The Blog

physics for the blogThe other day I told a friend what I admired most about Katie besides her resilience. She’s much more comfortable with uncertainty than I was at her age. I wondered where that comes from.

Darrell’s guess was our family motto: “We’ll figure it out.” Then he teased me about being the reason we have a family motto. I probably heard the suggestion from someone else. “Yeah?” he countered. “But who actually follows through on things like that?” Pause. “Who?”

Children learn what they live. Katie grew up with parents who joke that if their business had a logo it would be fog. So you don’t know what to do next. So what? You’ll figure it out.

The extent to which Kate’s internalized our family motto inspires Darrell and me right back. And that, my friends, is the circle of life.

If what you want to be when you grow up is a parent, good move. Your children will help you grow up!

“The reason it’s difficult to learn something new is that it will change you into someone who disagrees with the person you used to be,” Seth says. “And we’re not organized for that.”

Who’s so proud of the person she used to be she wants to stick with it forever?

Learning something new is difficult, but the alternative is a death march of going through the motions. No, thanks.

I’ve known people who refuse to change, who’ve learned all they intend to learn. I’m still trying to escape their gravitational pull.

Left unattended, a friend told me once, things don’t stay the same. They get worse.

Isn’t it more fun and more practical to take charge when you can? You might be surprised by how much control you have over the weather, metaphorically speaking.

When I look back on the long list of people who’ve joined us on the talk show the thing that strikes me is how impressive they are. It’s been a treat to get to know them a little. To hear them tell it, the same. They almost always gush about how much fun it is to be on the program.

Why wouldn’t it be? “Please, tell me more” has never evoked anything bad. Think about it. Someone asks you a question, really listens to your answer, and asks you to go on. Please.

Doesn’t that feel great?

Everyone is a storyteller dying for lack of an audience.” Not on my show. Everyone has an attentive audience in me. I’m a good listener, and there’s a better-than-good chance you’ll come away from the hour with a new appreciation for yourself. Maybe it’s revelation, maybe it’s celebration. Whatever it is, taking an hour to reflect on what you’re doing right isn’t likely to make you feel anything but terrific.

You’re the new boss, with a new vision for your team. What if your people aren’t crazy about that new vision? What if they aren’t all in?

When I posed that question to leadership coach Cort Dial on the show recently I expected him to say something about finding people who were all in.

Nope.

Cort reminded me loyalty isn’t something you demand. It’s something you inspire. Do you want the truth, or do you want people telling you what they think you want to hear?

The better your people the more likely they are to have points of view that differ from yours. Isn’t that the point of having more than one person in a company? To get the work done, sure -- but to stay alert to better ways of doing it.

subway car for the blogThe subway system in New York fascinates both Darrell and me. He can’t get over how efficiently and relatively inexpensively all those people move about, and figuring out whether to take the N train or the Q is a fun puzzle. I’m endlessly entertained by the study in human behavior. I watch myself, too. It’s a peek at someone’s essence through the prism of mass transit.
 
Recently a guy offered me his seat the minute we boarded. “Are you sure?” I said, then immediately regretted it. Who offers his seat if he’s kidding? Nobody. So I quickly added, “Thank you so much.”

The most interesting thing about this is that I accepted his offer. It isn’t required. I’ve watched people decline all the time. They aren’t mean about it. They’ll toss off something like, “Oh, that’s okay. But thanks!” And that’ll be it.

Why didn’t I do that? I’m not sure. But I like the idea of accepting the occasional kindness from a stranger. It feels good to offer. If no one accepts? Well, you know. Still. I’m me. The whole time I sat there I was thinking, “Why do I get to take a load off while he’s standing? Why do I rate?” So just before he got off the train I kind of touched his arm to get his attention. “Thanks again,” I said. He beamed at me. The next thing I noticed was a gal across from us, smiling at me.

We hadn’t covered much ground and the events probably took fewer than ten minutes to unfold. They stick with me, though. My grandmother once told me how much I seem to appreciate everything, like it was just the greatest thing.

I loved the reassurance I’m still that kid.

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson

Once upon a time Darrell and I got tired of our annual tradition of making two hundred dozen sugar cookies from scratch. Two hundred dozen. We’d thought about quitting, but could never bring ourselves to do it. Then one October weekend -- we had to start baking in October to get everyone cookies by Christmas -- we baked sixty dozen in two days. I was on the floor late that Sunday, trying to clean up a sugar spill -- which you can never quite do because it’s sugar.

I looked up at Darrell while still on my knees (appropriately) and asked what he thought about making that our last year. He was all for it.

And that was it. That was the end of our run.

I don’t know how soon we would’ve moved on otherwise, but since then I’ve associated an unexpected hassle with the possibility of a better life.

The afternoon I wrote this post I was fresh off a major sea salt spill. I know, what is it with me and white granular substances? I thought the usual: “Oh, great. Like I need this today, blah blah.” Then I remembered the vacuum cleaner I love but resist using because it’s such a hassle to extract from the pantry (or what passes for a pantry). “What if,” I thought, “I started over with that part of the house and not only cleaned up the salt -- with that vacuum! -- but made the pantry more functional while I’m at it?”

I wax smug about using housework as meditation but I never crave more of it. Taking care of a spill gives me the same thing I had before, a clean pantry. Giving that pantry a makeover while I’m at it? Now we’re talking.

When life hands you lemons, as they say, make it easier to make lemonade!

By the time my life’s winding down -- and with it, this blog -- will there be any stories left unshared? Oh, yes. But I forgive you for wondering! I’ve told many hundreds already.

I feel safe sharing as much as I do by not posting them in chronological order. Once in a while I make an exception -- like in Do-Over. But it’s usually random, not chronological.

That’s how you get to know most anyone, isn’t it?

When people ask you on a first date or in a job interview to tell them a little bit about yourself, you don’t start with “I was born in Omaha, Nebraska” unless you don’t want a second date or the job. It’s boring. They might eventually suggest you start at the beginning and tell them everything, but only after they’ve feasted on the popcorn popper version of your best anecdotes.

In the meantime? Conversation is a dance. Let other people have the fun of leading. They’ll love you for it.

I fasted twenty-four hours once a week for most of last year. By Thanksgiving, my hair was showing the stress. It was a bit thinner. So I quit. By Christmas my hair was thicker than ever, and by Valentine’s Day (or so) when I got a trim the stylist had the standard report: “Wow. You have a lot of hair.”

There was just one problem. I still wanted fasting to be part of my regime. The potential health benefits are impressive, as my friend Alex Lickerman recently detailed on his blog. I was inspired to fast for sixteen hours a day -- every day -- after seeing an exchange about that in the comments, and that’s been my routine for months now.

So far, so good.

No, wait. So far, unbelievable. I can’t report on the cardiovascular or neurological changes in progress, but fasting’s solved other problems I didn’t realize I had. Here’s one example. I do weights after I make the bed and our coffee -- but there was always a tendency to put them off. Why? Breakfast and Twitter and whatever Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield and Scott Adams posted overnight. I log hundreds of sets of weights every year. Almost anything sounds better than hauling my behind downstairs to start another one.

It’s different now. I don’t have breakfast until after I finish weights. I’m not tempted to delay that workout because I don’t eat until it’s over. Considering how hungry I am after sixteen hours without a morsel, that’s one heck of a motivator.

I’m fasting because of some unproven health benefits, and I give myself a lot of credit for doing something difficult on my own initiative. As usual the heavens sweep in with a hug, in the form of -- for example -- what I just told you. Life’s really quite wonderful, isn’t it?