Category Archives: Manic Mutterings

The Best Christmas Present Ever

Best Christmas Present EverIt’s crunch time for you Christmas shoppers. Just two days left to get the perfect gift for that special someone on your list.  I hope you do as well as my grandmother did when I was 14. Because that was the year she gave me the best Christmas present ever.

The Backstory

It started out as more of a protest than a Christmas present. Grandma came to our house for dinner in February with one of her famous cakes. She baked it from scratch as she always did, without that cheatin Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mix. Grandma was a purist and took pride in her desserts.

After dinner she started to dish it out and was shocked when I declined a piece. To her horror I announced that I had given up dessert for Lent, a practice encouraged by my Sunday School teacher to earn brownie points in Heaven.

I tried to convince her that it was my own decision, but she was having none of that. She was convinced there was a conspiracy at play. Another attempt by my overly strict parents to to deny us both the pleasure of her baking.

While the rest of the family enjoyed her cake, Grandma sat in stony silence. What kind of family would do such a thing to a child? I was clearly the victim of the worst type of parental abuse. Continue reading The Best Christmas Present Ever

Listen To Your Smarter Inner Voice

Your Smarter Inner Voice and Eliminate the Weed of Self DoubtTwice in one day it happened. Two unrelated situations where I should have stopped, but that little voice said “Go!” So I went. And both times good things came to me. Yeah, they were minor things, but each time I followed the voice I was rewarded. If you listen to your smarter inner voice, you’ll be rewarded too.

The First Time

I’d had a great visit with a friend who lives on a gated street. The next day I realized I’d left my reading glasses on a bench in his front yard. I was headed to a rehearsal where I really needed those glasses. But he wasn’t answering his phone and that gate wouldn’t open itself for me.

Common sense said forget it, get by without the specs. We’ll deal. But my smarter inner voice piped up and said “Go Anyway.” I did and damned if that gate wasn’t wide open. I hesitated, surprised by my luck, and as it started to close I punched it and drove through.

Glasses found.

The Second Time

Later that night my wife and I  went to see Arrival at a theater with those new recliner seats. But once in line at the box office we saw the bad news on the sign. The 7:05 show was sold out. My wife started searching for another movie.

I was second in line and about to step out when the voice piped up again and said,  “Stay And Ask.” I did, and the cashier found two seats together for us. We slipped in, claimed our seats and reclined.

Movie seen. Continue reading Listen To Your Smarter Inner Voice

Why A Moral Victory Can Be Better Than A Win

wipeoutIt’s raining in California and that means only one thing – ski season is on its way. And it was on a ski slope where I earned a moral victory and learned that losing can be better than winning.

I was living in Tahoe when my friend Pat asked if I was going to the ski instructor tryouts. Still snowplowing down slopes, I’d never considered it. But she convinced me that they weren’t looking for great skiers, they were looking for great instructors. If you were good at teaching they would teach you the skiing part. Okay, I’m in!

So there we were with 30 other wannabe ski instructors when Don, the head of the ski school at Sierra Ski Ranch, assembled us at the foot of the mountain. It was early November, there was little snow on the ground and the lifts weren’t running.

I should have known something bad was about to happen. Continue reading Why A Moral Victory Can Be Better Than A Win

Why You Should Be Like Christopher Columbus

cc At the tender age of 17, Marco Polo, intrepid Italian adventurer and backyard swimming pool icon, left Italy and traveled with his father and uncle throughout the Orient.  After an epic 24-year journey he returned home with exotic treasures and amazing tales of adventure.

200 hundred years later, inspired by Marco’s adventures, another young Italian set out on a quest for fame and fortune in the Orient. Or as they called it at the time, the East Indies.

To finance his project, he approached the kings of England, France, Portugal and Spain, and got blown off by them all. They thought his calculations were way off and his plan wouldn’t work.

And for good reason, because Christopher Columbus was a nut. Instead of taking the direct route, sailing up the Mediterranean, hanging a right through the Suez Canal and bang, there you are, Chris figured he’d go West to travel East and sail all the way around the globe to get there.

On one hand, he was embracing the idea that the world was not flat. He got the possibilities of a round planet. On the other hand,  his calculations turned out to be off by about 17,000 miles. Oops!

Somehow he got a third chance in the Spanish Court.  And somehow, whether it was all the practice from his earlier pitches or that Queen Isabella just liked the cut of his jib, Columbus got King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to greenlight his project.

So on August 2nd of 1492, Columbus sailed west from Spain with his three ships, the Nina, the Pinta and his flagship the Santa Maria.

Sure enough, on October 12 , 524 years ago yesterday, Columbus did it. He landed on an island in the East Indies just off the coast of China, and declared all he surveyed to be under the domain of the King and Queen of Spain.

At least that’s what he thought he’d done. Continue reading Why You Should Be Like Christopher Columbus

What Kind of Mistakes Do You Make?

    Marcus Aurelius A man does not sin by commission only, but often by omission.  

Marcus Aurelius

There are two ways to get in trouble in life. Either you do something you shouldn’t, or you don’t do something you should.  In biblical doctrine they call this Sins of Commission (doing) or Sins of Omission (not doing).

Manic Impressives make mistakes differently than other folks because of our extraversion and impulsiveness. I know for myself, it’s what I do that gets me in trouble. Sins of Commission.

This matters, because to grow, we must be willing to make mistakes. We must take risks, overcome perfectionism, get out of our comfort zone and learn from our missteps. Knowing your mistake tendencies can help you clean up your messes and get to your learning more quickly.

Half of my troubles come when I don’t keep my mouth shut. I cause myself a lot of trouble with words. The rest of the time I seem to take action before I’ve gotten all the permission I need. Sometimes I just don’t see how complicated a situation is and I act without thinking how others may be impacted.

Like the time I was delivering to a large group in New York. There were two women in the audience acting out – talking and laughing loudly during my presentation, generally being rude and disruptive.

Late in the presentation they finally got interested and stopped being rude. But by then they had gotten under my skin and I’d had enough of them. When one asked a question, “Is this foolproof?”, a sure buying signal, I could not help myself. I blurted out, “No, I get fools in here all the time.” Continue reading What Kind of Mistakes Do You Make?

Are Your Goals Going To Kill You?

detecto scale

Have you read about Monica Riley?  She’s a successful model with 20,000 online followers. Men pay to watch her eat 8,000 calories a day. Often fed to her by her boyfriend. THROUGH A FUNNEL!

She’s already 700 lbs. and on track to meet her goal of 1000 lbs. She wants to become the “fattest woman in the world.”

Yowza!

Normally I would be thrilled for her or anyone with a clear goal. But in this case, well, c’mon, this is madness. She actually wants to become housebound and build a bed with a toilet in it. 

Monica wants to get so big she won’t be able to walk, then her boyfriend will have to feed her and wait on her hand and foot so she’ll feel like a queen.

“I won’t stop until I’m too fat to move.”

Yes, this proves that some people are completely nuts, and there isn’t anything some men won’t pay to watch.

But in her quest for success, Monica has something to teach us all. Continue reading Are Your Goals Going To Kill You?

Paddle Board Lessons On Failure

PaddleBoardDown“An hour should be enough, shouldn’t it?” I paid the guy then grabbed my board and headed to the beach. I’ve always wanted to try paddle boarding. It looks so peaceful and non athletic. I’d never done it before, but how hard could it be?

Really freaking hard.

I followed the guy’s instructions, got out past the surf, set my balance point and got some momentum going while on my knees. Then got both feet firmly balanced, stood up and SPLASH!

Down I go.

Eight times in all, with hat, glasses and paddle all flying into the ocean. Each time I regrouped, got some momentum, stood up and fell in. I never got the hang of it. A pair of sunglasses and a bruised rib later, I made my walk of shame back up the beach to the rental guy. My hour was up.

“How’d it go?” he says with an anticipatory smile.

“Not so good”, I say with a rueful grin.

We agree that eight in the morning on a smooth ocean was the best time to learn. Not at noon in a choppy surf.

I sit and nurse my bruised rib and ego. I’m on the south shore of Maui and it’s hard to feel bad about anything. But still… Continue reading Paddle Board Lessons On Failure

Undeniable Proof That Everything’s Going To Be Okay

With all the political upheaval, economic chaos and mass shootings going on, it’s hard to have a positive outlook on the world. But trust me, everything’s going to be okay. IDisneyland Parking 1 have irrefutable proof that the humanity in this world will save us from the constant disaster you see on cable news.

My proof is this receipt, from Disneyland, the Happiest Place On Earth. Driving into the parking lot the second day of our visit, I was feeling beat down. Like many parents heading into the park, I was bleeding cash. Over $1500 for a two-day visit.

Approaching the parking lot cashier, my Manic Impressive tendencies took over to salvage some economic dignity. I cut the young woman off before she could quote me a price by saying,      “Oh, it’s okay, we’re not parking.” Confused as to why I was heading into the parking lot not to park, she shot me a quizzical look. I continued. “We’re just going into the park for a while, gonna go on some rides, have some lunch, get a few souvenirs and we’ll be on our way. So we’re not parking.”

The quizzical look turned sly, and she said, “Oh, well since you’re not parking, then I guess I shouldn’t charge you anything.” And in that moment, an employee of the Most Capitalistic Place On Earth risked the wrath of Michael Eisner and played along. She rung up $00.00 on the cash register and wished us a great day.

I was pretty damned thrilled. After I didn’t park the car, we enjoyed the park and I stopped sweating the dollars. Sure, she only saved me $12, but it was, to me, a significant omen.

Why did she cut me slack? Here’s my theory: Continue reading Undeniable Proof That Everything’s Going To Be Okay

Grace

CommutersFirst, I want to thank all you commuters out there. Thank you for doing it so I don’t have to. I admire your strength and endurance.

I don’t believe in commuting. Sure, I used to, but after a strong, concerted effort, I got local. That was 7 years ago and I haven’t commuted since. Until yesterday. Had a big important meeting in the City. Left home at 7 am, got home at 7 pm. Stood for close to 2 hours on packed trains.

I was out of my normal routine and making a mess of things. Got out the door late. Wasn’t going to make my scheduled train. In traffic, I slowly realized I wasn’t going to make my backup train either. Not at the station at the end of the line where I’d get a seat. Diverted en route to a closer station. Better to stand than to be late.

But there were no open parking spaces. Desperate, I parked in a permit-only space, ran across the pedestrian bridge, forgot to pay for parking, and in the time it took for my credit card to fail twice, I missed my train. Technically I made my train, but not into it. The doors closed right in front of me and I could only groan as it slowly pulled out of the station. Without me.

Mathematically, I could still be on time. The next train was scheduled to arrive 2 minutes before the start of this super important meeting. If I hustled and took the right exit from the station, just maybe… Continue reading Grace

Out With A Bang Not A Whimper

jane-littleA woman named Jane Little showed up on a crawl at the bottom of my TV the other night. I was watching some political nonsense when the item moved across my screen and completely stole my attention. I haven’t been able to get her out of my mind since.

We don’t often hear much about symphonic musicians. When we do, it’s usually the star violinists like Itzhak Perlman or cellists like YoYo Ma. Tell me, when was the last time you heard about a string bass player? And we’re not talking about someone from one of the country’s top orchestras either, like  New York,  Boston, LA, Chicago or San Francisco.  We’re not even talking top ten here (oh yeah, they actually rank symphonies).

Jane Little played string bass for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Nothing remarkable there. But last year she set the Guinness World record for longest tenure in a single orchestra. Jane started when she was 16, and played 71 straight years. 71 years with the same orchestra. Amazing.

Even more amazing was that a woman in 1945 could get a paying job in a symphony orchestra. Let’s face it,  gender bias was in its heyday back then. Tough for women to compete with men for work. Even more so at her chosen instrument.

Yeah, we don’t want to admit it, but there are certain instruments women are “supposed” to play and be good at. Then there are ones we don’t think they should be playing professionally. Quick, can you name 10 famous female rock guitarists? How bout 5? I can easily name 50 famous male rock guitarists, but only a handful of female rockers. And I can’t think of even one famous female drummer (except for Sheila E, but she’s more of a percussionist than a drummer, though she’s a total badass on timbales). Continue reading Out With A Bang Not A Whimper