Getting Mad Does Not Get It Done

Today’s Lesson: Being mad is not the same as being effective.

*****

It was all I could do to keep from slamming my fist on my laptop and shattering it. The anger welled in me and I realized I was clinching my fists.

I almost never find myself angry at people. I understand them. I can usually see where they are coming from and have empathy for their emotional distress. I do, however, find I have an absurdly short fuse for inanimate objects that refuse to do my bidding. When I am stuck on a technical computer problem or when my toaster oven does not make toast, I have to fight the urge not to throw it out a window.

After spending most of yesterday and today trying to fix a problem with one of our blogs (and creating more problems along the way), I realized I needed to do something I hate doing or I was going to lose my cool.

I had to ask for help.

I swallowed and took a few deep breaths, then picked up the phone and called my web hosting provider. A young man named Boston answered and asked how he could assist me. Exasperated, I explained the situation with far too many verbs in far too much detail, but Boston politely listened until I lost steam. Then he said, “Oh, right. The problem you’re having is due to an issue with our script-engine. We should have it up and running tonight but I will help you undo the unnecessary changes you made and get you back to where you started yesterday.”

Unfortunately, this affected all my sites and I lost two days’ worth of blog posts (including the back ups).

I realized no matter how mad I became at my Chromebook, there was nothing it (or I) could have done to make my websites magically work. I probably should have called Boston twelve hours earlier (but I still have not learned to like asking for help–maybe in a future lesson…). I could have saved several hours of bottling up frustration and pushing toxic emotions into myself and the world.

Being mad when life does not work as we think it should might make us momentarily feel justified (until we realize our anger made the situation worse) but in the end the world will remain unchanged and our anger will have been spent on nothing. Better to practice patience, pause until we feel calm, and then try another approach.

 

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Little Presents

Today’s Lesson: Shopping is not always about the savings.

*****

If I can not find an item from a local business, I will almost always choose Amazon.com over a typical big box store. Amazon is often cheaper but not always. Still, I prefer Amazon for 3 reasons:

1. I subscribe to “Prime” which includes automatic 2-day shipping, a video library with many shows and movies Netflix does not carry, photo back-up storage, an ad-free music service, and a lot more. Totally worth the $100 per year.

2. Easy returns. Returning stuff to Amazon is way easier than taking it back to a store, justifying yourself to a cashier, and often paying a restocking fee. If you bought it from Amazon, you just check a box, print a label, and someone will either come and get it or you can drop it off. Tough to beat that (note: if you did not buy it from Amazon, then you might have an extra hoop or two to jump through because you are dealing directly with the vendor but it is still usually an easy process).

3. Frustration-free packaging. Many of Amazon’s products come with an option to ship with “frustration-free” packaging. This means not needing a box cutter, scissors, screwdriver, hammer, and pneumatic drill to break into the box holding your 3 centimeter memory card. They also use as little packaging as possible and as much recyclable material as possible when you choose this option. Win-win!

 

The best reason, though, has nothing to do with Amazon’s benefits. My favorite reason to order online is I often forget what I ordered and when it shows up, I am totally excited to open the box and see what I bought myself! It is like receiving a surprise gift you know you will love because you picked it out yourself. When I order from Amazon and receive the confirmation email, I immediately mark it as done so I can forget about it and move on.

I don’t know if there are brick-and-mortar ways to send yourself a little present in the future, but I think that would be a great concept for a business.

In the meantime, if you are not an Amazon fan, here is an idea: buy yourself a present, box it up, and ship it to your home. It’s silly, but I love getting little presents from me!

 

Why We Resist Having a Better Life

Today’s Lesson: Change is supposed to be scary.

*****

Whether it is acknowledging we need to lose 10 pounds or being on the receiving end of a family intervention and hearing loved ones tell us we have an abuse problem, or just adopting a new strategy at work, everyone resists doing things we know we must do to effect change.

Even when changing something is clearly for the better, we run from personal growth before we embrace it.

It seems crazy, even counter-intuitive, yet smokers struggle to quit smoking, dieters rarely stick with diets, alcoholics fall off the wagon, and there is always someone in the meeting who thinks everything is a bad idea without having a better one to offer.

The surprising thing is, if you think about it, our resistance to changing our lives is totally understandable. Even with a small change like losing weight, our first and immediate reaction is to resist, as it should be. Think of how dangerous change was to a person’s life up until the last 100 years or so.

Trying to lose weight was crazy in a world where food was scarce and not eating when you had the chance might have been tantamount to you skipping your last meal. You could not be sure if your hunt would be successful today or if the fruit tree you found yesterday was going to be picked over by other animals or tribes today.

Venturing out of your cave home into new territory meant uncertainty about where or when you might next find food, shelter, or safety. Of course, staying in one place indefinitely also increased your chances of perishing. The longer you stayed in place, the more likely you were to be found by a neighboring tribe also fighting for resources and the more likely you were to leave clues of your whereabouts to other would-be predators.

Albeit reluctantly, our ancestors embraced change and eventually moved on, traveled, explored, and sought out novel experiences, but never before being overly cautious at first. Just as today, we resisted change at first but eventually accepted the necessity of change.

The next time you catch yourself reacting to doing something new or different with initial resistance (or the next time someone reacts to your suggestion of change with initial fear), remember it is normal. Just as we jump when we catch something moving in the corner of our vision and then calm down and smile when we realize it was our reflection in a mirror, it is expected that we react to change.

The important thing is, after the initial fear, to properly evaluate the potential good and bad of any change and then take appropriate action.

It is okay to fear change at first. Just be sure to remember it is a natural reaction and it is both okay to feel fear and okay to let it go.

 

You Are What You Seek

Today’s Lesson: You are like gravity. You attract the people, situations, feelings, and life surrounding you. If you see nothing but despair, inequality, and suffering everywhere you look, consider looking for better people, situations, feelings, and lives to surround yourself with. 

*****

Scrolling through social media posts is something I find myself limiting more and more. I like to see what friends and family are up to but I can only take it in small doses. The overwhelming majority of posts, in my opinion, are really just complaints (including mine, including this one!).

Some of us are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, etc… to find and share everything we think is wrong with the world. Articles on people we never met who died, links to rants about politics, racism, sexism, posts challenging people who do not agree with our religion (or non-religion), pictures of the stupid people we saw or dumb things we did today, stories of abuse to people, pets, or the environment… the list is endless.

It is all like a cloud of poison, spreading and permeating gossip and negativity into the world. I get it. The world is not perfect and some people want to change it (most of us just want to complain about it, though, because actually changing it is hard and we are busy coming up with new complaints). Consider, however, how much of your life is spent seeking out what is wrong with everyone else’s lives.

Some people just seem miserable all the time. I feel for them. My life is not perfect by any means. I am always working to improve something, but generally, I do not seek or mostly ignore hate, bad parenting, tasteless humor, and anything that ends with -ism (racism, feminism, sexism, theism, environmentalism, etc.). Because I avoid these things and actively work to keep them out of my life, they are not part of my world (much).

I am not advocating living with rose-tinted lenses. I know there are real problems in the world, but unless we are individually actively and actually addressing them (which means doing more than sharing articles or sending what is essentially hate-mail to everyone, which means sending it to no one), I recommend taking the timeless advice grandmothers have given for generations: if you can’t say anything nice, then do not say anything at all.

It is okay to either not have an opinion or to keep one to yourself.

In the modern world, that may mean using a simple guideline to structure your world more positively. A good start for many is to simply un-friend or un-follow the people, organizations, or brands who are not making your life better. If they are not contributing to your life, then consider what they are contributing to.

You are what you seek. What world will you choose to live in today? 

 

You Can Save 70 Years Or More On Your Insurance

Today’s Lesson: Just because something has survived does not mean it is the fittest.

*****

I have been hearing these commercials for Geico Insurance lately, stating that they have been doing business for 75 years. I thought that was odd because I certainly do not remember their brand name from when I was a child and I am not 75 years old. In fact, I only recently heard of them, within the last 10 years or so, along with most everyone else.

It is true, it turns out, that they technically incorporated a long time ago but only catered to government employees. They say they have even been selling to the public since the mid-seventies. Regardless, most people never heard of them until their famous Cockney-accented Gecko lizard commercials became a hit around 2010.

I was trying to figure what bothers me so much about these commercials, and I think it is a few things…

1. As the inimitable George Carlin has famously said, “old” does not mean “good”. Who cares if they are 10 years old or 1,000 years old? We only care if they deliver a great product at a fair price with decent service.

2. There is something a bit deceptive about trying to leverage your entire history to validate your credibility. My blog has been running something like 7 or 8 years and only about 5 of those years has it had an audience outside of people I have physically met. Nonetheless, I have been writing seriously since I was at least 18. Although it would not technically be a lie, I do not promote myself as a “writer with nearly 30 years of published works”. Most people would only know my work over the last 5 or so years.

3. It is a cop-out for quality. Let the work stand on its own merit. When J.K. Rowling had her first Harry Potter book published, nobody said, “She only has 0 months of screenwriting experience. Let’s not turn this great story into a movie.”

 

Using established tradition to defend present practices never holds water for me and I think the recent Geico commercials are a variation of that.

Because something has been around a long time is not proof that it is credible or correct. It just means it is old.