Jay Rifenbary

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Remembering to Honor Family and Friends – “Cats in the Cradle”

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When all is said and done who truly defines whether we have attained a level of success and personal honesty that was a true reflection of who we were? I believe the answer comes from those who are closest to us, our family and friends. I am not suggesting we base our lives solely on their assessment and feedback, but they know us in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, love and anger, success and failure. So why do we at times behave destructively towards those closest to us where we would otherwise rarely display such behaviors to others? Many times when the challenges of life confront us we go to those who love us for their comfort, understanding and validation. The conflict arises when their response to our needs are not manifested in the way we may want. I want us to reflect on this element of finding contentment in one’s life, because in the troubled times we face socially, economically, politically an ethically, it will be our family and friends that will be there to help us persevere together as a team and family.

After a recent “No Excuse!” presentation in Washington, DC, I was returning to BWI Airport via a cab. During the brief transport to the airport I conversed with the driver and asked him where he was from. His response humbled me and sparked some personal reflection on my part. He responded, “Nigeria”, and subsequently said, “I wake up every day thanking God for the blessing to come to this country, and thank Him for the opportunity and blessings to love my family, be with my family and witness their opportunity to prosper and succeed in a land of freedom.” I thought to myself, how many of my fellow American citizens have recently expressed such appreciation for their country and their family? I hope many have, for we should. Two songs which have always impacted me regarding this topic are Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”. The profound lyrics include, “He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time / You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu / But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad / It’s been sure nice talking to you” / And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me / He’d grown up just like me / My boy was just like me” and the key phrase in “Tears in Heaven” is “Would you know my name / If I saw you in heaven?” The lyrics encourage me to contemplate, one, have I created emotional distance with my own children, and two, would my children know my name in heaven?

My “No Excuse!” book is filled with inspiring quotes and anecdotes and my favorite is entitled “To My Grown Up Son” and affirms as follows, “My hands were busy through the day; I didn’t have much time to play the little games you asked me to; I didn’t have much time for you: I’d wash your clothes, I’d sew and cook, but when you’d bring your picture book and ask me to share your fun I’d say, “A little later, son.” I’d tuck you in all safe at night; and hear your prayers, turn out the light, then tiptoe softly to the door – I wish I’d stayed a minute more. For life is short, the years rush fast – a little boy grows up so fast. No longer is he at your side, his precious secrets to confide. The picture books are put away, there aren’t any games to play - no goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear; that all belongs to yesteryear. My hands once busy now lie still; the days are long and hard to fill. I wish I might go back and do the little things you asked me to.”

Over the 52 years of my life I have seen many people on different staircases to success, but if they have stepped on everyone along the way, how happy can they be? They may have things, but they do not have deep rooted meaningful relationships. Personal fulfillment in life is recognition of service to others, and living a life purposeful in respect to the family and friends you share life with. Each day is an opportunity to be kind, loving and respectful. Ensure there is time to share that kindness, love and respect with those who love you.



Lessons in Attitude – Are You Optimistically Challenged?

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Recently I conducted a “No Excuse!” training presentation for an environmental engineering company in New Orleans. The itinerary for my return trip home to Albany included a connecting layover in Charlotte. Upon waiting in the gate area, preparing to board the final flight, I noticed a young lady who was missing the bottom half of both her legs, and was on prosthetic limbs. Surprisingly, she appeared to be quite comfortable and agile with them. My first thought was this accident might have occurred serving our country as a member of our military forces. I was tempted to approach her and subsequently ask the question, but I refrained, sensing it might make her feel uncomfortable, and I might be incorrect in my assumption. Landing in Albany, arriving at the baggage claim, I again noticed this young woman. It appeared her parents had met her, and they were welcoming her home. At this point I could not help my desire to know. Moments later I was introducing myself to her and her parents, and asked my question. She informed me that a couple of years ago she had been in a convoy south of Baghdad when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded next to her vehicle resulting in the partial loss of both her limbs. As I stood there listening, I was attentive to the fact of how gracious, positive, and comfortable she was sharing her story with me. In turn, I thanked her for her service to our nation, and proceeded to give her a big hug. She responded, “You’re Welcome”. As I proceeded to exit the baggage claim I asked myself, “What did I wake up and whine about today, the weather, the world, my mistakes, what I don’t have, who did what to me years ago?”. Over the many years of experiencing humbling encounters such as this, I have learned to appreciate more and more the little blessings in life. To know each day is a gift, life is not what you are given but rather how you take it, (attitude); and friends and family should not be taken for granted.

Another recent incident further reinforced my belief in the positive attitude that exists in our fellow human beings. Having concluded a full day training session, I was being transported in the middle of rush hour to the Orlando International Airport via a Mears Limousine, provided to me by the generosity of my client. Approximately 4 miles from the airport terminal the limousine decided it was too exhausted to transport any more people, and broke down in the right hand lane of Semoran Boulevard, a very high volume thoroughfare in Orlando.

In a state of concern, the driver immediately attempted to acquire assistance utilizing his cell phone, but to no avail. Pondering the predicament, and knowing my flight was departing shortly, I realized drastic measures might need to be taken. Having been informed that there were no taxicabs in the area, and a replacement limousine might arrive after my scheduled departure, I made an Airborne/Ranger type decision, and decided to take matters into my own hands. I proceeded to exit the vehicle, obtain my luggage, and attempted to flag down a potential “Good Samaritan”, while screaming, “Is anyone going to the airport?”. Since the broken down limousine had stalled traffic, causing a severe backup, initially all I heard were beeping horns, offensive terminology, and observed inappropriate sign language. However, within several minutes a young couple heard my plea, proceeded to stop their vehicle, and offer assistance. Seconds later, my bags were in their car, and I was on my way to the airport to catch my return flight to Albany. After a brief introduction and some small talk, my new driver mentioned he needed fuel. We briefly stopped, and because of his kindness, I offered to pay for the fill up. Although he declined my offer, I insisted, and shared with him that I felt it was the least I could do. Minutes after we departed the gas station, I was at the Southwest Terminal saying goodbye, and thanking this couple who extended a gesture of kindness, and went out of their way to assist someone in need. So hats off to Rudy and Arlene for their selfless attitude, graciousness, and renewing the belief that kindness is alive and well. Attitude is a choice; make it a positive one today and everyday.



Monday, October 23, 2017

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