Letter to My Daughter(s)

I’ve been away for awhile, unable to write much. Without getting too morose, my Dad is disappearing into the fog of Alzheimer’s and my kids are growing up fast. We dropped Sophie off in Washington, DC last weekend to start her summer internship. My other daughter is gingerly navigating the no man’s land of high school social bullshit.

Much of the time, I’m ill equipped to raise girls. How much do I protect them? How much do I let them go? How much of my male perspective helps/hinders them?

My youngest (I call her Goot) went away on a confirmation retreat a couple of months ago. We were asked to write letters of support. Since I’m in a deep personal struggle  with my own faith, it was a hard letter to compose.

I’ve only shared this with a few people and, frankly, I’m not sure why I’m sharing it now with the public at large. I guess I just think it’s important to let people (especially young women) know that they are loved.

Anyway, here it is.

Dear Goot:

Just think of all the Mass credits you’ll have after this weekend. Of course, I’m kidding. As you know by now, I do that quite a bit. I also hope you know that when I joke about Mass credits and tell stories of my days as an altar boy, I am not in any way diminishing the importance of faith. In fact, I strongly believe that being able to poke fun is one of the most important aspects of living a life of faith. People take religion much too serious. 
So here you are spending a weekend “confirming” your commitment to the Church. That’s great. But I warn you that you will very likely have a lifetime of commitments, break-ups and re-commitments with your faith. This is because no religion is a “one size fits all” experience. There are things about the Church that will bring you great comfort. There are things about the Church that will drive you nuts and you just won’t be able to swallow. No matter where you are on your faith journey, however, I hope you will always carry a fervent belief in these:

God: Geniuses, dunces, artists, freaks, zealots, people much smarter than me and people much dumber than me have debated the existence of God since the dawn of time. And no one is getting any closer to definitive “proof.” But, for me, the proof is everywhere. Your best friend’s smile, the delicate fingernails of a newborn baby, a burden eased by a helping hand, the tiny flower that grows in a crack in the sidewalk, the smell of honeysuckle after a spring rain, the stars. Don’t lose yourself in the pursuit of God only through books or Sunday Mass. The evidence you long for is all around you.
Jesus: Is Jesus the literal Son of God? Is Jesus God incarnate? I don’t know. Frankly that’s not a question that I spend much time on. But I believe the teachings of Jesus have endured thousands of years because they are so transformative and redemptive. He turned traditional concepts of God and religion upside down. My favorite part of the Bible is a passage in the Gospel of John where Jesus encounters a blind man. Rabbis ask Jesus “Who sinned that this man should be born blind, the man or the man’s parents?” Jesus replied: “It was neither this man nor this man’s parents who sinned. This man is blind so that the glory of God might be revealed through him.” That single passage tells you everything you need to know about Jesus. He was a radical, an outcast, a reject- and in all of those things- the perfect embodiment of a loving and forgiving God. 
Yourself: The human mind is a frequent harvester of doubt and insecurity. Get used to it. There are days you’ll feel out of touch, worthless, weird, sad, guilty, screwed up. But at your very core I need you to always believe in the fundamental goodness-no, greatness-of who you are. I am an expert evaluator of the human condition and I know. You are special. You’re not perfect and you never will be. But you are a miracle, nonetheless. And it is my undeserving honor and greatest pride to call you my daughter. 
I love you. 


Black and White

I’m whiter than a whale’s tooth. Can’t do much about it. Not that I’m complaining. As a middle aged caucasian male I’ve been the beneficiary of just about every privilege society can bestow. 

I’m probably unqualified to offer much in terms of the recent events surrounding the SAE chapter at OU.  But since good judgment has never been my guidepost, here goes anyway.

My initial reaction was probably not unlike most people. I was disgusted and I thought President Boren handled it in an appropriate manner. 

We have a serious black and white issue in this country that isn’t so black and white. As a white male I want to fit the entire spectrum of the racial divide into a tidy package. I want a villain. Someone about whom I can say isn’t at all like me. David Duke. Paula Deen. Parker Rice. I would never chant the “n word” on a bus full of coeds. 

But Parker Rice and Paula Deen and every other Neanderthal spewing racial epithets aren’t the characters of racism. They are the caricatures of racism. It’s easy to distance ourselves from these people.

Individual racism isn’t the real problem; institutional racism is. We have disproportionately segregated almost an entire population of minorities through the prison system. It’s modern day slavery. 

Look at the numbers. A black defendant is 22 times more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence than a white defendant. One in three black males born today will spend time in prison. If Hispanic and African American men were incarcerated at the same rate as whites the prison population would drop by 50%. In urban areas, upwards of 60 % of the adult black males are in prison. Sixty percent. Five times as many whites use drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at ten times the rate of whites. 

We shake our heads and voice fleeting outrage at the individuals who embarrass us and our race of privilege. And we wait for Hollywood to make a quick Sandra Bullock movie about saving a black boy from the clutches of poverty and sending him to the NFL so we can pat ourselves on the back for our collective beneficence. 

We decry the stupidity of a racial slur but we give tacit approval to widespread discriminatory incarceration without so much as a thought. But they’re criminals, you say. 

And you’re partly right. Our prisons are full of drug dealers, murderers, rapists, thieves and thugs. But they’re also full of sons, fathers, hard workers, artists, potential scientists and social workers, mistake makers. 

What if you were branded your whole life by your single worst act? I shudder to think, especially when I consider all of the stupid shit I’ve said and done. What if I were always branded as a liar? Or a cheater? I haven’t always been known for having the best judgment. Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan of second (and third and fourth) chances.

If a young black man goes to prison for selling drugs, should he have to wear that label the rest of his life? How about the time you drove home drunk? Sure you made it home safely but shouldn’t that act of stupidity define you? Of course not. In either instance.

Worse yet, what if I was defined by the actions of others just because I was “one of them”? What if I was always a suspect because of the color of my skin? And what if I was labelled  a racist because someone in my fraternity said something inflammatory? Sound familiar? I know that some, perhaps many, of the kids in the SAE house don’t share the same views on race as Parker Rice. 

The older I get the less I see things in black and white. As much as we want tidy labels, there just aren’t any. Will a young black boy who killed someone at age 15 get discarded without any chance at rehabilitation? Has a college freshman ruined his life because he sang a vile song? 

I hope not. For their sake….and ours.

50 Shades of First Grade


It was first grade “show & tell.” As you might have guessed I was more of a teller than a show-er.

So I was always jealous of the kids who brought cool things to show. Monty brought some Mexican jumping beans one day. Another day, Clay brought some rattlesnake eggs.

But the most interesting day was when Joanie Holmes brought to school a fun little item. She found it in the top drawer of her mom’s dresser. It was beige, thin and oblong with a button that would make it vibrate. Her mom told her it was a foot massager, so during recess she had several of my classmates lined up with their shoes off and she was using it for its intended purpose.

Mrs. Alley, our first grade teacher, walked by, paused briefly to observe what was happening and turned a shade of white I’ve not seen since.

“Holy Mother of Christ! What in the hell are you doing?” she said as she reached down and grabbed Joan’s “show.”

“Giving massages” said Joan, completely innocent to the fact that something was, well, amiss.

Always a few years behind the curve, I too had no idea at the time that a simple foot massager could have so many other useful purposes.

I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m a little late to the “50 Shades of Grey” conversation. After reading reviews of the book and watching the trailer, I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.

According to the Sherwin Williams color wheel at Home Depot, I’m the 49 1/2 shades between porcelain white and marshmallow with a 1/2 dalliance into ecru. Not exactly blockbuster material. BDSM isn’t really in my DNA.

Not that it has always been this way. Without trying to sound overly libidinous, I vaguely recall that I once owned a Marvin Gaye and a Barry White album. I think I sold them in a garage sale when the kids were little and used the proceeds to buy a “Wheels on the Bus” CD.

Still, this 50 shades thing isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse. Bondage, dominance,sadism. I left that behind when my kids outgrew Chuck E Cheese’s and I ain’t going back.

It’s not that my wife isn’t used to a little torture in the bedroom. I left her screaming just the other night…..when my big toe scraped against her shin.

“Ouch,” she screamed. “Would you clip your toenail please? You could puncture a snow tire with that thing!”

Sorry ladies. I’m taken.

If my wife ever does express an interest in torture, however, I’m ready. I’ll just blindfold her and lead her to the laundry room. It’ll probably leave her breathless.

She did introduce me to a fun game of adult hide and seek once. And let me tell you she’s a damn good hider. I didn’t find her until the next day. She cheated a little though. She was hiding at her mom’s house.

I don’t want you to get the impression that I’m just some Puritan. I’ve watched Taxicab Confessions enough times to have a pretty good idea of what the rest of you are doing.

So all I would ask of you is to please, just stop. I’m not interested. I once visited Victoria’s Secret to see whether it might stoke the smoldering fires but it had the opposite effect. I was behind my sunglasses and delicately pawing through a piece of lace the size of a cocktail napkin when I noticed several women trying on some pink sweat pants. You know the kind that say “Juicy” or “Pink” on the rear end. Always one to promote truth in advertising, I wondered aloud whether they might be more appropriately emblazoned with “Think Outside the Bun” or “Unlimited Breadsticks.” No one appreciates my help.

But seriously, I don’t really care to know what goes on behind your closed doors. If you have to read a book or see a movie to figure out how to enjoy your sex life, you must not have a very fertile imagination.

As for me, let’s just say that I’m very likely going to make a run over to Spencer’s Adult Toys later today and pick up a little something. My feet are killing me.


Big Nose, Not Funny


I approached the hostess stand at one of my favorite restaurants Friday night.

“How long is the wait?”

“About 30 minutes.”

I mustered a cool countenance.

“Do you even know who I am?”


She wasn’t amused.

I gave her my name and waited. The hostess was doing a nice job of working through her list without having to shout the names over the huddled throng. I wondered how she remembered so many people. Then I snuck a glance at her list and discovered her secret. Next to the names she wrote a brief description of the person.

“Cat lover. Sweet,” she jotted down. Sure enough, a few minutes later I saw the hostess summon the party of an older woman wearing a patient smile and a Siamese cat sweater.

“Beard. Mad.” I scanned the room and saw a man with a full facial hair and a menacing glare. Bingo.

This was fun. There was “Huge. Rude.” And “Tattoo. Funky.” I pegged them both. Then “Hot. Blue eyes.”  That wasn’t me.

“Big nose. Not funny.” I looked left. Then right. No luck. My eyes followed the hostess as she wandered through the crowd. When she returned to the hostess stand our eyes met.

“Oh there you are,” she said.

“Me?” I asked, looking around.

“Your table is ready.”

Big nose? Not funny? She was probably right on both counts but it was a setback of sorts for me. After 50 years, I was just starting to come to terms with my nose.

We do it all the time don’t we? We categorize people based on our limited perspective. It’s just easier that way. We take a fleeting encounter and fill in the blanks. I specialize in this. I’m the Burger King of drive-thru judgments.

It’s just not as much fun when we are on the receiving end.

One of my posts from last year generated a number of interesting appraisements. Many are positive. Some, not as much.

My favorite thus far reads: “I hope you enjoy feeling smug and superior. F*** off.”

Various other people have instructed me to watch my tone, get off my high horse, lose the attitude, pound sand and die. I’ve been described as cocky, a weasel, a sham, a dimwit, a prick, dense, an embarrassment-oh and now “not funny”-all of which are fairly apt on a rotating basis. I just hope they don’t tell the whole story.

Of course, this is the frustrating thing about our story. It is always read by someone else. I can say something to you, but I can’t interpret it for you. As much as I want to come across as “hot, blue eyes,” I can’t stop you from thinking “big nose, not funny.”

Everything I do or say is filtered through your lens. Since I’m not sure we even see the color blue the same way, it’s a wonder humans aren’t lost in a constant state of misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

We even do this with people we know well.

It usually comes down to assigning intent to the words and actions of others. The Facebook pictures of your vacation are rubbing my nose in it. Your sympathy e-mail seemed shallow and uncaring. Your failure to remember my birthday was a personal affront.

This is not to say that your interpretation is wrong. Just futile. What good does it do to ascribe malice or ill will to the actions or words of others?  My mom used to always say “take people at face value.” In other words, quit looking for ulterior motives or hidden meaning. If someone pays you a compliment, don’t search for subtext. If they offer you compassion, don’t waste your energy feeling slighted.

You are the only one who can shape the way you interpret the world. So enough fretting over pithy assessments. You’re wasting your time. But if you can’t help yourself, I know a nice little restaurant where you can hostess.

10 Rules for Young Lawyers

baby lawyer

I was honored to have the Texas Bar Journal publish my “10 Rules for Young Lawyers” in the January, 2015 issue.

A link to the actual article can be found by clicking here.

The text of the article appears below:

I was recently updating my State Bar profile when I noticed that my date of admittance was 1988.  I’m not usually one to lament the passage of time but for one reason this acknowledgement stopped me in my tracks-26 years. The next weekend my son and some of his friends were in town. Two of them are going to law school so they asked me what advice I would give to young lawyers. After thinking about it for a while I decided to jot down a few of my “rules.”

  1. Start at the end.

Your career will be over before you know it. What do you want it to look like in 25 years? 35 years? Do you want to be known as a person of integrity, a person who keeps his/her word? A person who follows through? A person who looks out for his/her client’s best interests? Or do you want to be someone who takes shortcuts? Someone who pulls silly stunts? Someone who puts his/her interests above those of the client?

This also applies to every matter you undertake. Figure out the ultimate goal and write it down.

“Settlement or verdict of X.” “Sole managing conservatorship.” “Probation.”

Make certain you have a clearly defined objective. Then make sure every effort is spent working toward that goal.

  1. Preserve your ice sculpture.

I stole this one from a law school classmate. He says he thinks of every case like a brand new ice sculpture just removed from the freezer. Beautiful. Solid. From that point forward it’s going to melt. Your mission is to make certain you get a resolution before it turns to water. This is important for two distinct reasons.

First, you need to work fast. Don’t delay. Don’t hesitate. Don’t waste time or resources.

Second, understand that your case is never as good as it is going to appear when your client comes to your office and tells you his/her story. On that first day you will take your ice sculpture from your client meeting and be proud to show it off. Then another lawyer will come along with a pick and a blow dryer and start chipping away. And an arm will fall off. Or you’ll lose the head. But it’s still your ice sculpture. Strap that sculpture in the front seat, turn the a/c as low as it will go and get to the wedding reception as quick as possible. No detours.

  1. Wait at least 24 hours before sending a letter which begins: “Dear Judge Dumbass.”

When I was a young lawyer I had a contentious case in front of an overbearing Judge. One morning I appeared at a hearing in front of this Judge. He was rude and, in my opinion, flat out wrong when he ruled against my client. I thought he needed to know. I went to my office and dictated a letter which began: “Dear Judge Dumbass.” I gave the letter to my legal assistant to send.

I slept rather fitfully that night and when I arrived at the office the next morning I told my legal assistant I was starting to regret sending the letter. She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out the letter.

She had the sense to save me from my basest instincts. I have appeared in front of this same Judge many times since that day. Some days he is smart; other says he is pretty dense. Either way, he’ll never know what I really think.

  1. It’s not always chess; usually it’s just checkers.

Let’s face it. There’s only so much strategy one can employ. Thankfully, the Rules of Civil Procedure have removed much of the gamesmanship from litigation. In the end, preparation will trump strategy every time. Read the case law. Examine every document. Prepare for the deposition. Be thorough. Be diligent.

  1. Get in the bunker.

What is just one of many files to you is the most important thing in the world to your client. It’s what keeps them up at night. It occupies their every thought. They don’t want just a lawyer. They don’t even want a hero. They want a teammate.

If you take a case your client wants you to climb in the bunker with them. Some of my most grateful clients are those for whom I failed to get a good result. But we fought their fight together-and that made all the difference.

  1. Don’t let your client’s money get mad or stupid.

Here’s the one truth about litigation that lawyers often forget. It’s only about money. Therefore, it typically comes down to a business decision. As a litigator you should frequently assess the cost of your pursuit with the likelihood of your desired result. Caution your client from pursuing an agenda that is born of vindictiveness, revenge or stupidity.

  1. Don’t take it out on the staff- yours, theirs or the court.

Everybody is doing a job. Just because they are not performing to your expectations doesn’t mean they have it in for you. Everyone carries responsibilities, stresses and baggage you know nothing about. Be kind.

  1. Don’t take in stray cats.

My legal assistant has a file cabinet filled with the detritus of “causes” I have chosen to undertake through the years. She calls it the “Stray Kitten” drawer.

Here’s an example. I once represented a client who was about to have his house foreclosed. Unemployed. Terrible credit. But he had two kids living with him so I felt sorry for him. He was extremely late for his first appointment with me, which is usually a harbinger of bad things. When he arrived he convinced me of his good intentions, his hard luck and his extreme need. So I took him in. We successfully postponed the foreclosure but as we tried to work out a deal with the lender the real story emerged. He had made only two payments the previous 18 months. He had been fired from his job for excessive absenteeism. His kids lived with his wife because he had a serious dependency problem. He was a mess. Unfortunately, he was my mess.

He was one in a long line of stray cats I have tried to help. So I have learned a few things about strays. They will cry for attention, fight like hell when cornered and gladly accept your generosity. But stray cats live outside because they choose to. They don’t want to have rules. Unless you are trained to rescue stray cats, leave them alone.

  1. Don’t take everything so personally.

I handled a case one time that was just awful. My client was, well, difficult. The facts were, ahem, unfavorable. My better judgment told me to stay away but I filed the case anyway. The lawyer for the defendant-a grizzled, crusty veteran of the defense bar-called and told me, in no uncertain terms, that my case was a joke. I got my back up and pursued the case longer than I should have, primarily because I was not going to be told what to do by my opponent. Sometimes you have to take off your rose colored glasses and put on your bile-tinted monocle.

  1. Don’t give up.

I am always mystified by lawyers who will work up a case, hire experts, file motions, get to the courthouse steps……and fold. Litigation is a full contact sport. There will be times you think you cannot lose; times you hope you’ll be able to just keep your license; times you’ll want to beat the table; times you’ll want to crawl under it. All of these will usually occur in the same case. Fight through the urge to give up for the wrong reasons. Play to the whistle. Just hanging in can yield positive results.

So there you go. I’ll end with one of the single greatest rules I ever learned. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I won’t be able to share the back story. It is: Know when to shut up.

I’m sure you have some nuggets of wisdom you’d like to share. Let me hear from you.

Magic 8 Ball

magic 8 ball

As a kid I was completely baffled by the transistor radio. I would turn it over and examine each side, much like a chimpanzee might study a locked suitcase or a dog sniffs around to find the beef jerky hidden in your pocket. I played with the dials, maneuvered the antenna, changed the frequency. Try as I might I never understood how a plastic box could capture sound waves traveling invisibly through the atmosphere and turn them into the sweet stylings of The Jackson 5.

I haven’t progressed much since then. I would make an aboriginal tribe look like a team of Microsoft engineers. I don’t know which knobs go with which burner on my stove. Elevators leave me with my mouth agape. Forget the Philae rocket, I can’t even tell you how my seat heater works.

The pace of advancement is staggering. Just yesterday I was made aware of bacon flavored Ritz crackers. Technology has left me gorging in its wake.

My daughter recently found an iPhone app for Algebra. Take a picture of the problem and the answer will appear. In 1980 I used a first generation app to solve algebra problems. I called my app “Paul Hawkins.”

My dad wasn’t much of a high tech guy. I did hear him speak once of checking his Give-A-Shit-O-Meter when I told him I was going to skip college and join a traveling jazz band. Apparently it was running low that day. He also had a fairly reliable “bullshit detector” he used nearly every Sunday morning during my high school years to ferret out my Saturday night meanderings.

 The only invention for which I can take credit is the “Snack Rack (TM).” In college, I duct taped a lucite envelope holder to the dash of my car to hold my Taco Bell burrito while I drove. The cup holder was for my Busch. Everything within reach, nice and tight. I’m not sure why it never caught on stateside but I hear it’s a popular contrivance in El Salvador.

 In spite of my failure to make any meaningful contributions to advances in technology, I am proud of my role as an early adopter. It began in the 1970s when I noticed an ad for Sea Monkeys on the back cover of Boys Life magazine. The ad claimed these creatures were “so eager to please they can even be trained.” I sent in my $1.25 and the package arrived two weeks later. I was so excited to get started I failed to read the instructions, a character flaw that plagues me to this very day. Instead of prepping the water with a salty brine I dumped the entire packet into a cereal bowl. When nothing appeared for three days I gave up and fed the contents to the Oglesby’s dachshund, Puppet.

I went on a bit of a “technology” jag over the next few months. A magic set, a joy buzzer, fake vomit. I even ordered X-Ray Specs which guaranteed the ability to “see through clothing.” The rims were black, the lenses thin, concentric red circles with bold letters at the top which read: “X-RAY VISION.” Needless to say it was difficult to be discrete but somehow I was still able to follow the school secretary, Mrs. White, around -undetected-for about 15 minutes. Granted it was an alpha test but the early results were not promising.

Then came the mother of all technological wonders- the Magic 8 Ball. It arrived in a plain brown package. For about two weeks following its purchase, the Magic 8 Ball sat on my bedside table where it was summoned on a frequent basis. Every day after school I tore upstairs seeking some semblance of certainty in a pre-pubescent world. It usually went like this.

 “Does Lee Stewart like me back?”

 “Very doubtful.”

 “What about Missy Lampkin?”

 “Outlook not so good.”

 This was getting serious.

 “Connie Johnston?”

 “Reply hazy.”

 I was running out of candidates.

 “Karen Munsell?”

 “My sources say yes.”

 Not my first choice but I wasn’t exactly a fourth grade lothario.

 After about two weeks of vague, unsatisfactory clairvoyance the 8 Ball met an ignominious end when my neighbor, Rod Hedges, came over.

 “What is that?” he asked.

 “Magic 8 Ball. It will answer any question. Try it.”

 He shook it vigorously and asked: “Is my brother a dick?”

 “Without a doubt.”

 A percipient start to be sure.

 He shook it again: “Will I have to go to summer school?”

 “Signs point to yes.”

 Magic 8 Ball was two for two.

 Then the killer. Rod asked whether his Dad was ever going to come back home.

He shook and shook with all his might until the white answer pyramid emerged from the inky water.

 “Better not tell you now” came the non-committal reply.

 Knowing the Hedges’ family situation as I did, one could hardly blame Magic 8 Ball for not wanting to get involved. Nonetheless, Rod would brook no more uncertainty.

 “This is a piece of shit” he declared.

 It was hard for me to disagree based on how things were going with Karen Munsell.

 We took Magic 8 Ball to the back alley. Rod had one last question.

 “Does my Dad still love me?”

 I was too naive to look away. Finally came the answer.


 We hit the Magic 8 Ball with rocks until it hemorrhaged purple.

 That day, I learned a lesson about human nature that all the advances in technology will never teach or replace. In the end it’s about love in its ever mutating form.

So go find it.

 And if you don’t like the answer you’re getting, ask a different question.

9 Things You Don’t Always Have to Have

blow out

1. An opinion. We form opinions about everything. People. Food. Countries. Religions. Music. It is human nature. Opinions, by their very nature, involve judgments. The problem with opinions is that we usually form them without being fully armed with the facts. Or we form them based on emotion or a limited perspective. How many times have you made a judgment about someone or something only to later learn that you were wrong?

Having an open mind allows you to reserve judgment. Reserving judgment is liberating. You can establish relationships and open yourself to experiences you might otherwise have prematurely dismissed.

2. A cause. Pink ribbons. Yellow bracelets. Ice buckets. Everywhere you turn someone is promoting a cause. I am not diminishing the importance of these. They give people a sense of community and purpose while raising money for worthy endeavors. 

But how much do you engage in simple acts of charity? Not ones that involve running a 10 k or pouring water on your head. I’m talking about everyday things: encouraging a child, smiling at a stranger, helping a friend. Over the long term, the sum of these incremental kindnesses will far surpass every Saturday morning marathon you ever log.

3A side. We love to choose sides. Israel or Palestine. Pro-life or pro-choice. Democrat or Republican. Typically our stance on something conforms to an overarching agenda or an unexamined, shallow ideology. This is easier than taking time to really understand an issue.

Here’s the problem with tidy one-size-fits-all belief structures. This is a complex world with complex issues. They require empathy, dialogue, patience, even nuance. We cannot settle deep seated problems in 30 second sound bites. We want to see the world in black and white when it rarely is. You don’t have to buy into this idea that you have to pick a side.

4. Agreement. We go crazy trying to convince someone that we are right. We try to persuade people to agree with us because we can’t handle standing alone or in opposition. We seek the comfort of consensus. Not everyone will agree with you. This doesn’t mean they are a bad person. It doesn’t mean they are evil. It doesn’t even mean they are wrong. It’s okay to disagree with someone. You might even be able to stay friends without being in complete agreement with them on major issues. Don’t let your disagreement define your relationship with someone else. Be open to people with a different point of view.

5. Security. You want money in the bank, a career with opportunities, a long term, committed relationship. You want stability and security. Life usually has other plans. The only certainty is uncertainty. You are always just a phone call away from a life altering event. Eventually you will lose a job, or get a bad diagnosis, or get cheated on. Security is a phantom state.

Even in the most secure of times you will have to fight off competitors, work like a dog, and side step con artists. You’ll never be able to let down your guard. That’s just life. It’s exhausting but you’ll be better equipped to face it when you let go of the fleeting illusion of security.

6. A reason. We hate it when we don’t understand the motivations of others. Why did my friend commit suicide? Why do deranged people kill? Why did my boyfriend cheat on me? We demand an explanation. We want to know why. This is human nature. We always feel as though there must be a reason for someone’s actions. Sometimes there isn’t. Or even if there is, it won’t be adequate.

In a similar vein, you don’t always have to have a reason or explanation for your actions. Just because other people expect or want a reason doesn’t make it your obligation to give them one. You may not even have one.

7. A calling. I know a few people who were born to be one thing. A musician, a priest, a doctor. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a “calling.” Still we ask ourselves: Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is my calling? Your calling may not be so apparent. You may not even have one. Or it may be one that is not readily apparent. Perhaps it’s being a good mom, or providing a stable work environment for others to thrive, or offering friendship to someone who is lonely.

There’s a misleading notion that if we look hard enough we will find fulfillment. Better yet, if we pray or work hard enough fulfillment will find us. Look, you may not ever find your calling. Or you may recognize it only after it has passed. Let go of this fantasy and your life will be much less frustrating.

8. A plan. Everyone wants you to have a plan. What career will you choose? When will you get married? When will you have kids? Where will you be in 5 years? 10 years? I’m not encouraging you to be a shiftless loser. But you don’t always have to have a plan. Sometimes it’s just as important to not have a plan. This will open you up to more possibilities. Even if you have a plan, you don’t have to strictly adhere to it. Once you have some clarity about what you want, you can formulate a plan. Don’t plan for planning’s sake. Stop and listen first.

9. Outrage. Are you in a frequent state of outrage over something? Congress, The President, Benghazi, spousal abuse, the price of milk, crappy cable service. Getting pissed off is an impotent impulse. It’s an outlet for ineffective people. Outrage is the only response they can draw upon. Do something constructive about the things you can affect. Forget about the things you cannot.