Banker's treasure chest abounds with quotes

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 22, 2004

There's a saying that goes, "You are what you collect."

Well, if that's true – and I think there's a good chance it is – then one of our newest coffee companions is a verbal gem.

Rob Rollingson collects quotes. Beautiful quotes. Inspiring quotes. Motivating quotes.

Rob's the Cochrane branch manager for ATB Financial (formerly Alberta Treasury Branch). When I stopped by the branch recently to admire once more the beautifully-crafted stained-glass lighting fixtures that enhance the bank's grand interior, Rob motioned me excitedly into his office.

He had a journal on his desk he wanted me to see.

"This is my notebook for writing down great quotations," he said, opening the journal to one of his all-time favourites:

"Blessed are those who can give without remembering, and those who can receive without forgetting." The source is graffiti emblazoned across the front of a building in an impoverished Central American town, he explained.

He flipped over to another, this one by automaker Henry Ford: "Failure is the opportunity to more intelligently begin again."

Rob said he likes to pass that one on to clients struggling to make it through a down time. He pointed out a similar one he also shares: "Falling is not the problem, but not getting up is."

The affable 43-year-old family man has been with ATB in Cochrane for the past year, the latest chapter in his 23-year banking career. He got the idea for keeping the notebook of quotations in 2003 while on a course in inspired leadership.

The point of that course, he said, was to gain skills to better understand "what makes me tick, and what makes you tick – to appreciate each other."

As a result, "I've gained a deeper appreciation of others' beliefs and values," he said. This is "not rocket science, but awareness."

As part of that awareness-building process, he was encouraged to keep a learning journal. "When you hear something inspiring, why don't you write it down?" he was told.

"I decided I'd continue this practice here in our branch," he said, holding the journal that was well on its way to being filled with wonderful words, half from his clients, others from his staff and superiors.

He turned the page to advice one of his bosses once gave him for dealing with a customer unhappy over a service charge: "Sometimes it's better to do right than to be right." It's important, Rob explained, that "the customer walk away feeling somebody listened."

While on the topic of acting for the welfare of those taxing one's patience, one of the branch staff, Christine Bergquist, supplied this quote for Rob's journal: "Kindness = goodness in action." She later added:

"Our accomplishments will ultimately reflect not what values we proclaim, but what values we live. We are most successful when our accomplishments match our values."

Many of the quotations in Rob's journal are milestones in his growth, not merely as a manager, but as a human being. He told me of the time when he felt wronged by someone who had no right to do so. He needed to learn forgiveness. Help in achieving forgiveness came in the form of a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life, sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility."

Rob's passion for writing down and putting into practice such words of wisdom reminds me of something the 19th century British statesman and prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once said:

"All of us encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words that make us think forever. There are men whose phrases are oracles; who can condense in one sentence the secrets of life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character, or illustrates an existence."

Thanks, Rob, for inviting me into your office that day. Your treasure chest is rich with "words that make us think forever."

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

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