The Stage Four Project-Segment Sixteen – Who Cares?

A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

Segment Sixteen – Who Cares?

Who cares?  In the last few installments, we’ve looked at the challenges of introspection.  Now let’s go for a word that doesn’t show up in most people’s vocabularies—extrospection. The handsome gentleman in the sepia tint photo is my great-grandfather. He’s Michael Heckman. The picture was taken in late 1899.  The two girls on his lap are his youngest daughters.  The twins.  Joanna and Josephine. They were my great aunts. In our family, they’re legend. 

A little background on the Heckman sisters. Joanna and Josephine were born in an era where twins were rarely affordable.  They are always expensive, but at the turn of the 20th century, you had a choice when you had twins.  Keep both?  Or just keep one, and give the other away. I know!  It’s alarming.  But because Michael was a prosperous general storekeeper, he kept them both. 

The “Jos”, as everyone in the family called them, were a curious pair.  They were identical twins who were hard to tell apart throughout their entire lives.  They went to school together (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and graduated in 1919, with a single class ring to share between them. They both taught in the Kittanning, PA school system (elementary), and never married, living together in a cozy house near the river in Kittanning. They were religious to a fault, and took any use of the Lord’s name in vain very seriously.

Lesson Learned: If you think you can be yourself around everyone else, you never had Aunt Joanna or Aunt Josephine in your sphere. Slip up by saying “God, I hate that,” and they would come down on you like a ton of bricks.  Time for a moment of extrospection.  Look outside yourself and ask how others will handle you.  We live in an era where people believe that anything they do should be accepted by everyone else. Aunt Jos did not.  And there are still plenty of people in your universe who take certain aspects of life very, very seriously. If you need them in your sphere (and sooner or later, you may), you need to mind your Ps and Qs when working with them or around them.

Bonus Lesson Learned: Misspellings in an e-mail are perceived as careless, thoughtless or just uninformed.  It’s been that way since the days of movable type.  “Minding your Ps and Qs” is actually a term from the dark ages of typesetting, when you had to remember that all letters were reversed for printing.  That got very confusing with the letters “p” and “q”.  If you just looked at them in a typeset document, the “p” (because it was intentionally reversed for printing) looked like “q”.  And conversely, the “q” looked like “p”.  And they didn’t have spellcheck.  Ouch.

You might not care about the occasional misspelling, but there are plenty of folks who do.  Were and We’re.  Their, there, and they’re.  And don’t get me started about whose apostrophe is whose!  If we really want to spread a powerful message, we have to think about these things.  Someone in your universe is your very own spelling Aunt Joanna.  They’re (correct use) watching.  And when they see that you’re failing on the conventions of the English language, they cringe and it dings your credibility.

This then goes to the need to ask others when they appear offended by our indiscretions, lingual or otherwise.  Find out what’s bothering them, or if it is already clear what’s bothering them, find out why.

Lesson Learned: I was talking to my mother at Thanksgiving (always with the Jos) one year, and was being admonished for some misstep in etiquette.  I replied, “Geez, do I have to?” Josephine was quick to clear her throat. I hadn’t realized that I had compounded my sins with that simple phrase.  “What did I say?” I asked my mother.  She told me to direct my question to Aunt Josephine.  Josephine replied:

“’Geez’ is derived from a short form of ‘Jesus.’  It’s taking the Lord’s name in vain.”

Did I really care?  Probably not.  But I had offended our hosts without intent.  And it was knowledge I needed to have.  At a time when “microaggressions” are front and center, it’s important to remember that the pendulum swings both ways.  As fellow human beings, we need to search for and model civility.

The reality is that we all have things that matter to us.  There are things that we care about.  Who cares? We need to. The more we can do to make others’ lives more positive, the better off we all are. It’s the original win-win.    

In case you’re curious how Aunt Jos story ends, they both lived into the 1990’s, when Joanna passed away in 1992 (Age: 93).  Josephine attended the funeral (in seemingly perfect health) and handled most of the arrangements for the twin with whom she had spent her entire life.  Six weeks later, Josephine passed as well. 

Next up? Laugh and some folks laugh with you…

If you want to review the previous elements of this e-book or blog, they’re all posted at

If you have insights you’d like to share or comments or conversations, my e-mail is the best way to reach me at  I’ll always get back to you within 24 hours.  Always.  And if you think I missed the mark?  Check your spam folder.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.