140 characters or less

Twitter entered our world in 2006 and was an instant huge success!  One of my job duties at the time was overseeing the Marketing Department for Texas A&M Athletics.  I knew right away that twitter could be a very valuable tool in our marketing efforts, especially to the 50,000 students at A&M.  Several of the young guns on my staff became twitter addicts from the start (I teasingly called them “twits”) and we hit the ground running using this new tool as one of our primary methods to get out the many messages and bits of information of Aggie Athletics to our fan base.

But personally, I didn’t like twitter from the get go…still don’t…and I haven’t ever signed up for a twitter account.

Why? Because I don’t like limiting my communications to 140 characters or less, which is about 30 words.  Can you imagine having to limit your conversations or phone calls to 60 seconds or less?  I couldn’t do it!

When I came upon this idea of writing a blog/journal, one of the first calls I made was to my friend Dave Snitily.  Dave owns the Snitily/Carr Production Group in Lincoln, Nebraska, one of the most successful marketing and production companies in the Cornhusker state.  I knew Dave would give me sound advice on how to make the mechanics of this whole thing work so that people could get e-mails of The Last Train or log on to a website.

At the end of our conversation Dave said “Here’s my one piece of advice, Jeff, keep your messages as short and succinct as possible…that’s the best way to communicate in today’s world.”  I knew Dave was right, but I also knew that keeping things short and sweet is not my style, in fact, it’s really something I’m incapable of doing on a consistent basis.

I’m one of those guys who loves long conversations and phone calls.  They aren’t all necessarily deep and intense conversations, I just like chewing the fat with my friends for extended periods of time.  Sometimes I’ll hang up from a phone call with a friend and Maria will exclaim (with a little jealousy) “do you realize how long you’ve been on the phone!”  I’ll shrug my shoulders with guilt and she’ll give me that hand sign quickly closing her thumb to fingers again and again silently telling me “all you like to do is talk, talk, talk.

I’ve always been that way.  My dad and I enjoyed having long talks together usually while watching a sporting event on TV.  One of the nicest things my mom ever told me occurred when I was a freshman in college and was back home to visit for the weekend.  She said, “Your father mentioned the other day that he sure misses not having Jeffer around the house…that it’s lonely not having you to talk to.” I had to quickly turn away as tears streamed down my cheeks because I too missed those conversations with dad.  While I was away at college, every single week I would get a hand-typed letter from dad, many times several pages long.  As a newspaper editor and brilliant writer, I always looked forward to his well-written and thoughtful letters containing fatherly advice, bits of wisdom, and information on what was going on his life.  I wish I had had the foresight to save all those letters.

An example on how much I enjoy long conversations and telling stories is my relationship with Rick Schwieger.  He now goes by “Rick Allen” (his middle name) and is well known in NASCAR circles as one of the top television announcers in the business.  When we launched HuskerVision at the University of Nebraska in 1994, Rick was just out of college and my only full-time employee.  We worked our butts off, some times 100 hours a week, in our passion to make a “big difference” in Husker Athletics.  Spending all that time together, led to a lot of talking, mostly on my part as Rick enjoyed hearing me tell yet another story from my past (at least he acted like he enjoyed listening to me talk).  One night as I was spinning yet another new tale with Rick, he stopped me and said “Schmee, I’ve heard that story at least 10 times before, in fact I’ve heard all of your stories many times.”  I retorted “no way!”  He said, “go ahead tell me any story and I’ll prove to you that I’ve heard it before.”  So I started down a list of about 15 stories trying to come up with more obscure ones each time…but sure enough…Rick would say just a couple of words to indicate that he had indeed heard that story before.  When I couldn’t stump him we laughed and laughed…and then he started kidding me on a regular basis to try and come up with something original, a new story, please!  Rick and I shared a special time in those two years and I appreciated a young kid putting up with a now old guy who just liked to tell stories.

photo (22)Rick Allen is the good lookin’ guy on the left…no, not the dog, the tall one.

I think it’s sad in our fast paced, ever changing, time crunched world that so many people have limited many of their communications to 140 characters or less.  In my opinion, delving into the things that really matter in this world takes a lot more time than that.

Medical/Personal Update:

I’ll often think when I’m alone in thought “Is this all really happening?”  It’s a surreal feeling. I’m still the same guy and I feel good most of the time.  Is there really something inside me that might grow and kill me soon?

Maria says she gets that same surreal feeling saying “this all feels like a dream that I’m going to wake up from.”

But I’ve always been a reality-based thinker…although I do like to dream big.  In my career, I like to assess where we’re at and what we need to do to improve.  I love setting goals, making plans, and then implementing those plans to bring about improvement.

I’m doing the same thing in my personal life right now as well as at Schmackary’s.  I know that looking ahead with goals and plans will be beneficial in my battle with the big c.

I had chemotherapy treatment #4 yesterday and it went well.  The best news is that the “tumor marker” in my blood has gone down from 1,772 to 1,195…so the chemo medicine is working!

There, I said it all.  And it only took me 5,813 characters to do it!

Next Stop: Feeding Your Soul