Tag Archives: giving


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:


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 …

say my name

say my name - The Best Advice So Far - graffiti big mouth on brick wall

When’s the last time you had a real honest-to-goodness “aha!” moment? For me, it was quite recently. It was so simple that I wondered how I’d missed it up until now. And yet it was so profound that I actually felt the perspective shift happen and knew at once that it would change things moving forward.

I don’t know if you’ll find it as revelatory as I did or not. I suspect some of you will. For others, perhaps, it will serve as a timely reminder of something you’ve merely forgotten for too long.

If you’ve read my book, The Best Advice So Far, or if you’ve been reading along on this blog for any length of time, you know that I devote a good deal of focus to the importance of using people’s names often, whether it be with the cashier at the convenience store, with the other patrons working out around you at the gym – or even with sketchy neighbors. Most of my stories of cool personal interactions with strangers begin with our having exchanged names. I mentioned in one post that I make a point to ask homeless people their names (just as I would with anyone else), and recounted having met one woman who hadn’t heard her own name spoken in so long, she’d actually forgotten what it was.

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when the dust settles

when the dust settles - bedroom window - morning dust motes - The Best Advice So Far

I’ve been conspicuously absent for the last month. I figured, when the dust settles, I’ll explain everything. I’m ready to do that now.

Heading into 2016, I realized that I’d gotten myself into a position where I’d taken on so many extra things in order to help others that I had crowded out the pursuit of my own goals. And so I resolved to put forth my best effort, even if it meant cutting into already minimal sleep, to complete all lingering projects by the last day of January – or to hand them back unfinished, trusting people would appreciate the fact that they were certainly in far better state than when I’d stepped in.

The truth is that most of these projects were presented to me as “small favors,” unassuming kittens that developed increasingly ravenous appetites, devouring more and more time after I’d taken them on, until they’d grown, in many cases, into those B.E.A.S.T.s I talk about in chapter 31 of The Best Advice So Far. Still, whatever the reasons may have been, I had made the choice to continue to say “yes.” Come December, I realized I needed to make new choices, even if that turned out meaning people were disappointed with me.

I told myself, By January 31st, I’ll complete (or hand back, if need be) all of these tasks I’d allowed to pile up in 2015 and, when the dust settles, I’ll be sure to be extra diligent regarding what I agree to take on moving forward. I’m ready to get back to my dreams and goals, and reengaging with the activities and community that fill me with energy and inspiration.

And I meant that. My resolve was strong.

As it turned out, I did somehow manage to complete every single project I’d started. I took a deep, cleansing breath, and allowed myself to bask in the knowledge that I’d be back to writing (and at least five hours a sleep a night) the very next day.

Ahhhh, February 1st. Glorious freedom …

But just as the last motes of that dust were settling into place, a got a phone call.  Continue reading

poor me

glass piggy bank with change inside

No, really – I’m poor. The question is why?

Let me begin by telling you something about me that not everyone knows. During my recent YouTube interview with Facilitation XYZ, I was very open. At one point, I revealed that most people see me as extremely open and honest; and as far as that goes, it’s true. But what people don’t always realize is that I’m perfectly willing to talk about just about anything after the fact – a year or a month or a week after a hard thing is over.

After I’ve answered my own questions.

After I’ve worked through my fears or feelings of hurt.

After I’m already back to “me as I know me.”

Granted, this is more than most people are willing to do. So, when I do talk with people openly about what they see as “recent events” that were difficult, they feel I am unusually candid and emotionally open. Again, to some extent, that is absolutely true. But I know me better than anyone else knows me. And I know that my tendency is to close down the fortress while I’m going through trying times, feeling the raw pain or struggling with the live questions.

Give me even a day or two, and I’ll tell you all about it; that’s generally all it takes for me to move past the “messy middle” and into that place of 20/20 hindsight.  You may even see my eyes well up as I tell you about “what happened then”; but the best I can explain this is that it is more an expression of empathy for my past self than evidence of any current conflict.

All of this isn’t really the point of this post. But I give you this peek behind the curtain so that you understand what comes next, which is that I am about to let you in on a live question I’ve been pondering – one about which I have not yet come to any set conclusions – which is a rare occasion, indeed (not having question, which I have all the time, but sharing one before I’ve already had the time to work through it to a satisfactory solution). No, it’s nothing earth shattering; but it is perhaps something life-changing. And, hey, it’s a step, right?

So, as I said at the start, I’m poor. But the question is … why?

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our gang: part 2

our gang part 2 - Best Advice So Far

In May, I wrote a post called “our gang,” which turned out to be one of the most read, shared and discussed posts in my more than four years of blogging. This Thursday having been Thanksgiving, I got to hang with “our gang” again; and it prompted some cool new thoughts.

I often say (and, in fact, mentioned in the original post in May) that holidays with “our gang” are as close to walking into a Norman Rockwell painting as anyone could hope to get. Traditions run deep with us. The Thanksgiving meal has included the same items made the same way, for the twenty-two years I’ve been part of the celebration; but those recipes actually go back a century or more, not merely decades.

Since my addition to the mix in 1994, I’ve taken on two very important traditions at holiday meals: rubbing garlic on the toast (two pieces) and tearing it by hand to make the croutons for the salad; and lighting the many candles as the last of the afternoon light fades.

(Side Note: The right lighting is very important in life.)

(Side Note to the Side Note: My mouth literally just watered at the thought of having a turkey sandwich made with mashed potatoes and that gravy, on one of Holly’s rolls!)

But mood lighting, special traditions and phenomenal food made from recipes handed down through generations are not the main reasons for the enveloping feeling of having walked through the looking glass. No, it’s the people. And as I thought about it throughout the day Thursday and continuing through to today, I caught a glimpse of something that really shouldn’t have surprised me, but surprise me it did all the same. It occurred to me that the magic really comes down to one thing: choice.

Today, I want to share with you just a few of the choices that our gang makes consistently with regard to one another – choices that have resulted in the best darned friendships someone could ever hope to have:

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sweet somethings

how to compliment, sweet somethings, boy whispering to grandmother

It’s somewhat alarming to me how many social kindnesses are rapidly going the way of the dodo. But the effect of a simple and sincere compliment is still as profound as ever. If you’ve gotten out of practice, getting ready to give a compliment may very well make the back of your neck go all tingly. Take that as an indicator of the positive power in what you are about to do. (And isn’t it wonderful how alive that *zing* makes you feel?)

Maybe you’re a leader who is committed to honing your skills as far as praising and encouraging those around you on a regular basis.

Maybe you want to know how to compliment a girl or guy you like. (Note: If you’re looking for self-serving pick-up lines, I’m afraid you’ll need to visit a different kind of blog.)

Perhaps you’ve been really wanting to show your appreciation for a family member, but it feels foreign and a little weird.

Or maybe you just aren’t sure how to compliment anyone at all in a way that will be well received.

Well, this one’s for you. Here are some guidelines for how to compliment others with class and maximum effectiveness:

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