Tag Archives: responsibility

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 …


no words

The Best Advice So Far: no words - wide-eyed man with tape over mouth

It was Wednesday, somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. I was in the middle of a shoulder workout. Joe, the sole employee on duty, was parts unknown; so I essentially had the entire gym to myself. I had just finished up a set of lateral raises and was placing the dumbbells back on the rack.

That’s when I started crying.

*****

I received quite a bit of feedback with regard to last week’s atypical post. Responses ran the gamut, with people enthusiastically supporting or decrying in about equal proportions a wide range of things — some of which I never actually said or meant.

What I found even more curious, given the nature of the topic and its accompanying challenge, was that for all the disparate thoughts shared, not a single person asked a clarifying question toward being sure they understood my intent.

And that, of course, only further underlines what the post was actually about — our seemingly inescapable inclination as human beings to perceive through the lens of our own existing belief systems what others are saying, taking as a given that our interpretations are accurate.

As it turned out, that post was one of my longest to date. And yet, for all the words, clarity still had a tendency to remain elusive.

I’ve always felt that language grants us magical powers. Yet like any tool, I’ve found it to be a double-edged sword — capable of being used for both enormous good and dire ill.

Words allow us the ability to mitigate or to manipulate.

To clarify or to confuse.

To liberate or to label.

To draw people in — or to draw lines that keep them out.

I recall having seen a movie where an inmate at a high-security prison killed someone with a plastic spoon. It occurred to me that, much like words, the spoon was not the problem. The intent of the user was.

Still, this great capacity to help or to harm only accounts for willful uses of language and words.

Some years back, I read a memorably strange news article. A woman had waded out some distance from shore at a beach and was dunking herself under, perhaps seeing how long she could hold her breath. Suddenly, a pelican dove, apparently mistaking the bobbing hair on the surface of the water for an injured fish or squid. But instead of finding an easy dinner …


beauty … or the beast

The Best Advice So Far - Beauty ... or the Beast - Belle and Beast dancing

At the ripe old age of 87, my Nana (now nearly 93), did something she’d never done before in her adult life.

She danced.

*****

Recently, I saw the new live-action film version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (OK, fine, maybe I’ve seen it twice already). And I’m finding my brain churning on several practical considerations posed by what many may have viewed as pure fantasy. So rather than wrestle my thoughts and forcing a post about something else, I figured I’d go with the flow and share one of those personal ponderings prompted by the movie (did you enjoy that alliteration?) …


influence

The Best Advice So Far: Influence - multi-colored light waves on a black background

During my six or so years of blogging, I’ve met some stellar people online. One of those people is Diana Peach, a fellow blogger and prolific novel writer in the fantasy genre.

Just last week, Diana released Catling’s Bane: Book I of her four-book series known collectively as The Rose Shield. And — lucky me — I got to be a beta reader for the entire thing, the final installment of which I’m currently reading.

Catling's Bane: Book I of The Rose Shield series by D. Wallace Peach

If you’re a true lover of fantasy, do yourself a favor, read my Amazon review, get yourself a copy of this book — and prepare to lose some sleep over it. In short, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books in this genre and this series makes my top five of all time. (She will, no doubt, decry my high praise as “stuff and nonsense,” but it’s true nonetheless.)

Now, my site isn’t a book review site. And Diana has no idea I’m writing this (surprise, Diana!). But I’m telling you, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this Rose Shield series. And so, I’ve decided to go with the flow and incorporate some of those thoughts into this week’s blog post, in a way that I trust will be consistent with who I am and what this blog is about.

If you’ve read even a few pages of my book, The Best Advice So Far, or more than two blog posts here, the theme that runs through everything I write should be apparent: “You always have a choice.”

Building upon this foundation, I’ve also proposed such notions as these:

No one can make you happy.

No one can make you mad (or jealous or insecure or a host of other negatives).

And while compliance can be forced, we cannot make others respect us.

Nor can we make another person love us.

But … what if we could?

What if it were possible to …

 


making the cut (negativity)

The Best Advice So Far - Making the Cut (Negativity) - studio mic with audiobook cover

I finished recording the tracks for The Best Advice So Far this week, and I’ve begun the editing process. There’s a ton I want to share with you about the process itself — and about the number of times I’d have quit already, if it weren’t for advice from my own book and blog kicking my butt. However, I’ll save that for an upcoming post.

Today, I’ll be keeping it short (at least in the volume of written words).

You would not believe how different your own voice sounds day to day — even hour to hour. Tonight, I sent the first 10 edited tracks to my iPod and listened to them as I drove. I swear, it sounded like four different people talking, and that’s after doing a lot of work each recording session, trying to maintain the same sound. Some of the chapters, I think I can adapt with some EQ settings. But one — “Chapter 2: Negativity” — is just too different. Must’ve been one I recorded too early, because I’ve got “morning voice.” Alas, however sexy, it’ll have to be entirely redone.

This makes me a bit sad, because I felt the conviction in the original reading as I listened to it this evening. I guess the written page isn’t the only place writers have to be willing to “murder their darlings.”

Still, I thought I’d at least let the original find a temporary voice here on my blog. It’s perfect timing, with my having been up to my elbows in recording and editing this week. And it fits right into recent discussions here about giving in to complaining, along with the perceived gains that drive our negativity.

I’m hopeful that you’ll take the time to listen, and …

Continue Reading at the New Site


the grumbles: part 2

The Best Advice So Far: the grumbles part 1 - many purple sad-face balls

Today’s post is a continuation of last week’s discussion on complaining.

If you’re coming in late to the game, I highly recommend reading the previous post first, since it lays some groundwork about what constitutes complaining and what does not. However, I’ll sum up the gist of it.

My friend Chad shared something with me that had resonated with him recently:

“Complaining is a waste of time
unless you’re telling someone
who can do something about it.”
 

And that got me thinking. It occurred to me that not only does this statement warrant some self-reflection, it also allows us to redefine terms this way:

Complaining: sharing negative information, thoughts or emotions with someone who cannot do anything about the situation

I’m a firm believer that virtually everything we do in life is done because of some perceived gain. In other words, there are reasons behind most of what we do. This says nothing of the existence of ideas like altruism, which would simply be doing something based on a perceived gain for another person. My point is that we tend to believe “If I do this, then that should happen — or at least there’s a high enough likelihood to make it worth my while.”

Quid pro quo.

The problem with perceived gains, however … is that “perceived” part. You see, perception offers no guarantee of aligning itself with reality. Yet, since most of our perceived gain system becomes automatic, even subconscious, we lose track of asking ourselves, “Is what I’m doing here actually working?”

The Best Advice So Far: Complaining is a waste of time unless you're telling someone who can do something about it.

With these ideas as a springboard, let’s take a closer look at why we complain. Then, for those who are suspecting that complaining isn’t getting us where we had hoped it might — and in keeping with the theme of The Best Advice So Far, that “You always have a choice” — I’ll offer some thoughts about breaking free of the “grumbles” and trading them for greater overall peace and happiness.

Before you even continue reading, however, I want to pose a challenge …

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the grumbles: part 1

The Best Advice So Far: the grumbles part 1 - many blue sad-face balls

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I found myself growling out loud this afternoon.

We got another 14-or-so inches of snow yesterday, which in and of itself was quite spectacular. Not only did the blizzard cause whiteout conditions where I could not even see the trees at the back of my yard, it was also accompanied by booming thunder and lightning that, in moments, lit the world in white fire.

Unlike last time, I was actually prepared for this one. The night before, I’d tucked my car parallel to the back of the house, quite close to the wall, so that the plow would have maximum access to the rest of the lot the next day. I then pulled the car cover on; and to assure that the winds — predicted to be 20-30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph — didn’t sweep up underneath and parachute the cover clear off, I’d even though to open the trunk and hood, and then close each on portions of the car cover, securing it firmly in place.

As the storm raged outside, I congratulated myself on how clever I’d been and took comfort in knowing that, as soon as it subsided, I’d be able to just walk outside and slide that snow-laden cover off, leaving my car gleaming and untouched while the poor schmucks around me labored at brushing and scraping their own buried vehicles out from under the piles.

Friday, I slept in a bit. There would be no need to get out early to clear the car off, thanks to my brilliant planning the day before. So I finally headed out at noon to remove the cover and snow, and to get out and about my day.

Upon stepping out onto the porch, it was immediately clear that this storm was worse than the last. The snow was the heavy, wet kind that was going to be hard to shovel or move at all. It was equally clear that the new plowman had done a shoddy job, leaving about a third of the lot piled in snow that should have been pushed much farther back, and thereby eating up one of the four parking spaces. I felt bad for the landlord.

I turned the corner and …

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