Is it okay to shoot the messenger?

On a recent Travel with Friends trip, I had a brusque conversation with one of our tour guides. 

Months before the trip, I contracted a tour company in Ephesus, Greece to provide a bus and guide for the day we would be in port. I specifically stated that on our day in Ephesus I did not want to eat lunch at a rug factory and then endure the inevitable presentation and sales pitch (it wastes time and puts undue pressure on members of my group). But at lunchtime we pulled into…a rug factory.

In a private setting, I expressed to our guide my strong displeasure. She said that she did not know of my stated preference (the arrangements were made by her boss) and it was impossible to change. I wasn’t nasty or unfair in how I treated the guide, but I made sure my point was made. I hope she later expressed to her boss how untenable the situation was. I also followed up with the tour company.

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger”—a metaphorical phrase for blaming the bearer of bad news. (The sentiment was first expressed in the play Antigone, written by Sophocles around 440 B.C.:  “For no man delights in the bearer of bad news.”) Basically, it’s good and reasonable advice. However, the messenger is a link to the person responsible for crafting the message. Sometimes policy and decision makers are insulated from the results of their decisions and the only input they receive is from frontline workers. It’s virtually impossible to have a conversation with those who make high-level decisions so sometimes it may be beneficial to strongly push back to a frontline worker even though she was not responsible for the situation and doesn’t have the authority to change it. 

What do you think?

Video of Travel with Friends 2022 trip to Italy, Turkey, Greek Isles

Announcement of 2023 trip

Mary and I love to travel. Our goal is to visit 60 countries before we expire. This year we added two more: Ireland and Iceland, which increases our total to 55.

For the past 11 years I’ve led groups of friends on annual trips to Paris, London, Europe, the Mediterranean, Baltic States, Russia, Peru, Greek Isles, and North Africa. We’ve never had a malfunction or bad experience, just memorable, life-enhancing moments.

In September 2022, twenty-five friends joined us on a terrific voyage to the cradle of Western civilization. Here’s a short video about our trip. At the end of the video is information about where we’ll go in 2023.


Train you must

I recently saw this phrase on the front of a t-shirt: Train you must. I don’t learn a lot of good life lessons by reading t-shirts—most verbiage written on t-shirts is trivial—but this got my attention and has kept it.

Training is the only way to develop skills and make progress. Reading books is good, listening to podcasts and lectures helps, invigorating experiences contribute to our lives, but training is the best way to become a better, more competent person. To become a physician, pilot, musician, writer, teacher, manager, one must commit to the discipline of training.

Here are characteristics of what good training involves. Training:

      • Requires a considered commitment. In order to train, you might have to give up something, like time or resources.
      • Takes time. You’ll not complete training for a significant skill in a day; it will likely take years.
      • Focuses your attention.
      • Requires a disciplined approach. One doesn’t casually or flippantly train. There’s usually a structure to work within and a curriculum to complete.
      • Includes a measurable outcome. Most disciplines offer a test/certification. 
      • Usually involves a coach, someone who will observe you in real time and give you immediate feedback.
      • Produces a usable skill.

Years ago I aspired to be a wine expert. Because of my religious upbringing, I didn’t even taste wine until I was 44 years old, but when I learned that the Bible doesn’t prohibit drinking wine, I became interested in the world of wine. There are three organizations that offer certifications in wine: Society of Wine Educators, WSET, and the Court of Master Sommeliers. I pursued certifications in all three. I committed to train to become a wine expert. 

I read extensively (I have 72 books in my library about wine), I trained with the Dallas chapter of Wine Sommeliers, I memorized charts, graphs, and theory, I studied with a Master of Wine, and attended seminars and weekly blind-tastings. Eventually, I passed exams with all three agencies. 

After studying for five years I sensed that my understanding of wine would not be complete until I actually grew and processed my own grapes, so five years ago I planted a small vineyard in East Texas and have produced wine from two harvests. I grow grapes, harvest, press, ferment, and bottle. [Here’s a video about my vineyard.]

So, what are you training for?

Ode to my 70th birthday

This year I celebrated my seventh decade on Earth. I’m happy to be a septuagenarian.

I’ve heard the phrase, “Age is just a number.” Well, that may be true in one sense, but the larger the number gets the more your mind and body are affected. Your senses diminish, muscles atrophy, balance wanes, and words become elusive. But if you’ve kept growing through the years you’re wiser and more capable. We trade the vigor of youth for the wisdom of age.

Satchel Paige had a unique perspective on age. On Sept. 25, 1965, age 59, Paige became the oldest player to appear in a major league baseball game when he was the starting pitcher for the Kansas City Athletics. When asked how he was able to play competitive professional baseball being that old, he would reply, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” Then he would add “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” If I didn’t know how old I am, I think I would be in my early 60s. I feel great.

Since I’ve made it to 70, actuary tables predict that I’ll live to be 84.4, which gives me 14 more years. I think these will be the best and most productive years of my life. I still have fresh vision for things that are not yet seen (vision has been defined as a picture of the future, that is different from the present, that produces passion), so I have something to dream about. I love my work and my colleagues. My entire family lives within 15 miles. I am blessed. I want to live till I die.

I’ll close with a few ubiquitous senior adult memes.