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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What To Do On A Flu Furlough

Flu FurloughLast weekend the Federal government shut down. Trump wanted his wall, the Dems wanted to protect the Dreamers, and the Republicans wanted a temporary funding bill to keep things going. No one got what they wanted, and thousands of federal workers got a forced furlough.

But not for long. The shutdown started Friday at midnight and lasted barely 72 hours.  All that buildup, but for most Federal employees, just one lousy day off. Let’s hope my furlough is this short.

Furloughed By The Flu

Yeah, it finally happened. Despite my flu shot and obsessive hand washing, I came home last night with a scratchy throat. This morning I woke with definite fluish symptoms. I started feeling better after a while, but not enough to risk infecting anyone else.

I had to cancel my appointments and crawl into bed. Looks like I’ll be here a few days. I’ve got tons going on, but it’s all coming to a halt. If I can’t do it laying in bed or bundled on the sofa, then it just ain’t happening for a while. Judging by day one, my flu furlough is going to last a lot longer the Federal one.

Giving In To It

So what do you do in this situation? Do you just give in, binge watch something in your jammies and wait for it to pass? Or do you try to be productive at home and work on your taxes or de-clutter your junk drawer?

We Manics love our downtime, and though we can be quite industrious at times, it’s easy for us to slip into sloth.

Add to that the crappy weather, and I’m tempted to pull the covers over my head and skip the world for a few days.

The Gift Of The Furlough

Whenever you’re on furlough, whether it’s paid or not, you have a chance to do something different. You don’t have to show up at work, and no one expects much from you. Your normal responsibilities are on artificial hold.

So it can be a gift of sorts. A chance to do things during the day when you’d normally be at work. An opportunity to catch up on your reading and pet cuddling. A time to slow your motor, but just temporarily. You’ll get back to your struggle soon enough.

If it’s a true work furlough, then you’ve got a chance to ski without lift lines, go wine-tasting without the crowds, or take advantage of matinée prices and Early Bird dinner deals. The best thing is to do something, anything, that you couldn’t do when things are normal.

But since my furlough is health related, I’m going to have to hunker down in bed. I may get caught up with a few phone calls to friends, or work on some new, fresh blog content. But I’ll probably just watch the latest episode of Happy and call it a day.

Aside from that, I’m open to suggestions…

 

 

 

 

 

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…

 

 

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?

 

 

The Most Important Lesson From The Sound Of Music

 I encourage you to sit down with your family this holiday season and watch The Sound Of Music together. My family did this over two nights with lots of buttered popcorn, hot chocolate, and candy canes. It was a joyous family activity, and though I’d seen this musical many times, I never realized its most important lesson.

Based on the true story of Maria von Trapp and the Trapp Family Singers, The Sound of Music is much more than a fabulous Rogers & Hammerstein musical and heartwarming story.

It’s a story of finding your place in the world and how a Manic Impressive saved her family by outwitting Nazis. And not those goofy, klutzy Nazis from Hogan’s Heros – real, scary, killer Nazis.

Maria Was A Manic Impressive.

Maria was a misunderstood soul at the Abbey where she was training to be a nun. Though her colleagues all express their love for her, they throw her under Mother Superior’s bus, singing, “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?” They harmonize that she’s a “flibberty-gibbit, a will-o’-the wisp, a clown”, and should be tossed from the Abbey for being different.

Maybe the cranky old nuns have a point. Maybe Maria doesn’t fit in. Let’s look at the facts.

1) She was always late for everything, except for every meal. (Classic Manic).

2) Her colleagues didn’t know what to do with her and were uncomfortable with her unconventional ways. They sing, “When I’m with her I’m confused. Out of focus and bemused.” (Yes, we Manics have that effect on conventional types).

3) She was unpredictable. The singing nuns get a bit nasty and complain that she’s “as flighty as a feather,” and “a demon!”                    (I’d just say she was spontaneous and leave it at that).

On the other hand, she had strong admirable Impressive qualities.

  1. Maria was full of infectious creative energy and enthusiasm.
  2. She was an engaging performer that thrived in the spotlight.
  3. She could improvise like a pro. Even under pressure. From Nazis.

All very clear, Manic Impressive traits. Here comes the lesson.

How Do You Hold A Moonbeam In Your Hand?

The nuns close out their scathing opus with the musical questions, “How do you keep a wave upon the sand?” and “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

Well, you don’t. Moonbeams and waves aren’t for holding in your damn, wrinkly nun hands. You can’t squeeze and control them like rosary beads. Moonbeams and waves are beautiful, powerful, majestic forces of nature.

They exist to inspire you to love and greatness.

The Most Important Lesson

As the story reaches its climax, the Nazis roll into Austria and demand that Captain von Trapp accept a commission in the German Navy. The von Trapps decide to skip the singing festival they’re booked to perform at and slip away under cover of darkness,

But the local Nazis are waiting for them. And just as it looks like the whole family is going to get thrown in the clink, Maria steps up with nerves of steel and improvises. She seamlessly follows her husband’s lead and bamboozles the Nazis with some crafty storytelling, agreeing that the Captain will join the Nazis as soon as the performance is over.

Then as they are on stage performing their final number, “So Long, Farewell”, they pull a fast one.  They slip away, two at a time, and while the audience and Nazis in attendance wait for the judges to announce the winner of the festival, the von Trapps race away to hide in the Abbey where Maria couldn’t fit in as a nun.

Let’s face it. If Maria is not Manic Impressive, she crumbles under pressure and gets her husband arrested by Nazis. This joyous musical becomes a tragedy and the von Trapps don’t headline at the Salzburg Music Festival. They headline in a prison camp.

But Manic Impressive Maria steps up, performs in the spotlight, outwits those damn Nazis, and saves her family. The real lesson here is that the very traits that get you kicked out of the Abbey, help you save the day in the outside world.

Be A Moonbeam Like Maria

So do yourself and your family a favor this holiday season. Rent this movie, sit down together with your hot chocolate and buttered popcorn, and remind yourself that it’s not too late to find your place in the world.

The Manic Impressive tendencies that can cause you to be out of step with your current co-workers, can be invaluable, lifesaving skills in the right situation.

Your job in life is to find that situation. Then climb every mountain, ford every stream, and follow every rainbow, ’til you find your dream.

 

 

 

Why You Need To Keep Your Dream Alive

Protect Your Dream
Tomorrowland

We Manic Impressives are the dreamers of the world. But a dream is a fragile thing. It needs to be nurtured and supported so that you can act on it. No matter what, you need to keep your dream alive.

Bringing A Dream To Life

Fred Smith was a dreamer. As an undergraduate student at Yale in the ‘60’s, he submitted a paper on improving mail delivery in the coming information age. But his professor wasn’t buying the dream and panned the paper. Just to get a ‘C’, said the professor, the idea had to be “feasible.”

Less than 10 years later, Fred Smith used that idea to bring his dream to life. He started a little company called Federal Express – perhaps you’ve heard of it? He revolutionized the way we send mail, when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight. In the end, Fred feasibled the crap outta that one!

Good thing Fred wasn’t a very good student and didn’t listen too well. Also good that he had the conviction to push his idea to fruition, despite the stomping by his professor. But for every Fred Smith, there are thousands of us who give up on a dream at the first sign of resistance or skepticism. And that is not good for our species.

What A Dream Needs

A dream needs careful tending. A loving embrace and lots of protection. It needs to be gently nurtured like the young living organism it is.

But too often a dream gets squelched by negativity before it can sprout and take life.

There are plenty of well-meaning professors, friends and family members that will stomp on your dream if you let them. But you yourself represent the greatest threat to your dream.

Have you ever done this? A great idea pops into your head, then you chase it right out with “oh, that will never work”, or “yeah, who am I kidding”, or “right, that will be the day!” Most of us fall victim to this so often we probably don’t realize what we’re doing to ourselves.

We need to protect our dreams, not dash them before others can. Because if your dream dies, so does a piece of you.

What Dreamers Need

The hero in the movie Tomorrowland said it best:

“Dreamers need to stick together…” 

We need to feed these thoughts before they get stomped on, by others or by ourselves. That’s why we must band together with our support groups, our communities, and our Masterminds. People we can trust to support us and our desires. People we can brainstorm with. But gently and safely without all the stomping.

Sure, not every idea can be a winner, but the process of brainstorming is only successful if we allow all ideas the light of day, the wilder the better.

You never judge too soon. You pull and pull and pull until you get all the possibilities from all different angles. Then, when you have the right people in the room (and only then!), you begin to evaluate the ideas carefully to sift out the unworkable and start with those that show the most promise.

So don’t believe everything you’re told in school. And don’t believe what your well-meaning friends say. Grow your dream, take action on it, and surround yourself with other dreamers.

The 3rd Annual Resolution Invitational

Like we’ll be doing here on December 31st at the Third Annual Resolution Invitational. Where a close, committed group of like-minded people will help you nurture your dream, and commit to a plan of action that will grow your desire and bring your dream to life in 2018.

There is still an open seat at my table, and two remote spots open those of you who can’t be here in person. Commit now, with a comment below, and we’ll help you give your dream the loving support and accountability it needs to grow to fruition.

Because we Dreamers need to stick together!

How To Not Be A Pain In The Ass

 If you read last week’s post, you may be wondering what genre of person you are. If you identify with being a Manic Impressive, you are clearly in the Jazz camp. You’re expressive, creative, spontaneous, and yes, at times, you can be a pain in the ass.

Okay, that may seem a bit harsh. But the one complaint people have about Jazz is that it’s sometimes a bit complicated and hard to follow. Jazz musicians have great freedom in how they play. But if they get too far outside the chord structure they can lose their audience.

Try listening to this to hear what playing outside the rules of convention feels like to others. See if you can make it to the sax solo at 5:22. You’ll know what I’m talking about.

These are great musicians, but most people don’t walk away from this kind of music humming the tune. The melody is too hard to find for most folks.

So to get better results, try reining it in a bit for the sake of others. Here are a few ways to be the kind of Jazz others will appreciate.

Don’t Be Hard To Follow

Not everyone likes to move in a non-linear way. Most people like to know where you’re going with things. I’m not saying you have to tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you told them. That used to be good advice, but it can be overbearing. A little mystery is a good thing.

But total mystery leaves people confused. And confused people don’t jump to action, make good decisions, or buy from you. They will resist you and wander away. If you need to inspire and be admired, you need to be easy to follow.

So give clear instructions, don’t wander too far from your agenda, and make it easier for folks to hum your tune.

Make Your Point And Go Home

Manics are great story-tellers and love to entertain. But you can quickly go from life of the party to pain in the ass if you require too much attention from others. So when you gather a crowd, make your point quickly.

You probably know people you avoid in social settings because they take too damn long to get to the point. They spend so much time setting up a story with laborious detail, that you lose interest before they get to the punchline.

So shorten your windup. Deliver your pitch quickly, and spend the majority of time with the part of your message people want to hear. How it will benefit them.

Don’t be a pain. Get to the good stuff fast and leave out the extraneous embellishment.

Share The Spotlight

While you’re basking in that beautiful glow of attention, save some for others. Get off the stage so others can get a shot.

No one likes a ball hog. So when you’ve gotten a taste of glory, leave them wanting more. Leave before you’re asked to, and maybe they’ll ask you back again.

I once got a standing ovation at a club for a rousing rendition of “Just A Gigolo.” I really killed it and they were loving me for it. But I fell victim to vanity and launched into another tune.

Halfway through the third chorus of “Hey Jude”, I realized my mistake. I should have quit when I was ahead. Instead, I ruined a great night by being greedy. They were done with me while I was still on stage singing. Awkward!

That memory is still a painful reminder of what can happen when you’re a pain in the ass and overstay your welcome.

Give Equal Time

I went on a date once with a woman who couldn’t stop talking. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  At the end of the night, I just wanted to get away. Then she said something amazing to me.

“You’re such a good listener, I feel like I can tell you anything.”

Though I wanted to blurt out, “No, please don’t! You’ve told me too much already!”, I kept my mouth shut, accepted the compliment, and learned something about my own behavior.

I had never been complimented for being a good listener before.

But I had often been guilty of dominating conversations as she had.  Since then I’ve been much more aware of giving others equal time.

And no, we did not go out again.

So at your holiday parties this year, try measuring the time you speak against the time you listen. If you’re talking more than 50% of the time in a conversation, you may be a pain in the ass to listen to.

Make sure that the people around you share their thoughts and feelings as much as you share with them. Better yet, ask them questions to draw them out. Show some real interest in them.

You’ll still have plenty of time to crack your jokes and tell your stories. But you’ll be a welcome addition to the party instead of a pain if you listen attentively and laugh generously at other people’s material.

How To Not Be A Pain In The Ass

So while you’re thinking of how to be a better you, remember these key points. Be easy to follow, get to your point without endless jibber jabber, share the spotlight, and give equal time to others by listening more than you speak.

I’ve been guilty as sin on all these points, and I’ve paid the price. But I’m trying to learn from my transgressions. So don’t be a pain in the ass like me. Be better than me. Be a better you.

If you’re Jazz, be the joyous kind the world wants to hear.

 

Know Your Genre And Improve Your Results

Know Your GenresTo become a musician, I had to learn the different genres of music.  Each genre has its own specific style and rules for how it’s to be played. If you know the genre of the song you’re playing, you can perform better and improve your results with your audience.

People are like music in this sense. There are specific personality types, or genres, that have common elements to how they prefer to deal with people, time, tasks, and situations.

If you know the different genres of people, you can follow their rules and get better results working with them.To become a leader, I had to learn the different genres of people.

What’s Your Genre?

The first step to better results with people is to know your own genre. Are you Classical, Rock & Roll, Pop, or Jazz?

The Classical Genre

Classical music is precise. It’s detail oriented. The composers tell the musicians exactly what notes to play, and exactly how loud or fast to play them. Then the musicians play those notes exactly as written.

People who are Classical are much the same way. They value precision, accuracy, and doing things the right way. They are great with details and love to get into the weeds.

Like the musical genre, Classical people like things to be predictable and move forward in a logical, linear way. They want everything mapped out in advance so they know where they are and where they’re going.

Classical people don’t like surprises. They also don’t like chaos, broken rules, or coloring outside the lines. So when there’s a sudden change in plans or things are unclear, Classical people struggle. And they can fall victim to paralysis by analysis because of their need for detail and clarity.

But there’s no one better at knowing all the details and following all the rules than a Classical person.

The Rock & Roll Genre

Rock music is all about a driving beat pushing to a big finish. Its uses simple chord progressions and rhythms pushed forward by a clear and heavy downbeat. It’s direct, not so subtle, but very effective.

People who are Rock & Roll are all about the finish line. They are achievement oriented and like methodical progress toward a goal. They’re focused, assertive, and clear on what they want. For them,  it’s all about getting things done, on time and under budget.

Like the musical genre, Rock & Roll types can be strong-willed, driven, and sometimes a little too loud or domineering. They need to be in control, so they push hard in the direction they want things to go. Though they are very good at this, they can sometimes lose sight of the needs of others, and come across as bossy or mean.

But no one gets things done like a Rock N Roller.

The Pop Genre

The point of pop music is to get people to sing and dance along with the song. It wants you to like it. Not to be impressed by its complexity, or thrilled by its adrenaline. Pop music wants you to hum along and have a sweet, happy time.

People of the Pop genre are the same. They want to be liked, and they want everyone to get along. They are all about the feelings and the experience. Pop people care about relationships more than results and will go out of their way to take care of others.

But they don’t like conflict, and will usually sacrifice their needs for the feelings of others. They would rather give in than argue,  because they care more about the harmony of a group than getting their own way.

Others may perceive Pop people as weak and take advantage of their kindness and deference. But that’s okay. It’s a small price to pay to be popular.

Because everyone likes Pop people.

The Jazz Genre

Jazz is an intense and inspiring style of music. It uses complex chord structures, syncopated rhythms, and requires that musicians play the written notes, then improvise their own. It demands creativity and freedom in order to be played.

Jazz people are the improvisers of the world. They are big-picture creative types that love to inspire and influence others. Jazz people are cool, clever and hip folks who prize their freedom and seek to express themselves in innovative ways.

They can be the life of the party, the center of attention, and the source of great positive energy.

They can also be a pain in the ass.

Jazz folks tend to gloss over the details and bend the rules. And they often show up late and push things to the very last minute.  They can irritate with their impulsiveness, and make the other genres of people a bit uncomfortable.

But when the situation calls for a creative approach, Jazz people can jump in, inspire others to action, and save the day with their great improvisation skills and showmanship.

Identify Your Genre And Play To Your Strengths

Can you see yourself in these different genres? Most of us are dominant in one of them, but you may be a combination of two or more. But the first step in getting better results with people is to know your own genre. Then play to your strengths.

So if you’re Pop, don’t try to push others to get results. That’s not you. Use your caring and niceness to get them to like you and want to hum your tune.

If you’re Classical, dive into the weeds and be an expert. Know all there is to know about your topic and help others with analysis and detail. This is your gift.

If you’re Rock ‘N Roll, push hard to the finish, and be direct. It’s what you’re good at, so go hard and get things done.

If you’re Jazz, don’t stress about the planning and details.  You are the master of improv and creativity, so follow your instincts and be awesome. You will be admired for it.

Then once you’ve figured yourself out, we’ll talk about how to figure out the genres of the people around you…