The Blog

If you don’t let your brain solve the occasional puzzle, how will you keep those muscles strong? That’s one reason I don’t pull out my phone -- right away, at least -- to Google or IMDb an actor whose name escapes me.

I also love to play the “How’d we get on this subject?” game. I played that game with myself in my sleep the night before I wrote this post. Maybe you’ve heard of lucid dreaming. In the dream I remembered something that had actually happened earlier that day. I’d wondered who Emma Donoghue is, so I’d looked her up. “Who is she?” Dreaming Me asked. “She wrote Room,” Dreaming Me answered. “Oh, that’s right,” Dreaming Me said. “Why were you wondering about her?”

“She was quoted in the new book by Guy Kawasaki.”

“Which is?”

Wise Guy.”

“How do you know she was quoted in it?”

“I read an excerpt of it online.”

“Why?”

“Because Seth mentioned the book on Twitter.”

“That’s it! That’s how I got on the subject of Emma Donoghue.”

Then I woke up. Exhausted, but happy.

DCWhen Katie was ten we started taking long vacations -- at least two weeks -- just before school started. After that first one I noticed something strange before the first day of school. I wasn’t weepy. It wasn’t that I’d had my fill of Katie (to the contrary!). It was that I’d gotten my share of her. I wasn’t saying goodbye to her while she dashed off to another swimming lesson or afternoon with friends or play practice. Darrell and I had her all to ourselves.

It wouldn’t have been the same, of course, had any of us been distracted by a phone. We weren’t. We were plugged in, all right -- to each other.

I’m not so sure absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think presence does. So to speak.

Fixing a motorcycle when it breaks down would be at or near the top of the list of things I have zero interest in. I’m glad I didn’t let that me stop me from reading a book about it, though. I would’ve missed the pleasure of reflecting on this…

Slow down. You’re going to have to slow down anyway whether you want to or not -- but slow down deliberately and go over ground you’ve been over before to see if the things you thought were important are really important. Just stare at the machine. Live with it for a while. Watch it the way you watch a line when fishing and before long, as sure as you live, you’ll get a little nibble -- a little fact asking in a timid, humble way if you’re interested in it. That’s the way the world keeps on happening. Be interested in it.

Stay humble. Stay curious.

Did I miss anything?

Ever heard of a pre-mortem? My consultant friends tell me they’re increasingly popular in the land of startups. You get together and think of all the possible ways a business might fail…before it starts. Then (you guessed it) you fix those problems before they appear.

Is there a better life hack in all the world?

The older you get, the more you might find yourself -- as I have -- contemplating your eventual demise. It isn’t as morbid as it sounds. It’s one of the most life-affirming things you can do. Our time isn’t infinite, after all.

What will you regret not having done? Start there.

I think some pretty cool gifts are wrapped in pain.

When the life I used to have many years ago began to unravel, I didn’t see that at first. I looked at it as a gift, all right. The kind you open and mutter, “You shouldn’t have.”

There was no map to show me a way through the pain, and eventually I quit fighting it. I let myself hurt for seven months. For seven months I had the luxury of doing almost nothing but grieve, and I learned the only way to feel better sometimes is let yourself feel even worse.

Any four-year-old knows this. Trying telling a toddler to stop crying, that he has no right to be this upset about that thing. Suddenly you have a different problem.

The opposite is magic. If you tell the four-year-old, “That sucks. That really sucks” -- as you scoop him up in your arms to comfort him for as long as he needs it -- watch how quickly the sun comes out. The bad feelings are washing away, corny as what you’re telling him sounds, and making room for the good ones. Maybe that’s why they call it having a good cry.

Whatever. It works.

And did you notice I used a little boy in this scenario? Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped telling boys to suck it up? We might change the world!

What can you mirror?
April 11, 2019

Public WordsWhen Darrell and Katie and I visited Dr. Nick Morgan a couple of years ago he wrapped up the day of coaching with a little present for Kate. He told her one way to shine in job interviews, by mirroring the posture of the people across the desk. Nothing too obvious, of course, or sudden. But it’s a great way to endear yourself. Imitation is indeed a sincere form of flattery.

I’ve found that true in electronic communication. I’m careful to only send three paragraphs to people who sometimes respond with more than one paragraph themselves. Those who send text-length eMails get text-length replies.

On the show or over the phone, the same. I make a point to do less than my fair share of the talking.

In person? I sometimes gush a little. More than my share. I remind myself of little-kid Katie, who silenced an entire hair salon when she had this announcement for the stylist: “I love you.” I don’t walk around telling people (or very many people) I love them. They know it, though. They see my eyes light up as I tell them how much I appreciate them, have learned from them, whatever.

And it’s one reason I take comfort in what the poet Wystan Hugh Auden is quoted as saying: “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.”

Once upon a time at a big gathering someone suggested three-year-old Katie sit next to a certain four-year-old. Katie knew the four-year-old. She’d made Kate’s life hell for years.

Katie declined the offer and said instead, “I hate her.”

The room fell silent. Everyone looked at Darrell and me, waiting -- we were sure -- for us to admonish Katie.

We did not. We let the comment stand. We didn’t even pull Katie aside later to suggest she find a smoother way of declining an invitation like this next time.

She found plenty, of course, but she did it on her own time and in her own way. Which makes Katie’s grownup sweetness all the sweeter. It was her idea.

Sometimes I think the best words of advice for parents would go something like, “Back off.” Trust a child to know what’s right -- and who’s right -- for her. If there’s a downside, you’ll have to let me know.

Are you forever biting your tongue to keep from biting someone’s head off?

Here’s an idea. When you feel that blood starting to boil, channel your energy into thinking of something nice -- really nice -- you can tell that person and (here’s the rub) mean it.

Come on. You can do it. Now do it. Watch the person’s eyes light up and his shoulders relax. Watch him lean back and bask. Have your moment.

Then have another moment, by yourself, where you congratulate yourself on what just happened.

You’re not at the mercy of your emotions, and no one is only terrible.