Saturday, May 21, 2005

Row 7C is an aisle seat.

It's a cloudy day in Minneapolis, MN. I've had it up to my eyebrows with dreary days so the fact that I'm headed to the airport for a trip to the west coast is a welcome change. However, 3 1/2 hours later I land in Seattle, Washington and within twenty minutes I'm turning on the wiper blades of my Budget rent-a-car. Out of the frying pan and into the rain. What a drag.

Of all the things that life throws at me, cloudy or rainy days are one thing that I really struggle with. Especially if there's too many in a row. I've come to realize it's more physiological than anything. I've discovered that some people actually suffer from chemical changes in their brain when subjected to an extended period of cloudy days. For me, the sun is more than a day brightener.

Well, the trip to Washington state wasn't a total loss. I drove to Olympia and checked into my hotel. The next day I met some really great people that I delivered two speeches to. I also saw a lot of trees and a few distant mountains. Most of all, I met people.

Before you think it strange of my remark about meeting people, let me explain. I made it a point to meet more people than I usually would. Although the trip only lasted 24 hours, I enjoyed a conversation with the girl that sold me a watch band and I learned her boyfriend is from Winnona, Minnesota. The boyfriend's father is a college professor. I talked to Dave at the cellular phone kiosk while he and I googled info for a battery I was needing. I learned that the young girl behind the counter at my hotel was going to deliver her baby in July and that she was feeling more than ready for that day to come. I visited with passengers that I sat with on the airplane. One guy owns two insurance agencies. Another guy was traveling with his wife while she attended a conference. He's from Duluth and has been an accountant for 25 years.

What's my point? The point is, I'm learning to focus on other people. Sound stupid to you? After all, I travel all over the United States meeting with thousands of people as I speak for their conferences and conventions. You'd think the last thing I need to learn is to focus on others.

The fact is, while I'm comfortable standing in front of thousands, I'm usually uncomfortable speaking one-on-one. To speak to an audience doesn't necessarily require that I focus on any one person. However, if you put me in a room with just one person, I'll be looking to escape within minutes. I'm the guy that is looking past your ears while you're telling me about yourself. My eyes want to roam anywhere but into yours. It's a lot of work keeping my attention. Especially when you live with a brain that craves constant stimulation.

My 737 has landed and I'm back to my favorite city. As I get ready to deplane, I remind the little boy sitting behind me to drink his bath water every day if he's planning on growing to be as tall as me. I say goodbye to the accountant and his wife and I head to the baggage claim. By the way, the accountant and his wife are staying the night in St. Paul before heading back to Duluth.

At 10 P.M. it's too dark to observe whether or not it's still cloudy. All I know is, I've got a much better attitude about life regardless of the fact that I've gone nearly 10 days now without seeing much sunshine. Actually, I'm thinking the people I met have given me a few rays of hope...and those rays are becoming my new day brightener.

If you're like me... take some time today and make freinds with a total stranger. Jump outside your "center-of-attention" mindset and put a little one-on-0ne sunshine in your life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

What Barb Said...

Okay, so I'm watching one of my favorite shows last night..Becker. Here's a guy that reminds me of me. The premise of the show revolves around a doctor who is self absorbed. Hmmm...

I connect with Dr. Becker on every level. He has no time for tact. He enjoys being by himself yet wants company. He can't figure out why people don't "get him." He feels you should be able to speak your mind and move on without regard for feelings. He's just into the facts which is what you need to be a good doctor I suppose.

For a doctor, all of that works. For a man seeking to connect with a world of friends, children, a spouse or even strangers, there's something missing. Miss Barb keeps reminding me of me which is what I'm not missing. She'd like to see less of me when she's talking to me... if you know what I'm saying. My baby sister has a great little comeback that she uses to get a giggle out of someone. "Enough about me, now you talk about me." That cracks me up but only because I know exactly what she's saying.

Like Becker, I struggle with focusing on others and their feelings. I need to force myself to slow down and look people in the eyes. I have to make it a point to use my eyes, ears and empathy. It's not helpful to ignore the very thing that you crave and that is, others. However, that's my journey. ADHD hasn't helped either. It's one of the primary reasons I can't focus. In fact, people who suffer with ADD or ADHD find that the more effort they put into trying to focus, the more their prefrontal cortex shuts down. The PFC is where your complete library for focusing and organizing thoughts exists. Mine has too many library books that haven't been returned.

This last assignment from Miss Barb the Beloved Therapist... "JL, take time to listen to your wife. Get into her world. Let her tell you about her day without you trying to fix it." Apparently, according to Barb, I'm not God. This is very disappointing. I was almost sure I was.

Like a lot of us thick headed male types, focusing on the feelings of others can really be difficult. It's like the guy who told his wife after they got married... "I love you and if that changes I'll let you know." He never said it again.

Well, bottom line over the past few weeks, I've made a conscious effort to make eye contact, listen and be empathic with my precious bride of 25 years. It's actually more difficult than I realized but it's working. I'm shutting my mouth and volunteering zero information on how to fix her world. In fact, I'm realizing the world she really needs fixing has my name on the mail box. If she wants my input into fixing anything... it should be Me working on fixing ME.

Well, another $115/hr well spent with Miss Barb. Thanks Barb and I'll see you the first Tuesday of next month.

signed.... Mr. NutJob

Monday, May 09, 2005

Again & Again

How many times have I cleaned out my garage over the 18 years I've lived here? Too many times. I'm convinced junk bunnies are mating in my garage. Every time I open the door, there's a Dodge Dakota truckload of stuff I've never seen before.

Life is full of repetition isn't it. We clean the garage every spring. Dishes get dirty every day. My kids need money from me just about every other day. My wife has to remind me I'm in charge...every day. Okay, that last one isn't true.

They say that 99% of what you did today was fairly predictable. We get up at the same time. We go through our rituals in the shower and in front of the sink. We grab a cup of coffee and drive the same car down the same road to the same job. Everyday.

So when are you going to start doing something interesting? How about make a point to find an alternate route home from work at least once a week. Maybe get a new hair cut since the last time you changed styles you were in high school. Get a subscription to a new magazine. Rent a DVD. Go next door and introduce yourself to a neighbor.

If life is too full of the same old garbage in your garage, it's nobody's fault but your own. I say you need to sleep on the opposite side of the bed tonight and then get up and start your first unpredictable day - tomorrow. And do it before the junk bunnies go into heat.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Motivation to Start

Just got a call from a friend. We met over a year ago when we decided to host a visitor from Uganda. It appears he'll be back for another visit only this time we know who's coming. He sounded excited to come visit and we're looking forward to seeing him.

This leads me to the word motivation. After hanging up the phone, my wife was heard to say that she now has to get some things done sooner than later. If you're like us, there's nothing like an unexpected event to motivate you to a deadline. We've already known there are some unfinished projects that we've been working on. What we didn't know was, how much faster they'd get done once we were promised a visit from a friend.

What is it that changes our energy levels, our creativity, and our motivation? It's usually an unexpected experience. For example, coming across a horrible car accident can cause some people to leap into an unprecedented level of energy and quick thinking. The threat of your mother-in-law coming to visit can spur on some incredible creativity and motivation to get your act together and organize your house.

How about the impetus for the motivation to change our attitude or get rid of a bad habit? What will it take for you to get started on something really important? The answer is this. Most people will not change an unwanted behavior or addiction until the pain to stay there is greater than the pain you will experience to force change. You often hear of a person experiencing a near death becoming much more relaxed about life once they recover. Their attitude about life has changed because a very painful experience gave them a new perspective.

What kind of pain will it take for you to find the motivation to slow down, become more thoughtful, stop a bad habit, or overcome a destructive addiction? Maybe you could try beating a painful experience to the punch. I can speak from experience... "Start today and avoid greater pain."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Two Daze Thought

I've spent a few moments over the last year contemplating what it means to be offended. It seems wherever I go, people are worried about offending someone.

The other day I was sitting in a meeting with a client that manufactures and distributes jewelry. We were reviewing a few radio scripts I'd written for them. The client wanted to be certain we were communicating in such a manner that would not offend anyone. As a result, he summoned four other employees to the conference room, hoping to get a wider sampling of opinions.

I read the scripts and we waited for their response. Of the three commercials, two passed with flying colors. The third was up for discussion. One of the young ladies in the room thought there was a possibility the ad could offend feminist. In light of the fact that the ad was about engagement rings, I gave one of my off-the-cuff spins on the feminist crowd.

"I'm not worried about this ad offending the feminist. In my opinion, most of them aren't going to get married since they all seem to be against men. We would have to be under the assumption that a large percentage of feminist are pursuing relationships with the very species that gave them cause."

There was an uncomfortable chuckle and then the room was silent with one nod of agreement. I'd made more than my point. I'd also given my opinion on "being offended." If I lived my life worried every minute about whether or not I was offending someone, I'd stay in bed all day.

The fact of the matter is, "being offended" is simply your discovery that not all participants of the human race hold the exact same beliefs as you do. That's it! It's not an attack on you as an individual. It's simply discovering that other people have differing opinions about life and for everyone to assume that we must all bend to one train of thought is ludicrous.

I'm always amazed that peace activists usually start a riot, environmentalists drive spikes into the very trees they want to save, and people demanding that I submit to their beliefs on the grounds that I shouldn't offend them obviously have no regard for what I believe.

Hmmm! Here's what I think. The bottom line is, I need to grow up and accept the fact that I'm not the only person on a planet of 6 billion people. I need to share my toys, share responsibilities and share my beliefs without having to consider what's fair, what's popular, and what's offensive. I simply will let you say your piece and then you let me say mine. Then, let's move on.

The next time you come to me with your "I was offended" hammer and try doinking me on the head with it so I'll submit to your beliefs, I won't be offended if you get angry with my new found ability to ignore you.