The Secret to Success – at Everything 1


Whether you are a principal starting the new year, a newlywed couple, a founder starting up a company or an athlete working with a new coach, the secret to your success is the same – relationships.

I was in a meeting where a consultant told us all that being professional means that you don’t leave at 5 p.m., you leave when the work is done, even if it takes until 10 o’clock. I nodded, wondering why someone felt that, at 64 years of age, I needed to be told this. Then she added, “And, if you are going to be 5 minutes late, you need to call and tell your boss.

I said to her, “Wait, hold up. You cannot have it both ways. You can’t tell people that they need to stay until 10 pm and at the same time can’t come in 5 minutes late.”

She answered, “Well, legally, you can, and in this job market, you can get away with it.

So, now I am pissed and I look her dead in the eye and say, “There is never a bad job market for people who are excellent at what they do.

She spent the rest of the meeting trying to get on my good side but I was not having it because this is some bull shit.

A successful relationship is one in which both sides believe they have gotten a good deal

I once worked for a large organization with interesting work, great benefits and a really good boss. I asked about working at home two days a week. This was YEARS ago, before remote work was common. It was approved and I later found out that he had to go three levels up to justify why someone could work at home. It was not that huge of a deal to me if my request had been turned down and I told him I felt bad that he’d had to go to all of that effort. He said,

We value the work you do here and we want you to be happy.

Did I stay at that organization, even though I could have gotten much better pay somewhere else? Yes, yes I did.

Another time, after I had gotten a pretty small raise, I asked my boss why it was not more, he said,

You are one of the few people who got an increase at all. I think the attitude of the administration is, during this economy, we should all feel lucky we have a job at all.

I had another job offer by the end of the day.

I didn’t leave that day, I did give notice. I’m not a complete jerk. However, I think in any relationship, if one side feels they are doing the other a favor, it is time to break up.

Having trouble keeping teachers, finding a good coach, hiring counselors? Look in the mirror

chocolate bar

I had the chance to observe three different schools recently, all serving very low-income, minority communities and the way one of them treats their teachers is so jaw-droppingly bad, I cannot believe anyone works there. For example, teachers are required to get TB tests and fingerprinted and then the school takes the cost out of their first paycheck. Any paperwork teachers send for documentation of salary points, requests for technology, etc. has to be sent four to five times over a period of months before they get a response. It is just bizarre. Their air conditioning doesn’t work (imagine having a class with no air conditioning in this heat wave). Their internet connection drops constantly. They still manage to get teachers, for now, but I looked them up and they are one of the lowest-ranked schools in their state. I feel sorry for their students.

I wouldn’t work there for $100,000 a month and my weight in chocolate.

It reminded me of years ago when I was still coaching judo and there were a lot of athletes with the attitude, “You are lucky you get to coach me.” Some of them were really good, but the vast majority were not, and they didn’t get any better because excellent coaches did not want to put up with athletes who skipped practice, didn’t want to do all of the exercises and wanted all of their own expenses paid without lifting a finger to help raise money.

If you are a teacher or work in a non-profit and you feel you are “casting your pearls before swine”, I hope you quit

Someone told me that they could work in a program for youth who had been severely abused, “If they appreciate it.” I said that I could almost guarantee that they would not. I have worked with students in similar programs and would still be doing it as a career except for the fact that my late husband had a genetic disorder so that I needed to be prepared to be the sole support for our family. Children and youth who have been let down by everyone in their lives until now are not going to “appreciate you”. In fact, they are going to test you to see if you are going to leave them or disappoint them like every other adult.

Does your credential say that you can only teach white children who show up well-fed, well-dressed and knowing their ABC’s or does it say you can teach?

Dr. Flora Ortiz

There are 100 reasons you may feel like your students are lucky to have you. Maybe you are burnt out – given the way things have been going, I would not be surprised. Perhaps you are someone who would be a wonderful teacher for gifted students who are bored in school and need a challenge. I hope you find each other. My lovely daughter, Jennifer, who is a fantastic middle school teacher (it is not just me who says so, ask any student who has been in her class or any teacher or principal who ever worked with her), said to me,

Mom, you’re a good teacher for middle school kids because you actually like them. If you don’t, they’ll know and they will eat you alive.

Jennifer Rousey (a.k.a. The Perfect Jennifer)

I DO like middle school students. They are fun and they are funny. They are at the age where they are figuring out who they want to be, and we, as teachers, have the honor and challenge of helping them choose the right trajectory.

I am teaching Introduction to Entrepreneurship for a tribal college this semester (California Indian Nations College, in case you are wondering) and I like my students there, too. I am having a blast.

Whether you are talking about your employer, your students, your athletes or your spouse, if you feel they are “Lucky to have you” it means one of two things, neither of them good:

  1. You are being treated badly, in which case, it’s hard to imagine you becoming anything but bitter and unhappy and that having an impact on the people around you.
  2. You believe the people you work with or for are undeserving of your talents, incompetent or in other ways not good enough to deserve you. It is better for all concerned if you take a hike.

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Happy Silver Anniversary to Me

I’ll be married 25 years this week – a quarter of a century. We have weathered a lot of challenges and I think the secret boils down to this – we both think we got the better deal. We both think we are married to the smarter, more capable, better parent member of the two of us.

Whatever relationship you are in – employee, teacher, coach, spouse – if you think you are getting such a bad deal the other party is lucky you are staying around, no one is going to end up happy.

Dennis and me with green martini and green wine

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One thought on “The Secret to Success – at Everything

  • Elaine

    Happy Anniversary! I am so proud of you both!!
    Your love story is so inspiring. I agree about if either think you are doing someone a favor just for being there, there’s no point in being there.