Caution,The Political Waters are Rising Save Yourself!

This presidential election season has been toxic. Candidates and the media have nearly drowned us in dark, dirty waters. When this seemed beyond our human capacity to tolerate, social media really revved up, and somehow the barrage of ugliness seemed even worse coming from everyday people.

Perfectly sane and smart folks began going round the bend, posting horrid photos and remarks said by and about the candidates. The hunger for gotcha moments is frightening.

We’ve become stone-throwers and barbarians who cheer on the lions in the arena — attack and kill!  We didn’t even realize this was happening. It must have been contagious. The poisonous fumes seeped into our minds, our bodies, and our souls like thieves in the dark of night.

Let’s recapture who we were before all this madness began. Of course, first, we must vote —with our heads and a grasp of the real issues at stake. It is a unique privilege.  Then we must let go and not let the foulness of this political season change our innate goodness and joy of being alive.  Let’s move on to nobler things.

Why not:

  • Limit time watching newscasts and social media—they pollute


  • Go for a walk and take some pictures of Mother Nature’s art with a cell phone


  • Write a thank you note to a grandparent, parent, friend, or colleague


  • Celebrate the season and being alive to enjoy it with a pumpkin or some leavesimg_0096


  • Go to a church, a synagogue, a mosque or an art museum and sit there quietly for a while absorbing the stillness which can calm the mindless chatter


  • Take your dog for a walk or volunteer to be a dog walker at the local animal shelter—exercise and unconditional love— a great combination


  • Make a list of things for which you are grateful


  • Rake leaves or sweep the walk for new parents or a senior citizen on your block


  • Bake a pie— use fresh or frozen pie crusts, it doesn’t matter, then pass out pieces of pie and talk recipes not politics


  • Listen to John Rutter’s Look at the World  on YouTube before you go to bed. You will sleep like a baby with sweet dreams instead of images of political fist pounding and strident insults making you toss and turn all night 



Breathe out hatred, breathe in love

Breathe out ugliness, breathe in beauty

Breathe out me, breathe in you


Ah— that’s better. It’s working. I’m me again.


The Rippling Effect of Ethical Missteps

Consider this article from:

The Austin American -Statesman  October 2, 2016:

The principal of San Marcos High School resigned this week after she admitted to changing as many as 100 end-of-year grades from 2014 to 2016, according to the San Marcos school district’s superintendent. We know nothing more. There may have been a reason, but it is pretty hard to imagine what could have prompted this bizarre behavior.

Another article to give us pause:

The New York Times April 1, 2015:

ATLANTA — In a dramatic conclusion to what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, a jury here on Wednesday convicted 11 educators for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that tarnished a major school district’s reputation….What is happening? Didn’t we put educators, particularly principals and superintendents, in the past on a pedestal? They were thought to be wise and above reproach ethically. They’d spent years and years in school being educated after all didn’t they? They were our communities’ superheroes, examples of what education and work could accomplish for those fortunate enough to be chosen. We looked up to them and trusted them to educate our children and model goodness. Their betrayal stings!What does this mean to children who hear about their principal’s or superintendent’s unethical behavior in these instances, and sadly, in other situations? Will there be a buzz in middle school and high school hallways between bells—“So we just have to figure out how not to get caught like these dudes,” or “What fakes, but not surprising, we are expected, to be honest in everything, then they play the game their own slimy way,” or “Bottom line—never trust anyone who’s supposed to be the boss.”ped-pic1

You get it. The repercussions are staggering and seemingly endless for individuals and for our society as a whole. And the fix is unclear.

Maybe America’s obsession with achievement at any cost clouded their thinking.

Maybe the focus in their training was on nuts and bolts—curriculum, instruction, and, assessment.

Maybe the really important things of educational leadership were glossed over or omitted. Things essential for any leader, Things like Flexing Ethical Muscles .

Maybe we can learn from Popeye the Sailor Man, the fictional character who came on the scene as a comic strip in 1929. His unique personality grabbed the attention of Americans young and old. Eventually, his popularity expanded to the theater, comic books, and cartoons on T.V.

An excerpt from a chapter, Flexing Ethical Muscle in The Principal’s Chair, Who Sits There Matters. A Secret of School Success by Dr.Judith D. Knotts:

Presidents, heads of state, politicians, CEOs, religious leaders, and heads of schools have been leveled at one time or another and humiliated publicly by unethical practices or immoral behavior. Popeye’s mission was moral righteousness, and his muscles were his secret. So too must your ethical muscle be in your leadership. Don’t expect it to be there when you need it in a real emergency if you haven’t flexed it and used it frequently. Muscles atrophy or grow in a person by choice. You choose how you want to live and lead with that intention.


Seeing How Things Are Done


There is a Bruno in all of our lives. They’re the fellow or gal who makes our blood boil just by being around them. The Bruno I know, who lives on the streets, is a wild man with out of control hair and behavior. He usually lumbers up to any line where food or goodies are being handed out and demands his share and more.

Nothing seems to satisfy him week in and week out, year in and year out. He has a permanent grimace on his face and shows his disappointment for life in general by grunting and stomping off in a huff after any encounter. Folks around him just expect this negative attitude from years of experience in dealing with him.

But miracles can happen, people can change, and apparently being around others who are kind, positive, and respectful can have a ripple effect. One day after years of grumbling and grunting, Bruno got in line peaceably waiting to be served food from the back of my truck.

 When I explained to everyone that I had only a dozen sandwiches, a bag of fruit, and some bottled water and had to give each person a half sandwich, they understood and were grateful for what I had to share.

 Expecting the usual disgruntled Bruno, I was stunned when at his turn he said, “May I please have half a sandwich?” Absorbing the marked change in him, I slowly handed him a bottle of water and said, “I am sorry, the fresh fruit is gone.” He smiled and said, “That’s okay, thank you for this.”  

Overjoyed at his 360 shift, I hugged him with gusto and said, “Bruno, something wonderful has happened to you out here.” He was puzzled. I continued, “You have become gentlemanly just like the rest.” His street chums did the modeling and he became a new man with a much brighter future.

So when I am feeling “Bruno-ish”, what works? Sure, at times being alone is the only solution when I am fighting my way out of the doldrums or feeling reactionary. But what really works for me is thinking about the circle of extraordinary people around me and imagining how they would manage a sticky situation or muddle through everyday messes.

Motivated professionals hoping to move up the ladder of success often read books and blogs searching for leadership tips suggesting how to be the best they can be. A number of bloggers and leadership coaches have been taken by Jim Rohn’s simple observation “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”


Rohn who died in 2009, was a self-help sage, inspiring people to improve their lives and their businesses. The author of The Art of Exceptional Living and a nationally recognized quote-master, Rohn believed that in our personal and professional lives we grow or not depending upon the people “we hang out with”; their ideas, attitudes, and interactions influence us more than we can ever imagine.

So is this what happened to Bruno? I think so. From years of living with a core of gracious homeless people and absorbing their ways of being, he changed, becoming like them in attitudes and acts. This conversion probably snuck up on him. I bet there were no aha moments or stern lectures from his fellow street people, it was just a human environmental transformation that happens to all of us.

What a truth to grapple with— our parents were right! Friends and associates do matter. Their outlooks and ethics rub off on us, which can be scary or enlightening depending upon how we let this insight affect our lives. We all have the opportunity to be saints or sinners. Which do we choose?

And more importantly, whom do we choose to emulate, which can dictate the outcome? Conversely, the circle of five means that we too are powerful influencers on those in our circles whether we are boss, employee, peer, parent, friend, or family member.

Like Bruno’s compatriots, we need no special bag of tricks. Our behavior is what counts. So now I’m going to think about those circles of five in my life. Who is influencing me? Who am I impacting? Heady stuff!