The Blog

Do you giggle a lot?
December 6, 2017

A few months ago a guest had been confused about what time we were recording an interview. I don’t know if it was his fault or that of his publicist, but I knew it wasn’t mine. That’s one reason I was so matter-of-fact when it came to rescheduling. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Wrong. According to him. When I was giving him the new time I quoted not only the Pacific zone, where he is -- but the Central, where we are. He didn’t need to hear the “Central” part, he snapped. “Yeah?” I thought to myself. “Well, I’m just as thrown by the change in plans as you appear to be, and considering the circumstances I think confirming the time on both ends is justifiable.”

I thought that. I didn’t say it. And later, when it sunk in I’d been scolded, I told his publicist I’d decided to pass on this one after all. I was sure it didn’t bode well. His publicist asked me to reconsider because the guy’s brilliant. He promised I’d learn a lot.

Fine.

You can guess what happened. I was so thankful for the opportunity to get to know this person! He’s coached more famous people than would fit in an entire ballroom, and after we finished recording he asked me some pointed questions about my work. I answered every one of them with confidence, and we had a wonderful conversation.

We even talked about the awkwardness on our first chat. He shared with me something he’s noticed about underachievers. “They use too many words,” he said, “and they giggle a lot.”

Of course I’d just laughed, hard, at something he’d said -- so I was horrified. No, he reassured me. I was laughing out of understanding. I resisted the urge to let out a little chuckle of relief.

I’d never heard the suggestion, as Katie would say, to “put the extra words away.” (Well, I guess I’ve heard it once! But she wasn’t talking to me.) I’d also never heard the suggestion to giggle less. I realized how often I laugh as a way of putting people at ease. It’s a social lubricant. But it can backfire. People don’t take you seriously if you laugh at things that aren’t funny.

I’m using fewer words these days, which means I’m listening more. Nothing problematic about that! I still fill an awkward silence with a chuckle here and there, but one of these days? I’ll be okay with letting silence speak for itself.

Your life sucks? Well, okay. But before you decide that’s a permanent condition as opposed to, say, today’s weather, I have a few questions.

Did you get enough sleep last night? What did you have for breakfast? Have you worked out lately?

It almost sounds like what you’d ask about a toddler. Does he need a nap? Is she reeling from too much sugar? Would it help to play outside for a while?

There are some needs you never outgrow.

How do you celebrate?
December 4, 2017

My editor, Candace Johnson, is a sweetheart. When we put The Willpower Workaround up for sale, she offered to help promote it. She sent me a list of questions I could answer at my leisure, and she’d post those answers on her site whenever I gave her the okay.

It took a while. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I did. I saved the Q&A for a special occasion. Toward the end of September I had quite the one-two punch of champagne-worthy developments. Katie and I pulled off a birthday surprise for Darrell that was straight out of a movie. Talk about a memorable scene! The kickoff to that weekend was so off-the-charts special that people I barely know get tears in their eyes when they hear about it.

Not even a week later, Katie was in touch with news of something all three of us had pinned so many hopes on we could barely acknowledge those lest we tempt fate.

“No matter what,” I told Candace, “I am rewarding myself with that Q&A.” So I did. I cranked up some of my favorite songs in my headphones and luxuriated in her great questions. Had I ever had this much fun? Well, yes. See the previous two paragraphs! But this was different. It was my oasis, a way to bask in my own story.

A guest on the show told me there’s a “joyful exuberance” to my work. I’d like to think so! People like Candace make it easy.

Are you getting warmer?
November 30, 2017

flowersHave you ever known someone who complains about people incessantly? As if spending time with them is, you know, the law. It isn’t.

It’s okay to gravitate toward people who make your spirits soar. Your preferences are yours for a reason. It isn’t some cruel joke the heavens played on you to make sure you’re mostly miserable!

You’ll never hear JJ Flizanes say someone hurt her feelings. When she shared that little gem on the show recently I decided that would be me from now on, too.

The concept had been gathering strength already. I’d already decided that if I was around someone who consistently hurt my feelings I’d (1) get some emotional distance, and (2) start plotting my escape.

The key word is “consistently.” I’ve yet to meet the person who keeps calm no matter what, who can look back with satisfaction at being only kind. But if you know people like I do, who are mean on purpose and think the problem is in the noticing, you’re free to reject them. It’s one of the most life-affirming things you can do.

The beauty of this? They don’t even have to know! When you’re with them, pretend like you’re watching a movie. Pretend they’re someone else. Pretend you’re someone else. Act the way you want to feel. “If everything about this situation was different,” you can tell yourself, “it would be great!” It sounds silly, but it works.

It gets more fascinating every time I hear it. People come home from the hospital with doctor’s orders to do this or that (to stay alive!) and then…nothing. They ignore their doctor’s orders.

More fascinating, to me, is how often they make fun of the rest of us for taking care of ourselves.

I don’t get it. Some things are easy! Not all back pain, for example, is debilitating. Keep stretching -- all day, every day. That might be all you need to keep the pain at bay. But if you don’t try it, you won’t know.

If you hold yourself in a sitting pose against the wall for at least a couple of minutes most days of the week, you’ll strengthen the muscles around your knees. If your knee pain is mild, or if you’re trying to guard against even that, voilà. You know, maybe.

I’ve eliminated the pain in my right hand by switching simple tasks, like tweezing, to my left hand.

Some problems are easily solved. What could it hurt to experiment with that idea?

Are you the jealous type?
November 27, 2017

I never get jealous. You can ask Darrell. He’d see it. And he’s struck by how not jealous I am. If someone has something I aspire to, I get to work.

That explains -- in my casual observation, anyway -- what jealous types want. They want what someone else has, but they don’t want to work for it like someone else did.

Which is not to say I worked hard to get the advantages I started with as an accident of birth. I’m with Moneyball author Michael Lewis on that: “Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them.”

Even an inheritance isn’t necessarily a stroke of luck. Which feels better to throw around, money you’ve earned -- or money from Grandma? Earning your keep is thrilling. As is earning the right to call your own whatever you’re jealous of in someone else.

What do you represent?
November 21, 2017

I’m standing in the hallway outside a courtroom in a small town in Illinois, watching my attorney joke around with my soon-to-be-ex husband’s attorney. They’re joking around! About what they’re doing for lunch! On the worst -- or what I thought would be the worst -- day of my life.

I couldn’t get over that. The worst day of my life, and to these lawyers it’s just…Thursday. That’s probably the biggest lesson from that day, if you can believe it. We’re the stars of our lives, but the world doesn’t revolve around us.

Boston

That’s one reason, when Darrell and Katie and I met with Dr. Nick Morgan on a snowy winter Wednesday last March, I tried to contain my excitement. It was a very big day in our lives, but to Dr. Morgan? Just another day at the office. As the day wore on I wondered how it compared with days he’d spent coaching other people. Was he having fun? Were we fun to teach?

To hear him tell it, mission accomplished. “What a great family,” he told us. “What a fun day.”

There’s something heartbreaking about big days in the life. All those expectations! Riding on people who are probably distracted, who’d really rather be having their own “big day” somewhere else. But you know what? The more often you keep in mind you’re just one player in the game of life, the more you might be able to help someone forget it’s just another day at the office. You can make someone so glad he came into work he isn’t pining away for his next vacation. Not now, anyway!

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photo courtesy of Katie Anderson