Minimum, Minimum – Bah, Humbug!

Looking back, I suppose my “teacher burn-out” in my educational career began with the fad of Minimum Competency Standards. Although I was not able to speak eloquently of my distrust of the concept at the time, in retrospect I can now understand that seed of displeasure which lurked within me.


True learning does not come from achieving minimum standards; true learning is measured by that which is beyond the minimum. After all, what credit should be given to that person who only does what everybody else does? What person is recognized as a scholar, who knows only what everybody else knows? Heroes are those who go beyond the minimums; heroes are those who do those things which most other people will not do. Scholars are those who already know what others have not yet learned.


It is not enough for a student to gain learning by study. True learning comes from action which produces results. Sometimes this can be called experience. Not all action produces positive results, but even learning which comes from negative consequences can be a positive outcome.


In today’s culture, far too many people have accepted “Minimum Standards” as their personal goals. The very idea that a “Minimum Wage” should be a “Living Wage” is an idea that comes from a “Socialistic Perspective”. It is a leveling of humanity in which everybody shares the same level of misery. In recent years, the Chinese government has expressed a concern about the “lack of creativity and invention” by its younger population. Perhaps it sounds too simple to attribute such a lack of creativity and invention to a lack of a need to do better than the minimum, or to contribute more than the minimum. The mantra of Communist/Socialist: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs.”


Perhaps, the level of invention, or lack thereof, may be attributed to a felt need to stand out. When first stated, the concern that all people have a right to have their “needs” met by society sounds like an irrefutable statement of compassion. However, the human condition allows people to become comfortable at their “minimum level”. At the level of the cave dweller it becomes: “If I am warm, I can sleep; I don’t need to gather more wood for my fire.” Problems arise when the cave dweller awakes to find his fire is low and a storm is raging outside the cave. The cave dweller sees that the easiest source of more wood to be the supply that his neighbor brought in before the storm. The petty crime of stealing a twig becomes a war to decide who gets the woodpile.


And so it is in America today. America has groups of people who demand an increase in the minimum wage without considering any increase in the “value of the labor”. This is the miracle of “Capitalism”. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a pathway to your door.” For proof, look at the chemical company which realized the limitations of mousetraps and then created “mouse poison.” That company, incidentally, is now selling that patented chemical to the medical community as a “blood thinner”.


Since I have been distracted, I would invite any reader to provide a concluding paragraph to this post.aavelken


My Favorite Mother-in-Law


This morning some private messages inspired me to share some memories of my favorite mother-in-law.

After living alone for some time as a widow, Bertha came to live with our family.  What a blessing that was.  The first time she attended church with us, I introduced her as my favorite mother-in-law.  Well, after church, not knowing what else to say, several widows started their conversation with, “We didn’t know Ken had been married before.”

To each, Bertha replied, “Ken wasn’t married before; maybe that’s why I’m still his favorite mother-in-law.”  So every conversation started with a smile.

In one of our conversations about how she handled her grief, she shared one of her many valuable “life lessons.”  She shared, “Al was a wonderful husband.  I will always miss him and my heart will always hurt.  But that’s on the inside.  The first time I went to church alone, I didn’t know where to sit.  I did notice that a group of widows seemed to be sitting together, laughing and talking.  I also noticed some widows who sat alone.  They seemed sad; they didn’t really talk to anyone and they weren’t smiling.

“I made the decision that I would be part of the group that was laughing and smiling, enjoying being together.  I knew that to be part of that group, I had to also be smiling and talking.  So on the outside, people see me smiling and they think that I am happy and they want to be around me.  Oh, yes, I still hurt on the inside, but if that is what I show to others, they won’t want to be around me.”

Bertha started “quilting clubs” and sent quilts all over the world.  She had friends wherever she went.  At church socials, Bertha would be seen talking to the people that no one else wanted to talk with.

A smile of unconditional love.

A smile of unconditional love.

Bertha was the first of her siblings to be born in the State of Oklahoma.  Her older siblings had been born in the Oklahoma Territory.  In 1933, she married a Kansas wheat farmer –in the middle of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl!  I am so thankful that I was given time with my favorite mother-in-law to see what was in her heart through troubled times and good.  I hope that everyone who reads this can find a relationship of unconditional love like that which existed between me and my favorite mother-in-law.

One More Thing

One More Thing

From my days as a new insurance agent, I recall a chat with one of the “top producers”. My question, “Looking back to your first 3 or 4 months in the business, what did you do differently from those who started at the same time but are no longer in the business?”

His answer, “At the end of the day, I would do ONE MORE THING.”

My response, “Huh”

The clarification, “Do you know how at the end of the day, everybody knows that it’s the end of the day? Maybe it’s when the bell sounds or the whistle blows. Maybe it’s when the clock reaches a certain time or the sun goes down. Maybe it’s when the last dishes are washed. But at some point, people mentally shut down intending to do NOT ONE MORE THING. That’s when I would force myself to do ONE MORE THING. I would make one more phone call, write one more letter, complete some form on my desk, read something technical, file the accumulation of stuff on my desktop. When others quit, I did one more thing and that has become a habit.”

So last night I tried it. As I was making my list for today, instead of writing something on my list, I wrote three checks and a letter — two items that never even got to my list of tasks. This morning, when I walked into my office, I thought, “Gee, if, for the last month, I had been doing what I did last night, there would be 30 things that I should do that don’t need to be done today.”

For those that don’t get it yet: Perhaps making long lists is really a waste of time, perhaps it is really your way to get out of doing something. When you are making those comprehensive lists of things that need to be done, you are actually avoiding doing something. Would it be better to (1) identify only three things that could be done, (2) identify which of the three is most important for you to do right now–but according to your long term goals, (3) do it, (4) repeat number 1? Then at the end of the day, when your mind is packed and ready to go on vacation, promise your mind the vacation if it will just stick around to do ONE MORE THING.


Clean Your Plate!

“You can’t leave the table until your plate is clean.”

Have you ever heard something like that at the family table? Have you used that line with your children? Funny how that line creeps into our daily life. You ask somebody for some of their time and they respond, “I already have too much on my plate.” In other words, “I’m too busy.”

Do you ever wonder what they really mean by that statement? What do you mean when you say that or think that, “I’m too busy?” Sometimes a person might simply mean: “I don’t want to listen to what you have to tell me.” Or they could be saying that they don’t have time to do what you want them to do. What might be intended is “You have not given me a reason why I should share my time with you on this matter.” Sometimes the personal perception is “I already have too much on my plate.”

So how can people “clean their plates?” I remember the family dinner table from my childhood. Dishes would be passed and I would take what I thought I wanted from each dish. Several times, at the end of the meal, I just couldn’t take those last bites; there was too much on my plate. Dad or Mom would say, “Your eyes were bigger than your tummy.” So the lesson I learned was that it was better to go back for seconds, than to take too much, the first time dishes were passed.

And so it has been with life, many times I have said, “Yes,” to doing something, only to find that it was more than I could handle. Then I had to face the embarrassment of admitting that I would not be able to complete the job, or I would have to turn it over to someone else to carry the burden that I had created. In either case, it would leave me with a sense that I had failed.

Sadly, I have found that many people have created the feeling that they are too busy by their own doing, or should I say, not doing. If that is your feeling, let’s start here: do not allow other people to control your schedule. This starts with, “No!” If you really have a scheduling conflict, make a decision – never created a conflict that requires you to be doing two things at the same time. My father would say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” If you can’t do something “right”, do not accept the commitment to do it.

Two rules to achieving a persona of success:

-Do everything you say that you will do.

-Never say you will do something that you do not intend to do.

Thanks, Dad.

John Joseph Dauer