Is This The Most Absurd Advice Ever?

Love unreasonable people. Do good to those who are mean. Give the world your best and get kicked in the teeth. Dedicate your life to building something beautiful, only to see it destroyed overnight. And then do it all over again.

Absurd? Of course. But it also makes perfect sense.

Kent M. Keith wrote The Paradoxical Commandments in the late 1960’s when he was a sophomore at Harvard.  You may have seen these commandments on a refrigerator magnet or included in a motivational presentation, or maybe you attributed the list to Mother Teresa.   It sounds like something she would say, but it was Kent Keith.  Mr. Keith actually published these commandments in 1968 in a booklet form, and sold them at high school student council meetings.

Nearly 50 years later, he still writes, does speaking engagements, and seems like the kind of guy who follows both his own commandments as well as the original “10“. So what are these paradoxical commandments “anyway“?

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People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.  Fight for a few underdogs anyway

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway

Yes, these commandments seem absurd and self-contradictory.  Just like Charlie Brown trusting that maybe, just maybe, Lucy won’t pull the football away.

That’s what a paradox is.  It doesn’t make sense to to love the unloveable, or to keep giving to those who take and never give back.  And it’s hard to keep going when no one notices the good that you do.

But do good anyway.  Because success is always a process, never an event. Failure is always an event, never a person. And the way you react to others, the way you treat people is a reflection of your character, not theirs.

The paradoxical commandments? The most absurd advice ever? Yeah, I think so. But, like my pal Charlie Brown, I’m going to follow them anyway.

Why We Do What We Do

Have you ever tried to give up smoking, lose weight, exercise, or get up earlier when things seem to go well for awhile, and then

BAM!

You start messing up and soon you are back where you started.

Do you give up and give in to your doubts?

I can’t change, it’s too hard, I’m too old. I’m under too much stress,

I can’t deal with another failure. I’m too far gone.

NO!

Don’t listen to the doubts. Stop making excuses.  The only right thing to do when you fail at something is again.

In medicine, especially treating addictions, I have seen unbelievable transformations.

Without a doubt I believe change is possible, and there is absolutely hope for you.

You can be successful.  You can quit smoking, lose weight, stop doing drugs, or whatever it is you want.

You can, even if you’ve failed multiple times before.

If you want to change something in your life, start small. Just change one thing.

Right now, write it down. 

Then do what you need to do to get where you want to be.

For example, drink water instead of a soda. Brush your teeth when you want to smoke. Install a filter on your computer. Recite Shakespeare when you feel angry. Take a cold shower. Run around the block. Count to ten. Count to 500. Eat on a smaller plate. Do jumping jacks. Make exercise an appointment on your calendar. Write fifteen minutes a day.  Surround yourself with positive influences. Change little things in your environment. Stop and think. Redirect.

Read, research, hire a coach, or a counselor, ask a friend to come along side.

One thing you can’t do is just hope for the best.  You can’t “name it claim it blab it grab it”.

I’m all for having a vision of who you want to be and changing your thoughts.

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit.

But bad habits and faulty thinking are deeply embedded in your brain like a well trodden path. You have got to forge a new trail. There is no try, there is only do.

The secret to successfully breaking a bad habit is replacing the bad with a new, good one, and coaxing it along step by step.

R. Buckminster Fuller said,

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Are you the person you really want to be?  If not, do something about it. You can break that bad habit.  You can change.  Replace bad with good.

Yeah, I know its hard, it takes work, it gets frustrating, it takes forever.

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So what do you want? What do YOU want, and what are you going to do about it? You have to start somewhere.

What better time than right now? Let me tell you something,

You can change, it’s not too hard, you’re not too old, stress will always be there, and failure is a part of change.

You can do it, and you will. I know you can.

You got this.

More on change here.

Book suggestion—>The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

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You Will Become A Better Person By Doing This

There was a time in my life when I avoided any one who was suffering.  Ironic for someone who chose nursing as a career.  I didn’t last long as a hospital nurse.

I stopped watching the news.

I became tongue tied when I did try to offer condolences to a friend.

The thought of going to a funeral or wake triggered panic, dread.

Until one day I was sick of avoiding, ignoring, pretending.

That was not how I wanted to live my life! Bad things happen, and that’s never going to change. Kids die. Planes explode. Buildings collapse. Accidents happen. Spouses cheat. Cancer spreads. Evil destroys. We all die.

And I can’t do a damn thing about it.

Except…

I can accept it, and share the pain.

So I did.  And it didn’t destroy me. Actually, the opposite happened. My spirit became stronger, and my own heavy load seemed lighter, so much less important.

Somehow the act of sharing another’s hardship freed me from my own suffering.

Now, I see burdens everywhere I go. P1070618The traffic of my daily encounters reveal so many who suffer.

Whether it’s a headline tragedy, or the quiet grief of a neighbor you hardly know, there are people who are lonely, broken, despairing.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our burdens become more bearable when we help carry another’s.  We become liberated. Our purpose becomes clearer.

Lifting the burdens of another, making the road a little easier – it’s the cure for suffering. It makes you a better person.

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People in the midst of terrible, heavy suffering tend to hide it. They want you to think everything is fine.  Maybe that’s you right now, you go to work, do your shopping, show up at functions with a smile on your face and the whole time you’re thinking,

I have to do this again tomorrow??? I can’t. God help me. I can’t take it anymore!

The secret for overcoming hopelessness, grief, fear, tragedy? Lose yourself in the service of others. Share the burden. Give some of yours and take some of theirs.

When someone asks you,

 What can I do?  Is there anything you need? Anything at all? 

Say yes.

There is something you can do for me. You have pain. I have pain.  If you let me have some of yours, I will give you some of mine.

That’s the miracle of healing. It makes us better.

There will never be a shortage of suffering in this world. None of us truly know the right thing to say or do when tragedy strikes.

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

It’s ok. Don’t say anything. A hug, a nod, a comforting shoulder to cry on.

Start small. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

charles dickensYou suffer. I suffer. And life goes on. And it is through that suffering we find life.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

There was a time in my life when I avoided any one who was suffering.

Not any more.

And I’m more than Ok.

Antibiotic Apocolypse: The Rise of The Superbug

In 2013 the Center for Disease Control released a landmark report: Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013 (PDF).

The report gives a bleak picture of our current antibiotic problems.

If folks don’t stop demanding and clinicians don’t stop prescribing antibiotics for every cold, earache, cough, or other illness that is likely viral, we won’t have any effective antibiotics left!

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The consequences of this is catastrophic.

Imagine our world run amuck with superbugs that cannot be killed. These bugs become armed militants capable of mutating and altering their defenses against anything thrown at them, making them more virulent, more deadly. This is not science fiction. Antibiotic resistance is not a potential problem of the future, it is here and now, present day.

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The CDC conservatively estimates that in the US alone, two million people a year get sick with antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 die from their infection.

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I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Are we too late?  Has the overuse of antibiotics by prescribers and patients caused irreversible repercussions? Yeah, probably.

But with education and action by every one of us, we can help our situation from getting even worse.

What can we do?

CDC’s Dr. Frieden proposes a four-part solution:

  • Preventing infections from occurring and spreading:
    through immunization, hand washing, proper food preparation
  • Tracking resistant bacteria (CDC’s role)
  • Improve antibiotic prescribing/stewardship. This commitment to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely—only when they are needed and to choose the right ones and administer/take in the right way in every case—is known as antibiotic stewardship.
  • Promote development of new antibiotics and tests for diagnosing resistant bacteria.

Important take-aways:

-The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.

50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective.

Simply using antibiotics creates resistance.

As antibiotic resistance grows, the antibiotics used to treat infections do not work as well or at all.

When someone takes an antibiotic that they do not need, they are needlessly exposed to the side effects of the drug and do not get any benefit from it.

Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need,
they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.

When a person takes antibiotics, good bacteria that protect against infection are destroyed for several months.

Stopping even some of the inappropriate and unnecessary use of antibiotics in people and animals would help greatly in slowing down the spread of resistant bacteria

Remember, most illnesses resolve on their own, and very few truly require antibiotic treatment.

Let’s fight this war together and agree to be good antibiotic stewards. Otherwise, we risk being destroyed by mercenaries who are capable of assembling their army on a single grain of salt.

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He said What?! Einstein’s Best Quotes

Albert Einstein, the most influential physicist of the 20th century was born with a misshapen head to a middle-class German Jewish family.  He didn’t talk until he was nearly four years old. His first sentence was…

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Einstein hated school, especially rote learning and he refused to study anything that he didn’t find interesting.

He dropped out of high-school, but eventually graduated from college. You know the rest of the story.

Einstein is known for many things: the theory of relativity, cavorting with ladies, absentmindedness, crazy hair, and some really cool quotes.  Here’s some of my favorites.

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God did not create evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

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Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.

I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.

Never memorize something that you can look up. (I think he came up with that because he was so absentminded!)

mysteriousLogic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.

Thanks Al, for everything. Except those ridiculous rules of marriage. No wonder Mileva divorced you.

Technology is the Devil

Bobby Boucher: Mama, when did Ben Franklin invent electricity?
Mama Boucher: That’s nonsense, I invented electricity.  Ben Franklin is the Devil!

I learned lots of lesser known facts about life after watching Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy.  Foosball, girls, electricity, and poor Ben Franklin is the devil.

Can you imagine what Mama would do if Bobby brought home an iPhone6+?

NO SON OF MINE IS GOING TO BE PLAYING WITH NO EYESPHONE! EYESPHONE IS THE DEVIL!

Does Mama, even with her overdramatized, overprotective, and outrageous behavior, have some wisdom for us? Is technology wicked? Does it rob us of love, relationships, and even take our soul?

What are the costs of technology, of living in a digital world?

Switchfoot at The Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY
Switchfoot at The Landmark Theater, Syracuse, NY

We watch concerts, see sunsets, live life through phones. What used to be face to face conversations are done online.

I do it too! I text friends who are sitting across from me. I Skype my kids instead of yelling upstairs to tell them dinner’s ready. I hardly even use the “landline” phone anymore.

It’s great to have this technology, but have we gone too far? Interpersonal communication with a physical human being that includes touch, facial expressions, inflections, tone – remember that?

I don’t  believe technology is the devil.  But it can be a baneful influence if we let it. If you want to be healthy and happy there has to be balance and moderation in everything.

How about you? Do you need to pull the plug on your technology, even a little?

Why not give it a try? Turn off your phone. Shut the computer. Take a walk. Read a book. And when your break is over, grab some clean, cold, high quality H20 and watch The Waterboy.

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Would My Dad Know Who I Am Now?

Father’s Day is a happy day for some, and a sad day for others.  And then there are those like me who are happy/sad.  My dad is gone, but I have a husband who is a wonderful father to my three boys. Now we celebrate the day spoiling him with presents, good food, ice cream, and miniature golf.

My father died when I was twenty.  I have spent more years living without him than with him.  The hardest part for me now is realizing he never got to know the grown up me.  He knew me as a child, his youngest daughter.  I was daddy’s little girl, but my heart aches when I remember how mean I was in my later teenage years.

He knew me when I was bratty and terribly moody.  I have one vivid memory of a sunday afternoon when he drove me back to nursing school. I don’t know what he said or did, but I clicked my tongue, rolled my eyes, and said something horrible to him.  Did he shush me, or lecture me about my behavior? No.  He just looked away and watched the numbers change on the elevator.

He died shortly after that. Why is it on Father’s Day I have to remember that stupid day?

If I had a magic bean that could grant me one day with my dad, would he know me when he saw me? Would he recognize my face, my voice? It’s been thirty-one years and I’m not who I once was. I’ve changed in so many ways.

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I would know him.  His deep brown eyes, his big, toothless smile.  He loved popcorn, country music, horseshoes, and staying up late to watch John Wayne and Kung-Fu movies.  He was most content reclining in his lawn chair in our backyard, smoking his lucky strikes while listening to the birds songs and the scratchy buzzing of the locusts.

I would know my father.  He is etched in my memory, cut into my heart. I’d recognize his voice, his walk, his whistling.  He’d smell of old spice and Wisk laundry detergent.

My tall, kind, patient, long-suffering, always there till he wasn’t, dad.

I think he would know me. I imagine him saying,

Sweetie, I saw it all.  Your career, your wedding.  I was there when your boys were babies – handsome kids. Will reminds me of myself when I was his age.  I saw them walk across the stage to get their diplomas.  I saw it all.  I’ve watched you all these years, and you have made me so proud. I love you.

Of course he would know me – he’s my dad. He would always know me.

I love you too dad. Miss you. XO

Me and my dad.
Me and my dad.

Originally published June 16, 2014

Change: (part three) Action!

Action is a great word. It invokes feelings of anticipation, excitement, and a now we’re finally getting somewhere mindset.

The actors who take their places – The runner poised at the start line – The traveler boarding the plane –  and now you, ready for change.

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Stanley Kunitz

Isn’t a relief to finally be doing something? The hardest part is done, here where you are, in action, is where you were meant to be.

You’ve thought about it, planned for it, and now you are living it.

Mixed with the excitement you have a bit of fear and if you’re like me, a lot of urgency.

Ready, set, action!

I found this video on slo-mo cat physics that struck me as a sort of analogy for this action phase. From the startled eyes to the landing on her feet – I loved it.

Change is really a growth process with periods of rapid development,  low dips, high points, and maintenance (which I’ll talk more about in part four).

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. Anatole France

I wish life/behavior changes were as easy as a free falling cat landing on its feet.  It just isn’t. That explains why people drop out of college, quit going to the gym, start smoking again, rack up debt, or go back to jail.

Lasting change requires motivation, a sensible plan with attainable goals, and persistence.

You want this, you’re set, now do it!  Don’t worry about later, tomorrow, next year. Keep focused on here, now.

Ready, set, action –  start the process of change.

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If you are working on changing a behavior or habit, listen to this NPR broadcast, Habits: How They Form and How To Break Them.

Need a recap? Go here to part one: why we resist. Be sure to come back next week for the final part four: maintenance.

Change (part two): Preparation

Bob Dylan said there’s nothing so stable as change.  Pre-Dylan philosopher Heraclitus put it this way:

The only thing that is constant is change.

Stable, constant.

Permanent, certain.

Whether you like it and seek it, or hate it and run from it: everything always changes.  Most change is out of our control. Consider the weather, someone else’s attitude, road conditions, home/car repairs, illness, accidents, and layoffs as some of the stuff in life we can’t change.

There is still a great portion of stuff we can.

In part one of this blog series on change I discussed why we resist change and challenged you to think about one area in yourself you’d like to change.  Go back and reread it if you need to.  You should have written down one thing. If your thing is “big” like these –

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break it down into smaller, more defined short term goals.

If your desired change is to “get healthy” (good choice!) what are the smaller steps that lead to good health? Write them down and circle one.

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Start with that. It’s good to have high aspirations, but don’t set the bar too high. Think of change as a muscle.  In order for muscle growth you have to begin with a weight you can actually lift. You add on as tolerated, allowing the muscle to adapt to grow. If you start out high and hard, you will likely get injured or give up.

What it is it that you want to do? Define it. Imagine it. Put it in writing. Organize it. Gather the knowledge you need, enlist help, start equipping yourself with the tools to help you be successful.

changeYou have now entered the action phase of change. I’ll talk more about action in part three.

Preparation is key to successful change. Know what you want, and educate yourself on how to get there. In between here and there establish clear, manageable steps.

Until we meet again for some action, here’s a little Dylan inspiration…

Gonna put my good foot forward and stop being influenced by fools.

Remember. You got this.

Change (part one): Why We Resist

What makes us resist change? Why would we rather stick with a job we hate, stay in an abusive relationship, keep smoking despite illness, and endure unnecessary hardship rather than do something to make it better?

Why do we?

Is it fear of failure? Uncertainty of the unknown? Apathy?

It’s D. All of the above.

Change can be hard.  It can also be easy.  One thing is certain: change is inevitable.

change

If you don’t like something in your life, change it.

If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

Let me give you an example.

I’ve had a chronic pain condition (burning mouth syndrome) for over three years. I am reluctant to blog about it because I don’t see the point in giving something so afflictive any more attention than it deserves.

I hate it. It can be all consuming and at times unbearable. Presently, I have exhausted all management therapies.  I’ve stopped googling it as I can’t bear to read other BMS sufferers lament about how poor their quality of life is.  It makes me feel hopeless.

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Somedays I do crawl up in a ball and go to sleep.  Sleep is sometimes the one thing I can do to escape the pain.

I can give in to hopelessness.

Or,

I can change the way I think.

I can redirect my attention to something else.  Take my focus off the problem and put it somewhere else.

I can do that.

Instead of putting a spotlight on the pain and allowing it to have control of how I live and what I do, I can put it in the background.

Accept, but not empower.

That has been the one thing that has helped me deal.

It has taken me 3 years to figure out I needed to change my thoughts.

What about you?

Is the problem the problem? Or could it be how you think about the problem?

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There are at least two views.

A rut or a grave?

Half empty or half full?

A mountain or a mole hill?

Lemons or lemonade?

A weed or a flower?

All changes, even the ones we crave can be sad. We leave behind something that was a part of us, our life. We knew it well. Kind of like an old shoe.

Remember, If you’re in a bad situation, don’t worry it’ll change. If you’re in a good situation, don’t worry it’ll change.

Is there something you need to change?  What’s stopping you?

Today, I only ask that you think about one area of yourself or your life that you need to change.  That’s the second step to change (contemplation).  Pre-contemplation is the first step – you already experienced that when you felt the nudge to read this post.

Think about how your life will be better after you make a change.

Whatever it is you need to change trust me when I say, you got this.

We all need change.

Jim Rohn, American Entrepreneur and motivational speaker said so well,

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Next week: Preparation