Practice Makes… More Practice

On weekdays, I share a lesson learned in life. Today’s lesson is about consistency…

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I was re-reading last Thursday’s post, “A Buddhist Monk Walks Into a Bar…” and I realized later that very day I completely bombed at taking my advice. Like total, miserable, utter failure. Rather than dispassionately observe my emotions and move on, I blew my top when I come home to find our new puppy had gone number two, rolled in it, traipsed it around the house, and buried his toys in it.

Ugh. Bad Puppy Daddy!

Once I regained my composure and reflected on the event, I realized how, well… ashamed I am of my behavior there. Of course, the puppy was just being a puppy, doing what puppies do. Yet, I handed over complete control of my life and emotions to the equivalent of a mildly retarded toddler. It is a bit embarrassing to share about it, actually.

The lesson, I could say, is to remember to practice what I preach, but there is more to it than that. I do practice what I preach. However, I do not practice what I preach all the time. After writing a lesson every day for nearly two years, I can not remember to apply every lesson every day. Besides, no doubt some of my lessons conflict with each other because… human.

The real lesson today, I think, is to remember we have access to every lesson we have learned at any time and if we just stop for one second and think, “Where have I seen this before?”, I bet we can remember a life-lesson that applies.

Or, put another way, practice does not make perfect. Emotions, situations, and circumstances remove “perfect” by default. Practice only generates more practice.

Never stop practicing. It’s the only sure way to become better.

 

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4 Weeks as a Puppy Daddy

On weekdays, I share a lesson I have learned in life. Today, let’s talk about the joys and pains of (puppy) parenting…

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Oliver, Hiding Rope (flipped)- 151118

I have been the proud parent of Oliver for about a month now.  I don’t have (human) kids so this is my first time really caring for a “child” from infancy to adulthood.

I am only a month in but I am already feeling the turmoil of parenting. It is like volunteering to be manic-depressive. I go from bouts of joy (“Yay! He peed on the lawn instead of the carpet!”) to rounds of utter despair (“I can’t believe it is 3 in the morning. I’m a forty-year old man who is paid to lead teams and write prolific articles and my contribution to the world right now is cleaning poop prints from every conceivable spot in the bathroom. How did he even reach the shower head?!?”).

There are times when I can not believe this little creature trusts and loves me so much and there are times when I feel completely incompetent as a (puppy) father. I can not imagine what the turmoil must be like for a parent raising a teen.

I would like to say I have learned something profound from being a Puppy Daddy in my first month, like “Being a Puppy Daddy has taught me the value of patience and being kind to all animals” or something. That is not true, though.

So far, being a Puppy Daddy has taught me that fathers must always wonder if they are good fathers and there is no objective way to tell if they are. My job as Puppy Daddy is simply to provide routine and stability, teach cause and effect, and express happiness and anger (but not too much of either).

The rest is up to the puppy, and Puppy Mommy.

 

 

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I’m a Jerk.

Each weekday I share a lesson I have learned in life. Here is today’s lesson.

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I do not like to have my work interrupted. I do not like to be told I “need” to do something (as in, “You need to listen when I talk…”). I love my pets but I am quickly frustrated by their bad behavior (like barfing up a hairball on my bed or having a potty accident on the carpet). Anyone transferring their emotions to me is infuriating (i.e. blaming me for how you feel). I have been known to “drop” my phone (against the wall at about 40 miles per hour) for being irritated that it will not perform some simple task correctly (probably due to an app not being updated or general user error).

The point is, most people know me as generally cool, calm, and collected most of the time, but I have buttons. And when they are pressed, I see red. I can go from being a nice guy to a jerk in no time. Luckily, I have enough tricks up my sleeve to keep me from doing any real damage to myself or life and these days, even most electronic products. I am also quite resilient and tend to get over things (including myself) fast. I can be authentically smiling and calm again within minutes.

The secret, I think, to getting over frustration is three-fold. Here is what works for me.

1.  Context and Self-Respect. By putting a situation in perspective and reminding myself who I am, I can almost always regain self-control. For example, when my puppy has an accident, it resets our potty training and makes me feel guilty, angry, and generally like a “bad parent” (I totally understand the irony of the emotional transference complaint I listed at the top). My anger jumps from zero to about thirteen in less than a heartbeat. Sometimes I am able to catch it by quickly reminding myself the dog is a dog. It has a hundred times less brain power and emotional content and is only doing what a dog does (context–can’t be mad at a dog for being a dog). I have to remind myself I can not let a puppy take control of my life since he is relying on me to be in control (self-respect–my job is to lead “the pack” and what kind of leader demoralizes his followers by yelling or throwing a tantrum?).

 2.  Chase the goal, not the emotions. As new puppy parents, sometimes Nicole and I disagree on how to approach a situation we haven’t encountered before. For example, the dog care books say you have to take your puppy out and socialize to acclimate it to other dogs and people quickly. Our puppy is behind schedule on his vaccinations, though, due to being sick, and the general advice is to keep him away from other dogs and dog areas. What do we do? Regardless of the answer, you can imagine the conversation can quickly become emotionally charged. To defuse my misaligned passion, I remind myself our goal is the same: we want what is best for the puppy. I may not agree on the approach but just knowing the destination is the same will often help us find a good landing spot, even if the landing is bumpy.

3.  Remember who you are dealing with.  Whether it is your boss, a friend, a sibling, or even a brand, I find an easy way to wrangle my would-be emotional outbursts is to remind myself of the importance of this (person, product, place) in my life. When I am snippy with Nicole (and I know it), I remind myself she is the love of my life. There is no reason to be short-tempered with her because she is the best thing about waking up each day. Why tarnish that because I am feeling snotty? Same with other people, places, and things. My emotions are on me. The situation might be our problem but my emotional approach is my problem and mine alone. That means there are often two problems to solve at the same time, so better take the one I have immediate control over out of the mix as quickly as I can.

 

Of course, I’m not perfect. Sometimes my mouth out runs my brain or sometimes I have just “had enough” and take a firm stand on something stupid (“I will NOT put the cap back on the toothpaste because I LIKE the mess it leaves!”). More often than not, I am glad to say, remembering those 3 tips help me minimize those moments and maximize my relationships in the world.

Hope they help you too!

 

 

 

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Picking Your Pet’s Name

Each weekday I share a life-lesson learned. The lesson can be about anything but it can not be something I heard or read and am just sharing. It has to be something I experienced or am trying for myself. It is a real life-lesson. Here is today’s lesson…

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We met our new puppy at a rescue event in Orlando. He was the first puppy we picked up and after about 10 minutes spent with him, we knew we were not leaving without him. During the 2 hour drive home, we debated pet names. I wanted to name him “Bruce Banner”, or “The Incredible Shrinking Puppy”, or “Cory and the Chocolate Factory” (because the rescue was tentatively calling him “Cory”). Nicole was voting for “Spot” or “Brindle” or “Fido”.

Clearly, we were not finding a middle ground. For every normal-ish name Nicole would throw out, I would counter with something–um… let’s say, a little more creative–like “Robert Downey Junior, Jr.” or “Kal-El”.

Then we had a great idea. We used social media. I posted our dilemma on Facebook and asked our friends and their friends to come up with some names. Everyone looked at the picture and in no time we had some great ones to choose from. My friend Chris thought we should name the puppy, “Chris”.

We got “Phydoe”, “Corbin”, “Braveheart”, “Oliver”, “Brindy”, “Digger”, “Cosmo”, “Charlie”, “Samson”, and my personal favorite, “Apollo” which Nicole was okay with but she wouldn’t let me add “Creed” after it, once she found out who “Apollo Creed” was. She is a Rocky fan but when she says “Rocky” she means this one, not this one… no accounting for good taste, I guess. Please, let’s not do the Time Warp again… not ever again. Pretty please.

We tested a few in talking and playing with the puppy. In the end, and I can’t really say why… the name just stuck… it was “Oliver”.

(I haven’t told Nicole yet, but when people ask me what the puppy’s name is, I plan to say, “This is Sir Lawrence Oliver…eh! He’s Canadian.”)

When you are stuck on a problem, don’t forget you can leverage the power of your network and friends to come up with a solution. Somebody out there probably has the answer you were looking for.

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Powered by Puppy

I share my life-lessons learned on this blog each weekday. Here is today’s lesson…

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Want a great exercise tip? Borrow a puppy.

Puppy Power- 151117

Being the proud puppy stepfather of young Oliver, I have learned that puppies have small bladders. And we live on the third floor. That means every hour and a half or so I am taking a trip downstairs to empty the puppy. Empty puppies, by the way, make great playmates. They chase (which means you run), climb (which means you bend and flex), and entice you to rub their bellies (which essentially means you do a lunge 20 times a day).

It’s not 3 hours at the gym, but puppies tire you out while you try to tire them out. We have had Oliver a little over a week and I have already lost 2 lbs on the “Puppy Plyometrics Plan”.

You should try it. Unless you hate puppies, in which case you are the Devil and probably stay slim from the heat down there.

 

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like. Be pleasant, get them over with, and move forward.

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I dread that “certain time of month” when some people’s moods are affected and everything you are doing is thrown off for a couple days. It’s the worst. I think you know what I am talking about.

Haircuts.

I dread having my haircut every time I go to the salon. I feel stressed a day or two before. I am prone to making an appointment, then canceling it, then rescheduling, and then just showing up randomly anyway. I just do not like having my hair cut. I am not afraid of scissors. There was no haircut trauma when I was a kid (well, except for the seventies “bowl” cut). I have always liked my stylists. It is not that getting my hair cut is ever a bad experience.

The problem I have with it is the interruption to the flow of life it creates every four to six weeks. It is an hour or more where I am forced to sit and listen to, and create, inane conversation (“So… how about that weather?” “Yeah… there sure is a lot of weather today…” “Did you see that thing on the news about that celebrity? Can you believe Bennifer is naming their kid Moonspeckle?”) Ugh. Please–just shave it all off and let me out of here! I’ll pay you whatever you want.

Not only is that meaningless conversation bad, but I am at the mercy of a person with scissors for as long as they want me to be. They get to push my head around like I am a living mannequin–“Tilt forward, please. Side. Lean your head back. Forward. Close your eyes. Here, let me rub a horse-ass hair brush on your face for a minute. Want a mirror?”

Then, when it is all done, even if they shampoo my hair again afterward, there are still a bunch of tiny hairs they miss that will make my neck and face itch until I go home and shower (for the second time that day, which adds to the time wasted not being productive). I am worse than a puppy getting a bath. I squirm. I pout. As soon as they are done making it look pretty, I run home or find the nearest lawn and just flop over and rub myself in the dirt so I have a reason to shower again.

Sometimes I skip rubbing myself in the dirt because… society. Still, haircuts suck. Yet, I still have to visit the stylist every month or so since I have not taught myself to cut hair with my left-hand, backwards while holding a mirror with my right.

The point is… sometimes I don’t understand evolution.

 

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