The Blog

Are you distracted?
September 18, 2019

When we record the talk show I’m almost always talking with someone (lately, Jane) over the phone. I’m not looking at that person, though. I’m looking at my producer, Darrell.

Suddenly I realize what I’ve been doing when I look at him. I’ve been scanning his face for clues as to what I’m doing wrong. Which means I’m focused, not so much on the conversation, but on what I’m doing wrong.


The fix is easy. Now I turn toward a screen with a pleasant image on it, one that evokes rapt attention from a big audience.

Much better.

You get what you focus on, as they say.

That’s why, when you’re teaching a kid to ride a bicycle in a big parking lot with a single obstruction in what feels like acres of open space, the kid will invariably head straight for the obstruction.

It’s also why, when you’re talking on a cell phone while you’re driving (please don’t), the person on the other end of that conversation feels gypped -- because your attention is (and should be!) on the road.

Narrow your focus. And pay attention to the infinite wisdom in this little gem: “We must go slowly, there’s not much time.”

Have you ever seen the advice for people trying to lose weight that goes something like this? “Use a smaller dinner plate.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s all I’d be thinking about during dinner: “Wow. This is a really small plate.”

I’m not on a diet. Don’t need to be. But when I go to the trouble of making, say, a pasta dinner I like to spread out the fun. I don’t want to race through it.

So I use a small spoon. How small? Small enough for Darrell to wonder if I’d raided our stash of souvenirs from when Katie was a baby.

It takes me twice as long to eat the same amount of food he does. I get twice the fun for the same number of calories. Silly? You bet. But it works.

Darrell and I have an understanding. He’s much more likely to forget something we both need him to remember, so he loves it when I remind him. He’s a peach about it. It helps that I’m a peach about how I word those prompts, but whatever. It works for us.

That’s what I was thinking when someone overheard me reminding Darrell of something. She didn’t think I should have.

Now what?

Well, nothing. She has a right to her opinions, context-free though they are.

I find criticism dispensers distracting, though. We cross paths with this woman from time to time, and she’s going to be overhearing a lot less.

Proximity is something you earn.

If you’ve read The Fountainhead you probably remember how hard the hero, Howard Roark, worked. That isn’t what I remember about him, though. It’s this: “He relaxes like a cat.”

a cat for the blogI was fourteen years old, and the phrase stopped me cold. How could relaxing like a cat not be the very definition of cool?

It’s actually pretty easy, I’ve since learned, to pull off -- if I work hard enough when I’m working. The harder I work the better I feel, and the more entitled I feel to a real break.

photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Do you love what you do?
September 11, 2019

You’ve probably heard all the adages -- steady progress toward a meaningful goal, don’t die with the music still in you, successful people play themselves out. Which make me wonder about this adage: “No one’s ever going to wish he spent more time at the office.”

If “at the office” means “working,” I beg to differ. Working’s my favorite way to relax because I love what I do.


The other day I tossed off a quick eMail to someone who’s usually quick to reply.

I got nothing.

I was tempted to bash myself for not reading my audience accurately. Translation: I kept having to bat that thought away over the next couple of days.

I’d shared a few things we update each other on every now and then. And then, on a whim, I threw in a quick aside about another project.

In the “not everything is about me (and in fact very few things are)” department, it still wasn’t outside the realm of possibility my new project idea had landed with a thud. My friend’s of that world, after all.

Now what?

I remembered she had zero context for the idea. I realized nothing in the way of her (perceived) lack of interest would dissuade me from it. Most of all I renewed my commitment to spend much less time talking about the idea and much more time executing it. See! I got something out of the exchange after all, one-sided though it was.

That was either one heck of an efficient conversation or one colossal rationalization. Whatever it was, it helped me stop worrying I’d embarrassed myself.

How do you move on?

How do you handle a typo?
September 9, 2019

You might be surprised by how many times I proofread my eMails before I hit “send.” Nothing throwaway about the attitude of this eMailer, I tell you. And it’s one reason I’m surprised when a typo makes it through.

Now what?

Letting it go gives the impression I can’t spell. Fixing it gives the impression I can’t let go.

It’s one or the other, baby. I have to choose. It’s trivial and oddly defining. Who am I?

I choose “detail-oriented” over “careless.” Every time.

Well, not every time. Some typos refuse to reveal themselves until they’re published in my newsletter -- and I figure my subscribers (hi, subscribers!) didn’t sign up for multiple copies of what appears to be the same post. In that case the only thing to do is wince, and move on.

If I was a drinker, this is when I’d pour myself a glass of wine and watch another episode of The West Wing. Since I don’t drink, I skip straight to The West Wing.

But before I go to bed I congratulate myself on being the person who actually can let go.

You know, sometimes.

1 and for TwitterWhen Katie was in the first grade she asked her teacher how to spell “mouse’s.” Her teacher said, “It’s mice.” Katie posed the question a different way, but she was six years old. She didn’t have a word for “possessive” yet. “I just told you,” the teacher answered again. “It’s mice.”

Katie gave up. She wrote “mice,” she handed in the assignment, her teacher crossed out “mice” with a red pencil and wrote “mouse’s,” she had her answer.


Whatever it takes!

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