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
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.
If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you may have noticed that all the rides have one thing in common. At the end of each ride, there is no way for you to immediately get back into the open, where you’re allowed to roam around and look for another ride. Before you can do that, you have to walk through a gift shop. The end of each ride is set up so that you are forced to exit into a gift shop.
Disney does a masterful job of controlling the flow of its customers, who are forced to walk past merchandise that is related to the ride they exited from. At every opportunity, Disney tempts and entices its customers to purchase items for themselves and their loved ones. Of all the businesses in the world, Disney is the best at extracting large amounts of money from people.
But Disney isn’t the only company that has the money game figured out. If you’ve ever been in a casino, you know that if you have to go to the restroom, there’s no easy way to get there. Instead of taking a direct route to the restroom, you have no other choice but to walk through a maze of slot machines, video poker machines, and other gaming devices.
Like Disney, the casino owners know that people can be tempted to take part in one more money-extracting event before proceeding to their final destination.
It’s no secret that people can easily be distracted and their attention diverted so they can engage in an activity that they believe will be more enjoyable and pleasurable than what they are doing at the moment.
Some of the highest paid professionals in the United States are the men and women who write advertisements and sales letters for the top companies in the world. These professionals are called “copywriters” and they are experts on human nature and the psychology behind why people buy.
With one compelling headline and sub-headline, a good copywriter can figuratively grab people by the collar and pull them into an advertisement or sales letter and then convince them to buy a product or a service that they may not actually need.
On a Sunday afternoon during the summer of 1985, I drove my young family to my parents’ home for a visit. The adults ended up in the back yard sitting on lawn chairs, while the children played in the yard. At one point, a bird landed near my four-year-old son, Harry. He immediately ran toward the bird to see if he could catch it.
As soon as the bird saw Harry coming, it flew away and landed in an apple tree that was located on a 40-acre orchard next to my parents’ property. Harry continued to run toward the bird, but each time he came within 10 or 15 feet of it, the bird took flight and landed farther away. Every time the bird became airborne, Harry stopped, watched until it landed, and then started running toward it again.
I didn’t want to stop Harry from his newfound adventure, so I followed him. After about a quarter of a mile, the bird flew into an area of heavy brush. I called out to Harry, and he stopped running and turned around. He was surprised that I was behind him. It was as though he had stepped into a different world, and I ruined it by suddenly yanking him back to reality.
I jogged over to where Harry was, picked him up, and praised him for almost catching the bird. He was too young to realize that he was never going to catch that bird.
What was it that made him continue to chase after the bird? It was the hope and anticipation that he was going to catch it.
Unlike fear — an emotion that makes us want to avoid the future — hope causes us to seek out and pursue the future with energy and great anticipation. Hope gives us the confidence to dive into the future, regardless of any looming obstacles. Without hope, there is despair. Over time, despair can cause significant damage to a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Despair is one of the worst forms of suffering.
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.
On a Thursday evening during the summer of 1971, my dad and I went to Limestone Community High School in Bartonville, Illinois, to register me for the upcoming school year. I had graduated from St. Mark’s Catholic School in May, which was the end of what I considered an eight-year prison term.
I got off to a bad start at St. Mark’s. My first-grade teacher was Sister Lorken, a cruel and unforgiving religious sister who had no business teaching children. Because I had trouble learning how to read, Sister Lorken regularly singled me out for verbal abuse in front of my classmates. She also periodically physically abused me by grabbing my shoulders and shaking me while she yelled at me. At the end of the school year, Sister Lorken recommended to my parents that I be held back. My parents refused her request and insisted that I be allowed to advance to the second grade.
My second grade teacher was Sister Eduarda, who was also very abusive. Unlike today, the mindset of some of the teachers during the 1960s was that the only way to handle young boys who were not performing up to expectations was to ridicule them and, when necessary, use corporal punishment to force them to conform.
During my seventh and eighth grade years, classes were split up between two seventh grade teachers and two eighth grade teachers, one of whom was Sister Theogene. She was as bad as Sister Lorken and Sister Eduarda.
There was one memorable occasion that occurred during the first month of seventh grade. One day while I was walking in the hallway on my way to class, Sister Theogene attacked me from behind and started hitting me on the back of my head with an open hand. As she was hitting me, she yelled at me because my shirt was untucked in back. I was not aware that the back of my shirt had become untucked while I had been sitting in my previous class.
The image on this page is from a diagram that was drawn in 1967 on an 11 x 17 inch sheet of paper. The drawing is an outline of all of the integrated components of the Walt Disney Company. Although Disney died in 1966, the diagram reflects his vision for the company that he built into a business empire.
I saw the diagram for the first time earlier this month at a marketing conference that I attended. It was shown to everyone at the conference during a presentation that was given by Dan Kennedy, a well-known business strategist and marketing expert. The reason Kennedy showed the diagram was to demonstrate how masterful Disney was at building complex systems to attract new customers and to better serve existing customers.
The entities shown in the diagram were all set up by Disney to promote the products and services of all the other entities, and to circulate customers in such a way that the customers would repeatedly do business with the various entities. Kennedy emphasized the fact that while most business owners do their best to avoid complexity in their businesses, Walt Disney did the opposite by embracing complexity, which had the effect of completely marginalizing his competitors.
Kennedy pointed out that in today’s highly competitive, underperforming economy, it is virtually impossible for a business to rise above the competition unless the business develops complex systems that consistently and predictably produce superior products and services.
There is a common belief among most people that complexity should be avoided at all costs and that they should be able to solve their personal and business problems with simple solutions. While simple problems can sometimes be solved with simple solutions, complex problems cannot be solved with simple solutions. Complex problems require complex solutions.
It’s that time of year again. Halloween is right around the corner and a lot of people are scared. Our so-called leaders walk around as though they are zombies whose purpose is to destroy our nation. Every decision they make is the exact opposite of what a reasonable, rational person would decide. What’s even scarier is the sheep-like behavior of the masses who wander about, clueless as to what’s going on around them.
On Friday (October 17), my wife and I went to a restaurant for dinner. When the host handed me the small device that vibrates and buzzes when the table is ready, the first thought that popped into my mind was: What if this thing had the Ebola virus on it? Every person who touches it tonight could become infected with the virus.
Next week, I’m flying out of Chicago to Pennsylvania. The last thing I want to do is go to an airport where I’ll come into contact with thousands of strangers. Worse than that is the fact that I’m going to get on a plane with 300 strangers where we’ll all be forced to breathe in the stale air and germs that are circulated throughout the pressurized cabin for at least two hours.
Until last week, the know-nothings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were saying that the incubation period for the Ebola virus is 21 days. Now they’re admitting that they really don’t know how long the incubation period is. Experts are now conceding that the virus can be spread with minimal contact between people.
On Thursday (October 16), three schools in Texas were closed so workers could “thoroughly clean and disinfect the schools and busses.” Apparently there were five students who were exposed to Thomas Eric Duncan, the original Ebola patient who flew from Liberia to Dallas, so he could get treatment for his condition.
If you use the Internet to shop for items, there’s a good chance you’ve purchased products from Amazon.com. With 96 fulfillment centers located throughout the United States, Amazon is a financial threat to a number of local and national businesses. Products that are ordered from Amazon are routinely delivered to customers’ doorsteps within one to three days.
In addition to having a national presence, after five years of testing its “AmazonFresh” grocery program in Seattle, Amazon is expanding its local grocery business to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The AmazonFresh grocery program guarantees same-day delivery of groceries and 500,000 other items to customers in its local service areas. If you think Wal-Mart has been a destructive force to local businesses, wait until you see the companies Amazon crushes as it launches its local grocery program in other areas of the country.
In a recent annual report to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, wrote:
Our battle against annoying wire ties and plastic clamshells [packaging] rages on. An initiative that began five years ago with a simple idea that you shouldn’t have to risk bodily injury opening your new electronics or toys has now grown. We have imposed Amazon’s specs on over 200,000 products, all available in easy-to-open, recyclable packaging designed to alleviate “wrap rage” … We have over 2,000 manufacturers in our Frustration-Free Packaging Program … Through hard work and perseverance, an idea that started with only 19 products is now available on hundreds of thousands …
Jeff Bezos has followed in the footsteps of other legendary American entrepreneurs, such as Thomas Edison (the lightbulb), Walt Disney (Walt Disney World), Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Steve Jobs (the iPhone), Ray Kroc (McDonalds), and Henry Ford (the Model T Ford). They, like Bezos, were all obsessed with managing and controlling even the most minute details of the typical customer experience.
A couple of weeks ago one of my clients started talking about one of his favorite pastimes — reading comic books. My mind immediately flashed back to when I was a boy in the 1960s. Back then, I hated reading assignments from school, but I loved reading comic books. The first product that I ever ordered through the mail was a product that I discovered by reading an advertisement in a comic book.
In addition to comic books, I read several of the comic strips that were published in the daily newspaper. If you’re under the age of 35, there’s a strong likelihood that you don’t read the newspaper because you’ve been conditioned to retrieve news and current events from your Smartphone or laptop computer.
If you’re in your 40s or older, you probably have fond memories of reading the daily comic strips. One of your favorites may have been a popular comic strip that was titled Pogo, the nickname of the main character.
Pogo was created by Walt Kelly (1913–1973), a cartoonist who got his start in 1935 when he went to work for Walt Disney Studios. During his time at Disney, Kelly worked as an animator on projects that included Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo. Kelly left Disney in 1941 and eventually ended up working for the New York Star newspaper, drawing editorial cartoons.
On October 4, 1948, Kelly launched his daily comic strip, Pogo, in the New York Star. Seven months later, Pogo was selected by the Post-Hall Syndicate for national distribution. The publication of the Pogo comic strip ended in 1975, two years after Kelly died from complications of diabetes.
In the 27 years that Pogo appeared in newspapers across the country, Kelly featured more than 1,000 characters, most of whom were animals. Kelly had a knack for creating characters that had the same traits as humans. Many of them were charming and good-natured, but were also selfish, confrontational, greedy, corrupt, and stupid.
Most people don’t realize it, but the new government regulations that were put into place forcing Catholic institutions to provide free contraceptives and abortion pills to employees not only hit a raw nerve with Catholics, but also caused non-Catholic Americans to question the motives of the Obama Administration. These non-Catholic Americans rallied to the side of the Catholic Bishops in their opposition to the new regulations, which took the president and his administration by complete surprise. Obama and his gang of thugs thought they were picking a fight with a weak church that was frowned upon by its members because of its position on contraception. Instead, the administration quickly found itself at war with millions of patriotic Americans who now feel threatened by the flagrant violation of the rights they have always cherished.
Stick with me here. I’m about to reveal to you how the Obama Administration not only violated the religion of the Catholic Church, but also violated the religion of America.
Ever since the founding of our country, there has been a secular religion that has been proudly practiced by a majority of Americans. One of the definitions of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” Do you know what principles and beliefs have been held by Americans since the founding of our country? They are the principles of individualism, self-reliance, hard work, and independence.
If you look at any point in the history of our country, you will see those principles woven into the fabric of the American culture and way of life. I could give you examples of what I’m talking about from 150 and 200 years ago, but because of space limitations, I’m going to focus on the more recent past.
Let’s talk about Walt Disney first.