The Blog

A prom dress. The name for your business. A husband.

How do you know you’ve found the one?

When you want to stop looking, that’s how. It works every time!

AAre you like me? When it’s time to write something -- a term paper, a blog post, a difficult letter -- do you find it easy, once you have the lead?

“Well begun is half done,” as they say.

But how do you begin? Good question! Don’t have the answer! It’s mysterious. That’s what makes it difficult (and fun). The rest is so much easier by comparison. It’s momentum. You get the ball rolling, metaphorically speaking, and you just…keep it rolling.

Not that my leads have exclusively sparkled. The first article I wrote with the intent to publish was about (snooze alert) telemarketing. My freelance writing professor, who was also a published author, had this to say: “The lead is, I’m sure, appropriate for the audience -- but it still is kind of dull.”

We became good friends immediately. I was enchanted by the attention from someone with the courage to tell me the truth.

That’s how you get started. You start with the truth!

One thing I do before I fall asleep is replay my favorite fifteen minutes of the day. And you know what? They were almost always spent writing.

It’s eerie, really, how consistently sure I am -- when I sit down to write -- I have nothing to say. What could possibly be left to share? All these many hundreds of pages and posts. Enough already. But I made myself a deal. Four times a week I’m going to share something with you that you might find interesting. Four times a week I risk being wrong about that!

I don’t know if it’s changing you, but it’s changing me. I sidle up to the keyboard and tap my psyche the way you might tease maple syrup out of a tree. I think about the promise I’ve made to different people over the years, that once I started writing I wouldn’t stop -- and then I don’t stop. I keep going.

I don’t know if it will have meant anything besides the sweetest conversations with Darrell and Katie (read: my editors). But it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that it’s almost always the most fun I have in a day. That matters a lot.

“The people who design hotel showers have never used a shower before.” I don’t know who said that first, but I probably heard it from Seth.

Cort Dial got me thinking about it on the show recently. I thought I was going to stump him with my question about how to make people who assemble appliance controls feel like they’re part of something special, playing (in Cortspeak) “the big game.”

I didn’t stump Cort. He suggested they talk with people who use those appliances. Immediately I thought of our stove. Our ex-stove, I should say, which has been banished to a dark corner of the garage so I don’t have to look at it anymore. The switches that tell you whether a burner is on or off don’t fit snugly on their little steel whatever-you-call-its. They wiggle so relentlessly you don’t know whether the burner’s on or off. Breathe on them. “Off.” No, wait. “On!” Not cool. You think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. It got to a point where I thought I could make them wiggle just by looking at them, that’s how much they mess with my head.

I don’t know if that changes how appliance control manufacturers think about their work, but it certainly changes how I think about appliance control manufacturers.

Your job probably matters more than you realize.

Are you special?
June 5, 2017

Once upon a time I worked in Camelot. We actually called it that. Which is incredible, really -- considering it was a telemarketing center. Our manager reminded me of John F. Kennedy, now that I think about it. His first name was John, he looked a bit like the former president, and he was inspiring.

It’s been thirty-five years, and I still have the warmest memories of working with him.

He made us feel like we were part of something special. He made the quest to meet our year-end sales goals seem like an attempted moon landing. Can you imagine how fun that was? I mean, it was also hell. He was tough. I’d scan the front desk for notes from him, and the receptionist was endlessly entertained by my reactions. If John was unhappy it wasn’t going to be a good day. If he was pleased by something? Oh! Rainbows and sunshine for lunch, anyone?

John made us feel like the fate of entire civilizations depended on the revenue we generated from those in-and-outbound telemarketing calls. I had a plum role on the team and got more than my share of attention from John. It was intoxicating. Scary, but intoxicating. I told my mom he made me feel alive. “I bet!” she said.

When he left and was replaced by a manager who was less intense, the magic dust was gone. People stopped caring. They’d come in late, leave early, whatever. I don’t remember much about the new guy except his amazing condo, where we had occasional parties. It was quite the place.

Confession time. I was one of the people who started coming in late. It was the first and last time I took anything for granted, jobwise or otherwise. It got so bad even this guy told us to shape up. Considering he wasn’t Mr. Conscientious, it was embarrassing -- and speaking only for myself, it never happened again.

Mr. Not Conscientious broke my heart in a good way, though. “I look at you,” he said, “and think -- even though you never talk about religion -- if anyone gets to heaven it will be you.” He’d seen a lot of cynical people by then, put it that way. He was struck by how not jaded I was, how innocent.

I think about his observation a lot. Talk about something to live up to! I wasn’t in Camelot anymore, but he gave me the impression Camelot was still in me.

“Always the last person in the room.” That’s how someone at NYU described Katie recently. She has a reputation for staying until everything is done, every piece of trash is picked up, and anyone who needs help is taken care of.

Can you imagine a sweeter impression to leave behind? My heart soared at hearing it -- not because I didn’t already know (I did), but because Katie was surrounded by people who notice.

teddy bears for the blogIn all the time I’ve known Darrell we’ve had exactly zero disagreements about workload. Each of us practically races the other to the chores. We know how to work. He grew up on a farm. I grew up in a big family. Katie grew up in a house full of love and laughter -- so much laughter -- with parents who so consistently voice their appreciation for each other and for her it’s a wonder we get any work done at all.

It’s way too late in the game to be taking much credit for how Kate turned out, and we’ve always joked that our contribution was probably “not screwing her up too badly.” As of this latest report I’m tempted to amend that, though. Maybe we didn’t screw her up at all.

My friend Bob Deitz is a lawyer. He’s been in private practice, he’s worked for the National Security Agency, and he’s advised the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Now he’s a professor of public policy at George Mason University. To say Bob has something to say to young people just entering the workforce is a bit of an understatement. That’s why I agree with those who claim his book should be required reading for that contingent.

The book’s long on practical advice, but short on heft. That’s one reason Bob and I hit it off. He’s a kindred spirit in the word count department. He says what he needs to say, and then he stops.

What a concept.

That’s the first thing I noticed about my newest book, The Willpower Workaround, when I saw the first proof. “Wow,” I thought. “That’s an unassuming little book.”

I couldn’t get over that. It’s so unassuming it’s almost like a wisp of a book. A wisp! Yep. That’s what it’s like.

Perfect.

My goal with the book is to tickle your imagination. I don’t need the weight of the Encyclopedia Britannica to do that. If I’m describing something simple, would you trust a description that’s complicated?

Sometimes when I’m playing Tetris I’ll tell myself, “Play it like you mean it.” Not so much because that particular game matters -- though sharpening my reflexes is a fine pursuit if I keep it to a game or two a day, which I do -- but because it’s a great reminder to play the game of life like it matters.

It does, you know.