The Blog

link to MartinI’ll never forget the second time I interviewed Knock ’em Dead author Martin Yate. After we finished recording he told me how much better I sounded. “You should go back and listen to the first show,” he suggested. “I’m afraid to!” I admitted. He laughed and laughed, and we’ve been friends ever since.

I’m proud to feature Martin on the program because you can learn so much from him. It’s like what he says about his books -- you’ll find something useful, something practical, on every page. If you feel stuck and you haven’t at least considered reading what Martin has to say about career planning, maybe you like being stuck!


It would be difficult to find someone who embodies the spirit of Doing What Works better than Martin does, one reason I’m tickled he’s using our show to reach you. If you click on the banner under the search bar at the top of this page -- the one that says, “Knock ’em Dead!” -- you’ll see what I mean.

I wouldn’t recommend just anyone help you turn your life around. But Darrell and I have known Martin a long time and I’m less conflicted about putting you in touch with him than I am about, say, flossing.

So there you go.

Have fun!

Our refrigerator died recently and I wasn’t in a position to choose a new one. We’re still deciding how much time we want to spend at this address, after all. So in the interest of hedging our bets we’re making do with a tiny fridge -- the kind you probably had in college.

I’ve had so much fun trying to fit a week’s worth of groceries into that! I’d like to think it’s a superpower. You’d get no argument from Katie. She’s watched me help her pack and unpack enough times -- home to school and back again, home to school on the other side of the world and back again -- to decide I have some kind of gift she doesn’t.

Which reminds me of a question I once posed to Brooks Palmer, an expert on clutter busting. How does he help a hoarder get out from under, well, everything? The same way you help anyone else, Brooks says. One item at a time. He isn’t crazy about that label, by the way. It helps nothing.

Labels are clutter, aren’t they? When you give someone a label you decide they’re that and nothing else, and they’ll never change. How cruel.

Is that why I’ve never defined myself by a job title? It’s a lot easier to let go of a job if you haven’t identified too closely with it.

And genealogy? Forget it. We had an expert on that on the show recently, and I can’t imagine a better spokesman than he is. I’m as fascinated by my parents and their parents as the next person, but my interest stops there. Where you come from matters, sure -- but it only matters to a point.

I’ll probably never know where my ability comes from, to fit -- as Darrell might say -- ten pounds of sugar into a five-pound bag.

I’m okay with that!

I’ve always looked at the talk show as an opportunity to learn something. It’s my favorite way to learn. Suddenly it occurs to me I should listen at least as carefully to what I say as what my guests do.

I keep suggesting, for example, people stop worrying about making the so-called right decision. I felt such pressure in high school to choose a career path I’d stick with for the rest of my life -- as if I knew much at all about that path or about life. As if I had any idea what kind of person I’d be three years later! How sad. I mean, really. I was allowed to change my mind, to go here and there and then back again. Had I realized that sooner -- had I really taken that to heart -- I think I would’ve found more joy in the rough patches.

Somewhere along the way I made a decision that changed everything. I’d have a plan for my life, but I wouldn’t necessarily follow it. I’d stay more open to alternatives. I’d trust myself to find my way no matter how lost I got. I’d trust myself to figure things out.

The most important things we make all day are decisions. What’s the worst that’ll happen if you make a supposedly wrong move? You’ll learn something that’ll help you make a better one next time.

Can you live with that?

We can’t get over it. The flower box Darrell built to welcome Katie home the last time. It’s as simple as it is elegant -- the definition of a flower box, I suddenly realize -- and it’s filled with bright fuchsia and deep purple petunias.

That color. What a burst of happy.

It’s such a small part of the street view, but your eyes are drawn to it. You need a focus, after all. We have a really cute little gingerbread house -- but it’s gray, not ginger, and it needed something. It needed something to remind us of Paris! That’s the first thing I noticed as I gazed out the window of our hotel next to the Louvre, flower boxes. They were everywhere, and they were magnificent.

The most interesting thing about the flowers is my interest in them at all. I’m starting to think of this house as a garage where we keep some of our things some of the time. We’re spending less time here than we used to, and we’re looking into other garages. So I’ll only be invested in this particular nest to a point. Want proof? I had difficulty remembering screens are on the inside of a window! That’s one way I greeted Darrell this morning: “Well, if it isn’t Mr. I Know Screens Are on the Inside of a Window.”

I knew it at some level, granted.

I just didn’t clutter up my brain with remembering!

Does order matter?
July 23, 2015

piano keysWhen Katie was packing for college a couple of years ago she wanted to add my music to her library. Those songs had been part of the soundtrack to her childhood, after all. I’d play them softly in the background as we went about our time together, and life felt even more the fun movie it would’ve been otherwise.

When I learned recently she hadn’t loaded those songs because they were numbered as opposed to titled (long story) (I’ll spare you), I volunteered to fix that. It took a while. And when I got ready to turn the files over again I realized they wouldn’t play in order.

So I volunteered to massage the files yet again so they’d not only display a title but be in the same order I’d acquired them.

It mattered.

Give someone a random collection of songs and it’s just that, random. You could be listening on the radio. Play those songs in a special order and it’s just that, special.

It’s like what Dick Bolles says about your gifts. You can have the same gifts someone else does -- indeed, we all do -- but it’s the way you string those gifts together that make you you.

What’s on your playlist?

I get dozens of pitches every week from publicists who want their clients to be on the talk show. Most of those publicists are a joy to work with. Why wouldn’t they be? They’re paid to get bookings. There isn’t a lot in it for them to make things difficult for me.

Some do, though. And with the volume of pitches I get, I keep a list of problem people. No sense penalizing a real sweetheart because I got her name mixed up with someone else’s.

I was comparing notes with a guest about the whole “forgive and forget” thing. He wasn’t a fan. Forgive if you want, sure -- but if you forget you’re just signing up for more problems. “There’s nothing difficult about doing your show,” he pointed out. “Are you available at this time? Yes? I’ll take your phone number and call you then. The end.”

It reminded me how often, in the interest of being a good kid, I have tried to forget the bad times with people. Sometimes I’ve done such a good job I wonder why my stomach hurts when I’m around them. Now I realize it hurts because I haven’t forgotten the bad times. I’ve just pushed them down. They still happened.

I’m not suggesting you dwell on the bad or stop looking for the best in people. But pretending to enjoy someone’s company when you don’t? I hope you’re a better actress than I am!

Every time we walk into the grocery store I see it. A table piled high with long, narrow boxes of donuts -- big and fluffy and fresh, drenched in that sugary glaze. I just sort of collapse into a sigh as if to say, “Really? Again?” They get me every time. I really, really, really want those donuts.

It took the better part of a lifetime, but I found something I want more. I want to feel the way I do now that I’m not eating them. So almost as quickly as it hits me how badly I want the donuts, I make a point of remembering how I felt after I indulged. Not good. Then I bound toward the produce section with a little spring in my step, ready to load up on spinach and broccoli and bananas. Which reminds me of a cute little sign I saw once: “People who bought this (bananas)…also bought this (broccoli).”

If you know something’s bad for you, do you do it? If there’s a better thing to chew on you’ll have to let me know!

When I interviewed for an internship at the Minnesota News Network the woman in charge asked why I wanted to get into radio. “To host a talk show that will inspire people to find work they love,” I told her. She looked at me. “Well,” she said, “then we’ll just make sure we steer your internship more toward features than the news.” Huh? What had just happened? This must be what job interviews are like in heaven, I decided while still across the conference table from her. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t say it was a stupid dream. She just said it was good to know.

I must have relaxed a little after that because I heard myself admit, “I’ve never been one to read the front page of the newspaper.” My interests were always elsewhere. “Now would be a good time to start,” the woman answered. I unrelaxed then, and vowed to do whatever it took to make the staff glad I ever walked in the door of that place.

There’s nothing admirable about ignorance. That’s one reason I jumped on the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter that helps keep Katie informed. I don’t skim it, either. I peruse it. There’s a difference. Which of course Kate pointed out.

Where do you get your news?