The Blog

If I could read only three books over and over for the rest of my life it would be quite the trilogy by Steven Pressfield -- The War of Art, Turning Pro, and The Authentic Swing.

When I finish them I start them over. Oh, sure. Sometimes I’ll dive into a novel or the latest by someone we feature on the show. But when I’m caught up on the random I return to Steven’s work. It’s almost like getting a wheel alignment. The Bible does it for some people, and more…power…to them. I’ll take a Pressfield book every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Speaking of power, what I love most about these books is how grounding they are. I can trace much of who I am to a gradual process of absorbing their treasures. Each pass helps me inch a little closer to the person I aspire to be.

Do you know someone who seems lost? Who’s going through the motions without seeming to take a lot of pleasure in life? Maybe there’s something buried deep down inside that’s longing to get out. These books might help them.

They might help you, too!

Who challenges you?
February 8, 2015

It never fails. I’ll read this article or that one and decide how I feel about one thing or another, only to change my mind -- or at least, open it back up -- after considering what someone else has to say.

Like Scott Adams.

Scott makes me feel at once ridiculous -- for believing one version of the events -- and smart, for how readily I ditch that belief in favor of something more nuanced.

Maybe you know people who, when told there’s more to a story than they’re waxing judgmental on, don’t have a single followup question.

I don’t know how you’d define evil -- I just looked it up! -- but that, to me, comes pretty close.

Judgmental as it sounds!

Was it Rodney Dangerfield who joked his parents would call him down for breakfast, and that’s when he’d discover a spread of coffee and cigarettes?

It’s one way to keep your weight down, judging from how many smokers report gaining weight after losing that habit.

When I stopped eating junk food I was surprised by how much I could eat without gaining weight. What I eat must be at least as important as how much I eat.

You can starve yourself. You can abuse yourself. You can be slender on the outside and a fat wad of ill health on the inside.

Take in only good and don’t be surprised if that’s how you feel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “I am having a really bad day.” Which is almost always quickly followed by, “And I feel terrific!”

donutFree day, cheat day, all-you-can-eat-of-whatever-you-want day. That’s how I got through what Darrell and Katie call the Summer of Hunger, the summer I got down to my driver’s license weight -- mostly by starving myself.

One day a week I ate whatever I wanted. Which I did. All day long. On the Fourth of July I got up at three o’clock in the morning to start a free day early. Darrell got up a little while later to use the bathroom and he found me at the dining room table, eating holiday cake straight from the pan and reading Eat, Pray, Love -- which he dubbed Eat, Pray, and Eat Some More. I never really stopped eating on a free day, and by the time the sun set I was usually so jittery from all the extra sugar and whatever else I almost welcomed the return to Sparta.

I spent six days of the week looking forward to my free day. I spent my free day wondering why I craved things that so obviously weren’t good for me.

That’s no way to live. It’s also one reason I agree with Scott Adams, that goals are for losers.

Isn’t that what bothers you about every diet you’ve ever been on? What do you do the minute you reach your goal weight? You start eating what you’ve been denying yourself, the scale creeps right back up to where you were and then some, and you start another diet.

You’re always gaining or losing.

I got bored with that.

Though I should probably also mention how well cheat days work for some people. They just don’t happen to work for me.

What Color Is Your Parachute? author Dick Bolles is fond of saying the best method of job hunting is the one that works.

Is the same true for diet? Is the best one the one that works?

It depends on what you mean by “works.”

I’ll give you my answer to that not-so-obvious question in my next post.

It’s almost like a satellite delay. Someone takes a shot or pulls something sleazy, and it’s only hours later -- after the person’s long gone -- when I realize what happened.

Thank heavens.

The delay gives me time to check my assumptions, confide in my sweethearts, and decide what -- if anything -- to do next.

I used to wish I was quicker on my feet, but now I’m glad I’m not.

It makes me slower to stumble.

If you want people to confide in you, listen.

It’s that simple.

One reason my guests so often tell me our show is their favorite can be summed up in two words: I listen. I listen so intently I get a headache sometimes.

One way my guests know I’m listening is by my questions. Sometimes it’s a struggle to talk them or their publicists out of using a prepared list. But if I’m going to read from a script and you’re going to answer from one, what are we playing at? Couldn’t monkeys do that?

Sometimes I’ll tell guests how I plan to open a conversation, but that’s it. My second question depends on the answer to my first. Period.

I recently interviewed Steve Floyd, who’s in charge of programming at our affiliate station KFAR in Fairbanks. He used to be an interrogator for the Army, and he told us being a good listener was often a matter of life and death.

Isn’t it always?

If someone asks you to hold forth for a moment doesn’t your heart do a little dance?

If that person doesn’t pay attention to your answer, don’t you die a little inside? Or is that just me?

“Is there anything I haven’t asked that you think is important to talk about?”

I was trained at the Minnesota News Network to close every interview with that question.

I love it. You’ve had control of the conversation long enough. Now it’s time to let the person who graced you with her time to have her say. Not only that, but if you’ve missed the obvious question you can fix it. And for some reason the best stuff -- I hate the word “stuff,” by the way -- just sort of flows out. It’s as if the person fielding the question asks himself another question, “What is my point, anyway?” Then he tells you what that is. And there’s your actuality, which is radiospeak for sound bite.

The question’s also a sweet way, a subtle way, to let someone know the conversation's winding down.

One of my girlfriends and I used to get together a couple of times a year. We weren’t close enough to be each other’s first phone call when something went wrong, but we enjoyed keeping up with each other’s lives. Eventually I realized what bothered me about our visits. They always ended abruptly. Whether I was the one talking or she was sharing a story, she’d practically stand up in the middle of a sentence to tell me she had to leave. It was jarring.

I’m as impatient as the next person with the “well, I suppose I should get going” seemingly endless goodbyes. But I need a bit of notice, some little sign we’re wrapping up. You don’t want to feel as if the conversation is more important to you than to her, and I always did. I felt silly.

I never want my guests on the show to feel that way. Darrell warns them when we break for a commercial how much time there will be to talk when we come back. And while the wording of the question with which I wrap up the hour changes, the sentiment is always the same.

What would you like to leave people with?

The more people I interview who have pulled off the really big things in life, the more I realize how many of them suffer from some sort of disability.

And yet, and yet, things get done. Not only that, but the disability is often given much of the credit: “Without it, I might not have had the compassion I do.” Or, “This gives me an opportunity to help so many more people than I might have been able to otherwise.”

You can rail against what you’re given all you want. I’ve done it. But at some point, if you’re really going to embrace your life, you’ll want to make peace with it. You’ll want to focus on what it makes possible.

That came to mind recently when I interviewed someone with PTSD. He wasn’t the first person I’ve talked with about it. I wrote a book with someone else who suffers from it. But I was moved by this gentleman’s take on, say, not being able to sleep very well -- or very much. He works in radio and finds those ungodly early-morning hours perfectly suited to being a dad. This way he’s home in time to spend much of his day with his seven children.

What a gift.