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Music and the Spoken Word: The lessons of the mismatched shoes

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Music and the Spoken Word: The lessons of the mismatched shoes

There’s nothing wrong with holding our heads high, but let it be not for applause or recognition but rather for the personal satisfaction that comes from integrity, hard work, acts of kindness, and doing what we know is right. And before we kick up our heels for a job well done, we might pause to make sure our shoes match.


Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

All of us like to succeed at what we do — and we especially like it when others notice how successful we are. But success comes with risks. When the applause is loud and the spotlight is bright, it’s harder to see who we really are. Fortunately, life has a way of reminding us.

So it was with a well-known news broadcaster who anchored the evening news for 24 years. Years before he made it big, while his star was still rising as a reporter, he received the coveted assignment to cover a presidential election. Eager to make a good impression, he rose early the morning of the election, dressed in the dark, and took a shuttle to New York City. Before going to the studio, he sat down for a shoe shine when the shine man said, “It’s been a (long) time since (I’ve) seen that!”

The journalist looked down. To his horror, he realized he was wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe.

There was no time to buy a new pair of shoes. His only hope was to slip in quietly and get seated behind the anchor desk before anyone noticed. But when he opened the door to the studio, there were the president of the news division, the president of the company, and the chairman of the board waiting to greet him. Sheepishly he made the long walk to his desk, his footsteps echoing throughout the studio. He was certain everyone saw his mismatched shoes.

He later wrote, “Whenever I begin to feel any confusion about who I am, or I find myself taking the star treatment seriously, I remember the black shoe and the brown shoe" (see "The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures of a TV Journalist," by Dan Rather and Mickey Herskowitz, 1977).

There’s nothing wrong with holding our heads high, but let it be not for applause or recognition but rather for the personal satisfaction that comes from integrity, hard work, acts of kindness, and doing what we know is right. And before we kick up our heels for a job well done, we might pause to make sure our shoes match.
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