The Blog

Are you growing up?
March 21, 2019

Doing What Works logo 181013After four months of hosting the talk show with Jane Brody, she had quite the announcement for me: “You’ve grown up.” Which meant? “You’re not doubting yourself so much,” she said.

True.

It was difficult, at first, to give Jane directions even though I’m the one with the radio experience. I found her credentials intimidating. But she’s also a peach to work with, and I’m gradually asserting myself a little more.

We’re still finding our rhythm, granted. Neither of us knows for sure where we’re going, which is great. The important thing is that we’ve set out. To have such character transformation already? We’re bound to look back on this trip with delight.

Am I the only person who welcomes long lines at the grocery store, a packed waiting room at the doctor’s office, a crowded airport gate? They’re filled with people looking at their phones, sure. But once in a while you luck out and get to eavesdrop on conversations. I love that! I daydream about lives worth swapping, problems I’m glad I don’t have, whatever.

A while back I watched some people discuss cultural appropriation. Let’s call them Tom, Dick, and Harry. Tom wanted to know why it was okay for people of one culture to do something, but not okay for someone in a different culture to do what appeared to be the same thing. Dick wondered this, too.

Harry asked if they were sure they wanted to talk about it. They were. So Harry explained why the same rules didn’t apply to both cultures.

The first thing Tom said was, “Oh. I had no idea.” His wheels were turning, you could tell. He just kind of sat there, taking it in. Then he said it again: “I had no idea.”

Dick was less impressed. Make that, not impressed at all. Make that, he was so unmoved he started arguing the original point. When Harry tried a second time to illuminate things, Dick switched tactics. He told Harry it seems like people are just looking for reasons to be upset.

“That may be true,” Harry offered. Good move! I mean, he and Dick weren’t at war. Were they?

Well, maybe.

Harry added that just because some people look for reasons to be upset, it doesn’t mean other people don’t have dandy reasons to be upset. Which didn’t seem to sit well with Dick. The conversation started to unravel.

Tom was enjoying the show, you could tell. He thanked Harry again for the insights, and tried to smooth things over with Dick.

As I watched the three of them I remembered why I bother to talk with anyone. It isn’t for a weather report! I’m trying to learn something. The possibility of changing my mind is exciting. That’s the point.

And, sure. Everyone finds himself in conversation with a Dick once in a while. The older I get the less willing I am to engage with Dicks, though. I save my breath…and go looking for a Tom or a Harry!

When Darrell and I were first married he told me my lasagna was the best he’d ever had. When I told a friend about this he said, “You know he’s lying.”

“Yeah?” I fired back. “All it’s going to get him is more lasagna.”

I’ve told that story here before. I’ve told it on the show. What I didn’t know until recently is how frequently it makes the rounds in New York. Katie invokes it with her pals all the time.

The word lasagna has come to define us as a family. It’s one pragmatic philosophy, don’t you think?

I’m in the checkout line at the grocery store when I hear seven-year-old Katie gasp. Something not good has happened. I turn around to look at her, to see what could possibly be so disgusting.

Oh.

She’s reading the cover of a tabloid: “Baby Born with Antlers.”

That’s when we had the talk about not believing everything you read.

A friend of mine responded to something I said recently with, “Is that true?”

I was tempted to wonder why she thought I’d offer something that wasn’t true, but I quickly realized there’s nothing wrong with making sure you’re dealing with facts before you proceed. Otherwise? All it’ll get you is more lasagna. I’ll explain in my next post.

There are two kinds of problems. The kind you’re working on, and the kind you aren’t.

Right?

Working a problem’s a great way to distract yourself from having a problem. If you work hard enough, or smart enough, or consistently enough -- all three, ideally, obviously -- guess what? You might solve the problem. Which means you’ll graduate to bigger challenges, more worthy of you based on being the person who scaled the first mountain.

The problem you aren’t working, the one you only worry about, becomes a different problem. It keeps you up at night, makes you wonder what you’re playing at, and threatens to derail whatever else doesn’t happen to be a problem.

It takes a lot of energy to worry. Believe me, I know. And because you’re expending it there’s a temptation to think you’re doing something. You’re doing something, all right. You’re pretending you’ve taken action when you haven’t.

Kind of reminds me of what Seth would call shaving the yak.

Why do you worry?
March 13, 2019

You know how there’s a lull between a child hitting his head on something and the tears? The silence is eerie, because you know the screams are coming.

But! The screams don’t always follow. Depending on how severe the impact, the child will often look to the nearest adult for clues on whether to be upset.

That isn’t only child’s play, of course. As we grow up and into our various roles, we learn to worry -- or not -- based on the behavior of others. Not always. But often enough to check in with ourselves once in a while to make sure we aren’t adopting the worldviews of the people around us only because we haven’t been deliberate about our own.

Several years ago we’d invested so much money in the business I used to wake up during the night frozen with fear. Eventually I had a little talk with myself about that: “This is either going to work or it isn’t, but do you really want to look back on your waning days with Katie at home knowing you were distracted?” I did not. So I stopped worrying. Eventually. For the most part.

I found another workaround that’s even better, and I’ll share it in the next post.

It’s Ungodly Hour O’Clock in our hotel room in the Twin Cities, and everything that could help us wake up is ringing or beeping. Darrell has the telephone receiver to his ear, and considering how sure I am it’s an automated wakeup I can’t understand why he doesn’t hang up right away.

“She had a nice voice,” he said!

My laughter suggested I’d never heard anything more funny in my life. Blame it on sleep deprivation, but give me this: I’m a good audience. It’s been almost two years and every now and then I’ll remind Darrell how hilarious that was.

He doesn’t mind.

Once in a while one of us -- or Katie, for that matter -- will say it again: “There’s no better feeling than making each other laugh.” The reason? None of us laughs to be polite. You have to earn it. When you do? Oh

Has it upped our conversational game? I think so. We crave those hits of approval, seek out more of the silly, and the ripples keep spreading.

I started a couple of new projects recently. Both are mission critical, one from a professional standpoint and the other personal. But this time, after years of watching myself work, I approached them from the standpoint of Reasonable Me versus Wildly Optimistic to the Point of Delusion Me.

Instead of biting off anything too ambitious, I decided on a pace that -- since I can stick to it -- will mean steady progress toward those meaningful goals. Not only that, but I’m allowing for days that go completely to hell (you have those, right?) and have built in margins for makeup.

That was a really, really good move. There’s something so satisfying about hitting the pillow having met the minimum requirement for a successful day. But I’m not hitting that pillow so exhausted I wonder how I’ll be able to pull it off again the next day, or the day after that.

Never would’ve guessed you could get further by going easier on yourself.

I love surprises!