The Importance of Loyalty in a Man’s Life

Depuis le Bureau de John C. Gail,

 

“A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” -Proverbs 28:20

 

This found its way into my head earlier today while I was in the car, listening to commentary on the recently completed NBA Finals. The first thing on everyone’s mind was which player was going where and who was leaving which team. As the anchor talked about LeBron James potentially going to the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers in 2018, I couldn’t help but think about whether loyalty means anything to society as a whole today. Then, I considered Kevin Durant’s relocation to Golden State after playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder between 2008 and 2016 and the team-hopping from Cleveland, to Miami, and back again performed by LeBron James. These are only a few among countless stories of allegiance being thrown by the wayside, in the sports world alone. For the sake of a bigger paycheck, or better championship prospects, players will occasionally leave entire cities, disappoint entire communities.
Image result for lebron james heat card
Once I got home, I sat down and thought about it a bit further; what were the ramifications of these guys’ actions? I recalled instances of fans burning LeBron James’ jersey when he “took his talents to South Beach,” and it became increasingly clear to me that loyalty is a trait that people value. When you stay by their side, even when the outlook isn’t favorable, you communicate to them that they are worth something to you that warrants your giving up your own self-interest for their sake. On the contrary, when you leave them at the drop of a hat, when they’re no longer “useful” to you, people have a tendency to view you as an expedient jerk (for reasons unbeknownst to mankind, hmm…).

 

A Bastion of Faithfulness

While there are tons of examples of the kind of loyalty that people should really get back to having, one that was fairly personal for me actually came from the sports world (I swear, I’m not as much of a nerd about this as it looks).

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina rocked the New Orleans, shattering a great city and killing at least 1,245 people. It was the deadliest hurricane in almost a century, and its ramifications, physical, economic, and even political, crossed state borders. The National Guard was sent into the city to stop the looting and other crimes that were on the rise due to the lack of order. So many people moved out of New Orleans and surrounding cities over time that by 2008, we lost a representative in the Electoral College.

While so many people were leaving and throwing away any bit of hope they had left in what was arguably the culture center of the country, a plane touched down. That airplane carried a man with some shoulder problems and a dream. His name was Drew Brees.

Before that day, he was the quarterback of the San Diego Chargers, but tore his labrum in a game against the Denver Broncos. He underwent surgery and renegotiated with San Diego, who refused to make an offer that he could take, relying heavily on performance incentives, which he wouldn’t receive if he reinjured himself. Because of this, he had to look for other teams. The whole world was against him; hell, even his own body was against him. Aside from New Orleans, he had a trip to Miami on the to-do list, and if he couldn’t sign with either the Saints or the Dolphins, it was no telling where his career would go.

These anxious thoughts were the ones going through his head when he landed. He wanted the team just as much as the team, rather, the entire city, needed him.

The legend that found its way into my ears, when I was eight or nine and super into football, was that when Coach Sean Payton was driving Drew Brees around the city, he actually ended up getting a bit lost. He recalled thinking to himself that he ought to “forget dinner. I might as well drive them to Miami and open the door for (then-Dolphins coach) Nick Saban.”

Well, despite the navigational issues, Drew Brees found his way home. Turns out, he’d been there since his plane touched down. He signed with the New Orleans Saints and reignited, to some extent, hope in New Orleans.

Struggling to Start, but Sticking Around

After signing with New Orleans, the Saints were greeted with ten wins, out of sixteen games, in the 2006 season. The record was a huge turn from the lifeless 3-13 record from 2005, and it showed that the team had fight in it; I think that our city, especially the members of it whose lives were forever changed because of Katrina, emulated that same fighting spirit each day. Drew Brees led the NFL in passing yards that year, actually.

To give an idea of how this affected our community, here’s a story that my dad told me about an incident in 2006:

“I was going to check on a friend who I knew lived closer to where
Katrina did the most damage. As I walked from my car, with some food,
to the hotel where he was staying, a man called out to me: ‘is that Popeyes chicken?’ I said yes and offered him some. He accepted, and we sat on
the stairs and ate together. After he finished, the first thing he asked me was this: ‘mister, how did the Saints do on Sunday?'”

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that many in New Orleans saw the Saints’ comeback as a microcosm of their own journey in the world with which Mother Nature left them. Drew Brees could have had a penthouse in Miami and played under legendary coach, Nick Saban, but he chose New Orleans, and he didn’t look back. It’s been eleven years since his first season, and he’s become the face of a reborn, resilient city.

“Drew is just a microcosm of that city — what his comeback from shoulder surgery represents. … No one believed he’d be able to come back from that injury. New Orleans is the same way — the underdog no one believes can come back.”

-Todd Durkin, Drew’s personal trainer

Through the Highs and the Lows

As many know, the next two years (2007 and 2008) were less than favorable for the Saints. In 2008, Drew Brees almost broke a record for single-season passing yards held by the legendary Dan Marino, but the team missed the playoffs both years. They looked like the “Ain’ts” that the city knew even before 2005. Despite this, Drew stayed in New Orleans. He was widely considered an elite quarterback at this point, and the Chargers were surely in a state of constantly kicking themselves, but he didn’t leave. His commitment to the city was greater than his commitment to his championship prospects, or his own notoriety.

“He’s one of those rare guys who doesn’t think he’s entitled to be a famous athlete. He feels like he has this responsibility to do something with that privilege.”

Rick Larsen, President of national charity Operation Kids

To anyone with a television set, it’s easy to recall that this commitment paid off in 2009, when the New Orleans Saints shocked the country and won the Super Bowl, defeating a team from Indianapolis, led by the son of Archie Manning, who was a former Saints quarterback, himself. That man, Peyton Manning, was and is remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever touch the field. In typical New Orleans fashion, the game was won in a monumental comeback.

“I obviously take a lot of pride in what I do on the football field, because that has the ability to influence a lot of people. That puts smiles on people’s faces. That gives people a pep in their step on Monday morning when they go back to work.”

-Drew Brees

After the Peak, but Before the End

Shortly after New Orleans tasted a much-needed drink from the chalice of victory, the Saints (and specifically defensive coordinator, Greg Williams) were mired in what would become known as the “BountyGate scandal,” in which Williams allegedly was unethical in the way that he incentivized performance from his players, offering them money if they could injure members of the other team. Williams left the team on poor terms, and Sean Payton was suspended for a brief period of time. Despite these setbacks, Drew Brees stayed faithful to New Orleans and to the Saints, playing on to another playoff season.

Truly, the rest is history. Drew Brees has loved our city, and we’ve loved him, ever since.

The Takeaway for us Non-Quarterbacks

Regardless of any other qualities you have, lacking loyalty will eternally be a thorn in your side if you wish to lead others. They will see you as expedient, backstabbing, and prone to betraying those close to you.

Look at Maximilien Robespierre. He was extremely powerful, and people surely feared his authority, but he wasn’t a sustainable leader because he never trusted

those around him. He never allowed himself to be faithful to those around him, because he thought that they were out to get him. Turns out that when you execute people for disagreeing with you, people start to not like you so much, so they end up actually being out to get you. Below is Robespierre guillotining the executioner, presumably the only person other than himself who would be left in France if he had his way.

 

Okay, actually, Robespierre had quite a few issues. He did, though, err greatly when he committed himself to France, instead of the French. Everything was done in the name of  “la Patrie,” or “the homeland.” He was willing to challenge, and even kill anyone who got in the way of his vision for France.

The natural response from everyone else went something like this: “Wow, this guy is a jerk, and he just beheaded Carl. You think we should, like, take care of this before we’re next on the chopping block?” Everyone in that conversation was promptly beheaded for looking at Robespierre in a funny manner as he walked down the street the next day. There was just something in your teeth, dude. Chill.

In the end, the very National Convention of which Robespierre was President arrested and killed him.

The Actual Takeaway, and Not a Historical Reference

I felt as though I had to add that, so I didn’t just look like a Drew Brees idolater (***spoiler alert*** I totally am). The lesson for today is that commitment is a mutual deal. You cannot ask for loyalty without giving it yourself. And you can’t pretend to be loyal for long, because unless your devotion is real, it will wash away with time.

 

Love ya,

John Gail

P.S. I know this was a longer one, but it was really weighing on me today. Thanks for reading!

Oh yeah, and Drew Brees ended up breaking that record.

The Importance of Discipline in a Man’s Life

Image result for a man without self control is like a cityFrom the extremely messy desk of John C. Gail,

Last we left off, almost two months ago, I wrote to you about the value of being exactly who you say you are, how it garners respect and appreciation, and how it makes one a better leader.

I’d like to continue the trend of leadership qualities today by touching on a universally respected and revered quality: discipline, commonly dubbed self-control or restraint.

Throughout history, the men who could control their desires for the sake of a greater cause were hailed as strong, resilient, and, for lack of a better word, manly. At the same time, those who gave in to their hedonistic impulses saw their own demise from the rose-colored shades that they insisted on wearing. Before I get into the extremely rich benefits of self-control that you’ll see not only in your personal life, but in your professional life as well, let’s take a quick swing through history to see how disciplined some of the world’s most famous leaders were.

The Best Leaders of Others are Leaders of Themselves:

-Benjamin Franklin- In his autobiography, he listed “temperance,” with respect not only to alcohol but to all vices, as the most important virtue to him.

-George W. Bush- His Chief of Staff, Andy Card, said that Bush was “the most disciplined person I have ever met: He’s disciplined in his exercise, his worship, and how he runs his White House.”

-Frederick Douglass- Once said that given ordinary ability and opportunity, the one word that differentiates success from mediocrity is work. His life portrayed that principle to an immaculate degree.

-Ray Kroc- Had diabetes and arthritis at 53 years old, but pushed through it and, six years later, purchased the McDonalds franchise that we now know today. Did I mention that he was missing his thyroid and his gall bladder at the time?

-Jesus Christ- Depending on your religious views, he could have mobilized His followers and resisted arrest, or smote all of those who were trying to arrest Him. Despite his ability to resist arrest and crucifixion in some capacity, He felt as though he had a duty to fulfil, and calmly looked death in the face for that cause.

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt- The first and only (so far) disabled person to serve as President of the United States. As his physical state weakened, he developed the mental fortitude and grit to compensate for it. He also served twice as many terms as any President before him (the Constitution limited terms afterward).

-Harry Reid- The son of a miner and alcoholic, Reid was from a small town in Nevada that was unrecognizable to most people. Despite this, he played well with the hand he was dealt and ended up finishing law school at The George Washington University, working as a security guard at night to offset the costs. After practicing law, Reid was elected to the Nevada State Assembly, then the Office of Lieutenant Governor, then the Office of Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, then the House of Representatives, then the Senate. Reid worked his way up the leadership ranks of the US Senate and served as the Senate Majority Leader for a time.

-Abraham Lincoln- Truly defined grit and discipline. Here’s a brief timeline of his life:

  • 1816 His family was evicted.
  • 1818 Mother died.
  • 1831 Failed in business.
  • 1832 Lost bid for state legislature.
  • l832 Lost his job – wanted to go to law school but couldn’t get in; rejected from law school.
  • 1833 By the end of the year, he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt.
  • 1834 Ran for state legislature again and won.
  • 1835 His wife-to-be died.
  • 1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was bedridden for six months.
  • 1838 Sought role as Speaker of the State Legislature – defeated.
  • 1840 Defeated in efforts to become elector.
  • 1843 Lost run for Congress.
  • 1846 Ran for Congress again and won.
  • 1848 Ran for re-election to Congress and lost.
  • 1849 Sought the job of land officer in his home state and was rejected.
  • 1854 Ran for Senate and lost.
  • 1856 Wanted the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party’s national convention and got fewer than 100 votes.
  • 1858 Ran for U.S. Senate again, 0 for 2.
  • 1860 Elected president of the United States.

 

Now that you know the company in which you’ll find yourself once you start actively developing your discipline, here are a few more reasons why it’s worth the time:

  1. Having self-control keeps you from harmful vices, such as drugs, alcohol, and pornography, than can disrupt your life if overused.
  2. Having self-control is a rare trait in this day and age, and many people rightfully recognize it as worthy of respect.
  3. Being able to make a plan and stick to it will cut a lot of crap out of your life and give you time for the meaningful stuff.
  4. Having self-control keeps you from making rash, emotional decisions that you may regret later. It promotes calculated risk taking and acting in your own, long-term, best interest.

    “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.”       -Harry S. Truman

Choosing and pursuing a life of restraint and discipline isn’t easy, but the payout is immense, relative to the hedonistic pursuits of many in this day and age. The thing that helped me get started was a chart of Benjamin Franklin’s Virtues, as outlined in his autobiography. Learn them, live them, love them. Don’t expect perfection, but pursue improvement in these departments and you’ll be well on your way to a life of self-control. A brief description of each virtue follows:

Image result for franklins vitrues chart

  1. Temperance. “Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
  2. Silence. “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
  3. Order. “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
  4. Resolution. “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
  5. Frugality. “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
  6. Industry. “Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
  7. Sincerity. “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
  8. Justice. “Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
  9. Moderation. “Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
  10. Cleanliness. “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
  11. Tranquillity. “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
  12. Chastity. “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
  13. Humility. “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

 

I consider it a safe contention to make that if each of these virtues is pursued in one’s life, they will not only see benefits in their private lives, but in their public lives as well. People seek a leader who chases something greater than himself, and is willing to sacrifice what is commonly accepted as “luxury” or “pleasures” to live in that pursuit. There is a reason why “narcissist” tends to be a frowned-upon trait. Development of discipline creates that constant, outward-looking attitude that fosters self-improvement internally, as well as respect, loyalty, and acclaim from others.

Pardon my current infrequent posting, and thank you for reading this in full.

In hopes that we interact further,
John C. Gail

 

The Importance of Authenticity in a Man’s Life

From the desk of John C. Gail,
Some people are just game-changers. Wherever they walk, they command respect. Whoever is below them follows them loyally. They truly are diamonds in the rough, spread out thinly throughout the world. What binds them together, though? What makes the mile-markers on our chronological highway so special? Looking back in history, at inspiring leaders such as Henri IV, Peter the Great, George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, et al., one major trait is shared by each of them.

 

This trait is unbarred authenticity, the practice of being exactly who you say you are and following through with your promises.

 

In Cicero’s “De Amicitia,” he says “Virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri volunt.” For those who also had to Google the translation, it means that “few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.” Cicero essentially asserts that people, especially leaders, want the perks of being a down-to-earth person without having to do the legwork of being a legitimate, authentic human being. They go about their lives, each day, holding people to a standard that they, themselves, cannot fulfil, and then assume their respective pedestals and soapboxes when human nature prevents people from being perfect. Their inability to understand the struggle of Mankind, the same struggle that they experience as well, blinds them to the necessity of empathy in any leader. They expect people to emulate the weak façade that they present. A good drill sergeant, one who wants the respect and trust of his subordinates, ought not to force them to do what he, himself, cannot.

On the topic of exempting oneself from one’s own standards, Fyodor Dostoyevsky had this to say:

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others.”

Because of their unreasonable expectations and blatant hypocrisy, these Puritans tend to be ineffective leaders. Respect cannot be fostered by a man who does not earn it by his own volition. It cannot be engendered forcefully, nor can it be coerced out of someone for long. This is why regimes built upon the foundations of force or lies tend to fizzle out quickly.

The Soviet Union thrived on the fear of its denizens, forcing said denizens to respect its authority at gunpoint. This created the veneer of reverence from Russians, Kazakhs, and other Union members, but there was no real reverence involved. Thus, the Soviet Union was more vulnerable to collapse than other nations and entities.

Another example, though deeper in the past, of this is France during the Reign of Terror. Maximilien Robespierre was a firm leader, privy to the interworkings of the human psyche, but his harshly reactionary form of leadership, because of which he executed dissenters, shut off the prospect of Frenchmen showing him genuine love, trust, and respect. Fear prevailed during the Reign of Terror, and by the end of said Reign, Robespierre did not.

Robespierre, who ruled by fear and, ironically, was ruled by fear, resorted to killing dissidents en masse. This cartoon, created in 1793, shows Robespierre guillotining the executioner, who seems to be the last person in France (aside from Robespierre, himself), judging by the guillotines in the background

What were men such as Robespierre and Joseph Stalin (among many others) missing? Why, it wasn’t strength. These men had all the power in the world. Was it mental fortitude? Robespierre is said to have been ruled by paranoia, but it still misses the mark. What each of them lacked was authenticity. They lacked the ability to see their own humanity and understand that same humanity in others. They lacked the ability to live their life, with their flaws in public view, and accept the consequences of said flaws. In a way, those flaws remind people that their leaders are human, and while they may not be perfect, they’re honest enough to put their whole selves at center stage and apologize for their flaws. People tend to be very forgiving in cases like these.

 

Yes, in all my research, the greatest leaders looked inward and were able to tell a good story with authenticity and passion.” -Deepak Chopra

 

On the other hand, it is said that North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, has convinced his people that he is so godlike that he needn’t defecate. Let’s tack that one on the “inauthentic” board…

Image result for Kim Jong Un Funny

Actually, he’s also claimed that he can fly… So there’s that…

 

Coercion and force alike are the marks of cowardice. They are the cornerstones of the failed legacies behind failed men. To free oneself from these things and join the aforementioned history-makers, the people about whom our high school students write essays, they must fully embrace truth, authenticity, and themselves, flaws and all.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t work to fix our flaws? Of course we should commit ourselves to improvement. What should be gained from this is that we shouldn’t hide ourselves from the people who we need to trust us. Whether or not they respect you despite your flaws is their choice, but if you hide yourself from them, give orders from behind a mask, they cannot and should not genuinely respect and trust you. Don’t aggrandize yourself to lead others, lead others as yourself. If you find yourself unable to do this, then it may be worth working on traits that inhibit you from being an effective communicator and role model, but never hide these traits.

“I’d like to quit the supernatural roles and play just an interesting, down-to-earth person” -Bela Lugosi (Count Dracula, 1931)

I’m considering spending more time focusing on what makes great leaders so great. You can expect my future posts to be more refined than this, as I’m just getting back into the habit of writing often.

Best regards,
J. C. Gail