Monday, August 31, 2015

Please! BLUF Me!!

Yesterday, my brother and I spent about 3 hours on a roadtrip to do some family business. I don’t get to spend enough time with him and we both enjoyed laughing and talking about what’s going on in life.

Joe has two life experiences I do not; he has two daughters (I don’t have children of my own), and he served in the Navy (I didn’t have the honor and privilege of serving in the military).

We were talking about talking, about communicating information to people so they get it. I’m probably bad about giving too much information. I believe having the background can often help someone place the event/fact/instructions within the framework of their lives in such a way that it sticks more easily…see, that was probably more information than you needed/wanted.

Joe said that in the military there’s a communication strategy known as BLUF…Bottom Line Up Front. 

He said, “It’s different than when you simply say to someone, ‘Let me cut to the chase.’ To me, that phrase seems to infer that you don’t care so much about them as you do about getting on with the situation for your own good.”

I thought that was a pretty perceptive way to look at what a lot of folks see as a simple communication tool.

“But, if you preface the situation by explaining, ‘In the military there’s a strategy called, Bottom Line Up Front, where you give the end result desired or what will seem to happen at the completion of the project at the beginning of the conversation. Do you mind if I start with the Bottom Line Up Front?”

As he explained, it’s a good, caring, courteous way to pare away a lot of extraneous information and, in fact, get to the bottom line…or, the chase, if you like that better. Then, you can ask if they need clarification, more info, or a different way to explain. If they do, give them what they need; if they don’t, great! You’re ahead of the game on time and effort.

The Bottom Line at the End here is, my brother is one of the best people I know…and smart. But, don’t tell him…it might go to his head…and then I’d have to give him the Bottom Line Up Front.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Old Do You Think?

The new Cigar Afianado magazine has an interview with Academy Award-winning actor, Robert Deniro. I know he’s a wonderful actor, I love his work, but if you’ve ever seen an interview with him you know he’s a terrible interview. Looks uncomfortable, gives monosyllabic answers, always seems like he’d rather be anywhere but where he is. I keep thinking that for most interviews, they could simply use an empty chair, or print the question, then print a blank space where the answer would be.

Having ranted about that, though, he offered a profound, one-sentence answer to a simple question.

Deniro is 72 and was asked: How old do you feel?

He said, “I feel as old as I think.”

No pun intended…or, pun intended, if you like…think about that.

“I feel as old as I think.”

How old do you think? I think pretty young…I think. And, thinking young can happen if you are open to new ideas, always exploring, have some regular contact with younger people. 

You don’t have to memorize all the random young actors/actresses, musicians, YouTube stars and athletes in the news. But, when a name pops up your response should probably not be, “Don’t know who they are and don’t care.” That sort of response gets you isolated.

My friend, Elaine, has a great strategy for one area of life…music. As she travels she spins through a wide range of stations and listens to a little bit of a lot of different kinds of music. I’m always amazed when a song comes on that I’ve never heard and she’s singing the words.

How old do you think?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Burgers, Baseball and Being Better

Once a year the folks who run the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Duke University sponsor a get-together at a Durham Bulls game. Yesterday,  at the event, I had the great pleasure of reconnecting with a number of folks who have been positive forces in my life.

If you don’t have the opportunity to be around people who’ve been supportive of you, you need to create a situation like that. It reminds you of the good things about yourself (for many folks that happens waaaaay too seldom) and prompts you to think about new, creative, positive ideas…well, at least that’s the effect the function had on me.

If you are fortunate enough to live with someone who is positive and supportive, as I am, it’s easy to take that sort of feeling for granted because you experience it every day. If you’re lucky like that you need to show them you appreciate their caring.

But, if you don’t have the type of support that pushes you to new heights, you’ll have to cultivate positive relationships and do a consistent job of staying in touch.

Too often, we get invitations or opportunities to attend functions in which we can recontact with good people, but the possible negative feelings or contacts keep us from the good stuff. Don’t let the bad outweigh/overcome the good.

Fall is coming. Depending on your interests that can mean all kinds of events at which you have the opportunity for reconnects and new relationships. Take the chance! If you don’t, you can end up one of those old, negative whiners who spends all their time at home saying, “No one ever calls!” 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sooner...or, Later

"Sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path." Morpheus (from the movie, The Matrix)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Write a Novel...Take a Nap

Finished my first novel yesterday. 

LOL! No, not reading one…writing one. Started it eight years ago, life got in the way, restarted it in January and finished at three o’clock yesterday. A murder mystery titled, Final Grade, it should be available on Amazon by Labor Day.

My reaction to finishing the book was interesting and confusing. I thought I’d be elated. Let’s drink a beer! Celebrate!

But, that wasn’t my reaction at all. It was almost as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I wanted to take a nap almost immediately. Of course, at 63, I’m kinda getting to the point that I can eat a pack of Nabs and want to take a nap.

Through the afternoon I just let my feelings flow; thinking about starting the book by writing an outline on a grocery bag in a bar in Chapel Hill, and all the things that have happened in the interim. Lots of ups and downs and ups.

Understanding how you react to life’s roller coaster can help you deal with change. Being surprised at your reactions, as I was yesterday, is a good thing, you get a better idea of how your mind works.  

What are you working on right now? How do you expect to feel when you complete the project? You can use the expectation of elation, relief, acceptance, even depression, as a motivator to move through a challenge and accomplish a goal.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On Wanted Posters in Flyland

This morning two flies gave up their lives in our kitchen. I figure the third one, the one that got away, has gone back to Flyland and put my picture on wanted posters. 

As I flicked the second one off the flyswatter and into the trash I started thinking about all the little fly lives I’ve ended; how quickly I made the decisions that led to their demises, the variety of tools I’ve used to take ’em out (flyswatter, hand, newspaper, magazine, pillow, book, chicken leg {I know what you're thinking, and no, don't be ridiculous, I threw the leg away with the fly} , football , domino…you get the idea), how little I cared about the assassination, and how good I felt about the kill, about ending the annoyance.

Then, I thought about all the figurative “flies” in our lives. They are the annoying, unhealthy attention-grabbers that keep coming around and interfering with our focus on the things that really matter: Bad habits, some people, and negative memories (often connected to people or actions) that create the fingernails-on-a-blackboard sound/feeling.   

What if we decided and acted to remove those figurative flies as quickly and effectively as we do the buzzing kind? And yes, I’ve thrown a football at a jerk before…come to think of it, I believe there was a window involved in that situation, too. 

What fly in your life would you like to swat? There might be some conflict/effort involved, but wouldn’t it be better to deal with it and get the fly gone than continue to have to deal with it/them? One other thing, swatting doesn’t have to be a violent act; it can be as subtle as simply not returning their call/text, not having that fourth cup of coffee, or walking around the block after dinner.

Gotta go, Fly #3 just entered the kill zone!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

International Youth Day....Why Waste It On the Young?!!

Ok, today is International Youth Day according to a 1999, United Nations resolution. The purpose of the day is to support and engage youth all over the world. 

I’m all for that. If we don’t support the youth in our communities who’s going to bring us a beer when we’re rocking on the porch and talking about the fact that WE DON’T HAVE A CLUE who the actors and musicians on Entertainment Tonight might be?! 

Here’s how you can celebrate International Youth Day… exercise the youth within yourself. Try a new taste, a new place to go, a new style…try new experiences and don’t whine if you don’t like them. Just move on to something else. 

Want to know the real key: Be interested. If you’re interested, if you’re one of those folks who asks great questions, “What? Why? Who? Where? How? How Much?,” you’ll not only be interested…you’ll be interesting.

I had lunch the other day with a friend who was bemoaning the fact that, at 66, he is invisible to younger women. He said, “They only see me as someone to wait on in a restaurant?” I get that. 

You know how I deal with that; I ask questions. One of the whole range of things about me that probably annoys my friend, Elaine, is that if we are in a restaurant, I’ll ask the waitperson to take 30 seconds and give me their story: School, how they got the job, what they plan to do. Elaine and I waited tables years ago and it’s fun to see the connections over the decades, the things that have and haven’t changed. And, we don’t belabor the fact that we waited tables, too. Kids don’t won’t to hear but about 15 seconds of that.

However, by having the simple, short talk, we celebrate them, connect with our own youth, and…guess what…we get better service because we connected with them.

Take a moment today and connect with the youth that is still alive…maybe hidden, but alive…within yourself. Find a moment of fun, try something new, skim through the channels on your radio and don’t whine at the music. I like some of the stuff Ricky Mirage and Bruno March do!

And, if you have kids, celebrate them today. Tell’em you love’em.

PS…Yes, I know it’s Nicky Minaj and Bruno Mars…the question is, did you? 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Quirks or Perks

The late Richard Carlson, the writer of the wonderful Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff books, once spoke about the interesting quality of most people to talk about the bad stuff in their work and life more than they talked about the good stuff.

Carlson said they were talking more about the quirks than the perks.

Why are we like this?

It could have something to do with my can-never-be-proven theory that we are made up mostly of water and water runs downhill so maybe we have more of a tendency to move downward than upward. I know it’s crazy, but it’s fun to think about.

Maybe it’s gravity; maybe it’s that we are embarrassed to talk about the good stuff—I really don’t know.

But, you might listen to yourself over the course of the next few days. Do you tend to talk about the negative stuff in life more than the positive stuff?

If you do, you might want to remember the old saw that, “Telling other people your problems is a waste of time. Half of them are sorry for your troubles, but they have problems of their own, and the other half are glad you’re getting slammed.”

Are you talking about quirks or perks?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No Paper, No More

This Sunday, I won’t have a News and Observer newspaper delivered. To my knowledge, this will be one of the first days in my adult life I haven’t had an actual newspaper delivered to where I live; I’ll maintain my online subscription.

Some of you made the decision a long time ago and you think I’m a Luddite for waiting so long. I guess the problem and progress is that it’s become a hassle; getting rid of the papers and the dreaded experience of dealing with customer service for the News and Observer have contributed to me canceling my daily delivery.

However, I’m worried about the experience for a specific reason. I’m finding that by reading online I miss a lot of the little stories because headlines are so small I miss them when I skim the “paper” on my iPad. In the past, I noticed the small stories often noted issues/ideas I found valuable. I get the fact that with any gain/change you lose something, but I am concerned about the value of the small stories. But, I don’t have enough time to tap-on every little story to see what it’s about. Does that mean I’ll be less informed…which is a scary thought considering how ill-informed we as a public are nowadays? 

I guess I’ll find out.