Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Back In The Saddle Again . . .

I was not sleeping, I was listening intently . . .
About a year ago, I retired as Secretary of my Lodge after a seven year stint. I thought it was time somebody else take it. I was swamped at the time. I was busy working on a book idea, being the Master of another Lodge, serving as a newly elected member of my local school board, and helping to build a new Chapter of the Royal Arch. It was difficult keeping all those balls in the air and balancing that with a full time job, and with the duties of being a husband, father and grandfather.

And while leaving that chair creating a great deal of time for me, what I’ve discovered is that I haven’t used that time very wisely. I thought I’d have more time to write. I have, but I haven’t spent it writing—last year was my least productive year writing since I began writing about Freemasonry a decade ago. I haven’t spent any more time with my family, because almost everything I did as Secretary I did from home evenings after they’d gone to bed.

I realized something a few months after I left the Secretary chair. I get more out of that Secretary job than the job takes out of me. In fact, many of the things I’ve written about over the years have come from the experiences I’ve had being Secretary of my Lodge—both good and bad. It’s not an easy job. And it’s not a job for everyone. But for me, it fits. I like it because it’s behind the scenes instead of out front. I like it because it because it primarily involves work I can do from home, through email, and on the phone.

During our annual officer elections, our current Secretary expressed a desire to go through the chairs and become Master eventually—he hasn’t had an opportunity to do that yet. And if he remained Secretary, he probably never would have a chance to do that. It was a great relief to me to hear that, because I thought he was enjoying the job as Secretary, and would probably stay in it for some years. So when the Lodge was looking for volunteers for the job of Secretary, well, my hand couldn’t have gone up much faster.

Freemasonry gives each of us an opportunity to serve in our own way. I guess for me, the place where I prefer to serve the Fraternity is behind the scenes. Writing my books and stories at night, and sitting behind the Secretary’s desk doing a job few want, and even fewer excel at. But it certainly suits me just fine I've discovered.

Saturday, I went on a road trip with a few Masons down to a Secretary’s Workshop given by Our Grand Secretary of Illinois in Mattoon, Illinois. I learned about all the things that have changed, all the things that are new, and all the things good Secretaries should do—presented in a three-and-a-half hour session with about forty PowerPoint slides. And after taking it all in, I recall exactly what I was thinking.

What in the world have I done?

~Todd E. Creason, 33°

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Value Of "Oh Crap" Moments

"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."
~Benjamin Franklin

I was reminded of this lesson recently, and thought I'd share this again.  ~TEC

We've all been there at one point or another.  We discover we've forgotten to do something.  We've failed to plan properly.  Some unforseen circumstance arises and blows up our project.  We've stuck our neck out too far.  We said or did something incredibly stupid.  We've spread ourselves too thin, and our projects didn't get the attention they required.  It's that moment when it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

It's embarrassing.  It's humiliating.  But it's life, and it's going to happen to all of us at some point or another.  Once it's happened to us once, we tend to be very careful never to suffer that fate again.  But what we forget is that this is how we learn.

One thing I noticed when I was putting together quotes for my book A Freemason Said That? is that there are a lot more quotes about failure, than there are about success.  Ben Franklin, FDR, Teddy, John Wayne, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill . . . the list goes on and on.  They all talked more about failure.  They all understood that it was a big part of success, in fact, it's almost impossible to enjoy success without having survived any number of these "teachable moments." 
When you're doing big things, there are a lot of little things that can go wrong.  You shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes, you should be more afraid of playing it safe.  As John Paul Jones said, "Those who will not risk, can not win."  Success isn't the opposite of failure--success is one of the results.

Next time you stumble and fall flat on your face, remember that those that go through life without making mistakes aren't doing very much.  Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, figure out where you went wrong, and learn something from it.  Then try it again, and again, and again, and again . . .

~Todd E. Creason

originally pulbished 4/17/14

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Myth Of Hatless Jack

I've written a few posts now about hats, including a series about Freemasons and their hats.  I love hats, and I always have.  Perhaps it is my love of old black & white movies, or perhaps I was born too late.  I've always wondered why men stopped wearing hats, so I did a little research about it.

It would have been unthinkable until the late 1950s early 1960s to leave the house without a hat.  It was part of a gentleman's wardrobe, and deeply ingrained in the American psyche.  That was back when men were men.  But in the 60s, that tradition for the most part, faded away.  And it's all John F. Kennedy's fault.  He didn't like hats, and rarely wore one.  In fact, he was the first President who didn't wear a hat to his inauguration.  He set a new trend--the heyday of the fedora was over.

The only problem with that story is that it isn't completely accurate.  It's true Kennedy didn't like hats, but he did wear a hat to his inauguration.  He didn't wear it when he gave his speech, however, as far as anybody knows, no President ever did wear his hat during their inaugural speech as it would have been view as disrespectful--including the President famous for his hat, Abraham Lincoln!

And the other part of the story is that hat sales had been in decline for more than a decade before Kennedy took office.  What most likely killed the hat was technology.  A hundred years ago, men spent much more time exposed to the elements.  He wore a felt hat in the winter to keep himself warm and dry, and a straw hat in the summer to keep shelter himself from the heat and keep the sun out of his eyes.  A man's hat wasn't a fashion statement--it was a necessity.  The more advanced our technology became, the less we needed that protection.  Many Americans today are rarely exposed to the elements for any length of time--maybe a quick walk from your heated car to the entrance of the grocery store.

However, the hat isn't dead yet. More and more men are rediscovering those classic styles, and are beginning to appreciate again the artistry and workmanship that goes into a truly great hat.  Slowly but surely, hats are making a come back--and I'm not talking about those ridiculous Alpaca knit hats or baseball caps.  I'm talking about fedoras, and Hombergs, and Panamas.  And there are good reasons why American men are going back to brimmed hats--protection from UV radiation.  We've finally figured out that sunlight isn't always such a good thing and maybe wearing a hat that covers our ears and our neck is a good idea.

Todd E. Creason in his Stetson Temple Fedora
And if you're looking for a hat, many of the best hat makers are still in business today, and producing hats the same way, and to the same exacting standards they always have--names like Stetson, Borsalino, and Bailey.  There isn't a hat store on every corner anymore, but there are a lot of places you can order quality hats online.  I buy only from one outstanding company--Delmonico Hatter.  They are a family business that has been around since 1908, and their selection and service are absolutely outstanding. 

So get out there and hat up!

~Todd E. Creason, 33°
originally pulbished 11/4/11

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Would You Go Back To Simpler Times?

Before Nikes . . .

The backdrop of my first novel One Last Shot was a 25th high school reunion.  It wasn't too long after my 20th when I started working on the novel, so a lot of that nostalgic feeling you get at reunions was still fresh in my mind.  I explored some of that in the novel.  A common comment at my reunion was "boy, if I could just go back to high school, knowing what I know today . . ."

That just strikes me as funny.  It doesn't make any difference what era you grew up in, people have a strange way of painting the past in rosy colors.  Do you really want to do it all again knowing what you know now?

How many phone numbers do you know today?
I see several problems with this, and I'm going to pick on a good friend of mine to illustrate my point.  He's a guy that said he'd like to go back for a do-over, but I just don't see how that would work for him.  He's always been addicted to technology (even back in the 80s he was all over the new gadgets).  I had lunch with him a couple weeks ago, and a he was so distracted at lunch he couldn't follow a conversation.  He'd forgotten his iPhone at work.  He was worried about it.  What if it rang while he was gone?  Or what somebody posted something on Facebook?  Or *gasp* he got a text?  What would that mean if he wasn't instantly updated?  I think he'd be more comfortable eating in a restaurant without pants than being without his iPhone.

He's going to go back to 1980?  Back to rotary dial phones?  Back to when nobody had even heard of voice mail, and if you were lucky, you had an answering machine?  He wouldn't survive a second time around. He's that guy that calls you two minutes after he texts you just to make sure you read the text.  The simple idea of having to lick a stamp and mail something instead of hitting "send" would kill him.

I think that's the most stunning difference--we are never without our phones.  Back then, we actually used to leave the house for an entire day without a phone or any way for somebody to contact us--and we didn't think twice about it.  If something came up, you'd just swing into the gas station and use the payphone.  All of us knew twenty or thirty phone numbers by heart because our phones didn't remember them.  These days, I sometimes have to stop and think when I'm asked my own phone number.  And back then, an instant message was something that was passed to you during study hall folded up in the shape of a little football.

Before he jumped the shark . . .
And I'll tell you another problem my friend would have--going back to the 13-inch black and white television you had when you started high school?  Back to the rabbit ears and three channels (four on a clear night)?  Mr. Home Theater would never make it back through Beta, VHS, and DVDs to arrive back to the "land of Blue-Ray." 

And he'd be willing to trade the 1,500 songs he proudly brags about on his iPhone for the eight or ten he'd get from a fuzzy cassette tape on his Sony Walkman?  And then spend thirty years listening to music he already knew, and watching television he'd already seen?

Just think how frustrated you'd be going back and doing it all again.  And think about what else that means.  You don't marry that first husband or wife (and maybe even the second one) because of what you know now and didn't know then.  You could never fall in love with them again--you'd be made about things they haven't even done yet.  That means you don't have your son or daughter that you're rather fond of.  You could avoid all those mistakes that made you who you are today, but what would you be giving up?

How I misspent my youth . . .
I was really thinking about that when I was working on my first novel--would I avoid those pitfalls, and repeat them knowing how they'd turned out in the long run?  I really struggled with that one.  I truly believe if I woke up again in 1980, I would intentionally repeat some of those mistakes, and there would be some I wouldn't be able to force myself to repeat.  But I'll tell you one thing I'd sure be doing.  I'd be investing every cent I had in Apple and Microsoft and a few others.  At least I'd know that after I survived the second go around, I'd be rich.

There are a few things I miss from the 80s.  There are a few people I'd like to see again that are no longer with us.  I miss the music.  There are a few musicians and bands I like today, but for the most part I think it's mostly garbage.  There was so much more variety back then.  I definitely miss MTV and music videos.  And I miss the optimism from that era--anything was possible with enough hard work and determination.  We seem to have lost that whole idea these days.

You know, all things being said, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.  I think my wife is, too.  I asked her the other day if she'd go back to high school and do it all again.  She said, "I don't have that kind of time or energy to spend on my hair." 

~Todd E. Creason

originally publishing 4/11/13
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