On Life: the twists, the turns & the bumps in the road

My brother and I would listen to this guy’s tale of woe and just laugh hysterically, not at the guy, just at the circumstances he would get himself into and the way he’d try wiggle out of it and just keep getting deeper and deeper into the poop. I’m guessing this guy always liked his ‘hair shirt’ and with some gentle prodding by Bob and I, this fella started to catalog these stories into a book. All it took was changing his point of focus from victim to ‘straight man’ and now he has stories to write ‘til the cows come home.

It’s been said that the opinion of others is what gives you your reputation but your opinion of yourself is what will determine your character, what you do and how you act when nobody’s looking. And the twists, the turns and the bumps in the road that you will encounter over a lifetime and how you react to them will help forge that character. Will you be the kind that shrugs off a bump or a twist, knowing that it’s just part of the journey? Or will you be the kind that whines, whines and whines at the slightest inconvenience because you, in all your infinite wisdom, did not anticipate the smallest thing going wrong? (Oh Lord, just take me now). No wonder most of your time is spent alone. One of the secrets to joy and happiness is to be able to laugh at yourself no matter what your situation or circumstances dictate.   

            However you start out in your life it’s a safe bet that will you get to where you’re going eventually but only after detour after detour or the twists, turns and bumps in the road. And, no, they weren’t put there just for you; sooner or later, everyone has to get through them. This is what provides our journey with its color, this makes our travels unique. Your role and perhaps your destination may change throughout your lifetime but be careful that you never let that diminish your individuality. Learn to build your life around that core that separates you from all others, not your role; otherwise, when your role changes your self-worth goes down the tubes. Don’t allow the changing times or your change in direction to change who you are, to make you stop dreaming or even giving up hope. You must remain resolute. When your role changes, as it inevitably will, remember that your life is not over, this is just another roadblock. This can be added to the list of other things that you had to go over, under, around or through. None of us knows what God will do with the rest of our days before it’s all over with. But more times than not, He has a way of saving the best for last. And the longer that I’m on this earth, the more I can give testament to that fact.

            God created all men equal. After that, you’re on your own, pal [advice from my grandpa]. We can make our life whatever it is that we choose or we can do nothing. It’s all up to us. You come into this world all by yourself and, more than likely, you’re going to leave the same way. In between the entrance and the exit, we are burdened with the subtleties of life where we are allowed to paint our own canvas. And we can do whatever it is that we wish to do. Some will be selfless, some will be selfish. That’s their right. Some will be cherished by others, some will be despised. Again, that’s their right. There is no guide telling you what to do and what not to do, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself. Hopefully, you try to enjoy yourself on this journey. And none of us knows how long our journey will last. All of the people in all of the cemeteries never finished what they intended to. There’s wisdom in that if you look for it. At least, that’s the way I see it. It’s been fun. Take it slow. God bless. MLProko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com  

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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It’s all about the money

  •  A professional athlete [a golfer, no less] begins a free-fall from grace as his hidden life is exposed to an ‘accepting’ public. The youngsters with stars in their eyes sum it up best: It’s no biggie. Today, everybody cheats. Everybody lies. Without winning a tournament for 2 years, he still makes $75 million@.
  • A professional athlete goes to prison for taking part in an interstate dog fighting ring. Within 2 years after being released, he signs a 6 year $100M contract. His supporters try to minimize his transgressions by saying they were only dogs.
  • One of America’s largest and oldest businesses is losing money hand over fist and brings in a no-nonsense hatchet man to trim the budget. He fires almost 10,000 people; shareholders reward him with a $125M bonus when he leaves in 30 months.
  • In 2008, signaling the end to a way of life unrivaled in the rest of the world, the taxpayers of the U.S. go on the hook for $850B to bail out Wall St., the banks and insurance companies. Soon, like spoiled little ingrates, the big-wigs start paying themselves multi-million dollar bonuses with taxpayer money. Congress investigates. Not one person goes to jail for the fraud. And Congress wonders why nobody likes them?

     Money is the barometer of society’s virtue. [Ayn Rand]   OUCH!! That really doesn’t speak well of the U.S. Where does that leave the rest of America, y’know, the majority that lives somewhere between New York and L.A.? And yet, when the rest of the world looks at us, it looks at the robber-barons on Wall St. or it looks at La-La Land on the West Coast. Don’t you see yourself as Donald Trump? Maybe one of the Kardashians? Who says that money isn’t important to the rest of us? The vast majority of Americans were taught that money by itself won’t make you happy because the more a man gets, the more he wants. Instead of filling the proverbial hole, it just makes it deeper, so maybe we tend to live vicariously through the ‘Coaster’s’.

      When we were kids and studied The Good Book, we were taught that if we wanted to feel rich, then we were supposed to count what we had that money could not buy. I guess that still holds true today, does it not? But I did learn a lot from an older gent when I was a teen-ager. Mr. Harrison had the benefit of 6 or 8 years in graduate programs but he insisted it was what he learned after he was done with school that made the biggest impact on his world. A good education will make you a living, Michael, but self-education will make you a fortune.

      Those of us now in our early 60s can attest to the fact that there are now more important things than money. Time would be one of them. You can always get more money but will that money buy you some more time? Answer that one honestly. Health would be another. Some of us, some of our family and/or some of our friends are looking at the end of their days and all the money in the world can’t give them back their health.

      In any society, there will always be the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’. That’s just a fact of life. Some will borrow from Peter to pay Paul their entire lives and some will always be sitting in the clover. That by itself doesn’t make one better than the other but, I guess, you could make the case one way or another. In the final analysis, did we use everything that was at our disposal, which includes money, to make our world better for those behind us? Rich or poor, we’re all going to have to answer that question. At least, that’s the way I see it. God bless. ML Proko (2011) Mike Proko.com  

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm  Comments (2)  
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On Lumberin’ Lou & ‘Sweetness’

          When I started to work out at the health club at Loyola, I tended to keep to myself. I was like a fish out of water, really. I wasn’t trying to be anti-social but you cold have mistaken it for such. But that entire rebuilding process- OY VEY!! I had an arm that could have been mistaken for a pretzel, a leg that was completely twisted around where the toes pointed at my right heel, my arm was in a sling and I could hardly walk even with the help of a cane. You’d think that the last place that I’d want to be at was a health club. And, I figured, most of the people that looked at me thought just that. One young man, Chris, walked up to me after I had been there about a year and introduced himself. ‘You got some big balls walking in here looking the way you did last year, Mike. Big balls. You got a lot of guys here that really look up to you for what you do day in and day out. I don’t know, if it was me, if I woulda done it. I think I woulda been too embarrassed. I think I woulda just stayed in front of my t.v.’ I thanked him for sharing that with me. You see, you make a concerted effort, you think that you’re out there all alone and people notice. They stand taller when you walk in, their workouts become a little more serious and their bravado comes down a notch. 

But, I’d get there in the morning for a workout that would last 4, 5 or 6 hours—and sometimes more. And this guy would be sitting in the locker room on a three-legged stool just rubbing HEET or ICY-HOT on his knees. He’d grimace, wrinkle his brow and just stare at me as I hobbled out of the locker room.  After I had been under his watchful eye for about two months with me not willing to initiate any conversation, one day he looks at me and says:’ Jesus Christ, you look like you got hit by a train.’ I just laughed.’ Yah, it does, doesn’t it.’ I guess he was waiting for an answer but I don’t recall hearing a question. He just sat there waiting for me to ‘fess up. ‘Stroke’, I said. His forehead wrinkled and all the air came out of his lungs in this animal groan and his head jerked back like I had just slapped him. ‘Stroke? Stroke? No. How old are you?’  ’48.’  ’48? No, somethin’s wrong, you don’t get no stroke at 48! Nobody does.’ I explained to him that in my rehab class we had teenagers with aneurisms and stroke patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s. While I talked, his forehead just kept getting more and more wrinkled.

            As I turned to leave the locker room, I stopped and turned around and put my hand in front of him. ‘I’m Mike.’  He looked up at me and there were tears in his eyes. ‘Louie, Mike.’  This guy had  a grip on him that would have broken the strongest of hands. ‘How often you come, Louie?’  ‘Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You?’  ‘Everyday.’  ‘Five times a week?’  ‘No, seven.’  I stood there and just waved my cane in front of my body. ‘Look, Lou, what am I supposed to do about this? You said I looked like I got hit by a train, right? I gotta do this everyday. I don’t have a choice.’ Again his head reeled back like I had slapped him. Y’know, with all the other guys, Louie was loud and boisterous but with me he was soft and sweet. This one had a tender heart. ‘I gotta start lifting, Lou. I’ll see you Monday.’  ‘Nice to meet you, Mike. Take it slow, kid.’

           Turns out that Louie was the one they used to call ‘Lumberin’ Louie Gambino, a full-back for the Baltimore Colts in their hey-day during the 50s  & 60s. Now in his late70s, he was still as strong as an ox and still cut a pretty impressive figure. Louie was always very nice to me. Very supportive. I, in turn, would always go out of my way to see him, always kissing the top of his head. With most of my friends being Sicilian,Italian or Greek, for me it was just a sign of respect. Louie thought otherwise. ‘Whattayou, one of them funny boys?’ he’d always ask as he looked around. ‘If you’d like, Lou, I could kick you offa that milkin’ stool of yours.’  ‘You’d do that, wouldn’t you? Kick an old man? No, Mike, stroke or no stroke, you don’t look like the kinda guy I’d want to (screw) with.’  We became very close, he and I. But there is a down-side about becoming fond of people at his age—they’re not around all that long. But, boy, did we make the most of the time we had together. He was a good audience for me. I could get him to laugh at the drop of a hat. But, after a while, I started to come later in the day and my time with Louie all but disappeared. It would be four or five months before I would see him again.

            One day, I walk into the locker room. No cane. Arm out the sling and down by my side. Leg is straighter than it was and Louie is sitting there on his milk-stool with a small towel covering his     loins. ‘Where you been, Mike? Christsakes, look at you, you look like a million bucks!’  ‘I’ve been playing a lot of golf, Louie.’  And then he leans forward and asks: ‘You a prayin’ man, Mike?’  ‘Actually Lou, I just left the chapel. I go either before my workout or after my workout, but every time I come here, I go there.’  ‘Cause everyday you should thank the Lord for the way you look. I can’t believe it. I just can’t (freakin’) believe it!  I thanked him and then I thanked him again as I sat down next to him after I kissed the top of his head. ‘You know, Mike, I knew a lot of tough guys when I played ball, really tough, but them guys ain’t got nothin’ on you. Look at where you been and look at you now. I remember how (screwed) up you were when we met and now look.’ He shakes his head. ‘I’ll tell ya, you gotta be the toughest guy I ever met.’  I just laughed. ‘No, Lou, not tough. I’d never answer to bein’ tough. Tenacious? Yes. But not tough. No, you just keep knocking me down and I’m gonna keep gettin’ up and comin’ at ya. I’m not tough. But I’m gonna keep comin’ at you ’til I wear you down. That’s my strength. The same mind-set that gave me the stroke is going to bring me back from the stroke. But I  never answered to being tough, Louie.’

           But the strongest man I had ever met ironically was a football player. And that was Walter Payton. Pound for pound, there was nobody stronger. Geez, that guy was an animal. He used to frequent one of my favorite courses and a couple of times a year we would tee it up together for a few holes. Nothing serious. But he loved being out on the course and being around his friends. He really loved the game, terrible slicer, but he really loved the game. This is the same guy that used to drive his car with a pair of 125 lb. dumbbells in the trunk and do wind sprints with that much weight. Unbelievable.

            One day, we’re out on the course—my dad, my 2 brothers-in-law and myself and we tee off behind Walter, Dan Marino and a couple of other hulking dudes. And these guys are playing SLOW. (They were all in town for the Brian Piccolo Invitational.) The pro shop was giving these guys carte blanche  so, under no circumstance, were we to go around them. And these guys really took advantage of their status dropping balls left and right practicing all kinds of shots. It took us 2 hours to play 5 holes and I was fed up. When the Payton/ Marino group got to the 6th green, I told my dad to get out of the cart, that I would be right back. The 6th green is probably about 90 yards from the edge of the course, bordered by some houses. There was a birthday party going on in one of the yards with maybe 35-40 kids back there. I drive over in the cart and ask the kids if they’d like to meet Walter Payton and Dan Marino. The kids and their parents all sail across the course to the 6th green. I drive back down the fairway and pick up my dad, wave my 2 in-laws up and drive to the 6th green, now swarming with kids and adults. I stop the cart, smile and say: ‘Walter, do you mind if we go around you now?’  Payton smiled a big smile and points at me saying: ‘I’ll get you for this, Mike. I’ll get you for this,’ as we headed for the 7th tee.

            Years later, in February of ’99 to be exact, I would be confined to a bed at Loyola Hospital paralyzed and I’m looking at the t.v. and this thin little old man is crying, telling people that he needs a liver transplant and asking people to pray for him. It was Walter. SONOFABITCH! What happened? What happened to this beautiful man? What happened to his beautiful physique? He looked like he had aged some 50 years.

            About 6 months later, I had just finished playing a quick afternoon round, jumped in the car and called my wife to tell her that I’d be home in a couple of minutes. She told me that they just announced on the t.v. that Walter had just died. I told her that I would stop at church on the way and light a candle for him. I did stop at a Greek Orthodox church not to far from the course. I went in and sat in the corner. I honestly don’t remember praying that night. But I did ask a lot of questions though. Why is it that one man gets another chance and someone younger and stronger is taken? I don’t know if there is any one answer. These are the mysteries to life, things that are not easily understood while we are in our earthly bodies. Hopefully, one day, all that has happened to us and around us will be explained, the impact we had on others, the impact that others had on us and the interconnectedness of it all.

           At the end of his life, Lou Gambino didn’t fair much better than Walter. He, too, was built like a bull, but when he started to go south he went pretty quick. The last year of his life he was in and out of a coma 5 or 6 times. I would see him at the C.I.C.U. at Loyola, go in and hold his hand and kiss his bald head. But I never got the chance to tell him how much he meant to me and how much he helped me. The saddest part was that he left without saying good-bye. I still miss him and I still say a little prayer when I drive by his house. And I never did get a chance to tee it up with Louie but we did talk a lot about golf. Four years after he passed away, I did write a short story about golf, Peter and The Deacon. Lou is one of the characters in the story. That’s the least I could have done for the guy. I hope you like it, Louie. And say hello to Walter for me, willya?

P.S.  Y’know, with both Walter and Louie up there, God’s gonna hafta be lookin’ over his shoulder all the time. Maybe I should say a prayer for Him tonight. MLProko ©2011 [mikeproko.com]





Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 7:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On you are what you think

It has been prophesized since words could be printed and before that it was handed down through the ages: you are what you think. Emerson, Thoreau, James Allen, Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Norman Vincent Peale; all these men and countless thousands more made careers out of the fact that our thoughts are what make us. And yet, there are still people that think of it as ‘hooey’. I remember being 18 and walking through our living room, my dad had some guests in his den and I was carrying a book The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. My dad noticed the book and then declared that stuff doesn’t work, you know. As a young neophyte I told those assembled with their drinks in their hands that if you could change your way of thinking then your whole life would change. But an 18 year old telling a room of 40somethings has to look a little dim-witted. My dad just laughed and brushed his hand to the side saying that stuff doesn’t work in the real world, the world of reality. AHH, reality, that nether world where nothing is as it seems and is generally over-rated anyway. Then, I pointed out that the book was from his bookshelf whereby he did an end run around me. I don’t know who gave it to me but after the first 10 pages I knew everything that was in that book. Of course, he was always doing that. I don’t think there was one thing that he didn’t know. I think he counted to infinity once, backwards. Classic example of you are what you think.

Enough with the wet blankets already. I would always go to great lengths to avoid them even if they were related. But the common wisdom will tell you that like attracts like. If you are in the proper frame of mind, proper thoughts will pop into your head. When the proper thought takes hold, it becomes an idea. That idea will facilitate an action which will produce your desired effect and on and on. Conversely, if you aren’t in the right frame of mind, your thoughts will be muddled and you will attract all types of garbage to your brain, your ideas will be askew, you will be running around trying to figure out which way is up and at the end of the day you will be sitting in the corner of the room drooling on yourself after you soiled your undies. But cheer up. You could probably get your own neo-con radio talk show and they pay big $$$.

Nothing will come from corn but corn; nothing will come from nettles but nettles. So the Bible says and it still is news. The doctors teach you today to take care of your body; garbage in, garbage out. And people are still scratching their heads. They can’t figure it out. So, you’re telling me that if I changed the way I looked at things, the things I was looking at would also change? In a manner of speaking, yes, your entire world would change just because you shifted your focus a tad. It’s important to you and those around you that you don’t want to end up like one of those dunderheads that have lost the ability or reason to look at things differently. No, rather than admitting error they continue on their way waiting for the ENTIRE world to change to their way of thinking. Not only is that arrogant, it’s selfish and ignorant.

Before ‘The Secret’ taught us how to attract, way before the Peale’s and the Hill’s and the Stone’s there was a thin little old man that lived in Greece named Aristotle who told his students that they were the sum total of all of their thoughts and his words have echoed through the years; the wrapping may have changed, the card might be in flowery verse, but the message is the same: thoughts are things, choose yours carefully. At least, that’s how I see it. Keep lookin’ up. ML Proko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com


Is it Left, Right or are we all Americans?

          I think it started back in the 80s, all this hate, or whenever that ‘Contract with America’ started. And now, the architect of that plan has re-emerged and wants to be POTUS [Pres. of the U.S.]. Some of these guys are just like a bad cold, they just won’t go away. Or like a canker sore; ugly to look at AND they just won’t go away. But, I digress. The Right thinks they’re all right and the Left thinks the Right is all wrong. It would be bad enough if it stopped there, but it doesn’t. Like wolves or some other pack animal, like rabid dogs, these people are just plain vicious. If it weren’t for the sake of the country, these people would almost be comical. But it is about the country and that’s what makes the dialogue so sad. The sad part is that the joke’s on us.

            One, just one. Name one person on Capitol Hill whoever did anything for the United States of America other than spend our money and feather their own nest at the same time. If I, as a Chicago businessman, walked into a politicians office and plopped a suitcase full of money on his desk, then that would be considered a bribe or a pay-off. But you do that in Washington, D.C. and they call it ‘lobbying’. I don’t know, I mean I’m not the brightest guy in the world but if something walks like a duck and it looks like a duck, if it QUACKS like a duck then it’s a safe bet it’s a duck. They’re rolling in the cash and making their contacts and meeting the ‘point’ people for the time when they retire from elective politics and then BAM-O the watershed opens and you see how much this person or that person is making and then it hits you that the joke is on you. The disgusting part is that it’s so blatant, this total disregard not only for their office, not only for their constituents but for the entire country. The Constitution Be Damned! And these are the same hypocrites who fasten those American Flags to their lapels and talk about God and guns and how America’s going to kick someone’s ass. PLLLEASE. To these people, America is nothing more than a nice big, fat ATM.

            Whether we are Left or Right, whether we are rich or poor, whether we are progressive or conservative, before all else, WE ARE AMERICANS. All of us. We have to remember that. We need to get our heads out of our collective rears and remember that we are Americans. Some our parents, most of our grandparents and all of our great-grandparents came here from somewhere else. They chose not to go somewhere else, they chose the UNITED STATES of AMERICA. And they built what needed building here in our country, the Irish, the Chinese, the Italians, those from Africa, every race, every nationality, every creed spilled their blood here to make our country  what it is. And there is a segment in OUR society on t.v. and on radio that would diminish the sacrifice that those before us made and you’re either with them or you’re with the terrorists. This is the kind of knee-jerk fascism that is permeating OUR society today.

            It was with great pride that I walked into a store in 1968 and handed the guy $20 and a picture of an American Flag and told him to tattoo it on my arm. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT. But, my love has always been for the people, not the politicians and not the pundits. It has always been and it will always be for the people. My grandma would sew these pieces of fabric together for a patch-work quilt and, as a youngster, I would laugh because it was so funny looking. All of these pieces that don’t go together will come together to keep you warm. If elected, she would have served this country well. Keep the faith, America. God bless. ML Proko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com

On paying it forward

          I walked up to the line in the store with only one grapefruit in my hand. The woman in front of me had a shopping cart filled to over-flowing and she was in the express lane. She eyed my grapefruit and waved me ahead. I said no, that I was in no rush. She started to put her wares on the conveyor belt and again waved me around. Again, I politely refused. She reached back and took my grapefruit and handed it to the cashier who gave me a puzzled look. I handed the guy 2 quarters, thanked the lady for allowing me to go first, told her to have a nice day and as the cahier handed me my grapefruit the woman’s voice bounces off the mountains across the street make sure you pay it forward! I’m pretty sure people 2 counties over heard her. I’m just guessing but I think the concept of paying it forward was lost on the one buying the organic tofu.

            At another store a couple of years earlier, the manager was telling me about being on the toll road and pulling up to the toll booth and paying the toll for the car behind him. Then, he tells me that sometimes he does that when he gets his coffee at Dunkin Donuts. But his delivery is loud so others can hear what a good sport he is. One of the clerks behind the counter interrupts his story line with a question and this guy tears into this employee in front of other customers, ridiculing and berating him. Needless to say, again, the concept of paying it forward was wasted on this guy. There are even blogs and ‘Pages’ on Facebook where you can compare your random acts of kindness with others. Is it just me? I didn’t think that this concept came with a tally sheet.

            Emerson first touched on ‘paying it forward’ in his essay on ‘Compensation’ back in the 1840s and the basics of his essay were not meant to confuse. It was a lesson in common decency: you can pay back only seldom, but you can always pay forward and you must pay line for line, cent for cent and deed for deed. That, in a nutshell, seems pretty easy to understand, does it not? Be grateful for who or what you have in this life. Only rarely do we have the chance to repay someone who has helped us for any number of circumstances and rather than upsetting the natural order of things, you must use your good fortune to help the next guy who will then help the next guy who will… This is how it’s supposed to work, not my act of kindness was better than yours.

 First of all, it’s supposed to be random. Quite frankly, it should be anonymous, without fanfare. If someone is put off by your act of kindness or wants to pay you back, explain that’s not why you acted the way you did, that someone once did you a kindness and asked that you do a kindness for someone one day. Let them know that they are that someone. Then, ask them to pay it forward. Once again, this should be done without fanfare. Accolades are not what you should be striving for. Practice humility and kindness in all of your affairs and you will be planting seeds that will harvest a crop the likes of which you never imagined.

Giving someone kindness, maybe giving someone hope or even just giving someone a kind word could be the difference between them giving up or moving forward in their lives. And the fact that you’re out there like Santa dropping these little gifts into their lives on the q.t. is about as selfless as you can get. And that’s what paying it forward is all about, paying your blessings forward to others. At least, that’s the way I see it. Keep pushin’ it. God bless. MLProko (2011)  


Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On how you will be remembered?

Who’s to say, really? None of us knows how we’ll be remembered. We have some general ideas, for the most part, but it will depend completely upon the kindness of others that will determine how or even if we’ll be remembered. The mask that we have so cleverly donned when meeting those we thought we knew and respected us has fallen away for all to see.

That slight-of-hand that you used pulling off in your business dealings fooled no one other than yourself. People talk. People always talk. And it was only a matter of time before they started comparing notes about the way you handled yourself.

Were you the one who spent all the waking hours at the office with no time for your family or friends? Your time away from your loved ones cannot be stock-piled like next year’s firewood. Is it a small wonder that when you finally did decide to put your feet up there was no one there to share it with? Weren’t you the one who wanted to sit in the first or second pew in church on Sunday and then (screw) everyone during the week and asked for forgiveness the following week? Who knows how much of that your children picked up on?

Did you give your love willingly to those who loved you or were there strings, clauses and stipulations attached? When your friends asked for counsel or advice, did you give it freely and openly or did you smother their plans and/or dreams and then explain that you were neither an optimist nor a pessimist, you were a realist? Did you bolster their confidence or were they muttering to themselves when they left? Did you constantly push those around you to be the best they could be or were you lackadaisical in your tutelage knowing then that they would never outshine you?

Winners build up. Losers tear down. Which one were you? When meeting a stranger on the street with his hand out, did you give him a smile and a kind word and maybe something for his stomach or did you wave him/her off and tell yourself that they choose to live like that and it’s not up to you to save the world? Were you the type of person that all types were attracted to or were you the one everyone went out of their way to avoid? My grandparents used to say that some people cause happiness wherever they go and some cause happiness whenever they go. Which one were you? Which slot did you fit into?

When people walk away from you, is there an added bounce in their step or are their shoulders slumped and do they regret the time they spent with you? Make ‘em glad they met you, Michael, make ‘em glad. Ease their burden if for only a minute or two. And make ‘em smile. (More advice from my grandparents). But in retrospect, it doesn’t boil down to how you’re remembered, does it? You’ll be dead. The real trick is in how you walked this earth when you had your chance. Even if you do the best you possibly can at best it’s still a crap-shoot. The important part, what they will talk about is how you lived your life and that, my friend, is entirely in your hands. Make ‘em glad they met you. Make ‘em glad and make ‘em smile. You still have time. At least, that’s the way I see it. God bless. ML Proko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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‘Count this day as a separate life’

          With all of the angst and worrying that’s going on in our world today, some of it real but most of it imagined, we need to take a collective ‘time-out’. Normally, ‘time-outs’ are reserved for children but the direction we will be heading is going to be back thataway, back to when we were kids. Do you remember back then, remember what it was like to live a lifetime in an entire day? You’d race out of the house as early as you could and your mother wouldn’t see you until the sun went down and the street-lights came on. D’ you remember that? You’d try to cram as much into that one day as you possibly could. Forget about tomorrows, there were no tomorrows just like there were no yesterdays. Nope, all we had were those magical days and we lived them one at a time. That was how we grew up back then, just like our parents before us and theirs before them. If that’s how we were all raised, why is it that everyone would make a big deal about Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now? If we were, indeed, brewed and steeped in living each day to the fullest, how can Tolle’s tome teach us what we already know? Could we have forgotten that much? Did we forget what it was like when we were our happiest? Are we forgetting that joy was once something other than a dishwashing detergent? Are our good days really over for good? Well, there is one guy sitting at a writing desk in Tucson who begs to differ with you.

Mr. Lincoln summed it up best when he said that people are as happy as they make their minds up to be; wise words from a man who was not only married to a manic depressive but suffered from the same state. If that logic rings true, then it stands to reason that most people today are more content when they’re miserable. Or it could just be this constant barrage of bad news that we get day in day out. What that does is beat the hell out of your psyche. I, for one, find it kind of odd when all these slicksters on t.v. are telling us how bad things are and these bozos are pulling very nice salaries. I guess they don’t have to worry about a recession, just try to worry us to death about the one we’re in.

So, how do we get it back, that magic, that feeling that this day is a separate life? Do we start an unraveling process that will take years if not decades to fix? No, that’s not it. It’s really not all that complicated. At a very young age, we started to think that others were judging us. Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. But we allowed ourselves to change because of that conception. Really, all you ever had to be was yourself and realize that you were amongst friends. If they don’t understand you then they weren’t really your friends. I have tried to sow the seeds of hope in my daily travels and when you can introduce hope into the life of another, even if you died at midnight, the life that you lived on that particular day will have mattered to another.

We are all searching for our own enlightenment and, what’s usually the case, all that which we search for was within us all along. We were all born with it, we used it as young ones and then we chucked it all away because of our ego. Find it. Find it and talk to it. No, better yet, command it! You’ve tried it the other way and, well, that didn’t turn out too well. Turn back that clock. I’m sure you like what you find. As for me, tomorrow it’s ice cream for breakfast. And strawberry pancakes for dinner. Yup, that’ll work. Take it slow, my friends. And God bless. MLProko (2011)  www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On the circle of life

  • ·         What goes around comes around.
  • ·         All that you do comes back to you.
  • ·         You will always reap what you sow.
  • ·         As you do so shall you get.


Call it Karma, call it what you will, whatever you plant on this day will be returned to you one day. That’s the way we were taught and it made sense to a whole lot of us. But being from the big city, there was a thing or two that was not explained to us about ‘harvest time’. Even if you’re from the country, you may not yet realize how that ‘circle of life’ thing works itself out.

When a seed is planted, its yield is exponential, which means that if you plant 10 seeds then you will garner 1,000 plants [10x10x10=1,000]. As those plants continue to grow and multiply, it yields according to an ‘exponential curve.’ Sticking with the planting metaphor, if you sow seeds of trust, hope and love, others will also sow those seeds so you can only imagine what you shall one day reap. Conversely, if you are sowing the seeds of hate, greed and ignorance, others will sow those same seeds and not only will you attract that back to yourself, you’ll have mountains of it the rest of your days. Which begs the obvious question: which would you rather plant? Or to put it in more selfish terms: which would you rather harvest?

An aged misconception is that you can act one way in the marketplace and act completely different at home. Never does this work because now you’ve changed the dynamic of the paradigm. Now, instead of reaping what you’ve sowed (good or bad) you’ve put your family on the firing line at the same time. You might think that you’re sitting in the cherry orchard but eventually one of your loved ones is going to end up in the briar patch.

There will always be those who can shrug off this type of logic with a wave of a limp wrist and just chalk it up to hocus-pocus but eventually you will get back exactly what you put in. It may take time for your success to materialize as it must until you stop making the same mistakes but you WILL hit that mark that you’re aiming for. On the other hand, if you’re planting the bad seeds, you may hit your mark but sooner or later you, too, will garner what you have planted. You must. These are natural laws here and natural laws never fail.

‘The Circle of Life’ is not intended to be a lesson in morality. Far from it. We have all made mistakes throughout our entire lifetime and the smart ones can look back and give you a thought or two about what to do and what not to do. This whole business of life isn’t all that difficult; just treat people the way that you’d like to be treated. Rather than behaving like all of the chips on the table are yours, make sure you leave some for everybody else. Treat strangers like they’re part of your family but make sure you treat your family better than you do strangers. We like to think that we are down here on this earth islands unto ourselves, but we aren’t. There are thousands and thousands who will be impacted by what we do TOMORROW. Just make sure what you’re sowing is what you want to reap. At least, that’s the way I see it. Take care. God bless. MLProko (2011)

more available at www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 6:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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On servant leadership

  • Small businesses use it, much to their advantage. Large businesses cannot adapt to it, much to their disadvantage.
  • ‘The old way has worked for years, why change just for the sake of change?’
  • ‘Never mind what I do. Just do as I say, not as I do!’


Servant leadership has been around for eons. Proponents of the practice trace it back to the time of Christ where he would actually wash the feet of his followers as their servant. I can’t imagine any of our country’s leaders or the movers/shakers doing such a thing. Wait! Wait a minute! Yes, I can imagine Warren Buffett doing such a thing if only because everyone else was not doing it. That, combined with his age, allows him to get away with just about anything. Could you honestly see Trump doing something like that?

I had touched on variations of the servant-style of leadership owning my own business for 40 years, keeping things that worked and tossing out what didn’t. My dad wanted me to use his autocratic style where you’re the boss and everyone should be beholding to you for their employment, but that style just wouldn’t jive with me. But my style served me well when I partnered with a parish in Chicago mentoring kids from their neighborhood. Gang life and drugs were staring these young men in the face on a daily basis. Not only was I asked to teach them a trade, but I would act as a ‘father’ figure in addition to mentoring. And boy, did we have a good time. I think that the fact that I had had my own run-ins with the law when I was younger helped cement the relationship I had with these guys. You can’t bullshit a bullshitter. But every one of them did try and when they figured out that wasn’t going to work, they tended to take care of business.

When the program started, there had to be 300 businesses on board. They would come in with money and talent and their own ‘brand’ of rules and, one by one, they would all fall on their face. They were all used to the autocratic way of doing business and these kids [16, 18, 20 years of age] wouldn’t play that way. Most of them didn’t trust those with authority and they certainly were not going to be part of any ‘categorical imperative’ work program. A year and a half into the project, the 300 had been whittled down to 10. The kids had to be heart-broken when they saw how many people gave up on them; so much for giving back to the community. I didn’t have the benefit of a business-school education, but I can so of figure out what works, what doesn’t and why. Like Geo. Bush used to say: you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to figure that one out.

Now, they give it a fancy name, Servant Leadership, but back when my grandparents had their own business it was just good old-fashioned business sense: someone had a problem, you listened. If you could figure out a solution together, you had loyalty for life; persuade rather than dictate; use empathy rather than sympathy; instill in your workers your foresight combined with their concept and then turn ‘em loose. Those little tid-bits will separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s up to them to follow you and if they do then they will become like their leader and the cycle will continue which in the end will be a plus for your business, big or small. The same old same old doesn’t work anymore. And don’t ever be afraid of doing the sh·· work, it’s good for business. At least, that’s the way I see it. MLProko (2011) more at www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on October 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (3)  
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