The Blog

Ever had the urge to stop everything you’ve been doing, things that only a week ago you’d have sworn filled your life with joy and meaning?

Before you dismantle your life and start over, consider the possibility you’re just exhausted. For those of us who rarely get sick, it’s disorienting. All that energy. Gone! The will to live. Gone! Imagining feeling better, ever again? No!

The blahs are sneaky, but they’re a symptom. Go back to bed and stay there for as long as it takes to feel better. The people you won’t be infecting will thank you, and the projects will keep.

Give yourself the grace of knowing that even the best of us get tired.

new F for the blogTo court failure is to court life itself. You can’t learn without making mistakes, after all. It’s just part of the deal.

Which is…not news. What I’ve been wondering is how to remember it as things go straight to hell and appear to be staying that way. How do you remember it’s probably all for the best, eventually?

My friend Jane Brody, the acting teacher, has an idea. It’s one she uses all the time. When a student fails in a scene she makes the entire class jump up and down and applaud the failure. She has them yell, “Yeah! Yeah! Fail! Fail bigger! Fail more! Fail more!”

She doesn’t stop there. She has her students take a vow. They put their hands over their hearts and say, “I am homely, talent-free, and probably stupid. But I’m not going to stop.”

Bravo?

Is it time to give up?
January 30, 2019

When does persistence become stupidity? Heck if I know, but my friend Jane Brody says giving up is a great idea -- sometimes.

“Some dreams will never happen,” she points out.

I bet you can think of a few. You’ll never look the same way you did when you were twenty, you probably won’t perform at Carnegie Hall if you have no musical talent whatsoever, and your odds of making the college basketball team disappeared when you graduated.

The wrong thing to give up on, though? Yourself. Decide you’re going to have fun, learn a lot, and matter to someone -- or a lot of people. Begin. Keep going.

Just don’t get too hung up on how that will unfold. Make a plan, head on down the road, and remember what another friend once told me -- that everything interesting happens on the sidestreets.

The other day I fielded a suggestion that didn’t enchant. I knew immediately I hated it. But I also knew immediately that some of the best ideas I’ve embraced, like cutting out sugar altogether, sounded crazy to begin with. So I wasn’t about to dismiss this idea without more thought.

That’s what I was thinking. As to what I said? Nothing. I took one of those pauses I’ve claimed to be such a fan of.

The suggestion dispenser took my silence as proof she’d served up a clunker.

“That’s not it,” I promised. And then, “Sometimes it takes me a while to recognize a great idea.”

“Learn to pause,” the poet Doug King suggested, “or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.”

Like the right response!

Are you remarkable?
January 28, 2019

Darrell had made dozens of pitches to people a while back, and a couple of weeks before Christmas it was time to check in with them. Instead of making “just checking in” the subject line -- lame! -- he wrote, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to follow up with you on (the pitch I just mentioned).” Not bad, eh?

It gets better. He started the body of the message by telling them he’s new to this particular game, and hopes they’ll forgive him if he’s erred in the timing or execution of that followup.

Wait. There’s more. After reminding them what he’d sent he said, “Naturally, I’m hoping you’ve recovered from the shock of receiving such an impressive marketing tool and opportunity.” Then he made a quick suggestion about where they might go from here.

And that was it. Poetry, no? I couldn’t stop gushing about how impressed I was.

The response was immediate. We could barely keep up with the inquiries. It was like hitting the jackpot on a slot machine.

Maybe you don’t need a miracle. Maybe you just need a really good letter.

The other day I got an offer from someone who wants to help with The Career Clinic, the show we haven’t been doing for more than five years. I would’ve been tempted to forgive the guy for the oversight, had I not embedded the name of my new show in the eMail address he used. And just for fun, I oh-so-carefully called his attention to the mixup.

eMailYou can learn a lot about someone, after all, by the way he fesses up to a mistake (or doesn’t). Had it been me I would’ve put “How embarrassing!” in the subject line of a reply -- then told the person not only how much I appreciated the heads up, but how I planned to keep from making the same mistake again. Many a loyal relationship’s been forged out of the graceful handling of a boo-boo. I considered the possibility I’d be enchanted by this man’s reaction to my reply.

I got nothing.

Which is fine, too. The second impression confirmed my first, that we weren’t meant to be together.

For now I’m back to deleting without fanfare what is -- while maybe not spam -- certainly not a well-thought-out sales pitch.

The more time you take to craft a message that tickles someone’s imagination, the more likely she is to respond. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can take Darrell’s. Next up, I’ll share excerpts from a pitch he wrote that I found particularly crafty.

May I help you?
January 23, 2019

A friend of mine was fast becoming a diabetic. She’d found out almost by accident, when she went to the doctor for an unrelated -- and minor -- problem.

Now what? The doctor wisely proposed a few lifestyle changes to begin with. A better diet, more exercise, that sort of thing. My friend, the patient, wisely took the suggestions seriously.

She and I had been talking about my diet for years. She’d occasionally tease me about it, but it was always in a blanket of respect. Suddenly my diet was her diet. Just like that! What we eat is so similar she even calls it The Plan, the nickname our family gave The Willpower Workaround. She’d been exercising consistently before this, but now she exercises religiously.

And guess what? Within two months -- two months! -- her numbers were great. Not only “not problematic,” great.

Bullet dodged.

I don’t know if The Willpower Workaround will ever be a thing, however you define it. Doesn’t matter. My friend’s experience renewed my determination to keep sharing that story. She would’ve made the changes regardless, granted. But she knew from talking with me all these years it wasn’t a death sentence. To the contrary. She’s losing weight without making that a project, she feels terrific, and what she eats is delicious. Is it difficult to pass up goodies at work, drinks at the bar, something gooey just because? Of course. Are those worth a life-threatening illness? Of course not.

This woman can tell you better than I can: “There’s no free lunch.” We’re okay with that.

Who inspires you?
January 22, 2019

There’s one thing I don’t miss about the way we used to do the talk show, interviewing a different guest every week -- which is finding a different person to interview every week. Especially if that person was a celebrity. Celebrities are fun but they’re a lot of work. You’re not generally working with the celebs in advance of the interview. You’re working with their people, and the more people involved the more likely things will go wrong. Worth it? I guess.

It would’ve definitely been worth it had I had the opportunity to talk with someone who writes stories -- and especially headlines -- for The Onion. On a recent walk back to Katie’s apartment from possibly the dreamiest night we’ve ever spent in Manhattan (which is saying a lot), we kept swapping Onion headlines as we tried desperately not to fall over with laughter. Have I ever had this much fun? Well, yes. A few minutes earlier! But this was the icing on that proverbial cake.

Katie once told me she hopes to be as silly as me one day. Who needs an Academy Award when your child has that to report? But I can imagine my acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank the folks at The Onion…”

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