March

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

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.

March 25, 2017

So Unfair Dad

After I published my recent article about how various local politicians, businesspeople, and former Caterpillar employees behaved after the announcement that Caterpillar was moving its headquarters to Chicago, I received an email from a man who is employed by Caterpillar in an upper-management position. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “James.”

James is in his 50s, and I’ve known him for more than 20 years. He began working for Caterpillar after he graduated from college. James has always been a loyal and dedicated employee of Caterpillar. He is very knowledgeable about the company. Here’s part of what he wrote in his email:

I agreed with all your points regarding personal reactions to the Caterpillar announcement to move its headquarters out of Peoria. I’d like to offer you a macroeconomic perspective, because corporations also have a responsibility to the communities wherein they reside, especially Caterpillar.

The entire central Illinois region is what it is today because of Caterpillar: good, bad and ugly. Caterpillar’s 92-year legacy in this region has created the community, and Caterpillar’s untimely departure will leave a hole that cannot be repaired. It’s not entirely wrong for people to be upset about that. I’ll give you one example that shows Caterpillar’s impact over this past century.

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[W]e have a 92-year history of being the most technologically isolationist company on the planet. For the first 70 years it was a perfect strategy. Today, it would seem like lunacy, but consider what Caterpillar did in the post-WWII period. Caterpillar petitioned the local, state and federal governments not to build the interstate highway system through Peoria. Instead, a little watering hole called Bloomington became a thriving community that pretty much has never seen a real recession since then.

March 18, 2017

More About The Big Yellow Giant

I received a lot of interesting feedback last week after I published an article about how various local politicians, business people, and former CAT employees felt as though they were entitled to certain actions and behavior from CAT.

On Friday (March 17), while Georgette and I were having dinner at a restaurant, we ran into a young man from the local Lebanese Community. He told us that he was laid off from CAT in August 2016. Georgette asked him how long he had worked at CAT and he said that he had worked there for more than eight years.

He said that after he was laid off, he immediately began searching for another job. Within a short period of time, he found a job at a manufacturing company in Wisconsin. He left his wife and children in Peoria and moved to Wisconsin to begin working at the new company. He sold his house in Peoria and purchased a house in Wisconsin. He told us that he was going to move his family to Wisconsin on Saturday, March 18.

When Georgette asked him if his seniority at CAT transferred over to the new company, he said no. He then followed up by saying, “You know, that’s just the way it is. I don’t have time to dwell on what I lost. I just need to keep moving forward.”

The man’s comments brought to mind something I wrote in last week’s article: “The opposite of an entitlement mentality is the strongly held belief that instead of someone owing you something, you owe it to yourself to go after what you want in life.”

It’s hard to imagine being forced to move to another state to work at another company and then selling your home, purchasing a new home, and then moving your family to the new state — all within seven months. But that option is always better than the option of incessantly complaining about your old employer, feeling sorry for yourself, waiting for someone to offer you a job, drowning out your problems with alcohol, or becoming so resentful and angry that you end up abusing your wife and children.

March 11, 2017

Why Is Everyone So Upset With CAT?

Federal Agents Search Caterpillar Locations

There’s something about the Caterpillar, Inc. (CAT) situation that’s been irritating me. If I asked you to guess what it is, you wouldn’t be able to come up with the right answer. I’ll share my thoughts with you in a moment, after I review some details of what’s been going on with CAT.

On January 31, 2017, CAT announced that it was moving its global headquarters from Peoria to Chicago. Everyone in Peoria was shocked by the announcement, which came two years after CAT unveiled plans for construction of a new global headquarters in Peoria. At that time (February 2015), the CEO of the company said, “Caterpillar will stay in Peoria. I repeat, we will stay in Peoria.”

After the January 2017 announcement that CAT was relocating its corporate headquarters to Chicago, there was an avalanche of complaints and criticism leveled against CAT by local politicians, business people, employees, and Peoria-area residents.

The complaints and criticism continued until March 2, 2017, when the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and several other federal agencies executed a search warrant against CAT. The agents walked into the corporate headquarters and two other buildings and seized documents and electronic records that were allegedly related to a scheme by Caterpillar to evade the payment of income taxes.

On the morning of the raid, WMBD radio interrupted its regular programming so that its morning hosts could provide minute-by-minute coverage of the raid. At that time, there really wasn’t anything to cover other than the fact that the agents had moved in on CAT and were inside three of the buildings reviewing and collecting documents. The so-called coverage of the raid quickly turned into a gripe fest, with one person after another calling the radio station to complain about how horrible and evil CAT has become.

March 4, 2017

Sin – Coming to a Theater Near You

Beauty-Beast-PosterDuring the summer of 2008, my daughter Maria played the part of Belle in the Corn Stock Theater Production of Beauty and the Beast. At that time, she was 24 years old.

Beauty and the Beast was originally released in 1991 by Walt Disney Pictures as an animated musical and romantic fantasy. The movie was a box-office success and produced gross worldwide revenue of $425 million.

In 1994, Disney successfully launched Beauty and the Beast as a Broadway musical. After several years on Broadway, community theaters were given permission to rent the script for local productions.

The Corn Stock Production that Maria was involved in featured eight performances over a period of two weeks. I attended three of those performances. At each of the performances that I attended, there were young girls ranging in ages 4 to 10 years old who were dressed up like Belle. After each of the shows, the girls lined up with their mothers to meet Maria and to get a picture with her. It was fun watching the way the young girls behaved around Maria. They treated her as though she was a real-life princess.

The show represented the best of what Disney has always been known for: good, wholesome, family entertainment. Disney did a masterful job of combining music, dancing, romance, and conflict. As usual, in the end, good conquered evil and the prince and princess lived happily ever after.

In 2014, Disney announced that it was working on a live-action film adaption of the original 1991 animated film. After more than two years of work on the film, Disney released its first trailer in November 2016. The trailer accumulated more than 127 million views in the first 24 hours after its release, breaking all previous records for trailers. Since the release of the first trailer, Disney has done a first-rate job of promoting the film.

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