The Blog

TorontoThe earlier in the day you book a nonstop flight the better your chances of making it to your destination on time. Ever notice that? The catch is that you’ll likely be getting up at three or four o’clock in the morning to catch a five o’clock shuttle to the airport. Which is hell.

Here’s something that helps me. I start a twenty-four hour fast the day before an early flight. By the time the alarms go off and the phones start beeping I almost bound out of bed. I’m pretty useless until I’ve had a cup or two of strong coffee -- but I’m pretty useless until I’ve had a cup or two of strong coffee no matter how much sleep I’ve had.

There’s just something about a fast that makes it easier to withstand the stress of so little sleep. One bonus? You’re not scrounging around at that hour looking for something to eat, or paying a king’s ransom for a banana at the airport. And if you’re anything like me you’ll soon be feeling fine. Starving, granted. But fine!

I hope this helps. Safe travels.

The truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.

What thing does not belong? World-class public speaking coach Dr. Nick Morgan says that one’s easy: “The whole truth.”

Skip it. It’s too much. We don’t want to know everything about you, not all at once -- and maybe not ever. Give us a thin slice or two at first. Let us decide if we want more. Let us have the fun of going back and asking for seconds, and thirds.

Of course we want the unvarnished you. When you share something messy from your life, it makes us feel safe enough to share something messy from our own. But when you share what appears to be everything we recoil. We’re probably not ready to reciprocate, not yet -- and maybe not ever.

Getting to know people is a dance. The magic is in the unfolding. Pacing matters.

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Is that why people put things off? No sense ruining a whole day with chores, when you can put them off until the last possible moment and do them at a breakneck pace. Total time ruined? Not as much.

Unless you’re like me. Dreading those chores ruins the possibility of having fun in the meantime.

Just because something’s invisible doesn’t mean it’s weightless.

“Do you usually take a bath or a shower?” Darrell asked Katie recently. “A shower,” she told him. Pause. “Sometimes I’ll take a bath afterward if I have a lot of work to do.”

Didn’t see that coming!

We were paying for coffee at a gas station recently when the guy told us we owed him a hundred dollars. He was so matter-of-fact about it Darrell started swiping the credit card. Katie wasn’t paying attention, either -- but I was. “What did you say?” I asked. The gentleman repeated it, everyone started laughing, and we had the most delightful exchange about whether he tries this with everyone (no) and how he decides (nothing too strategic about it).

You don’t have to have the cheapest gas or the best coffee to delight your customers. But a little bit of a personality? That helps!

I don’t know about you, but what I want most is surprise.

I don’t want to know what happens next.

NYU“Soon you will be helping Katie pack for college.”

I can’t remember how old Kate was when I put that note at the top of a file I looked at constantly -- but knowing me, she was probably still in kindergarten. I didn’t want to forget how fleeting our time together was, and I didn’t want to waste a moment of it nagging her about anything.

The last time she was home Darrell said it again: “It’s incredible, really, how well the two of you get along.” We’re freaks of nature. We’ve hardly ever even looked sideways at each other, that’s how much sweetness there is and has always been.

Don’t let anyone tell you things like, “You always hurt the one you love.” If you take that person for granted, sure. But why would you take someone you love for granted?

Otherwise? I love what a friend’s second wife said about marriage: “It isn’t necessarily hard work. But you do have to pay attention.”

“What would it be like to be him, married to me?” That’s the question I’m forever asking myself about Darrell. I think about it in the morning before he’s awake, I think about it in the evening as we decide how close to bedtime we’re going to keep working, and I think about it at least a few times in between.

Every day.

Has that made me a better wife? Let’s hope so.

The last time we were at a Disney park there was a gal -- a petite blonde, if it helps you picture her -- barking orders at her family as if the fate of entire countries rode on whatever it was she was admonishing them for. And I thought, “Someone is married to that.” I know what it’s like to orchestrate an excursion, don’t get me wrong. We call it “keeping the trains running.” But I try to remember what it would be like to be the recipient of my next suggestion.

Before you say anything, pause for a moment. You won’t be sorry.

I once worked for a gentleman who used his first day at the office to give us quite the little speech. “I want people to tell me the truth,” he said. “Not what you think I want to hear.”

I thought, “Cool.”

When after only a couple of months the guy wanted me to do something mildly unethical, as if you can be “mildly” unethical the way you can’t be “a little bit” pregnant, I told him I wasn’t interested. I wasn’t snotty about it at all. I explained my reasons gently, but I got them out. The guy had promised he wanted the truth, after all.

Ah, youth.

I got fired. Not right away, of course. He apparently knew better than to fire me for being ethical, so he turned his attention toward making me wish he had! It was an uncomfortable time, but I didn’t quit. I didn’t like working with him, but I loved the work and I was still learning.
A career consultant once told me a boss who’s “a jerk” is the number one reason people leave a job. “It’s also the number two, three, and four reasons,” he added. The reason they stay? You guessed it: “They’re still learning.”

Learning sometimes comes at a price. Are you willing to pay?

I used to be a telecommunications consultant for a big company on one of its biggest accounts. And just in case you’re wondering where I found people to hire me for assignments like that, I got pretty good at the work, thank you very much.

I also got along really well with everyone on the account, except for one gentleman. The guy -- let’s call him “Bob” (because that happened to be his name) (but it doesn’t narrow it down very much, does it?) -- didn’t like me at all. It was obvious to everyone. And since it was obvious to everyone, I made it easy for people to tell me what the deal was. I was sure he’d shared that with them, and he had. He and I had the same title, the same salary, everything. But he’d worked his way up to the position over many years and was supporting a family on what he made. He knew I didn’t need the money (long story). And it annoyed him very much I’d just waltzed into the job when I was barely out of college.

Bob demanded I be flown to the East Coast to undergo the brutal assessment most people who got hired for the position had to pass. He was sure I’d fail. Can you imagine my delight (and his dismay) when I passed? But my prize was continuing to work in close quarters with someone who was so enthusiastically pulling against me.
He was better at undermining me than I was at deflecting the shots, so I quit. I didn’t need this particular job, and even without this person’s shenanigans I hated the work.

Some decisions are easy. Eventually!