Pay it Forward: The E-mail I Thought About All Night

“Nobody ever has any success in life without the help of a friend.”

That’s what a successful businessman told me back in 2008 when I was on the brink of launching a publishing business from the ground up. I’d gone to solicit his advice, and his money, by way of advertising in a new publication.

He agreed to invest several thousand dollars in our publication, not necessarily because it helped him so much, but because he cared enough to pay something forward.

I’ve never forgotten that day.

***

husband wife relationships

This is Dana. My wife and #1 helpmate. There’s not another person in the world who’s given me so much of themselves.

I receive between 150 and 200 emails on any given day. Like most, I’m selective in what I read versus what gets “xd out” at first glance.

Late yesterday an email to my personal account carried a tagline “I value your opinion,” and almost certain it was spam, it was a good candidate for a quick delete.

I reluctantly clicked it anyway.

Turns out the email was from a fellow blogger with whom I’d struck up a casual relationship a month ago. We’ll call him Tom.

Tom basically said he was looking for a writing mentor. Here’s an edited excerpt from his email:

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“I’ve dabbled in writing for a long time. I’m at the point in my life that I’d like to get serious about it. I’ve been a “closet writer” for ages, not letting anyone see my work (including my wife) for fear of being judged, an inferiority complex and being laughed at.
I’m desperate at this point in my life to make something of myself. I would be indebted to you if you could look over my post and critique my writing. I understand your (sic) a busy person and have your own life to move forward with. And totally understand if your (sic) just to busy, or simply didn’t want to get involved.
I’ve looked at many other people and their writing on wordpress, but for some reason I keep gravitating back to your site for “pointers.” I’m sure some of it has to do with your journalism background being that I came from a newspaper background myself. I drove a newspaper truck for 22 years in Chicago. Not the same as a journalist by any stretch of the imagination. But a sense of connection just the same.
In short I’m looking for a mentor in writing and would be grateful if you would help me. I’m not sure yet how I can return the favor. I’m not very good at anything unless you needed driving directions in Chicago (I thought I needed to throw in some humor). All I ask is you think about it. And please don’t feel obligated or pressured to help. I’ll understand.
I’ve agonized for days about sending you this email. #1 I didn’t want to bother you. After all you don’t know me. #2 I’m not accustomed to asking anyone for help. It’s just something I don’t do.”
***
Tom’s right. I stay pretty busy. Overly busy. But I get what he’s saying.

mother son relationships

This is my mom. Her love and suppor have been unconditional for 46 years.

  • He’s apprehensive about writing what’s on his heart.
  • Transparency is scary.
  • He really wants to make something of himself.
  • He hates to ask anyone for help.
  • But help is precisely what he needs.
So Tom finds himself in a place to which I suspect we can all relate.
  • Have you ever desperately needed to share your heart, but bottled it all up for fear of rejection?
  • Have you found yourself in a moment when you searched your heart for your true life’s calling?
  • Are you simply too prideful or fearful to ask a friend for help?
best friends and men

This is my very best friend in the world. He helps me by making life fun, being there at a moment’s notice and defining loyalty.

Interestingly, Tom’s communicated with me at the very time when I’ve determined to say “no” to more things than I normally do.

By nature, I’m an over-extender, spread thin, and in the midst of trying to simplify life.

But I get it Tom. Been there, done that. To you, I say “yes.”
I’ll do whatever I can to help Tom. Too many people have helped me by way of pure grace. It’s true – what my helper said back in 2008 – is still true today.
“You never have any success in life without the help of a friend.”
Do you relate to Tom’s sentiments? I’m guessing so.
About transparency, fear of judgment, making something of yourself and asking for help… what would you tell Tom?
Seriously, what would you say to him?
I’d like to know. I bet he would too.
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The Debate: Romney, Rules and Ego Beat Obama

I’m on the record as a critic of Mitt Romney‘s campaign, and until last night, it was, in fact, a disaster. Less than two weeks ago, I said the 2012 presidential race was over.

romney vs. obama

I was wrong.

It doesn’t require a lot of in-depth analysis to see exactly why Romney was the hands-down winner in last night’s debate. It wasn’t a necessarily stellar performance from Romney, but it was good. I give him a “B.”

Romney’s win was more about President Obama being totally off his game by way of the environment.

Two simple reasons.

1. The moment Jim Lehrer announced the debate crowd would be silent, well, it was a game changer. Obama’s a great speech maker. One of the best. No one feeds off a crowd like Barack Obama. For the POTUS, the required silence was deafening.

2. For the first time in four years, Obama stood on stage with another man as an equal. Obama’s always played the role of the smartest guy in the room. In his mind, he has no equals. Last night was mono e mono. It’s been a long time since Obama was put in a defensive position. Romney blew by him like Michael Jordan.

On the grading scale:

Romney – “B”

Obama “D”

Things just got interesting, and a LOT more money just got poured into a negative TV campaign.

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The Difference in a Year

“Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” ~ Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding from Shawshank Redemption

A year does make a difference.

These are some things that are different now, than from this time a year ago.

  • Just as the calendar year rolled around, it became obvious my dad’s illness was considerably more serious than any of us knew. A few weeks later, he died in a hospice bed. I’m the only son of an only son. When your dad goes missing from  your life, things change. You inherit new responsibilities. You wrestle with your own mortality. A few days ago, I found myself in one of his favorite stores, and for a fleeting moment, thought about what I’d get him for Christmas. Then I remembered he was gone. Every so often, I cry, but mostly, I think about the pure joy he now experiences, shake my head in wonderment and smile.
expatriates in ecuador

Dana and me with our newfound friends Caesar and Maggie. Caesar is a Peruvian lawyer and French-trained chef. I’ll never forget our first visit when Caesar said, “I am a citizen of the world.”

  • I’ve gained a greater appreciation for diversity. My years as a kid were spent growing up in a small, rural-American community. We were all white, low-to-middle-income products of the Mississippi delta. In an age absent of smart phones and iTunes, I passed the time reading encyclopedias, subscribed to National Geographic for Kids and corresponded with a pen pal in Venezuela. Today, I’m amazed by our divisiveness, and I find myself purposefully reaching out across racial and cultural lines. Those times are the most rewarding of experiences.
  • My view of what it means to be a Christian has radically changed. At 19, I decided “going to church” needed to be a part of my life, that it would make me a better person, and basically, that it would be a ticket to eternity. The endless three-point sermons through which I sat spoke much more to my performance than they did to my acceptance. The result was my focus on an endless string of failures and the notion that I never quite measured up. It produced guilt, shame, and an overall sense of failure. It took getting angry with “religion” to finally understand the God in whom I believe made the ultimate sacrifice because He knew I’d never meet the standards of the law. The freedom to fail, and knowing that God won’t ask for my resume has changed all I ever believed about the church.
  • I got my best friend back. From the time we were in the seventh grade, Brady Cornish and I were best friends. Together, we rode the country roads, played a lot of golf, and got into a lot of mischief. We became as close as brothers. In
    best friends and relationships

    Brady and I posing for a quick snapshot just before a match last weekend in Mountain View, Arkansas.

    1988, I allowed my own life circumstances to get in the way of our friendship, and even though we lived only 30 miles apart we went 22 years without as much as a phone call. The loss of the relationship was my fault, not his. But a day never passed when I didn’t think of him. In January, I needed my best friend, drove to his house in shame, and did my best to ask his forgiveness. He embraced me as if a day had never passed. Today, life is fuller and days are more complete because our friendship is stronger than ever. I’m blessed beyond measure by Brady’s trusted friendship, and have no shame in acknowledging just how much I love this great man.

  • I’m playing golf again. In our early years, Brady and I played golf every weekend. When our friendship was lost, golf was lost with it. It’s a minor thing in the grand scheme, but the time we now spend together on the links are among the best of times. After so many years, the slices are more frequent and the drives aren’t as long, but we’re working on our games together and making progress. Golfing days are good days.
  • Once again, writing is a big part of my life. Producing words from a keyboard is the place where I’ve always been most myself. I was a newspaper reporter for 10 years, a press secretary to a member of Congress for four years and operated a publishing business for a time, then let it all go. It was a huge void. Now I’m blogging regularly, working on two books, and with a little luck will publish my first work on Amazon this coming Black Friday.
expatriates in ecuador

This is a photo of our home under construction in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. From where it sits, we can see miles of beach and south Pacific sunsets every night.

  • If you’d told me this time a year ago, that I’d be building a house in South America, I’d have laughed out loud. Last April, Dana and I took a whimsical trip to Ecuador. The first night I saw the sunset on the South Pacific I thought of my dad and just how short life is. What the heck? We bought a piece of land on the beach, started construction in June and will go back to our finished la pequena casa azul en la colina on December 21. We’re excited about what it all means.
  • And so I’ve become semi-fluent in Spanish. Dana and I want to immerse ourselves in the Ecuadorian culture. Those six hours of college spanish were 25 years ago. Rosetta Stone‘s getting me there, but there’s a long way to go.
  • I feel as though I have friends around the world now. Blogging on wordpress has allowed some wonderful new friendships and really closes the distance between like-minded writers and entrepreneurs. It’s so much fun to receive a compliment from someone thousands of miles away, and to return the favor almost every day.
  • More than ever, I believe in second chances. All those guilt-ridden failures a few hundred words back still carry their consequences, but they overwhelm me no more. Everyone wants to leave a legacy. I’m thankful to be on a journey where I know mine will be found.

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Why She Loves Me I’ll Surely Never Know

 

 

“A man has only one escape from his old self: to see a different self – in the mirror of some woman’s eyes.” ~ Clare Boothe Luce
Steve and dana watkins jonesboro ar
It often amazes me why anyone would particularly love a guy like me. I’m just glad there’s one who does.

The first time we ever spoke of a relationship between us, I asked Dana a simple question. “What do you want?” I asked, in a critical moment of transparency.Dana and Steve Watkins Jonesboro ar

“I want to take care of you, and I want you to protect me,” she said, with an answer that oversimplified anything I ever expected.

And so our lives began together with that simple foundation.

I’m not one of those dashing GQ cover guys with a sculpted body and perfect hair. Stimulating social conversation has never been my particular forte’. And the older I grow, the more set I become in my quirky ways.

But she loves me. It’s a thing I never doubt. And it’s an amazing thing to know as perfect truth. Why she does, I’ll surely never know.
new york new yorkDana’s unconditional love gives me a freedom I’ve never known. Permission to be free, imperfect and to pursue the most outrageous of things (what we call laughable dreams). It’s an uncomplicated life, and makes things much easier than they otherwise could be.

If I take four hours out of the weekend to play a round of golf with my buddies, it’s okay. There will be no passive-aggressive silent-treatment-type stuff when I return home.

If I hole up in an office for an entire weekend to write without distraction, it’s okay. She understands I had to get it out of my system.

A few months back while traveling several days on business, I returned home only to find she’d taken a spare bedroom in our home and turned it into a “man room,” especially for me.

When she throws her leg across me in the bed at night, it’s a subtle reminder that she just wants to be close, and it causes me to smile, even at 3 a.m.

I’ve been known to give her presents that were things I really wanted. She never says a word – just comes along for the ride.

Four years ago, I pursued a business dream, invested everything we had, and ended up flat broke. It was a laughable dream that laughed right back at me. For a time, I gave up on everything. She never flinched.

She calls me babe, sweetheart, darling … I often wonder how anyone could think of me in that way.Steve and Dana Watkins jonesboro ar

She’s never given me an ultimatum, quid-pro-quo, or a single demand I can recall.

She calls my mom most every day, just to talk and express her thoughtfulness.

She’ll text me later today and tell me she loves me. I can count on that.

How did I get so lucky?

Why she loves me, I’ll surely never know. I’m just glad she does.

Lord, help me do my part, and help me take care of her well.

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Mitt Romney’s Quotable Quotes

ON TERMINATION POLICY:

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” – using an unfortunate choice of words while advocating for consumer choice in health insurance plans (January 2012)

ON THE LESS FORTUNATE:quotes by mitt romney

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” — (January 2012)

ON DIVERSITY:

“My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.” – in leaked comments from a Florida fundraiser, May 17 2012

ON HIS UNFORTUNATE LIFE CIRCUMSTANCES:

“I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.” — speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney’s net worth is over $200 million.

ON PATRIOTIC PHILOSOPHY:

“I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” – (January 2012)

ON ANN:

“We use Ann sparingly right now so that people don’t get tired of her.” – referring to his wife while speaking to a room of wealthy donors in Florida, May 17, 2012

ON A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP:

“I think the best answer is as little as possible.” – when asked what he wears to bed at night, interview with ABC’s “LIVE! with Kelly and Michael,” Sept. 14, 2012

ON MIDDLE-INCOME AMERICA:

“No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.” – when questioned by ABC’s  George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America,” as to whether $100,000 is “middle income” on Sept. 14, 2012

ON FAMILY TRANSPORTATION:

“[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs.” – campaigning for president in Michigan (February 2012)

ON HOW TO GAMBLE DURING A DEBATE:

“I’ll tell you what, ten-thousand bucks? $10,000 bet?” – attempting to make a wager with Rick Perry during a Republican presidential debate to settle a disagreement about health care (December 2011)

ON HIS LOVE FOR ANIMALS:

“PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air.” — in 2007, responding to criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals following revelations that he had once put the family dog in a carrier and strapped it to the roof of his car during a 12-hour road trip

ON BEING ONE OF THE GUYS:

“I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners.” — after being asked whether he follows NASCAR racing (February 2012)

ON HOW TO GIVE A COMPLIMENT:

“I’m not sure about these cookies. They don’t look like you made them. No, no. They came from the local 7/11 bakery, or whatever.” —Mitt Romney, visiting a local bakery while campaigning in Pittsburgh, PA, April 17, 2012 (The owner of the baker later told MSNBC he was offended by Romney’s remarks.)

ON CAPTURING THE NASCAR VOTE:

“I like those fancy raincoats you bought. Really sprung for the big bucks.” — to a group of NASCAR fans wearing plastic ponchos at the Daytona 500 (February 2012)

ON DOUBLE STANDARDS:

“We have a president, who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard, perhaps.” — Romney has two Harvard degrees (April 5, 2012)

ON ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY:

“I love this state. The trees are the right height.” — campaigning in Michigan (February 2012)

ON PAYDAY:

“I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much.” — Romney earned $374,000 in speaking fees in one year according to according to his personal financial disclosure (January 2012)

ON STANDING ON HIS RECORD:

“I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.” — (May 17, 2012)

Wahhh Pig Sooie

Who am I? What am I doing here?” ~ vice presidential candidate, Admiral James Stockdale (1992)

The Woo is gone out of Woo Pig Sooie.

John L Smith fired

This says it all in Arkansas.

It happens to the best of them: the Tylenol scandal; New Coke, Coke-Classic debacle; Bill Clinton’s, “I never had sex with that woman.”

If ever there was a case study in crisis management, University of Arkansas Razorbacks Athletic Director Jeff Long now has one on his hands.

From the Spring Sunday when Bobby Petrino took an infamous motorcycle ride with a young athletic staff employee, to the Razorback‘s temporary Band Aid with John L. Smith, to losing to a “cupcake” in the Sun Belt Conference, to an embarrassing home wipeout at the hands of the Univerity of Alabama, then Rutgers … and in the midst of it all a series of incomprehensible statements made by Smith (including the latest today) and the apparent oversight of Smith’s $25 million in debt, Long is now far past the job of trying to prevent apathy among fans who were once hopeful for the Razorback’s first national championship in three decades.

He’s now faced with how to stop people from making a mockery of his school. That’s never happened before.

The word cited most often of Smith’s performance is “moronic.” He doesn’t even know where he is, folks.arkansas razorback football

A “Fire John L. Smith” Facebook Fan Page is gaining momentum.

Once loyal fans, even in the face of the most imaginable of circumstances, are now repugnant toward the program.

Truth is, Smith should have been dismissed in the post game following a historic shutout at the hands of the Crimson Tide when his team shut down. It certainly should have happened Saturday night after the Rutgers fiasco.

It’s no longer a matter of salvaging a football season. Now it’s a lot more.

It’s a control issue.

Some things are simply unpermissable.

Long is faced with the decision and showing his fan base the “unacceptability” of the circumstances.

I think you’ll see it in the next 24 hours.

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