The Blog

It’s a high, that feeling I get when an interview sparkles. “As the show goes,” we started saying as a family early on, “so goes the weekend.” It’s almost impossible to have a bad time when work is this much fun.

The thing I’m most proud of? How intent I am on savoring that fun as it happens. Barbara Walters may have been my inspiration. I seem to remember her telling Oprah she didn’t have time to enjoy her career, she was that focused on the next “get” -- industryspeak for the interview everyone wants.

I didn’t want that. I want a life I have time to savor.

That’s why I often pause -- as my guest is talking or during a break in the show -- to think, “This is really fun.”

Once in a while I forget. I know this because Elizabeth Tryon’s excitement at being invited to join us was infectious. She’d read up on me. She’d told me how much she enjoyed my Huff Post piece about the stuffed animal silliness. She was almost giggly as we started the show.

And I thought, “Wow.” But then I remembered. “Oh, yeah. This is fun. My job at the moment is to get to know someone, to learn something, to have a conversation worth sharing.” Does it get better?

Not to me!

I’ll never forget the first time I was in a traffic jam with Darrell. Katie was six, we were in Los Angeles, and his will to live was draining with each new calculation of how much fuel was being burned to keep -- what? -- thousands of drivers captive in cars that barely moved for hours. Many years later, as we get to know Manhattan better all the time, we smile about this. Say whatever you want about that big city, it moves people efficiently. It’s relatively green from that standpoint.

Our version of LA Story felt more like The Ice Storm, though. Which reminds me of blowing what was once our entertainment budget for the month on renting the latter. We both thought it sucked, and it had been my idea. I still get this little pain in my shoulder thinking about it.

When I settle into a hotel room I like using the ice bucket for, well, ice. It’s nice to have ice water to drink or even splash on my face before I freshen my makeup. It’s a little treat.

Not to Darrell. You use energy to create ice and keep it frozen, the same way you use energy to keep cars creeping along on the freeway. So he wanted reassurance I was going to use all the ice. I wanted reassurance I’d heard him right.

Newlyweds! Well, sort of. But you know what I mean.

This was tricky, because neither of us had any idea we were mismatched when it came to energy use. I guessed that since ice was included in what we’d paid for the room, we were good. To Darrell, waste is waste. We’d made so many assumptions about energy and about each other we didn’t know why things got a bit chilly for a few minutes.

If everyone was as exacting as Darrell, the planet would probably last another however many billion years. “But would the inhabitants enjoy their time on it?” I tease him.

The thing that makes challenging assumptions so difficult, as my friend Al Pittampalli points out, is that you don’t know you’re making them: “They’re like air.”

You might assume -- since Darrell’s such a sweetheart about letting me dissect what’s interesting about him -- I don’t have him beat in that department.

I would not make that assumption if I were you!

Al Pittampalli bookIf you’re a manager, you’ve probably heard the advice to hire people who are smarter than you. The trick, I think, would be to let them do what they were hired to do -- be smarter than you. Because you’re the boss, right? You’re supposed to know more than your people, right?

Persuadable author Al Pittampalli sees this all the time. He liked the workaround I suggested, which is to put a little distance between yourself and the person who makes the brilliant suggestion.

Buy some time. “That’s really interesting,” you could say. “Let me think about that.” Make sure the person with the idea sees you jotting it down. That’s flattering. It also happens to be a great way to reassure someone you’re giving him proper consideration.

Go for a run, then. Go to lunch. Go home for the evening. Do whatever you need to do to get some distance. It might help you see things more clearly -- that while you weren’t the one who came up with the idea it’s still the right thing to embrace.

There’s a reason this works. Things get blurry up close.

It’s just science.

Why are older couples who hold hands and act like they’re still in love so adorable? My guess? They’re rare.

My friend Al Pittampalli wonders why, at football games or whatever, you so often see a fifty-year anniversary couple featured on a Jumbotron. “They might have the worst marriage ever,” he says.

Which reminds me why I find it difficult to relate to people my age who seem hopelessly into their own birthdays. So you lasted another year. So what?

Darrell and Katie and I make a point of congratulating people who aren’t in the limelight but are beacons nonetheless. The dad who takes his kid on a walk but leaves his phone at home. The kid who takes a punch on the playground but doesn’t hit back because he knows how that feels -- and doesn’t want to hurt even a bully. I’ve actually sprinted out of the house to flag down and thank a guy who’d cleaned up after his dog, given how few people appear to think that’s necessary. He looked at me like, “But of course.” You could tell he appreciated the sentiment, though.

Life can get boring sometimes. Why not see how much magic -- as opposed to mischief -- you can spread? Catch sweethearts in action and tell them you noticed. I suppose it’s possible something could go wrong if you did.

But I doubt it!

Are you interesting?
March 29, 2016

When I worked in sales at a radio station in St. Paul I became friends with a gal who shared my lack of enthusiasm for the gig. I quit, started interning at the Minnesota News Network, and had difficulty containing my glee. Elaine quit, took another sales job, and explained herself: “I want a nice life.”

“I’m glad I got that out of my system,” I thought. “I want an interesting life.”

Barbara Winter has an interesting life. She helps people make a living without a so-called job, and she loves it. People tell her she meets the most interesting people. “That’s because you’re interesting,” I offered.

Which reminded her how often someone told her husband -- when they were married -- he had an interesting wife. She thought, “I want an interesting life.”

Barbara designed a life that holds her interest. No wonder she has so much credibility with clients who who want the same!

And yes, Barbara noticed how much we used “interesting” in that exchange.

No matter.

What matters is whether you’re still excited about your story. That matters a lot!

Are you creative?
March 28, 2016

What do you do when drivers misbehave? Do you honk? Do you have a favorite gesture?

I just look at them. I don’t even glare. The closest I get to any kind of expression is wide-eyed wonder, but nothing menacing.

Customer service expert Shep Hyken has a better way. Smile at people and wave like you’re so happy they’re being, well, you know. “It drives them nuts!” he says.

I had the opportunity to try this suggestion less than an hour after hearing it. Darrell was driving, and someone was racing us to a red light. He almost rear-ended us. I looked back and gave him a big smile and waved like he’d added quite the dose of magic to our day.

He looked so confused.

Much more fun!

KansasGrass is green, right? Not in Kansas. Not during the winter. It’s gold. And with the late-afternoon sun hitting it, Darrell and Katie and I wondered if we’d seen anything as breathtaking. We were on our way home from still another adventure, which had been a feast for our senses in every way. Just when we thought we’d returned to Boringville, scenerywise, there they were. Fields of gold. They were magnificent.

And they went on forever! Those vistas. Wow. I never expected to be filled with awe in Kansas.

Oh, sure. I lived there for a couple of years in my twenties. It was a magical time, but not because of the scenery. Or so I thought. What could I have been thinking?

I know. I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Pity.

When you call your talk show Doing What Works you’re begging to be humiliated. Aren’t you? Aren’t you making it easy for people to swoop in and point out what isn’t working and accuse you of false advertising?

It depends.

Darrell and I don’t sit around congratulating ourselves on having made it, whatever that means. There are lots of people who appear to have the world more by the tail. But we have a hobby of looking around when we’re out and about -- tearing around with the kid, sure, but even running errands -- and noticing people. I think we have most of them beat when it comes to energy or enthusiasm. And any kind of enchantment by their traveling companion(s)? Rarer still. Unless that companion is a phone! What kind of life is that?

Career coach Barbara Sher says the passage of time drives you crazy when you know you’re not using it right. But what’s the “right” way to use your time?

I’ve always been conscious of how quickly time passes. “How can I be in the third grade?” I remember wondering. Which I bet was quickly followed by a bit of a flogfest for not having more to show for myself.

But something changed. At some point I realized I wasn’t always fretting the passage of time. It usually happened on days I worked hard and laughed a lot. Steady progress toward a meaningful goal, as the saying goes -- wrapped in fun. I’d try to make myself ponder the passage of time or even death, and I couldn’t. “Whatever,” I’d think. “I just want to get back to my project.”

My charge had become simple: “Have fun, and learn a lot.” Moment by moment, it’s working. That counts for something. Maybe everything!

As you were.