The Blog

The world won’t end if you make a mistake.

I bet you know people who live as if it would. The man who can’t bear to be wrong -- for whom proffering an apology is unthinkable because it would mean admitting he was. The woman who apologizes for everything, just in case -- to avoid being humiliated if someone points out a mistake before she does. And people who refuse to speak in public because they worry something terrible might happen.

I think I can help with that last one. Well, not me. An organization called Toastmasters. My friend Colleen Wainwright joined us on the show recently to talk about it. She reminded me Toastmasters is a place to fail safely, though she was quick to add she isn’t the first person to have that observation. It’s one I wish I would’ve lingered on during the show.

A place to fail safely.

You know, like home.

Maybe you grew up knowing it was okay to fail -- indeed, encouraged to fail -- because mistakes are, as the saying goes, nothing more than directions: “Go this way. No, not that far. Back the other way a little bit…”

If not, and if you’re paralyzed with fear at the prospect of public speaking, Toastmasters might be just the ticket to a great big beautiful new life.

Bottoms up!

This is the most hilarious observation I’ve ever heard from a newly-married man about his bride: “She talks a lot.”

Darrell and I had been married many years by then, long after I’d broken the habit of talking for recreation. The talk show helps, by the way. I still analyze every exchange on the program, and talking feels more like work now.

But when we were first married, the wife of someone I knew spooked me. She talked so much she could’ve been in a carnival. She went on for hours without seeming to take a breath. She was also the sweetest woman, just a peach. But interesting? No. Three words into her second sentence and I started wishing I would’ve brought something to color.

Her name became code for, “Am I boring you?” All I had to do was look at Darrell, invoke her name, and he’d know I needed reassurance.

One of the best things about being married to your best friend is not constantly feeling like you have to entertain each other. Always being “on” is exhausting.

But we’ve gotten so intent on plowing through piles of work around here sometimes we go hours without comparing notes on very much -- and pretty soon a few days have gone by and, well, I get rusty. I kind of forget how to talk.

Doesn’t that sound silly?

Darrell doesn’t think so. He noticed, on a recent Saturday as I compared notes with my good friend Colleen Wainwright about our mutual love of public speaking, I wasn’t as quick on the draw. I found myself wondering how to turn an idea into a sentence.

You know, speak.

Darrell agrees it might be better to talk more in between recording sessions.

Too bad we didn’t record that statement, eh?

My friend Larry Nettles, a sales executive, is like so many of my other favorite guests on the talk show. He takes it seriously. He’s on time, he’s caffeinated, he’s ready with all kinds of useful advice wrapped in fun -- as if he’d just pulled you aside in an airport lounge in hopes he can make your life a little easier.

I’d listen if it wasn’t my show.

That’s how I know I’m doing a good job, when I’d listen even if it wasn’t my job. I’m careful with how I spend my time -- because the more time goes by, the less I have.

I value your time, too.

Thanks for listening!

“I think Mom has a good system.”

That’s what Darrell told Katie recently about how I decide what to watch or read.

I give a movie thirty minutes -- if we’re watching it at home, that is -- and I give a book thirty pages. If I’m not hooked by then, I bail. Why suffer through something that’s just okay when so many other delights await? There isn’t time to take everything in, and there’s no rule that says you have to finish because you started.

Do I miss the occasional gem that would’ve enchanted after more than thirty minutes, or pages? Without a doubt.

Have I figured out a better system for hedging those leisure time bets?


Why get away from it all?
September 10, 2014

Now that Katie’s in college in New York we’ve spent much less time with her, of course -- and much of the time we have spent is in the car. We love the change of scenery, and we especially love sharing that with her. Getting away also illuminates aspects of our relationship that aren’t as front and center at home.

If you had to describe my driving in one word it would be “polite.” I hadn’t realized that, until Katie watched me being surprised -- over and over again -- at how not polite some people can be. “Of course you don’t understand,” she reported. “You’re not wired that way.”

Suddenly I realize how I’d describe in one word the way Katie has always treated me.


Why do you get along?
September 7, 2014

In nineteen years I don’t think Katie and I yelled at each other once. Sometimes I said no when I wished I’d said yes -- and sometimes it took me a few minutes to realize that and make amends. Once, after she’d asked if I was okay right after I stubbed my toe and while I was still reeling from pain, there was an edge to my voice when I answered. I still wince when I think of how that landed.

Otherwise? Never. We didn’t go after each other once.

So. Why not?

Here’s my guess. I never forgot I had as much to learn from Katie as she might from me.

I didn’t pull rank, not even when she was little. Not that “because I said so” would’ve flown with her, granted -- but also because it didn’t occur to me.

I’d like to think that was part of the reason she made quite the announcement when she was four…

“I got the mom and dad I wanted.”

“A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.”

Ever heard that?

Think of how often it plays out. Not just in traffic -- where the detour you thought was so clever is the same one a zillion other drivers, now still ahead of you, took -- but in life.

Earl Nightingale called success the progressive realization of a worthy goal. But it isn’t reaching the goal that constitutes success, he said. It’s the reaching itself.

It’s the person you become in the course of hanging in.

In his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller says character transformation is the key to a good story. No character transformation, no story.

Maybe that’s why lottery winners often lose it all in short order.

Success is an inside job. It’s something you earn, not buy.

One of the things I loved most about working in Kansas City was the commute. It was perfect. Just enough traffic to keep things interesting, not so much I wondered if I’d survive. For thirty minutes in the morning I imagined my ideal day. For thirty minutes late that afternoon I marked my lessons.

Living in a small town means not having an excuse to spend a chunk of the day driving -- and I miss that. I miss having somewhere to go. I miss the fun of getting there, while my mind is free to wander.

Driving feels like more of a necessity than a luxury.

Thanks to Dilbert creator Scott Adams, now I know why.