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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Earlier this year, I hired a man who is an expert at optimizing websites for local Google search results. I agreed to pay him $900 per month to optimize my website at PeoriaInjuryLawCenter.com. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Jim.”
Everything went well during the first few months of working with Jim, but then his performance started slipping. At one point, he failed to get an important project done because the person he assigned it to was sick and “had other things come up” that prevented her from working on the project. He emailed me and explained the reasons that the work didn’t get done.
I responded to his email by stating that his “reasons” were nothing more than excuses and that he should have done the work himself or assigned it to someone else. He was highly offended by my email and found it hard to believe that I would question his integrity and accuse him of making excuses. Despite his irritation with me, he redeemed himself by quickly completing the project.
Last month, I had a conference call with Jim and we decided that he would create several new pages for my website that would highlight certain types of cases that I handle. At the beginning of this month, I asked him to provide me with a timeline for getting the pages completed. He responded by telling me that he thought he could get the pages done within two weeks, but he wasn’t sure because he had to be in the right frame of mind to write the pages.
I waited two and a half weeks and then I emailed him and asked if he was going to be able to get the pages completed by the end of the month. Several emails were then exchanged between us in which he refused to commit to a date that he would have the pages completed. Here are the final emails that were exchanged between us:
I recently heard about a conversation that took place between some members of my extended family. The question they were apparently attempting to answer was, Why does Harry take the time to write a religious article every week? They came to the conclusion that I probably have some deep-seated guilt about my past that compels me to write. Writing a weekly article is apparently the only way I can atone for my guilt.
When I heard about the discussion, I was amused that people who really don’t know me as well as they think they do would waste their time attempting to figure me out. I’m 58 years old and I’m still trying to figure myself out.
I’ve written before about the annual Catholic men’s retreats that I attended during the 1990s. The retreat master was Fr. John Hardin. Every year, Fr. Hardin made it clear to the men who were in attendance that we had an obligation to spread the Catholic faith through the written word. He emphasized that writing was not an option. It was an obligation.
I suppose the question of why I take time out of my busy schedule every week to write is a worthwhile question to ask. That question would be relevant in any situation in which someone showed that he or she had the ambition and drive to accomplish something that most other people were unwilling or unable to accomplish.
Consider the following questions:
• What motivated my parents to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and have 17 children, while most of their friends and relatives decided to take the easy route of defying church law by using contraceptive birth control to limit the size of their families?
• What motivated your parish priest to forego marriage and a family of his own so he could dedicate his life to God through the Sacrament of Holy Orders?
• What motivated Donald Trump to become a billionaire?
Have you ever heard of Benjamin Percy? He’s a 36-year-old writer who has won several awards for his novels and short stories. His newest novel, The Deadlands, was just released. He is currently adapting his previous novel, Red Moon, for Fox, and is writing a new television series — Black Gold — for the Starz cable network. His favorite current project is writing the newest version of Green Arrow for DC Comics.
In a recent interview, Percy offered the following advice to aspiring writers:
Writing is not an indulgence. You give up other indulgences to be a writer. You don’t watch the game. You don’t go out to the club. You don’t join the poker game. You say no. A lot.
In response to the question, “If you were a superhero, what would your power be?” Percy answered, “Deep focus.” He then added, “It’s not a sexy superpower, but it serves me well.” (His comment implied that he believes that he already possesses this so-called superpower.)
Have we gotten to the point where deep focus is considered a superpower?
Unfortunately, in today’s modern world where most people are unable to focus on anything for more than 20 seconds, I suppose it could be considered a superpower.
Last week while I was in the adoration chapel, a woman started talking out loud. I turned to see who she was talking to and noticed that she was talking on her cell phone. Since I didn’t hear her phone ring, my assumption is that she had it set on vibrate and answered the phone when she received a call.
The woman told the person she was talking to that she was in the chapel and would call her back later. The other person apparently didn’t care where the woman was and continued the conversation. The woman attempted to keep the volume of her voice low, but I could still hear what she was saying. It took her several minutes to end the conversation.
A few years ago in early January, one of my relatives who was in her 60s told me that her New Year’s resolution was to lose thirty pounds. In February, I asked her how her diet was going, and she told me that she had quit the diet. When I asked why, she said, “The first week I lost three pounds. The second week I didn’t lose any weight. The third week I lost only a pound. The fourth week I didn’t lose anything. After that, I gave up.”
I asked her why she quit, and she told me the diet wasn’t working because she had lost only one pound over a period of three weeks. When I told her that dropping four pounds in one month was good, she reminded me that three of those four pounds came off the first week. I told her it didn’t matter which week she was able to shed the most weight, because the final result was still a total weight loss of four pounds in one month.
It didn’t matter what I said. She was convinced that her diet was a failure. I was extremely irritated with her. I wanted to lecture her about how she was being illogical and childish, but I kept my mouth shut. Even though she knew better, she had convinced herself that the diet wasn’t working. There wasn’t anything I could have said to convince her that she was wrong.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when setting goals for ourselves is that most of the time we underestimate the difficulty of the task we are hoping to accomplish. At the first sign of difficulty we start having doubts and begin telling ourselves that we may not be able to achieve what we set out to do. As new obstacles arise, we have further doubts. Over time, we eventually convince ourselves that we were foolish for ever thinking that we could meet our goal, and we eventually give up.
In a sense, it is time that works against us. What is time? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes time as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.”
Although we think and talk a lot about time, most of us never attempt to seek out or discover its true meaning. What is time? Can you come up with a simple definition? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes time as “the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues.”
A simpler and more understandable definition of time is “the measure of change.” Before time can exist, there must first be change.
You’ve heard the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” The reason that time appears to fly is because while we’re having fun, we’re not conscious of the changes that are occurring as each minute passes. On the other hand, if we were to stare at a clock for fifteen minutes, it would seem as though time was crawling. Why? Because by staring at a clock, we would be focusing on the changes that occur with each passing second.
We equate the beginning of the world with the beginning of time. Before the beginning of the world and time, all that existed was a timeless and changeless Supreme Being that we refer to as God. Time began with creation. When the world and time end, there will be millions of timeless and changeless human beings who exist in eternity – some in heaven with God and His angels and the remainder in hell with Lucifer and his fallen angels.
Something happened from the moment you started reading this meditation until the current moment in time. A change took place in your mind. That change can be measured and is therefore what we describe as time. The change that occurred in your mind as a result of what you read has given you a greater understanding of God’s creation.
If you stop and time how long it takes to read the first five paragraphs of this meditation, you will discover that it takes approximately 75 seconds. Every second of our existence is recorded and measured by our Creator.
One of the hardest concepts to grasp is that “time” does not exist in heaven. On earth, from the moment a person is conceived until that person dies, he or she is limited by time and space. In heaven there are no such limitations. It’s hard to imagine living in heaven for eternity and never having to mention or be concerned with time.
Since our childhood there have been constant reminders about time. Our parents had to repeatedly tell us that it was time to go to bed, time to get up, time to eat, time to study, time to pray, and time to work.
Can you imagine living in eternity and never saying or hearing the word “time”? I’m looking forward to never hearing anyone tell me, “It’s time to get up!” In heaven I’ll be able to sleep as long as I want – and wake up rested.
Did you notice that I used the word “long” in the previous sentence? Since “long” refers to time, we won’t be using that word in heaven either. There will be no need to refer to how long it takes to do something.
We know that Jesus had two natures: one divine and one human. As a human who lived among us, Jesus was bound by time and space. As one of the three divine persons in the Blessed Trinity, He is not bound by time and space.
It is commonly said that Jesus came to this earth because man had sinned. The use of the phrase “had sinned” is not appropriate because it is past tense, which is possible only when time exists. Since there is no time in eternity, there is no past or future – only a continuous present.
The Blessed Trinity lives and dwells in a continuous present; therefore, our Lord died for the sins of all humanity, from the first sin until the very last sin that will be committed prior to the end of the world.
Our limited minds have no way of comprehending what it’s like to live in a continuous present where time and space do not exist. We can, however, look forward to living in a continuous present where we’ll be treated to a never-ending experience of love, fascination, and joy.
Last month, there was an event that caused me to stop what I was doing and think back to 1989. That was the year I purchased The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a book written by Stephen Covey. The event that caused me to stop and think about Covey’s book was a report on the news that he had passed away. Covey died on July 16, 2012, at the age of 79. At the time of his death, he was a professor at the John Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.
Although Stephen Covey wrote several books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was the book he was best known for. It was eventually published in 38 languages, and to date, more than 25 million copies have been sold throughout the world. Here are some of my favorite Stephen Covey quotes:
• “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
• “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
• “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
• “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”
• “To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.”
• “You can’t talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into!”
• “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
• “Words are like eggs dropped from great heights. You could no more call them back than ignore the mess they left when they fell.”
• “If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control – myself.”
Although Covey was known as an author, businessman, educator, and motivational speaker, he was first and foremost a family man. He believed that the most significant work a person could do in life and in the world was the work that went on within the four walls of the person’s home.
In last week’s article, Habit Gravity & Escape Velocity, I told you about a New Year’s resolution I imposed upon one of my teenage daughters last year. The resolution was for her to make her bed every morning immediately after waking up. In the article, I provided one of the primary reasons most people don’t keep their resolutions – they fail to develop the new habits that are necessary to follow through on the resolutions. I also provided a formula that can be used to help facilitate the development of new habits.
Before a determination can be made as to what new habits need to be developed, a resolution must first be modified to a SMART Goal. I learned about SMART Goals a few years ago when I worked with Vince Zirpoli, a management consultant who lives in the state of Maryland.
Vince is a devout Catholic who is an expert at employee management. At the time I consulted with him (over the telephone), he was 78 years old. Some of the businesses he’s worked with in the past include Baltimore Life Insurance Co., Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Maryland, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Department of Defense, First National Bank of America, John Hopkins University, Maryland Department of Budget & Management, and Terminix International.
Vince taught me that the only way a person can ever consistently achieve measurable progress at anything (including the management of employees), is if the person continually develops SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym for: (1) Specific; (2) Measurable; (3) Attainable; (4) Relevant; and (5) Time Bound.
Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are:
• “I’m going to lose thirty pounds this year.”
• “I’m going to pay off all of my credit cards this year.”
• “I’m going to spend more time with my spouse (parents, children, etc.) this year.”
Georgette and I still have three daughters living at home with us – Mary (20), Christine (17), and Teresa (15). Although Georgette has asked all three of the girls to make their beds every morning, only one has consistently complied with her request. The other two daughters have expressed various reasons (excuses) as to why they can’t seem get the job done every day, such as, “I don’t have the time” or “I keep forgetting.”
On January 1st of last year (2011), I announced to one of the non-compliant daughters that her New Year’s resolution was to make her bed every morning immediately after she woke up. After I told her about her resolution, she calmly said, “Um, Dad… I hate to disappoint you, but that’s not how New Year’s resolutions are supposed to work. Just because you think up a resolution for me doesn’t automatically make it my resolution.”
I quickly responded, “Yes I know that, but since I have a deep sense of awareness about what your true lifetime desires are, I know that you really desire to please your mother by making your bed every morning. If it’s too difficult of a task for you, I’ll be glad to help you if you want me to.”
Unfortunately, she wasn’t impressed with my deep sense of awareness about her desires, so she said, “It’ll be interesting to see how your New Year’s resolution works out for me.”
For about a month after that, on the mornings I was still at home when she woke up, I went into her bedroom and started making her bed in front of her while telling her I was helping her keep her resolution. Each time I did that, she insisted she didn’t need any help, and then proceeded to help me make the bed. There were a couple of mornings when I peeked into her bedroom and she wasn’t in there, so I made the bed before she returned to her room.