And, you never have to apologize…

January 26, 2016

“To err on the side of kindness is seldom an error.”  (Liz Armbruster), as seen some time ago on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

In place of “kindness”, one could also use the words “honesty” or “modesty” or “openness” or any number of words that all boil down to the same thing – doing what is right.

whining childHow many times after an event or encounter have you had to say to yourself, “Oh crap, I shouldn’t have said that or I shouldn’t have done that?” You erred on the other side of kindness and you know it. So, now you have to figure out a way to apologize and make it right.

Errors that lead to having to apologize are often committed in haste – a knee-jerk reaction, quick retort or quip – or without thinking – an off-hand remark or a casual and unintended snub. So, perhaps the first thing that you should resolve to do, in order to err on the side of kindness, is to stop before you act, react or reply. Just that momentary pause, before you respond to the situation at hand, may give you just enough time to catch yourself before you lash back in response to a treat or perceived hurt. You might be surprised how fast your restraint can kick in, if you give it a calm personchance. Perhaps that’s where some yoga training could come in handy.

Doing nothing in response to an event seldom causes the damage that responding inappropriately to something that was really nothing. Of course there are events that demand a response in order to save yourself or someone else from some harm and doing nothing in those instances could also be bad. It is just as bad to later be down on yourself because you didn’t step in and do something to stop or right a wrong.

kindness quoteSo, err on the side of kindness and take action in defense of what is right and you will seldom have to apologize later. You might also find later that you are quite proud of yourself; as well you should be, you did what was right and that is never an error.

Be kind out there today…

Attention is a two way street…

January 25, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “You learn something every day if you pay attention.” (Ray LeBlond) A study by Microsoft (Op Ed in the NYT) shows that the average attention span is 8 seconds, down from 12 in 2000. It’s now shorter than that of a goldfish. Perhaps that’s the reason for the flash-ads. It’s a fast-paced world out there, like it or not. Messages continually bombard us…a look, a word inserted in a sentence, something not said. Today, be alert for the 8 second message. 😉 Jack

Unless you read really fast, that 8-second attention span would have gotten you through about four sentences in Jack’s post above. No wonder Twitter is so popular; it’s messages match our attention spans. In business we used to create and practice what we called our talking-2elevator pitch. That was a short message that could be delivered in the span of time that someone might spend with you on an elevator while going to work. Usually these were timed to be delivered in 15-20 seconds (maybe a little longer for a skyscraper elevator ride), and they were supposed to contain enough content to quickly get across compelling information about yourself or your product so as to elicit the response of the other party being interested enough to what to know more. It was an interesting challenge.

I would imagine that the great essayists of the founding father’s day would have made Samuel Adamsgreat bloggers, but lousy Tweeters. It would have been frustrating for them to try to squeeze their great ideas and arguments into a Tweet; however, I also suspect that they would have found a way to use and adopt the technology, as did those in most of the recent areas of citizen unrest and uprisings. Perhaps Paul Revere’s ride to Lexington would have been unnecessary if he could have just been able to Tweet that the British were coming by land.

But, I digress; knowing that those of you with short attention spans stopped reading two paragraphs ago. Fort those still reading, I might add to LeBlond’s little saying that you have to do more than just pay attention; you have to do something with what you have heard or seen. You need to figure out what it means and assimilate it into your current knowledge store. Not everything is actionable, nor does it need to be; however, anything that you take the time to pay attention to should at least be something that you learn from or which reinforces knowledge that you may already have.

There is another little saying that I’ve had lying around for some time, just waiting for the opportune time to use it. It seems somehow appropriate for this post :
“If you want me to be a good listener, give me something good to listen to.” (Unknown)

Perhaps the reason that we tune out so much of what we hear and see so quickly is that sobored much of it has become meaningless and not worthy of attention. That too may be laid at the doorstep of modern social media, where the location of a person or what they had for breakfast passes for “content”.

So, pay attention and be a good listener to day and maybe you’ll learn something; but, also be attentive to what you contribute and make it something that someone else will find worthy of listening to and from which that too will learn. Be interested in others and be interesting for others to meet. Attention is a two way street. Have a great week ahead!

Where is your happy place? Do you remember how to get there?

January 20, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little piece of advice – “You gotta go to that happy place in your mind and remember–everything’s gonna be all right.”  (Daniel Schetter)  Daniel is that man who continues to surf the waves of Lake Superior all winter long, even with ice on his whiskers.  He believes that cold is all in the mind; so, when he’s surfing the Great Lakes in freezing weather he heads to his happy place and isn’t cold anymore (at least in his mind). He did admit to suffering bouts of hypothermia, but he was still happy.

I read that story in the paper recently, too. I had a tough time imagining being able to get to a place that was happy and warm while surfing in the Great Lakes in winter with ice on my face; but the advice applies well to everyday life. We all face adversities or situations single momthat are not of our own making. How we react to them and our ability to go to our happy place in times of stress or pain determines how well we make it through those times.

The basis for many of the meditative-based religions or beliefs of the world is the concept of being able to get to that happy place and control our bodies and our reactions to things through our minds. It is also a tenet of hypnosis that we have the ability to block out pain with our minds. I’ve been hypnotized at a dentist’s office once and it did work to block the pain of his work on my teeth. I certainly believe that practices like yoga and meditation work to relieve tension and stress.

listening toi musicA key thing that both yoga and meditation focus upon is helping you find a way back to your happy place, so that you can let go of the stress and let your body’s natural ability to heal itself make you well again. Of course there are lots of other things involved, but being able to get to that happy place is central to both. It is also a key to a happy and healthy life, whether you practice those disciplines or not.

So where is your happy place and do you remember how to get there? As children it was easy to get to that place, usually through play. As we matured and “learned” to be adults, we wandered away (or were pulled away) from that place and found it harder and harder to get back to it. We were taught not to waste our time in idle thoughts of happiness, but to “keep our noses to the grindstone”,” be serious” and “get it done”. There was no time allotted for seeking to return to your happy place. Some turn to alcohol or drugs in the false belief that getting a buzz on or getting high is equivalent to getting to their happy place. Both are false and actually add to the stress that they were trying to find relief for in the first place.

How do find you way back to your happy place? You might try yoga or mediation classes ormeditation even seek out a good hypnotherapist. Talk with the instructor/therapist and let them know that you are there to try to recapture the ability to put aside the day’s stresses and get to that place that gives you peace. They will understand. Then, focus upon the process that they take you through to relax and let go and begin your search for that happy place that is still there, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind. You knew it as a child and you can find it again. When you do find it; you will know that “everything’s gonna be alright”.

For some people, their happy place is a spiritual place, a place that they reach through prayer. They can start each day with a prayer and that means that they start in their happy place, before the day even gets underway. The nice thing for them is that they can pray anywhere and anytime, without even being noticed. It’s all done in their minds, as is the journey to their happy place. For some of these people it is possible to live all day long in their happy place. You know that you have met people like that, because you cannot figure smiling womanout why they always seem so calm and happy. They are at peace with God and themselves and that is a happy place to be, indeed.

An interesting by-product of making the effort to get to your happy place in times of stress is that it tends to stop whatever was going on in you r mind, because you are focusing on trying to find that place of peace. Just making the effort is a big help in coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. Sometimes we don’t have time to make the full journey back and sometimes we may not be in situations or settings where going through our whole routine (perhaps with eyes closed or in a yoga position of some sort) is possible. In those times, just the mental pause that starts the process may be enough to relieve the pressure.

You can make a mental note to go all the way there when you get home, but for the moment, just realize that you have loosened the grip of stress or panic and can go on with what you need to do in a more relaxed and confident manner. You know that your happy happinessplace is out there waiting for you and you know that you can get back to it when you want to – and that’s a good thing …a happy thing.

So, take a moment before you start each day and try to get back to your happy place, so that you carry a fresh memory of it in your mind throughout the day. Then, when stress or turmoil hits it won’t be that guard to see your way back to it for a quick refreshing dose of happiness.

Have a great and happy rest of the week.

The streets still echo with his steps…

January 18, 2016

“When you are right you cannot be too radical.  When you are wrong you cannot be too conservative.”  (MLK Jr) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

MLK image over DOwntown MIlfordOn this Martin Luther King day, America and the world are still struggling with many wrongs that need righting, many injustices that beg for justice and many old prejudices that seem to refuse to die. People still take to the streets, as they did in King’s day seeking redress of the wrongs, although many times not as peacefully as he would have liked. Too often there is still a lack of recognition between the right and wrong positions in many of the areas that still cause division and pain. There is too much of a mentality of “them vs. us”; rather than searching for a solution that involves “we”.

The struggles that Dr. King lead, that were so clearly defined along racial lines, have expanded to embrace other groups who are discriminated against because of their differences; not only differences of appearance, but differences in lifestyles. Other groups have added their ethnicity to the discrimination issue fight and a growing issue concerning religious beliefs has begun to creep into the conversation. And, the streets that Dr. King marched upon have not fallen silent. To this day we have people of color marching in the streets caring signs that say “black lives matter”; and new groups marching with them with signs that say “all lives matter.”

In a perversion of Dr. King’s thought, some of the most wrong in America do call themselves Conservatives and seek to justify their discriminatory actions my proclaimingopinionated their righteousness in their “defense of American Family values.” Apparently they think it is OK to discriminate so long as they also proclaim themselves to be evangelicals who are mounting a Bible-based defense of American life as they define it. What’s that old saying about two wrongs not making a right? That’s apparently not in their Bible.

Dr. King might be proud of some of the progress that has been made in the struggles that he led; but he also would surely recognize the unleveled playing fields that still exist. The people that he led can ride the buses and eat in the restaurants now, but the same factions that he was fighting back then still own the buses and the restaurants – and almost everything else. There are laws that allow for redress of wrongs; but also many laws or loopholes that protect those who commit the wrongs, especially at the economic level.

Jim Crow may have put away his guns and called off his dogs, but he did not give up control; he just found a less obvious and violent way to exert it – thru economics and rich man poor manpolitical power. He also found new adversaries to try to hold in check – those who were different from him in almost any way. For quite some time this new strategy worked well by employing tactics such as direct political contributions, Political Action Committees and gerrymandering to maintain political power. That political power allowed the structuring of laws that stripped away what power the masses has accumulated through the tort process or via organized labor. Rather rapidly, in terms of history, those in power amassed most of the wealth of the country, too. Now the top 1% of the world’s people control 99% of the wealth of the entire world, and with that wealth they can buy all of the power that they need to maintain their positions.

I’m not sure if Dr. King would have wanted to lead the coming class wars against this oligarchy, but I think he would have seen it coming and understood that it is both necessary and a noble struggle; one in which it will be impossible to be too radical. The “Occupy Movement” was more of a baby step than a real opening salvo in this war. Historyrich snob is full of instances of the people eventually getting fed up with existing on the crumbs that fall off the tables of the rich rulers and rising up against them.

Those will not be echoes of Dr. King’s marches or distant drums that you will hear but the pounding of millions of feet on the streets of the world and they will all be carrying the same sign that reads – “our lives matter”. The 1% cannot buy enough politicians or arm enough police to hold back this movement. Did someone on Wall Street
say “let them eat cake?”

Wouldn’t it be a hoot…

January 17, 2016

The silly season is upon us all again as the Presidential Primary Season approaches. I think
it would be an absolute hoot if Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were selected as their party’s candidates. Can you image the fun of seeing in the debate the
biggest, conservative billionaire blowhard vs. the avowed Socialist, whose motto is “Have the courage to take on the billionaire class”? What a hoot that would be, if only it weren’t such a sad commentary on the state of political affairs in America.

This year’s silly season is the most silly and vicious that I have ever witnessed and has disagreement2certainly exposed the carnage that rabid partisanship has wrecked upon both parties. The huge philosophical divide between the parties and the lack of interest in any compromise has left the entire middle of the political spectrum abandoned and ripe for a third party effort. Unfortunately, the only way that anyone can mount a campaign effort for President these days is to first acquire a billion dollars or more.

Imagine the ridiculous scene it would be to have these two populist politicians even trying to debate. One can only imagine the biting satirical thrusts of Sanders on the income inequity issue that has become his hallmark cause and the animated and bombastic tirades (sans any need for fact or logic) that Trump would launch in retort. Perhaps Sanders attack on the greedy heart of capitalism would even cause the Donald to forget for the moment his plan to block any further middle-eastern immigration and put those already here from the middle-east under surveillance.  To further expose the intolerance and bigotry of Trump (and the Republican party) Sanders could choose as his Vice-Presidential running mate a member of the GLBT community who was born in America of naturalized, but foreign-born parents and who espouses a woman’s right to choose and tougher gun control laws. Trump would be so flummoxed that he would likely be unable to get a single sane word out.

We hear every political pundit saying that Sanders has no chance to be the Democratic nominee and few pundits had given Trump a chance to even get as far as he has, so far. Interestingly enough, many so-called political experts are now starting to hedge on Trump’s chances and even Sanders has surprised many in the latest round of polls. Strange things can happen when the system gets skewed so far off center, as it is right now.

I don’t like to watch political debates, since they are little more than strings of campaign debaterssound bites and personal attacks along the candidates; however, I did recently watch the reruns of the last republican “debate”. It was obvious that the closer to the center of the stage a candidate was placed measured not only his current polling strength, but also his adherence to the tea party conservative line. The only candidates who made statements that seemed to both thoughtful and reasonable in a political environment that is begging for compromise were the politicians relegated to the far ends of the stage. Of course they spent most of the evening off camera.

The decline in civility that has accompanied the ideological split in Washington is also on display during the debates for both parties. Watching the debates, one comes away with the impression that is essentially a contest between a bunch of scum-bags and your choice is which scum-bag you decide to hold your nose and vote for in the primaries. If one believes all of the rhetoric, none of the candidates is trustworthy, none will end up doing what they say that they will do and the country is in grave danger if any of them are elected. Both parties and their stalwarts claim that the other side has run the country into the ground, are providing morally corrupt leadership and will lead to the end of America as we know it if their candidate is elected.

One is reminded, of course that this has always been the case in American politics. From the PhillyMagazine web site comes this (edited for this post) – It all began in 1796, when Alexander Hamilton attacked Thomas Jefferson on the pages in Gazette of the United States, a federalist paper in Philadelphia. Hamilton claimed that Jefferson was having a love affair with one of his slaves (which, of course, turned out to be true). Hamilton went on to call Jefferson a coward. In that same election, Supporters of John Adams also claimed that Jefferson’s election would result in a civil war, that he would free the slaves, and that he was an atheist. As for his supporters, they were “cut-throats who walk in rags and sleep amid filth and vermin.” The language has changed a bit but the vitriol has remained.  To read more about Americas history of mudslinging Presidential Campaigns click here.

In the case of our current Presidential campaign one can take offense at the statements being made within or between parties or treat it like the political circus that it is and enjoydumb and dumber it.  At least it is somewhat like a modern TV comedy, filled with ridiculous characters sparing with each other with words rather than swords. Like a TV show, or a movie, it requires that you suspend your disbelief for a period and just enjoy it, laugh along and don’t think about the horrible consequences of any of these clowns actually get elected. It’s only a hoot if you don’t stop to cry.

Don’t worry about it…

January 15, 2016

“There are two kinds of worries—those you can do something about and those you can’t.  Don’t spend any time on the latter.”  (Duke Ellington)

panicI’ve written here a few time about wasting time and energy on worrying about stuff, rather than coming up to fix things that you can do something about. The secret to success in Ellington’s little quote is figuring out the difference between those things that you can do something about and those that you can’t. Unfortunately this is not an easy skill to develop r to consistently apply in our everyday lives. The result is that we spend too much time worrying about things that we can’t change, impact or fix.

worriesLet’s face it, there are many problems in the world around us that are worrisome, but which we can do little about. World hunger, wars, diseases, income and wealth inequities come to mind, as do a number of other very large and very widespread problems that we sometime worry about. Some find a solution to their worries by jumping into some cause or movement that is focused upon these bigger problems and that’s not a bad thing, if you can let go of your personal worry and focus on the group mission.

There are also big issues that may be too big for any one individual to solve, but which at least lend themselves to some individual efforts that may have impact. Bullying, for
bully.pnginstance, while too wide spread of an issue to be solved by one person, is such that the actions of each individual are helpful and additive towards resolving the problem. If one takes the attitude and approach that the end of bullying begins with me, then there may be one less action or statement or display that reinforces the practice. The foundation of change is to stop the old way and then go forward from that fresh beginning. Stopping bullying when you see it or standing up for those being bullied removes one more worry from your plate, because you could do something about that and you did.

Many of our worries are really based upon fears with the biggest contributors being fear of
failure and fear of rejection. Some of us spend so much time worrying about failure that weask for dance never even try the thing at which we are worried about failing. In our personal relations, our worries (fears) about possibly being rejected keep us in our seats instead of asking the girl or guy of our dreams for a dance or a date. Those, too, are worries that we can do something about.

You must confront those fears and overcome them. What is the worst that could happen – that he/she says NO? Would you still be alive? Would there still be hope that someday in the future that answer could change? The answers are yes, so don’t spend all of yoOh crapur time worrying about the consequences of an action that you are to frozen by fear to even take. Go for it! Do it! It won’t kill you and maybe you’ll even get the answer that you hoped for and not the one that you are spending all of your time worrying about. If you want to worry about something, worry about where you’ll go on the date or whether or not you can dance if you get the chance. It least those are things that you can do something about.

So, back to our initial topic from the quote; I think it’s important in life to develop at least some ability to sort out the things that you are worrying about into those two classes – things that you can do something abort and things that you can’t. Once sorted you may find comfort in the little prayer that I’ve referenced many time here before for those things that you now realize that you can’t do something about. Just lay them in God’s hands by praying, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Then let those things go and go on to working on the things that you can do something about. You’ll worry less and get more done that way.

Have a great, worry-free weekend!

It’s just a boo-boo; you’ll live…

January 14, 2016

“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.”  (John Sinclair) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I really like that little saying because it is such an appropriate way to think about the failures and setbacks in our lives. The analogy holds up to a good deal of thought, too. Usually the event that causes a bruise involves something that causes pain first – a bump or a fall or running into something. It hurts at that instance and then your body may turn the site of the bump it into a bruise. The bruise still hurts, if you poke at it; but over time it heals and goes away. Of course, if the incident was traumatic enough to have broken or cut the skin, you may also end up with a scar instead of just a bruise. Scars are more like tattoos: they stay with you for a long time, but they, too, fade away over time. Some failures in life may leave scars, too.

Remember when you were little and fell off your bike or ran into the door while trying to mother with childrun away playing tag. It hurt; but, your mom kissed it and told you it was just a boo-boo and that you’d be OK – you’d live. Life’s failure are much the same, only mom isn’t there anymore. If you’re lucky you have a life partner who can kiss you and tell you that it’s just a boo-boo and that you’ll live. That failure is just a bruise (primarily to your ego) it’s not a tattoo. It may take a while for the bruise to heal and for you to forget about it, but it will heal eventually and you will forget and move on with life.

There are things that can tattoo you for life and I suppose that they might be called failures; although most of them are called crimes. Having a criminal record, especially for the more heinous crimes definitely act like tattoos on those who commitment. The record follows them around and some crimes involving sex or children or both result in those tattoos being registered in databases that all in the public can see. The exceptions usually involve juvenile offenders whose youthful criminal records are expunged when they turn 21. It’s sort of like having that tattoo removed through laser surgery.

Other things that we experience may causes bruises in our lives. The loss of a loved one, remorsefulrejection by someone that we hoped would be a loved one, loss of a job, divorce and more can all cause bruises. All of those bruises heal over time, though some require quite a bit longer than others.

There is a corollary saying that also rings true – “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” You may not think that the healing of that latest life bruise will make you stronger; but, you will learn something from it, you will know better the next time and you may be able to avoid getting bruised again by the same thing or person. If you develop the ability to look at life’s failures and setbacks as temporary bruises, it will make life much less stressful or depressing when you have those failures.

If you don’t have a loved one to turn to for a kiss and the reassurance that everything will be OK – that you’ll live; turn to the One who is always there for every boo-boo in life, the One who will never judge you or abandon you; the One to whom you can and will turn to even in the final moment of your life – embrace God and let Him kiss your boo-boo and make it better. In fact, even if your mom is still there, or you do have a loved one that you share your life with; taking your boo-boos and bruises to God in prayer will speed the healing. As you get older you may get a bit cynical about the medicinal impact of mom’s kisses, but you should never lose faith in the healing power of God.

If you must get a tattoo, get a small cross tattooed somewhere where you can look at it when yo need to. Then, in those times when something has just happened that you know is going to leave a bruise WWJDor maybe even a scar; you can look at that tattoo and say out loud, “this is the only thing that is permanent in my life.” That will start the healing process. If you really don’t want a tattoo, get one of those bracelets that have WWJD engraved or printed on them and wear that; because what Jesus would do is kiss your boo-boo and make it better.

It’s just a boo-boo: you’ll live and you’ll be stronger for it. Have a great day.