Category Archives: Attention and Focus

double take

The Best Advice So Far - double take

Yesterday, already behind schedule for the morning, I emerged from the house to find my car completely covered … with caterpillar poop. My parking space is beneath a large maple tree inhabited, it would seem, by thousands of inchworms. And the tiny black pellets don’t just brush off. Oh no — they stick like tar.

Add to this the fact that it’s been overcast or raining for more than a week now. And last night’s downpour only made matters worse, turning the worm poop into a tenacious sludge that now also filled the rubber ravines around all of the door seals.

For weeks before this, the car was buried daily beneath a clogging downpour of yellow buds from the same maple.

I got in and maneuvered the muck-mobile closer to the hose then, using the highest pressure the nozzle afforded, I did my best to power wash the goop away.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. This was all making me even later.

As I worked my way around the car, I noticed …


overload

The Best Advice So Far - overload - Frankenstein-like coconut with lightning striking ear bolts

I’ve mentored teens and young adults for more than 25 years now, and part of that role is inextricably linked to education in some form or other. Whether it’s finally helping kids make sense of the quadratic equation, or teaching them new strategies for dealing with conflict, I love the look that comes over kids’ faces when they finally get whatever it is that’s been stumping them up to that point.

(I equally love the feeling of learning a new thing myself and knowing “that look” has crept over my own face, though I’ve never actually seen it … which is good, because that would be weird.)

As you might imagine, over the course of a couple of decades, I’ve worked with an awful lot of kids and covered an awful lot of topics. One especially fun exchange is whenever I get to explain to a kid for the first time how money works. (And mind you, this is often during high school or even early college years.)

I take out a dollar bill and ask, “How much is this worth?” And they generally say, “A dollar.” And I reply, “Nope. It’s worth basically nothing.”

Mouths quirk in a mix of confusion and curiosity. It’s clear that I’ve got their attention.

I then take out my checkbook and show them a blank check. “How much is this worth?” They generally try to guess the “right” answer at this point. “Nothing?” they’ll ask more than state.

“Yes, that’s right. Nothing. But what if I write it out for one hundred dollars? Then how much is it worth?”

“A hundred dollars?” they suggest, still unsure.

“Nope. It’s still worth nothing. It’s just paper with printing on it, and now some of my handwriting. It’s worth nothing.”

Here’s where I really get them.

“Hold the dollar up to the check. What do you notice?” I ask, handing them the money and the checkbook.

First, they’ll look for words or numbers that match. Not finding any, the realization I was after soon dawns on nearly everyone …


reverse

The Best Advice So Far - reverse - one yellow rubber ducky swimming the opposite direction in a line of black rubber ducks

We’ve all seen those bumper stickers:

HOW’S MY DRIVING?
555-123-4567

Ever called the number to report that the driver is, in fact, currently driving respectfully and obeying all traffic laws?

After all, the sticker doesn’t say, “Call if I’m driving unsafely or otherwise annoying you.” Yet isn’t that how we tend to read it?

(Yes, I really do think about these things.)

“I want to speak to a manager.”

“Let me talk to your supervisor.”

“I’m going to email your teacher.”

In my experience, these statements are rarely followed by …

“… to let them know what a great job you (or they) are doing.”

It seems to me that perhaps many of us have become naturals when it comes to complaining, while becoming more and more uncomfortable with giving praise where praise is due.

In my last post, where I wrote about crying during a late workout, I mentioned incidentally that there was only one other person in the gym at the time: the overnight employee on duty.

Well, his name is Joe. Let me tell you a bit about him.

If you’ve ever worked the night shift, then you know …


the good old days

The Best Advice So Far: the good old days - old-fashioned soda jerk offering chocolate ice cream cone

Ah, the good old days.

The simpler ways of bygone eras have become an indelible part of our collective consciousness, stirring a sense of wistfulness at their passing, whether we actually lived through them or not.

Neighbors leaned from open windows or across picket fences to chat, and thought nothing of asking to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. Newcomers were welcomed with a jingle of the doorbell and a proffered platter of freshly made cookies or a Bundt cake. And it was assumed that all were invited to the backyard barbecue.

During trips to the local grocer or druggist, owners and customers greeted each other by name, never in too much of a hurry to ask about the children or that recent vacation. And partings were peppered with give-my-best-tos.

Young people helped the elderly across busy intersections, offered to carry their bag a few blocks, and climbed trees to rescue their kittens.

Sinewy men slung a tattooed arm around their buddy’s neck as they crowded together around diner booths — some sitting, some standing with one foot propped on the edge of a seat — swapping outrageous and animated stories with other guys from town.

People took leisurely strolls down shady streets, played chess in the park, had picnics on Saturdays and impromptu dance parties on the beach. No one dreamed of whizzing by a kid’s lemonade stand without stopping.

Friends threw dress-up dinner parties, and guests offered small gifts upon arrival, as well as following up with a thank-you card by mail a few days later. Just as likely might be a game night during which participants played Twister, eventually collapsing into a heap upon one another and laughing until their cheeks hurt.

Wholesome stories and images abound, combining to weave a sort of glorious fairy tale — one continuous happily-ever-after.

Of course, we tend to overlook …


’tis a gift

The Best Advice So Far - 'tis a gift - open hand showing silver stars

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the seeming ever-presence of sea glass in my world, along with five ways that it reminds me of what’s important in life. Well, it occurred to me in the last few days that many of my pieces of sea glass were gifts. And that got me noticing anew the many other gifts that I see around me on a daily basis.

In this particular case, I’m not talking about “gifts” of the figurative or abstract sort, such as sunshine, our sense of taste, or the emerald sheen of a beetle’s wings. I’m talking about things that have actually been given to me by other people in my life.

Allow me to list just some of the gifts that lie within 10 feet of where I sit writing …


someday soon

The Best Advice So Far - someday soon - dandelion seeds blowing away

Last week, I posted about sea glass and how it can serve as a reminder to slow down.

Some of you may not know this about me, but I’m also a singer/songwriter. It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new. However, with my health issues now solved, and having been thinking a lot lately about time and the choices we make surrounding it, a new song emerged while I was writing last week’s post.

I’m as eclectic as they come where songwriting is concerned. One day, whatever comes out of me will be 1920s jazz, and the next, it’ll be dark trance with an Arabic vibe or Latin Pop or a Country ballad.

This one surfaced as something I imagine would be sung a cappella, backed by a boys’ choir or maybe an African choir, and maybe with some electronic vocal treatment, a la Imogen Heap.

It’s called “Someday Soon.”

I thought I’d do something different this week and share it with you in some form. So, since I’ve had the recording equipment set up to work on the audiobook, I figured I’d take the opportunity to lay down a quick vocal-only track …


sea glass

The Best Advice So Far: Sea Glass - light blue sea glass on sand against sunset

Winter is not quite over. But after a couple spectacular blizzards in mid January and February, New England has been enjoying some record-breaking warmth. Last Friday, the temperature reached 75° — beating the historical average for that day by a whopping 35°.

I donned shorts and a tank top, slipping into the sandals I’d dug out from the back of the closet. And for one glorious day, it was summer.

I love summer.

In fact, I chose one of the iconic symbols of summer time as the primary image for the cover of my first book, The Best Advice So Far. And it wasn’t just because I like the taste of lemonade. It’s more than that for me. It’s a symbol of hope, of childlike adventure, of making time for the important little things we so often tend to whiz by in life.

Button to Read Chapter 39 from The Best Advice So Far - Free

In my last post, I shared a sample chapter from the audiobook recording of The Best Advice So Far, for which editing is currently underway. Well, since my health, energy and focus have returned, I’ve also got my sights set on the next book.

Before I’d gotten very far into writing The Best Advice So Far, I knew that lemonade would be the theme. And here again, as I plan the next book, I’m already all but settled on the imagery for its cover: sea glass.

At the center of my mentoring, facilitation and everything I write is this statement: “You always have a choice.” And like lemonade, sea glass is about …

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