Stay Classy in 2018

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For those young and old, many times the end of the year can be a time of reflection. My advice for the younger, or older, if you wish, is to, at the end of each year, just write down your thoughts and maybe some events of your life that year. Perhaps you lost a loved one. Maybe you gained something in life. Perhaps something that you wished for and obtained was nowhere near your expectations. Maybe your hard work came to nothing; no recognition, no acknowledgement, all of your sweat and toil yielded nothing. As Hyman G. Rickover, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” once said: “Success teaches us nothing. Only failure teaches.”


Upon reflection, there are many things that I did that probably weren’t the best of decisions. There were also people I trusted as telling me the truth, when, in fact, they weren’t being as honest with me as I was being honest with them. The honesty thing is obviously my problem. In the future, expectations are to be documented. Promises are great, but contracts hold people to promises. Broken promises are why contracts came about, as I understand it.  


There is thing called “class” that I like to see in people. The definition of class is: “classy, decent, gracious, respectable, noble.” Class isn’t something you buy. The Rolex, the Armani suit, do not equate class. The same can be said for character. I always like the things that build character, like, maybe, hard work. I usually say I don’t need any more character. The folks that told me hard work built character didn’t have any class; they weren’t decent, noble, or gracious. They were greedy, selfish, and inconsiderate.


I recall in my youth, people with whom I played sports. What sports were supposed to teach us was character. You could lose graciously, or win without rubbing it in the other team’s face. There were, however, teams who didn’t play by the rules, who didn’t have class or character. I recall not too long ago, watching a little league team, where if one of the players did something unsportsmanlike, the coaches immediately forced them to apologize to the offended player. Those were great coaches, I thought. Who knows, maybe they were teaching class and character. Lord knows we could use more of it in this society.  


This essay is not documentation of my character or class. I certainly have my share of transgressions. I have, as well, adopted certain street attitudes. One of which is that if they are willing to pick on you, they’ve probably picked on others. I tend not to show mercy on these types anymore, be they public officials or private citizens. Character and class would grant them the benefit of the doubt, but experience has taught me that number one, they would not grant me the same, and number two, this is probably not the first time they have done this, so they more than likely deserve the pounding they get because of all the others they cheated that could not fight back.


All too often, of late, my kindness is perceived as weakness. What I used to call class and character seems to not be recognized as such, but rather just weakness. Perhaps it is just my environment, but those around me seem to be controlled more by fear than by respect. They are the players who only respect being defeated, who challenge by cheating and dare you to call them out on it.


Then there is the real world and the academic world. Many of the niceties and fair practices taught in academia are dispensed with as soon as business begins on Monday morning. These notions of character and fairness don’t seem to go far in the real world. I understand the pragmatism of getting things done; what I do not comprehend are the rationalizations and determinations made in ways that would make most of the educators cringe. Not to mention the ignoring of correspondence and “blowing off” people instead of being straight-up honest.


I close this last essay of 2017 with part of the speech by John Roberts, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a speech he made at the Cardigan Mountain School on June 3 of this year: “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”


Phil Greenough Added Dec 29, 2017 - 5:36am
“Upon reflection, there are many things that I did that probably weren’t the best of decisions. There were also people I trusted as telling me the truth, when, in fact, they weren’t being as honest with me as I was being honest with them. The honesty thing is obviously my problem.”
If you’re saying others aren’t honest with you, that’s not a self-reflection.  If you’re saying you weren’t honest with others, were you dishonest as a form of payback?
“The folks that told me hard work built character didn’t have any class; they weren’t decent, noble, or gracious. They were greedy, selfish, and inconsiderate.”
Hard work does say a lot about someone’s character and nothing about someone’s class, however I suspect hard workers are classier than those that don’t work hard.  I don’t see how you can come to the conclusion that those that work hard aren’t decent, noble or gracious and are greedy, selfish and inconsiderate.  Perhaps you aren’t a very hard worker and someone you dislike is?
George N Romey Added Dec 29, 2017 - 8:18am
Jeff I see lack of leadership in business. Managers that want to hire only fully trained workers and never have to mentor or coach. I’ve seen situations in which an employee asking a question or seeking guidance is deemed inadequate.
Rarely do questions on leadership and management skills get asked in interviews.
I also see a decline in class from the way people dress to their manners. On one recent project I worked all night to find a million dollar hole in the budget. A hole caused by a Director’s carelessness. What was my reward? A terse email back that I emailed the Director while she was attending her daughters sixth grade play.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 29, 2017 - 10:35am
Phil, thanks for your response.  The essay is reflection, not exclusively self-reflection. In fact, the term "self-reflection" is not used. Reflection and self-reflection are different, and in no place was self-reflection used. Perhaps I wasn't clear, "There were also people I trusted as telling me the truth, when, in fact, they weren’t being as honest with me as I was being honest with them. The honesty thing is obviously my problem."  They were dishonest with me, I was never dishonest with them. The reason it was "my problem" was because I believed that they would do what they promised they would do, and they didn't. There are very few promises that I have not kept in adult life, because in my upbringing, I was told to keep promises. My transgressions were more of a biblical nature, not those that harmed others. We would describe them as victimless crimes. I do not often intentionally hurt people, with the exception that is noted later in the essay.
The contract part follows, because if someone make you a promise and and they aren't willing to put it in writing, the promise is about as worthless as the paper it isn't written on. That was my failing, which was to tell them to put it in writing or end the conversation.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 29, 2017 - 10:37am
Thanks for the response George. Yes, I see a lot of managers who lack class these days. Like the ones that you take the time off, get dressed and go to an interview and you never hear back from them, even after you wrote them a thank-you email. Classless, no matter how busy they are. 
George N Romey Added Dec 29, 2017 - 10:40am
Yes I recently had HR manager that kept yammering about how she was the "Director of People and Culture."  She indicated a second interview would be occurring.  She never acknowledged a thank you email I sent the next morning and despite several attempts to contact her never got a response.  Yes a real leader of "people and culture."
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 29, 2017 - 10:50am
Don't you love the "class" that these modern, high-tech, social-media savvy, "new path" "new meaning" managers bring to business?
Cliff M. Added Dec 29, 2017 - 7:31pm
Jeff, Thanks for the words of wisdom. Too many today like to talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Get it in writing is great advice especially today with many factually challenged people in the business community. I have met many class people from all walks of life and also met many no class from all facets.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 2:53am
Thanks Cliff. I would really like to believe a lot of people, but too many losses and unpaid work have forced my hand. If they aren't willing to put it on paper, they're not serious about it.
Phil Greenough Added Dec 30, 2017 - 5:04am
Keeping promises and honesty are not the same.  For example, banks loan money to people on the promise in writing they would be paid back.  As we all know, that doesn’t always happen.  For some people, a verbal promise is as good as gold. However, nobody knows the unforeseen circumstances that could cause one to break a promise, no matter if it’s in writing or not.  I think honesty and the intention to keep a promise are closely related. I suppose it all depends on the circumstances when we correlate honesty and promise breaking.  However, you didn't elaborate on what these "dishonest" people did.
Wendy Skorupski Added Dec 30, 2017 - 6:22am
Jeff, I really enjoyed reading your post - especially at a time in my life when I myself have seen a less savoury side to people I thought I knew and trusted. (If you've read my posts, you'll know who I'm referring to!) Being let down in life, and disappointed by people who we thought better of, is one of the hardest things to swallow. At work it's bad enough, but when it comes to your own nearest and dearest ... enough said! Thanks also for quoting that speech by John Roberts - tremendously meaningful and moving words. Happy New Year to you!
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 8:26am
Thanks Wendy. I'm sad to hear that people were less than honest with you, and there were feelings that were hurt. When I was young, the dishonest hurt my feelings, and when I was old they hurt my feelings and took money out of my pocket. As a matter of fact, I think divorces do both of those things.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 8:46am
Well, Phil, in business, one lives up to one's promises, or you're considered a bad risk. This is why people have bad credit scores, that while they might not be technically "dishonest" they certainly do not have a track record of keeping their promises. This is why banks charge more interest to certain clients, or reject them outright.
As for my personal experience, they promised compensation if I performed a certain task, and then reneged on their promise. They enjoyed the fruits of my labors while not paying for them.They became wealthier because of my labor, and yet, even over time, never paid for my efforts. That they profited from my uncompensated efforts, in my mind, makes them dishonest. If I could not have done the work, I would not have taken on the task. If they could not pay for the work, they should not have asked for it. At present time, if there is a large amount of work involved, when certain tasks of the project are completed, I require payment, and if none is made, the project ceases. All of this, mind you, is because of what experience taught me. Along with cheating me out of money, some of them also lied and said they never promised those things. Another reason to get it in writing. Clarity is something I seek in life; no less so in business.
Interestingly enough, I recently turned down a lot of work, not because I didn't like the money, but because I really couldn't do the work. Some of the work was out of my skill set, and some of it was far too late, without the necessary time to create the quality for which I am known. I consider that I did not promise something that I could not deliver "honesty." I could have made a promise and put together some slapdash product, but I have this thing called integrity, (a component and complement of honesty) where if I cannot deliver the quality, I do not take on the task.
George N Romey Added Dec 30, 2017 - 8:51am
We will see more contract work in the professional sector. You will be employed for as long as you are needed to complete a project.
Typically workers are brought in under a verbal non binding “temp to hire” basis. However as those in IT and increasingly in finance have learned (the hard way) its a come on to avoid paying retention bonuses. Once the IT upgrade or budget is done workers are given “the unfortunate” news and shown the door.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 9:12am
Yes, George, and then the geniuses who increased the bottom line by letting the people go cannot figure out why, when business picks back up, they do not have the brain power, the human resources, to capitalize on the advantages. There is a company called Nucor, that rarely ever lets any employee go. They might not pay as much all the time, but you can count on keeping your job through thick and thin.
When the opportunities arise, Nucor has the staff to tackle the task and make money. They get a lot of business that way because by being prepared, they have the staff to immediately get on task, produce the product and deliver, while the bottom-line geniuses of the contract company are still looking to find some "temporary" help. The short-term mentality is killing American business, creating an "as needed" workforce, cutting incomes which then cut payroll taxes which then create deficits, and concentrating wealth in the hands of the fortunate few, all the while being unable to exploit opportunities and make money.
Dino Manalis Added Dec 30, 2017 - 9:21am
Happy; Healthy; and Prosperous 2018!
Stephen Hunter Added Dec 30, 2017 - 9:38am
Nice post Jeff with great thoughts on being classy, something that i think many, in what i call "the major middle" are starting to understand cannot be achieved via possessions or material goods.  In other words it is becoming uncool to be greedy. 
Thomas Napers Added Dec 30, 2017 - 11:31am
That speech by Roberts is excellent!  It should be re-read at every commencement ceremony.
As it relates to this article, I’m not certain who this article is directed.  Just who in your opinion is showing lack of class or character?  I believe character and class go really far in the real world.  As for fairness, that is a very loaded word.  What has academia taught us about fairness that isn’t respected outside of academia?
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 2:21pm
Thanks Stephen. Even the millionaires are starting to feel guilty about having such money, though I think a lot of it is just show.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 2:52pm
Thomas, when I see no class at all, I see the wunderkind twins. Ivy-League graduates who challenged a very popular and money-earning software founder (name deleted for legal reasons), claiming it was their “idea” and trying to soak up some fame, and of course, fortune.  You can look at the lawsuit, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 08-16745, D.C. No. 5:07-cv-01389-JW. Now the wunderkinds are talking up Bitcoin. I see a pattern here. Have little or nothing to do with the original work, nor have anything in the way of skills to enhance it in the marketplace. Come into the game late, but try to take credit or at least seek recognition promoting it. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, try to become filthy rich in the process. Yes, they have Armani suits, and yes, they probably have Rolexes. They have all the class of a rattlesnake. I will not use the name because, realistically, they might try to sue me. Could be anyone, really.
To your second issue, what academia taught us about fairness that is ignored.  A former co-worker recently applied for a management position at another location, some three hours away. Having been with the company for ten years, he is looking to move up, and the relocation would be a great opportunity. He spent weeks there getting to know the operations and working as a manager. The recent decision was that he was not going to be given the position. All sources indicate that the reason has nothing to do with his competence, it has to do with the managers at his present location not wanting to lose his “talent” (a term used by HR people). He does too much for the present managers for them to lose his efforts and have to solve the issues themselves. This is putting a manager’s agenda before the needs of the company.  
I have seen all too much of this behavior, and no management class in the world (and I’ve taken plenty of them, as well as written dozens of managerial research papers) would tell a manager to put his priorities over those of the company. Again, not the first time I have seen it nor will it be the last. I am seeing all kinds of qualified people refused jobs, when the job goes to the spouse of a present employee, or a relative. I see people whose qualifications blow their fellow applicants into the weeds, and they take someone will less education and experience. No, Thomas, they didn’t teach us that in college, at least not where I went.  
George N Romey Added Dec 30, 2017 - 3:56pm
Jeff I will also add these wunderkids have none of their money in the game. It all comes from the people they “cultivate” (using that word loosely) for money. When it all goes to crap they just simply move on.
I think we’ve discussed before the lost of loyalty at companies. The average millennial will change jobs 15 times in their lifetime. Of course they won’t give a crap about their current employer. The gig economy will mean dealing with unattached and unconcerned employees. After all it’s just a paycheck to something better comes along. Yet we wonder why employee productivity has flat lined or declined in recent years.
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 30, 2017 - 7:08pm
George, no doubt loyalty is a characteristic of the past. Many of the older generation recall when loyalty was important, but those days are gone, for the most part.
Dave Volek Added Dec 31, 2017 - 11:46am
Good Article Jeff
I think the libertarian logic is that a person without class (as you have defined it in this article) would eventually be sidelined as the business unit(s) he is managing is no longer earning profits. Unfortunately, these people are still there, and see the business world as a game that they can skillfully play to win. They are not weeded out by free market forces.  
Jeff Jackson Added Dec 31, 2017 - 12:24pm
Thanks Dave, and yes, I agree, the free market doesn't weed them out, at least not entirely. On the other hand, there are people known for offering good deals and fair and honest transactions; word gets around that they're the people you want to deal with because they will be fair with you. Word of mouth is the best advertising. December gave me more work than I could handle, I turned down work. Other than a Craigslist ad long, long ago, I do not publicly advertise my work. I could use some help, but I can't find anyone. Imagine that.
Phil Greenough Added Jan 1, 2018 - 6:40am
“if someone make you a promise and and they aren't willing to put it in writing, the promise is about as worthless as the paper it isn't written on”
It depends on the person making the promises.  My closest friends honor their promises to me and I’m sure you closest friends do the same.  If they didn’t, they would cease being friends, as nobody can be friendly with someone they don’t trust.  In matters of business, we draft contracts and hire lawyers based on the presumption that unless a promise is in writing it’s worthless.  What promise was broken prompting you to write this article?
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 1, 2018 - 7:15am
Too many to document, Phil. One of the catch phrases that, at least to me in my experiences, is an indicator of deceit is: "Oh, that will never happen" I've been told that way too many times. Of course promises from close friends don't need to be written down, or do they? Somehow even friends forget those urgent loans that they say they will pay right back. Best to have a slip of paper just in case they have a memory slip. Hate to say all that, but I've been burned too many times.
Sam Nowaczynski Added Jan 2, 2018 - 4:19am
We all think we’re classy, kind and honest and others are less so.  If this article is not a documentation of your character and class, whose character and class is it a documentation of?  What is that was done to you that drove you to write this article?  The answer to those questions is the essay I’d like to read. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2018 - 5:26am
The essay begins with reflection (not necessarily self-reflection) on the year that passed. The essay is not specific to my character or class, and other than discussing my upbringing does not really detail any acts of character or class, it is more of a review of what has happened and what I might have learned over the past year, and how I will try not to repeat the mistakes of the past year. I urge everyone to document, not in detail, but the high and low points of the year and to reflect on the past year. If you read the reflections of past years, you will see how your view of life changes.
Things that were important on reflections of years past might possibly seem silly, but they were important to you at the time. What motivated me to write this article is I have reflections of past years that I review at the end of the year. Some are calendars of things that happened that year. In order to understand the present you must have some understanding of the past. Upon reflection, it seems that I trusted people and took their word for things, which, in the long run, tended not to be a good move.
I would not say I consider everyone other than myself less classy, honest and kind. There are certainly people more of all three of those things than myself. This is one of the aspects of reflection that help me improve myself as life goes on. Where could I have been more kind, more classy or more honest is part of reflection. Certainly not who could I have cheated, who could I have back-stabbed, or who I could have taken advantage of to make myself richer or more comfortable.
Neil Lock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 6:02am
Excellent article, Jeff. And you're right that honesty is important - to honest people. It's the dishonest ones that are the problem.
George N Romey Added Jan 2, 2018 - 8:13am
Dishonesty or moreover less than frank has increased with more informal means of communication. Your told by email your still being considered for a job when long ago management decided not to go ahead with your candidacy. It’s much easier to type words of dishonesty than to tell you in person. 
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2018 - 10:06am
Thanks Neil. I liked your political theory essay as well.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2018 - 10:13am
Yes, George, the "social media" that is being bragged about is offering a bunch of spineless armchair critics the opportunity to say very nasty things that they would never say to someone's face. That's another character of class, in its prime, someone that would never say anything behind your back that they wouldn't say to your face- that is class, something that social media, as well as a lot of business folks (not mentioning departments here, but you probably know, the ones that don't tell you of your boss's criticism) have lost. Social media is facilitating classless cowards who say nasty things and are never forced to repeat it face to face with the person that they are criticizing. Isn't technology wonderful? Look at all the character and class it has brought us. Or not.
Even A Broken Clock Added Jan 2, 2018 - 11:51am
Jeff, I think class is just one more anachronism that we cannot afford in the current economic climate. I am never more pleased with my decision to retire 3 years ago than on a day like today, the first work day of a new year, and I don't have to deal with a toxic corporate culture. I was a dinosaur, since I worked for the same employer for over 38 years, and was able to receive the benefits of loyalty that my employer offered upon my hiring and had not rescinded before my retirement. But the writing was on the wall, and the company I worked for no longer exists (literally, since they merged with an equal and will plan to split into 3 companies within the next two years).
No, nowadays its employment models like Uber that are defining a corporate culture. One where the human resources needed to generate income are literally throw-aways, not even defined as an employee. I must say I'm enjoying vicariously the struggles of Uber in Europe where they are calling a quacking, waddling creature a duck. The façade of not considering drivers as employees is meeting its match in multiple European countries, and it could not happen to a more deserving company.
Jeff Jackson Added Jan 2, 2018 - 12:54pm
Thanks Even, and let me say, from my limited exposure to you, you seem like a "class act." You have my respect and admiration. You are right, we might as well not call them "employees" any more, just "revenue generators" that are as disposable as flash drives. What I suppose many of the firms such as you describe should understand or realize is that their customers are, and I'm sure they hate to admit it, people. Yes, people. They are the ones that buy the product, and they are the ones that staff the organization, the same breed. When we can no longer treat them like people, well, the game is up, I suppose.

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