“When We Were Jerks…”
Looking‘ Back 50!

2018: Your Breakout Season                     Part 2

Gary MicheloniWords: “Coach” Gary Micheloni

I’ve mentioned before about having coaches and mentors in my own life. I recommend it. Coach Steve is just such a guy. He recently gave a talk to a large group of us, touching on the news of the day, and in what a contentious time we seem to find ourselves. I originally thought the title of his talk was something like, “How Not to Be a Jerk”, which I have borrowed from for this month’s column. Finally, reading my notes, it appears that his title was really, “Healing Broken Relationships”. Call it poetic license on my part. You get the idea!

It all got me to thinking. As bad and as nasty as these recent years have been for many of us, are they really, really that bad in comparison to other years—or do they just seem that way to us? Whether these are the worst times in history, or just similar to other times, what can be done to get us through it? This is really a profound question for all of us, whether for our families, communities, companies—or our country. A solution would be a good thing, right?

About the same time Coach Steve gave this talk, some other things have hit the news, forcing me to recall a difficult time of my own, exactly 50 years ago. So, let me tell you a short-but-true story, of a time when jerks did walk the earth, and times seemed pretty darn lousy…at least in my experience.

I can’t help but think how things I witnessed, or heard about, or was a part of during that time, still seem to me like they happened only a very short while ago. That old saying is true: Time DOES fly. And at the risk of acting very much like the old man in the room, talking about prehistoric things, I’m still going to risk it. My story is kind of like the mirror opposite of the guy abducted by aliens and taken elsewhere to be inspected. For me, reflecting on this story now, and explaining it to you… it’s like being picked up and dropped into a far-away, unknown place and time to experience things and report back. I guess this column is my report.

I’m talking about being a part of that crazy year of 1968. It was a tumultuous time in our country, and I entered it, January 1st, as a young man recently out of college, a brand-new PFC for the U.S. Army, in a foreign country, married less than a month and away from my wife of 29 days.

January 23rd, the USS Pueblo was seized by North Korea, then finally released December 23rd. Significant is that the Pueblo remains the first US ship ever seized by a foreign government. It’s notable to me because I was in the vicinity, and personally witnessed the sight 11 months later of the helicopters returning the crew, flying over our compound.

People were protesting in the streets against the Vietnam War and also for civil rights. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th. Just over four months later, on August 28th, the ‘March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom’, saw 250,000 people in D.C., celebrating the 5th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream!” speech.

Presidential candidate, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated on June 5th. Had he not, then he would have been in Chicago for the Democratic Convention, which was to become besieged with even more—violent—protestors, those same August days.

I watched/experienced/read about all of this from my perch half-a-world away, relying upon Armed Forces Radio along with the Stars and Stripes paper, for news coverage. No social media back then! And for guarding my sanity and nourishing my soul: the almost daily letters from my young bride, Karen.

July 27th marked the 15th anniversary of the Korean armistice being signed, that having occurred less than ten miles from where I was posted. The U.S. sacrificed 36,914 of its citizens to make this happen. Funny thing: there was a Kim running North Korea at that time, and there was a Kim running North Korea in 1968 and we’ve got Kim Jong Un today. I shake my head in disbelief.

And while I did not relish being in that freezing cold, “hostile fire zone”, I still considered myself blessed that I had escaped the heat and humidity—and death–of the jungles in Vietnam. Very unfortunately for our country, 58,220 gave their all. Tens of thousands of American families paid a dear, dear price. Some research I did as to the fate of the guys in my basic training company (in the summer of the previous year) showed that about 5% of them have their names inscribed on The Wall. As I said, I was blessed!

1968 would have been my first year ever to vote, but I don’t recall it, for some reason. Troops today still suffer from a disconnection of sorts that often prevents their votes from being counted. A shame to be sure. I’m not sure ballots even made it out to us! In November, Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States.

(Wow…thinking about all of this…my little perch feels very tiny–somewhat like a small boat being overwhelmed by waves.)

December, I celebrated my first wedding anniversary and second Christmas away from my new wife. But there was some good stuff too. As mentioned, the crew from the Pueblo was released. Bob Hope, a very famous comedian of that era (and a lot of eras!) brought his USO Show to Seoul, and I joined thousands and thousands of others having a fabulous time—for the day. His troupe included a few absolutely-gorgeous actresses, some good comedy and music.

And he also brought with him Rosey Grier, a pro football star retired a couple of years earlier. My gosh…how the guys loved him! Surprising that he was there, because he had been there with Senator Kennedy, only six months prior, and wrestled the gun away from his assassin, but too late.

December 25th, for the second year in a row, we celebrated as millions of G.I.s have over centuries past: with kids. In our case, we brought in a couple of big trucks loaded with lots of kids. Orphans, actually. It was a big deal to them that they had a good meal, and then played games with the soldiers. For the troops: probably the most meaningful thing we did all year—at least to keep things in perspective.

So…where do the jerks come in? The answer is pretty obvious, but let me say it anyway. Our world has always had jerks among us: evil jerks, violent jerks, disappointing jerks; bullies and dictators–who oppress their people–are most certainly jerks!

But getting away from things historical and political, Coach Steve pointed out six types of them, many of whom can be found among our companies and industries, and sometimes even in our families. Here they are, summarized in a half-dozen “D’s”: Demanding, Deafening, Discontented, Disapproving, Destructive and Demeaning. Don’t be a jerk.

His advice on how to not join this crowd? Refuse to be offended; forgive others immediately; don’t be a gossip; refuse to play their game; don’t be a doormat; always take the high ground. He counsels that, when you take this approach you avoid the jerks, won’t become one yourself, and you’ll travel a road with less traffic. Great coaching for the new year.

Coach Gary’s Corner:

Coach Gary’s Corner: Gary Micheloni is a construction company marketer, speaker, author, consultant…and a coach. Get Coach Gary to speak for your group. FullContactTeam@gmail.com And be sure and tell him about your ‘walk across the room’ story!

Copyright 2018 Gary Micheloni