Archive for June, 2012

A lesson from the lunch ladies

June 22, 2012

My friend Michael was bigger than life in sixth grade.  He was flamboyant, odd (by 6th grade standards) and had a wicked sense of humor.  Every month or two, Michael would ask the kids sitting next to him at the lunch table to pass down their trays.  He would pour all of the uneaten food onto his plate, stir it up until it was a corn, cutlet, mashed potato slurpee and then go stand in line to turn in his tray to the lunch ladies.    These hair-netted women had the distinct pleasure of disposing of our trash and putting the utensils and plates in the dishwasher.  Right about the time that Michael reached the front of the line he would lean forward into his plate and make the universal puking sound.  The corn, cutlet, mashed potato combo along with Michael’s retching threw us into hysterics, but must have been repulsive to the lunch ladies.  Until one day when the lunch ladies had their revenge.  Finally one of them figured out what he was doing and made him sit down at the table and eat everything on his plate.  In true Michael fashion, he did just that.  He sat down, put a napkin in his lap and began eating.  He didn’t cry.  He didn’t whine.  He didn’t throw a fit.  Instead, as he ate, we heard him say “Oh, my, this is delicious” and “Do you have any more in the back?”  What’s the lesson?  Don’t take crap from anyone.  And, if you do something wrong, accept your punishment and move on.   Michael had to eat crow — but he made us think he enjoyed it.

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Instead of trying to carpet the world…I’m just going to wear fuzzy slippers.

June 18, 2012

My favorite Saturday Night Live character was Stuart Smalley.  Stuart was a 12-step addict who was famous for his personal affirmations.  My favorite was “Instead of trying to carpet the world, I’m just going to wear fuzzy slippers.”  I think he’s saying “Be the change you want to see in the world,” but his is a lot more fun.  Stuart was a wise man.  Take care of your own business first.  Find peace, joy and satisfaction inside.  Stop expecting everyone else to make you happy.   I think this involves keeping your mind, body and spirit healthy.   Sounds like new age, doesn’t it?  But, there’s truth in it.  We’re like a three-legged stool.  If one aspect of our life is out of whack, we lose our balance.  So, Stuart, today I’m going to read something important (to work on my mind), exercise (to work on my body) and look at everyone around me in a more loving way (spirit).

Constructive feedback – a lesson by the pool

June 13, 2012

My daughter Elizabeth was about 8 years old and we were having a lovely summer day at the pool.  I had a cold drink and a magazine and Elizabeth was working on her diving.  She said, “Mom, grade my dive.”  So, I watched her dive and said, “that’s fabulous.”  She said, “No, I mean give me a grade from 1-10.”   I could see that she wasn’t going to let up so I put my magazine down and said, “Okay, I give you a 6.”  I should have seen this coming, but she said, “Why a 6?”  So, I had to actually take the time to give her feedback — “You could work on pointing your toes and make sure you keep your legs together.”  This went on for about an hour and by the end of it, she had become a better diver.  It occurred to me that while I thought I was being a “supportive parent” by telling her that her dive was fabulous, I was missing the point.  She was looking for ways to improve her diving and all I wanted to do was give her hollow praise.   She wanted to know exactly what she needed to do to get better.  She taught me a valuable lesson.  The best way to offer constructive feedback is to let the person know which skills they need to develop (not what they’re doing wrong).  For example, it’s the difference between telling someone that they need be more “sensitive to others” and telling them that they need to work on their “empathy skills.”  When you focus your feedback on helping someone develop a skill that they’re lacking, it’s a much more positive and productive experience.

Know where you’re going and what to leave behind.

June 12, 2012

I have to credit my daughter, Abigail, with this quote.  She was in high school and had just overcome some very difficult challenges.  I was truly impressed with her resilience and asked her how she made it through a dark time.  She said, “You have to know where you’re going and what to leave behind.”  I’ve never forgotten her words.  I think about them often, but only recently did I realize their power.  Stay focused on what’s important  (your goals, aspirations and dreams) and leave behind all of those things that pull you down (failures, negativity, fear, bad relationships).    Instead of starting each day responding to emails or putting out a fires,  wouldn’t it be healthier to take a moment and let go of things that are of no use and to fill your mind and set your intention on those things that will enrich your life.   Our minds have only so much room for information so maybe it’s time to create some space.   Emotions follow thoughts so wouldn’t we all be more effective and happier if we focused on where we’re headed instead of being held captive by where we’ve been?