The Blog

“People who pull against you can leave a mark. Don’t let that define you.”

That’s how I ended a post recently. But if you subscribe to the blog -- as opposed to reading it on my site -- you saw a different version of the ending. I’d said the people who’ve pulled against me have obviously left a mark, and it was my job to not let that define me.

The difference is important. One ending’s about me. The revised ending is about you.

Sometimes I get so caught up on speaking only from my own experience -- versus pretending to be an expert on your life -- I don’t catch things like this until after I’ve sent out the newsletter. I hate that.

It’s the same with the talk show. I’ve had entire hours of radio where Darrell, in postproduction, had almost zero to fix on my side of the conversation. But not many! I hate that. Shouldn’t I be a bit closer to perfection after this long in the game?

Then I remember it’s the gap between the person I am and the professional I aspire to be that keeps me interested in my career. Ash Ambirge suggests you chase impostor syndrome like the sun. Do everything that makes you second-guess yourself.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t spend an entire day second-guessing myself, and I’ve started to measure the success of a day by whether I added something else to second-guess to the list.

When Darrell and I got married it took me a while to realize just how bored he was by the “Why do you think that person did this?” game. I couldn’t get over that. How could you not be fascinated by what motivates people to act the way they do? In an expression of confidence I couldn’t relate to at the time, there might have been a suggestion I was an overthinker -- which, I probably teased him, sounded like something an underthinker might say.

In the movie Field of Dreams, the main character Ray Kinsella asked a simple question of writer Terence Mann. The voice that told Kinsella to build a baseball diamond in a cornfield has instructed him to go to Boston’s Fenway Park with Mann. As they walked to their seats in the ballpark, Kinsella turned to Mann and asked, “What do you want?” The sixties activist launched into a diatribe: “I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, write again, be a leader. I want them to start thinking for themselves. And I want my privacy.”

Kinsella looked at the concession stand. “No,” he said. “I mean, what do you want?”

Mann came to. “Oh,” he said. “Dog and a beer.”

For those of you playing along at home, Darrell’s Ray Kinsella in this scenario and I’m Terence Mann. I might spend my whole life in the clouds were it not for Darrell bringing me back to earth occasionally. That’s what friends are for, isn’t it? They keep you grounded.

Maybe you don’t need a prescription drug for your anxiety. Maybe you need a better way to express yourself with your work.

What Color Is Your Parachute? author Dick Bolles says your gifts have a kind of energy, and if you don’t let that out you’ll go crazy. He thinks of a cat who came to their house for the first time. It was an adult cat and they wanted to train it, so for a week they kept it in the house before they’d let it out in the yard. They didn’t want it to run away or run back to where it had come from. And during that week the cat was going nuts, because it would go up to the windows and see all the birds out there. It wanted to be outside, it couldn’t be outside, and it was driving them nuts along with it.

“Finally,” Dick says, “the day of freedom came for this cat. He was able to go out into the garden, and you have never seen such happiness.”

“Your gifts are like that,” Dick adds. “They don’t like to be caged up inside of you. They like to get out there in the world and be used.”

Have you noticed what I have, that the people who most love their work are the most fun to be around? It isn’t selfish to attend to your needs. It’s one of the most life-affirming things you can do. Your kids will learn how to be happy by watching you be happy, and the ripples will keep on spreading.

“If you need anything,” the nurse attending my (very routine) outpatient procedure said, “just use this call button.” I was forty-five minutes away from the proceedings, and after about thirty minutes I did need something. It was trivial and important.

telephone receiverSo I pushed the call button. I waited about a minute. I pushed it again. This time I waited two minutes. I pushed it twice, and waited two more minutes. Then I gave up. What I needed could wait. But I was mighty curious about the supposed “call” in “call button.”

When the gal reappeared I told her what had happened. She laughed when she realized the apparatus wasn’t plugged in. She plugged it in. And that was it. She went about her (I mean, our) business.

“What if this had been an actual emergency?” I kept wondering. For as nice as the woman was she didn’t seem the least bit concerned. I have no way of knowing, of course. But had it been me I would’ve apologized, I would’ve guessed why it happened, and I would’ve explained how I planned to keep it from happening again. I wouldn’t have given anyone the impression I was as unplugged as that button!

Isn’t that what we most want when things don’t go well? Something along the lines of, “Oh, no.” And, “Sorry.” And, “Let me fix that.” It can be life or death.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

It isn’t difficult to keep promises to children. That’s because they’ll badger you so relentlessly you may (1) wish you’d been more careful about the promise, and (2) decide that keeping your word is easier than the alternative.

If only we treated promises to ourselves that way. I once heard the suggestion that if you want something to be different, you’d best do something different…and keep at it.

That’s why I’ve made the decision to do the most important work first. The first task each weekday is advancing the cause I’ve decided is mission critical. Period. No excuses.

If you don’t take yourself seriously, why would anyone else?

Once upon a time I was in a Toastmasters club whose leader was, shall we say, confident. When he told me my hands should be down at my sides while speaking it didn’t occur to me to get a second opinion. Why would it? I hadn’t joined the club because I was already as good as I wanted to be.

That’s one of the first things Dr. Nick Morgan noticed about me when Darrell and Katie and I joined him for a day of coaching last spring. I was an easy sell for keeping my posture open, my hands above my waist. It takes so much energy to keep your hands down and close to your sides. Try it sometime.

Ironically, it signals low energy.

Practically, it made for one strained persona. I’m as high energy as anyone I know, and I was trying to tamp it down. What a relief, not to have to do that.

As I talked with Nick across the conference table, it struck me that I was gesturing just fine in casual conversation. My posture was open, my hands high. Why would it be different just because I stood up? It wouldn’t.

It reminded me what took Darrell forever to get through to me on the talk show. “Just talk,” he’d say. “When the light goes on just start talking the way you’re talking to me right now.” Easier said than done!

That’s the task of all of life, isn’t it? Shed the affectations. Get comfortable with who you really are, and don’t be surprised when you inspire more comfort right back.

How long can you stand on one leg with your eyes closed without losing your balance? Brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen says if you’re in your twenties you should be able to make it to twenty-eight seconds. By the time you’re seventy? Four seconds.

I’m closer to seventy than twenty, but I’m still going for twenty-eight seconds. I made a big leap recently (so to speak) when I realized how much easier it is to do with my arms outstretched and above my waist.

We’re talking much easier.

It reminded me of the photos and video I’ve seen of surfers. They use their arms for balance. Why did I think I was cheating if I used my whole body to stay upright?

Which reminds me of the worst public speaking advice I’ve ever heard -- and, unfortunately, used. I’ll spill (!) tomorrow.

Somebody said there are two types of people: Inbox Zero and Inbox One Million.”

MailbirdI’m an Inbox Zero gal, definitely. And Mailbird would like me to stay that way, judging from the encouraging words (and exclamation points!) when I clear out the last message yet again.

If there’s anything sillier than those greetings it might be my reaction to them. I get such a hit of happiness every time.

What perks you up?