“Practice puts brains in your muscles.” (Sam Snead)
Daily, I am inspired, entertained, and even challenged by the thoughtful posts of my fellow bloggers. Recently, the wonderful Jennifer Balink at Jenny’s Lark set me off on a journey of recollection and recognition. Her lovely post recounted an experience where, as a teenager, she witnessed a friend’s mother react with grace to a situation where most of us would have a meltdown. It took years for Jenny to realize what it is that gives someone the ability to instantly respond to a setback with poise and perspective.
It isn’t virtue, or superhuman patience, or even piety. It’s practice. Tedious, mundane, sometimes even annoying, practice. As lackluster as that word may be, I believe it’s one of a dozen or so secrets to living one’s best life.
Practice is one of the most undervalued traits or actions that we humans have at our disposal. Given a choice, we’d much prefer innate genius, instantaneous transformation, or magic to make us better at some pursuit—or simply to become better humans—when the answer is practice. Just keep doing it. Just keep showing up.
“Don’t you have something a bit more wondrous . . . something, I dunno, maybe kinda sexy? Like enchantment, or sleight-of-hand, or maybe something I could buy with cryptocurrency?”Continue reading →
“Your priorities aren’t what you say they are. They are revealed by how you live.” (Anon.)
In recent days, I’ve been working with a nonprofit board on strategic planning. It’s always an enjoyable and enlightening process—especially when a board of directors is both committed and receptive to new ways of looking at their world.
One of the things I found myself saying to the group is something I say to nearly every planning group I work with: “Be very intentional about what you say ‘yes’ to, because everything you say yes to means you have to say ‘no’ to something else.”
It’s not rocket science. I’ve never met a nonprofit that was so flush with cash that it didn’t need to make hard decisions and be strategic about how it invests its resources (money, time, and people). When I remind them about saying yes and saying no, I often see a light come on. They realize strategic planning is not about coming up with as many things to do as they can possibly think of, but rather about identifying the few, mission-critical actions that will move them forward, that will really make a difference. That awareness leads to a practical and dynamic plan, and a cohesive group committed to accomplishing important objectives that will serve their constituency.
Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself if I am following my own advice—because it’s true for individuals as well as for organizations. Continue reading →
“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” (Marian Wright Edelman)
I recall bringing home a report card in my junior year of high school. It bore all A’s and one B+ in chemistry, a class I struggled mightily with. I was proud of the A’s and even the B+, knowing how hard I had worked for that grade. My mom took one look at the card and said only this: “If only you’d done better in chemistry—you’d have straight A’s.”
At first, I was devastated. My almost-straight-A report card had disappointed my mother. Then I was mad. How dare she not appreciate how hard I had worked to get these grades? For her, they were just something to brag to her friends about. All-A’s was brag-worthy; a B was not. That may have been the day I decided to stop trying to please my mother.
For years, I thought mine was the only mother who would find an almost perfect report card inadequate. But over the years, I’ve spoken with countless people who relayed almost identical stories. Author and physician Rachel Remen describes a similar experience when, as a child, she brought home a test paper with a score of 98%, Continue reading →
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” (Anna Quindlen)
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein
The incomparable Neil Gaiman usually posts a New Year’s message as one year closes and another opens. I love those annual wishes. They are inspiring messages of hope and optimism for the year ahead. You can read many of them here. I was thinking recently about a few lines from his 2011 New Year’s edict: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes . . . . Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.” (Read the full message here.)
I think we often undervalue our mistakes. We try hard not to make them, and when we do make one, we often avoid thinking about it and perhaps even deny that we’ve erred. Do we fear others will think less of us if we are not perfect or if we admit our imperfection . . . or will we think less of ourselves?
Perfectionism is a terrible burden—and not something we should strive for. Gaiman further says, “…if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world….”
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” (Pablo Picasso)
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been reminded—by their loss—of what a difference one person can make in the world and in the lives of others. While Aretha Franklin and John McCain shared very little in common in their lives or their vocations, they did share a generosity of spirit and passion for something much bigger than themselves. I’ve cried as I watched, read, and listened to eulogies and shared memories of these luminaries—cried for their loss, cried for the fact that what they represent is becoming rarer and rarer in public life, and for the families, friends, and admirers who will feel their loss forever. I’ve also laughed frequently—at the stories and remembrances, the pure joy and celebration that their lives inspired, even in death. I have been reminded of a favorite line from the brief, but exquisite, D.H. Lawrence poem, “When the Ripe Fruit Falls”:
When fulfilled people die
the essential oil of their experience enters
the veins of living space, and adds a glisten
to the atom, to the body of immortal chaos.
With these thoughts in my mind as I read Leonard Pitts’ recent column, “With all due respect, President Trump, what do you want people to say at your own funeral?” I was left with an abiding pity for Donald Trump. Yes, I still dislike the man, despise what he stands for, and despair over the damage he and his accomplices have inflicted on our country and the world. Yet, I pity him, for he will never know the love Aretha Franklin and John McCain knew. He will not die with the peaceful knowledge that he has done his best and given his all. Read Leonard Pitts’ column. It’s perfect. Because even though he’s speaking to Donald Trump, he’s speaking to the rest of us, too.