Disabling the “Shut Down Switch”

While teaching a management class, one of the participants continuously spouted off condemnations against his boss, his company, stupid coworkers, and the “tragically unmotivated younger generation.” When solutions were offered for one of his complaints, he shut it down with a standard reply; It won’t work. Tried that. You can’t fix stupid.”

He reminded me of me; of the times I refused to listen to anyone who challenged me to take responsibility for change.

As much as we hate a Know-It-All, sometimes the Know-It-All is us.

To keep myself from throwing cold water on others’ suggestions, I am learning to say:

Tell me more about that.
What am I missing?
What else?

By disabling my shut-down switch, I listen, learn, and grow up.

What Difference Does It Make?

Craving significance is a huge part of our human condition.

When we understand how our work matters, everything changes. We have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. We have a reason to overcome obstacles. We have a reason to keep going when pain is unbearable.

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to acknowledge the difference we make. Great managers do this. Good people do this.

“If it breathes, it needs encouragement.” -Charlie Chaplain

This Will Shut Us Up

“If you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have the time to do something about it.”

That might sound trite…until we calculate the astonishing amount of time that we have wasted whining and complaining.

With just a little of that wasted time, I have found that I can…

  • Ask the Universe for wisdom and help
  • Offer what I do have without complaining about what I don’t
  • Seek out mentors and inspiration to counteract my feeling of helplessness
  • Decide to do what I don’t want to do
  • Take a baby-step toward something meaningful

Probably worth the discipline it takes to watch what I say…

The “Art” of Loving

When I feel boring, uninspired, uninteresting, with nothing to give or no value to add, remembering this Van Gogh quote makes a difference for me.

I believe “there is nothing more artistic than loving people” because I have felt my heart revive by merely choosing to see people with love instead of judgement, and have seen rooms light up when people were selfless, and been moved beyond words when someone used their gifts (however small) with genuine passion for others.

I feel deep, inexplicable joy when I cross paths with someone who lives as if every individual and every moment has meaning.

So similar to the joy I experience when I see a Van Gogh painting.

How to Save Your Life

Our health, relationships, jobs, and special concerns have a (significant and scientifically-proven) statistical advantage of survival if…wait for it…we learn to state our opinions on emotionally-charged issues honestly and respectfully.


Most of us don’t, and skillfully blame the other party for our failure, i.e., “They don’t listen to me,” “They think they are always right,” “I tried,” “It doesn’t do any good,” etc. When the actual truth is: our approach fails to provide a safe place for the exchange of real information. 

Getting better results is easier than we think. We just have to be humble enough to learn, prepare, and practice new skills.

If, instead, we choose to do what we have always done, we must accept the consequences…

  • The costly games we play sabotage our jobs, relationships, and plans.
  • Relationship stress and frustration break down our immune systems.
  • 75% of all violent crimes are committed against family members, coworkers, friends, and neighbors.

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Prescription for Getting UnStuck

My friend who was on mental-health leave from a brutal work-environment told me that his counselor encouraged him to make a list of daily activities such as brushing his teeth, taking a shower, and getting dressed so that he could check them off as accomplishments (if he managed to do them). Seemed ridiculous but it helped.

Every time we check something off a list, our body releases endorphins (natural pain killers). When we are paralyzed with pain, doubt, fear, or disappointment, pain-killing is the first, critical step.

Pythagoras and my friend’s counselor seemed to understand the simple formula of:

  • One foot in front of the other
  • One step at a time
  • Bite-size pieces
  • Just get dressed

…as a path to the impossible.

(Turn on the computer and write one word worked for me today.)

I’m cheering for your “impossible.”

Big Reflection from a Small Shimmer

In an elevator, I noticed light flashing randomly over the walls and ceiling. Looking for the source, I found it to be my watch band, reflecting wildly from slight movements of my hand. Something so small making all this beauty.

Of course I have seen it before

this reflective wonder

That I often ignore

But today I think of my own light

(and nothing is as small as it seems)

I feel my own power

Pulsing around me unseen

As wireless signals reach my phone

I chill to the knowledge

“I am not alone”


Ttransmitting energy everywhere

Now feeling electricity

In my fingertips and hair

Sensing the calling

The calling to shine

The calling to trust

(the magnified reflection) of my tiny and unlikely shine


Three Steps for Changing the Energy Anywhere

Not many people look forward to being around boring, uncaring, or shallow people, but we often feel roped into these situations to fulfill work, social, or family obligations.

Or we might find ourselves in other painful environments where our opinions don’t seem to matter, we are treated like a number, totally ignored, disrespected, or criticized.

To avoid the energy drain of these scenarios, I developed a three-step fix that really works for me (and also stops my complaining about these experiences):

  1. Focus on what energy I bring with me rather than what lack I perceive exists in others. Everyone is looking for ways to feel valued. How can I alleviate the lack of that for others?
  2. See myself as a force for good in the world wherever I am. I have the power to make a difference with a genuine smile, a compliment, a resource, or a benefit of the doubt.
  3. Think partnership; when someone else loses, so do I. Rather than get defensive or aggressive, can I take a minute to recognize the source of my antagonist’s pain and turn a disagreement into a win-win instead?


Alec Baldwin started and ended his autobiography with “Nevertheless,” admitting his screw-ups, the unfortunate things, and the heartache, but saying, “Nevertheless, it had all been worthwhile.”

I’m not too crazy about his anger issues. Nevertheless, parts of his story are very encouraging and instructive.

  • Baldwin achieved fame and fortune. Nevertheless, his happiest memories came from the days before his success.
  • His dad was a hardworking high school teacher who never made enough money to support his wife and six kids. He sacrificed everything (including rent) to send his kids to college. He died without relief and unaware of his impact. Nevertheless, his life made a big difference.
  • His mother had a tedious, hopeless, and strenuous existence for decades. Nevertheless, things radically improved for her later in life.


It’s about perspective.

I Pledge Allegiance to Living Stress-Free

I pledge allegiance to living stress-free

Remembering worry doesn’t work for me

And neither does angry fretting (unfortunately)

I pledge allegiance to living stress-free

Because controlling people and things 

(I don’t control) is the job of Kings

Not me.


My worry and stress never helped one single soul

Only pulled me deep into a sucking hole

Where there was no benefit for me or anyone

Just an embarrassing waste of adrenalin*

*Some of us, who insist upon worrying, believe, erroneously, that the opposite of worrying is not caring. However, this is not the case. Often, surrendering is the only wise way to effectively care…and much more efficient.