The Blog

I have no evidence to back this up, but I bet right this very minute there’s a little kid being teased for something that isn’t his fault. He’s being teased until he cries, and then he’s being shamed for crying.

Even sadder? He might not be suffering at the hands of a playground bully. The bully might be a parent. You’ve heard stories, or seen those parents in action. Haven’t you? I once interviewed someone with a doctorate in psychology from Stanford who said it’s a mistake to think parents are -- in general -- rooting for their children. He said you wouldn’t believe how many parents pull against their kids. Parents don’t always want their kids to be happy, he added. Why? It varies. One reason? They’re jealous.

I no longer wonder why there’s so much violence in the world.

Here’s what I’d like from people who complain about someone’s proposal to solve problems like terrorism. A better proposal! If you’re so sure the other guy’s full of it, let’s hear your plan.

It isn’t any more helpful to complain about complainers than to be one yourself, I realize. But it’s okay to notice how other people live, so you can pick and choose what you do -- and do not -- want to emulate.

Then it’s back to the business of making life easier for people. That’s what you’re up to with work, right? You fix their plumbing so they can go back to their jobs as counselors to help high school kids make sense of their lives in time to not screw up the next generation!

Defending Your LifeA friend of mine once met John Denver. She was at a party, if memory serves, and there he was. She composed herself, walked up to him, and told him how much his music meant to her. He looked her in the eyes and told her how glad he was to hear it. “As if,” she reported, “he was almost surprised. As if he couldn’t quite believe it.”

Can you imagine?

That’s what I think of when I wonder whether to tell someone how much I appreciate him. Like Albert Brooks, for Defending Your Life. Did he really need more admiration for that movie?

Doesn’t matter. “Withholding praise borders on immoral,” according to another famous person, Scott Adams, who didn’t mind hearing how much I loved his work.

So I added to the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration on Twitter -- during the same week, as it turns out, Twitter turned ten -- which was a nice way to applaud the work of Albert Brooks without bugging him. Which is something I appreciate about Twitter!

Once upon a time a friend offered to help me “get in good” with someone who was best pals with a guy I was dating. I looked at her. I smiled. I thanked her profusely. And then I said, “I don’t want to get in good with him.”

It was straight out of Pretty Woman. Vivian asks Edward if “these people” are his friends, he says he spends time with them, and she says it’s no wonder he came looking for her.

A few years after this exchange a manager warned me I was going to be on another manager’s list if I didn’t follow one of his orders -- which would’ve been unethical. And I thought, “No, he’s going to be on my list.”

There’s nothing wrong with running for mayor if being mayor is your thing. But if you’re trying to please everybody I hope you’ll include yourself. Know the difference between right and wrong. Even better, act on it.

I’ll vote for you!

Do you need help?
April 21, 2016

Babette HughesWhen Babette Hughes went into therapy many decades ago -- she’s ninety-three now! -- she had a goal. She wanted to change into a person her husband wouldn’t hold in contempt. You can guess where this is going. She changed into a person who didn’t care what he thought. She left. She was surprised when her therapist suggested she go to college because her mother had always told her she was stupid. One could argue her mother wasn’t the superior intellect, given she’d told Babette her father -- who’d been murdered -- died of pneumonia. But that’s another story.

College was a good move for Babette. She was already in her thirties and the mother of three, but she got straight A’s.

I don’t know how you’d unravel the rocky start Babette had in life, but she does. Therapy.

Don’t call it that if you want. Call it getting help. Call it confiding in a friend. But do it. Things get blurry up close, as I’ve mentioned, and sometimes the only way to get enough distance is by letting someone else take the wheel.

If you have a bad feeling about someone I think it’s silly to ignore it. How many times have you suspected a person will bring you only grief, then been pleasantly surprised to find the opposite? In my experience, never.

But what about the reverse? Do you put too much stock in good feelings, which can be as deceiving as bad feelings are trustworthy?

It happens on the show sometimes. In the afterglow of what felt like a great conversation with someone I’ll want to invite that person back right away. I’ve learned to resist. Because once in a while, back at my desk and listening to the interview the way you might, I’ll realize -- for whatever reason -- the conversation wasn’t quite as entertaining or useful as it seemed.

It happens outside of work, too. I’ll be so happy someone isn’t openly hostile I mistake that for approval, and sometimes it isn’t. I’ll let my guard down, and be sorry.

There’s a silver lining to this. I’ve realized my default setting is to believe the best about people. I can live with that.

My advice to youngsters on a new job is to keep their mouths mostly shut for a while. They might know how to change everything, how to make everything better. But garnering support for it is a slow build. Better to hang back until you know whom to befriend. Make enough friends and you stand a chance to make a difference.

How do you get high?
April 19, 2016

For ten years of my professional life the highlight of my day was a forty-five minute interview around the corner from where I’m typing, on the steps leading up to our bedrooms. Darrell would hook me up to something digital and record the telephone conversations I had with people on various aspects of career planning.

I was always a little high after those interviews. High, and spent. Something important was happening. Darrell and I were disappointed we couldn’t air the interviews intact, for starters. Instead we selected a couple of high points from each and I wrote scripts for ninety-second vignettes around those sound bites. That was The Career Clinic for a long time. I had fun, my guests had fun, and dozens of stations aired it. The American Forces Network snatched it up early on, and still runs a similar feature based on the talk show we’re doing now.

But for ten years I didn’t know if a talk show would be part of my career equation. Isn’t it interesting I went ahead and did one anyway? Just for myself and my guests -- and for long enough to get good at it.

When the opportunity to host a talk show presented itself in the spring of 2008, I was ready. I didn’t hesitate. I never interviewed for the job. The owner of what was to become a brand-new, fifty-thousand watt AM station talked with Darrell over the phone for a few minutes. Then he talked with both of us in person a few days later. And that was it. You’re hired!

It’s the same with writing. I never decided to be a writer. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. I’m more faithful to a journal than many people are to their husbands or wives. When it was time to write a book I didn’t hesitate. I knew how to do it. I’m always in shape.

I didn’t worry too much where it might lead. Something inside wanted to get out, and I didn’t stop it.

The secret to life! Or at least, one secret to mine.

Don’t you love it when people are honest about how difficult it is to stay on top of their many responsibilities? Doesn’t it make you feel better about your own life? I was amused by an online report from someone who looks for all the world like he has it by the proverbial tail. Just as an aside, I realize inserting “proverbial” before “tail” is only marginally better than letting the cliché stand by itself. I fancy myself someone who eschews clichés, but I still use them once in a while. The gentleman I’m talking about could probably relate. He fancies himself someone who works out more days than not, but guess what? He’s lucky if he runs twice a week.

That isn’t all. He wakes up every morning hating his life. Everything sucks, he says. It’s only after a little time and a lot of coffee he decides he might be able to make something of the day after all.

Why did I feel so good, hearing that? I don’t even know the guy! And besides, I’m not rooting against anyone. What gives?

Here’s what. If this person can accomplish what he does with the attitude he has, there’s more than a little hope for me.

It’s the same reason we like seeing the “before” photo next to the “after” photo of someone who just had a makeover. You woke up like this? Whatever. You woke up like that and now you look like this? Why don’t you pull up a chair and we’ll talk hair and makeup!

Go ahead and tell me how green the grass is on your side of the fence. But if you really want to get my attention, show me how you managed to do that with nothing but rocks under the surface.

That’s pay dirt!

City SlickersDo you remember that scene in City Slickers where Curly tells Mitch the secret to life is “one thing” -- and he has to figure out what that is…for him?

Let’s narrow it down. Let’s talk about the one thing you want to accomplish in this chapter of your professional life.

Can you do it?

It’s worth deciding. It’ll make every other decision easier. “Does this move me closer to that goal, or further away?”

Further away?

Thanks so much anyway, but I’m going to pass.

It’s life or death, after all.

It’s your life.