9 Ways You’re Getting Played

 

IMG_00161. You act out of guilt or false obligation.

So there you are, going to the music festival with your friend Stacy. But you hate music festival. So why are you going? Because you “feel bad.” Or because no one else will go. Or because you think you should. Would it be possible to simply tell Stacy you don’t like dance recitals? Apparently everyone else has.

2. You won’t speak up.

Your roommate never takes out the trash. So you do. Your friend never offers to pay. So you do. Your co-worker takes all the credit. So you don’t. Stop being a doormat. Say something.

3. Your loyalty is a one way street.

You work hard for your employer. You are a trustworthy partner. You are considerate of your boyfriend. Do they reciprocate? If not, move on. Find someone for whom the virtue of loyalty is just as important as it is to you.

4. You don’t ask why.

If you don’t understand why you are being asked to do something at work, what do you do? If you are getting passed over for a promotion, what do you do? If you are being ostracized, what do you do? Here’s a simple suggestion. Ask why. It’s the most powerful and disarming question you can ask.

5. You form opinions (or adopt the opinions of others) without any basis.

I would probably hate that French movie. I would probably hate sky diving. I would probably hate Vietnamese food. I would probably hate that bitch who lives next door. You may be right, but try it anyway. You may be pleasantly surprised.

6. You’re too cool.

Too cool to dance. Too cool to wear a Halloween costume. Too cool to hug your best friend. Too cool to tell someone you love them. Don’t be so self conscious. You know who is really cool? People who don’t give a shit what everyone else thinks about them. And people who aren’t afraid to be a little vulnerable.

7. You’re soooo busy.

You volunteer for the humane society and the food bank. And you’re the room mom. You’re always available. Then you get angry when people don’t appreciate you or people take advantage of you.

What did you think would happen? You created that expectation. I was on a committee at our local University. I faithfully attended every meeting. I was prepared and interested. Another member of the committee showed up about every third time. When he did show up he would waltz into the meeting about ten minutes late, offer a few thoughts and leave. He fostered this notion that we were damn lucky he had the time to show up at all. This gave him an air of distinction and importance. People would hang on his every word. It’s human nature. When you’re always available people will take you for granted.

8. You’re too modest.

We live in a world of blowhards. Look at me! Look at my poem or my dog or my kid’s baseball team! Everyone is screaming so loud it’s almost impossible to discern shit from silver. You want your work to just speak for itself? That ain’t gonna happen. If you’ve done something noteworthy, tell people about it. Then tell them again. Then one more time. But please, only if it’s truly noteworthy. We’re all set with ab selfies and videos of drugged kids coming home from the dentist. (By the way, did I happen to mention my book, now available through Thought Catalog? There’s a link at the bottom of this page.)

9. You don’t exploit your connections.

When I was graduating from college a friend of mine came in and told me he had a job with the Dallas Cowboys. I was stunned. How? He always wanted to work for a sports franchise so he started to ask people he knew whether they had any connections. He kept doing it over and over. He employed the degrees of separation theory. And he kept at it.

Don’t think of yourself as an imposition. Most people would be happy to help you. Even if your connection is remote, ask anyway. Let people know what you are looking for. If you don’t ask them, someone else will.

 

 

 

 

 

The 10 Fears Keeping You Up at Night and How to Conquer Them

Insomnia can damage your health

I’ve been thinking lately about how often my thoughts are dominated by worry. Will I have enough money? What will happen to my kids? Will I be successful? Will I get sick and die? 

I wonder why this is the case. Do you do this as well? Do you ruin your present by fearing your future? 

Why are we constantly unsettled and consumed with worry? 

The purveyors of fear are everywhere. We are surrounded by fear because fear sells. We have a voracious appetite for it. And we don’t just consume fear, we are driven by fear, motivated by fear. 

What if you operated on a higher plane? What if you lived a life based on positive potential rather than loss avoidance? What would happen if you chose to dictate your own course rather than have your course charted for you? 

One way to start would be to take inventory of your fears. If you break them down one by one you will see how irrational they are. 

What are you worried about? I’ll dip into my vast inventory of worry and get us started.

1. Money 

Of course you worry about money. Everyone worries about money. If you are able to read this, you have enough money. Is it as much as you want? It never is. It never will be. 

I have a “love/hate” relationship with money. I hate how much I love it. 

But it’s not the money. Money is just a piece of paper. More than likely it is some numbers on a screen. This fear is directly related to the significance we give money. 

How do we value money? By tying it directly to our self-worth. If we didn’t attach so much significance to it, we wouldn’t worry about it. It would simply be a conduit. A means to an end. 

You have plenty of money. Believe me, there are those with much less who are happy. You just don’t have a proper perspective. 

You know who sits around and counts their money? Scrooge McDuck and Lil’ Wayne. Not you. A. You’re not a rapper or a cartoon character. B. You have a life to lead. 

As the saying goes: If your problems can be solved with money, you don’t have any problems. 

  1. Foreigners 

If you are holding a sign in protest of refugees (especially children) there’s very little I can say to you. This is America for God’s sake. We were built on embracing a stranger, not on xenophobia. When someone needs help, we help. We don’t hide behind some fear based contrivance. Fuck the politics and the cost and the so called “long term consequences” and open your heart, even if just a little. You’ll be surprised at what you learn about others….and yourself. 

  1. Death and Disease

You’re not really afraid of dying. You’re afraid you’re not living the life you’re supposed to live. When you live the life you are excited about, you’ll be too busy to think about anything but living. 

  1. The Future

There’s no such thing. You already know this. It’s illusory. Unfortunately you ignore what you already know because it’s too seductive. It offers the hope of something better than what you have right now. But what you have right now-right this very second-is magic. Look around yourself. If you’re reading this you have freedom to think, to spend your time as you see fit, to be leisurely. So why are you planning for the future? There’s only this moment. And at its very core, it’s great.

  1. Not Finding Love 

I’m about to reveal to you the sure fire way to find true love. Love yourself first. If you don’t love the person you are, no one else will either. Once you feel good and confident about who you are, you will be a magnet for others. I’m not talking about arrogance or conceit. Start with acceptance, grow to like, build to love. Then offer yourself to others. Reach out. 

And another thing: Life is not a popularity contest. You don’t need a thousand friends. One or two really good ones will suffice. Make the first move. 

  1. Not Finding Your Passion 

Screw finding it. The fun is in searching for it. I’m 50  51 and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. 

  1. Commitment and Failure 

Commitment is an important part of your legacy. You can’t build anything of value without it. The corollary fear is failure. But you can’t go into anything with the belief that you’ll fail. You don’t plan for failure. You plan for success. Nothing great was ever built planning for failure or from a belief that you’ll let someone else down. That’s cowardice. That’s not fear. 

Of course, I can’t help you if you have no spine. There’s a difference. At least be honest about it. 

  1. Rejection 

The bad news: Most people won’t like you. The good news: It probably will have little to do with you or your ideas. So the people who you care about who openly reject you? They’re not worth it. Invest in people who invest in you. There may be just one or two and for periods of time it may be only you but that’s enough. 

  1. Religion/God 

If your religion scares you, you’re doing it wrong. If your religion makes you scared of God or other people or other religions, you’ve chosen the wrong religion. Just because your religious beliefs dismiss, or even condemn, the deeply held convictions of others does not mean that those others are evil. When you lie awake at night with worry, your spiritual beliefs should bring you comfort and peace of mind, not guilt and self-hatred.

      10. Bears

Of course you should be afraid of bears. Don’t be a dumb shit. 

 

Start slowly. You don’t have to be fearless. Just fear less. Either your worry will consume you or confronting your worry will.

12 Rules for Divorce

divorce
Divorce is horrible. This is why I only handle a few divorce cases at a time. The emotional toll from divorce is just too much. It affects not just the divorcing couple but everyone in their wake. I have just a few pieces of advice for divorcing, or soon to be divorcing couples:

1. Have a Plan. There are very few instances where a spouse truly has no idea that a split is in the offing. Usually there are signs. If you start to suspect that you may be headed to divorce start taking precautions. Where are your bank accounts? Retirement accounts? Who manages your money? How many credit cards are in your name? If your checking account was closed tomorrow what would you do? How will you pay for health care deductibles? Who pays the mortgage?

2. Hire a lawyer. You will probably be unable to answer many of the questions posed above. You may not even know what questions to ask. A good lawyer will help you line up a strategy to maximize your future.

3. Take the high road. You will be hurt and emotional. You will be inclined to say and do things you will regret. Please resist the urge to act in an irrational manner. Divorce is about taking the steps to insure the brightest future possible. Focus on the future.

4. Be honest with yourself. What positive contributions are you making to the process? Are you looking for resolution or retribution?

5. Listen to your lawyer. You may not like what your lawyer has to say. You may think he/she is not aggressive enough or tough enough or hateful enough. Your lawyer is paid to maintain an emotional detachment from the situation. If your lawyer fosters or stokes your emotions, you have hired the wrong lawyer.

6. The Judge doesn’t care. Your husband didn’t drop off your child at the appropriate hour. Your wife had an affair. The Judge who is hearing your case has heard it before, thousands of times. A “he said, she said” battle doesn’t matter to the Judge. Gather your evidence and present it in a logical way so the Judge can make an informed ruling.

7. Don’t be manipulated. If you were able to trust your spouse you probably wouldn’t be in a divorce. So stop listening to what your soon to be ex-spouse says. It’s most likely an attempt to leverage a better deal. Actions are the only thing that matter.

8. Tell your lawyer everything. No surprises. Your lawyer can only help you if you are fully transparent. If there are embarrassing things in your past that you are afraid to share, share them anyway. Confront your weakest aspects head on. This will minimize their impact on your outcome. 

9. Never ever use your kids as a bargaining chip. This is not only wrong, a Judge will sniff this out and punish you for it. Your kids will already feel like a pawn in your divorce. Minimize the collateral damage by keeping them away from the process as much as possible.

10. Keep a stiff upper lip. Divorce is as emotionally taxing as anything you will ever experience. You will feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out. As difficult as it may be, you must keep your emotions in check during hearings, depositions, mediation and trial. When you are emotionally overwrought you say and do things you will regret. Try to save your emotional venting for a private time/place.

11. Get off social media. Remember. Everything you say and do can and will be used against you in a court of law.

12. Happiness is the best revenge. Divorce will make you a better person or a bitter person. You choose.

Don’t Know Much

advice

(Thought Catalog is going to publish an e-book of my various articles. What follows is a prologue for the e-book)

At a wedding reception a few weeks ago, I decided to approach the DJ.

“Do you take requests?” I asked.

“Of course,” he responded.

“That’s wonderful” I said. “Could you turn it down a bit?”

And all of the sudden, there it was- as plain as the prunes on my plate. Old man disease.

I’m trying my best to stem the tide of old manhood but it’s a pretty formidable sonofabitch. I’m not doing one arm pushups in front of a mirror at 24 Hour Fitness or driving a corvette or wearing skinny jeans. I don’t even have a 30 year old girl friend.

But I am doing something just as cringe-worthy. Giving advice. Lots of it.

This would be fine except for one small problem.

I really don’t know shit. And the older I get, the less I know. It gets worse every day. It seems I now only add to my list the things about which I know nothing.

I’m not sure why I have a compulsion to dispense advice. My Dad wasn’t, by any means, a man who ever donated his two cents on issues writ large.

He was pretty good at truncating one of my whiny jags with his “no-excuses” ideology.

When we lost the city football championship to St. Charles in eighth grade, I cried because our star player was out with an injury.

“If Ronnie Hughes played we would have won” I whimpered.

“If your aunt had balls she’d be your uncle” said my Dad channeling Yoda. This was his version of “Do or do not. There is no try.”

But when pressed with a difficult question about life or religion, he’d just give a shrug of his shoulders. It drove me crazy.

I thought this was supposed to get easier. Someone has the answer key to life, don’t they? The one that grades your paper, tells the unassailable truth, explains it all in black and white.

Because for me a constant grey keeps creeping in, pushing away the clear lines. And it’s harder to see where one color ends and another begins.

Is life just random, disordered chaos or a perfectly harmonious universe where everything happens as it was preordained? What about destiny? And war? And truth? And suffering? And the popularity of kale? I’m only certain that I don’t know.

Neither do you. You think you do but you confuse belief with fact, opinion with certitude.

You’ve found clarity in religion or math or the stars or booze but in the candid corners of your mind, the shadows of your thought, lurks doubt. If so, then congratulations because you are at least asking questions.

I don’t feel as though I’ve earned a single bit of respect, a modicum of a free pass just because I’ve reached a certain age. If I appear to address you from a lectern, rest assured it’s a wobbly pedestal.

The only thing I can offer is my own perspective, shaped by time and my unique experience. And a friendly reminder of the absurdity of life and it’s randomness and that it’s an incredibly short trip. The larger answers, such as they may be, are for you to figure out on your own.

My advice isn’t perfect. It’s not for everyone. It’s not one size fits all. It won’t chart your destiny. It won’t bend God’s will in your favor.

It is primarily designed to encourage you to get out of your own way, explore alternate views, embrace others. If any of it deters you from finding your own answers or asking your own questions, kindly disregard.

Because the shrugs from my Dad? Turns out he was right all along.

My Wife Killed Uber

Lily-Tomlin (1)

My wife accidentally dialed her friend Susan a few months ago.

Susan texted back later: “Sorry I missed ur call. Did you need something?”

“No. It was just a booty call.”

…..Susan has been a little scarce this summer. So I had to tactfully explain to my wife the rather substantial difference between a “butt dial” and a “booty call.” Yes, I’m 51.

My wife has a history of bringing technology to its knees. Living in the netherworld between old and new, it’s Flintstones meet the Jetsons. Fred Sanford and Leland Stanford. She will order a pair of shoes from Zappos and try to pay for it with a check. She’d use a drone to spy on whether our neighbor ordered new pillow shams. She’s a dial up modem in a digital world. Alexander Graham Dell. Buffalo Bill Gates.

And as you can tell, there’s also the issue my wife has with the language.

It started with Siri.

My wife’s relationship with Siri began well. Siri was handy with directions to a new restaurant. She could assist with selecting a nearby veterinarian.

As their relationship progressed my wife began treating Siri as a fail-safe for her own faulty memory. So it went from simple commands to impossible recall.

“What was the name of that movie I wanted to go see last week?” was just one of many inquiries. Stupid Siri couldn’t remember.

“What was the name of that book Jill was telling me about, you know the one with the two sisters who get mad at each other and don’t speak for several decades until one is on their death bed and by the time the other sister arrives it’s too late?”

Siri stopped listening at “What.”

“Why is my husband such a jerk?”

Yeah Siri. Why?

It takes Siri awhile to get used to pronunciations and the subtle nuance of speech. It would take Siri even longer to recognize the influence of Chardonnay in my wife’s slurred syntax. This is why Siri was unable to help plan a trip to the quaint California wine country town of Simona; and was unable to locate fish dicks in the freezer section of any local grocery store; and couldn’t help my wife download the classic song by Smokey Robinson, “I Suck at that Emotion.”

I finally had to tell my wife that Siri called me and said she needed a break. My wife didn’t care. She was tired of Siri anyway.

As if running off Siri wasn’t enough, my wife then proceeded to kill Uber. You read that right. It’s uber for Uber.

“Have you ever heard of Uber?” she asked one day.

Mindful of my responsibility to humanity, I decided to tread lightly.

“Is that the all male nude German revue in Deep Ellum?”

“No. It’s this cool taxi service you can get with your phone” she said.

I prayed I wasn’t too late.

“I think it only works in Russia” I said.

I thought I had deftly avoided the issue until we were on vacation last week. We left our hotel and my wife started frantically dialing a number on her cell phone.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Trying to call Uber” she said.

Shit.

“Uber is an app. You can’t call them.”

“I know what Uber is. I used it yesterday to go down to the wharf.”

Confused, I asked: “Did you call them?”

“No. I used the app. But now I need to tell them something.”

“What could you possibly need to tell them?”

Starting to give up on finding a number for Uber, she figured I was her last resort for a semi-attentive ear.

“Well first of all, the driver yesterday had this awful scent in his car so I wanted to make sure they sent a different driver. I smelled like jasmine all day long.”

“There’s more?”

“I have a great idea for them.”

My silence gave her an opening.

“Instead of water bottles in the cup holders they should offer small glasses of wine to their passengers after 5 p.m. They can call it a ‘wine down’ service.”

“Sounds great. Give them a call.”

And I’ll be damned if she didn’t. Somehow she found a customer service number for Uber and regaled that poor bastard with the story of the stinky driver and her money making ideas. Over the next few days she was wearing the guy out so I had to tell her Uber had gone out of business.

No matter. She was talking to someone on her phone yesterday in the back yard when I got home. They seemed to be having a nice chat. When she came inside I asked.

“So who were you talking to?”

“Siri. I was telling her this great idea I have.”

“Oh really. What is it?”

“Siri told me not to tell you. She thinks you’re a jerk.”

10 Roadblocks to Happiness

Image

  1. You ascribe intent. 

Another driver cut you off. Your friend never texted you back. Your co-worker went to lunch without you. Everyone can find a reason to be offended on a steady basis. So what caused you to be offended? You assigned bad intent to these otherwise innocuous actions. You took it as a personal affront, a slap in the face. 

Happy people do not do this. They don’t take things personally. They don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others. 

  1. You’re the star of your own movie

It is little wonder that you believe the world revolves around you. After all, you have been at the very center of every experience you have ever had. 

You are the star of your own movie. You wrote the script. You know how you want it to unfold. You even know how you want it to end. 

Unfortunately you forgot to give your script to anyone else. As a result, people are unaware of the role they are supposed to play. Then, when they screw up their lines, or fail to fall in love with you or don’t give you a promotion, your movie is ruined. 

Lose your script. Let someone else star once in awhile. Welcome new characters. Embrace plot twists. 

  1. You fast forward to apocalypse

I have a bad habit of fast forwarding everything to its worst possible outcome and being pleasantly surprised when the result is marginally better than utter disaster or jail time. My mind unnecessarily wrestles with events that aren’t even remotely likely. My sore throat is cancer. My lost driver’s license fell into the hands of an al-Qaeda operative who will wipe out my savings account. 

Negativity only breeds more negativity. It is a happiness riptide. It will carry you away from shore and if you don’t swim away from it, will pull you under. 

  1. You have unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations

Among their many shortcomings of your family and friends is the harsh reality that they cannot read your mind or anticipate your whims. 

Did your boyfriend forget the six and a half month anniversary of your first movie date? Did your girlfriend refuse to call at an appointed hour? Did your friend fail to fawn over your tribal tattoo? 

Unmet expectations will be at the root of most of your unhappiness in life. Minimize your expectations, maximize your joy. 

  1. You are waiting for a sign.

I have a friend who won’t make a decision without receiving a “sign.” I suppose she is waiting on a trumpeted announcement from God. She is constantly paralyzed by a divinity that is either heavily obscured or frustratingly tardy. I’m not disavowing that fate or a higher power plays a role in our lives. I’m just saying that it is better to help shape fate than be governed by it.

  1. You don’t take risks. 

Two words: Live boldly. Every single time you are offered a choice that involves greater risk, take it. You will lose on many of them but when you add them up at the end of your life you’ll be glad you did. 

  1. You constantly compare your life to others. 

A few years ago I was invited to a nice party at a big warehouse downtown. I was enjoying the smooth jazz, box wine and crustless sandwiches. What more could a guy want? Later in the evening I noticed a steady parade of well-heeled people slide past and disappear into another room. I peeked and saw a large party with beautiful revelers dancing and carrying on like Bacchus. Suddenly my gig wasn’t as fun as it had been all because it didn’t appear to measure up to the party next door- a party I didn’t even know existed until just moments before. 

I do this frequently. Those people are having more fun. Mary has a bigger boat. Craig gets all the lucky breaks. Ted has more money. John is better looking. 

Stop it. 

Always remember what Teddy Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” 

  1. You let other people steal from you

If you had a million dollars in cash under your mattress, you would check it regularly and take precautions to insure it is safe. The one possession you have that is more important than money is time. But you don’t do anything to protect it. In fact you willingly give it to thieves. Selfish people, egotistical people, negative people, people who won’t shut up. Treat your time like Fort Knox. Guard it closely and give it only to those who deserve and respect it. 

  1. You can’t/won’t let go

These are getting a little harder aren’t they? That’s because sometimes you have to work at happiness. Some hurdles are too difficult to clear by simply adjusting your point of view or adopting a positive mindset. 

Do you need to forgive someone? Do you need to turn your back on a failed relationship? Do you need to come to terms with the death of a loved one? 

Life is full of loss. But, in a sense, real happiness would not be possible without it.  It helps us appreciate and savor the things that really matter. It helps us grow. It can help us help others grow. 

Closure is a word for people who have never really suffered. There’s no such thing. Just try to “manage” your loss. Put it in perspective. You will always have some regret and doubt about your loss. You may always second guess yourself. If only you had said this, or tried that. 

You’re not alone. Find someone who understands and talk to that person. Reach out for support. If all else fails, try #10 below. 

10. You don’t give back.

One way to deal with loss is to immerse yourself in doing good. Volunteer. Get involved in life.

It doesn’t even have to be a big, structured thing. Say a kind word. Encourage someone. Pay a visit to someone who is alone. Get away from your self-absorption.

When it comes down to it, there are two types of people in this world. There are givers and there are takers. Givers are happy. Takers are miserable. What are you?

 

 

Summer Scamp

Image

When my oldest kid, Stephen, was about 13 years old he decided he wanted to go to summer camp. My wife spent several weeks preparing for his week-long sojourn- marking his name in his underwear, buying a new flashlight with several extra batteries, lining his brand new sleeping bag with lice repellant, updating his personal information on the camp website, making certain his inoculations were in order, checking the credentials of the camp nurse.

He did the usual things one would do at summer camp in the deep piney woods of Texas. They shot bows and arrows, swam in a lake, played a few rounds of grab ass, made fun of each other, and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Pretty standard Bible Belt camp fare.

My second child, Sophie, went to camp a few years later and we undertook similar preparations. In fact, I wrote about it here. We bought and decorated a new trunk, put together costumes for the various themed events and wrote her letters in advance so she would get some mail. They played water sports and dodge ball, sang campfire songs, and made new friends. Oh and they did the Jesus thing too.

This year my youngest, Hallie, decided to go to camp. Things are a little different with your third.

“Don’t forget I’m going to camp tomorrow” she said.

“You are? How come you didn’t tell me?” I asked.

“Told you 3 times, e-mailed you twice and forwarded about 5 other notices from Camp about forms they needed.”

“Oh. Sorry. I thought that was spam. Are you going to need a ride?” I asked only half kidding.

“I can probably get a ride but I still need a few things. Where’s the sleeping bag?”

My wife hardly looked up from her book.

“I think we gave that away last year. We didn’t think we’d ever need it again. There are some old blankets in the linen closet that you can use.”

“Do we have any sun screen?”

“Ask one of your cabin mates if you can borrow some of theirs. I’ve already been to Walgreens three times this week” said Mary.

Okay we aren’t really that bad but our parenting skills have diminished greatly with our third. I used to impart nuggets of wisdom and encouragement. Stay above the fray. Help those less fortunate. Don’t gossip. Now it’s “go ahead and forge my name to the consent form” or “just rub some whiskey on it.”

She has pretty wide latitude to do as she likes as long as it doesn’t involve me having to bail her out of jail or raise a grandchild.

And I must say she’s a pretty damn good kid.

I read lots of advice (including my own) about how to raise kids. After 22 years of doing it I know only two things for sure.

First there’s no right way or wrong way. Some kids need structure, some don’t. Some are trustworthy, some aren’t.

Second, most kids figure it out with or without us. Sure there are some foul balls but for the most part everyone is going to grow up and find their own way and be fine. They’ll have rough patches, they’ll do stupid stuff, they’ll get knocked on their ass. But who won’t?

I’m not sure what Hallie did at summer camp this week. Even though she was less prepared than her older siblings I doubt she howled at the moon or smoked weed or taught her fellow campers how to forge legal documents. I did give her some parting advice as I dropped her off last week. I told her that if she did happen to talk to Jesus, it’d probably be best to not mention my name.