The Blog

One secret to living or working with anyone, I’ve decided, is zones. To say clutter is more soothing to Darrell and Katie than it is to me is quite the understatement. So there are rooms in the house and zones within some of those rooms I mostly look past, or pretend I don’t see. I’m surprisingly good at it, too. You don’t have to take my word for it. You have theirs.

I’m partial to open spaces. They represent possibility. Clutter makes me feel as if the past is closing in on me and I’ll never be able to escape it.

What you need to be at your best will probably often be at odds with what others need to be at their best. Then what? How do you negotiate that overlap?

With absolute mutual respect, that’s how -- as a friend of ours once put it. I’ll explain in the next post.

sunset photo

I bet you’ve had this feeling. Someone you know is in the exact wrong job. “Why?” you wonder. “Why is he squandering his gifts? Why isn’t he doing the work he was obviously born to do? What is he waiting for?”

I’ve wondered this about people I love, but not lately. The more I learn, the more I treasure the detours. My career path, after all, looks more like the route a school bus takes than an expressway to anywhere -- and that’s okay. I’m too busy savoring the scenery to race toward a so-called better moment in the future.

That’s one reason we don’t talk about legacy on this blog: “Legacy is for others to decide.”

Tear into your story, sure. Find a way to help people, definitely.

But try to decide in advance what your life will have meant?

You’re missing a sunset for that?


photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

What comforts you?
October 31, 2014

When I look back on my childhood it’s stunning how little I remember.

Maybe you can relate.

And maybe that’s why certain scenes stand out so much -- they aren’t competing for space in our brains.

One image that comes to my mind most often is my mother standing at the sink and my dad coming out to the kitchen. He’d tease her about something and kind of squeeze her shoulders a little bit as he did.

Oh, how I loved that. It wasn’t constant -- not that I remember, anyway -- but it was often enough to make me feel secure.

I didn’t know if I was going to be a mom back then, but I knew what kind of feeling I’d want a child to have.

That one.

The other day I was contemplating how uncertain our financial future is. You know, like Darrell and I have been doing for the past twenty years or so.

I’d like to think we’re getting smarter, that the risks we’ve been taking are about to pay off in a way that will reassure us beyond any doubt we were smart to take them -- but who knows?

Not me.

It’s either going to work or it isn’t, I decided. Why not adopt a sunnier outlook in the meantime? Instead of worrying, why not give thanks for a story that isn’t boring? What could that possibly hurt?


Not that anyone will know the difference. I’m pretty obnoxiously upbeat as it is. The proof was on Twitter recently: “When kids grow up, they hear their parent’s voice in their subconscious. Make sure it’s positive.” I felt not one twinge of anxiety when I read that, not one tiny bit of panic I’d failed Katie somehow.

Which is really something -- because if there was a way to feel guilty about something, I’d find it!

If there’s a better tale of redemption than this one, I hope you’ll let me know.

That will be all.

“Hope depends upon taking care that we have at least two alternatives,” my friend Dick Bolles says, “in every situation we find ourselves, and with every task confronting us.”

I’ll second that notion and raise you one, Dick.

A good attitude depends on remembering there’s always a choice. Maybe you’re not in the mood to call what you “have to do” something you “get to do.” But at least do yourself the favor of remembering it’s your choice to honor the commitment.

Keeping promises feels good. Building a reputation as someone who does feels great. Do what you say you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it -- and watch your stock soar with your boss, your family, and your friends.

Don’t forget the promises you make to yourself, either.

Here’s how I decide whether to book someone as a guest on the talk show. Can I learn something? And does the person have an energy that’s infectious?

I’ll keep having Rich Gallagher on the program until I learn to embrace the way he handles criticism. I’ll keep having him on the show beyond that, to be sure -- but I’m most eager to adopt this most enchanting aspect of his personality.

When someone criticizes him he says, “No kidding!” or whatever. And then something along the lines of, “You think that’s bad? You should’ve seen me the last time. I really sucked.” The wording is probably different every time -- Rich isn’t one for reading from a script, another reason I admire him so much -- but the message is always the same: “I agree.”

Rich isn’t a pushover. Sometimes he’s criticized by people whose motives are not, shall we say, entirely pure. But he’s smart enough to find the pebble of truth in a beach full of things that aren’t true. He pounces on that and turns it on his challenger in a way I’d pay good money to see.

Rich says he learned this technique from Feeling Good author David Burns. Find something you agree with. Something, anything. Focus on that. You can ease into your perspective later once the person you’re talking with feels heard. Defend yourself too soon and watch the exchange unravel.

The most interesting thing about agreeing with someone who’s attacking you is how quickly it disables that person. I’d cite personal experience, but I don’t really have any. I’ve found it difficult, when someone takes a shot, to be gracious.

I hate that! I hate that my feathers are visibly ruffled and that things are awkward for even a moment.

I love how quickly I settle down, remember to thank people for telling me the truth, and -- when I realize just how much they’ve helped -- thank them again and again.

But in the moment? That’s really hard.

I’m determined to master it, though. It seems like a more effective way to be with people. The best part? It’s playful.

We take ourselves so seriously sometimes. There’s a lot to be said, I think, for weaving more whimsy into our lives.

Do you let people be?
October 25, 2014

If I had my life to live over again, I’d probably do it the same way. I don’t have much in the way of regret. I’d like to think I’m like Katie in that respect. “I put everything in the win column,” she says, “because it’s a learning experience.”

If forced at gunpoint to go back and live my life over again a different way, this is the change I’d most like to make. I’d let people be.

I used to think I couldn’t stand it when people were mad. They weren’t even necessarily mad at me. But when they went looking for a place to put that anger it was as if I had a sign on my forehead that said, “Pick me!”

When you love someone and he’s angry, I thought, you step up. You fix it. Which is some kind of pressure to put on yourself. And it only makes people more angry, as it turns out. It’s as if they don’t have a right to their feelings.

So the new me, the different me, would know she could handle people being mad. She’d politely ask if there was anything she could do to help, but also politely excuse herself if there wasn’t.

The second change I’d most like to make? I’d realize much earlier that having everyone like you is a mathematical impossibility -- if only because people disagree with each other. More importantly, I wouldn’t have lobbied for acceptance from people I don’t enjoy being with. All it gets you is more time with people you don’t like. Duh.

I’m not running for mayor. I wish I would’ve realized it earlier. And I wonder if anyone’s packed more wisdom into a sentence than Julien Smith did with this little gem: “When people don’t like you, nothing actually happens.”