Category Archives: Manic Mutterings

Silver Linings To The Bleakest Time Of Year

There’s no getting around it. All the fun parts of winter are behind us and there’s a rough patch ahead.  The Superbowl is over, the upcoming holidays are lame, and flu season rages on.  This, by far, is the bleakest time of year.

It’s hard to focus on your creative work during times like this. Hard to be optimistic, to put yourself out there and to take risks. Most Manic Impressives need far more stimulation than they can get at this time of year, when all the big fun stuff seems so far off.

But for every area that may be getting you down, there’s a silver lining – something to give you hope enough to muscle through.

Sports Suck Right Now

Sure, I loved watching the Patriots lose the Super Bowl and Eagles fans dance in the streets. But all that’s over now, and we’re in the bleakest time of year for sports.

The NBA is pointless to watch now. Playoffs don’t start ’til April 11th, and the standings will barely change before then. Baseball doesn’t start ’til March 29th, and the next Sumo tournament isn’t until March 11th. Meanwhile, NBC is trying to placate us with mixed-doubles curling from the Winter Olympics.

Usually, I would escape all this and go skiing. But we haven’t had snow in weeks and none is forecast anytime soon. This is the bleakest time possible for sports, whether you’re a spectator or a participant.

The Silver Lining To Sports

Though we’re between Sumo tournaments, you can catch all the video highlights of the 2018 January Grand Sumo Tournament right here. Sumo is awesome. It’s simple to understand, it’ll make you feel good about your weight, and it should tide you over to Spring.

All The Good Holidays Are Over

The current lineup of holidays is pretty lame. You won’t get any time off for Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s days, but you’ll be encouraged to blow a lot of dough and suffer a hangover and a lot of drunken fools.

And sadly, only people in Illinois get time off for Casimir Pulaski Day.

The Silver Lining To Holidays

There won’t be any presents, fireworks or special foods, but you will get a nice 3-day weekend for President’s Day. That’s always something worth celebrating.

The Weather Here Is Great – Which Is Horrible

Last week the groundhog declared 6 more weeks of winter, but here in California, the weather’s been spectacular – sunny, warm and dry.

But this is not good news. After the horrific wildfires of last summer and the following mudslides, this great weather is the bleakest thing that could happen to us. We need more rain and snow, or we’ll be back in a dangerous drought cycle. And that just leads to more weather-based misery for us down the line.

The Silver Lining To Weather

On March 11th you can spring ahead and change your clocks to Daylight Savings Time. All that extra light will help you avoid your annual bout with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a condition we Manic Impressives often suffer from.

Politics

Nothing to get up about here, but lots to worry about. There’s a government shutdown looming and no real progress on immigration, health care, or foreign interference with our elections.

Meanwhile, there’s nothing we citizens can do about it right now. We’re months away from anything we can vote for or against. And now that the big stock market run-up is over, a lot of folks are worried about losing their retirement accounts in the stock market.

The political landscape is at its bleakest right now.

Silver Lining To Politics

Despite our government’s dysfunction, it has done a good job facilitating the work of private companies in furthering our space program. Did you see Elon Musk’s rocket go up this week and execute a perfect landing? The SpaceX rocket launch and landing was an incredible achievement and should make all Americans proud and hopeful. A great example of government partnership with private industry.

Though Things Are Bleakest, It’s Going To Be Okay

Like they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn. This is a tough time of year, but it’s only temporary. You will get that job offer you’re hoping for, your 401k will bounce back, and fun will return when Spring erupts in all its glory.

Until then, hang in there, and know that you’re not alone. There are a lot of us who struggle at this, the bleakest time of year. Reach out to friends, focus on your resolutions, and know that if you take a little positive action every day, you will be in a happier place soon.

 

 

 

The Threat and Triumph of Groundhog Day

Since 1840, Groundhog Day has been a quaint little tradition brought to us by German immigrants from Pennsylvania. It’s a charming idea. The whole village gathers to see if a furry little rodent will predict an early spring. Then they celebrate their good fortune or drown their sorrows.

It’s a sweet little excuse to throw a party. And either way, they get to drink themselves silly.

Sweet, But Pretty Damn Stupid

The whole premise of this made-up holiday is illogical. If it’s sunny on February 2nd, the groundhog is scared by its shadow, goes back to his hole to hibernate, and winter drags on another six weeks. If it’s cloudy, the hog comes out of hibernation and spring starts early.

That’s just dumb. If anything, being sunny would be a sign that spring is coming. Cloudy would tell most groundrats to expect more winter. Not the other way around.

And the little hog’s track record as a forecaster is pretty damn dismal. Over 177 years, he’s been right only 39% of the time.

Incredibly, wantonly, stupid.

But Not The Movie

In 1993, Bill Murray starred in the movie called Groundhog Day.  Though initially seen as just a sweet and silly comedy, after a generation of reflection, this film was added to the United States National Film Registry,  being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” You’ll find it listed just after The Godfather and Gone with the Wind, and just before Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and Gunga Din.

Murray plays Phil Connors,  a stuck up TV weatherman assigned to do a live remote from the big Groundhog Day festival. Phil travels with his crew (Andie MacDowell as his producer Rita & Chris Elliot as his cameraman) to Gobbler’s Knob, the night before Punxsutawney Phil is to do his thing.

An insufferable snob, Phil is kind of a dick to everyone he meets. He thinks the locals are all stupid hicks and he can’t wait to finish his broadcast and head back to the big city.

Metaphysical Plot Twist

As you know (if you haven’t seen this movie stop reading immediately and watch it right now), Phil gets trapped in Gobbler’s Knob by a blizzard he failed to forecast. When he wakes up the morning after Groundhog Day, he finds himself trapped in a time loop. No matter what he does, when he falls asleep at the end of the day, he wakes up again on the previous day. He is forced to relive Groundhog Day over and over in Gobbler’s Knob.

A place he detests, full of people he despises.

Over and over again.

At first, he tries resisting it. He bitches and moans and is rude to everyone. Then he fights it by committing suicide dozens of times in a variety of ways. Then he tries to take advantage of it.

He takes up smoking and eating all the donuts he can, because, why the hell not? Then he tries to seduce his producer Rita, because, why the hell not? He learns a bit more about her each day and uses this knowledge to pretend to be the kind of guy she’s dreaming of.

But each attempt ends badly, and we’re treated to an awesome montage of Rita slapping the crap out of Phil. Hilarious.

The Turning Point

Finally, he resigns himself to his fate and tries to better his lot. Mostly out of boredom, Phil starts paying attention to the personal lives of the people he’s stuck with.

He shows a little kindness and empathy and starts getting rewarded with warmth and acceptance. Every day he fixes the sweet old ladies’ flat tire, rescues the kid falling from the tree, performs the Heimlich maneuver on the mayor, and helps the homeless guy get something to eat. Over and over. He starts to like his day.

He even starts taking piano lessons (because Rita likes musicians), and over many days, over and over, he starts to get really good at it.

Though he’s still stuck in Gobbler Knob, he’s no longer stuck in hell. He’s stuck in a town of amazing possibility, where he has the chance to improve himself by getting better at each interaction of just that one day. By endless trial and error, he makes better and better choices and gets better and better results.

Phil eventually becomes a thoughtful, generous and beloved member of the town, and a badass piano player. Rita witnesses his growth and falls in love with him for real, and after repeating Groundhog Day endlessly, he finally wakes up to the day after. Yay! Happy ending!

Groundhog Day  – The Movie’s Legacy

Today, the movie Groundhog Day is a cultural metaphor and an example of “spiritual transcendence”.

Buddhists like it for its themes of selflessness and rebirth. Christians like its representation of Purgatory and the release that comes from shedding selfishness and committing acts of love. Hindus like the reference to reincarnation, and Jews like that it shows good deeds (mitzvahs) saving a person to return to earth to perform more.

Religious leaders have called it the “most spiritual film of our time”. And one egghead theologian even called it “a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos.”

Postmodern Contemporary Cosmos My Butt

I just like it because it shows how our lives are threatened by our repeated, poor choices. And it shows the triumph that can occur when we learn, from trial and error, like the dumb humans that we are, to improve our lives by improving our choices and our behavior.

One day at a time.

Most importantly, Groundhog Day is a lesson to us all. If we are unhappy, it’s probably because we wake up to the same set of circumstances brought on by all the choices from our past.

To change these circumstances, we must make better choices every day. If we resist it, fight it, or try to take advantage, we will still wake up in the same exact place. But along the way, we will be forced to watch the montage of life slapping the crap out of us.

So celebrate the day. Watch the movie, and wake up tomorrow willing to do things differently. To make better choices and behave in a more selfless and generous way.

Because ultimately, through enough trial and error, you too may reap the rewards and accolades showered upon that stupid, furry, forecasting rodent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

5 Really Cool Things That Happened In 2017

In many respects, 2017 has been a bit of a dumpster fire. The  Russians hacked our presidential election, massive hurricanes and wildfires devastated the south, east and west coasts, and the San Francisco Giants lost 98 games in just one season. One of the worst years ever. But despite all that, there were some really cool things that happened in 2017.

Here’s the countdown in case you forgot.

#5 – Class And Decency Triumphs In Politics

Danica Roem was running for Virginia’s statehouse against a 13-term incumbent who’d held the seat for 26 years.  But that wasn’t her biggest hurdle. Danica used to be a dude named Dan. She came out as transgender in 2013 and legally changed her name in 2015.

Incumbent Bob Marshall was fond of calling himself Virginia’s “Chief Homophobe.” He’d proudly sponsored a “bathroom bill”, opposing the rights of transgender folk to use the bathroom of their choice, and was a strong opponent of gay marriage and any rights for people of the LGBT community.

Bob refused to debate Danica, refused to address her as a woman, and ran a nasty attack campaign against her as a transgender person. Danica didn’t fight back and call Bob a bigot. She focused on local issues, vowed to reduce traffic in the district, and trounced Bob at the polls.

But best of all, Danica brought decency and class back to politics. When a reporter encouraged her to give some choice words about her abusive opponent, she set a great example for us all by saying;

I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.” 

Danica Roem helped make 2017 a classy, cool year.

#4 – Americans Invest $684 Million In Science

Well, sort of. This is the amount of money CNBC estimated was lost when 87 million Americans stopped working for a couple minutes to witness the solar eclipse in August.

Oregon was the best place to view the eclipse in the US, and they prepared for a crush of a million tourists to wreak havoc on their state. All kinds of suffering were predicted, from massive fuel shortages to human-caused wildfires to public health outbreaks.

But according to their office of emergency services, no deaths, injuries, or plagues came to pass. Just a little bit of extra traffic.

“The bottom line is, it went pretty darn well, People had a great time. People stayed safe. It was a fantastic event.”

Oregon businesses saw a very tidy profit for their trouble. So did the sellers of “eclipse glasses.” Americans across the country paid attention and used common sense so as not to burn their retinas staring at the sun. With one notable exception in the White House.

It was cool to see science make a comeback in America in 2017.

#3 – Protesting Became Cool Again

The day after the United State’s most divisive leader was sworn in as president, the force re-awakened. People were not going to let it go. They got out their signs and bullhorns and hit the streets.

The spirit of change took to the streets in a way reminiscent of the great protests for peace and civil rights back in the 60’s.

It started in January with the Women’s March on Washington. About a half-million people marched in DC, while over 10 million people at 673 events in 32 countries joined in the protest for women’s issues, social justice, and equality.

Since then we’ve seen protests against the immigration ban on Muslims,  Neo-Nazis, police violence against African-Americans,  and repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We’ve seen people around the world March For Science, and people around the country March To Impeach. There were May Day marches and work stoppages for immigrant rights, and NFL players throughout the league kneeled for the national anthem.

I think it’s healthy for people to exercise their right to protest. And we’ve seen a lot of progress in our society when people have stood up for their beliefs. If anything, 2017 was a strong year for advocacy and a bad one for apathy. And that, by any measure, is cool.

#2 – The Me Too Movement

Way back in 1991, Anita Hill came forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Though many people believed Anita, Clarence was confirmed by the Senate because there was no “proof.” It was just “her word against his”.

That will no longer happen in America. Not after 2017.

In what’s become known as the “Me Too” movement, women across the country brought accountability and consequences to sexual predators and harassers. Powerful men from all walks of life lost their jobs and were held to account in a way never seen before.

Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Al Franken, Roy Moore, Matt Lauer, Mario Batali, and Garrison Keillor are just a few of the celebrities who have been fired in the past few months. There’s a huge and growing list of powerful men who are in trouble now for behavior that was swept under the rug in the past.

But not anymore. “Her word against mine” is no longer a defense for abusive behavior. I don’t know what took so long, or why it happened so suddenly this year. But 2017 will always be cool because lecherous d-bags got what was coming to them. Finally.

#1 – The S.F. Forty Niners Became Relevant Again

I know, we should be talking about the Warriors winning the NBA Championship. But that was expected. They’ve been so good for so long that nobody but Rhianna thought the Cavs could beat them.

But the Niners were so bad that players were asking to be traded to the Raiders (so long NaVorro Bowman!). They started the season 0-9 and gave the Cleveland Browns a run for the number 1 draft pick in 2018.

Then the impossible happened. The Niners traded for a quarterback and became watchable again. Jimmy Garoppolo came to SF from New England in a mid-season trade, and after sitting on the bench a couple weeks studying his playbook, he took command of the huddle and led the Niners to 4 straight wins.

Now they’re on a tear, having just hung 44 points on the NFL’s best defense. The Forty Niner Faithful have been in full voice at Levi Stadium, and with Jimmy G. ensconced as the franchise quarterback, they have valid reason to believe the team will rebuild in the draft and return to the playoffs next year.

Maybe 2017 Was Pretty Cool

There’s no denying the bad stuff. This year sucked in many ways. But there were at least 5 cool things to be grateful for in 2017.

So now it’s your turn. Review the year and come up with 5 cool things 2017 brought into your life. Then share them with us below.

Or better yet, join us this Sunday, for the 3rd Annual Resolution Invitational. We’ll review the year together for our personal wins, and use proven technology to set and reach our goals in the coming year.

Whether you agree with me about 2017 or not, whad’ya say we work together to make 2018 the coolest year yet?

 

 

How I Survived Being Legless On Thanksgiving

Legless On ThanksgivingWe just got the bird in the oven. Should be on the table by 6. I was going to barbecue it this year, but the friend who was lending me his Weber could only find the important parts. “What are the unimportant parts?” I asked. “The legs,” he calmly says. “Uh, no thanks. We’ll use the oven. I’m not going legless again on Thanksgiving.”

Barbecuing The Bird

I used to barbeque the bird every year. It’s a great way to go. Nice smokey flavor, frees up the oven for marshmallow yams, and you don’t risk burning down your house with a deep fryer. 1400 homes a year burn down each Thanksgiving, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Barbecuing your bird is much safer than deep frying.

The key to it is banking your coals properly, and running shishes through the bird. Being Armenian, I always have sturdy shishes in the house, though they are usually for roasting lamb Shish Kebab.

But I found that by running three  shishes through the bird, they would support its weight in the barbecue. Plus they give you an added advantage.

You Get To Flip The Bird

This is the main advantage. To keep all the juices from running out of the top half, you flip the bird over halfway through. This keeps it nice and juicy while you’re locking in great smokey flavor with some hickory chips down in the fire.

So a few years back, right when the coals were ready, disaster strikes. I’m holding the shished bird, about to cradle it gently onto the fire, when one of the three barbecue legs flops over. Holy Crap! Luckily I’m able to yell for help and keep the bird and the coals from crashing all over the patio.

Improvisation Skills At Work

The strength of a Manic Impressive is not in the planning stage. We can hold a vision pretty well, but sometimes the details are better left to more cognitive types. But we are masters of improv.

So while my wife jumped in the car to acquire a roasting pan, I set about improvising a way to keep the barbecue alive. I got out a mallet and knocked the remaining legs off. A few bricks later, we had a workable, legless barbecue, albeit a few feet shorter than its original form.

Legless On Thanksgiving

So that’s how it came to pass that I roasted the bird on a legless barbecue. As you can see from the picture above, there was a lot of squatting involved, but the bird was delicious, and my brother-in-law got a great story to tell his friends.

And that’s why I took a pass on my friend’s legless Weber. Because I have literally been there and done that already. This year we’re keeping it simple, and trying to keep the chaos out of the kitchen.

Instead, we’ll try to keep the chaos at bay at the dining room table when the inevitable discussion on politics breaks out. We plan to use Saturday Night Live’s brilliant Thanks, Adele skit when politics come up. We’ll have it cued up and ready to go. I suggest you do too.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

 

When Being Stubborn Is A Good Thing

When Stubborn Is Good

Stubbornness has long been one of my endearing qualities. As a kid, I was a champion at resisting authority and excelled at digging in my heels. It got me in a fair amount of trouble, but sometimes being stubborn was a good thing.

When Stubborn Is Good

I learned from a master. My grandmother was well known for her stubbornness. Like the time in the hospital when the night nurse came around to collect her dentures to be cleaned. Grandma refused. Uh-uh, no way, she was not cooperating.

Finally, the exasperated nurse reached in and grabbed Grandma’s teeth.  But they wouldn’t come out. Even Grandma’s teeth were stubborn. Actually, they were real, and since the nurse refused to believe that an 80-year-old woman could have all her natural teeth, Grandma bit her to settle the matter.

She bit her real good, too.

So to stand up for yourself, to demonstrate your commitment, or to hold on to your body parts, being stubborn is good.

Only we don’t use the word stubborn when it’s good. We use words like persistent, determined, or resolute.

When It’s Bad

But when others think we’re being unreasonable, they’ll ignore our steadfast, unyielding discipline, and label it stubbornness. Like the time I refused to stop my unorthodox plan to propose to my wife.

I couldn’t just take a knee, offer a ring and ask her to marry me. I had to be clever. I had to do something memorable.

So I sent her a beautiful floral arrangement. But not from me. From “Will.”  Then I was going to send one the next day from “Hugh”, then one the day after that from “Mary”, and a final one at the end of the week from “Me.”

Only, my execution was flawed. I misplaced the ring, spent a week searching for it, then sent the second bouquet a week late. That would have been a good time to revise the plan. But nooo, not me. I had to be resolute, steadfast, and determined.

Also stubborn, stupid, and nearly arrested.

My wife thought she was being stalked by a weirdo. So she called the cops. The cops called the florist, then they called me, and I had some ‘splaining to do. Meanwhile, all those expensive flowers went in the trash.

Is It Time To Let Go?

So now and then we need to ask ourselves if we’re being reasonable. Yeah, it’s subjective. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we may find those folks have a point now and then. Sometimes we just need to let go.

And that’s where I am right now. I’ve been posting something here every Thursday for 95 weeks in a row. But sometimes I think the only reason I keep doing it is out of sheer stubbornness. I don’t want to end the streak. I don’t want to be a quitter.  But I’m also not writing with the same purpose or energy as I was before.

It shows in the stats. My audience is no longer growing, perhaps because I’m no longer growing as a writer. At least it doesn’t feel like it right now. I think I’m posting every Thursday out of sheer stubbornness.

Your Thoughts

What do you think? Am I being stubborn in a good way, persisting at a creative effort and continuing what I started? Or am I being unreasonable? Am I digging in my heels because I’m stuck?

I’d like to hear what you think. Maybe I’m just being an insecure artiste. Maybe I just need to shut up and write. But what do you think? Has it gone stale? Is it time to rethink this thing? Is my stubbornness good or bad?

Perhaps it’s the crash from Halloween’s sugar rush, but I can’t help but think it’s time for a change. Maybe I should try something else for a while…

 

Why You Need To Master The Snappy Comeback

Autumn makes me sentimental. But not for the usual reasons. Sure, I love pumpkins and raking leaves as much as the next Hallmark dad. But the reason I love Fall is that it’s the time of year I executed my best, most historic, snappy comeback.

We Manic Impressives are skilled at wordplay. It’s what helps us influence, persuade, and charm the people we need to deal with. We know the power of cleverness and making people laugh. We’ve been training all our lives, first as class clowns, then as full-blown smartasses, to deliver that devastating line with precision timing.

As clever as we are with words, though, we celebrate our quick-witted wins because of all the times we fail.  How many times have you thought of the perfect response for a situation well after the fact? It happens to us all.

So when we score a snappy comeback, it’s something to celebrate. And when we pull off a great one, it’s something to remember. Like the one I delivered in the Fall of 2003.

Snappy Comeback Earns Me Free, Top Shelf Booze

I was at the bar at the Irvine Marriott to order a celebratory drink. The bartender acknowledged me but got pulled away momentarily to answer the phone. It took just a few seconds, but when he turned back to serve me, a woman stepped up, and though I was clearly there before her, she called out her drink order.

The bartender was a pro. He politely told her he’d get to her as soon as he finished serving me. The woman seemed miffed. Then she turned to face me, and rather brazenly, eyed me up and down.

Her eyes landed on the plastic hospital band around my wrist. She nodded toward it and again, quite brazenly, looked me right in the eye and said, “Hey buddy, you really think you ought to be drinking right now?”

These are the moments we agonize over after they happen. The times when we fail, in the moment, to take the pitch left out over the plate, and slam it right into the bleachers. We think of the most clever, funny, and biting things to say after our chance has passed.

Most of the time, out of surprise, politeness or misplaced deference, I too, fumble my chance at greatness. My chance to put someone in their place, with elegance and panache. But not this time.

I followed her eyes to my wrist, and as if I hadn’t noticed her rudeness, I raised my wrist up with a huge proud smile and declared,

“Yes, I do. My son was born today! I absolutely should be drinking right now.” 

The color drained from the lady’s face and she told the bartender to put my drink on her tab.  I replied sweetly, “Why thank you, that’s so kind of you”, turned to the bartender, quickly jerked my pointed finger from the bottom shelf brandy to the top shelf Courvoisier, and said,  “I’ll have that one!”

The bartender, with a knowing smile, poured me the greatest drink I’ve had in my entire life. But not because of what was in the glass.

Snappy Comeback Earns Me A Wife

It was also at this time of year that someone delivered their greatest snappy comeback to me. Back when I had abs and a full head of luxurious hair,  I showed up for my appointment with my hair stylist and saw a woman in my seat. I playfully blurted out, “Hey lady, you’re sitting in my chair!”

She turned her big blue eyes on me and parried with, “It ain’t your chair yet, buddy!”

We’ve been married over 25 years now.

Celebrate Fall With A Snappy Comeback

So please, do me a favor. Ignore your TV for a bit, with its nasty politics and depressing natural disasters. Take some time to focus on delivering the perfect zinger to the next person who serves you up the perfect opportunity.

No more ‘I shoulda said’ excuses after the fact. Be ready for your moment, be quick on your feet, and knock it out of the park.

It can do wonders for your happiness, your self-esteem, and your love life.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Blind To The Big Picture?

The Pull and The Big Picture
Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash

After two, 3-day conventions in a row, where I played a hearty role, I’m sitting back down with my to-do list. Nothing feels inspiring or urgent, and I’m in a bit of a personal low. Seems I’ve become blind to the Big Picture and I’m struggling a bit to work my way out of it.

Sure, it’s natural to have a letdown after so much action. But where’s my fire for my big goals? Why am I not charging out there and attacking? What the hell’s wrong with me?

If you’ve ever experienced this sort of low, maybe you know what I’m going through. I’ve lost the forest and I’m just staring at a bunch of trees.

Time To Get Back On Track

It’s inevitable at times to get bogged down in the details of our lives and lose sight of the big picture. Or worse, to start feeling that our sights are set on things too big or unattainable. Add in a little financial pressure and it’s easy to start hedging on ourselves.

But that won’t solve the inner crisis that’s brewing. There are only two things that will. The Pull and the Push. The thing that attracts us to something, and the thing that gets us moving in that direction.

Desire

This is the Pull. The force that gets us out of bed, off the couch, and into the world to earn what we desire. It needs to burn hot inside of us, to keep us working towards our goals. We need to want something bad enough to struggle through the rejection and the obstacles.

Without a strong sense of desire, we are apt to wander and putter our time away. Buried in the details (damn trees), doing the mundane tasks, because we should.

But “should” is not enough. Doing what we “should” do is not motivating for long, if at all. So we need to keep the desire stoked for the Pull to work. Constant, daily reminders of why we want something.

Action

This is the Push. By taking action, we move forward. Especially if we do the right things, the things that will lead to what we desire.

We Manic Impressives sometimes bog down when we’re not actively involved in doing.  But we also don’t get much satisfaction from just crossing things off a to-do list. We need to see where each task leads to something bigger – more accolades, more freedom,  more fun.

Line Of Sight

This is what we call it in Leadership training. The ability for everyone in an organization to see how each task leads to the overall success of the group’s goals.

When people can’t see how their daily actions add up to bigger things for the group, they become complacent. They go through the motions. They provide lousy service. They go home at night less committed to the cause than when they started the day.

They lose their desire.

The Big Picture

Whether you’re leading a huge organization, a team, a family or just yourself, you’ve got to have that Big Picture in front of you at all times. You’ve got to know why organizing your paperwork and reducing your clutter leads to the things you desire. You’ve got to know why exercise and eating right makes you happier, not just thinner.

So if you’re like me, and tend to lose sight now and then, do something to keep that Big Picture in constant view. Make your Dreamboard and post it right above your computer. Write out your goal statements and affirmations and tape them to your bathroom mirror. Get your family on board to nag you in the best possible way.

Remind yourself every single day of what you desire, so you will be pulled toward the right actions and away from the wrong ones. Get that Big Picture in front of your face right now so you have your Line of Sight and the reasons why you should check things off your list.

Now please excuse me while I gaze at my Dreamboard and remind myself why I want those wonderful things in my life. I’ve got to go work on my Pull…

 

It’s The 4th Quarter – Time For Your Big Push

Still Time In 2017 For Your Big PushVacations are over, the kids are back in school, and Fall officially started today. So dust off your 2017 Dreamboard and review your progress to date. It’s time to start your big push.

Goal Power

We set our goals so we continue to push, even when we’d rather cozy up on the couch and watch football. We’re three-quarters of the way through the year, but now comes the most important part.

Take a look at what you hoped to accomplish when you were singing Auld Lang Syne and swilling champagne last December 31st. Sure, you were full of optimistic hubris and threw down some lofty goals.

And yes, you’ve probably had some setbacks this year, and maybe you’ve forgotten the bravado that caused you to declare all those wonderful milestones for yourself. If you’re like me, you’ve probably met some of your goals, but you’re also probably lagging far behind on some others.

But none of that matters if you get it together for your big push.

What Matters and What Doesn’t

As we learned from those damned Patriots in the last Superbowl, the score at the beginning of your 4th quarter doesn’t much matter. Only the score at the end counts.

The Pats trailed the Falcons by 25 during the 3rd quarter and were behind  28-9 when the 4th quarter started. But none of that mattered in the end. The Patriots scored 25 unanswered points and won the game 34-28 in overtime.

Damn those Patriots! They didn’t give up or give in, though they had 25 good reasons to quit. They just put their collective heads down and ground out the greatest comeback in Superbowl history.

Focus On What’s Left To Accomplish

Like the Superbowl champs, you need to focus on what’s left to do. No sense beating yourself up over what you haven’t done or how far behind you may feel. Nothing’s been decided yet.

So get out your Dreamboard and your calendar. It’s time to schedule some hustle. What’s left to do? What’s it going to take to get there? If you break your remaining goals down to the task level, what exactly do you still need to do?

Make a list of activities you need to complete to reach your goals. Then start placing them on your calendar. This is the key. If it can be scheduled, it can be done. And if you have each task down to the date and time you will work on it, you are halfway there.

Don’t let your demons psyche you out. Like those Falcon fans at the Superbowl, they’ll say you’re too far behind and the game is over. They’ll encourage you to give up and lose gracefully, to take life easy and start your Christmas shopping early. But they are full of beer and don’t know what they’re talking about. They think you can’t put your head down and grind it out. They think you’re weak.

Trust me on this. You’re not weak, and there is still plenty of time on the clock.

Your Big Push

You’ve got 8 solid weeks between now and Thanksgiving week. Then 3 more weeks before the holidays heat up in December. That’s 77 days to make it happen. Plenty of time to mount your big push and come up big by year’s end.

Pretend you’re the Patriots (damn them!) and you don’t care what the score is now. Pretend you are making the greatest comeback ever. Do that now, and in a few weeks, you’ll have enough points on the board to start believing it’s gonna happen. Then put your head down and push all the way until December 31st. It will be worth it.