Tag Archives: thanks

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 …


digging out

The Best Advice So Far: digging out — Erik with *yuck* face standing in front of a mountain of plowed snow

Last Saturday, we were told to expect the first “real snow” of the winter season here in New England. Meteorologists predicted 4 – 8 inches. Though not exactly fun, we’ve had worse. Much worse. As the sky turned slate gray and the first flakes began to fall, I settled in to finish writing last week’s post, read a bit … and, of course, nap.

I had plenty of food to get me through until the next day when I’d head out and re-up my stores. In fact, I thought, I might even be able to manage a late-night workout, once this thing fizzles out.

Well, about midnight, I did venture down to brush off the car and head out to the gym.

Only the door didn’t open.

Moonlight shone blue across the surface of deep, deep snow. (We were later to find that the official reading was 16 inches.)

Crap.

Still, determined, I tromped back up the stairs, got out of my workout clothes, slid some old jeans on over sweatpants and donned a hoodie under my overcoat. Then I headed out to show that snow who was boss.

Things had wound down to little more than brittle flurries. That was thanks to the fact that, as my phone alerted me, it was now 2°F — too cold for much new snow to form.

I grabbed the shovel and became aware as I looked around that the drifts on the porch weren’t the worst of it by a long shot. I cleared the porch but couldn’t tell where the platform I was standing on ended and where the steps began. As I shuffled toward the invisible edge, I had that feeling of wading out too far into the ocean and taking that first step that drops into the abyss.

I plunged downward and was suddenly knee-deep in the stuff. It was abundantly clear that I’d be going nowhere tonight.

I slogged toward the car. As the frigid wind howled, I assessed. There’d be no place to shovel the snow other than into the hedgerow. Just too deep to throw it anywhere else.

I’ll be honest: the “hearty New Englander” in me began to crack. We were barraged the winter before last with a freak series of unrelenting blizzards that lasted months and dumped a total of over 11 feet of snow, and I felt the edges of PTSD tapping on the frosted glass of my resolve. Despite the gloves I wore, pain was already shooting through freezing fingers. And no amount of sniffling was now enough to stem the flow of snot from my nose.

It was not only deep, it was heavy. The snow brush bowed as I ran it across the hood of the car, sending vibrations up my arm (my hand itself being numb) that I knew meant beneath the smothering snow, the car was also encased in ice. Then that first swipe was interrupted as the Lincoln ornament snapped off and catapulted somewhere into the bushes, lost (sorry, Mom).

I’m not sure if I started crying at that point, since my eyes were already stinging and watering furiously …

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fallen: remembered

Note: September 11, 2015

Typically, I publish a brand new post each Friday. I enjoy the challenge, honesty and real-time engagement of writing new posts each week and sharing them with you. However, I felt this week warranted a first for me. While I certainly find occasions to share previous posts again, I’ve never reblogged the same post twice. But after having reread this post from exactly four years ago today, I was moved deeply again – in familiar ways, but also in new ones. It allowed me to refocus, to see with crystal clarity some things that had become a bit blurry around the edges. I felt there was no additional sentiment or perspective I could add at this moment that would better capture what I felt and wrote those four years past; and so it is that I share it with you again today.

We remember.


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not fair

life is not fair: big fish in small bowl, little fish in big bowl

I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane lately where this blog is concerned. I love when I re-read a post from years back and have forgotten that I’d even written it, allowing me to read it in a whole new light. I love it even more when I laugh or cringe at all the right parts, wondering what’s going to happen in the story (which is saying something, seeing that I’ve lived all of these stories).

One of my earliest posts, which subsequently developed into three early and integral parts of my book, The Best Advice So Far, came from Carlotta, my friend (and my dear friends’ mom) who passed away many years ago. She left three key pieces of advice that have been mainstays in my own life, and which I’ve passed along countless times since. This post will mean all the more if you take a moment to read that earlier post first (it was one of my shorter posts), because understanding who Carlotta was will add even more depth to the wisdom she passed on.

Here is one of Carlotta’s pieces of advice, as she penned it:

Life is never fair. If you expect it to be, you'll always be unhappy.

And this is how the advice appears in The Best Advice So Far:

The Best Advice So Far: The sooner you realize that life is not fair, the happier you will be.

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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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go team

white connected paper dolls strand blue background

Rogers had Hammerstein.

Han Solo had Chewbacca.

Cookies have milk.

And I have … you.

The “Thanks and Acknowledgements” section of my book, The Best Advice So Far, ends with this:

“My sincere thanks, as well, to every person so far who has read or listened or pondered or asked a question or checked in on things along the way. You are as much a part of this book as I hope it might become of you.”

I know authors sometimes say things like this that might come off as ingratiating, cliché or saccharine.  Only, in my case … I really mean it, both with regard to the book and this blog.

I write. But my writing is not an end in itself. My aim is to inspire others to live like it matters, to challenge themselves to take more positive social risks, to notice and foster the best in people rather than the worst – and to remember, above all, that we always have a choice.  I trust that, in small but consistent ways, that is happening as you read and experiment with me along the way.

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the problem with gandhi

Gandhi negative

The term “critical thinking” has two meanings. As a skill, it’s a darned good thing to have. As a trait – it’ll ruin you.

Critical thinking, if it becomes a trait rather than a skill, will ruin you.

My friend Chad was in town for Easter weekend, and we had the chance to grab lunch together Monday before he headed out. During the previous week, he had looked back through a digital time capsule to what was happening exactly five years ago to the day. At that time, Chad was still a wide-eyed freshman at Penn State, ready to take on the world by starting a club, donning a clown nose and delivering impromptu daffodils to unsuspecting board members during meetings so that they’d have an excuse to live out his email signature, which included “Have a Better-Than-Awesome Day.”

During that time, I helped Chad come up with a lot of the branding and graphic elements around which his club was built. One such project was to devise a fun poster that would hang in every freshman dorm room at the start of the next semester, encouraging incoming students to immediately engage and take some positive social risks.

I spent 12 – 15 hours on that poster.  It was fun for me to collaborate with Chad and see his vision become a reality. I tried some new graphic techniques, and they worked out perfectly. There were dozens and dozens of layers and effects involved.  When the poster was done, I was beaming. Chad was thrilled. We were both excited not only about how it had turned out, but about the thought of having had a part in what could conceivably result in real and widespread culture change on a huge campus, as nervous freshman began to engage in fun, safe and positive ways.

Here’s how that poster came out:

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