When I was twelve my parents seemed nuts. They were so preoccupied with being perceived positively by the neighbors that anything I did to tarnish their image was met with stern admonishments, a slaps in the face or worse. Pretty mild stuff, I know, but my inexperienced suburban mind was appalled by this treatment, even though I couldn't put it into words at the time.

We had recently moved from Dayton, Ohio to New Orleans and New Orleans felt like another planet. The school system in New Orleans at that time was practicing forced busing and everyone was angry about it. The teachers were angry, the parents were angry, the kids getting bussed in were angry and the kids who weren’t getting bussed were angry. There was constant fighting and violence. Our Junior High made national news when one of the buses was set on fire, with the kids in it, by some angry idiot. And I was a complete boob from Ohio who didn't have the slightest idea what to do or how to behave. The only enjoyable aspect of my world was riding my Kawasaki 100 Centurion dirt bike.

My parents wanted me to go to private school but I refused. I wasn't going to volunteer to be one of the neighborhoods targets of choice. I hadn't lived in New Orleans long, but I'd been there long enough to observe that if the private school kids ventured out of their own yards, the public school kids would torture them unmercifully.

My first day at the retired military compound known as McDonnah 45, I had a large colored boy named Leslie sitting on my chest, batting my head around like a cat playing with an unfortunate sparrow. No amount of reasoning or pleading deterred him from the delight he took in taunting and demeaning me. When I looked around for help I was greeted with diverted eye's and in the case of one teacher, a yawn and a leisurely stroll back into the school building. I certainly wasn't in Ohio anymore.

After many incidence of my naivety being physically punished and much lunch-money having been relinquished, I began fighting back. Not well, but I could no longer endure the constant humiliation of having my eyes poked, of fingers reaching for my ass in gym class and having pencils broken off in my lockers lock. After twenty or so fights, (most of which I lost), the blacks called me crazy and left me alone. The white bullies left me alone as soon as I started fighting back.

After this stage of my acclimating to public school life in New Orleans, I made a couple of friends; Craig and Brad Duville. The Duville brothers were cool and I was stoked they liked me enough to let me hang around. They had a Victor five horse power mini-bike that they rode around endlessly behind their house, by the bayou. I'd bring my Kawasaki over and we'd tear up the topsoil next to the Alligators that hung around that section of the Bayou.

Riding in relatively close proximity to those chompers wasn't as dangerous as it sounds. The sound of our bikes scared them all into the water within seconds. Particularly the biggest one who we named Wadly. A couple of blips of the throttle and he couldn't get away fast enough. All seven feet of him would energetically waddle away, over any of his lesser motivated companions if need be, in his spirited return to the security of the water.

The brothers Duville had a successful venture that they operated out of their home, and surprisingly enough their parents didn't seem to mind; they sold pot. Their Mom was young, very attractive and sadly for me, hardly ever around. Their Dad was the programming director for the local Rock station and while he was obviously successful, he was just as obviously a stoner. Not a Cheech and Chong 'wow man' stoner but a sharp dressed, long-haired, business savvy, highly productive stoner. Whether they turned a blind eye to their son's activities or outright encouraged them I'm not sure, but if you wanted some weed, the Duville brothers were the ones to talk to.

Craig and Brad's enterprise put them in contact with just about everyone who smoked on the west bank … which was just about everyone in our age group. One of their customers was an older boy who worked as a mechanic at the local Gulf station. His name was Troy Dedman.

The Gulf station where Troy worked was in a tiny shopping complex on General DeGaulle Drive. General Degaulle Drive was the biggest through-fare leading in and out of our neighborhood. Two lanes going east, two lanes going west and a strip of greenbelt between them that we called 'the median'. It was easily seventy-five yards wide and three times that long. We frequently rode our dirt bikes there. If the cops showed up we'd escape down a narrow trail that led to the Bayou.

One sunny spring day after school, I was practicing wheelies on my bicycle and someone riding a motorcycle on the median caught my ear. I rode over and found it was Craig and Brad … and they were riding a Kawasaki 350 Bighorn. I was stunned and amazed. That 350 Bighorn was the Holy Grail of dirt bikes at that time, (to me anyway). I even had a poster of one on my wall. I couldn't believe they were riding one.

I rode over to them and asked how they had the good fortune to be in possession of such a fine machine. They told me it was Troy's and that he had lent it to them for the afternoon. I asked, and then begged and finally pleaded with them to let me ride it, but nothing doing. They told me they had promised Troy that no one but them would ride it, and then they looked at each other like they had some sort of secret.

I finally convinced them to let me sit on it. Then I started it up and took off before they could stop me. Riding that bike was a dream come true. I shifted through the gears wheelieing with each one. Then I threw it into a slide, powered through a one hundred and eighty degree turn and charged up the other side of the median. It handled better than any bike I'd ever ridden and had so much power. I was in Heaven during that stolen five minutes of Bighorn bliss.

I pulled back up to where Craig and Brad were standing and handed them the bike and said, “there, that wasn't so bad was it?” They both shook their heads and Craig said, “man, now you've done it. You better get out of here.” I heard the sound of a Honda SL70 at full tilt and looked over Craigs shoulder to see Troy Dedman riding straight towards us, and he didn't look happy. I jumped on my bicycle and headed for home, pedaling faster than I ever had before.

He caught up to me as I was crossing a vacant lot between two houses. It was clear escape was impossible so I got off my bike and tried to calm him down, pointing out I hadn't hurt his bike and then Blam, he decked me with a right that blew me off my feet and chipped one of my front teeth. I stood up, dazed and wobbly, and then BLAM, he hit me with a left that threw me to the ground and broke my nose. It took me much longer to stand up after that one; I was exponentially more in-shock and shaken. As I raised my head our eyes met and BLAM, I was lifted off the ground by an uppercut that smashed my teeth together and lacerated my tongue. I guess Troy figured I'd paid the toll for my misdeed because through my haze I could hear him firing up the SL70 and riding back to work.

When I got home I explained my injuries by saying that I'd crashed while attempting a heroic jump on my bicycle. This was easily believed as I was often injured during my two-wheeled exploits. I was even allowed to miss school for two days because of my injuries, which was fantastic because I was so embarrassed about the tremendous ass-kicking I had received, that the thought of having to face going to school and everyone knowing how thoroughly I had been pummeled, made me feel physically ill.

When I returned to 'the 45' I kept my eyes fixed on the ground like I'd lost a hundred dollar bill, trying to avoid eye contact with everyone. That didn't last long. About two minutes after I got there a kid I hardly knew came up to me excitedly and said: “Man, I heard you got into a fight with Troy Dedman. How are you even alive? You just took off on his bike? Man, you are crazy!”

All through that day people came up to me in awe that I'd been in a 'fight' with Troy Dedman. They seemed oblivious to the fact I'd had my ass handed to me on a plate. I actually became something of a minor celebrity for awhile. My social acceptability never faded and my young world felt much improved, for the short term of its duration.

Why people valued what they did and how to operate in social systems still confused me, but I was glad that this time circumstances had somehow operated in my favor. Although I would have appreciated a less punishing route.

Slack/2012






 
 
_
My computer was acting funny the other day, running at an irrationally insincere pace. I updated all the overdue updates, deleted space eating infrequently used programs, ran a defragmentation program and it was still running like a drunk trying to make it to the bathroom. I was able to get online, Binged for help and found 'Speedy PC Pro' online repair service “for $29.99 – SpecialToday Only!” I get a bit panicky when my cyber link to the world is poorly, and the service was Microsoft Approved and had Verisign trust buttons and other warm fluffies, so I went for it.

Shortly thereafter, after getting nowhere with the software I'd just downloaded, (past knowing that my drive had 388 problems it couldn't fix), I was on the phone with Sanjev. He seemed a patient sort and was obviously trying to be helpful. The room behind him sounded like it held 200 other chatty East Indian repair assistants, but it didn't interfere with my ability to understand him. Post approval, he poked into the innards of my black Dell 3000 and shortly said: “Oh sir, I have some very bad news for you”. “Faaak” I inwardly gasped, remembering past computer repair debacles, and hoping this wasn't going to be another. “You have many problems with your registry, I cannot fix this for you. The best analogy I can use is that if your drive was made of wood it would be filled with termites and is about to collapse. You must take this to a Microsoft trained technician as soon as you can.” He than began recommending Staples Office Supply, where they could solve my problem for about $350 “or perhaps a bit more”.

As I mentioned, the thought of being without my computer makes me feel somewhat panicky. I had an urge to supplicate for the sake of getting back to up-and-running status ASAP, but then remembered a past situation that created a similar feeling.

It was near Christmas and our first trip to London. After arriving at Heathrow we gathered our bags and took the tube to Hammersmith Station. There were throngs of people bustling about like extras in a movie who had been told to BUSTLE! It was a long flight from California and I was spun. We collected our bags and started shuffling towards the taxi stand when a thin, squinty man in a striped turtleneck sweater and a worn dark blue sports jacket came up to us and said: “Where to Gov? Got me car right around the corner, take you any where you need to go”. “What about the taxis? Are you a taxi driver?” I replied, sounding every bit as sharp as an old butter knife. My wife Elle squeezed my arm and pulled our three year old son Chris a bit closer. “No need for alarm Miss”, our would be transport man assured: “Just providing a service, where are you headed?” I told him we were going to the Chiswick Inn on High Street. “Right, take you there for a flat twenty quid. Bettern' you'll do with those black cabbies … never know what those buggers 'ell charge ya. Likely to take you the long way round you know.”

I was about to accept the pro-offered arrangement, largely to avoid the cue and get to the hotel as quickly as possible, but Elle took me firmly by the arm, looked the man directly in the eyes and said: “No thank you sir” and towed Chris and I to the taxi stand. We waited in silence for about ten minutes and then got into a black cab. I told the driver our destination and as we took off I asked El “what was that was about?” “Didn't like him, didn't like him at all. He seemed shifty and polite in a wrong way. My gut told me he wasn't to be trusted and we should just go.” “Oh, OK” I replied feeling like I'd just traveled to Mars in the back of a pickup. We pulled up to the hotel a few moments later. “That'll be three pound ten sir” the driver chortled as we exited the cab. Elle smiled at me and said “I'll get it, my treat.”

I decided to take the old black Dell to the local 'PC Dude' repair shop. They had it done in a day for $119.


                                  Happy Holidays!


Slack/2011
 

Lights

11/01/2011

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This Blog is more story than on point blog but I'm sharing it anyway.

It happened so fast. He gasped at the enormity of the SNAP of the transition from one level of consciousness, one reality, to another. He would have fallen to his knees if he were still a physical being. With that seamless suddenness, an explosion of awareness opened up seemingly limitless perceptions. He could see, hear and be in a thousand places at once but felt no physical presence, purely an awareness of mind, emotion and heart. He could also hear and feel the thoughts and feelings of thousands of people at once, and their emotions were visible as lights with brilliant colors. Their personality types also revealed themselves in an infinite variety of differing hues. Some were bright and vibrant while others were much less so. If he pushed a bit further he could see the stories of their lives, and not only the past and present, but the likely future as well.

It took some time for him to realize that what connected him to these thousands of others was love, in the many and varied ways we love each other. The love he felt pointed towards him was enormous … even people he didn’t know … and they numbered in the tens of thousands. He had no idea he had profoundly touched so many lives.

Finding one’s purpose in life is like a rail journey, where we have to use our senses to find our destination. Some journeys are very long and have many twists and turns, with false starts and false stops, while others are quite short. His was short. Holding his father’s hand at the outdoor market near his family home, he heard a sound, a ‘braaap’ like a mechanical goat might make. He turned his head to see a young man riding away from town on a small displacement motorcycle. At barely three he knew right then and there that he had found his destination … and that it was on two wheels.

Now it was over.

He could feel the enormous colors of disbelief, loss, anger and sadness as he looked into the many lives he was connected with. A Tsunami of guilt washed over him as he saw, heard and felt their love and the associated anguish of his passing. It was a freak accident that claimed his life. An early race slide-out that went horribly wrong thrust him helplessly and unavoidably in the path of his fellow racers. But he knew that he wanted to do well so badly that he had played the cards of risk recklessly many times, and had many warnings. He took full responsibility for pain he had caused so many and decided that as punishment he would force himself to stare into the misery he had caused … and he did.

As he stared into that mass of sadness, anger and loss and as he forced himself to go through those feelings with all who loved him he began to notice changes in the lives he focused his consciousness on: Some had unquestionably changed … and the likely paths of their lives had changed as well. Particularly 18 of those lives, 16 boys and 2 girls, and he also noticed that they, like himself, had very bright, open and good-hearted personality colors. As he focused on them he noticed that previous to his death their likely life paths were very short. Very short indeed.

His passing had changed them and the choices they made. He looked hard to see if he had caused their brightness to dim, and it had not. He looked at all the lives he connected with and found that only a small percentage dimmed after his passing and in fact it seemed, after the period of pain requisite for grief, the lives of those he loved were improved by his. Some held an undying love for him in their hearts and many made decisions a bit more cautiously than they had before, and this led to the happy consequence of less negative consequences.

Having the heart and talent to compete on the world stage he realized he had been an example of living life to its fullest and his death didn’t diminish that … it only modified it to add a bit more caution. Even the best of us can tempt fate too much.

He decided that because he now realized that his life had caused much more good than bad, he no longer needed to punish himself. As that awareness entered his consciousness a bright light appeared in the near distance and he knew he should walk towards it. He was then filled with the great sadness of saying good-bye to those we love.

As he walked on, he looked back and smiled.

Good-bye.

This story is inspired by and dedicated to the late, great Marco Simoncelli.

Slack/2011

 

Experts

10/09/2011

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                            Experts

Who we listen to and trust is the greatest single factor determining our level of happiness and success. Have you ever thought about why you trust who you trust? Most people use their emotional reactions as a guide, with very little, if any, logical examination. With media being such a large component of our lives, there’s no shortage of people giving us their ‘expert’ opinion on virtually any topic. If we want to maximize our happiness and success we need to be able to figure out the difference between real experts and people posing as experts. I recommend asking yourself three questions about people you come across who are in the role of expert. These questions can help you weed out the posers. First, ask yourself “why should this person be considered an expert?” Many of the reasons people commonly accept people as experts has nothing to do with real expertise. Often a person is considered an expert if they hold a position of authority in their field but a role, even one socially regarded as important, does not indicate true expert status. Many people are driven to achieve positions of authority and importance to compensate for psychological imbalances, and/or they may have control or vanity personality priorities. A person on national TV who has an impressive title and who presents themselves well may not know what they’re talking about or may have an agenda that’s not readily apparent. People who have achieved their expert status because of what they have actually done in their specific field are truly experts. A surgeon who has performed dozens of successful heart transplants is a real expert on heart transplant. The head of a managed health network that’s on a news show, offering their opinion on matters related to heart transplants, probably isn’t. Also, it’s important not to judge a book by its cover when it comes to experts. Real experts are frequently not overly concerned with their image and may not be the greatest public speakers; Albert Einstein is a good example. Often the snakiest, most manipulative and dishonest ‘experts’ will be immaculately dressed and present themselves with seductive ease.

 The second poser spotting question I recommend is “in this situation, is this expert’s opinion specific to their field of expertise or possibly outside of it?” Many people seek time in the public eye and are happy to offer their opinions or advice, often regardless of its merit. Many sports personalities use their status to recommend and endorse products or services. Some of these recommendations can be very good; a marathon winner’s shoe recommendation is certainly worth considering. But while an NFL superstar is certainly a real expert when it comes to being on the field, it’s doubtful that expertise extends to where to get the best deal on a new roof. George Jones is truly an expert at writing and singing old school country songs but have you ever tried the breakfast sausage he recommends? It’s truly awful.

The third ‘weed out the posers’ question is “does this person have a conflict of interest in this situation? Are they speaking as a true neutral authority or do they have something to gain or an axe to grind?” When we’re buying a car, home or other ‘large ticket’ item, we commonly come across a plethora of people offering expert advice and opinions. The people accepted as experts are usually people who have been in the industry in one form or another for quite a while. But do these years of experience, positions of authority and ease of ‘gab’ make them the best people to listen to when it comes to buying a car, home or other large ticket item?

If a person earns their living within an industry, whether it’s as a sales person,  a writer, a show host or a huge internet advice site, they’re probably the wrong people to listen to because it’s likely they have a vested interest in the decision you make. Industry ‘experts’ often recommend the services and products of companies who advertise on their show, in their magazine or on their website. These shows, magazines and websites can be great sources of information about, products, options, news and special programs but it’s important to not let yourself directed into an unwise decision. Expert advice from sources that do not have conflicts of interest are much more reliable.

To sum the qualities of a real expert:  1 - This person has actually done work in their field that supports an expert status. 2 – The opinions they are offering are within the realm of their expertise and 3 – There are no (or very few) possible conflicts of interest that could affect their opinion.

By applying this quick, three pronged analyses to the many experts we come across, we can weed out the posers and maximize our happiness and success, by utilizing the wisdom of people who actually know what they’re talking about.

Slack/2011

 
 
 This is a story I wrote that's to be included in a book on conflict resolution that is scheduled to be out in 2012. It's a little unusual for this blog but I hope you enjoy it anyway. 

      Honey, a Baseball Bat and Marlene

 It was a day like any other. We were sitting on the well-used couches that faced and flanked Marlene’s desk, talking about staff scheduling issues and sipping coffee, some of the counselors were smoking cigarettes.

 There was a loud crash and angry voices coming from the group meeting room. I and the other counselors jumped up and ran to the group room. We arrived to find Big Hank swinging a baseball bat at Ronnie, a new arrival, fresh from Folsom prison. I held my hands up palms open and said “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa” using a descending volume and slowing the cadence of my speech trying to calm the situation down, “what’s going on here?” “That motherfucker poured honey over all my stuff; my pictures are fucked, my letters are fucked, and I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch!”

 Hank started to go for Ronnie and as I was physically trying to hold him back Marlene walked in. She slammed a large book on the floor and it made a huge CRACK. All eyes’ we’re on her and the room was silent; everyone was stunned by the noise and the turn of events. She looked Hank in the eye’s, took her time and said in the calmest tone imaginable “Do you think you really need that thing with me?” Her head was slightly tilted and she had a wisp of a smile on her face with her hand outstretched and open, expecting him to hand her the bat.

 There were a tense few moments and I was ready to tackle him if he went for someone, but he looked down, handed her the bat and allowed us to lead him away.

 After processing Big Hank to a more secure facility we were back in the office and I asked Marlene “how in the hell did you do that? That was amazing!” She replied “I didn’t look at the part of Hank that was angry, I looked inside him, at the parts of him that are sweet and loving, and he actually has a lot of those”. Then she lit a cigarette and I noticed her hand was trembling. “But it wasn’t easy” she said “not by a long shot.”

Slack/2011

 
 
What are You at War With?
  It doesn’t take more that a casual perusal of the human race to see that being in conflict is a habitual, if not natural, part of the fabric of the human condition. It probably had to be; if we weren’t a race of fighters we wouldn’t have made it through our species’ early peril. In order to not be gobbled up by predatory animals we had to fight. In order to not be killed off by disease we had to learn about and implement disease prevention, another fight. The weather could take us out with a lengthy tsunami or an ill tempered hurricane so we needed to fight such events by implementing strategies to protect ourselves under those conditions. As we evolved into tribal culture we fought with each other and if we couldn’t defend ourselves we suffered the consequences. I think it’s pretty clear we’re not going to stop being fighters anytime soon, but perhaps we can be conscious of these energies and direct them to productive rather than destructive ends.

“I don’t have a part of myself that’s like that. I’m not a fighter at all”, is a common reaction to the aforementioned assertion. Indeed some of us are so far from the aggressive side of ourselves that we may not even know it’s there, but in my 25+ years of being a practicing shrink I’ve frequently observed the nicest, most polite and very submissive people turn into a match for Attila the Hun when their children were threatened or during divorce proceedings etc. Virtually all of us have a ‘fighter’ in us.

  This ‘warrior energy’ or whatever you want to call it isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact we may need it now more than ever, albeit with a different perspective and manner. We don’t need to engage in violence to use it, we can fight cruelty, poverty, injustice, unfairness, discrimination, intolerance, ignorance, environmental abuses, etc., etc., in non-violent formats. This is incredibly important right now because as our society moves forward and changes at an increasingly rapid pace the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in many individuals is awakened and spurred on by fear of what the ensuing change might bring. Resultingly, these folks will fight to keep the familiar, and the injustice, cruelty, discrimination, ignorance, unfairness and the like that go with it. Of course their battles will be dressed up with catchy slogans and misdirecting symbolism and the charge will be led by appealing pundits speaking in catchy sound bytes, but it’s nonetheless a fear based fight against change. Unless those of us who want our world to improve use our talents and ‘fight’ energies and take action to support forward moving beliefs and causes, we may be defeated by those who fight because of fear.

 We now have the technical know how to destroy the whole planet (at least the surface area) so obviously, on the macro level, we have to back off some from our war-like tendencies or we’re all screwed. Of course each of us have our own personal battles with our families, our waistlines, relationships etc., and sometimes those battles leave us with little or no time for anything else (like severe addiction or sickness). For those of you who aren’t in the folds of such personal crisis my question is: “What are you at war with?” What makes you angry enough to take action because what’s currently happening is intolerable and you’re willing to put some energy in to changing it?

 Our swords these days can be taking the time to sign a petition, speaking up a bit more than usual, making aware consumer choices, practicing informed voting, donating some time or money to a favored cause or whatever. If we take the time and spend some energy to fight for what’s important to us, in a manner that works for us, for just a few minutes a day we will be making an important and positive contribution. It certainly sounds corny and I’m sorry if I’ve come off like some sort of pushy cheerleader but a little bit of action from a lot of us can make a huge real difference. Go Team!!

Slack/2010

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Are You Smarter than You Think?

  You’re probably smarter than you think. Most people are. This doesn’t mean most make great decisions or achieve a lot, but that underlying ability is often there, waiting for the chance to come out and show what it can really do.

  When we’re kids a big part of our job is to push our agenda to see what works, what we can get away with and what leads to unpleasant consequences. It’s left to our folks to set limits for us so we don’t kill ourselves in the process. It’s not an easy job and no matter how great your parents were a lot of their messages came across as “you don’t know what you’re doing” and for the most part that was probably true.

  Societies ‘more primitive’ than ours usually have a ritual called ‘the rite of passage’. In this ritual a sub-adult can prove themselves competent and worthy of adult status, typically by performing a set of difficult and / or dangerous tasks successfully. This is followed by a ceremony where the sub-adult is ‘transformed’ into an adult and from then on out, to both themselves and their society, they are no longer some dumb ass kid but an adult worthy of respect.

  Aside from some ill advised drinking rituals our society does not have a defined marking place for us to shift gears from adolescence to adulthood. This can leave us with the lingering sense that on some level we’re still dumb ass kids.  

  Further, the road to any type of competency or wisdom is strewn with errors and mistakes, ask anyone whose achieved anything of significance. Mistakes are how we learn and grow. In spite of this a preponderance of people respond to any error as proof of hopeless incompetence. Even more sadly many of us do this to ourselves.

 To compound this, being able to logically think for one’s self, (and thus think one’s self out of conundrums like this), is not part of the required curriculum of any public education system currently operating in the United States. Clearly learning to think for one’s self is not important enough to be part of a general education in the opinions of the administrators who decide what kids need to be taught. 

                      You’re probably a lot smarter than you think.

Slack/2011

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Disasters: Doors to a Better Life?
  This may sound a bit Pollyanna (unrealistically positive), particularly if you’re currently enduring one of life’s bone crushingly hard phases, but its true: If we learn from the disasters we survive we can use what we’ve experienced as doors to a better way of life. Perhaps a lot better and possibly in ways we couldn’t have gotten to without the rough bits.

 Your disaster might be a random chance disaster, like a falling brick or some unexpected (and undeserved) disease. It could be a disaster of your own making, like a cell phone jabbering auto accident or a last second decision to go ‘all in’. Often it’s a combination of both; sure he was charming, intelligent and oh so attractive but you didn’t let yourself see his snaky signals of showing up late, being secretive about his past and you forgave him faster than the blink of an eye when he told you he had an STD after you had sex.

 Whatever the cause, when disaster strikes all the grief stages show up; denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. We’ll do our ‘laps’ with them, in our own personal style, until the reactive emotion subsides & we start putting the pieces back together. If we’re going to turn this disaster into a doorway to a better, more informed, wiser life, we’re going to have to look at what happened as honestly as possible, while not expecting ourselves to be perfect, wallowing in self pity or finding a goat to scape. We need to strive to understand what happened from a non-judgmental (it’s not good or bad, this is just what happened) perspective and ask ourselves what this pain filled experience has taught us. Take your time, this is a big event; give yourself all the space you need to process it properly. Writing things out from all sorts of perspectives can help and can offer other angles to process your experience from. Be wary of the counsel of friends. They may be well intended and sometimes wise but my experience has been that much better results are achieved when this type of journey is held in a more personal light.

 Disasters big and small befall all of us and even really, really good people aren’t excluded. If you learn from your disasters and open a door, you’ve taken a bad situation and made something good come out of it. I can’t think of a better way to deal with it, can you?       

 Slack // 2011

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 Are you Living Laterally?
  Living laterally is moving through life without pressing forward into new territories or doing unfamiliar things. It’s a life style of mostly doing the same thing, day in and day out. Think back to when you were in grade school …. a huge part of life was about learning and acquiring new skills, it was a hurried movement forward. Pretty much the same in High School and if you went to collage more there, but what’s happened since?

 The move to careers and families certainly takes lots of time and effort, and can easily overshadow our own growth and development. Without the structure of school, moving forward can come to a halt …. and we don’t even notice it. Some of us have careers that push us forward, sometimes circumstance will push learning upon us, avocations (serious hobbies) can certainly fuel the growth continuum but a lot of us get caught in the comfy trap of lateral living and just doing the usual.

 There’s certainly not a lot of social cue’s to encourage increased self-awareness. In fact a lot of us consider continuing development to be a huge waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. To take 5 minutes to reflect on what you experienced in your day can be mind bending and had for the time toll of a long traffic light. Spending 10 minutes reading something interesting from an unusual source can add vigor to one’s step and spark to one’s conversation. Connecting new dots is inherently a lot more interesting than connecting the old ones again.

 And it’s fun. Remember all those ‘learning is fun’ type books you had as a kid? Not all of them lied! Some really were a laugh and got their message across in a sticky way. Their illustrations and lighthearted manner made it easier for a lot of us to learn phonics, language rules and lots of other things; I know my multiplication tables went down more easily with a few funny pictures. However, much of school was a boring drag and many of us associate learning with boredom, judge-mentality and a lots of other negatives. It doesn’t have to be that way. Lose that association!

 If we seek out things that aren’t ‘the usual’, be it books, movies, classes, websites, music or whatever and we then really think about what they’re communicating to us and how they do or don’t reflect our lives and experiences, etc., we’re continuing to grow. Personal evolution is a lot more stimulating and enjoyable than living laterally, which sooner or later ends up being laps of the same thing over & over & over & over. And we don’t have to approach our individual development with the pressurized, grade obsessed urgency of our school days, which makes it all that much more enjoyable.

Slack/2011

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How do You Measure Up?
  When you ask the question, “How have you been feeling lately?” most people initially respond with a report on the state of matters at work, how things are going at home or their appraisal of the world at large …. and they’re usually dissatisfied. If you restate the question and prompt them to be more personal, what follows is generally a set of ratings about how they feel they are performing at work and at home, and more often than not these ratings are comparative to others or a ‘standard’ they hold themselves to. These comparative ratings are usually automatic; they haven’t been consciously chosen but have been adopted because of education, observation and experience. They’re like the software package that came with the computer, and this software has a huge influence on how we see ourselves and the world.

  Step back from yourself for a moment and think about what comprises the internal model of who you’re supposed to be: How do you compare with this model? Would you weigh less? Would you be richer? Would everybody love you? Would you be famous? Now ask yourself if you really think these things are important: Are they part of your idea of a life well lived? Are they realistic? Are you in agreement with the values implicit in this model? If you don’t like the answers you find, you can change your expectation set to one that is realistic and agrees with your values. Sure it’s easier said than done but having an aware and self generated set of expectations can do a lot to increase your satisfaction with yourself and your life, in a very short time.

  Being a shrink for the last 25+ years, a lot of my job has been helping people feel better about themselves. Being generally happy really is a win-win situation as happy people tend to not only be more satisfied with life, they’re more fun to be around, perform better at work, get sick less, live longer, etc., etc. Making your internal model a personally meaningful and realistic set of parameters is a surprisingly easy bit of work that can have vividly positive results. The main problem is remembering your new model and not getting back into old, habit based automatic reaction patterns.

  Remembering new patterns is a huge issue when it comes to changing one’s life, and the easier the technique, even if it is very powerful, the easier it is to forget. Some find journaling a big help, others get into a regime of daily self reflection and mentally go over their new patterns per diem. My personal favorite is to find a painting or knick-knack for around the house that reminds me of the new ‘thought habit’ I’m working on so I don’t forget it and wind up sleepwalking back into the old way. It only takes about twenty consecutive repetitions of a new pattern, either behavioral or mental, to create a new habit pattern.

     That’s not a lot to ask to be happier and more genuinely you.

Slack/2011
 
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