I am the man!

Category: "General"

Making a Difference Since 1969: Blatant Self Promotion for Fun and Profit

  12/04/13 20:04, by , Categories: General, General

If you want people to do business with you, they should want to too.

People will only do business with you if they want to do business with you. I am turning coaching into my business. I want a coach who is straight with me, and that starts with being straight with me in soliciting my business. I mention this because two solicitations have come to me recently that were anything but.

One, in an English teachers e-mail list inviting me to “Something for the soul - an amazing report that I want to share with you.” The link provided took me to a page promising a guide to a “more peaceful and happier life,” which would be sent to me on sharing my e-mail with the promoter. The 29 page report promised “Happier. Forever!!!” complete with the author's account of his personal journey, some exercises to raise self-awareness, and of course, an invitation to use his services to get more (“20% discount for a personal consultation meeting” “unique for readers of this report” that bring the coupon along.

The second, in my Cornell University Alumni Network on LinkedIn, a Ms. Emily Filloramo shared a post titled “I'm curious... do you ever feel like your life has reached a plateau?” The truth is she wasn't curious, because she didn't set up the comment for people to share and discuss their personal plateaus, but rather invited us to request a copy of her worksheet, a twelve page “Confidential “Get Out of Your Own Way & Unleash Your Full Potential” Worksheet 1.3,” complete of course with invitation to contact her to see if she can help me get to my “highest core loving self.” She's not even a coach, but a Success & Happiness Catalyst, whatever that means.

Perhaps I am old school, but this just didn't play for me. We're a group of alumni all at our own places in life, and this could have been set up as an opportunity to share and support instead of a not so subtle invitation to use the tools of Ms. Filloramo. And she might get some business from this approach, but she might have gotten even more if she had started and moderated a meaningful discussion, allowing people to see what she could bring to their lives. She didn't do this. She offered a quid pro quo.

After a long winded comment by Ms. Filloramo about getting to core beliefs, I added a comment regarding the on-line tools that I find useful. I figure if we're there talking about where we're stuck anyway, I might as well share what helps me get past my blocks:

This is one way of looking at it, but we don't necessarily need to come up with a big why. Rather, I would suggest that we can become present to what we have, and give our all to the work that presents itself, but not like we have to run faster on the treadmill. There is a parable about three stone cutters. A person comes up and asks each in turn what he is doing. The first says I am shaping a stone, the second I have to work to feed my family, the third says he is building a temple. They all may be doing exactly the same thing, but their experience and satisfaction at the end of the day are unlikely to be the same.

Certainly there are negative core beliefs, and they effect our actions, but they are also the most present when we are spending time gazing at our navels instead of looking at the contribution we can make or are already making in the world. If you want to get present to your internal dialogues (i.e. core beliefs) and stop giving them power over you, I'd suggest you take the Landmark Forum. Landmark is expert at this and has delivered its programs to more than two million people, with 94% of customers in independent surveys agreeing that Landmark's programs have made a profound and lasting difference in their lives.

But then get it's not necessarily about the job (though it could be; I also like Scott Dinsmore. James Altucher, on the other hand, takes a more philosophical approach, which is a bit raw but much worth the searching person's time). For a different philosopher's view, I'd also suggest Mike Rowe's A Lesson From Some of the World's Dirtiest Jobs, for another good point about happiness.

My New Friends

So, I have these new friends at Scott Dinsmore's Live Your Legend Creator's Guild. Every couple of days there is new and real connection. I feel particularly old in this group, but that's a conversation for another day. What drives this group of people is that they are passionate about making a difference, in their own lives and in those of others. And they are searching and vulnerable and open, and beautifully human. It could be that Ms. Filloramo is this as well, but I don't get that from her presentation.

Today's new friend is Ms. Sarah Cooper. What I love about her is she is willing to put herself out there. She came to my attention because she was asking us what she could do to get past her writer's block. I challenged her to play a game outside of her comfort zone and she jumped at the chance. The result is here. She's given us both a chance to look beyond our everyday. So we are taking on a challenge together. On her blog she asks:

Where are you in your story? Are you screaming “Don’t go down there?” Are you waiting for the action to get started or trying to make sense of it all? Is there a clear direction? Who is the villain or love interest in the piece? Most of all are you enjoying your story?

We've agreed that we're both going to engage with these questions. We'll be honest and direct and post our response before we have second thoughts about it. I salute you Ms. Cooper for asking these questions and giving us both a chance to grow. So here's my take:

My story is that I have a life of missed opportunities. Where my contemporaries have accomplished and created all sorts of great things (particularly where it comes to business and career), I am still stuck at the same place that I was ten years ago. I've got a great wife and some amazing kids, but other than that, I'm behind the eight ball. I have a few more licenses along the way, but no record of success. That's not exactly true. What I do is that whatever success I have, I chalk up to luck or circumstance, and where I have missed, I say it says something about me. So I have a lot of big ideas, that come and go, that light me up for a moment and then get gobbled up in thoughts of my inadequacy to the task at hand. I rely too much on my wife and our families to support me and have trouble seeing a powerful and independent future for myself.

Where don't I go? I don't make promises. I haven't fully put myself in the games I want to play in life. I say big things, things so big that I don't expect anyone to believe them. I may even start them, but I have a built-in excuse to fail. Where I don't go is that I don't admit I care. I care so much it hurts. I don't want to be with that. So I continue to try to make a difference, but no matter how big a difference I've made, I say I didn't really do it or it would have happened anyway, and I run away. I'm left with results I don't acknowledge and feeling weak and ineffective. Whatever I do accomplish, it's never enough.

So where I have been is waiting. I am pretty sure there is no sense in it all. I'll do what work comes, but I don't take any big initiatives.

There is a clear direction. If I look at what I have declared, there are many lifetimes of actions that could be taken in pursuit of the goals I have declared. I have said that I am about restoring freedom, that I am about creating education that works, that I am about empowering people to fulfil on those things that are important to them. I am a stand for fairness and justice, for better understanding between people, for committed, outrageous, generous and happy people, for a world where people look outside of themselves.

But there is also a clear villain and that is the little voice in my head. I too often let it run my life. It's the little voice that keeps asking me “Who are you to presume that you are the one?” It asks “What are you thinking?” It says “You missed the boat.” It's the voice that lets me avoid all responsibility in my life, and in the end takes my life.

So am I enjoying my story? Of course not. I am suffering it every moment I let it run me. But then it's a familiar suffering, and it's amazing how long we suffer the familiar just because it's not the unknown.

But I am seeing it's a story, and that I am the author, and that it's not the story I need to live out. And the truth is, I'm pretty fed up with it. It's long past time to break out of the holding pattern and embrace the unfamiliar. And I must be ever vigilant, because the villain never will go away. But I've seen that what keeps him at bay is admitting that I care, and denying myself permission to run away.

In my new story, I am human. I will screw up. That's okay. I'll probably hurt people, and might hurt myself, but that's the only way I can learn to be better. In my new story, I take responsibility for the success just as I do for the failures. In my new story I remember, as Winston Churchill so elegantly put it, “Success is the ability to stumble from failure to failure with no lack of enthusiasm.” I am scared. So what? Who isn't? The only question is who I will be in the face of that fear and what I will do anyway.

Blatant Promotion Part

You want me, you can have me. You can have my heart and my love and my commitment to your success. You can have someone who will believe in you when you don't and remind you why you should believe in yourself. You will have someone who sees right through the façade and doesn't leave space for anything but your best. It will cost you obviously, but what price can you really put on a life of power, freedom and full-self expression. And if you want to improve your presentation and look, that is the work of my wife. She can give you an amazing smile (she's a dentist too) and then teach you to create the ensemble to go with it.

1969 is of course the year I was born, but making a difference has been who I am as far back as I can remember..

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Passion and Promise

  11/05/13 03:26, by , Categories: General

So I received an e-mail from James Clear this morning. He sends them out twice a week. This is only the second I have received from him. In this one he exhorts us to "Become a Writer," something I fancy myself to be but fail to practice regularly enough to feel particularly accomplished, and then I remembered it's NaNoWriMo, and I didn't even notice it until today, November 5. I really don't have a work of fiction calling to me right now, so I am not even going to play along this year, but I recommend it for anyone who has a novel brewing inside him that just wants to come out.

James' advice is pretty clear: Pick a Topic, Decide When to Write, and Stick to Your Schedule. So I've got the first down already: I want to improve life on this planet, through personal interaction and through a rethinking of our systems to align with bigger goals than most of us are present to on a day to day basis. I've decided when, mornings, schooldays, after the kids have left for school, and the last is just a matter of figuring out when the kids are in school this month, and putting this in my schedule accordingly. I won't promise a post every day, as writing does not necessary imply completing a work, but a few a week should be possible.

James sent me on a small journey this morning. I am new to his pages; so I checked them out, particularly the photography since this is an area of special interest for me. James travels and photographs the places he visits. The pictures are pretty, but they don't move me. “He's no Steichen,” I mentioned to my son Uri. So he asked me about Steichen, whom I know as a great, but don't know in detail. So off I went to Wikipedia, visiting not only Steichen, but his brother-in-law, Carl Sandburg, as well.

What strikes me as I see these two lives is a certain freedom that is not as apparent in our modern world, or at least that I did not feel in mine. Steichen began a career at the age of 15 with an apprenticeship at a lithography company. He pursued various related arts (sketching, drawing and painting) after working hours, and by the time he was 18, had founded the Milwaukee Art Student's League.

Carl Sandburg skipped high school, worked to support his family, hopped a freight train to see the US, joined the army, went to college, where he started to write in earnest, dropped out, and become the “The Poet of the People.” His Prairie-Town Boy (Harcourt Brace, 1955) provides a picture of an experiential education. While he was technically truant, (an 1883 law required school attendance to age 14)., I suppose society gave a pass to those who made themselves useful.

Today, we have dozens of websites devoted to finding and living our passions (I follow Scott Dinsmore, Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, and Ramit Sethi), others which already seem to be advocating a post-passion (or is it pre-passion) approach, such as Cal Newport, but I wonder if these are not all simply a symptom of a system that doesn&39;t afford a child the ability to choose and explore and create for himself.

We have been sold a system that is killing us. We require our children to attend school until at least 16 years of age, and when they can't seem to stomach what is there, label them with all sorts of disorders, drug them, and set up a system of draconian measures to try to persuade them to do what should come naturally but our system has driven out of them.

We are still driving out of our children the desire to be creative and explore. We work to score points, but don't know what it is like to give all of our energy over to a certain cause, and therefore too rarely have the experience of a job truly well done. With luck, some of us remember such a thing as passion (often much later in life), and look to Scott, Tim or Ramit to help us rediscover it. But I would venture that most of us will bury our passion, pasting it over with what “society” has told us is important (a house, a car?), maybe we'll get pumped about our team or pursue a hobby, but life will be less than it could have been, than we once imagined. In extreme cases, we might give in to fits of passion or anger, killing the promise not only of our own lives, but of those we decide to sink with us.

This doesn't need to be.

Sleepy Steve

  09/02/13 00:27, by , Categories: General, General

They called him Sleepy Steve. I was at the party after a fraternity initiation a few years ago. There was concern about a friend and brother. He'd apparently drunk himself into such a stupor that those about us with some medical training had concerns. His immediate brothers (he was from a different chapter) said not to worry; he does this all the time.

The party was winding down. The few people left wanted to go out. I was not one of them; so I had the privilege of watching Steve. He was on a couch, I in a chair next to him. He had been the one who drank the earliest, drank the most, and acted inappropriately as proceedings were coming to their conclusion, long before the party where we all intended to tie one on. His friends were mostly amused; this was Steve.

His shirt lay in such a way that I could see the slightest movement with every breath. I imagined how a mother might have hung on every one. Knowing a bit about alcohol, I wondered what break, what tragedy or story about himself brought him to this state time and again. Though we like to hope that the circumstances will change and the man outgrow the pain and confusion that drives his younger self to such excess, my experience is that - without some help from the outside - all that usually happens is a moderation of behavior to hide that which is so obvious today.

Neither graduation, nor a job, nor marriage and a family will fill the void he is using alcohol to fill. There is only one way, and that is to make peace with oneself, to confront doubt and insecurity, to find that which there is to be thankful for and build on that.

I am reminded of this today because I just received news of another brother who has passed to the stars as we like to say, a bright and beautiful human being who was going to be a doctor. I don't know if he finished college even (he was a few years behind me), but I remember him being too fond of the bottle. It was only on weekends, he'd aver, but we all saw the signs. I had wondered about him from time to time. Last I'd heard, he was working in the college dining hall. I'd thought about contacting him when my sister headed out on her ten year journey to become a doctor, thinking that if she could do it, so could he.

I'd thought about it, but I didn't do it. Now another dream has ended, a once bright future foreclosed. I don't know if Mike drank himself to death, or if he had gotten his act together and died from other causes entirely. But I do know that for at least the time I knew him, he missed who he was to others and the love that the people around him had for him. He could not see in himself the greatness that we all knew was there.

As far as I know, Sleepy Steve still walks this earth. My guess is he has no idea how great he is, and instead of getting the contribution that he is to this world, he's stuck in some crap story about how he isn't enough. I'm no expert in this field, but I'd guess we've all got a Sleepy Steve somewhere in our lives. In our own way, we might even be him, one of the legion of the walking dead who can't exactly be happy, who don't deserve to be happy, because of some circumstance in our lives - neglect, divorce, abuse, suicide, the failure to meet some expectation - or rather the story we tell ourselves about it.

So this is an invitation to Sleepy Steve, or perhaps the Sleepy Steve in me, to take some stock, make a list each morning of what you have to be thankful for, thank people, get their love for you, set your doubt aside for a moment and act boldly anyway. I promise you you won't look any sillier than you do when you are a few drinks in, and you might actually cause some miracles in this world.

For the friends of Sleepy Steve, be his friend dammit and don't let him get away with his shit. If you do, all you have to look forward to is another buddy who went too early to his grave because he couldn't get out of his own way, and you didn't take the initiative to help him.

Eight Pointed Star

  07/11/13 19:46, by , Categories: General

The eight pointed star, so familiar a glass, I don't know how much gin you've held, but it is certainly more than I could drink in three lifetimes. Retired now, you hold my toothpaste and brush. Your old master has forsaken you for something bigger than the tumbler you are.

I had forgotten about you with the scores - perhaps even hundreds - of bottles that have come and gone since you were in vogue. The bottles come and go more slowly now - more potent, or less, no doubt - the glass a reminder - to me at least - of earlier, younger times, and many years lost hoping, praying, that things could be different, that moments of happiness could be transformed to a life infused with it.

My, You've Gotten Fat: Get over it and Grow up Already

  06/09/13 16:22, by , Categories: General

Less than complementary comments on things a person can't change at the moment should be avoided.

However, they occur, and all too often from those close to us. This comment is about how we react, and comes with a suggestion that we should not let another's words subvert our own intentions.

When I was teaching, I used to ask my students to choose my class. This is an incredibly grown up concept. I gave them this example:

You wake up one morning and you look about you and decide that your room is a mess. Not only that, today is the day you are going to do something about it.
So you spend the whole day thinking about how you are going to reorganize your room, what you are going to keep, what can go to your younger siblings, what boxes you are going to put stuff in, how you are going to make the space in your closet, where you are finally going to hang up that poster you just had to have.
You start wonderinig about all the stuff you have under the bed, what you seem to have lost that you might find again. Maybe you even figure on cleaning the window. While you are at it, you think about how much you'd really like to paint your room, but first things first.
School ends and the plan is in place. You're already thinking how nice it will be to get to your bed without tripping over stuff. Maybe you'll even figure out where that trail of ants is leading or that funny smell is coming from. The thought "Won't my mother be surprised" even crosses your mind.
You get home, grab a snack from the kitchen and run into your mother.
"How was your day?" she asks.
"Fine." (You're a teenager after all.)
"Any homework?"
"None to speak of."
"You seem happy with yourself today. What's up?"
"Not too much really. How was your day?"
"Well, I'll tell you how my day was. I needed a phone. The portable that was supposed to end up on the charger last night was dead on the coffee table in front of the TV. So I paged the other one, and after searching for I don't know how long, I finally heard a faint beeping when I opened the door to your room. I almost killed myself trying to get to your bed."
You: "It's funny you should mention that, I was going to . . . "
"Going to what? There was one bar left on the phone. Do you have any idea how important that call was? Do you know that there is a trail of ants in your rooom eating who knows what from I don't know what rotting food that must be."
"But mom, I was just telling you . . . "
"What? No, I'll tell you. Give me your phone. I don't want to see you again until your room is spic and span, and no more of this shoving stuff under your bed. No TV, no dinner, I don't want to see you. Do you know how much junk you have in there?
So what? What was it you wanted to tell me? You've wasted enough of my time. Out with it. WHAT?!!!"
"Come on, out with it already."
"It's nothing really."
"Yeah, that's what I figured."

Here is this kid who wanted to make his own world, and even his mother's, a better place, and who's now sitting in his room thinking "How f@$%ing unfair." So he gets on the computer to tell his friends, only to find he's been locked out. "What a b$%^&."

He clears a path, and half way through stuffing all the stuff from under his bed into his closet, he gives up. The prospect of the satisfaction he anticipated from having his room as he wanted has evaporated. While before he had anticipated surprising his mother, now he can't give her the f-ing satisfaction.

With my students, I ended this with a request to choose my class in spite of all the idiots telling them they had better be there, and creating all sorts of coercive mechanisms to try to force them to learn. How much different a class could be if all of the students chose to be there instead of making rational decisions about how much they needed to do to get the result that would serve their purposes.

So, I told a friend (we're well into our forties now) to stop making her father wrong and let him love her. Our parents know how to push our buttons. They put most of them there, but we can choose how to react.

"My, you've gotten fat" came up as an example. There is no knowing all that is behind a comment like this, but boy are we good at coming up with evil motives. My friend's context is a conversation called "My father treats me (and my sisters) as lesser human beings." Perhaps the comment is taken as evidence of his objectification of women, or of him judging them on a basis other than intrinsic values. Perhaps he is simply and irredeemably stuck in the dark ages. He is a little bit more conservative than they.

But I wonder if we can be a little more honest with our reactions. What's his sin? He said out loud that which she might have said to herself in front of the mirror that morning. Her response - likely unverbalized - was probably something like: "Oh shit, why do you always do that. Why can't you just accept me as I am?" and her reactions from there on out might have come from "Well, if that's all you can think to say, I'll show you!"

What if her sister, best friend, husband, or even I - a distant friend from many years past - had said such a thing? The response might have been, "Dammit I know. My weight's been creeping up and I really don't know what I've been doing differently. Got any ideas?"

I can't imagine anyone who could be more committed to her than her father. That said, I am a guy, and I know we can do and say some pretty stupid things. Some of us missed the training on tact and sensitivity. We say things like "My, you've gotten fat" when we mean "Where is that bubbly happy girl I used to know? I hope she's not depressed," and somewhere under that is "I don't know what the f- to say. I wish she'd friggin' talk to me. If she'd only tell me what I did so I can apologize," or "Doesn't she get I only want the best for her? I wish I could find the words," or "I give up, she won't let me in anyway."

So first, I am here to apologize on behalf of my sex. I am sorry, we should know better and be more sensitive. We should get that our comments can hurt and distance. We should admit our own pain in realizing the distance that has come between us, acknowledge that and take responsibility for it. We are slowly becoming aware of this, and ask your forgiveness and patience as we work through this.

In the meantime, know that we love you with all our hearts and only want the best for you. Sometimes our ideas and yours of what is best differ. Our ideas come from our experiences. We get that they differ from yours. We ask again your forbearance, but also that you take on that there might be some wisdom there. We have learned things too, and are still learning, we are a little slower than we used to be.

Second, please get that the people who raised us are just as screwed up as we are. They are still someone else's hurt little child who never heard the stuff we wish they'd say to us, and just don't know how to say it. And now here are we - presumably as adults - and demand that they grow up so that we can complete our childhood. Perhaps instead we should grow up so our parents can complete theirs.


The thoughts of Mr. Herz that make it into the ether.


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