Durability and Dependability


I was mostly awake when the clock struck five times this morning. I had been drifting in and out of consciousness for several minutes but I mostly wanted to stay in bed and get more sleep. The thought of a man’s name jolted me wide-awake. Cannon Theodore Milford was the three words running through my mind that suggested I was on to something.


I went to bed last night with a short “To Do List” on my mind for the remainder of this week. It has been weighing heavily on my mind for the past couple of weeks, but the task will take some effort and effort takes time. Actually, I may have overstated the impact. Perhaps it has just been on my mind. If it were heavily on my mind, I would have addressed it. I have an outline of things I think I want to share, but how does one weave them together in an interesting fashion and hold an audience’s attention for an hour and a half.


I have sat in workshops for that duration and fought the urge to fall asleep. I’ve sat in conferences while a speaker was talking and entertained the thought: “Dear God will it ever end?” At the same time, I’ve sat through presentations that disappointingly came to a close when I gladly would have stayed for another hour. The presenter effortlessly held my attention and the content was such that I wanted to hear more.


As luck would have it, my presentation is scheduled to be the last on the opening day of a conference in mid-June. I don’t sing or dance or do magic tricks. Historically, I’ve relied on a slick power point presentation with colorful slides to help hold an audience’s attention. At some level, that is nothing short of a crutch. If I’m ever going to walk the tightrope and not fall off, it is now or never to try my wings and see if I can fly.


The thought filtering through my mind this morning was: “What if I just tell stories?” There is nothing like a good story and everyone has them. For the past four years, I’ve been sharing stories through my blog. What I’ve found is that often my stories remind others of their stories. And for the record, my stories are simple everyday stories about life. How do you find the adventure in the midst of the ordinary? Isn’t that the challenge that most of us face?


Cannon Theodore Milford is the name of a man I’ve never met. I remember the name because I remember his story. Strange isn’t it how something you read over fifty years ago could jolt you from your morning sleep and be the impetus for getting you out of bed?


The subject for my presentation to a group of childcare professionals is: “The Ethic’s Of Self Care – How To Survive?” Cannon Theodore Milford is the name of a British Minister. He too, was in the helping profession. For an hour he did everything within is power to verbally coax a young English secretary off of a 240’ ledge because it was her intent to take her life. At the end of the hour she jumped.


It begs the question, “What would you have said to the young woman? What would you have drawn from your own experience to say, “This makes life worth living.”


Okay, so my thought is this: “What if I do nothing more than simply tell stories for an hour and a half? Will that be enough to hold an audiences attention and provide meaningful content for later reflection?


Several years ago I had a friend who was a homebuilder. He was really skilled. The interesting thing is that he seldom completed a project in his own home. I’ve heard stories of mechanics that don’t work on their own automobiles and painters who live with peeling paint.


What about counselors or social workers that spend time helping other families move toward conflict resolution, but who seem content to maintain the status quo of unresolved conflict in their own families? Actually, it doesn’t even have to be about conflict. It could be something as simple as making oneself available to nurture and maintain relationships.
I have maintained for years that if you really like what you do, you never work a day in your life. The problem is that if you like what you do, you have a tendency to make that the only thing you do. Consequently, finding balance is the challenge.


I connect the ethics of self-care with our work because if we don’t role model it, then our knowledge base in helping others resolve difficulty is only theoretical and at what point does it stop to have meaning?


Regardless of the kind of work one does, if it isn’t the passion in one’s life it falls flat. I recently watched Jason Whitten’s retirement announcement from the Dallas Cowboys. I am not a sport’s enthusiast and I could personally care less about the National Football League, but people with the durability and determination to make life work garner my attention.


Listening to Jason Whitten’s story caught my full attention. There is something powerful in one’s story. His is remarkable. In the introduction to the announcement of his retirement, he shared this:


In April 2003 about 2 weeks shy of my 21st birthday after being selected in the third round, I arrived in Dallas for the rookie mini-camp. My first practice, the great Bill Parcells didn’t say a lick to me. Then on the final day of that mini-camp about half way through the practice, he looked and said in only the way that Bill can: “If you trust me, I know the formula for tight ends”.


I gave him a nod, and said: ‘Yes Sir’ the way my granddaddy taught me. I finished the camp and then spent all summer back in Tennessee thinking about what Bill said. I couldn’t wait to get back to mini-camp and discover this formula. So I went to training camp and other than a few colorful, butt-chewings directed my way, I realized that Bill wasn’t as eager to share that formula.



At that point, I wasn’t sure if he thought my name was some expletive or Whitten. Well, we get to October playing the Arizona Cardinals. It is the fourth quarter. I catch a pass over the middle. I was hit immediately by Ronald McKinnon and Ray Thompson and the kind of pain that I didn’t even know existed. I’d broken my jaw. Right after the game I had surgery. Three plates put in my jaw. I spent a couple of days in the hospital and now it was Wednesday morning. I’m in the training room, learning how basically to eat though a straw.    


Bill walked in and looked at me and he said: ‘I had a tight end up in New York. He had one of those jaws – Mark Bavaro. He missed one game. I’m just telling you, the best ones, they find a way. And listen to me Whitten, look at me now’. You’ve got to realize that I’ve been waiting for this moment for quite a while for some time, I just did realize that it would happen when I was laid up with a broken jaw. He says: “Durability and dependability in this league, in this business it’s invaluable.” And I never forgot that.


For the past 15 years, every practice, every film session, every notebook I filled, every ounce of sweat, I did so because my love and drive for the game of football. I tried my absolute best to be dependable. Dependable to my teammates, to my coaches, to my family, and to all of those that were cheering us on.


I don’t know that I ever perfected that formula, but I do know that I gave it everything that I had. When my time as a Dallas Texas Cowboys player is over, I can only hope that the men and women in these hallways will say that was a fine and decent man, tried to do things the right way and that I was dependable.


There is an old saying in pro-football: “The circus doesn’t stay in town forever.” When your young, it takes you on a mini-mat when your opportunities come, grab it. And as you get older, I think you realize there is a deeper meaning. No man knows when his time has come to walk away and I am no different. It’s been said whether right or wrong, better three hours too soon than a minute too late. The man who is set on seeing the perfect clearness before he decides; he never decides.   Accept life and you can never accept regrets. After much self -reflection, prayer and faith, I’ve decided the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas cowboys…”


Okay, so now you know where I’m headed with the concept of spending an hour and a half of just telling stories. Stories are powerful. Stories prompt self- reflection. So, what do you think? Would an hour and a half of stories related to the ethics of self-care be time well spent? I’m trying to decide, but the three words “Cannon Theodore Milford” pretty much have settled it for me. I’ve never met the men, but his name is on my mind fifty years later after hearing it because of his story.


All My Best!