The Blog

It seems like it would be the easiest thing in the world, to have a conversation. But anyone who’s had one go awry can attest otherwise.

What do you say, for example, when someone is upset? I heard this suggestion once, and it’s a dandy. Offer something like, “You seem so sad. Whatever happened must have really hurt.” Then listen. Keep listening. And don’t stop listening until you’re invited to speak.

Don’t interrupt. Don’t jump to conclusions. Listen.

Funny thing about listening. You might learn something! Bonus feature? If you don’t make a mess, metaphorically speaking, you won’t have a mess to clean up.

When you look back on your life, how will you feel? Will you be exhilarated as the roller coaster ends? Will you be thinking about what a wild, wonderful ride it was -- or will you have a list of excuses for why that never happened?

I’m with Barbara Winter on this. It’s one or the other.

When I was in college I kept a poster on the wall of my closet. It was filled with suggestions for how to be happy. I think it’s funny I kept it in my closet. No sense broadcasting the fact I spent even a few dollars for a poster like that! All these many years later I remember exactly one suggestion: “Get your hair cut. You’ll love it in two weeks.”

It rang true at the time, and it rings more true every time I get a trim. If I’m going to make the time and the money worth it, after all, I’ll get more than a fraction of an inch cut. The shorter the better, depending. Which means I’ll walk out of the place feeling not like myself. The change is too sudden. It takes a couple of weeks to grow into the cut. So to speak.

The reverse, I’ve found, is also true.

The slower the build to whatever success you have, the less fragile it feels.

Sudden changes are thrilling, but they’re also disorienting. There’s a lot to be said for gradual but steady progress. Bonus feature? You’ll give yourself and those you love time to get acclimated to the new you.

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.”