On human nature…

June 14, 2014

“You really don’t understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around, and why his parents will always wave back.”  (William Tammeus) as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Merry go roundI’m not sure that I do understand this saying or maybe human nature. I can remember back to the times when our children were young and took merry-go-round rides. It seemed to me that they did wave the first few times around and of course we waved back; however, after a few times around they appeared to want to look more blasé about the whole thing or perhaps they had wandered off in their minds to that pretend place where these were real horses and they were real cowboys and cowgirls.

It certainly is human nature to wan t to be seen and recognized and to wan the attention of those that you love and that you know love you, too.  Locally, Channel 4 sports caster, Bernie Smilovitz, does a shtick that he calls “Hey, Hey Look at Me. Over Here, Look at Me”, which features funny video clips about people calling attention to themselves.

Even those seemingly shy people who appear to want to be left alone in the corner really do appreciate someone taking the time to talk to them; they just don’t have the confidence to initiate the contact. It is human nature to desire interaction with others and that desire often goes unrequited in those who cannot summon up the courage to even say “Hi”, much less to initial a conversation. That’s too bad, because many of them have very interesting backgrounds and would be fascinating to talk to.

I am not by nature one of those outgoing people who seemingly engages everyone in a room in casual conversation. However, in my role as an Ambassador for the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce I go to a lot of Chamber functions, from coffee club meetings to mixers and one of my duties as an Ambassador is to help newcomers to the Chamber get introduced around and meet other Chamber members.

I recall how intimidating it can be to walk into a room full of people whom I don’t know who are seemingly engaged in conversations with people in the room who are their friends. You can get that deer-in-the- headlights thing going on and just shrink back into t a corner. My role as an introductionAmbassador is to make sure that this doesn’t happen to new members attending their first events. We introduce ourselves those people as soon as we spot them and take them around, introducing them to others in the room. It also forces me to do things that I might otherwise not do, so I get a benefit, too.

I’m not sure what the difference is between those people that we all see as outgoing and social and the rest of us who aren’t always at ease in social situation but I suspect it has mainly to do with self- confidence. Those outgoing people are happy and confident about whom they are some maybe to the point of seeming somewhat egotistical; while the rest of us are probably self-conscious about some flaw or shortcoming that we think we have. That’s human nature.

Most of the time there is not going to be an Ambassador in the crowds that you may encounter; so you’ll have to figure out how to introduce yourself. Start before you get there by thinking quickly about the situation that you are getting into and what might be an appropriate self-introduction. In some situations, introducing yourself as your child’s mother or father might work best, in others settings relating who you are to your job might get things started and in yet others just starting out by stating that you are new to the group will encourage people to stop and introduce themselves and maybe take time to explain the group.  The point is that you may have to initiate the conversation and if you do so in a manner that immediately gives the others in the groups a way to relate to you. You’ll be surprised how quickly they will engage you in the conversation. That’s human nature, too.

Life is a little like that merry-go-round. You have to wave at it as it goes by and it will wave back.

Find happiness in the ordinary…

June 11, 2014

“Never get so fascinated with the extraordinary that you miss the ordinary.” (Magdalen Nabb) –  from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

How true that saying is. We have become a nation that tends to focus on events, either real or made up for television(and in a true perversion of the word called “realty” shows) and in the process we have become somewhat blasé about the ordinary things going on around us. In some big cities, such as New York or LA or Boston, residents have gone further and seemingly can ignore all but the most extraordinary things around them. Yet there is much to be observed and learned from the ordinary. I found the quote below that seems to sum up my thoughts quite nicely, especially as it concerns children.

“Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives. Such striving may seem admirable, but it is the way of foolishness. Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life. Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears. Show them how to cry when pets and people die. Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand. And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.” ― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

child fishin gin puddleInstead of looking for extraordinary things to do with your children every weekend, perhaps just sharing the ordinary with them is the best things to do. Go fishing or go watch a ball game. Sit and talk with them under a tree or take a walk through a local park and share the experience of nature with them.  There is more value in time spent together in pursuit of the ordinary than in all of the thrill rides and concerts around.

If it’s just you and your significant other share some time sitting on the porch (maybe in an old fashion swing) or just take a drive together with no particular destination in mind. It is during the time shared in these “ordinary” pursuits that real conversation can occur, not while you are at some special event. It is in those ordinary moments that hands reach out and the simple act of holding hands rekindles the original reasons that you are together.

I think that we don’t spend enough time considering all that is going on around us in our ordinary lives. If we did really look at the lessons to be learned or the opportunities to serve that are all around us, I suspect that we would agree with this quote from Mitch Albom –

 “You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.” ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

So, look around you at all of the ordinary things going on with an eye to seeing the meaning and importance of those things. You may be surprised that you see things that you’ve never seen before that have always been right in front of you. There is beauty to behold. There are needs to fulfill. There are opportunities to be explored. There are truly important things happening in your ordinary little life; don’t miss them. And don’t worry; the extraordinary will take care of itself without you.

It’s a new week – jump in, don’t limp in…

June 9, 2014

“Lose the anger, lose the attitude, lose the prejudice, smile more, stop feeling sorry for yourself, see the good in people, appreciate what you have, and go out and do something for someone else.”  (Jeff Brayton)

It’s Monday and time to jump into a new week ahead. Perhaps we should all print off this quote from Jeff Brayton and hang it next to whatever mirror we use before going out to face the day. That way we would all start off each week and day with the proper attitude and in the right frame of mind.

Monday’s have certainly been given a bum rap for some time, so it takes a special effort to get back into happy going to workthe grove and start the week out on a positive note. So, instead of taking the attitude of “Oh crap, it’s Monday and I have to go back to work again”; perhaps starting off with the thought, “Wow, I get another chance to succeed this week; I’ll make the best of that.” There have been no books on success that I know of that advised being grumpy and down on Monday mornings. There are lots of books with hang-over cures, but that’s a different issue.

The other key to Brayton’s quote is the last part. Do something for someone else. It’ll make them feel good and you’ll feel good, too. That can be as little as holding a door open for someone or picking up something that they’ve dropped. Sometimes just recognizing someone with a cheery “Hello” is enoughhappy greeting brighten up their day. Going beyond the perfunctory greeting and inquiring about them or their family shows that you care and for many (even the initially grumpy) that is important.

Grumpiness feeds upon itself; and schlepping along with your head down and exhibiting a foul mood becomes a self-reinforcing thing.  People will avoid you, rather than engage you. You may initially think that this is what you want (after all you are in a grumpy mood); however, most people really don’t want to feel alone or outcast.

If you go to work with your head held high and with a smile on your face and a warm greeting on your tongue, some may wonder what you had in your coffee this morning, but they’ll all want some of whatever it is, too. People like meeting happy people, not downers. A wonderful side-benefit of all of this is how great it will make you feel, even if you had to fake it to start. A second benefit is the energy that happy winneryou’ll gain from interacting with others, especially other cheerful people.

So, put on a happy face and jump into a new week. This is your week to excel. This is your day to meet new people, have new experiences and reach new goals. Go for it.

Take a risk today…

June 3, 2014

“If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”  (Neil Gaiman), as seen on my favorite daily blog feed from Jack’s Wining Words.

Are you the type that goes home and feels good that nothing happened at work today? If so, you are probably hiding from life and well as from things at work. Life and well as work, is full of risks that surrounded by sharkspresent themselves for you to take or to demur. The key to success in work and in life is knowing how to evaluate those risks and how to choose to take the right ones.

Like investing your money, life has very safe, low-risk avenues available that also present very little return. You can sock your savings away in safe investments, like a CD at the local bank and earn 1% or less with basically no risk; or you can jump into the stock and bond markets in an informed way and earn substantially more, with only moderate risk.  Life presents many similar choices. There are those who never take a risk, preferring the safety of a boring but safe routine; and then there are those who seem to live life to the fullest, even if there are a few risks involved. Which life are you leading?

Of course there are many shady or speculative investments that one could make with their money, especially if they get reedy or reckless. Most of them promise spectacular returns that seem too good to be true – and they are. People who jumped onto the high return bandwagon that Bernie Madoff was pitching are still wondering where their money went.

The same is true in life. Many people succumb each day to the allure of a quick, artificial high on drugs or the promise of good times on alcohol. Many people die each day from trips gone awry or poor decisions made while drunk. There is no lasting return from either drugs or booze, so find a way to have fun without either. You’ll be surprised how much fun the people who don’t get stoned or drunk are having.

Having covered some of the cautions, one is still better off being a bit of risk taker in life than hiding out on limbfrom life in hopes of living forever (spoiler alert: it’s never been done). So, let go of some of your fears and take a few risks in life. Talk to the person whom you’ve been dying to meet, but were afraid to approach. Go to that party or bar that your friends are all talking about and allow yourself to have a good time. You don’t have to drink or do drugs to have a good time.

Good times, aside; there are many risks in life that are worthwhile taking –

  • going back to school to get a degree that will allow you to get a better job
  • traveling to a foreign land to see and experience different cultures
  • buying that convertible instead of another bland four-door sedan
  • asking the boss for that long overdue raise
  • finally popping the question on the soul mate that you’ve been dating
  • taking that tandem sky dive that you’ve been dreaming about
  • jumping into (or back into) the dating pool or signing up at a match-maker site

The key is to take enough time and to have enough information in order to make wise decisions and yet not to over-analyze or over-think every decision. Some people see every opportunity as a win-lose situation. They sit there and visualize the negative – I asked for the date and got turned down, so I lost. Try to see the same scenarios in a win-win light – I got turned down for the date this time, but at least I asked and now she/he knows that I exist. I’ll figure out how to do better next time. Life is not a zero sum game, it is additive and you just added to your store of knowledge. You tried something and even if you failed it didn’t kill you and you can go on. Isn’t that better than going home without trying and wondering what might have been or beating yourself up for not trying? As John Maxwell put it – “Sometimes you win.  Sometimes you learn.”

tightrope walkerYou have to value the learning from trying things and failing as much as you do the pleasure that you get it they turn out. Both add to your knowledge and eventually to your wisdom, but sometimes the knowledge gained from your failures make a stronger impression and add more to your problem solving abilities than the successes. After all, how many times do you take the time after a success in life to analyze what went right and how you got there? If you did, you might find the path to that success was paved with earlier failures and lessons learned (either yours or someone else’s who passed on their wisdom to you).

So, at the end of your day, can you look back and say, well that was fun; I tried; I took a risk and here’s what I learned? Congratulations, you have gained as a person. Now you can go to sleep[ tonight looking forward to the risks and opportunities that tomorrow will bring. Now go back and read my ealier post: Three Little Words -Just do it.

What’s in your Happy Book?

June 2, 2014

From Jack’s Winning Words“The Happy Book is about what makes you glad.”  (Rachel Kempster & Meg Leder)  The Happy Book is a book that you write for yourself.  One page is titled, “What makes you happy?  Maybe it’s….”  Or, “Your favorite smells, sounds, tastes…”  What are they?

The Happy BookI must admit that I hadn’t heard of The Happy Book before reading Jack’s post. I certainly hope they give you a pen or pencil with it, or maybe both (in case there are some things that you’ve not sure make you happy and which you may have to erase later).

One occasionally hears the phrase “imagine yourself in a happy place” when people are trying to calm down someone who is upset or distraught. I think it is important that we all have some “happy places” that we can get back to mentally when we need a boost or just relief from the stresses of the day.

It seems to me that the real appeal and magic of having a physical Happy Book is that it forces those thoughts back out of the recesses of your mind and brings joy and maybe a smile or a chuckle as you mentally relives happy moments in your life. To sample The Happy Book at the Barnes and Noble site, click here.

I suppose that we all have an internal Happy Book in the back of our minds somewhere; someplace that we store good memories and a place that we can get back to when we need to. Maybe your Happy Book memories are of a favorite vacation place or maybe a special event that you went to. Perhaps your Happy Book is full of memories of people that you are happy being around and with whom you have had fun and good times. Occasionally favorite food or meals will have a place in your Happy Book and certainly, if you’ve had pets there is a special section in your mental Happy Book for them, too.

With all of the curve balls and negative things that life can throw at you it is important to be able towomen dreaming open your internal Happy Book when you need it. One way to make that easier is to take some time each day thinking about the things and places and people that make your happy or that made you happy in the past. By reinforcing those happy memories you make them much easier to get back to when you need them. Then, when strife or sadness or despair start to close in on you; you will be able close your eyes and go to a happy place.

Maybe you should even start your day every day with a quick peek into your personal Happy Book; so that you start off on the right foot. And speaking of feet, I’ll bet there’s a place in your Happy Book that is chocked full of your favorite pairs of shoes. Drag a pair out and put them on; then you can have happy feet all day long, too.