The following article comes from the book Alberta Workshop which is a compilation of the theme speeches of the first 25 years of the Masonic Spring Workshop held each April in the Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta. Bro. Tom Jackson (Pennsylvania) called this the best workshop available to rank and file Masons anywhere.
Bro. D. A. Bruce
Brethren I do not particularly propose any sophisticated text for this presentation. It is not a philosophical discussion of any great significance nor does it contain any historical perspective or mystical dissertation but rather it presents, using a cliche, a bit of common sense mixed with a lot of old fashioned medicine. I present nothing new; nothing that you haven’t heard before; just perhaps said in a different way. Some of what I present to you this evening you may have heard before. Most of my thoughts are based upon my reflections and experiences from having spent 25 years un the field of education, in the capacity of a teacher and administrator, and an equal number of years involved with Free Masonry. I don’t wish to apologize for anything that you may have heard before, for two reasons. I strongly believe that repetition is the best way to reinforce a point in an individual’s mind and further, if after this presentation, I have left but one person with a thought or a new idea or something that they can build their own life upon then I will have not laboured in vain and my mission will have been accomplished. Furthermore, I consider it to be my objective to facilitate an inward feeling among each one of you about being positive and hopefully send you away from this workshop, on Sunday, filled with enthusiasm and with confidence so that you would want to share the feeling of being positive with others.
I must initially congratulate the Committee who have planned this workshop for adopting the theme “Being Positive”. It is a great theme to work upon, particularly at a time in our society when we are faced with serious problems coupled with high unemployment and general pessimistic view of the future. Yes Brethren you are to be commended for adopting such a theme. It is also interesting to note, in passing, that if you look back in time that whenever there has been a world crisis, a depression, or a World War, Freemasonry has flourished and commitment to the craft has increased. It is unfortunate, however, that we must have a catastrophe or a crisis in order to increase the interest in one of the greatest institutions of all times.
I believe that being positive is a way in which we can do something for our lodges, for our communities, in our private avocations and for ourselves. No doubt, everyone here has had some individual or some groups of individuals influence them towards “Being Positive”. Let me share with you three or four people who I strongly believe have strongly entrenched the philosophy of “Being Positive” into their daily lives and have certainly influenced my life. I think first of Doctor Murray Banks, a renown Psychologist and motivator. In his book “How to Overcome an Inferiority Complex” he refers to the few lines of a famous song “Accentuate the Positive — Eliminate the Negative”. By accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative, Dr. Banks believes one can very successfully overcome a pessimistic view of himself and of others. I think also of a well known Hockey Coach and General Manager. When he was first employed to direct an expansion team into the National Hockey League some of his co-workers, owners, and players were most distressed by the fact that they were placed in a division with the best teams in the league, the Canadiens and the Bruins. This did not particularly concern the Coach as he replied to them in a very positive note “if you want to be the best you have got to play with the best”. But Brethren there has been one particular situation with which I have been in contact that has left the greatest impression upon me. As I stated before I have spent 25 years in the field of education and I have had the opportunity of observing and listening to many interesting anecdotes. I recall very vividly having been transferred as Principal to a particular school and being informed that there was one lady on the staff that had just undergone a series of operations for cancer. On the first day that the lady arrived at my school I was unsure as to how to deal with the situation. She came into my officer and introduced herself and without finding any way to break the ice her first comment was, “I am sure that you are aware that I have just had a serious operation for cancer.” My reply was “Yes, I have been made aware of that fact and tell me how are you feeling?” Her reply to me was “I feel great”. Feeling very optimistic about her reply I said to her “Do I assume, therefore, that everything is clear.” She replied, “Not in the least. I have terminal cancer.” “How do you feel about the situation?”, I asked of her. “I feel great. I have enjoyed my life” was her immediate reply. “I have done a lot of many interesting things. I have met a lot of very fine people and I can assure you that each additional day that I live I will consider it to be a bonus.” Can anyone here match that in terms of being positive?
For those of you who are still not completely with me in terms of being positive let me portray to you another example. If your employer was to come to you one morning and say, “John, if you want to get ahead in this company you had better start working a lot harder”. How would you react to that statement? Would you not have a degree of anger for that employer? What thoughts would be going through your mind? How does he know how hard I am working? Who does he think he is? If he doesn’t like the way I am working he can fire me or I will quit. I am quite sure that you would spend the next few hours or even the next few days being somewhat depressed, unsure of yourself, pessimistic and with a significant degree of anger directed at your employer and at the company.
But Brethren, if that same employer came to you and said “John, you have the potential of becoming a great asset with this company”. How would you feel? How would you react? I believe that you would feel proud, feel successful that someone has noticed you. You would WANT to work harder, WANT to grow with the company WANT to do the best possible job that you can. But yet, my Brethren, was not the message the same. The difference being that in the latter it was done in a very positive way.
Brethren I consider our role in life, whether it be in our community, in our lodge, in our place of business, or with our families, is to help people to want to grow and to want to succeed. The key words are want and grow. To WANT to grow from being a good person to becoming a better person, from being a good man to becoming a better man, from being a good Mason to becoming a better Mason and to want to help in making our lodges grow from being good lodges to becoming better lodges. You may have noticed that I have not used the superlative “best” because that is a state of perfection towards which we must all strive to achieve. I would like to modify the theme of this presentation from being “positive” to “Making people feel good about themselves through identifying their successes in a positive manner” or perhaps using the statement “setting people up for success” in a positive manner. I believe that there are many ways in which to set people up for success. But let me indicate what I consider to be four significant methods. On this occasion I will deal with two of them and on another occasion I will deal with two more. I recognize that the four ways through which we can help people want to grow, to make them feel good about themselves are;
- Involvement and commitment
- Building upon strengths and successes
- Acceptance or resolution, and finally
Let us deal for a few minutes with the concept involvement and commitment.
I would like to share with you a short story or anecdote which not only possesses some humour but in my opinion indicates a significant degree of truth.
The first moral or lesson that we can infer from this tory is that we must feed those that are hungry. Brethren, a Brother comes to lodge for a particular reason. He wants to be fed. His appetite needs satisfying. but my Brothers, is it not true that on many occasions we deal with concerns about the lack of attendance, the lack of initiative or some similar problem.
These men who have come to lodge are not there for that purpose they are there to satisfy their own needs and their own appetites for Masonic knowledge. THEY HAVE COME TO BE FED, they ARE in attendance and we must make every possible effort in our business meetings, through our degree ceremonies and through our Masonic education to make sure that each one of these individuals will leave the lodge satisfied. Perhaps it would be a good idea at every lodge meeting to take the time to find out why a member comes to lodge. Once we determine that information then we had better make sure that their reasons for coming to lodge and their desires and their needs have been satisfied. Allow each member to leave the lodge feeling that they have been noticed, that their opinions have been sought and without their presence the lodge meeting may not have been as successful. Let them go away satisfied. When a Brother goes away from lodge satisfied he is our best advertising and will transfer that satisfaction to others who may also be future attenders at lodge. Let us not worry about those who are not in attendance let’s take the time to serve the needs of those who are present.
Once a Brother becomes more involved he will become more committed to the lodge and will want to serve his other Brethren by trying to involve others. Furthermore, I challenge each one of you, that when you reach that stage of commitment in your lodge, to take the time to go to your Master and offer to participate in a particular ceremony, to do a lecture, to do a charge, and to provide leadership to others. You are indicating your commitment and your initiative in helping your lodge become a better lodge. many Masters would be most pleased to find someone who is willing to come forth, to assist in helping the lodge grow. Once you have become more involved and more committed towards the lodge your leadership skills will be required to assist other members in growing and succeeding with the lodge. Involvement leads to commitment and to leadership.
Brethren, I receive a lot of teasing around my home about the number of times that I have watched the film The Sound of Music. Yes I must have watched that film at least a dozen times and I can assure you that I will watch it at least a dozen times more. While the music certainly does something for me the message conveyed in the film provides me with much more. From that movie I get a richer and deeper meaning every time I watch it. I may pick up a new or different word, a different scene which provides me with more detail about the whole story.
You may ask, what this has to do with Free Masonry. I submit to you, my Brothers, that when a candidate first comes to the lodge he is astonished and overwhelmed by everything he sees and hears. In order to help him grow we must provide him with the opportunity to digest some of what he has seen and some of what he has heard. We cannot expect him to digest at once the whole meal. He must go away satisfied with what he has received but yet hungry for more. He will come back for more. He will come for that extra word. He will come back to get a deeper meaning for what he has seen and heard. But we must take the time, each and every time, he comes to the lodge to review with him what he has learned. As he becomes more involved, and committed he will show the initiative that is necessary to eventually provide leadership in helping others; new candidates fulfil their needs and meet their satisfactions.
Yes, my Brethren, we must feed those that are hungry, we must satisfy their needs and their wants but we should not do it all at once. We must set them up for success so that they will WANT TO GROW A LITTLE AT A TIME. As the farmer said to the preacher, “I wouldn’t give him the whole load, let’s give it to them over a period of time so that they can see their successes and want to grow as a result of their experiences”.
Let us now move on towards the second way that I call “building upon strengths and successes”. I submit to you, my Brethren that every person, every adult and every child HAS AT LEAST ONE STRENGTH. As leaders in our community, in our families, and more particularly in our lodges, we must identify those strengths in individuals by using any technique that we may have at our disposal, whether it be an instrument, whether it be through observation or whether it be through listening attentively to people. For when we do, as I indicated in the introduction, we will not do the best for that person, we will turn them off. We will not allow them to grow nor will we establish a feeling within themselves of wanting to grow. We must help them to identify their strengths through positive reinforcement.
I think of an example that occurred several months ago. A particular teacher was having some difficulty in her classroom. She was depressed. She was not having a successful term. She was encountering discipline problems. On one occasion the teacher was sitting in the office with the principal discussing a particular situation. The principal during the course of their conversation stated, “Mrs. Smith, there is one thing that I ADMIRE about you”. “It’s your ability to listen effectively to people”. “You possess excellent listening skills”. With that, the teacher’s eyes lit up, a smile came to her face. She went back to her classroom. From that one comment and from effectively utilizing her listening skills she eliminated her difficulties with discipline. She developed a more positive attitude towards herself and towards her teaching and discovered through listening effectively she was helping others solve their own problems. Listening is a particular skill that this person possessed. It is a skill that each one of us should develop and reinforce. Many of us hear but we don’t listen. I submit that 90% of the problems today could be resolved not be talking but through listening. Here is an individual who had one strength pointed out to her which helped her solve her other problems. It is what I call the transfer of strengths. Individuals are motivated by their achievements not by their failures. People will do things better that they do well and individuals need someone such as you and such as me to tell them what their particular strengths may be. Once they have had their strengths identified and reinforced they can build further upon them.
We must take the time to look for our own successes and the successes of others. Everybody succeeds in something. As we feel good about ourselves we feel successful in what we are doing. Success breeds greater success. I consider it to be our role in our lodge and in our community to help our Brethren to identify their successes and to help them understand why they are successful. When they feel good about themselves from having succeeded in something they will want to share that success with others so others may feel that degree of success. Success motivates people and provides them with the opportunities of becoming more successful.
Brethren I have a handout that I would like to share with you that you might utilize during your discussion period. It is called “Success Analysis”. If provides you with the opportunity to indicate those things in which you have been successful as well as who has been most helpful in allowing you to meet that success. It gives you the opportunity as well to identify future successes. It is a very easy worksheet to develop. It is something that you may want to share with others when it is completed. People are most surprised when they are able to identify their successes and feel very good about themselves when they can share their successes with others. Please take the time to go through this sheet, I am sure it will have a great influence upon you.
In conclusion, Brethren, let me leave you with this short message “He who has lost his wealth loses much. He who has lost a friend loses more. But he who has lost his positive attitude loses all.” Thank you my Brethren.