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style + work
"Working to make a difference in people’s lives was determined by something in my DNA or in my genes, and that’s the work I was called to do, so that is my passion."
Job title and industry:
I entered the seminary in 1960 and served in the Catholic Diocese for nearly 50 years until my retirement in 2010. My parish ministry included two years’ service as associate pastor at Saint Thomas Aquinas and four years' at Saint Monica, then as chaplain for the University of Dallas for 13 years. Finally, I served as pastor at Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Joseph Catholic Church for 26 years.
What would you say has been a big influence on your personal sense of style?
How do you determine what you're going to wear when you work at home vs. what you wear when you’re at a Pastoral Reflections Institute engagement?
Where do you shop and when do you find the time?
I heard you say Lululemon. What other brands are your go-to brands?
What is something that you wear that instills more confidence on days when you don't quite feel yourself?
What is the most important part of your grooming routine that you feel helps complete your look?
This is going to seem really ridiculously funny, but it's my hair. I recently saw some pictures of me taken at a wedding that I performed, and I needed a haircut. Now I pay attention to that. The most important grooming for a man is to look well shaved and with a nice hair cut.
What's your approach to jewelry? Do you have standard go to pieces
that you wear most of the time, or do you mix it up?
I wear a gold cross and chain. I wear my dad's ring that has two snakes.
Crossed snakes are an ancient symbol of healing - like what you see for
doctors. It fits my finger perfectly and it's sentimental. I also like wearing
What brands do you wear for eyeglasses?
What does a typical workday for you look like?
What are the essentials that you need in your meetings?
What are some of your office pet peeves?
My biggest (home) office pet peeve is when my iMac or my printer does not work. The other thing is just my own inefficiency of time. I’d say those are the two things that can irritate me the most. I just try to keep a sense of humor about all of it.
For work, do you prefer communicating by phone or email?
Do you have a favorite song or an artist? Do you listen to music while you're working?
Never. I'm amazed at people who enjoy music when they're working. I always work in silence.
What kind of car do you use for in-town transportation?
When you travel, what do you take with you?
Usually, when I travel for just three or four days, I take my MacBook with me.
When I go to Italy, I spend months there at a time, and I have a computer and printer in the house there. So the operation's exactly the same, whether I'm in Tuscany or in East Dallas. The homilies that I do on Sundays are all prerecorded when I go out of town like that. Generally, it's a much slower pace work wise when I'm in Tuscany, but now that I'm working on my next book, I'll be doing a little bit more of the reflective and writing work while I'm there.
What's your method for keeping track of your business expenses?
I have an accountant who does all the reporting for me. I make reports to her and if she doesn't understand a charge on my business credit card, she checks with me. She keeps track of all that.
How would you describe your
What are the items inside your office that make it comfortable and personable?
A really comfortable chair is important for me in my work because a lot of my work is not doing, but thinking. I think much better in a comfortable chair. I always enjoy fresh flowers. Beauty is a very important thing and most of us don't realize how much we need it.
The art in the place is fairly minimal. I have a piece that was given to me on my 40th anniversary as a priest. It's a depiction of an event in the life of St. Francis who is very important to me. The piece next to the door is where I go to vacation in Tuscany, and so I have a little bit of my family and a little bit of my thing. There's something about a wall of books that I think always feels warm and comforting about books.
The other thing I love about this workspace is that it's not connected to where I live. Only a covered deck connects it, but it really feels different than when I go in my house. When I designed my house, this room was originally part of the house, not a separate piece. My architects said, "You really should separate it and put it next to the garage." That was probably one of the smartest things we did.
What is your favorite office supply and why?
A good friend and I talk a lot about the world and spirit, and about trying to live life effectively, so she sent me a thick note pad that says, "Live a big life."
How do you organize your desk space?
That's a great question because my desk space has to start off neat every day. If I come in here, and it's all messed up from yesterday, I can't begin to work. I usually clear it off, and if I don't have the time to put everything away, I stack it. My desk is basically a large table with file cabinets underneath it. What I basically need is a clear desk and everything I need within reach. I've got quick-needed files, things I use all the time (my mouse, computer, and printer) all close.
I see you're an Apple user. Is there something that you gravitate towards as far as an app or software that you tend to use a lot?
Speaking of emails, how do you prioritize or manage your emails?
I have two email accounts. One is business, and one is personal. I look at them all together, and mostly weed out the stuff that's informational that I don't need, and I unsubscribe to as many as I can. I delete everything that doesn't need my attention, and then I look at what's left. Depending on what it is and how much it might take to do it, I either knock them out right away, or I'll get back to it. I just try to keep it current.
What is your secret to achieving your daily objectives?
I write my to-do list on a notepad with two columns. One is for work and the other is for personal items. As I get things taken care of, I cross them off the list. The next morning, I start a fresh list with whatever wasn't crossed off. This way I don't have to trust just my memory to remember everything I need to do. I can simply look at the list and see what I did and what I didn’t, and I can add to it anything else that I need to do. It's that easy.
Anyway, a list is really important to me, and I have all the typical American things about "More is more," and a good day is when I get 20 messages done, and a bad day is when I get 2, but I try to get over that stuff because stress is probably the most dangerous thing for me. Organized, getting things done, being comfortable with the pace that I'm doing, not judging the day as good or bad but just, "It was the day." It takes so much more discipline to work by yourself.
How did you learn to not be so hard on yourself on your own daily accomplishments?
I think it came through a kind of natural, logical process of realizing how insane it is to self criticize instead of self affirm when something already is beating you up. I mean it just makes no sense. The last thing you should do to yourself when you have done something dumb and you are already frustrated is to add to that shame by telling yourself, "Well, you jerk."
Of course spiritually, I believe my core source of wisdom is the God that’s in me that speaks to me. I know that He would treat me in the way that would give me the most life and the most joy. Why should I ignore what He does in favor of the insanity that I’ve learned in my culture?
Try forgiving yourself for little stupid things that happen like a spilled cup of coffee or a forgotten wallet when you are at the store, especially if you live alone. Living alone is an interesting challenge because there isn't anyone telling you to give yourself a break. You have to make more attempts to take care of yourself.
What is your method for networking?
Do you have anyone that you have considered to be your mentor?
From my family, I learned that work is really connected to your value. I got the "get a real job" thing in spades and I don’t think that’s healthy, to be honest. Hard work was more than just a good thing; it was a code that you should live by. 'The harder you work, the better you are.' I mean I love working - I enjoy it, it’s satisfying to me, but I hate evaluating to myself on my performance.
You can tell that my weakness is the mentality of 'work, work, work.' When I start working too hard, too intense; if I do twice as much work, thinking that I'm twice as good - it's simply not true.
What inspires you about your work?
The most interesting and exciting challenge is freeing people from excessive shame, anger, and fear, and helping them to see everything as it really is. When you have a radio program, you don’t see or know everyone in your audience, but now I've met people at my lectures that tell me they've been listening for 20 years and, "... our life is so different." I just melt.
I’m a priest. I have two sisters, one is a therapist and the other is a nurse. My brother's summer job is in safety patrol of a senior development. It’s interesting that we all went into some kind of service. Working to make a difference in people’s lives was determined by something in my DNA or in my genes, and that’s the work I was called to do, so that is my passion.
What do you do during your downtime to refresh yourself?
Yoga. I hired a teacher to teach me privately for five lessons. By the end of it, he was practically my counselor. He explained that I had been working my body too hard and he taught me exercises that I simply needed to do three times a week. At first, I didn't think it was enough. Bottom line, what I learned is your body reacts so badly, if you're under constant stress. It's back to that whole thing, why beat yourself up with guilt, shame, and anger?
Yoga is the one thing. The other is being with friends. I love my social life. I enjoy going out with my friends. Give me four nights out during the week and I'm the happiest guy in the world. I love drinking cocktails and I love to have people over and to cook for them. That's another great joy for me.
You have a great space for that. How important has traveling been for you personally?
What is the place that you would look forward to traveling to?
I've had a tremendous longing to go to Egypt. I'm not quite sure why. The Coptic religion has always been a fascinating thing to me. Coptics were kind of a mystical side of Christianity. Christians condemned them because they didn't follow all the doctrinal stuff, and in condemning a group like that because they didn't quite necessarily believe in the divinity of Christ the same way the Roman Church was working it out, they got off'd for that. They had so many insights and so many interesting ways of imagining the teaching of Christ and God. That interests me. Egypt itself interests me. I've always thought that was an interesting culture.
I'm just hooked on Italy. It never disappoints me. I’m co-owner of a farmhouse in Tuscany. It's beautiful and I love it. It's my home base. There's so much to that country that I haven't yet seen. It's enough for me to take care of my next ten years, or whatever I've got, to do that.
What currently fascinates you?
Do read magazines, or have favorite sites that you refer to online?
What else do you do in your downtime?
Do you have any hobbies?
When I go to Italy, I love working on the grounds, planting, gardening, and all that kind of stuff. That intrigues me. I also love photography. If I'm going to do something artistic, I really like to do something with photography. It's sort of a mini-hobby for me, because I love taking pictures when I go places and particularly when I'm with friends. Capturing them and the experience in photos. Sharing those photos, that gives me a great deal of joy. I have to say now that I’m listening to myself, I sound like much more of a person that’s beginning life than ending it. I’m more excited about my life now than I was when I was 20, 30, 40, or 50.
Msgr. Don's advice on managing stress:
Recognize what stress is doing to you.
I love to be busy, to be accomplishing things, and when you are that kind of personality, stress seems to be the necessary partner to being effective, but that's an illusion. You don't have to be stressed to be successful.
Stress used to cause a lot of motivation for me to get something done. I would pressure and push myself, and I would think that I was more creative that way. That's so shortsighted because stress, in its very nature, destroys something that is integral to who you are. Feeding yourself negative thoughts, "What's wrong with me?" and "This is stupid," begins to eat away at your self-esteem. You should realize that too much stress is absolutely deadly.