This time I bought the coffees, placed Paddy’s in front of him, and said, “You wanted to talk about my Thoughts for the Day.”
“Well,” Paddy said, “I’m curious as to why you never attribute any of them to anyone.”
“Because,” I explained, “they’re not quotations. They represent my own take on issues, topics and themes based on what I’ve read, heard and observed throughout my life.”
“How’d it start?” he asked.
“You may recall that when I was eighteen I took the Dale Carnegie Course.”
“Yes,” Paddy acknowledged.
“I learned more about life in the fourteen weeks of that course than in my previous eighteen years. Every session I’d make a bunch of notes, always, as I said, written in my own words. My notes were based not just on what the instructors said, but on the stories the other class members told when giving their talks. As everybody talked at least twice every night of the course I had a lot of notes. When I realized how valuable these notes were, I began to jot down my everyday observations.”
“So,” Paddy said, “you’ve been doing this for well over fifty years. You must have hundreds of them.”
“I’ve got thousands of them,” I corrected him. “At first I kept my notes in a file that I called my ‘stuff’ file. After I had my own secretary, I had the notes typed and kept in binders under various headings.”
“How long have you been posting them online?” Paddy asked.
“A bit over a year,” I answered.
“Why do you think they’re worth posting?” was his next question.
“Two reasons,” I explained. “First, some wise man once said, ‘the example teaches,’ and Dale Carnegie, even more wisely, added, ‘and almost nothing else does.’ Each so-called thought is really just an example of a lesson I learned. Second, good lines can be more powerful than long lectures. Good lines stay in the memory and will conjure up the images, stories and experiences that serve as teaching examples.”
“Well,” said Paddy, “speaking of examples, give me an example of what you’re talking about. I liked that one you had a couple of weeks ago about having your own style. How did that come about?”
“You mean: It’s good to have a style; just be sure it’s your own?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“You’ve actually picked one for which I clearly remember the incident that led to the observation. It was in 1986 or 1987. I was Chairman of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which meant that I was constantly being interviewed on radio, TV, and in the press all across Canada. At the same time, I frequently wrote columns on tax and financial matters and had published a few books. I was also a regular commentator on radio station CFRB in Toronto. One day I answered my phone and the conversation went somewhat as follows.”
“Mr. MacInnis, I just received my chartered accountant’s designation and I have a question.”
“How do I become as well known as you are?”
“You have to work your ass off for thirty-five years.”
“But, you didn’t have to do that.”
“I didn’t have to phone someone and ask them how to become well known.”
“Mr. MacInnis, thank you. I think I’ve just been given the best piece of advice I’ve ever had.”
“Got it,” said Paddy, “Why don’t you put them in a book?”
“I have, Paddy; twice, as a matter of fact. Back in the mid-90s HarperCollins published a book of them, complete with anecdotes, called Life is Like a Taxi Ride (Whether you’re going anywhere or not the meter keeps running.) And a couple of years ago I did an update called Simple Realities (The pathway to happiness and success).”
“Where can I get them?” he asked.
“Taxi Ride is out of print,” I told him, “but I’ve been told it can still be bought online. Realities is available on Amazon.”
“One more thing,” Paddy said, “Are you sure there are no direct quotations in your Thoughts?”
“It’s possible some of my very short observations could be expressed verbatim in the way I first heard or read them, but I doubt it. In both Taxi and Realities I specifically requested that if anyone recognized a direct quotation they get in touch with either me or the publisher. No one has.”
Paddy left, saying, “Next week?”
“Sure,” I replied.