Gary Tetz

“Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice,” said beloved poet Robert Frost. After the past weekend of deadly winter conditions, I guess we now know that the icy one was the road most traveled.

But first a confession.

While crafting the introductory paragraph above, I experienced a disquieting sense that perhaps I’d written something very like it before. And sure enough, a quick search on confirmed that I had indeed plagiarized myself. 

Back in the blissful, innocent days of 2017, after yet another arctic storm, I apparently hauled the same two poems out of the dusty trunk of memory. It’s not too surprising that this should happen in winter — his name is Frost, after all. But still, clearly I need to broaden my search for other works of ice-themed poetry.

It’s a bit surreal to read that aging column now. Besides ruing the cold weather, I prophesied that the challenges the profession would face in the years ahead “… will almost certainly include all the usual suspects, from new payment models, funding cuts, tighter regulation and narrowing payor networks to staffing shortages and low census.”

Quite a list. But not once did I bother to mention a looming global pandemic that would make PDPM a fleeting memory and throw life as we know it into a Vitamix blender stuck on puree for more than a year. Not once. There’s a reason they don’t call me the Nostradamus of long-term care. 

Gary Tetz, amid nature once again.

But back to the ice storm. Here in Portland, OR, like in a lot of places, it hit us hard, with flurries of snow and sheets of freezing rain making travel unwise, if not impossible. Though allegedly a Canadian, my citizenship should be revoked each winter, as I become notoriously driving-averse.

That’s why, when the power went out for the weekend, I grabbed my furry hat and hiking poles and found myself on a literal slippery slope — plodding three miles up and over a steep, ice-encrusted hill to the warm home of a benevolent friend I’ll lie and call “Todd.” “I have great confidence in my own ability to navigate bad roads,” I protested when he mocked my decision to walk. “It’s all the other crazy drivers I’m worried about.”   

Being a highly successful professional leading a large sales team, “Todd” couldn’t resist dissecting my statement. At company motivational gatherings, he told me, his people are asked how often they receive five-star customer service, with most estimating about 25% of the time. But when asked how often they deliver that level to their own customers, naturally they give themselves perfect scores.  

Pretty typical, right? I’m a safe and flawless driver — it’s all the other people who aren’t. I always deliver great care and service — it’s the rest of you who weaken the chain. 

Naturally, like any good motivational speaker with a captive audience, “Todd” had a bigger point to make. We all know the Golden Rule: Treat others the way we would want to be treated. But instead he cited the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would want to be treated. 

“The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others,” says author Tony Alessandra in his book of the same title. “The focus of relationships shifts from ‘this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone the same thing’ to ‘let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.’”

From every interaction in a long-term care facility to how we navigate an icy road in winter, that change in perspective can be transformative. Drive or act the way someone else would want you to, and we’ll all be safer and more successful. 

Point made. Thanks, “Todd.”

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the recent APEX 2020 Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.