The Blog

I forget where I heard this sentiment, but it’s a beauty: “It’s not so much what you want, as what you’re willing to give up to get it.”

Good health, financial security, a deep connection with someone you love. You can’t buy those on sale. The price is work and sacrifice and hanging in there when you’re so tired.

Get to know enough high-functioning people, and you might be surprised by how hard they work. That’s the thing -- the one thing -- they have in common. They work their asses off.

You don’t have to. Have the donut, burn what’s left of your paycheck on cigarettes, postpone the difficult conversation until hell freezes over. See what a mess you made?

I love how a friend put it: “Left unattended, things don’t stay the same. Left unattended, they get worse.”

Someone pitched us his services a while back. We’d contracted for this kind of work before, and we’re open to doing it again. “I’ve come to learn that you may be experiencing a change,” he wrote, “where you could benefit from what I do.”

I asked what he charges. He said it varies by the project.  

I asked what he charges for what we need help with, and wondered how he found out about us. He quoted a flat rate he could’ve quoted to begin with, since it apparently doesn’t vary by the project. As for how he found out about us: “I make so many calls. Someone referred me to you knowing I could help you.”

Someone? Who? Isn’t the first rule of sales to nurture your network? You don’t refer people to other people unless you’re proud of the connections. If you have a referral, like he did, why wouldn’t you open with that? It’s your “in.” That’s how you open a door. This gentleman -- by losing the name or refusing to share it -- slammed the door shut.

“I’m going to pass,” I wrote back. “But thanks so much anyway!”

And he wrote, “Short and effective.” He’d critiqued my reply! Interesting. More interesting? What he said next: “Although I don’t know of your show, or even how it’s delivered.” You’re kidding. He didn’t do the bare minimum of homework -- we’re talking two or three clicks -- and he admits that? Looks like I made the right call.

This gentleman had pitched Darrell to begin with, but since it was my idea to be so brief in the reply we agreed I’d sign it. As we corresponded Darrell’s admiration for me was swift.

It had been an experiment. I’m not usually that brief. “But I’ve noticed something about people who make big things happen,” I told Darrell. “They get to the point.”

I hadn’t been unfriendly. But I hadn’t wasted any time, either -- his or mine.

How thoughtful are you?
January 31, 2016

rosesSometimes the best present is nothing at all.

Works for us!

The other day I asked Darrell if he thought I was jealous of someone. At least once a month I’ll make a reference to how everything she touches turns to gold, fascinating if only because I find it boring. “Is that the appeal?” I wonder, before scouring the latest to see what I can learn from it after all. Something about it works.

Darrell’s answer to my question was a hearty, “No.” I loved the reassurance I gave off the magnanimous vibes I felt.

Then he chirped, “She doesn’t have me.”

Isn’t that hilarious? That he’d even tease me he’s God’s gift to women?

It reminded us both of me teasing him on the show recently. “Why do I bother to have you around?” I asked. “Eye candy,” he fired back.

Never thought of that! But, sure.

Twenty-two years in, and we have more fun talking with each other than we did on our first date. “Why is that?” I asked. “Why are you only now wondering?” he countered.

I don’t have the answer to the second, but I have a guess for the first. Darrell’s willing to change his mind -- on everything from religion and politics to farming.

I got me a good one, I know. If you’re still looking for that special someone, you could do worse than putting “open-minded” on your list of nonnegotiables.

I don’t know if it was an assignment, or something I dreamed up for fun. But I can still remember being in the eighth grade, giving a speech on milk -- with a glass of milk as a prop. I really got into it, the benefits of being a milk drinker and all. Word got around. A favorite teacher -- who hadn’t heard the original presentation -- heard how well it had gone and made me give it in study hall.

Everyone laughed all the way through it -- both times. They weren’t making fun of me. They were laughing because it was funny. Believe me, I knew the difference. I’d suffered my share of humiliation by then. In a different class a few years earlier I’d shared a story about something that happened at home, and called my dad “Daddy.” Apparently we were too old to be doing that. I can still feel my face, hot with shame, as the laughter took what felt like forever to fade.

That I had the nerve to give speeches to what was, for me, a difficult crowd? Wow. That I found the challenge of entertaining as well as inspiring as much fun as I could have? It makes the person I became less of a mystery.

What did you like doing when you were a kid? In my lifelong quest to get to know people whose lives are working, it’s eerie how many of them are doing exactly what they found fun as children.

You don’t have to dwell on the past. But wouldn’t it be a shame not to mine it for the treasures?

“My kids are less annoying when I put my phone down.” That observation from Sam Deane Mavis reminded me in a whole new way that while phones, while not the root of all evil, are certainly the root of a lot of it.

Let’s assume you survive the evening commute despite the number of texting drivers on the road. How are you going to reward your kids with your presence? By making sure they know how important they are to you, assuming your phone doesn’t ping before they finish asking their questions?

One thing at a time. Multitasking was always a myth.

Detroit LakesOne thing I love about the way I eat is how simple it is. I have a list, and I stick to it. The end.

One thing I’ve noticed about other diets is how complicated they are. Which is okay, too. It might even be great. The complications are a distraction. Make them all-consuming, so to speak, and you might have something that works really well.

But if you’re anything like me, you already have plenty of distractions.

I wanted something simple, and I found it. I don’t worry about portion control. I don’t count calories. No meetings to attend, no membership dues.

I don’t even have special recipes. I often mix whole wheat pasta with vegetarian chili, for example, and call it chili pasta -- but it hardly counts as following a recipe.

I’ve streamlined this part of life in a way I didn’t think was possible, and it’s changed everything.

Don’t let anyone tell you it has to be difficult.

I’m not used to playing second fiddle when it comes to interviewing. There’s nothing sinister in that comment, by the way. It’s just that Darrell finds it difficult to get a word in when we record the talk show, and he’s fine with that. The better my guests -- and they’re rarely duds -- the more we both want them to shine. We only have a couple of hours, after all.

I was with Darrell when he knocked off several interviews in a row for his radio program. I’d been in that situation before, and it’s the only time I’ve ever been tempted to work a crossword. I don’t find farming fascinating.

This time I pretended I did, and you know what? It was! Well, not farming. Not so much. But I wondered how anyone could be that over the moon about a new herbicide, what made someone else think his precision ag company was different enough from the existing precision ag companies to get enough customers to stay in business, and whether anyone had told an ad agency rep he looks exactly like Matt Nathanson.

I’ve been making a habit to find meaning in the mundane. I don’t even mind doing the laundry. I’m lucky to have someone who appreciates that, who knows how to fix the washer when it breaks again, and who gives me something to look forward to when the chores are done and it’s time to plan the next big adventure with the kid.