When you get a compliment say “Thank you”.


My friend Rick, fly fishing on Lake Ola in Tangerine, Florida

Everybody needs to meet my friend Rick…I hope everyone in the world has a friend like Rick. That would be hard to imagine though because there are simply not that many people around like him. He is a cross between Mother Teresa, Ted Nugent, Albert Einstein and Romeo….well at least the first three.

I met Rick as a freshman in college. We ended up being roommates the last three years and shared many incredible experiences together. It did not take long to realize that this kid from Fairfield, Connecticut was cut from a different cloth. He was athletic (played baseball) and polite. He was smart and humble. He was strong but kind and peaceful. He was the guy that everyone wanted to be around. He was everybody’s friend.

One of the things that stands out about him to this day is the way he handles a compliment. I was raised my whole life deflecting compliments. “Nice pass Gary…Nice run”……to which I might add…”just glad it wasn’t intercepted or I didn’t fumble”. If somebody said I looked nice I might say something like…“not bad for an ugly guy”. A compliment meant that I had to deflect it…self deprecation just became a part of my vernacular and exists to this day.

After teaching a lesson at church recently a young married man complimented me on the lesson. Instead of saying thank you, I semi-stuttered and finally said “well I am just a knucklehead and I tend to relate well to other knuckleheads”. We both sort of laughed and he said “so you are saying that I am a knucklehead?” We just sort of kept moving and sort of semi-laughing. What a thing for me to say! I apologized the next day and he was fine.

What I learned from Rick was simple. It is ok to say “thank you.” I remember giving him a compliment as a freshman and instead of him deflecting it he would say “thank you”. I remember thinking something to the effect of, who does this guy thing he is…You don’t look that good or that wasn’t that good of a play etc. Because he said “thank you” I thought wow, he must really think I meant it.

What a dummy I was. Of course I meant it and his response was simple and oh so right. “Thank you”. What a beautiful and simple way to acknowledge somebody else’s expression of kindness. It does not require any more explanation, dressing up or rebuttal. “Thank you” says it all in sufficient and powerful words. It stands alone perfectly.

When we turned 40, four of us college buddies decided to do an annual fishing trip. We have barely missed one since then and the several days together each year have been a blessing to each of us.                                

It has been a lot of fun for all of us for sure but where in the world can you find a friend like Rick that brings his own bread that he made to the fish camp. How could we be so lucky to…

have a friend that can’t wait to get out of the boat to cook for us? He never complains and always makes everyone else feel good.


He even brings food to the neighbor, my mother in law.

Do you guys have a friend like Rick? I hope everyone in the world has a friend like him. A whole book could be written about what makes a man do what he does. He is a hero to those of us who have been fortunate to know him.

All I can say is all that he would ever say:

Thank you!

 Rick at the annual Florida fishing trip.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Just say the right thing when given a compliment…say “Thank you”.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.



No Food in the Cupboards.

 “These things I command you, that ye love one another”

Jesus Christ

A very important feature in my church’s congregation is the assignment to take care of or watch over several other families in the congregation. This is minimally accomplished by a monthly visit with a short lesson. Since the congregational leader (the Bishop) is a non-paid ecclesiastical leader and has a normal job in addition to his church duties, this supports his role to watch over the flock. From a practical perspective, it also allows for a very organized way to communicate in the case of emergencies and to respond quickly in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

On one such assignment I visited a family that was suffering from tremendous health and financial burdens. I inquired as to whether there were any problems I could help them with to which they said no. We had a brief meeting and I left to be about my own business. Later that day the Bishop went by and visited the same family and found that their cupboards were bare. He immediately made sure that they received the food they needed.

The only possible reason they could have had for not sharing the dire emergency they were in with me was that they did not trust me or feel that I sincerely cared for them. I suppose that there may have been some truth in their assessment. To some extent, I fulfilled my obligation to visit the family not because I was worried about their well-being but because I wanted to be obedient to my assignment. I wanted to fulfil my duty. I cared for sure but the Bishop visited the family because he loved them and was worried about them. We all know that the difference between the two is easy to detect.

The HighFive Your Life principle is to remember that it is good to try to love one another and serve one another because we are supposed to but it is better when we actually learn to love one another because it is our desire to do so. The main things that get in the way, generally, are our pride, laziness, judgemental attitude and selfish ambitions. My natural default position is that I would rather be on 10,000 acres all by myself (with family). I know, however, that when I offer my sincere help to others, or others offer their sincere help to me or my family, it feels right. It is timelessly right. It is robust in its “rightness”. It is a good place to be and a reliable producer of good feelings. There will be more joy in the world when we all learn to love and serve one another for the right reasons.

HighFive Your Life principle: Remember that it is good to love one another and serve one another because we are supposed to but it is better when we serve and love one another because it is our desire to do so.


Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.


How to Guarantee Failure!

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

 Attributed to Albert Einstein

As we approached graduation at Princeton University there were flurries of meetings with recruiters for graduating seniors. Most of my classmates were trying to decide between graduate school or taking a job. One by one, my roommates would get their rejection letters and we would post them on the wall in our dorm. Eventually, they all had great employment opportunities after school but the process of receiving those rejection letters became a source of a weird sense of pride; probably to keep from crying.

I had already made the decision to go on a church mission after graduation so didn’t really have any pressure to go through this interview process. However, I also felt left out to some degree so I signed up to have an interview with the Clairol recruiter visiting our campus. I walked into the interview with a hand written resume and indicated near the end of the interview that I would not be available for two years because of my church mission. As we concluded, the interviewer gave me some sage advice. He said that perhaps I should not mention that I wouldn’t be available for two years in my next interview. I soon got my rejection letter!

 There are several principles to be gleaned from this story. I would like to concentrate on the association between preparation and results and how we interpret that connection. Clearly, I went to the interview unprepared and the results I received were predictable. Anyone reading this can easily see the connection between my preparation and my rejection. Now take any other result that you would like to achieve and look at the preparation that you are putting into it in order to achieve it. Maybe you are not as blatantly unprepared as I was but maybe you are. Is it as easy to see and predict the results in your quest based on your preparation as it was in mine?

  • Would you be surprised to be in poor health if you eat poorly and do not exercise?
  • Would you be surprised that your spouse is unhappy if you are selfish, condescending, and a slob?
  • Would you be surprised that you are broke if you gamble, are lazy, don’t try to find extra work or get a better education?
  • Would you be surprised that you have no real friends if you continually ignore or take advantage of or criticize those around you?
  • Would you be surprised that you do not get that promotion if you go home early or exactly when your work day is over, put your interests before the company’s interests, and participate in the negative back biting culture at the office?

If any of those would be surprises then reread my experience with Clairol. In most cases we get what we prepare for when the giver is prepared and able to give it. When we don’t get what we are seeking yet we have done the work, we at least get the satisfaction of doing our part.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Do not expect to get something without preparing and working for it.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.

Does My Kid Know Latin?

“Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation”

Mark Twain

Roommates Jim and Rick with Gary and Parents at Graduation

Graduation day at Princeton finally arrived. It was a beautiful spring day in 1979 and for someone who started out his freshman year on academic probation, I was relieved and happy just to be there. We were all seated in folding chairs in a beautiful area called Cannon Green. It was outside and the parents and family were all seated in bleachers surrounding us in a horseshoe fashion.

The valedictorian delivered his speech in its entirety in Latin. Our parents were unaware that we were given a cheat sheet of the speech with coded icons representing emotional expressions. I don’t remember the indexing but for example, the number one might have meant to applaud, number two to sigh, number three to laugh, etc.

The result of this conspiracy against our parents was that they thought we understood what the speaker was saying. I know my parents must have had a moment when they said “Holy cow!..my son speaks Latin!  Of course we thought it was the best spoof ever because we had no idea what the guy was saying. I have always loved that graduation ceremony.

The HighFive Your Life principle to consider is that it is great to have fun despite the seemingly serious nature of everything around us. Laughter and wit are welcomed and needed in our busy and hectic days. Isn’t it nice when someone enters into your “space” who you know is going to be the life of the party, make everyone laugh, engage in clever conversation and bring a lift to the whole evening? Where there is a wit there is a way.

There is a difference between crude and obnoxious behavior that creates attention through the shock of what is said and good old-fashioned clever and funny word smithing. Some people have it naturally and for some it is a gift that can be developed. Either way, its good to lighten things up because laughter really is the best medicine.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Loosen your tie or skirt and your smile muscles. Don’t be so serious about life and the events of the day that you can’t enjoy a good laugh.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers.  





Heaven’s Gift of the Riding Lawnmower?

 “Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best”

Theodore Isaac Rubin

Do I stop and pick up that piece of trash? Do I drive around that small branch in front of me? Do I go in a counter-clockwise or clockwise circle? Do I use a square as my template? Do I go from the inside out or the outside in? These are all major questions of strategy and work product when we climb onto our riding lawnmower.

(My mother-in-law…we call her Grambo which is a combination of Rambo and Grandma)

Sometimes before we climb on to that mower we actually check to see if there is gas and on rare occasions we check to see if the oil level is ok. Three year old dented and scarred blades must perform despite their tired condition. Our mission is to get the yard mowed before the televised football game and our riding mower is expected to perform and to give us this sense of work accomplishment before we sit ourselves down to a well-earned chips and drink sports extravaganza…oh, and by the way, when we arrive to our TV room we are once more going to sit down and do nothing for several hours yet still get the adrenalin rush as if we were actually suiting up and playing in the game..but that’s another story.

I have been amazed at the thinking that goes into mowing the yard on a mower that does all the work for you. There is a never-ending thought process that the operator goes through to try to do it better each week. Not just better than last week when you mowed but better than the way your neighbor mows who has also been doing it for over thirty years.

 A riding lawnmower is an amazing invention. A mower can deliver a piece of grass art to a baseball field. It can make a putting surface on a golf course look and feel like carpet. Never has anything been built that delivers such a massive work product that is visible to all, creates such a good feeling for the worker because the work product is admirable, gives the impression that the operator has been working hard because he/she is dusty and maybe sweating from the sun, and does all of this in such a way that the driver has expended very few calories in the process except to steer. In most cases, the effort that it would have taken to get off the lawnmower to move that piece of paper or branch is lost in the chopping sounds of the blades as you run right over it!

Unlike weed eating or raking or planting a garden, a riding lawnmower allows you to feel great about yourself and yard without having to actually work. It eases the conscious. If the family activity today is going to be “let’s work in the yard”, the instant debate is who gets to mow. Everyone in my family knows that the grandmothers get the mower. We all try get in a turn but are careful not to cross the line.

So is it a gift from heaven to be able to show a lot of work product without much effort…is that a tender mercy…or just a sign that somehow our internal need to be productive has been met while still satisfying our natural desire to be lazy?

(My mother and daughter Allie)

Many modern-day conveniences save us from tremendous amounts of work. Indoor plumbing and central heat mean we can flush, shower and stay warm without having to go outside to haul water or chop wood…and we can do it in seconds with very little effort.  The trouble is that it is not only easy but it also looks easy. With the press of a button or handle we accomplish what used to take a lot of work to do. It just does not deliver the impression that we have done a lot of hard work.

That is where the magic of the riding lawnmower becomes apparent. When we mow the yard, it takes little effort but because it takes time and looks like a lot of work has been done, we feel differently. We get the feeling like we just chopped two cords of wood and carried buckets of water from the river so that Ma could cook dinner.

The HighFive Your Life principle that I would like to share is simple. Let’s give ourselves a break. Maybe mowing the lawn on a riding lawnmower is not the same as chopping wood or hauling water but we work so hard in so many other ways that maybe this is one break from heaven that is just a nice gift. We ought to take it and say thank you! What do you think?

HighFive Your Life principle: Say thank you for the invention of the riding lawnmower!

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers. 

The Close Call with the Tractor

Farm living was the life for me! I was really in love with our 20 plus acre property we moved to when our four children were two months to five years old. We eventually bought cows and horses and chickens and guineas and peacocks and geese and emus and planted gardens and had our own pond filled with fish. We even had a big pig named Otis that lived under the elevated farm-house and would come out to eat table scraps whenever you called him.

One of my pride and joys was the old 1955 blue tractor I bought. I plowed and mowed the fields and somehow felt like I connected with my long deceased grandpa who farmed in Plant City many decades earlier.

 Author with sons Cal and Taylor

One day I decided to take the three small boys on a tractor ride. Normally I am very cautious, border lining on afraid, when it comes to risky behavior with the kids. For some reason that day, I decided that it would be safe enough to let two of them straddle the hood of the tractor up front as long as I went slowly enough and kept a good eye on them. We traveled around the pastures and they loved it. I did too.

What happened next is best described by the account that I wrote in my diary later in the evening.

Saturday March 19, 1994

Things were going along pretty well. The boys all wanted to ride on the tractor so I agreed to give them another ride. Robbie and Cal rode up front on the hood while I held Taylor on my knee. As I circled up by the lake, I thought about how many tractor accidents there are each year and wondered about that. I putted along in slow gear and decided to take them through the trees. I saw a branch hanging down and I am not sure if I was avoiding it or trying to give the boys some excitement, but the result could have changed our lives forever.

It happened so fast. Robbie tried to move the branch out of Cal’s way and it just took him and threw him off the tractor towards the left rear wheel. I couldn’t stop in time. His leg was right in the path and he pulled it out of the way just in time. [I actually pushed in the clutch for a split second which slowed the tractor a little but my foot slipped off. That split second was critical]

I would have hurt my boy because I was not fast enough. I’m still dazed and it is 8 hours later. One second we were riding having a good time and a split second later he could have been killed. My sweet boy… I thanked my Heavenly Father. Robbie asked if I was mad at him and I told him, no, that I was mad at me. He wanted to know if he should go off by himself and think about it. He was just so sweet worrying about me still being mad at myself. I am just so happy to be going to bed with my boys, girl and wife all safe. I need to be more careful. I would gladly give my life in trade for one of theirs. I’m just so glad. I am still shaking. One second we’re fine and the next a disaster. That quick.

There are several principles you can glean from this story. The one that I would like to share is with regards to the “goodness” of people. In this story, Robbie tried to keep the branch from hitting his younger brother and the result was that he ended up almost getting run over. We constantly hear about the bravery of somebody jumping into the water to save somebody else from drowning, going into a burning building to save a life, letting someone be rescued in the icy cold before they are rescued. Sometimes these stories result in everybody being saved. Sometimes they result in the rescuer dying also.

We all understand to what ends a loving parent will go to protect their child. What, however, makes a stranger help a stranger? There is something inherently good in all of us. Our humanity runs deep. It is clouded by the politics, greed and the selfish ambition of man, but our humanity is still there. We do well, when the thunderstorms of trouble and despair are on the horizon, to remember that by in large, we are all basically good people. Perhaps that perspective will foster solutions to issues in our family, neighborhood, and country that seem impossible to resolve  when we forget that at the very basic fundamental level…people are good.

HighFive Your Life Principle: People are as a rule good. To discover that “goodness” sometimes requires getting to the core of the person but it is there. Accepting the goodness of each other more completely may tend to help all of us arrive at solutions to problems more quickly and with less pain.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers. Gary

No Beer for Me??!!

“When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

I was recruited to play football for the University of Tampa a year before their program closed back in the mid 1970s. On the recruiting trip, they took me to a football game and later to the locker room where I met the player who would be my host for the evening. He was a big burly  linebacker which didn’t help calm the nerves of this already very nervous high school senior.

After he got showered and dressed, we drove to a place where there was a party going on and the refreshments were not donuts and orange juice. I was invited to participate in the “party” but declined and found a soda machine instead. I so badly wanted to fit in with this college crowd and felt a lot of pressure to join in. Soon I dismissed myself with the excuse that I had a lot on my mind to consider and wanted to get back to the hotel room.

The issue was simple; I didn’t drink. I did not belong to any church at that time. My parents were casual drinkers and we even had a bar in our home. Most of my friends by this time drank. I went to parties and dances with them and had fun and laughed with them and sometimes drove for them; I just didn’t drink.

This was a personal choice that was inscribed in my heart for some reason. I think athletics might have had something to do with my not drinking because I was pretty serious about working out and playing college football. However, I think it went much deeper. I believe that, though I did not go to church or say prayers or have any relationship to speak of with Deity, I just felt in my heart that it was wrong and He expected better of me.

I was also recruited to Princeton to play football and once again the opportunity to party was placed before me as a recruit. I politely declined. I was eventually accepted into Princeton University where I created life long friends, worked in the on-campus pub (making pizzas), and generally had a great time. I just didn’t drink.

It was interesting that at one point when I was a freshman in college and had my friends from Florida visiting and partying, I called Dad and told him that I was getting ready to have my first drink and I wanted a recommendation on what kind of drink I should have. He surprised me and simply said “ Aw son, you have come this far. ..don’t start now.” This advice came from the man who had also at one point invited me to share a drink with him. I am quite sure that I would not have gone through with it anyway but to hear him say that made me even stronger.

A HighFive Your Life principle is that in order to follow your convictions when the challenges are tough, they must be written in your heart. Doing things out of obedience or duty is okay. When it is written in your heart, however, nothing will make you change your mind. You will have the courage to stand by your convictions regardless of the storms of opinion that surround you.

As a parent, I have tried to make sure that I did what I could to help my children get the same heartfelt convictions so that when they are on their own they have the strength to make their own way. There are many things that I do out of duty and obedience and just plain decency and those are important. What strength I have, however, is found in my convictions. Find what you believe in and let your heart own it. If and when it does, you will possess strength that nobody can ever take from you.

HighFive Your Life Principle: Your strength of conviction comes when your belief is written in your heart. Fear, insecurity and weakness are overcome; they are in fact dispelled when you own your belief.

Please share stories from your life regarding this principle. If you would like to follow the weekly blog, please press the “follow” prompt. Thank you for keeping your comments appropriate for all readers. Gary

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