him John — who was born in the Middle East. John immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. He was a few years older than me and it seemed as though every time I saw him, we ended up talking about religion, politics, and the volatility in the Middle East.

John grew up in a Christian environment and had great love and affection for his wife, parents, and extended family. On one occasion, John made it clear to me that he hated Palestinians. He said that they had no right to live and that they all deserved to die. I was shocked by the level of hatred John had toward people he had never met.

We ended up getting into an argument, with me expressing shock and outrage that he claimed to be a Christian while at the same time expressing extreme hatred toward individuals whose only crime was to be born into a particular ethnic group.

John’s in his 60s now and his health has been declining for the past several years. He no longer goes to church or pays attention to what’s going on in the Middle East. He’s more passive now and is content to just get through each day.

I thought about John last week when I read about what Pope Francis said during a recent press conference. The pope was asked about Fr. Jacques Hamel, an 86-year-old Catholic priest in northern France who was beheaded by two individuals who had acted in the name of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). In response to the question, Pope Francis replied, “If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence. And no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there is everything.”

With regard to the terrorism that is occurring throughout the world, Pope Francis commented:

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