May 30, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend,

I know: it's a day late... but, you weren't in yesterday, anyway! Neither was I; it was Memorial Day, and I took the day off! So the Monday morning Point of View is coming to you... on Tuesday!

That said, yesterday was an important day for Americans. For many modern-day patriots, we get a little confused with our holidays. On Memorial Day weekend, big group events - often, in Sunday morning church - honor all of the military folks, both the living and the fallen. The screens show the cemeteries, while we have "anyone who has ever served" stand for applause. Technically, the latter is for Veteran's Day, later in the year. That's splitting hairs, though: we can't over-honor the men and women who serve us with their lives on the line.

Why do we need a "holiday" to do that? We could commission a government study, fund it with a few million dollars of pork - tagged onto some obscure federal legislation - and wait a decade or more for the final report to answer the question, Why don't we naturally honor our heroes? Or, instead of that, we can just cite the obvious: we 21st Century, privileged upscale Americans tend to be ingrates. We came packed with relational software that included Entitlement as an accessory. It runs in the background of our operating system... UNLESS we choose to consciously reject it as an element of our character.

Earlier this month, TIME Magazine released their annual special edition naming the TIME 100; it features "the lives and ideas of the world's most influential people." Some are obscure; many are predictable.

Bill Gates, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, Steve Jobs, Bono... and 95 other people likely to end up at the same gala somewhere. They each stand out in their respective niche; I think I've been in the presence of four of them during my half-century run around life's track. Those connections were brief... and non-memorable.

Buried in the back of the mag was a one-page article by resident contributor Joel Stein, called "Meet the other 100: These People Matter Most - to Me.” His musings led off with this comment: "I took a long, careful look at this year's TIME 100 , and I came to this conclusion: these people don't matter to my life." His column led to a fascinating self-assignment: he created the Joel 100, for himself: the people who have had a positive impact on his life, birth-to-now.

In a letter to TIME's editor, Nelson Fellman of Voorhees, New Jersey wrote: "Joel Stein's 'Meet the Other 100' gave me a great idea: to make a list of the people who matter most to me. I wish I had started that list a long time ago. At my age, 75, not everyone on my list is alive today, which is regrettable. I never took the trouble to tell a high school teacher or business mentor or a beloved grandfather what a significant influence each had on my life. I urge young people to make a list every 10 years and make sure you take the time to tell those people why they have had an influence on your life. All will be better for having done so."

You'll run across four kinds of people in life. Survivors see other people through desperate eyes: they take what they need from others, fearing their own demise. Maintainers are content with their present status, and their need for others is controlled and minimal. They have commercial relationships with providers, but - for the most part - they're out to hold on to what they have, and stay under the radar. Achievers are out to get to the top, and they're willing to make the trip with some other people who provide synergy. Their mantra is "Together, Everyone Achieves More" (TEAM). They have a place in their lives for other people, as long as they add to the momentum and don't create drag. That's three; what's the fourth?

The last group are Investors. These are the folks who are out to pass their life along to other people. Survivors? Investors offer them a hand. Maintainers? Investors are willing to assist. Achievers? Investors do what they can to propel them forward, without a demand for a percent of the deal. They're Investors, who believe that - in the end - their contribution to others will be rewarded. They're willing to wait...

If they're Christians, they will be rewarded by the Lord Jesus himself. If they're Investors in your life, wouldn't it be great if they received some honor, down here, from you? Every day is Memorial Day...

Bob Shank

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