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Smashing the reset button in 2023

01) Ralph 's Column 12-28-22

The overwhelming majority of folks look forward to the dawning of a new year with great anticipation. They look at it as a time of new beginnings, fresh flowers blooming and the whole bit.

New Year’s Day — i.e. the great calendar flip — being easily my least favorite of the major holidays is more of an opportunity to look back and ruminate for yours truly on where I went wrong and — in some cases — continue to do so year after stinking year.

Here is a list of deficiencies I’ll need to tweak and even perform major surgery on in the coming months.

Stop looking for the good in people: Remember the old tired saying about one never having a second chance to make that all-vital first impression? Well, many times that man or woman we’ve had that initial encounter with pulls the wool over our eyes and has us buying in on that individual being the genuine article and/or someone we can rely on. And being the type of guy who tries to look for the positives in situations, I usually fall hook, line and sinker for that opening act. Most times, sadly, I end up discovering that many people use that same introductory performance to deceive others as well. So, going forward – since my moonwalk needs a lot of work – I’ll go ahead and assume that everybody I meet is full of compost and then be pleasantly surprised when they actually respond in times when I may need a hand or advice with something.

It’s okay to date yourself: Too many people feel the need to apologize for making a dated reference from the 1970s, 80s or 90s that goes over the head of a twenty-something they may be chatting with. They often preface their observation by stating: “I know I’m dating myself, but …” I don’t know, I mean, call me an old fart, but all I listen to is music from 1970s, 80s and 90s and most movies and/or TV shows that were worth anything were made prior to 2000. And if some of the youngins aren’t familiar with the old song, athlete or actor you’re referencing, look at it as a teaching moment. The Japanese culture worships older folks and tradition, while here in the States, for the most part, we tend to thumb our noses at our elders who have actually experienced a lot more than most of us. So, if you ever hear me make mention of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” don’t expect me to bow my head in shame.

Read NOT to believe: I have to confess that my current workload doesn’t allow me to read as much as I would prefer, but I sometimes get caught in the trap of consuming — and therefore being influenced by — one particular publication, author or newspaper columnist. What we all should be doing is watching a variety of shows and seeking out other viewpoints either electronically or via print instead of robotically regurgitating one popular theory. And, by the way, this is why I’ll never be the type of editor who comes in with his white button-down shirt and sits at his desk all day. I like to get out to the different towns and hear a vast array of opinions before I get on my soap box and start preaching the gospel according to Ralph.

Brevity is the soul of wit: There was a study completed not too long ago that scientifically concluded that our collective attention spans have markedly diminished over the decades. But yet, many of us continue to speak and write as if we’ve lost all concept of space and time. We all, myself included, need to adapt to our faster world. In my business, that means I’ll need to refrain from busting out meeting recaps that are cheap facsimiles of the Old Testament.

Worshipping my way: Being a relative newcomer to the Lowcountry, I’m still in the process of finding a church I can call my own. When I first arrived in South Carolina, I began frequenting a small house of worship in the Summerville/Goose Creek area, but I was immediately informed that I would be expected to attend weeknight meetings and partake in weekly service rituals. I let the guy know that my schedule doesn’t allow me to be a multi-faceted congregant. So, in the meantime, I’ll merely try to knock out a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys and call it a day until I can find a spot that isn’t as demanding of my time and participation.

In-store donations — no thanks: Maybe I’m just growing more crotchety in my middle-age years, but few things irk me more than a big-box retailer like Petco asking me to shell out a monetary contribution while they’re charging me $58 for three unwrapped bully sticks. It’s like very politely getting screwed on both ends. It’s not uncommon for my pet food bill at the Summerville Petco to exceed what I pay for my own food at Earth Fare right next door. I’ll gladly donate to the ASPCA and other similar organizations on my own and rather not do so with a corporate giant acting as the middle man.

Heavying up on unplug time: My favorite times of the week are when I tuck away my phone somewhere and hit the weights and/or treadmill at the gym. That 40-60 minutes where I’m not being alerted about the latest car crash at 10:30 p.m. does wonders for me physically. Yet, I see lots of exercise enthusiasts around me putz around with their phones in their face while their sitting on a preacher bench and needlessly prolonging their gym sessions in the process.

Keep dreaming … within reason: It’s comical how many times I’ll run into folks from my age group — or even a bit older — and hear them whine and moan about how they should be receiving offers for jobs they aren’t remotely qualified for. I think everyone by the time they’re 35 — at the latest — should be aware of their skill set and realistically cognizant of what they’re best suited for. It’s like hearing my mom tell me I should be a TV anchorman. Sorry, that’s not me, not with my disheveled appearance and hair that’s typically going in 36 different directions. A Calvin Klein model I am not. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe I can fly, but I’m also acutely aware of my stratosphere. I don’t need any reminders of staying in my lane.

Pounding the pavement: Being a slave to your laptop has a lot of downside attached to it, including staying glued to your office chair for long — sometimes sleep-depriving — periods. During those intervals, one can easily forget to venture outdoors and breathe a little fresh air. Outside of pulling my 70-pound beagle (aka Sir Sniff-A-Lot) around during his potty strolls, my walking time has drastically decreased from my years of working in Rockaway Beach, New York about three or four years ago. Walking, it seems, is a magic pill of sorts when it comes to reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and — most importantly — keeping the phone out of your face.

Dealing with a born devil’s advocate: You ever work alongside that guy or gal who tells how a candy red apple is midnight blue, and say it with a straight face? In earlier years, these contrarians used to drive me up the ceiling, as it seems that they truly get a kick out of poking the bear with their outlandish viewpoints. I am making a concerted effort of just nodding my head and moving on when I smell the nonsense spewing out of their pie holes.

Sizing people up: There was once a great individual who stated that you ought to judge a man the same way you assess an apple tree by finding out how much fruit they bear. So, next time some bloke emerges from nowhere dispensing hard advice, consider the source. Who is this character and what is he or she contributing to the betterment of their community or the world at large? Some folks bring nothing to the table and only derive pleasure out of taking. And those are the types of Toms, Dicks and Harrys I don’t need to hear from.

Not letting the media dictate to you: Yes, I guess I’m technically part of the media. However, I’ll readily acknowledge that many professionals in my industry comprise some of the most self-righteous, smug and sanctimonious folks you’ll ever meet. They revel in communicating to their readers, listeners or viewers what they fancy is truly important. That, in my modest opinion, is how you lose people. A few weeks ago, the media world was in a tizzy about remarks made by music artist Kanye West (aka Ye) regarding a certain religious group. Whether you agree or disagree with his nonsense (and hopefully it’s the latter), a deranged rapper’s opinions are not that critical in terms of our national or global affairs. Now, if Uncle Joe or Vladimir Putin issued the same comments, then yes, the media can and should be rapping about it until they’re blue in the face.

Those are some areas I’m going to be fixing to improve upon in the near future. If you have any recommendations, I’m all ears.

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