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Anthony Martignetti died recently. Yeah, I know: “Who?” If I hadn’t seen the headline and his picture in the obituary, I wouldn’t have remembered either.

Anthony Martignetti (‘Anthony!’), Who Raced Home for Spaghetti, Dies at 63

Anthony’s major claim to fame in life was that as a 12-year old, he starred in the Prince Spaghetti commercial that had him running — for 14 years! — through Boston’s North End in response to his mother’s leaning-out-of-an-open-window call-to-dinner: “Anthony! Anthony! Anthony!” If you’ve never seen the commercial, I’ve included the video at the bottom.

OK, I know what you’re really wondering: Why is Jeff reading obituaries? I’d like to tell you that I read them because they give me character ideas for the screenplays I write, or because writing really good obits is truly an art – like all good story writing. But those aren’t the only reasons.

I read them on occasion because my dad used to read them, especially as he got along in years. I never asked, and he never told me why. But interestingly, there’s quite a bit written about why people read obits, and it’s not just to find out when and where a wake will be held. The common driver is that readers want to know: What have I accomplished in life compared to this person? Has my life mattered — like his or hers did?

My dad came of age as a young man during the depression and led an award-winning factory effort during World War II. He and my mom would eventually have five (hungry) kids, so all he ever really knew was struggle, work, and parenting. It’s quite likely that when he was sitting there at the kitchen table with his Chicago Tribune open to the obits section, he was reflecting on those very questions.

And this idea of reflective curiosity brings us to this week’s podcast guest, Dr. Robert E. Quinn. Bob’s research, writing, and teaching focus on purpose, leadership, culture, and change. He is one of the co-founders in the field of Positive Organizational Scholarship and a cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations. He is the author of 18 books, one of which, The Best Teacher in You, we explore in this conversation.

One of the major conclusions of that book is that the best teachers – the top 1% – do something that most teachers don’t do: they constantly engage in a self-evaluation process. There, they reflect on how their actions and resulting student performance align with their educational purpose. And they literally engage in this type of reflection on a daily basis. Simply put: “Am I being effective? Is my teaching helping kids learn? Am I making a difference?”

At one point in the interview, Bob compares students collaborative solving problems to the functioning of a cohesive basketball team. In both cases, the coach/teacher is off to the side having done their job to prepare individuals to work as a team. That reminded me of what has been written about the teaching principles and practices of the legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden: “You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned.”

If you made it this far, thank you. There are now more than 850,000 podcasts you can listen to. If you listen to ours, well, that makes us feel like we just shot a basketball from half-court that hit nothing but net.


Prince Spaghetti commercial:


Jeff Ikler
Jeff Ikler
The river that runs through my career lives – as teacher, publisher, coach, podcaster and author – is helping individuals acquire knowledge, skills, and self-awareness so they can better achieve their desired results and impact. • As Director of Quetico Leadership and Career Coaching, I work with individuals and leaders to overcome obstacles and make sustained changes in their behavior. • I co-host the podcast “Getting Unstuck – Shift for Impact,” where I bring to light inspirational stories of transformation in the field of education. • I am the co-author of the soon-to-be-published book for school educators, Shifting: How Educational Leaders Can Create a Culture of Change.

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  1. Thank you, Kimberly. I get it. I wrote my dad’s eulogy, but had to pass the baton to my sister to read to the assembled. I was a mess. Writing it was an awakening process. I had an off-again, on-again relationship with my dad growing up—I didn’t always understand him, and he certainly didn’t understand me—and so it was fulfilling to focus on what he did bring to my life.

    Thanks for listening. It was easy conversing with Bob.

  2. What a perfect piece to launch my day, Jeff! I’ve downloaded your conversation with Dr. Quinn and will take you on my walk this morning. When my father passed in February, I had the overwhelming (task, privilege, job, – I don’t know what to call it when you’re sad you have to do it, but it’s not simply a job to be done…)…I wrote my dad’s obituary. He was larger than life and it’s still impossible for me to fully comprehend that he’s gone. I sought to put to paper how meaningful his life had been, but in truth, it’s hard to make language communicate what only the heart can see.