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  • Reverend James Squire

No Whining

I have always been interested in words that people use and don’t realize that they are using them. I wrote a blog about mine which was “Watch Your Time.” Recently, I noticed that people were saying,”100%” in response to someone who asks if they agree with something. “It’s not in my wheelhouse” was used so much that I had to look up what it meant which is what is part of my interest or expertise.

I read in the Inquirer (March 15) that the very successful coach of Women’s Basketball, Denise Dillon, used “No Whining,” when she coached Drexel that her current players at Villanova have put a sign on her door that states that winning formula. She said that so often that she takes it anywhere she goes as part of a formula for success.

These sorts of one-line statements can be used so often that they become habits of the heart so to speak reflecting what is important and effective for us. They can be what we build our definition of success upon. We don’t realize how our words can travel. I always said that you could reveal bad news on one end of the EA campus, and it would be heard in a few seconds on the other side of our campus. Good news would take hours to travel. But phrases that we use that get embedded in a culture tend to take time to reach a tipping point (Malcolm Gladwell’s term) where they are part of a culture.

I had many interviews with members of the EA community where I felt good about people coming to see me as someone safe, but I don’t have a personality to be a punching bag (this was forged in the “Smithy of My Soul” (James Joyce’s phrase) in the community in which I grew up. Those conversation never turned out to be productive. So, I moved to an approach that I wanted to hear complaints and concerns from people, but I quickly asked if they had solutions in mind. I don’t respond well, like Dillon, to whiners. I also would not tolerate the making of slanderous statements against anyone in the school community. So that got around. It was coupled by the statement “if Rev calls you, pick up because he never calls about the weather.” This turned out to a problem in my retirement as I was use to immediate feedback on calls and emails, and that didn’t happen. A friend helped me with this frustration by reminding me that “I didn’t have anything that they needed at the time.” It didn’t help matters that one of my hot buttons is “people not getting back to me” because it was a habit of the heart I had developed. I applied the same standard to myself, the old twenty-four-hour rule.

Jay Wright, former coach of Villanova’s Men’s Basketball Team, use to say “attitude is everything” often enough that it became the title of a book that he wrote.

Sometimes your short statement that builds success has no words. One of our former Middle School teachers, Tom Lees, had a key to handling Middle School students who were like popcorn going off if you haven’t had Middle Schoolers in your life. They can be a handful. He would be silent after his slogan which I used for my entire life as a teacher that was a variation on his words to a class, “I am looking for the quiet hand.” I would do the same without the statement and just be quiet and look forward. I never had a problem with behavior in class. In fact, I loved having the trouble makers as much as those who could teach themselves. I guess the challenging ones knew that I cared as much about them as well as any others.

But let’s look at the most important and powerful individual in our nation and world, our President. He has three statements that should cause people to listen up and, and in my opinion, it’s part of his success. It’s his mantra like Dillon’s.

“Here’s the deal!” Best to pay attention! Gets me every time.

“I would say three things…” helps me to wrap my mind around things by categories

“Let me repeat…(no taxpayer money will bail our these banks. Insurance that they have paid into will) obvious attention to who he is. The people are first.

Then something happens. The person becomes the phrase that yields success whether it be people like Dillon, Wright, or Lees. When I attended a class of rambunctious parents at a meeting on parent night at EA when a son was in Middle School, Lees said, “I’m looking for the quiet hand.” Everyone in the room got immediately quiet including me. He not only started me on running, but he gave me a key to classroom management success. A mantra also works for outstanding coaches and an outstanding President.

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