Scott Paton  |  12/02/2008

Give Thanks

In tough times it helps to focus on what you have rather than what you want.

It’s that time of year when we look back at what we have accomplished, at what we’re thankful for, and what lies ahead in the year to come. What a year 2008 has been: skyrocketing (and plummeting) fuel prices, an election that seemed like it would never end, a flood of foreclosures, a bunch of bank failures, and a sinking stock market.

As I write this, Thanksgiving is right around the corner. It’s always a good time to stop and think about what we have, not what we want. I think this is particularly true this year. Here’s my list of what I’m thankful for. First, the obvious:

My family. Although having twin 2-year olds and a 7-year-old boy can be challenging, I am truly thankful for them and my incredible wife, who works 10 times harder than I do to raise our family.

My job(s). I have two jobs: My work at Quality Digest and running my own business, Paton Professional. Both of these jobs allow me to do what I love: write, edit, create, manage, and research. (I’m such a hopeless geek.)

I’ve been with Quality Digest (either as employee or a contributor) for almost 25 years. It’s been a fantastic experience that’s allowed me to learn and grow in so many ways: as a writer, editor, publisher, manager, and more. It’s also allowed me to meet many terrific, talented people and to travel around the world. Thanks to Quality Digest’s founder, Donald L. Dewar, for taking a chance on a very young college kid, and for his continued support.

I’ve been running my own business, Paton Professional, since 1995. It has evolved from a book publisher with just one title to a publishing and training organization with more than 40 books in print; two newsletters; and public, in-house, webinar, and e-learning training courses. (For those of you who don’t know, there is no connection between Quality Digest and Paton Professional, except me. I write this column for Quality Digest and give them some advice now and then. Paton Professional is a separate company, owned by my wife, Heidi, and me.)

My faith. I believe that it’s my faith in something bigger and better than me that helps me get through the tough times with the kids, the business, the relationships, the illnesses, the whatever. Thanks to a mother who dragged me to church every Sunday of my young life. I may not have appreciated it at the time, but I do now. I don’t always get what I want, but I always seem to get what I need. (My apologies to the Rolling Stones.)

 

Now, the not-so-obvious:

Our political process . I am thankful for a political process that elected the first African-American as president of the United States. Whether you agree or disagree with his politics, you have to admit that it was quite thrilling to see Barack Obama elected president of the United States. Let’s hope for a productive four years.

Capitalism . It’s been tested during the last few months like never before. Banks have failed, government has intervened in markets in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a year ago, thousands of people have lost their jobs, and the Big Three teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. Yet I have faith in our capitalist system. If we let the market work, we will work our way out of this mess. I hope our new president and new Congress resist the temptation to intervene too strongly. Some short-term pain might be the best medicine in the long term. Almost all U.S. airlines have reorganized under bankruptcy protection and emerged stronger and more competitive. I suspect the same would be true for Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. For all my criticism of them over the years, they have made great strides in improving their products and listening to the voice of the customer. They just have to find a way to reduce their costs to Toyota and Honda levels. Reorganization under bankruptcy protection might be the fastest path. Plus, as I’ve mentioned several times before, it’s not just the Japanese or Korean or European automakers we have to worry about; it’s the Chinese. They will begin selling cars and trucks here very soon. Detroit has got to get competitive if it wants to stay in the game.

The ASQ. I know that I’ve been critical of the ASQ in past years, but the organization been doing a much better job of meeting its members’ needs recently. In fact, despite the economic downturn, membership is up. Kudos to the hardworking folks in Milwaukee for improving the society’s outreach efforts and membership categories to make it easier for individuals and organizations to join.

 

These are just a few of the things that I’m thankful for. How about you? Sometimes stopping to think about what you’ve got instead of working for what you really don’t need helps put things in perspective. Post your thoughts at www.qualitycurmudgeon.com . By the way, I realize that not everyone will be thrilled with my “thankful” list. So, as a reward, I promise not to publish my New Year’s resolutions in the January issue. Besides, I’m sure by then I’ll have found something to complain about.

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About The Author

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Scott Paton

Scott Paton is Quality Digest’s editor at large and president of Paton Professional, a provider of books, videos, webinars, and other resources for quality professionals.