Inboarding Sets Employees Up For Success

If onboarding is such a great business idea – and it is – why should it be reserved for only new employees? Maybe the time has come to give inboarding a try.

Onboarding = Success
Onboarding is more than just a solution for employees with the new job jitters. Getting new employees ready to be productive is one of the toughest jobs managers face. Failure to set new employees up to succeed can lead to a slow ramp up to productivity, unhappy new hires, and, ultimately, failure to meet your critical business goals. Rather than recruiting, hiring and throwing employees in the deep end of the pool (“Sink or swim!”), there are much better onboarding practices to increase the worker’s odds of success.

To many a business school professor, onboarding is known as organizational socialization mechanisms. In layman’s terms, this means the ways new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and corporate culture to become effective team members. Think beyond just a simple new employee orientation. The process might include formal lectures, videos, training booklets, computer-based simulations, and even such basic steps as having someone welcome the newcomer and take them to lunch the first day.

This is a far cry from what we called onboarding when I was a captain in the Marine Corps: boot camp. Obviously stress reduction was not on our priority list. While there are no drill instructors at your company yelling at new recruits to drop and give me twenty (at least I hope not), the purpose is the same. You want to prepare newcomers for success in the organization.

More than 80 percent of organizations reported that they have either formal (i.e., written, documented, standard) or informal onboarding programs and/or practices, according to a study by the Society for Human Resources Managers (SHRM).  The vast majority of organizations indicated that providing communication, training and resources is extremely important for the successful adjustment of new hires.

So, one in five business leaders are still holdouts, reasoning that traditional human resources orientation sessions are good enough. They fail to see the cost/benefit payoff of investing so much time and energy in the new hires. This is miscalculated reasoning.

Public and private research has proven that onboarding leads to such positives as higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater commitment to the organization, and stress reduction. Advocates say onboarding does more than shorten the learning curve of new hires. The ultimate payoff is reduced turnover and getting productive workers to increase their tenure at the company.

But Why Just the Newbies?
If you agree with the mounting evidence that onboarding is the way to go, here is an important question: Why wouldn’t you do the same to accelerate the progress of the employees you already have? There is no reason to think that it is too late for the rest of the roster who arrived after onboarding began or have already gone through onboarding.

Consider it inboarding, an extension of the idea of onboarding. The purpose of inboarding is to set existing, rather than new, employees up for greater success. You want the same payoffs: higher job satisfaction, better job performance, and greater commitment to the goals of the organization.

Employees are not set-it-and-forget-it machines. The need for input is ongoing. Many inboarding communications tools and channels can be used to continually get the information across. If onboarding is like an inoculation, then inboarding is like booster shots.

When I was president of a 150-person consumer optical company, I discovered there are two groups of employees that are ideal candidates for what I now call inboarding: all employees and specially selected employees.

All Employees
First, let’s consider all employees. That’s right, all employees. Do you have employees you don’t care if they are successful or not? If yes, I recommend you get rid of the position or get rid of the person in the position (maybe that should be called offboarding, but that is a whole other article). In today’s world of lean companies and global competitiveness, every employee counts.

I am a believer that you help employees be more successful at accomplishing corporate goals if they know what’s going on, where the company is going, why it is going there, what is expected of them, how they can contribute and what the payoff is for them.  A leader wants to know the answers to those questions, and so does the entire team.

Treat your employee base like adults who are as interested in the future and success of the company as you are. Here are the tactics that can make inboarding work. Try town hall meetings, roundtable discussions, and even monthly newsletters (just the facts, not the fluff).

Please understand… I am not talking rah-rah, go-team-go cheerleading sessions. This is honest sharing of information. The important news to always stress is where are we going, why it is important, what the opportunities are, what we need from you the employee, and what is in it for you. Bottom line: We get more business, everyone is more secure.

There is an old adage: “If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter what road you take.” In my experience of coaching more than 300 companies, the information about company success metrics does not easily filter down from the management team and supervisors to the rank and file. People are often in the dark on how they relate to success. Everyone who goes to work wants to go home feeling they accomplished something and that it was important.

Here is one technique I recommend. Set up idea exchange sessions comprised of representatives from various functional areas of the organization. Have them share why they think another area is important. They might make comments like: “Marketing is important because if we don’t have a steady stream of customers we are out of business.” “Operations is important because if we don’t deliver on time that hurts our cash flow and reputation.” “Accounts receivable is important because if they don’t do their job we don’t get paid by customers.”  Having that feedback from other people in the organization can really open their eyes to the fact that what they do really matters. They come to work with their heads held a little higher and their focus more intent.

Specially Selected Employees
The other prime candidate for onboarding is specially selected employees who possess high potential for growth. These are the people you know would like to be major players for you as you go down the road. Inboarding can focus on a number of actions to get them ready to become better, rather than pigeonholing them in the job they already have.

Many managers are afraid to groom a high performing employee for promotion, because they hate to lose someone good. Wrong, wrong, wrong. A manager’s job is to grow their people and find the right new person to replace them.

With a small to medium company there can be a challenge to find slots to move a high performer up a ladder. Unlike the days when I was an executive at General Mills, in a small organization there are not as many opportunities for promotion for an up-and-comer.

The solution is forget about the vertical ladder and, as proposed by Vistage speaker and consultant, Amy K Hutchins, consider a horizontal ladder. This means moving employees laterally into new and different experiences. Moving sideways can keep the employee fresh (not too different from how the military cross trains its personnel).

Project work is another inboarding technique. You might say to one of these special employees, “You have a chance to be a manager, but right now we think you are short on finance. So I am going to give you a project that lets you get your nose into the numbers.”
Maybe the solution is as simple as cross training. The restaurant chain, PF Changs, took two important actions during the recession.  First, they got rid of everything on the expense side that did not enhance the customer’s dining experience. Second, they did a great deal of cross training, which allowed them to reduce head count because kitchen staff could fill in for wait staff and vice versa. More important, morale went up because the employees better understood what it took for the entire restaurant to be successful.

Final Thoughts on Inboarding
Inboarding should be done on a regular, continual basis. If you do it episodically, then the employees tend to look at it as something the leaders do when something is wrong or when you get a big order. Communicating on a monthly or quarterly basis is something to strive for, but not less than every six months.

Don’t neglect the social side. Functions like the company picnic and the holiday party are important. So is the celebration for the big win. In my experience, companies who celebrate victories do better over time.

Breaking bread is also a proven strategy. Regularly take a cross section of employees out for a lunch discussion. If you show genuine interest in your employees, they will know that you care. Then they are more likely to open up to you on what is really going on. Tagalongs are another strategy. Have a younger employee shadow you for some client meetings, lunches and project work.

Overall, the inboarding payoff can be enormous. Never forget, it is the leader’s job to create employee alignment with personal goals, management objectives, and company goals. Inboarding will give you better players and deeper bench strength. Technology is great, but technology doesn’t give you the edge. Business is still about people.

Action Item List
Now it’s time to try out the ideas shared in this article. To receive the specific action items list, please click here and sign up for our Keeping on Track Newsletter:

For more information on how to get an inboarding or onboarding program started, please contact Dana at (310) 453-6556, ext. 403 or

Larry Cassidy is a Senior LCS Consultant and a Chair with Vistage International for the past 25 years. He currently works with some 50 executives every month and has facilitated over 1,200 executive group meetings, and participated in 11,000 face-to-face discussions with chief executives about all aspects of their businesses. He prepared for this journey at Miami University (Ohio) and Northwestern (MBA); as a Marine Corps officer; with public companies (General Mills, Quaker Oats and PepsiCo), private, family and foreign-owned firms; and, in the 1980s as General Manager and CEO of local companies. He does executive coaching and also serves on advisory boards. You can reach Larry at or call him at (310) 453-6556, ext. 411.


In the early and mid-1600s, settlers braved oceans in tiny vessels for the privilege of unimaginable hardship on our Eastern seaboard. For various reasons, it seemed worth it for the opportunity to start over. In 1776, we started over as a brand new nation, and 13 years later ratified a Constitution – the fundamental conditions by which we would move forward. Railroads opened up the virgin continent, with settlers loading wagons and starting over. Then in 1861, the country was split in half, with the South an aspiring new “nation,” and in 1865 we re-started as an uneasy but again unified country, with Reconstruction ending in 1877.

Into a new century, the first World War began in 1914 and ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the western world facing a major re-start. In 1929, we collapsed into the Great Depression, followed by the World War II in 1941and the dawn of the Atomic Age in 1945, a 15-year span which led to the Cold War, the United Nations, the beginning of the end of colonialism and a restructured society. And let us not forget television. All of which created stunning change, and another re-start.

Then came the Korean and Vietnamese Wars, the Civil Rights Act in 1964, man in space and on the moon, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Eastern Bloc economies in 1989, the slow then monstrous advent of the computer and the internet, and on-and-on. We could almost hear the time from start-to-restart shrinking. Then came the Great Recession of 2008-2010 (is it over?), and few of us got away without recalibrating.

Those are but a few of the seminal moments and events in our history which have required, at some level, starting over. Yes, we have been a nation of exploration, of independent-minded souls, of opportunity and of freedom. But as much as anything, we have been a bunch of hard-headed folks who get up and get back on the horse – we start over, again and often again. This is a very good thing, as the “universe” seems to be forever offering up yet another opportunity to redo it one more time.

I wish you a Happy 236th Birthday on Wednesday. And I suggest that we each pause for a moment to “cross out” the sorry idea that we “have to” start over, and instead substitute the notion that we “get to” start over. Otherwise, we would be left behind!

And think good thoughts for those in Waldo Canyon and northwest of Colorado Springs, hundreds of families who will spend their July 4th figuring out how to start over. They will. It is what we do.

Prostate Wrapup

Prologue: This is long, with many moving parts. We’re all busy, we care more or less about matters of great moment to others, and we have our own lives to live. I understand that. So forewarned, you may read this now, or save for later, or simply move on…..

Fourteen months ago, I shared having prostate cancer with members and Chairs. Facing a very aggressive cancer, I could not reconcile two opposites: silence while fighting for my life, and the openness and authenticity we all cherish. And as a human being, living alone and working solo, I wanted support. I was also asked if, at the end, I would share my experience, how a Chair “gets through” with members and self, what happens when we are unable to Chair as they have come to expect. This is it. I hope there will be some value for you in my experience, or perhaps for others in your life.

First, what to include? I have decided on the following: Treatment Types, My Treatment, Physical Challenges, My Fellow Chairs, and My Members. You will have more-or-less interest in each of these; thus, you can read as curiosity dictates.

That left the decision: from what perspective to write this? I again choose to be wide open. So I will share it as a very personal experience. While the first two sections are more about process, the last three come from my heart. In the end and beyond the physical pounding, this was about internal struggle, large emotions, and a surprising confrontation between head and heart.

As you read, faith and family may not appear as companions on my journey. Not true! I have abiding faith, but that does not always keep weakness from the door. Family? They are precious, present at every step, and I could not love them more.


First, I acknowledge this may feel gender-specific. Part is. But much is not. The big stuff is about being in peril, how we get through, and who might be there to lend a hand. This can happen to any of us, lad or lass.

Second, my game plan was dumb. My goal was to beat cancer and radiation on my terms, to take radiation without missing a beat. I made that “winning.” But I had too big a load to do both. It was a failure of reason and ego. It cost me. Don’t do this to yourself!

Finally, many told me how well I was handling it, how they admired my attitude. I may look back and agree. But at the end, I could not take the beating. Trying to do it all, racing for the end, I fell apart. Attitude took a pass. Vice Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Please accept that as you read this…..

Treatment Types: I have little new to say about treatment types. There are several processes, surgical and non-surgical, as well as “wait and watch,” and limitless literature on the shelves and over the internet. As I write, much is happening: perfecting Da Vinci (robotic) surgery, advances in radiation technology and process, and improving cryogenic (freezing) treatment. We are leaps ahead of 5, 10, let alone 20 years ago. Yet we remain Barbarians, but with much greater technology to wield in the knife fights, roasts and cocktails we mix to battle cancer. I pray for a simple, benign pill!

Each of these paths has benefits and downsides. No choice is right for everyone. It is your life, and you must not delegate deciding for yourself. So detach up front from outcomes, get in front of genuine experts, ask questions, listen like a champ, decide on the right treatment, pick the best Doc, and finally move to the turf you own: your attitude, and what you will chose to think. Some bonus advice: stay off the internet, until you can best judge your options, which will be after you absorb from the experts!

My Treatment: I chose long-course, external-beam radiation. It was dished up at 7:20 a.m. every weekday over nine consecutive weeks, by an IMRT device I christened “Betsy.” I got one “hall pass” — an added Friday-and-Monday break around the last weekend, to let disintegrating skin make it through the home stretch. That helped.

Radiation is the universe in reverse, a sun orbiting you for 340-degrees, attacking the cancer for seven minutes. Forty-Four sessions, the first 36 frying the prostate and creating a “bloom,” like sun behind moon during an eclipse, nabbing stray cancer cells at the margin. The last eight are more concentrated shots, with cancer on the ropes, a final barrage to finish it off. All the while, you hope it is working!

Physical Challenges: The Four Horsemen of prostate treatment are incontinence, impotence, and possible damage to bladder or bowel. None are good, all are life-changing, even the prospects are mortifying. I decided these would not be part of my experience, and my odds are now good that I’m out the other side and OK. Time will tell.

Which left, for me, the shocking physical surprise. Over nine weeks, radiation inexorably drives out energy. Like a boa, Betsy squeezed until I could not go on. Gently at first, then relentlessly, then with a wallop that chased away any notion of my “beating the game.” Radiation destroys, and as it kills part of you, all your energy races to the rescue, leaving little for just living, let alone work. Some are hit harder, some slip through with more left.

I did not. Half way through, I had it by the tail; at the end, it had me by the throat. I have never backed down, always hung in. Proud Larry. But near the end, I could not go on, could not keep working. So I quit. I quit in the middle of a 121, and I don’t even remember driving home. I was so close. But I was also foolish. Done in, I cancelled my meetings, did what I could by phone, and tried to find myself. I will now pay a price, in speed of recovery, for ignoring good advice.

My Fellow Chairs: Were terrific. I got so much back from so many. Offers to fill in, to help, or to just “be there.” All wonderful. Yet it was really the encouragement that meant so much during the last hard weeks. Resting at home, I again read each of those early emails. They were an emotional handhold.

Within our Chair community, there was a very special cadre of Chairs who helped me through. Caring, encouraging, questioning, teaching. Mostly questioning, helping me forward. There had to be times they didn’t relish the task, but when I looked up, when I needed help, they were there. They stood with me, reaching down and lifting. So take a long, long look around you, my friends — you are running with a great pack!

My Members: Were terrific. They were beyond terrific. As radiation took its toll, they made it more-and-more about me. Some shortened, refused or did phone 121s, telling me to “Rest,” or, “Go home.” As I visited docs and met daily with Betsy, they started and ran parts of meetings. They called and emailed with friendship and support.

In the closing weeks, 121s became precious, full of concern and scolding, always from the heart. They held me with their eyes until they were satisfied. And they seldom were, pushing me toward the same balance I have asked of them. They were dear and relentless. I should have listened. They gave me love and life. I will love them forever.

What might this mean to fellow Chairs? I’m not sure. We invite folks into our groups, and into our lives, just as they do us. Our lure is “better leaders, better decisions, better results.” And these all matter. A lot! Yet over time, it is relationships, being there when these friends cannot find port, when they have lost their heart and they suddenly feel very small. I know of no manual on how to do that. I believe, if there were one, it would speak of authenticity, trust, “carefrontation” — and love. Mostly love! Life makes no promises, but offers clues that if we take this path, our members will help us get home when it’s our turn to be lost and small. They will be there to love us when we need them.

My first “reading” on how radiation worked will come in February. Meanwhile…..

Postscript: I will end this on a very personal note. On December 16, 1993, I left a 121 to head home, turned onto busy MacArthur Boulevard, and began to die. A mile and a minute and a miracle later, pure luck gifted back my life in a crash that should have ended it. Whether an invention of chance or fate, that day brought greater focus and a much tighter purpose.

The 13 years since have been my best, each day a bonus. Now it’s cancer, a very different way to touch mortality. This is the quiet terror, the news we all dread. Can it be a catalyst for another fabulous new chapter? I believe so. I wonder if other Chairs who have been down the cancer road feel this in the same way, now see events and themselves differently, and are asking even more of life. I am closing in on a young 70. Mine has been such a great life, full of terrific people who have touched me in so many ways. I have learned much since cancer knocked. About my friends and myself. And I am where I am meant to be, with room ahead.


In early-January 2012, I had my post-five-year check-up. The numbers were superb – as “low” as they have ever been, and “low” is very good! I visited all three of my cancer docs to thank them for what they did for me, for the gift of my last five years, and all three used the “cured” word – which triggered both joy and, strangely, a bit of unease.

We also visited the mini-storm around PSA testing and biopsies, and all three told me that had I not had those procedures – with my Gleason 9 – I would have likely “dropped through the cracks” and be long-gone. So I remain a true believer in testing. We each make up our own mind, and I pray you chose right. Meanwhile, sometimes we win! And now I’m off in vain “pursuit” of my idol, the legendary Pat Hyndman…..phew!


Yes, There Really Is a Man-In-The-Moon

On summer Sundays in Minnesota, the parks and lakes dotting the Twin Cities crawl with couples and families, all soaking up 85-degree heat much as chipmunks store nuts for the coming winter. But on one remarkable Sunday in July, forty years and two generations ago, my family sat together in the relative cool of our basement family room. We were there to witness a transcendent moment, as were some 530-million people world-wide.

Holding two young daughters, we saw a fuzzy impossibility flicker across our television. And listened to an iconic newsman, whose word had come to be regarded as the “truth,” confirm that a man had landed on the Moon. That afternoon, Walter Cronkite described what was arguably mankind’s greatest technical achievement, accomplished barely eight years after President John F. Kennedy declared “…..this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.”

The date was July 20, 1969, six years after Cronkite carried out a heartbreaking task: telling a nation that it’s President, architect of that grand moment which he would not live to see, had been shot dead. That was 1963, and as Camelot and a country buckled, Cronkite swallowed hard, unable to even look into the camera. With the landing of Eagle, his composure again frayed, but this was a very different moment. Cronkite grinned at the world, like a giddy schoolboy, and framed our wonder: “Oh, geez,” then a gush of nervous laughter, then “Oh, boy. Whew! Oh, boy.”

After walking and working on the Moon’s surface for 2½ hours, Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin reunited with Michael Cooper and Columbia; and, on July 24 their capsule splashed down some 812 miles southwest of Hawaii, paying off Kennedy’s dream of “…returning (man) safely to Earth.” What had seemed impossible had been transformed into something “so easy.”

Today I remember the Apollo 11 astronauts, supported by those at NASA, who crossed the last, great physical barrier of discovery – not with bluster or bravado, but with simple words: “The Eagle has landed,” and “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” and even “Whoopie!” I recall Aldrin’s hope, before his walk on the Moon: “I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

And again I imagine three fragile men, who trusted other fragile men as they flew 953,054 miles using nascent technology with less computing muscle than a cell phone, sharing an odyssey of colossal uncertainty. As a British scientist said, “…(Apollo 11) would be inconceivable in the risk-averse world of today.” I hope that is not true, for beyond technology, beyond reestablishing America in the early “space race,” Apollo 11 was an ode to vision, innovation, leadership, determination and courage.

Apollo 11 asked more of man than seemed possible: to reach for the unthinkable, to push past boundaries of imagination and nerve, to find and define a new world. Forty years later, we once again need bold vision, innovation, leadership, determination and courage. Not bluster, not bravado – just a “few (more) small steps for man…” Apollo 11 is an epic story worth re-telling, to those born after Eagle landed, and those who cannot see past the trials of today.

 Larry Cassidy (7/20/2009)

Edited 8/25/2012

Gift For Monica

Gift for Monica

By Lawrence M. Cassidy

I recently attended a Bat Mitzvah for Monica, the 13-year-old daughter of a business associate and friend. I’m more than five times Monica’s age, and I shop only out of desperation, so I took the easy out. I simply wrote Monica a check to go with her card.

Which didn’t feel complete. So I looked into the meaning of the Bat Mitzvah. I thought more on both Monica’s big day, and on my grandson Brandon, who has just entered high school. Finally I decided to share with Monica, then with Brandon, a far more important “gift,” refined from my own long years and testing experiences…..



October 2006

Dear Monica:

You may not remember me. I’m one of those “old guys” your dad hangs with. Your parents were kind enough to include me in your special day.  Which is, for me, a privilege!

I have included a small gift for your Bat Mitzvah. That’s not really so important, unless it goes into your college fund…..then your dad won’t have to work quite so hard… :o). But you will learn that anyone can give material things.

The more important “gift” I want to share with you is what, at almost-70, I wish for you as you put away your childhood, and cross the uncertain threshold to becoming a young woman. Not that you’ve been waiting anxiously to hear this. Nor may it be of great interest to you today. If it is not, just tuck this away for another time, when “old guy” ideas will make more sense.

Monica, I also have daughters, both in their 40’s, and a son in his 20’s. If I could talk with them again, back when they were each age 13, there are three big things [other than matters of faith] that I would share with them:

1. Don’t waste your time “wanting” things. Nicer clothes. A cuter boyfriend. A cooler car. Even more money. “Wanting” takes your eyes off of now. And “now” is the only moment you have for sure. Yesterday is long gone, and tomorrow will not get here until tomorrow. The game you play right now is called “today!” Learning and getting better are both worth your best effort, especially about matters that have genuine meaning for you, and certainly about life itself. But don’t “want.” Figure out what is truly important, then “do.” Now! If you master that, you can start again tomorrow, from an even better place. Every tomorrow!

2. Honor the core values that build trust:

First, do what is right. Don’t waste anyone’s time claiming you didn’t know what was right. We know what is right. In our heart, in our gut, in our soul, we know right from wrong. So keep it simple. Just do what is right.

Second, do your best. Your very best. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. If you aren’t willing to do it well, don’t take it on. That may upset some folks, but not as much as doing less than you promised.

Third, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Some people call this the “Golden Rule.” I also call it being smart. We depend on others our entire life, so having them “on our side” matters. A lot! It is also one of       those choices we make, solely because it is right.

3. Be everything you can be. Have you heard of Rabbi Zusya? In his new book, Rabbi Kushner tells us about Rabbi Zusya’s fear, as he faces death:

     In the Hassidic world of Eastern Europe, in the latter eighteenth century, there lived a sage by the name of Rabbi Zusya of Anipol. He was loved by all who knew him for his piety and his humility. As he grew old and             feeble, and realized that his death was near, he became agitated. His disciples said to him, “Master, you have lived such an exemplary life. Surely God will reward you for it. Why then do you tremble at the prospect of   death>”

     He answered them: “When I stand before God, He may say to me, ‘Zusya, why were you not another Moses?’ I will have an answer for Him. I will say to Him, ‘Master of the Universe, You did not grant me the greatness of soul that You granted to Moses.’”

     “Should God ask me, ‘Zusya, why were you not another King Solomon?’ I will say to Him, ‘Because You did not bless me with the great wisdom required to be another King Solomon.’”

     Zusya hesitated, then whispered, “But alas, what do I say to Him if He asks me, Zusya, why were you not Zusya? Why were you not the person I gave you the ability to be?'”

So, Monica, seize each today and make each today count. Do what is right, do it well, and do well by others. And set your dreams upon being all of the Monica that God gave you the ability to be. Doing these things will help Monica craft a very fine woman, indeed!

God bless you,

The “Old Guy”



Larry Cassidy has been a Chair with Vistage International (formerly TEC International) for the past 20 years and he currently works with some 80 executives every month, in three chief executive and two key executive groups. Larry has facilitated over 900 executive group meetings, and participated in 7500 face-to-face discussions with chief executives about all aspects of their businesses. In preparation for this journey, Larry attended Miami University (Ohio) and Northwestern (MBA); was a Marine Corps officer; worked with public companies (General Mills, Quaker Oats and PepsiCo), private,  family and foreign-owned firms; and, in the 1980s as General Manager and CEO of local companies. He does executive coaching and also serves on advisory boards. Larry can be reached at 714-424-9443 or


Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article.  © 2006    This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.



Live So the World Cries and You Rejoice

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live your life so that when you die, the world weeps and you rejoice.”
Cherokee Saying


In June 2009, I commented that it had been fifty years since I graduated from Miami University (in Oxford, Ohio). A friend asked me, “Are you going to go back for your reunion?” I told him, “No. I don’t think I can swing it.” He thought for a moment, then he said, “Well, if you did go back, and someone asked, are there any nuggets you’d pass on to the grads? Then he added, “Hard to believe it’s been fifty years. It’s so different now. I wonder if what we have learned would mean much to today’s grads?”

I also wondered, and thus I hesitated to pass along any so-called ‘life’s lessons.’ My concern was that unasked advice might land on the young as ‘preaching,’ perhaps abuse. Yet with the passing of another year, and my grandson’s June graduation from high school, I decided I would share with him my ideas on a quality ‘human journey.’ I did so, fully aware that he must make his own choices, as do we all. My offering…


You now move into your adult years. As you do, I am offering you a few ‘Old Guy observations.’ These may seem a bit old-fashioned, especially in our fast-paced/high-tech world. Do with them what you wish. I will start with…..

  • First, my congratulations! You worked hard and earned your diploma. So celebrate! You have completed an important step on your journey, with new adventures lying ahead.

  • And Second, always remember that the strong trees are anchored by deep roots. You are now a ‘strong tree.’ So be clear about those who contributed to what you have achieved: your parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, and friends at church, to name but a few. They set high standards, demanded commitment, offered help, and urged you to become more than you thought you could be. Take time to name them, find them and thank them.

As you enter college, uncertainty accompanies your future, as it has so often in years past. Yet you must not permit today’s headlines to dampen the ‘fire in your belly;’ rather, move forward believing that today’s problems will shrink, and you will slay your dragons and craft your life. And as you do so, accept that timing and luck play no favorites. We all contest the game with the hand we are dealt, which means you must prepare for opportunity even as you navigate the occasional potholes, all without benefit of previous experience. That will be no easy task, but have faith – you will manage it, as did your predecessors.

You will also build muscle required for the years ahead. These are your ‘butterfly days’ – much as an infant butterfly beats fragile wings to push through its cocoon wall to freedom, and in so doing develops the strength to fly, you too must ‘beat your wings’ to build the strength you will need as you learn ‘fly.’ Yet even as the classroom equips you with knowledge important to success, unfinished business remains. Academics and work experience are important building blocks, but they are not sufficient for a life of meaning. For that, you must be relentless in defining, then living, with uncompromised character.

You have made a good start on meeting this challenge. As you continue down that that road, I remind you of the statue of King David, sculpted by Michelangelo and unveiled in 1504. When asked how he had created a perfect likeness of David from a block of marble, Michelangelo answered, “I chipped away the pieces of stone which were not David.” So ask of yourself, “What must I chip away which is not a part of who I want to be?” I suggest three ills to consider:

  • Lose the excuses and justifications. These are ‘tricks’ we invent to explain away our unfulfilled commitments. Be smart: do not bite off more than you can chew; however, once you accept a task, ‘own’ it and completed it as agreed. And when you stumble, as we all do, step up, own your failure, and put it right. Such decisions shape both character and reputation.

  • Next, neither dwell upon yesterday, or expect that tomorrow will solve your problems. Yesterday is history, its value measured by how we apply what we have learned. And hoping that tomorrow will somehow ‘fix things’ is not a useful strategy. To accomplish anything of value, focus on today. Take action today. Remember the lessons learned, think ahead, but live in the present.

  • And finally, give up your need to be right. Whether driven by a desire for status, control or self-esteem, the urge to be right exacts far too high a price: it curbs creativity, skewers relationships and erodes respect. To fit kindly into a team-oriented future, tame the need to be right.

Which brings me to ten serious commitments which I believe will lend support to a ‘best version of you:’

  • First, I believe we do our best by being ourselves. If we try to fool others, in time both our ‘cover story’ and our credibility will implode. So be authentic. You come into this life with useful tools. Apply them and play to your strengths. It is upon your strengths that you will build success.

  • Second, I believe that the answers will find us if we are willing to be patient and ‘be in the moment.’ Allow yourself to be quiet, curious and aware. You know what you know; however, what you do not know may decide the outcome. So be calm. Welcome the new and the unknown. ‘Ancora Imparo’ – be about learning, always and forever.

  • Third, I believe in doing the right thing, and doing it for the right reasons. You have lived long enough to know what is right and what is not right. Peter Marshall says, “We know perfectly well what we ought to do, but there are times we just don’t want to do it.” Which means: if it doesn’t feel right, do not do it. If you focus on doing the right thing, the hard choices become clear.

  • Fourth, I believe in living life with purpose and passion. Joe E. Lewis said, “You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.” Life is not a rehearsal. ‘Working life right’ happens when you are clear about what captivates you, summons your enthusiasm and calls you to commit fully. Find your passion, and live it fully.

  • Fifth, I believe in doing our best and being the best we can be. We can do no more than our very best. However, no one has the right to accept a task and then give it less than their best effort. If you cannot commit fully, decline the task; however, once you accept an assignment, treat it as a sacred trust. Because others are riding on your promise.

  • Sixth, I believe in the power of the human will. You will be deceived, knocked down, stricken and see your best efforts fall short. You will exhaust intellect, talent and strength, and fear you cannot go on. Choose to put such disappointments behind you, and resolve that you will not quit. Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi said, “The difference between success and failure is not lack of strength, or lack of knowledge, but a lack of will.” So never give up.

  • Seventh, I believe in being caring and kind. These are genuine ‘gifts of the heart.’ Offer them freely to all in your life, without exception or expectation of payback. Compassion lifts those you touch, it raises you more than those to whom you extend it, and it returns to you many-fold.

  • Eighth, I believe in the power of forgiveness. Forgiving is choosing ‘grace’ over retaliation. I cannot improve upon what Nelson Mandela said about the possibilities created when you forgive another: “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. Which is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

  • Ninth, I believe in the power of love. Remembering his father, Robert Kennedy said: “Real love is something unselfish. It involves sacrifice and giving.” Mother Theresa urged us to “…love without getting tired” She said, “If we love until it hurts, there will be no more hurt, only more love.” So be unselfish and giving. Determine to love without getting tired.

  • Tenth and finally, I believe in believing – in oneself, in others, and in a wisdom and power beyond human limits. I do so for good reason: life places hard choices and difficult obstacles across our path. We are equipped to handle both; however, we are at our best when we true our course and anchor our decisions on standards which have stood the test of time.

Five decades ago, roasting under cap-and-gown under a searing Ohio sun, my only goal was surviving that endless ceremony. The half-century lying ahead never crossed my mind. Now, suddenly it seems, it has become my last fifty years, a ‘blur’ with big questions in its wake: “Where did the years go? Were they all they could have been? And the biggest question: “Would I sign up to do it all again?’

Expect that you too will burn through your next fifty years, and very quickly. So seize each day – ‘carpe diem!’ Be yourself. Do the right thing. Always give back more than you get. Never quit. Be kind, be caring, and be about love. And spend some of your curiosity in that special place which songwriter Mark Knopfler describes as “…the edge of the night, where a light still gleams, beyond your wildest dreams.”

My young friend, having lived 70-plus years, I can answer my biggest question: “Yes! I would sign up to live it all again.” So I will wish you what I had the good fortune to enjoy: a following wind, a noble run, and years lived well. I pray that far down the road, when your time here is finished and a grateful world weeps at its loss, you will rejoice without reservation, at peace with the days you were granted and the value you added.


Lawrence M. Cassidy

June 18, 2009

Edited October 2010