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#1: Most people’s lives are difficult in their own ways
“Ridiculous and obvious”
This is going to sound rather ridiculous or obvious, but we all need a reminder sometimes.
- Go out of your way and make people feel special.
- Be nice to them.
- Put your mobile phone away.
- Don’t brag.
- Don’t talk about money.
- Don’t tell them where you just were on vacation.
- Try to be helpful.
- Go the extra mile.
- Thank them for something nice they have done in the past.
- Give them a small “forget me not” out of nowhere.
- Don’t give your opinion.
- Don’t remind them to do something.
- Don’t be judgmental.
- Compliment them on their looks, even if a white lie.
- Say yes if they ask a favor.
- Do something fun and laugh.
- Tell a joke.
- Don’t remind them of negative things.
- Offer to do them a favor.
- Don’t gossip.
- Agree with everything they say.
- Look at them when speaking.
I think this is enough to get started on your new way of life. Most people’s lives are difficult in their own way. Make their day just a bit easier. Is that too much to ask? And if you are lucky, really lucky, someone will do the same for you, but don’t count on it.
#2: Real smarts is knowing your strengths and limitations
The $64,000 question in many lives is when do you know whatever path or course you are on is wrong, although began in good faith? When do you know if you have the “right stuff” for whatever you are doing?
It is so hard to admit a mistake, so you continue down a wrong path in a career or a relationship or an aspiration. It is hard to step back and introspect. You are too close to the situation.
The practical problem is that sometime you are so close you can feel it. You have a good day or things go well or are encouraged and there is some success, on the other hand there is always the “bridge too far” the one that got away, that you over stretched your limits, fortitude and aptitude. But how do we ever know? Do we have to fail to change or to succeed?
This is a tough one, so you have think of life like a batting average with a large sample size. A superstar can strike out five times in a row and win MVP.
The time of life matters as to going for the fences or hitting singles. And pure, dumb luck matters, but people make their own luck by getting out, schmoozing, plugging away. The same person with the same talents can succeed or fail based on external circumstances: family life, health, contacts, education, the Zeitgeist, being at the right place at the right time as to skills and employment opportunities.
Life is sometimes a crapshoot. People less educated with contacts rise above you while you remain in the trenches, and all this takes a psychological toll. After a while “learned helplessness,” a form of depression exists, where you are afraid to take a risk, a chance, and live the old life of quiet desperation.
Try to have an older, non-competitive mentor to guide you through the rough waters, who is objective and your fortune is not their misfortune.
If you feel you are on the wrong path give yourself a time frame. Ask yourself if this is where you want to be a year from now. That day will come. If not, take steps to address it for things take time to play out.
Maybe, take some personal time and “do nothing” and get some creative juices flowing. And don’t listen to naysayers. They will forsake you.
If there is a time lock, like you need money to pay your mortgage, this complicates things. That kind of pressure is not kindly to objectivity and is when we take the job or enter into the relationship better left untouched.
Have faith in yourself, for if not you, who? Try not to get desperate, for that is “catching” and people can smell it. Be true to yourself among all others.
#3: Compliance is a fuzzy logic, often toxic, meandering and pedigreed
Good will and a working relationship are hard to come by in in many of life’s arenas. Most relationships are asymmetrical. One party has real or perceived legitimate or illegitimate power over the other. First, figure that matrix out. But, remember, in the end the both of you profit in your own way gaining more wealth, security, contacts, and other opportunities. When people are involved very few things go exactly as planned.
How you approach conflict is to first determine if there is to be a future history to the relationship. If no, perhaps more confrontation, if yes, be assertive but not aggressive.
The hardest thing is to know is how to approach a situation when you have relied on someone and they have failed to produce. They have failed to comply no different than a patient not taking prescribed drugs. It seems self-defeating, but there is always more to it than that.
You’d rather not have conflict or a confrontation, but, sometimes, the balance of assertive versus aggressive is a fine one, but you have to use your judgment based on two things: experience with the person—some always need a kick in the backside—and with the situation—have you been in this position before with other people, and what happened as you how you approached it?
Sometimes, breaking the ice with some humor works or come across as if you are not annoyed and see where they stand. Oftentimes use the magic words: “I need you help, and I am wondering if you help me. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot.” In therapy, if a client fails to comply, and agreed to, I don’t make a big deal of it and rather just try to get to the bottom of it absent casting judgmental blame.
If and only if you expect a disagreement have some ready made solutions to diffuse the tension. Literally, have a list of “objections” to overcome their resistance. This is what lawyers do on cross-examination. It's a “what-if” scenario: If they say this you are prepared to say that.
Remember, there is free will on both sides. They might not like you, and this may well be the final transaction. This all depends on your mood. If you can, “kill them with kindness” it overcomes barriers. Say you were disappointed in “X,” but forgive and try to renegotiate, if you trust them. If you do not trust them, then it is a losing cause.
Trust is established based on experience and not on resumes. If a person says they are going to do something, help by saying, “What can I do to make your life easier? Let’s try to work thinks out. What do you suggest (turning things around)?
An ongoing antagonistic relationship wears down mental health. You feel angry or depressed and at some point no matter if the issue is resolved, you pledge not to deal with them, unless you are in denial, ignorant, self-destructive, or fail to learn from your mistakes.
Nothing goes smoothly all of the time. Catch them being good. Think about a past event where they shined, and remind them. This reestablishes good will. Either they “comply” or not, and if you gave it a fair shot, move on and don’t make the same mistake twice. Make new mistakes.
#4: Hardware spoils quicker than meat
“When opportunity knocks”
If and when opportunity knocks takes advantage of it immediately. Don’t hem and haw, just go for it. The situation will “spoil” and you will regret it.
Opportunity is like a very slow moving swinging pendulum. You have to catch it at the exact moment and thread the needle. If someone calls interested in your talents, if you have to, spend your own money and meet them in where they live. Don’t hesitate. This will impress them and place them in an odd position, so called cognitive dissonance that they now owe you and unless you kill someone on the way, the ball is in your court.
Ideas are a different matter. Ideas are cheap; the execution is expensive in blood and treasure. You can’t act on all bright ideas. You’d be labeled a manic. But test the waters talking to one trusted advisor and run it by him or her.
A practical problem is you are talented and full of ideas, and must choose. Make a list of positives and negatives how you will spend your time and money and resources. Decide what is important and the time frames.
A common problem is becoming side tracked. I’ve been at venture capital pitches where the product or services seems interesting, and then they brainstorm hitting you with all of its possibilities, instead on one possibility. This scatterbrain and scattershot approach simply confuses the investor in what they are investing in and if the entrepreneur will react to anything new and shiny.
I’ve made this mistake myself providing a basic idea then the grand illusions. Rather, show proof of concept and the numbers. Don’t tell a group of sophisticated investors, who want to write you a check or take an equity position, of your plans for the franchise when there is not yet a prototype. It is aggrandizement. They are not stupid. They understand the game of spreadsheets and projections and valuations.
I wrote a book, “Mental Jogging” and its sequel, “More Mental Jogging” about promoting qualitative lateral reasoning thinking “crazy” as an exercise, but if you played out every idea you’d go broke and be committed.
The worst thing you can ever do is taking someone else’s money. This is a huge responsibility, like babysitting their cash. If you are not serious, or unwilling to have skin in the game, don’t waste your time.
So called “serial entrepreneurs” are those who begin start-ups with an exit strategy usually 7-10X investment after 3-5 years. These are the winners. They don’t fall in love with the company nor overhype it. They give all their attention to one thing having to pass on many others, and they never know, only in hindsight the dynamics, for a company they passed on could be a success or failure based on many management and macroeconomic factors.
So if in the position to act, and it make sense, and the timing is right, go for it like a hungry dog to a bone. You might well fail, but if you give it your best shot and surround yourself with a viable Board of Advisors, you have a chance.
Don’t be Hamlet, “To be or not to be…” In high tech, hardware spoils quicker that meat. If you are involved in the next big thing, be like a racehorse in the starting gate and break out early and fast, hug the rail and run to win and not to place or show. Otherwise, what’s the point?
#5: People are generally insecure
How long does it take, what time gap, where when you re-meet an old friend, it has been too long to pick up where you left off?
Is it merely the passage of time or what happens during that passage of time, or both that defines the answer?
Many friendships are role bound: schoolmates, coworkers, family, and neighbors. You were forced to know one another by circumstances.
How many friends do you have no that are not role bound or linked to a role bound relationship? The answer might surprise you.
The person cannot be a neighbor, is not transactional (meaning a business relationship) or from school or any variation, like a fraternity, or from work or the building or a blood relative.
So where do we meet people and sustain the relationship if not in close proximity or based on some “excuse (a family function, reunion, meeting) to run into one another?
Do you have any independent friends floating in the ether? And let’s go one step further. Anyone you met in association to the above also does not count, nor do shopkeepers you might say, “hi.”
Making and keeping friends past a certain age, and depending upon what you do and where you live, is difficult. And what is a friend anyway? Someone you share “X” with with “X” being time, intimacy, information, stories, but if outside some tight circle what is the frame of reference?
Perhaps e-friends have changed this equation only defining those that exist online as friends, but many are missing. And when was the last time you met them in person?
What do you gain from being with a friend? Overcoming loneliness, an outlet for pent-up desires, gossip? And gender matters. Do you have any independent other gender friends not of a sexual nature?
What happens when you meet an “old friend” and you don’t want to see them anymore? Why? What happened?
Many people have friends simply to say they have friends, but many other’s thrive alone, in solitude. Not having friends is a value judgment placed upon you by society. There should be at least one person nearby in an emergency. Who is that?
These are just a few things to think about as you are waiting for the bus.
#6 Dating, romance and marriage are struggles most people enjoy and endure
The hardest thing in a relationship, and something most never think about, because it is both true and painful, is that you have to be yourself in a relationship and not who you think the other person wants you to be.
If you think about this, the distinction makes no sense. You met and are who you already are and the person has seen you and accepted you that way. Why create a new problem that doesn’t exist? It is because once two people become reliant on each other, as in a committed relationship, people change and is when you begin to role play as to not upset the apple cart.
The other problem is who do you want to be, a wild card, and so too for the other, so we have four possible new role relationships and some might not fit as well as the others. And honesty is not always the best policy in a marriage. By this I mean white lies and manners to the situation. “How do I look in this dress?” Say, “Fine” These are the silly arguments—not even arguments—just life.
If you can’t live up to your own standards then how can you expect your spouse to accommodate to the changes, so we are back to where we began. We are simply never sure what the other person wants us to be, and to be ourselves keeps changing.
So don’t be so hard on yourself if there is a breakdown in communications “out of the blue.” It’s been festering. And the other person can’t put it into words, except that icy silence, what their beef is, unless something really bad did happen. In science this is called not having a control group. They are too many independent factors with no secure anchor, the dependent variable: love
And it depends on what stage of life you met. If young, less than twenty-three or so, you have a life to mature together, but if at forty, when roles are mature, how can you expect a person rough and tumble at the office to switch off that aggression and be nice and cuddly at home? That is asking too much. I have been told over and over, and I agree, the commute is the best thing since sliced bread. It allows the driver to recalibrate, listen to music, even in a traffic jam. If both work from home the role relationships never have a chance to change.
You are not being fair on each other. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but trust me. A little physical distance helps separation making the heart grow fonder.
I always suggest a couple having three places: home and two holding areas to “calm down” maybe one of those 200 square feet pods in Japanese airports. It used to be the corner bar or gender roles, but not anymore.
I believe people’s natures are set independently with whom they marry. If it's a good fit and changes can be smoothed, so be it, but don't expect romantic love when it is companionship you seek or vice versa. And sex is always overrated in our schizophrenic moral-lust culture. I once had a young married couple, and this was a first, both ask me if having intercourse less than nine times a day was abnormal, for less means there is no love.
I did the math and won’t bore you with the details.
If you are married you had better like the person before screwing them. The screwing part is easy, in being you there will always be conflict. You are not a robot. So what if there are minor differences of opinion? Grow up. Always ask, would you rather be alone or the next person you meet will have his or her own problems, so you might as well stick with what you know and deal with changes over time the best you can.
#7: We have odd ways of getting even
“Dirty little secrets”
One of the dirty little secrets that all mental health professionals know and understand, independent of training, degree and “orientation” is the effects of family life on, number one, the person, and, number two, the couple.
This all seems so matter of fact that it is rarely discussed in its true context somewhere between being normalized and homogenized. It is normalized in the sense that, “duh,” of course a strained family life causes personal problems and it is homogenized in the sense that all family systems respond in the same or in a similar fashion, badly.
If you are the product of a “broken home” or of a parent who is dysfunctional (an addict, a criminal, who cheats, and so on) your life will not follow the path as others absent this strain. This seems so obvious as to seem to even raise. Yet, sometimes it takes a reminder, because you get down on yourself thinking you got a bum rap and you did.
If your parents broke up or you have stepparents and or half brothers and sisters or stepbrothers, life is simpler harder to adapt, and everyone adapts differently, especially if and when they become parents and seek a “perfect” family. Just admit that you got a bum rap and move on. And, yes, a divorce is often “good” in the sense that no kid wants to hear fighting and slamming doors. It is overwhelming, and you wonder why many kids just tune out, live in cyberspace or start to hang with the wrong crowd.
If there is family conflict it impacts everything, but you are usually too young to “appreciate” it. It messes with your head, makes you wonder about hope and abandonment and trust. You can’t concentrate. Your grades suffer. It impacts your entire life. Yet, many in this exact situation are afraid to admit any of this.
Then it gets worse and this is the couple part. If you are a “normal couple” and think you can have five kids in eight years and the relationship does not suffer, you are wildly kidding yourself. The baby’s take priority the “union” a back seat. It is impossible, unless you have plenty of help, and all this costs a small fortune, for the marriage not to suffer, and to believe otherwise you are naïve.
The media has fun with “blended” families under the same roof, all comedies never dramas, but if you are that person under that roof you suffer for attention, wonder if you were a factor in the break up and compete at all levels with your siblings and feel anxious never knowing where you stand. And if your biological parent remarries, watch out, for it intensifies whatever ambiguities are already there, especially at lifecycle events. Yet, we all know this to be true, almost a truism. However, me reminding you that it is okay to have bitter, ambiguous feelings provides permission to feel hostile and not take it out on yourself through self-defeating, self-destructive or “acting out” getting even with the world. Cool it.
And the Ivory Tower types tsk tsk when children join inner city gangs when they are latchkey kids the gang providing love, affection, a sense of purpose and duty, a family life, protection both psychological and physical.
As to normalized homogeneity, an oxymoron, every family system is different. And this is where the “secrets” are kept. Every family has a secret dweller and diaries you would not want to read. And in an extended family, there is always the good sibling versus the bad sibling, or the siblings are meant to feel guilty for hating their family life or getting a raw deal, and this does not even include the abominations of sexual abuse or a “good whipping.”
Blended families are becoming a norm, but they not homogeneous, some more or less frightening than others. In fact, if from a dysfunctional family, and you have a child, you become so overindulgent to save that child from any hint of what you experienced, they become overly dependent, so you can’t win, although you are sure trying. This is different than the “helicopter” parent who is overprotective and often from a “normal” family.
An intact nuclear family is increasingly a rarity. Simply realize that as a product of a non-intact nuclear family that you will have and will have a price to pay, and it sucks. You question authority, distrust, are disobedient, have failed relationships, try too hard at parenting, a paradox, and feel alienated from your spouse, on and on. A hidden unexplored dimension to all this is the grief response, as if someone had died, but it was the integrity of the family system. You mourn through depression and find it hard to share these stolen feelings. If you feel overwhelmed, perhaps as a new parent or a new mother, realize that many of these feelings are normal, but no one likes to talk about them. There is shame when there should not be.
Life is hard and your life circumstances made it harder. It is not your fault, as some would have you believe, so you have a realistically deeper hole to dig out from under than your peers who have no idea how lucky or good they have or had it.
All this is what it it and you will overcome adversity trying to keep in mind you are playing basketball with one hand tied behind your back one leg in a bucket. On your worst day, when you are resentful and hopeless be resilient, make a difference, seek out a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. You are a human being that deserves second and a third chance, and never allow naysayers and pessimists to stand in your way.
We have odd ways of getting even at those who hurt or abused us or were not there when we needed them. Don’t self-destruct or become a sociopath because of it. This is how many “get even” as a bizarre twist of fate. Don’t play the “West Side Story,” ‘I’m depraved because I was deprived’ gig a needle hanging from your arm. It gets stale. Simply remember these platitudes as a matter of fact and take these factors into account, prior to doing “something stupid.” Be a better person than that.
Don’t reinvent the sins of our fathers. In spite of the overwhelming odds against you, if that is true, and often it is not, do not feel sorry for yourself or your every changing life circumstances. Some will never forgive your past deeds, and you to them, and in this way maintain power over you and vice versa. Ignore them.
End the family reign of dysfunction and be its positive patriarch or matriarch. As Yogi Berra said, “When you see a fork in the road, take it."
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