The News vs. Seth Godin

seth_godin

I’m going to admit something that I’ve always felt sheepish about saying out loud, though I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way… I really (I mean really) dislike reading today’s headlines — “the news.”

Why?

Because the percentage of upset compared to the percentage of hope is abysmal. I force myself to read it. To be current. To know what’s going on. (I don’t do this all the time because I don’t like it).

Today, after about 15 minutes of it, I felt exhausted, and like the earth’s gravitational pull had somehow just increased. I felt small, tired and powerless. What do I do about these bigger than big things happening in this world that are so terrible?

I’m still grappling with how to deal with this. Processing news. Hearing the bad stuff. And still having energy to do something good.

Is ignoring the news” an answer? I don’t think so. Living in a self-made perception of the world where everything is lovely causes us, by being detached, to be a new and different problem.

Today, when I felt the way I described above, I decided I needed a dose of inspiration. I turned to Seth Godin’s blog and read the latest few posts. It worked. There was normal gravity on Earth again. Thanks Seth. I needed that.

Just Smile and You’ll Be Happier

Feelings and actions go hand-in-hand. We often think that actions follow the feelings. When we FEEL happy, we smile. But, because actions and feelings are so closely tied, we can take action to influence our feelings. Start SMILING and we will feel happier.

Try it. It works.

Take it a step further and smile, make eye contact and say “Good morning” (or afternoon or evening) to a person you pass on the street.

This nifty idea is something I was just reading about in Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Despite its smarmy sounding title, this book, written in the 1930’s, concisely delivers timeless advice that a person can apply right away to improve their relationships and their lives.

 

 

A “Safe Word” That Means Dick is Still Useful

My husband and I have worked together since before we were a couple. A lot of people who meet us think, “Wow! I could never do that with my spouse. We’d kill each other!”

That’s OK. It’s good that they know that. And I would say they are in the majority.

In our case, our relationship suffers when we ARE NOT working together in our “professional lives” or on some cool project that may not be part of business. Truly, I love this about us.

Still, there are times, when we are having a conversation and maybe we’re tired, or maybe we’re stressed, or maybe one of us is just mentally not 100% present… but one of us will say a thing, (maybe it’s not WHAT we say, but the WAY we say it) that makes the other one think, “Why is s/he being a dick?”

This happened the other day. Jason said something that bothered me in this way. I paused the conversation and called him out. We put our “real topic” on hold for a few moments while we worked it out. It was very calm. And it only took a few minutes to communicate and understand each other’s points of view. As we were wrapping up, Jason asked me, “Is there some kind of ‘safe word’ that you can say or I can say when something like this happens? When one of us thinks the other one is acting like a dick?”

I thought for a moment. And then I said, “Let’s just say, ‘Dick.'”

We both cracked up.

To do it justice, we say it in a monotone, almost under-our-breath kind of way — gives it better delivery and makes it funnier.

OK, I will admit, these days, we are overusing this tool in cases where it’s not really needed because we think it’s so funny. But, in defense of that, using our new “safe word” before it’s really needed, brings humor and perspective early and often. That’s a good thing!

It’s Really True… Marketers DO Wreck Marketing

Below is a great talk about how to approach storytelling in today’s landscape of social media, short attention spans, and the “control” we have over our time.

http://garyvaynerchuk.com/99u/

One side point the talk makes is resonating with me today. Gary talks about the problem with great marketing ideas is that marketers WRECK them by doing them over and over. He talked about his first email campaigns and his open ratio compared to today. He gave the example of places like Groupon and how they kill you with a ceaseless list of offers that you just don’t care about. The point is: By sending you so much that’s irrelevant to you, marketers wreck the opportunity for when something IS relevant.

I’m living proof of the Groupon story right now.

I signed up for my first Groupon deal a few weeks ago and I get an email from Groupon (feels like daily, but it’s probably not that frequent). And I’m ANNOYED every time. And yet, I’m too lazy to go through minor-pain-in-the-assery of unsubscribing. Sometimes these unsubscribes are easy. Sometimes they are clunky and convoluted and just make me madder. For that reason, I tend to hit delete on things like this until I reach a tipping point where I’m willing to sally forth into the unknown land of how they’ve set up their unsubscribe.

In terms of Groupon, no more excuses, I’ll unsubscribe now. Will I use a Groupon deal again? Maybe. But only if a relevant deal is pointed out to me by a friend or a trusted source as was true in this case. However, they’ve left a bad taste in my mouth, so no promises.

 

Feeling “Guilt” Means You Have a Decision to Make

Years ago, I heard this really awesome speaker talking about all sorts of “tools” for living a happy, healthy and productive life.

When he talked about “guilt” he made a bold statement that I immediately thought was a crock. But later I came to realize he was absolutely right. He said, if you’re feeling guilty, it means you have a decision to make.

I wasn’t the only one in the audience with a furrowed brow and a mumble of disagreement ready on my lips. He explained further…

A person feels guilty because they have done something (or haven’t done something) that they shouldn’t (or should). Sometimes it’s a big thing. Sometimes it’s a small thing. Guilt involves a conflict of the person’s actions or emotions going against their view of what they should be doing instead.

A person might feel guilty because they are not the type of person who would do <insert thing here that they did> and it’s agonizing them.

How do you break free of guilt?

The bottom line is you DO have a decision to make. You have to own up to how you feel (your moral compass) and face that. And then you have to handle it.

EXAMPLE: If a person feels guilty because he is cheating on his girlfriend, then he has to face the decision of, “Do I really want to be in a relationship with my girlfriend or not?” And then he needs to have the tough conversations that go with that and face the consequences. That can be hard and scary. But it would be necessary to free himself of the guilty feeling.

Or to take a more mundane example, if a person feels guilty because they are trying get fit and they just binged on junk food, then they need to come to terms with their goals and their commitment level to them. How do they honestly feel about their fitness level? What’s an achievable exercise and nutrition plan that will get them to their goal?

It’s not always easy. But it is possible.

 

Nothing Says Good Wholesome Family Fun Like a Demolition Derby

Demolition Derby at 2010 Cummington Fair in Cummington, MA

I’m not a gear head. I’m not into monster trucks or auto races. But for the past few years, my husband and I have taken our kids (now ages 2, 4 and 6) to a real honest-to-goodness country fair,  complete with oversized pumpkins, livestock, pie tasting contests, antique cars, carnival rides, candy apples, and of course, the demolition derby.

A demolition derby, for those who don’t know, is a contest of guts, skill, and probably a little bit of stupidity, where 8-ish drivers of totally junky cars battle it out in a fairly small, jersey-barrier-enclosed “arena”. Firefighters and EMTs are on hand “just in case”, and the spectacle attracts a huge crowd.

I sometimes still find it oddly quirky that my family and I are so drawn to the demolition derby. Because, well, I don’t seem like the type.

Watching the derby this time, I found myself amused by the culture of the event, the “successful techniques” and some of the rules of the contest.

SAFETY FIRST

The cars were entering the arena one at a time, with a noticeable pause between each car coming in. The announcer explained that the pause was for a “safety check” where an official was making sure that the drivers had seat belts securely fastened, helmets on and safety glasses in place. “Safety is our most important concern,” the announcer said.

I couldn’t help but chuckle inwardly at the irony of that statement. Yes. I don’t doubt that seat belts, headgear and protective eyewear would be important. But I felt like he might was well be saying they were checking to make sure everyone had their shoelaces tied tightly. And with double-knots.

I mean, when they get going, they are ramming into each other.

REEEEEE-VERSE!

The most effective technique for demolition derbying is to protect your engine by trying to avoid having other drivers smash the front end of your car. At the same time, you use the rear end of your own car as a battering ram, driving in REVERSE to hit the cars of your opponents.

So picture it. It’s a bunch of junky, battered cars, with spray-painted-on numbers, brokenly lumbering around in a potholed, churned-up-dirt-used-to-be-grass arena. They look like old granny cars driving backwards into each other. You can see why it’s a spectacle.

ONE ENGINE FIRE IS OK… BUT TWO ENGINE FIRES AND YOU’RE OUT.

I learn something new every time. Last night, one of the car’s engine caught fire. (I admired the swift action of the officials and emergency crew. Air horn blown instantly. All competitors stopped on a dime. Firefighters pulled the driver out. Engine fire doused in an eye blink.)

What I didn’t know is that the derby rule says that if you have an engine fire, then once it’s put out, you can decide to keep competing. If you can get your, now soaked, engine to fire up again, you’re back in the game. But… if your engine catches fire a second time? You’re out.

FOR A BUNCH OF FOLKS RAMMING EACH OTHER, THEY CAN BE QUITE COURTEOUS

When a car is out — be it because the engine caught fire twice, or because the car just won’t go anymore, or because the driver hasn’t hit anyone in the past 60-seconds which is another rule of the contest — then the driver is to remain in his or her vehicle and just stay put.

The drivers who are still competing are NOT to hit cars that are out. An accidental bump will be overlooked. But too many accidental bumps or a deliberate hit and THEY are out. So the cars that are still in are quite good at avoiding the “still” cars. They seem to politely go around them… and then ram somebody else.

THE MOST COMICAL CAR WHEELS YOU’LL EVER SEE

I talked about how the drivers use the rear end of their car as a battering ram (to protect the engine). Well, another characteristic of the successful derby car is that it’s front-wheel-drive. In fact, often the rear wheels tend to end up non-operational from all the ramming.

I think the goofiest set of rear wheels we saw was on a car where the back right tire was sticking out to the side, perpendicular to the car, waving and bouncing, but hanging on somehow. Amazing that this car was still going.

… And speaking of wheels, in one car, the driver started out with steering wheel on the usual, LEFT, side of the car. But by halfway through, the steering wheel (and the driver) were both on the right side of the front seat and still going. Ridiculous and amazing!

ALL IN GOOD FUN

I’ve described things that strike me as utterly silly. But somehow I also find this event to be entirely captivating with its antics. I’ll close by saying that one cool thing about the demolition derby is the spirit of the contest. The participants all play by the rules. They know if there’s dirty play, they’re out.

The players also seem to be good sports. Everyone wants to win it. But, I’ve even seen a contestant give a competitor a push out of some rough terrain so they could get going again when a car “went down early”.

And the crowd may have favorites, but they seem to appreciate all the participants. Almost gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Will I go again next year?

You bet.