the club

Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.

Groucho Marx

I am pretty fortunate to live in my neighborhood. We may have different ideas about American priorities in foreign relations, policies, or social issues and can respectfully disagree without hating one another. We still hold to the principles that America is a pretty good country and its system of governing.

Many here are military veterans, and others are on Active Duty or have kids that serve or served in the military. Retired and working Union members, carpenters, welders, businessmen and teachers. Here you are likely to see far more “Trump”, “Don’t Tread on Me” and American flags visible than “Coexistence” bumper stickers. But it doesn’t mean “white nationalism”, racism, or bigotry lives here, but it identifies a multi-cultural, (immigrant and native-born), multi-ethnic neighborhood, that respects certain values and rejects much of the change politicians have brought about. Here is a pretty safe neighborhood compared to a half-mile farther south where the incorporated city begins. (Lighted municipal signs there warn residents to lock their vehicles and not keep valuables in view, though politicians brand it a “sanctuary” community.)

All our children grew up with kids coming from other parts of the county to join in Trick or Treating (Halloween). Ours made some pocket change selling hot chocolate to visitors enjoying our “Christmas Lane” lights. Boys played together while grownups held “Survivor” television night parties. All supported school athletics and Little League. We still buy candy bars from the high school student athletes going door-to-door. We chat with the postal carrier and garbage truck driver. Neighbors share tools and trash cans, bring vegetables and fruit from our gardens, watch out for each other, and may enjoy a beer and a football watch party together now and again.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

bear any burden

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. – John F Kennedy

http://www.brainyquote.com

Today is the eighteenth anniversary of the sneak attack on the United States of America, that resulted in the murder of thousands of men, women, and children. On that day we, as a nation, and the world first learned that a death-cult comprised of fanatical Muslims would use commercial airliners to bring down a symbol of American enterprise, the towers of the World Trade Center, and a kamikaze strike into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This was also the first time our enemies would learn that American civilians aboard another flying would-be weapon, would willingly and aggressively fight these fanatics, to bring down the aircraft before reaching its target.

The stories of bravery, from these men and women, from members of the New York Fire Department, Police Officers, and civilians and victims in this tragic series of attacks is well-known. We also remember the hundreds of men and women who have suffered life-threatening illnesses from combing through all that poisonous debris – to find, identify, and bury their fellow citizens murdered on that horrible morning.

What Americans should do on this anniversary is to tell our elected representatives that we will no longer tolerate disrespect for our institutions, the purchase of loyalties from non-citizens at the expense of citizens, or the rewriting of history. Further, we oppose the diminishing of American accomplishments, disobedience to the Constitutional-granted powers and laws, and the blatantly self-seeking and pandering politicians. We should instead honor our dead. Support our veterans who, over eighteen years of conflict have suffered and lost. Be proud of our history and our institutions. And fly our national ensign proudly so the living will never forget.

where are the peacemakers?

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Warriors throughout world history were sent off to war with trumpets, drums, celebrations or religious ceremonies. And over those thousands of years, young men and women were victors or the vanquished. Celebrated as heroes, or corpses left behind in distant lands. Where there are records, including Chinese and Aztec tombs, ancient Akkadian tablets, Homeric Greek dramas, Roman histories, and Biblical scrolls, men and women went into battle blessed by the gods of one side or the other.

“The victims of PTSD often feel morally tainted by their experiences, unable to recover confidence in their own goodness, trapped in a sort of spiritual solitary confinement, looking back at the rest of the world from beyond the barrier of what happened. They find themselves unable to communicate their condition to those who remained at home, resenting civilians for their blind innocence. David Brooks

The Moral Injury, New York Times. Feb 17, 2015″ , via goodreads.com
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War has always been brutal. Long before “civilized” conduct of war, if there is such a thing, treatment of enemy prisoners, women and children was often slavery or death. Even in the Twenty-First Century, we learn of kidnapping, abuse, and sexual slavery still being committed throughout the world. How many victims were emotionally scarred? How many returning warriors over the millennia were affected by such brutality?

While histories do not record the struggles of the victims of war, and we cannot help the long ago dead, we know that, in America alone, some 22 veterans a day commit suicide. Alcohol and substance abuse, reckless behaviors, and firearms, all contribute to someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder killing themselves.

War demands sacrifice of the people. It gives only suffering in return. – Frederic Clemson Howe

https://sayingimages.com/war-quotes/

Where does the isolation begin? People do not know their neighbors, and do not develop real, vulnerable, honest friendships with one another. Governments which send young people to war, have only overwhelmed or emotionally-detached bureaucrats who quickly “treat” veterans and then move to the next sufferer. Communities develop a NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) reflex to homelessness and addiction, and many expect veterans to simply ‘get over it’. Societies do not have a “moral” center anymore. Mass media incessantly blare stories of anger, outrage, frustration, violence, and political blame-gaming. Media sensationalizes suffering; bickering within communities has created more isolation. in such a state, people do not recognize a potential suicide victim’s quiet withdrawal – even within their own household.

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While everyone seems to have an opinion about the easy access to firearms in America, the easy access to prescription drugs, as well as methamphetamine, heroin, and the most misused though legal drug, alcohol, is no less a societal problem. When liquor store owners knowingly provide booze to alcoholics, on credit, because they know their customer receives State aid and will be paid – they knowingly contribute to that person’s death – or some innocent’s death or injury along the way. That is a problem society should address with equal outrage as to those with firearms.

A first step? Let us as people stop dividing ourselves into “us” and “them”. With that first step, we can then work on empathy. Personal responsibility. And action.

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Ernest Hemingway

https://sayingimages.com/war-quotes/

bureaucracy

Any seasoned veteran of the U.S. military who has served overseas, dealt with foreign military allies, patrolled in a war zone, had liberty in many regions where English was not well-understood, or stationed at a U.S. military installation in a foreign country, understands many of the benefits and shortcomings of “Home” better than most.

The reason many 16- to 29- year olds in the United States today embrace “socialism” is due to their ignorance. Without long personal experience of the more mundane aspects of Government bureaucracy, they have only what they were taught and limited exposure. These might be obtaining a driver’s license at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and perhaps a simplified annual income tax filing. Young military members (especially those who marry early in their careers) are exposed to misfiled paperwork, outdated computer systems, confusing terms, differing support for ‘sponsors’ and ‘dependents’, procedures, and the overwhelmed administrative staff inherent in large bureaucracies. Utopians talk of modeling Swedish-style and European Union socialism – without really understanding the development, successes, drawbacks, and requirements. Ignorantly, many promote Government as the best delivery of human needs and wants when they haven’t yet experienced much of what is already under Government administration.

Big Government inefficiency is evident in every aspect of Government-provided services: obtaining vehicle registration and drivers’ licensing; real property titles and building permits; and in family trusts, wills and probate court filings. The limited experience of many, influence the mis-characterized belief that Government harass racially-targeted innocents (police maintain order and enforce laws), disenfranchise non-citizens and “formerly incarcerated” persons (per local, State, or Federal statutes), or limit the living standards achievable to low- or unskilled labor due to “unregulated” employers’ wages and benefit plans.

For others, Government should be reformed to accommodate cultural and social practices of the day, from gender, sex, race, citizenship, language, culture and criminal or civil conviction and incarceration. Policies are very slow to change, requiring many years to make minor improvements. Away from politics and media ballyhoo, Bureaucracy is what the governed are directly affected by and not politicians. Five ordinary examples of Government bureaucracy as it exists today should give some pause to embrace further Government control:

  • Probate: an old woman dies without a “valid” Will. With negligible assets and few bills, selling a home should be a simple affair. But Probate is not simple and not inexpensive. The State Court system is a labyrinth of procedures and calendar entries; an inexperienced layman is doomed to failure.
  • A stolen vehicle is recovered, and one seized for a traffic or criminal violation, are towed away. The towing company applies towing charges, and daily storage fees payable by the registered owner, but requires owner identification and registration validation before releasing the vehicle. When the vehicle owner has lost cash, debit and credit cards, or misplaced a state-issued identification, it becomes a Catch-22 where the vehicle cannot be released to the owner until valid ID is presented and payment made. Until such time as ID can be presented, storage fees continue to accrue. Sometimes, the value of the impounded vehicle when sought is less than the accrued fees.
  • A person with an employer health plan, pays biweekly insurance premiums. In an “emergency”, he visits an in-network hospital Emergency Room for a major health issue. Though the State mandates many “guest” workers, the unemployed, and under-26 year old adults have healthcare, paid by a legal resident taxpayer, the suffering taxpayer waits in line with all the rest who still primarily use ER services (they cannot be turned away legally).
  • A sixty-year old home requires upkeep. A forty-year old, improperly built “retaining” wall collapsed. The solution? Start excavation and proper reinforcement of a new wall in the same location. A homeowner’s decision to follow county regulations: permit, payment of fees, submission of plans and wait for inspections were far more onerous than expected. After project completion an added bonus: An unexpected (higher) property re-valuation and corresponding property tax increase issued by the County.
  • Transportation infrastructure: the Government is authorized by its citizens to maintain and upgrade. While citizens continue to pay higher fuel taxes, fees, and other taxes and fees to pay for maintenance, the Government executes over four to five years, a 25-year old improvement plan which then fails to meet the needs of the community. Bureaucrats and politicians redirect new transportation funds into special projects that overrun budgets by billions. Many of these pet projects are public transit measures that lobbyists favor but 2 percent will ever actually use.

the reason the Soviet newspapers, Izvestia and Pravda, were always sold out was not due to the news content. Toilet paper was chronically limited throughout the country.

interview with a resident of the former Soviet Union (1983)

But the merits of employment, housing, public transit, and basic health care in a so-called Socialist system do not justify an even more complex and inefficient bureaucracy than that which presently exists. Limiting the choices available for services to that provided by State-approved operators only, resulting delays, greatly simplified care, and regulation will disappoint everyone.

before Lightyear there was another Buzz

Buzz Aldrin stepping onto the Moon, 1969

The second person to set foot on the Moon, “Buzz” Aldrin, is a living icon. The late Neil Armstrong and the Command Module pilot, Michael Collins are the other two legends of Apollo 11, whose feat of landing on and returning safely from, the Moon are celebrated today. Had it not been for a clear challenge, originating between two competing ideologies, the “West” and the Soviet Union – which first successfully put a man into space, the technology we take for granted would have come around a lot later. Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z have cell phones, cable television, and solar panels today, due, in part, to the science that sent mankind into Space, filtered down to the rest of us. The motivation for Governments may have been political, but undeniably, people are dreamers, builders and adventurers, too. Mankind advanced from stone tools to building the first flying machines in 100,000 years. From barely leaving the ground to launching orbiting satellites: less than sixty years. And from orbiting rudimentary satellites to putting people on the surface of another world and returning them, safely, in less than ten. And in the last half-century? We should be. in Star Trek parlance, “beam me up. Scotty!” by now.

When a human being first set foot on the Moon fifty years ago today, I was five days short of ten years old. When I ask my children today what they scientific achievements remember from the time when they were ten, space flight is not among their first memories. Movies and television, created with the technology inspired by the science and engineering of the Space Program, they recall.

Star Trek, Star Wars, and a host of other fascinating stories involving travel to other stars have filled the human imagination with possibilities. But the first grainy images on a television set of Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin setting foot on the Moon, was the reality that people working together, around the globe, could achieve impossible dreams. We are starting to finally see private enterprise invest in next-step ventures. We have man-made objects moving through interstellar space. In the last half-century the amazing feat of people living and working in orbit, the probes that visit distant asteroids or Pluto or travel in interstellar space have garnered less attention than someone’s latest inappropriate Tweet.

We need a challenge to unite millions to travel into a new Frontier. It is time to send adventurers, dreamers, and builders out again. In the rallying cry of that Disney character, Buzz Lightyear, in the Toy Story movies,

“To infinity and beyond!!”

Home, a quarter-million miles away

Save the children?

door-knocking

This evening I was almost carried away by a good-natured heart. After preparing dinner of grilled, fresh-caught fish my buddy shared with us, the dogs started to bark at the front door. A very tall young man with a big smile, wearing “Save the Children” attire was standing there. I went out to greet him. We get waves of door-knockers in summer, from the Jehovah Witnesses to the local high school footballer fund-raisers. As i knew he wanted a donation- everybody’s heard of this charity- I was willing to step outside.

Charity is a good thing. We believe in and support tithing to God through my church. We support a few nationally and internationally-active organizations. But as nice and hardworking as these young “Save” people are going door-to-door, to only allow donors to sign up for automatically-deducted, monthly, quarterly, or annual ‘suggested’ donations “you can cancel anytime” – set my “DECLINE” meter off. As fancy as their Ipad app is, I hesitated after he took my address and email information at the financial selections.

I do not feel any less charitable however, as i believe giving of your time, talent or finances to worthwhile causes often comes back to you in many positive ways. But we have to be prudent as well as generous. As for “Save the Children”, some complain that their generosity was taken advantage of. I have dealt with businesses where it takes more diligence and temerity to cancel a subscription than it ought.

As for the social media, “Save” seems to be fairly adept at this as well. Not five minutes after I finished my supper, and went to opine in this blog, Facebook was already showing me ads for “Save The Children” in my Feed!

I will probably look to see whether I can make a one-time donation through the web. I will still welcome young people who knock on doors. But my advice is to help children give to your church. Or to your community center. Or give to a local hospital.

The American Experiment

“These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.” Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address

https://nccs.net/blogs/our-ageless-constitution/will-the-great-american-experiment-succeed

In 2019, the United States of America has never been more dis-unified. And the quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, about America as a republic – if we can keep it, never seemed more germaine. In the history of the world, war and subjugation has only maintained unity and “peace” for a matter of time. Through trade, common language, governance, science, cultural, religious, and philosophical ideas were passed down to the western world. Babylonians, Persians, Greeks,Romans and Ottomans spread a unifying message cemented by armies. In Asia, empires of China, Japan, India, and in Southeast Asia rose, fell and spread their influence. In the pre-Columbian New World, native empires rose, spread their influence across the continents. All rose, declined and were conquered by war, famine, or the petty squabbles and self-interest of people.

Since the first settlers and explorers from western Europe came to the New World, the same forces have been at work. The United States of America, was forged out of all these ideas, and expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and through conflict. It took a Civil War, two World Wars, and nearly a century for words enshrined in these documents to be embraced by the majority in America. Ideas that subjugated people based on skin color or religion still exist in the world, but in the United States, power-seeking politicians, academics and lobbyists are the ones now who threaten America’s future. For 243 years, America has welcomed immigrants, and as “Americans”, their talents and ideas helped the United States remain independent and unique in the world. Despite all the voices to the contrary, America is still exceptional; while many risk hardship and death to emigrate to Europe or to the USA, few seem willing to do so, to leave America to go in the opposite direction: into China, Russia, Sudan, or Iran.

The United States has indeed wandered from the creed that bound us together in the crucible of war. Many of those today, who have served in uniform, seen horror of war and the oppression of people around the world, are more committed to preserving our unity, our nation and our culture- our great American experiment, than those proselytize for socialism, rights without responsibilities, and demand reparations for our “shameful” history. Let us not listen to the voices that crave power, or those who condemn America, or those who use violence to silence American patriotism and nationalism. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and move together along the road toward peace, liberty and safety.

pure faxing magic

I got a chain letter by fax. It’s very simple. You just fax a dollar bill to everybody on the list.

Steven Wright, comedian http://www.brainyquote.com/

My at-odds relationship with technology, like copiers and fax machines is very likely material for a Steven Wright comedy bit.

Pure Faxing Magic

I have spent nearly forty years employed in the technology sector. Beginning with vacuum tube systems and basic electronics, by the later years of my career, I would assemble, program and debug very complicated encryption devices.

Nevertheless, copiers, the collating, multiple paper-size, scanners-with-email, touch-selection types have me looking like a kindergarten kid with paper,crayons and glue. I make a call to my ‘work wife’, our senior department Admin for assistance – or I avoid everything but printing.

In the Navy, I was first introduced to facsimile machines in the late 1980s. Who knew that these would be part of my job description with my new business. Between the drum life “nearing the end” messages (what is a drum?), a Mode button (one must select to actually RECEIVE the fax transmission!), and what to do when either the power or the telephone line drops out, I have learned how to respond appropriately. I do not get exasperated.

fax machines
not a musical instrument nor a museum piece

I learned steps from my IT point of contact at our customer sites (somehow nursing instructors always seem to fill in for technical experts on staff):

  1. Wait.
  2. Hit the “Mode” button.
  3. Cycle the “power” button.
  4. Call the “Help Desk” or the site administrator’s assistant.

Art of Costco shopping

alliances and diplomacy

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Photo by San Fermin Pamplona on Pexels.com

I have reached a point in life that shopping in “big box” stores disappoints me. Twenty-five years ago, the big stores were a curiosity, since as a single man, I never imagined the option to buy a year’s supply of toilet paper at one time, a 10-pack of chicken thighs or steaks, or ketchup by the gallon. People were nicer then, too. As you drove in the parking lot – at 2 mph – a customer might say, “hang on a minute and you can have my spot”. The clerks at the checkout would chat with you – both your kids play baseball at the same high school. The three people in line at checkout would not fume at a little friendliness. You might see your child’s teacher, or coach, or your co-worker shopping also. It was a time when buying something foreign-made ( Japan, Mexico, or Latin America) was a good deal, and not going to start a debate on politics or foreign policy.

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chasing after wind

better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind

Ecclesiastes 4: 6 (NIV)

I listen to an investment talk show on the radio Saturday mornings while driving home from my prayer-hike in the Mission Trails Park (San Diego, CA). The hosts were commenting that the House (Congress) has recently approved changing working Americans retirement savings programs (the SECURE act) to help people who put little to no money aside for their “old age”. The radio show’s hosts were remarking how consumer debt is growing again, and with workers left to voluntarily invest in company 401K plans, IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) and funding emergency savings ( e.g. six months of expenses), fewer than four in ten are setting money aside. With consumerism driving cycles of economic growth followed by downturns, unemployment, and bankruptcies since the 1970s, are we headed there again?

Perhaps it is one of the failures of a developed nation that savings and prudent investment is not taught in the K – 12 grades nor in colleges. And young adults, free of parental guidance, are heavily marketed to obtain credit and jump into the consumer lifestyle. After September 11th, our youth grew up with continual exposure to negative future images – homelessness, refugees, terrorist attacks at home and abroad, a bleak economic outlook, and hostility toward “traditional values”. It seems almost forgivable that young people are seeking to have it “now” rather than later.

For the last of the Baby Boomers, for Generation X, and Millennials, the promises of Government, particularly those seeking public office by positioning themselves as champions of the disadvantaged, should sound like a broken record of the past cycles. For those between thirty and sixty years of age, the financial missteps of the past should have served as a lesson to improve one’s financial security. Into one’s Forties, obtaining a trade or marketable skill (regardless of one’s “passion”) can still provide for one’s retirement. The traditional “invaluable employee” mentality should improve wages. If wage or employment benefits stagnate, different employment has been increasingly available.

Like Solomon four thousand years ago expressed, seeking to keep up with the consumerism of one’s neighbors, rather than living prudently leads to “chasing after wind”. Delaying gratification, investing prudently, living within one’s means, and looking to your own welfare instead of the Government’s plans for you, leads to a golden “old age”.

Conveying a simple message

In the manufacturing business as in the military, communication, particularly between two speakers of the same language, is not simple nor should anyone assume what you say will be understood by the recipient of your message.

This is painfully obvious when dealing through email.

An email sent to a group of people, including two managers, a technical peer, a manufacturing engineer, a logistician, and a quality assurance engineer, was received very differently. At least two managers told me my report was, in a word, unintelligible. My basic mistake? Adding too much detail, and confusing the recipients. I tried to answer / direct my answer to 3 separate audiences in one email.

To correct this, a man I respect offered this simple formula. In the email, subject line:” <project> <problem> will require < new part/ software/ repair/ test”. In the email body: “Approval request to issue a replacement <widget part number> for <internal customer/ test/ troubleshooting>”. (Period)

In a new paragraph, “DETAILS:”

And keep it specific to that ONE issue. And brevity is key.

After I cooled off, the situation reminds me of the time, long ago, when my Division Lieutenant asked me for a status on some equipment on his problem report. When he stopped me ( I was really a greenhorn then), he asked me to state my response in ten seconds or less:

” System requires a new <part>. $10,000 with exchange. Will arrive next Tuesday.”

first lessons:

a business mindset

I tried and failed at business ventures three times before. With a couple years of technical training, I tried earning a second income as a small appliance and home electronics repairman. It was cheaper to buy new than repair “old”. The next venture was selling solar-heated hot water systems. People could just as easily put garden hoses on their roof (it was southern Arizona) and save the expense of a metal system up there. And then, last year, I saw how my father-in-law’s young relative was making six figures in a health-focused business. She has Amazon- and Facebook- founders-level intensity which produces her ongoing results (building over the past 8 years). I was not interested, youth-focused, or charismatic enough to do what it takes. My prior ventures were great personally, just not rewarding financially for me.

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the importance of a “niche”

This year, my wife and I found a “niche” business. A “niche” is a product or service need, that is not widely available, nor really has much awareness outside of the profession. But is necessary nonetheless. With a lot of support, name recognition, and professional experience, my wife one evening reported to me that a business opportunity was offered to her – that she wanted to do. This was due to pending retirement of the principal operators in the niche market. The business requires unimpeachable ethics, scrupulous attention to detail, military-like precision with clients and retaining or bringing on skilled employees (or contractors).

do not quit your “day job”

A mistake of many new entrepreneurs, is to launch a business enterprise with little financial resources. They then have few options when mistakes are made or customers are slow to provide payment. Then there is even more emotional and physical stress learning the “do’s” and the “don’t”s of operating a business. In just the few weeks after initially deciding to engage in this business, the guts required to seriously and diligently apply ourselves to learning,- particularly with family and job requirements always keeping you busy, is challenging.

In the United States, working for yourself, with the intent to make a profit – to separate your enterprise from what the taxman (the IRS) would label a “hobby” – requires record-keeping, talent, and effort. Depending on the venture, every business has local, state and federal tax statutes regarding individual, partnership, and incorporation to stay within the law. Similarly, there are permits, licenses, and fees with all the aforementioned, to conduct business.

With certain businesses, providing products or services, there are many regulations, certifications, and insurance to purchase and renew yearly. While trying to classify whether there were workers considered by statute as employees to consider, we need general business and professional liability insurance. And probably, workmen’s compensation insurance: California is very strict on business operations. If you are still determined, you have done homework on your competition in the niche market, and calculated the profit versus expense projections before the first customer dollar is received – there is one consideration you may miss. You may find that your business needs to be funded almost entirely from your own “primary” income for a time. One of the first “rules” I have learned is to avoid going into debt while learning the “ropes”. Do not quit your day job before it sustains you.

seeking advice from experienced mentors

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I have only just started to explore the business banking relationships we will need for our venture. We will explore and weigh options on credit, payment processing, and loans. Similarly, I have only attended one seminar run by the small business education group, SCORE, (there are chapters in most communities) taught by people with decades of experience in all aspects of business. But for the entrepreneur, anywhere you find someone to help with the pitfalls to avoid, is great. One can then make all new mistakes to learn and develop as a business person.

your “why” has to be bigger than your fear

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After a career in the military, another in private industry, and still looking for challenge (and change), our own business will prove to be well worth it. After many years of doing without asking why and making someone else’s careers and dreams possible, you also can make your dreams, as well as those of your clients, become reality. But it takes ethics, drive, humility, implementing what others can teach and eagerness to keep pressing on to the goal.