All posts tagged: Monday Musings

All That’s Left to Learn

Gap years provide opportunities to try something new or—if your time off comes later in life—to return and revisit neglected passions. In the last six months I’ve taken a writing course. I’ve incorporated my long-time love of guitar playing into my daily routine. A course on wine or bourbon tasting, to gain fresh insights into a couple of my more pleasurable pursuits, may be in my future. Perhaps I’ll use the new bike path that runs in front of our house as the impetus to rekindle my passion for cycling. And while I’d given yoga a chance in the past, there were always other, seemingly more important, calls on my attention. But I now find myself here, in my gap year, returning to the yoga studio. There’s a very logical reason for making this move: my muscles and joints were crying out for more flexibility. Several months ago I tripped while stepping off the train in London and fell to the concrete platform, landing directly on my right knee. For a number of weeks the …

Follow Your Heart

What happens when, facing a choice, your heart suddenly inserts itself into the conversation? The final question in the recent Democratic presidential debate focused on resilience in the face of personal setbacks. All the candidates had strong responses, but South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg had—by almost all reviews—the most moving story. It connected at such a personal level for many because it was an account of following his heart. A military officer and elected official from a deeply conservative state, Buttigieg spoke eloquently about living in fear of the impact that would result from revealing that he was gay. Yet he reached a point, he said, where he was “not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer.” The good news ending to his story of following the heart is that “When I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and reelected me with eighty percent of the vote.” As an ambitious young politician, the safe approach …

Expectations

I have a friend who is fond of saying, “Low expectations are the key to happiness.” We always have a laugh when she says it, and I agree—to a point—with her perspective. Over time, I have learned the hard way to keep my expectations low around things I don’t control. Take  the Washington Nationals, for instance. As long as the Lerners (the owners) and Mike Rizzo (the General Manager) . . . fire and hire managers without regard for their records or experience (see: Baker, Dusty and Martinez, Davey); refuse to spend money to acquire help in the bullpen when the team obviously has a need (see: bullpen meltdown in the heat of a pennant race vs. lowly Marlins on Saturday and Sunday, September 21-22 and aforementioned Davey Martinez); and expect some of the best players in baseball (see: Rendon, Anthony) to give them a hometown discount instead of offering what they are worth on the open market . . . I find I enjoy the experience of Nationals baseball a great deal more when …

How Email Can Boost Your Success. (Seriously)

I seldom agree with every point in the countless “self improvement” articles one finds online at business sites. Scott Mautz’s recent  Inc.com article on six emails to send each week to boost your success was the rare exception. Several years ago I made the decision to stop hating email and find ways to use it more effectively and—most importantly—to use it to meet my goals. Mautz’s overall point is similar: that emails can be used proactively to fuel success. I know this sounds implausible for those who may get hundreds or thousands of emails each month and struggle just to manage the volume. But I think he’s on to something. Emails are often seen as a necessary evil. If you think instead of how they can be used for both real and affirming communication, the connection to this tool and your success becomes clearer. While I encourage you to read Mautz’s article in full, here are my takeaways about the different emails he champions. 1. The summation email — I always value someone who steps …

Feedback on Feedback

What do you do when someone else is providing you with feedback? Do you feel defensive? Thankful? Worried? Antagonistic? Relieved? It depends, of course, on the situation. We all get feedback from parents, spouses, siblings, partners, bosses, co-workers, friends, or even perfect strangers. Most of us also give others the benefit of our perspective. Yet, as you give advice, have you ever stopped to take the other person’s point of view and consider the ways in which you react and respond to feedback from others? Have you changed your approach in order to treat others as you would want to be treated? Providing and receiving feedback has been on my mind recently. As one navigates through more and more stages of life, I sense a natural tendency to increase the number of times we dole out our wisdom to others. Perhaps it is human nature, but we act as if we want to ensure that what we’ve learned throughout our lifetime doesn’t go with us when we head off to our reward. Sharing experiences and …

It Gets Late Early Out Here

A couple—friends since our years in Staunton in the 1980s—came to visit this weekend. We spent most of our time over the past three days cooking, drinking wine, eating, playing guitars, and talking. But mostly talking. No matter if it has been a decade since college and you’re meeting with your former classmates at a wedding, or almost four decades since you moved to a new town and established lasting relationships, when you gather with long-time friends the stories pick up where you last left off and weekends can turn magical. The legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra once noted that towards the end of his career he played a good number of games in left field. When World Series games were still played in the daylight, left field in old Yankees Stadium could be difficult to navigate because of the deep, autumn shadows. Berra was asked about playing that position and he said, “It gets late early out here.” People laughed, but Berra recalled that someone told him that there is truth in …

Obsessions

Obsessions come in all shapes and sizes. Some, let’s admit it, are just plain weird. Others can be transformative and life-changing. * Upon opening a book of confessions to find a first chapter entitled “Spelling is for Weirdos,” I realized that I had found a writer—a self-styled comma queen, no less—with an infectious take on her chosen obsession. This particular confession—which I recently read after it was recommended by another writer—makes for a delightful romp and a good reminder that some obsessions are worth the effort. In describing the manual How to Sharpen Pencils as “one of the very few books worthy of the dual category “Humor/Reference,” Mary Norris, The New Yorker’s long-time copy editor, could have been discussing her own 2015 work—Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. Norris makes sure there is plenty of humor to go along with the useful information on grammar throughout this engaging and educational work. Between You and Me chronicles an obsession of the best kind. I’ve been on the lookout for books about clarity in writing since …