How Good Is Your Word?

From an early age my mother instilled in me a solid work ethic, that being late was a sign of disrespect, and the importance of your word and honoring a commitment. I have never lost these ideals and am now teaching them to my daughter. I am sadly aware, however, that many parents from the generations in between my youth and now seemed to have slacked off on these traits.

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When I became a personal trainer at the ripe age of 42 (20 years older than the average first time trainer) the Fitness Manager at the gym lamented daily about how he wished he had 10 more like me. While the other beginners stood around talking on their phones when they had no clients, I walked the floor, re-racking weights, helping people with their workouts, passing around free samples of our protein bars, etc. I was always on time, never kept a client waiting, and had their workout planned out in advance. Surprisingly I was the anomaly.

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When I was 21 I committed to photographing a co-workers wedding, happy to have a paying gig. Then it turned out that her wedding was taking place over an hour away from where I lived, that I would know no one else, and couldn’t bring a date. I really didn’t want to do it. I thought about what excuse I could make. But my mother’s teachings would not let me off the hook. I had made the commitment – given my word. I sucked it up, drove the 80+ miles by myself, focused politely on my task as photographer, and left four hours later knowing I had done the right thing.

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I find these days that many people do not share these apparently antiquated social ethics. They just weren’t raised with them. Kids call their relatives by their first names, not Aunt or Uncle, etc. I’ve had four play dates for my daughter here at the house this summer, not one of the parents ever reciprocated. I contact my clients the night before their training sessions with a courtesy reminder, yet many clients continue to give last minute cancellations or simply not show up. Friends email me with suggestions of getting together, I reply with multiple dates, and then weeks go by and the dates are missed.

My ultimate pet peeve is tardiness. It simply isn’t in my DNA to be late – and chronic tardiness by friends and clients irritates the heck out of me. There’s no reason for it, especially with all of technology on our side – alarms on smart phones, reminders set with Siri, etc. But alas, I know that time management is not a priority to everyone.

Once again I find myself on a soapbox today, spurned on, no doubt, by having watched Ken Burn’s amazing 14 hour documentary on The Roosevelts. If you want to teach your children about good social ethics, FDR and Eleanor were great examples. Not perfect people, but certainly raised with an ingrained sense of honor, commitment, and respect.

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People used to say “my word is my bond.” It’s a simple statement that says so much about the reliability of a person. I ask you – how good is your word?

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