Tag Archives: silence

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 …


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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the birds and the bees

The Best Advice So Far - the birds and the bees / bird icon + bee icon

Let me tell you ‘bout
The birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees.

Actually, they were bushes. Well, more like hedges and a possible shrub. But I digress.

In a recent post, I talked about noticing and enjoying anew the treasures already surrounding you, as if you were someone else from somewhere else seeing them for the very first time. That little exercise in focus and appreciation sparked a heightened awareness in me (funny how that happens); and in the days that followed, I had many moments where colors seemed more vibrant, smells more potent — even memories more vivid.

BEFORE YOU CONTINUE: I began this blog post on October 17, when the world up here in the Northeast was still green. It’s now the day after Christmas, and I’m continuing from an airport. At first, I thought it best to scrap this blog post with so much time having passed. Maybe I’d revisit it next year. But then it occurred to me that there’s something in the “sudden” passage of 10 weeks that speaks to the point I was trying to make all along: if we don’t remain intentional and vigilant, if we don’t make time for worthwhile moments to unfold in our lives, time keeps doing what it has always done. It passes.

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back to reality

back to reality — plane departing against golden sunset - The Best Advice So Far

On Wednesday, August 31, at 7:20AM, a car turned the corner onto Bent Grass Drive and pulled into number 6793.  My luggage was already in the driveway. I locked the door for the last time then clicked the button to close the garage. As the driver loaded my things into the trunk and back seat, I stood for one last lingering moment, saying a silent goodbye and thank you.

When I heard the trunk and door slam shut, I took a deep breath, willed the sting of tears from my eyes, and reluctantly turned my back on the place that had been my home for the last full month there in Naples, Florida. Even as the car drove slowly away, I couldn’t seem to pull my eyes from the side-view mirror until the house and yard were out of sight.

I had truly been intentional, each and every day of my stay, to appreciate moments — the sights, sounds and experiences around me. Most often, I’d even voiced those thoughts aloud (whether anyone was there to hear them or not).

What an incredible sunset.

Just listen to those cicadas.

Isn’t that great egret majestic.

Yet as we made our way between the palm trees that lined Crowned Eagle Lane and then turned left onto Wildflower Way, I found myself breathing differently …

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fire in the sky

fire in the sky - The Best Advice So Far - paper lanterns floating Chinese lanterns

I’ve had a document open since the 4th of July with title and picture in place, ready for me to write this post.

Each day since, I’ve sat down in front of a blank page. I’ve stared. I’ve thought. I’ve thought about what I’m thinking. I’ve done the self-talk to convince myself: This is going to be the day.

It’s been over two weeks of this routine.

Usually, a blank page excites me. Since I was a child, a blank page has always represented endless possibilities. Lately, a blank page has felt like … just a blank page.

Today is the first time words have come out.

I’m hopeful.

While it’s true that my head is still a bit scrambled due to the accident in April, I think there’s more to it where this particular post has been concerned.  I had what I can only call “an experience” over the holiday weekend. I don’t often use the word profound, but this was. I felt something. I made connections I hadn’t before. Parts of what lay within the scope of my physical senses came into crystal clear focus while others seemed to fade to nothing. Invisible. Inaudible.

It came in pictures. It came in inklings and suspicions that burgeoned into something close to ideas. It came in emotions.

The problem is that it did not come with words.

It has felt like it needs to be written. I tried getting around it and on to other topics, chalking it up as perhaps something that should remain with me alone. But it has stayed put, unyielding, like an avalanche that simply has to be cleared from the road if there’s to be any hope of moving forward. And yet in the last 24 hours, a realization struck me: I’ve actually been afraid to put it to words …

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little big things

little big things - scallop shell on sunny beach sand - The Best Advice So Far

My last blog entry was posted over a month ago. It’s not for lack of trying, I just haven’t been able to write. I don’t mean to say that I’ve been too busy to write; I mean that I haven’t been able to write.

Shortly after I wrote that last post, I was in a car accident. The short version is that I wound up being ambulanced to the nearest hospital with neck and back immobility, a skull-wracking migraine and loss of peripheral vision. I was terrified that it was going to be a repeat of 2007 and the accident that left me incapacitated for more than six months. Fortunately, after about five days in bed, my neck and back righted themselves and, though the headaches have persisted, they’ve been intermittent and manageable.

The aftermath of this particular ball of wax has also included fatigue, insomnia and a record-breaking stretch of nightmares. This morning, I woke up from my two or so hours of sleep with my heart racing. Some end-of-the-world-meets-mind-control number this time.

Do I sound like I’m kvetching? I’m not meaning to. I’ve tried to keep it to the basics, but it’s important that I set the scene.

As I said at the start of this post, I haven’t been able to write. I’ve set aside time to write. I’ve done all the right things to set myself up for success to write. But the sheer fact of the matter was that, circumstances being what they’ve been, my brain was just not able to focus, and no amount of discipline was going to change that for the time being.

If you’ve read my book, The Best Advice So Far, or have been making yourself comfortable here on my blog for any time at all, you’ll be well familiar with the central credo:

You always have a choice.

I use the word “credo” here, because I want to focus on a particular point: that this is more than a motivational platitude for me. It’s a core belief, a guiding force in my life. And it is at the heart of any advice I may share with others along the way.

best advice so far - you always have a choice - tweetable

However, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.  It’s a guiding force, yes, but a force to be reckoned with all the same.

As I sat again last week in front of an empty page for the third week in a row, I felt it happen. My heart was pounding. My chest felt tight, like I couldn’t get a full breath. An acrid tingle crept around the back of my jaw. At first, I thought it was yet another manifestation of general weirdness from the accident; but after a few minutes, I recognized it for what it was.

In a word, what I felt was …

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