A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


This may surprise some of you, but I’m not actually Irish.

I know – the blarney fooled you.  But the fact is my favorite color is blue, not green.  I like corned beef, but not cabbage.  I don’t know the difference between “Erin Go Braugh” and “Munsters Go Home.”  And the last (and only) time I tried to dance an Irish jig it came out looking like a disturbing cross between the “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” the “Macarena” and “The Chicken Dance.”

Even so, I do enjoy a good Irish proverb when I hear one – especially around St. Patrick’s Day.  For example:

“A good beginning is half the work.”  My 14-year-old son Jon has this problem when he makes his bed.  He never gets the bottom sheets smoothed out right, so his bed always looks lumpy and disheveled.  When I tell him to go in and straighten his bed he tries to fix things by smoothing the covers, but it still looks . . . you know . . . like a teenage boy’s bed.  It isn’t until I make him pull down the covers and smooth the bottom sheets that his bed starts looking like it should.  Getting it right – right from the start – is one of the great keys to success in any pursuit, whether you’re talking about sprinting, steel-making or, come to think of it, columnizing.

“It’s no use boiling your cabbage twice.”  Or even once, as far as I’m concerned.

“You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind.”  In my mind I am a great novelist, complete with elbow-patched sweaters, a pipe (bubbles, of course) and a tweed fedora (it was my Dad’s and it is perched above my desk at a jaunty angle, reminding me at once of who he was and what I’d like to be).  But in my 51 years on this planet I have written a total of . . . um, let’s see . . . zero novels.  I think about being a novelist.  A lot.  I think about it all the time.  But when I turn in my income tax forms I still have to list my occupation as “public relations account manager.”  Turns out that “working works when wishy-washy wishing won’t.”

“It is better to be lucky than rich,” “It is better to be lucky than wise,” “It is better to be lucky than to be an early riser.”  Obviously, the Irish feel luck is better than . . . well . . . anything, which explains leprechauns, four-leaf clovers and that goal line stand in last season’s USC game (what?  Notre Dame lost that game?  Oh.  Well, then . . . you know . . . never mind).

“It is not a secret if it is known by three people.”  Especially if those three people happen to be Joan Rivers, Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.

“An old broom knows the dirty corners best.”  Early in my career I was working in a supportive role to Howard, a reporter who could trace his journalistic roots to hawking newspapers on street corners during the Great Depression.  I was young and stupid (I know – redundant), and in my heart of hearts I knew the paper would be much better off if Howard would just stand aside and let me take over the beat.  Then Howard died and the beat was turned over to me, and I spent two years floundering, trying to figure out for myself all of the stuff Howard took to the grave with him.  I made a lot of mistakes during those early years, but perhaps the biggest mistake was not taking advantage of Howard’s hard-earned know-how while it was available to me.  Thankfully I never made that mistake again.  I’ve learned to cherish the wisdom of experience – especially now that I’m an “old broom” myself.

 “God is good, but never dance in a small boat.”  OK, I’ll admit it.  I have NO idea what this one means.  But I have to leave it in here because, as everyone knows,  . . .

“Proverbs cannot be contradicted.”

Whether or not you’re actually Irish.

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— © Joseph Walker

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A NOTE From the Editor:  

This is the first time I’ve ever heard “God is good but never dance in a small boat” and I absolutely love it!

So often we knowingly make decisions that are not in our best interest, things that may be downright foolish!  Then we expect God to save our sorry butts and get mad when He doesn’t. 

God is good, but no matter how many miracles He works, if we’re dumb enough to stand up and try to dance in a small boat, we should be prepared to feel ourselves tumbling overboard into some mighty cold water!

Even then God probably would save us if He wasn’t laughing so hard!