Dumb, Crazy, Nonsense: Stupid Things That Happened This Week.

Lost iPhone, broken iPadThe third week of January has been a rough week for me the past five years. That’s when my father passed away and officially made me an orphan.  I’ve had trouble with this week ever since. Dumb, crazy, nonsense takes over my life, and stupid things start to happen.

Not life-threatening trouble, but stupid, annoying, time-wasting trouble. Stuff that throws me off my game and causes me to lose steam, chase my tail, and become non-productive. This is the Manic part of being Manic Impressive.

Like when the cat brought a rat inside to play and it escaped into the kitchen, chewed $1500 worth of damage to our appliances, and caused us to spend a full day and $75 in quarters at a laundromat.

Dumb, crazy, nonsense that makes me forget my sister’s birthday.

Smartphones Make Humans Stupid

This year’s stupid nonsense started with me losing my phone. We went to the movies, and just before the show I went to put my phone on vibrate. But I couldn’t find it, and suddenly stupid, I assumed I’d left it at home.

Dumbass. I should have gotten up and looked under my seat where the phone landed after slipping out of my pocket. That momentary lapse allowed all sorts of dumb, crazy nonsense to start happening.

Have you ever tried to get by without your phone? I’m so dependent on this damn thing that I can’t function without it. For two days I was searching and stumbling through my life without contact or context. Couldn’t be reached, couldn’t live up to my schedule, couldn’t focus on moving things forward.

Back before cell phones, I had all my important phone numbers memorized. I could call dozens of people from memory. Now I can’t recall anyone’s number. My smartphone has made me stupid.

Finally, I wised up and used that Find My Phone app and it showed the phone still in the movie theater.

So I called. They hadn’t found it. Then I drove up there, crawled around on the sticky floor of the auditorium and didn’t find it. But I did pocket the two quarters I found, so the trip wasn’t a total waste.

More Dumb Nonsense

Meanwhile, I had to take my tablet back in for repair. I’d dropped it, and like a stupid person, I didn’t have it in a case. The glass shattered,  I lost $150 to a repair shop, but when I got the thing home, the repair needed to be repaired.

So back to the shop to repair the repair. Now I’m down two devices, and I’m becoming desperate. How will I stay in touch with the world? I can’t receive a call from either the movie theater or the repair shop to recover my devices.

And worse, I have nothing to kill time with.  Waiting in line and going to the bathroom are dreadful activities without my Soduko, Freecell, and Football Striker games. I can’t even escape the boredom of cardio workouts at the gym with my Kindle app. I must actually stare at the tv screens on the wall to ease the tedium.

The Crazy Part

Though I’ve been totally distracted and unproductive during this stupid phase, there is a silver lining. There always seems to be some sliver of brilliance that comes out of it. Sometimes it’s a new habit I force on myself to prevent bigger, dumber things from happening in the future.

Sometimes it’s a new level of focus, or a chance to regroup and reassess my methods and get better results.

But often it’s some sort of cosmic realization, that when people and moments collide, good things can happen. This is where I walk away with faith and hope restored. This is where I realize that anything, and I mean absolutely anything, is possible.

The Lesson

So here’s where it all comes together. I pick up the repaired tablet and make the 20-mile drive back to the theater for the third time.  Twice in two days the theater’s staff checked Lost and Found and said the phone wasn’t there. Find My Phone still says it is.

I go inside, find the manager, and after a nervous wait, she came back with the phone. Thank God! Bless you woman, for restoring order to my life!

Then I remind her of the real crazy part that contains the lesson. The night we saw the movie, I found an iPhone charger in the bathroom and turned it into Lost and Found.  She was the manager on duty that I turned it in to.

She tells me the charger belongs to the employee who recovered my phone. That employee made sure I got my phone back, while never knowing that I was the person that got her charger back to her.

Two lost items, creating havoc in the lives of the two people who end up restoring order for each other without ever meeting.

Absolutely Crazy

So, despite all the dumb, crazy, nonsense of this past week, and all the wasted time, effort and worry, all is right with the world again.

Somehow, I’m invigorated by all the stupid that went on. Yes, I lost two days of productivity stumbling around recovering my devices. But in the end, I may have recovered something more valuable.

  • Hope that the universe isn’t random, and all things are possible.
  • Belief that Karma exists and rewards us for good behavior.
  • Wariness for the Ides of January.

And a nutty reminder to stop and remember my father. He was a very good man and you would have loved him too.

That’s all, folks. Gotta go send a belated birthday card to my sister…

 

 

Why You Need To Focus On The Carrots

Carrots Instead Of SticksHey, how are your resolutions coming? Mine are going great. I’ve lost four pounds and gone eleven days without sugar.  I’m satisfied eating carrots instead of candy, with none of the cravings I was expecting.

But despite my good work and progress, I keep obsessing over things that aren’t going so well. I’m plagued by negative thoughts and fear that I will collapse back into my old bad habits.

Why would I think this? Things are going great. No reason to think I’m going to fail. But deep inside I do.

Do you ever do this? You have lots of good things happening in your life, but you focus on the few negative things instead?

This happens to a lot of us. But not because we’re bitter, weak, or pessimistic. It happens because we’re human.

A Survival Mechanism

We’re actually wired to respond this way, and for good reason. In the early days of man, when survival was dependent on constant vigilance and readiness for fight or flight, it kept our species going.

But as civilization evolved, this little nugget planted in our brains didn’t. At least not fully. Though we don’t need to fend off predators from the mouths of our caves anymore, we still default to focusing on the negative far more than the positive.

Our brains actually give far more weight to the negative things than the positive ones. This explains why we end up unhappy when one thing goes wrong, even when five things go right.

Seems I Have A Case Of Negativity Bias

Social scientists call this Negativity Bias. We automatically hold onto or fear negative events far more than we savor and look forward to positive ones.

In my case, the great work and positive results I’ve achieved aren’t enough to keep me from obsessing over my few failures. The net result is that I feel disappointed in myself and unhappy.

Reminds me of a bride I once knew. She had a spectacular wedding followed by an amazing formal dinner reception. She looked fabulous in her dress, and all her friends and family were there to celebrate. Everybody was impressed and we all had a great time.

But a few unruly kids pilfered some of the table settings. And when the bride found out, she collapsed in a heap and declared that her wedding was ruined. I couldn’t believe her reaction, I mean who cares about some table decorations? The event was spectacular!

But it’s the same thing I’m doing to myself right now. I’m letting the few negatives far outweigh the many positives.

Stick vs. Carrot

The fear of a negative outcome, the Stick, motivates us more than the attraction of the positive outcome, the Carrot. In simple terms, most people are too afraid of the bees to go after the honey.

Manic Impressives tend to chase the Carrots more than most people. We’re natural risk takers. But even we become risk-adverse when we allow the Sticks to dominate our thinking. It’s a very human trait.

3 Things You Can Do About It

Knowing about this is one thing. Taming it is another. It will take some conscious effort to overcome your Negativity Bias. But here are a few simple tips.

Call It Out

The moment you notice your brain is skewing your view, call it out to yourself. Hey, Negativity Bias in the house! Smack it around a little. Use a little sarcasm if you must. But consciously call your attention to the inaccurate assessment of events in your brain.

Put Your Thumb On The Scale

Like a crooked butcher, you need to add some weight to the positive events. Since your brain will automatically overestimate the effects of the negative, your job is to even the scales. Remind yourself how awesome the good things are and talk it up a bit.

Focus On The Carrots

Forget the punishment. Focus on the reward. In every situation, think of how glorious it would be to win. When your brain starts to whine about the pain of losing, smack it with a stick.

It takes some discipline. But if we rewind whenever we hear Negativity Bias and replay a more balanced, positive assessment, we will be far happier no matter our circumstances.

And let’s face it – fearing or obsessing over negative things never moves us forward. It keeps us stuck, fearful, and prevents us from living lives as our best selves.

Screw the Sticks! Chase those Carrots!

Why Most People Fail At New Year’s Resolutions

For those of us brave enough to still make New Year’s Resolutions, it’s important to know what we’re up against. It’s tough to change our habits, and it doesn’t help that the media loves to publish statistics showing that most people fail at resolutions.

This is perverse. When someone goes out on a limb to better themselves, we should line the streets and cheer them on. But not like they do in Cleveland.

Cheer Them On, Not Jeer Them On

This Saturday, Cleveland Browns fans are throwing a parade for their team. They’ve got floats and sponsors, and even though it’s forecasted to be 0 degrees outside, they’re expecting a big turnout.

They will be marching counter-clockwise around their stadium in a route shaped like a giant zero. The Browns went 0-16 this season and their fans are going to rub it in their faces.

They are going to line the streets to celebrate their team’s failure.

Hard to fault the long-suffering fan base for wanting to jeer instead of cheer. The Browns have been stinking up the NFL for decades. They went 4-48 the past three seasons, and have finished a season with a winning record only 10 times in the past 40 years.  And in the frigid conditions of their outdoor stadium on the shores of Lake Erie, the Browns really do stink on ice.

Why Most People Fail At New Year’s Resolutions

But you’re not the Cleveland Browns. Yet one of the reasons most people fail at resolutions is the fear they will be jeered by their fans. Maybe not as outrageously as in Cleveland, but people fear the subtle mockery of family, friends, and co-workers.

People are afraid to commit to resolutions because everyone around them secretly wants them to fail. If you succeed in the presence of others, those others tend to feel bad about themselves. You would have done something that maybe they should have done.

When people don’t change themselves for the better, they look for outside proof that their lives can’t be improved. This helps them feel good about where they are.

But seeing you succeed makes them feel like someone’s rubbing their face in it. So when you lose, they secretly win.

They don’t have to work hard to change themselves. They can stay the way they are. They can avoid the fear of their own failing and simply enjoy your failure.

The Other Reason

Fear of failure is one of the big reasons people fail to keep their promises to themselves. But it’s not the biggest reason.

There’s a secret formula for success in sticking to a resolution. But most people don’t know this. Instead, they position their resolutions in a way that pretty much guarantees they won’t succeed.

People fail because they vow to achieve an outcome instead of vowing to perform the activities that will bring about the outcome.

The Big Secret To Resolution Success

Here it is, plain and simple. You can’t manage an outcome. You can only manage activity.

That’s right. You can’t vow to lose a certain amount of weight and be successful most of the time. But if you vow to manage the activities that lead to weight loss, you can succeed most of the time.

So instead of resolving to lose x number of pounds, resolve to do the things that will result in you losing those pounds. Resolve to drink 4 liters of water and exercise 30 minutes every day. Resolve to halve your sugar intake and double your vegetable intake. Resolve to replace burgers with salads and sodas with water.

Manage the activity, and you will produce the outcome.

Resolve To Resolve Successfully

So with this in mind, take another look at your resolutions. Make sure they are not outcomes. Make sure they are activities that will lead to the outcomes you desire.

Understand that most resolutions are probably long-term goals that require specific, consistent behaviors to achieve. So break your resolutions down into the daily behaviors you need to perform. Then manage those behaviors. If you manage the activities, the outcomes will take care of themselves.

And if you’re in Cleveland over the weekend, stop by FirstEnergy Stadium, also known as the Factory of Sadness. Excedrin and the dating site Farmers Only are sponsoring the parade (really!). Maybe you’ll get a free hang-over cure, and come home with your very own farmer’s daughter story…