The Blog

dishesHave you ever been shamed for the way you work? For needing to do the dishes, for example, before you attend to your so-called real work?

The dishes won’t do themselves. Even dishwashers have to be loaded. If you’re distracted by the sight it isn’t a personality flaw. It’s how you work.

You can fight that if you want. But the victory will go to the person who shamed you!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

How do you learn?
June 29, 2016

Once upon a time I spent two weeks in the mountains near Bend, Oregon, attending a workshop given by What Color Is Your Parachute? author Dick Bolles.

Nothing’s been the same since.

Dick’s still hearing from people who tell him reading that book -- and doing the exercises -- changed everything for them, too.

But it wasn’t reading the book that changed things for me. I’d “read” it in high school and decided to become a civil engineer. Which just goes to show how far off-track you can go when you buy into the notion that some careers, like engineering, are legitimate -- and others, like the one I have now, are not.

I went to Bend because my favorite way to learn is in person. Or at least, in conversation.

Darrell loses me the minute he reaches for a pen to make a sketch. I’m verbal, not visual. I do not like maps. Architectural drawings? Please. Get me out of here! Which reminds me what a favorite engineering professor finally asked me: “Why are you here?”

Why, indeed. I took his question seriously. A few years later I admitted just how lost I was. I didn’t want a map. I wanted to take a class on how to make a life transition. I actually said it out loud: “I wish there was a class on that.”

I’d never heard of anything like it, but I needed it desperately. I wished for it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, as our toddler once reported -- quoting some cartoon.

And, by golly, I found it at Dick’s workshop.

Funny thing about your wildest dreams. Sometimes they come true!

“I love the sound of your whisper when you think I’m not listening.”

Poetry!

From Katie, duh.

You want to get someone’s attention? Lower your voice. Pause more often. Keep the distractions at bay. That’s why you check for spinach in your teeth before you go to a meeting after lunch, right? You could be announcing a cure for cancer and the people around the conference table would be thinking, “She has spinach in her teeth!”

That’s the biggest reason you might not want to cry at work. It isn’t wrong. But it is distracting.

As the aforementioned poet is fond of saying: “There’s a time and a place.”

How do you want to be remembered?

When Katie was little I decided I had an unfair advantage. Height. I didn’t want to tower over her when we talked. So I’d bend down and try to talk with her on her level.

It backfired, of course. She imitated me. If conversation is a dance -- and I think it is -- this one was the limbo! Oh, well.

My heart was in the right place.

That’s one reason I engage babies when we’re shopping. It gives them something to look at besides the back of a parent’s phone!

cropped sailboatWhen’s the last time you changed your mind? When’s the last time you realized you were wrong about something and adjusted your sails accordingly?

I do it a lot. I don’t know any other way to live. I’m always on the lookout for a better way to live. That’s why I do the talk show. I find people who know more than I do. Then I talk with them for an hour in a way I’d be comfortable -- indeed, eager -- to share with you. Then I listen to every word of every conversation, marking my lessons and saving those stories and changing.

The older I get the less interest I have in changing anyone but myself. I feel a responsibility to share what I’m learning, granted -- but that’s different from suggesting you take advantage of it. It’s your life. You’re free to ignore everyone, including me.

When people used to share with me their unhappiness, I’d take it as an invitation to help. “What about this?” I’d say. Or, “Have you tried that?” How silly. They weren’t asking for help! They were unloading on me. Which is fine. The best way to help anyone is to listen. An uncomfortable pause can always be filled with, “Is there anything I can do?” Or, “Would you like to hear what helped someone else in this situation?”

Now I wait for an invitation. I don’t mistake complaining for wanting to change, and I don’t waste time trying to change how someone feels about me. Teaching people a lesson is impossible if they haven’t signed up for the class. Sometimes I think they’re devoted to their unhappiness. They give me the impression they’re proud of it.

Which is okay, too. Change is difficult. It’s difficult enough to change ourselves without taking on the world. And besides, the way you change the world is by changing yourself. Do that successfully and other people will come calling, wanting to learn more.

It happens with Darrell and me sometimes. One of my most popular Huff Post posts was inspired by someone who wanted our secrets for getting along so well. We don’t spend Friday nights drinking and smoking and complaining about our lives, for starters. We do our best to take in only good.

Funny thing about inhaling mostly sunshine. It feels great.

I’m not saying you should try it. But you could!

Have you ever postponed a task -- filling out a form, making an appointment, updating a file -- because you weren’t in the mood? I used to do it all the time. Then I realized how much that unfinished business affected my mood. The next time I tackled whatever it was I made a point of noticing how much time it actually took.

With rare exception it was negligible.

Now I feel silly putting off those little things. So I don’t.

Progress!

the lobsterHoliday ski trips to Colorado. Amtrak to the Pacific Northwest. A smattering of Disney parks around the globe.

I think I’ll stop there. Because I haven’t suggested sparing expense when it comes to travel! It isn’t necessarily something we could justify, but I did what I so often do when evaluating a course of action. I had a conversation with the future me and asked what she thought.

The future me isn’t going to have as much energy as I do now or I did when Katie was growing up. The future Katie, by the way, isn’t going to have as much time to spend with her parents as she does now or she did when she was growing up.

That’s life.

We’ve had time to explore the world with Kate, and we’ve taken it. If you ask her what made her the person she is, expanding her horizons beyond the little town she grew up in would be right up there.

If you ask Darrell what he remembers most about our twenty-two years as a family, I’d bet what’s left of our money it would be the squirrel that ate out of Katie’s hands on the UC Berkeley campus -- or the lizards on the deck of our suite at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain in Oregon, or that most amazing lobster dinner in Maine.

We’d have more money stashed had we not gone on these adventures, no doubt. “And so what?” Darrell says. Yeah, Darrell. The one I described in the last post, who’s never met a penny he wasn’t eager to pinch.

It’s a big world out there. If there’s a way to inhale its wonder on more than your screens I can’t recommend that highly enough.

You probably know people who talk incessantly about the places they’ll go, but never get around to buying a ticket.

How sad. You can’t postpone the fun forever. You aren’t going to live forever!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Did you hear the one about the dad who’s offered a punch in the face? He declines. The person offering continues: “It’s free.” And the dad says, “I’m listening.”

It reminds me of Darrell in the days before he started eating the way I do -- in the days before even I started eating the way I do. He’d eat his weight in donuts at a “free” hotel breakfast to lower the overall cost of the room. When I teased him about that on the show recently he said without hesitation, “That is correct.”

Hilarious.

I’ve learned. I’ve learned not to quote him the cost of something without also quoting -- whenever possible -- how much we’re saving over the alternative. Okay, granted. Said alternative is rarely imperative and the comparison is often tenuous at best.

Whatever!

Next up, I think I stand on firmer ground when it comes to travel expenses. You be the judge.