Those who disagree with us are not our enemies.

"Can I ask you a question?" This question about asking me a question came at the end of my session with Joshua.*

"Sure," was my quick response. Questions at the end of a session can take many forms. They can range from personal to professional sometimes circling back to a moment in the session and sometimes feeling as though they came from nowhere.

Joshua cleared his throat and asked, "Are you a Trump supporter?"

Welcome to the where did that come from category.

"What does that mean? How would that impact your therapy?"
Something of a blank face stared back at me. Well, I mean I think there is a difference between being a Republican and being a Trump supporter. He's been so mean and the things he says..."

"Well, I have a friend that is a surgeon and he's a huge Trump supporter if you needed surgery would you not want him to do it?" I asked.

"No, no I would..."

Our conversation continued.

But I was sad.

I was saddened by this conversation, not because I necessarily think Josh is wrong for asking it. I'm saddened because we've come to the place where we struggle to be friends and interact with people who think differently than we do.

Especially about politics.

We've come to the place where anyone across the aisle is not just wrong, they are evil. Don't believe me? Ask someone who supports more liberal ideology about Trump or ask someone who supports Trump about Nancy Pelosi. Find two people who disagree about the efficacy of cloth face masks or whether or not the nearly nationwide quarantine was necessary. Sooner or later one or both parties will just dismiss the other person as evil. 

Both sides will invoke their own moral superiority.  The other side just wants people to die.  Why can't the other side just be less selfish and see the value in sacrificing for the good of _____________? Depending on who is talking, you'll need to fill in that blank.

I used to think this was just the bane of my friends who were on the right. I believed this because I heard my friends on the left talk about tolerance and I naively thought they meant it.

We have simultaneously positioned ourselves as the moral and intellectual superior person in almost every debate and elevated feelings to the place of logic.

The result is the mess we have in our country when it comes to politics. And if right now, you're more interested in understanding how this post applies to those you disagree with than it does to you, you're failing this very short pop-quiz. IMG_1651

We've simultaneously tried to legislate conflict and disagreement from our society. We've failed.

We have to develop the ability to hold two things in our minds at once.  I pray that we return to being people who value questions. We need to step away from our identity politics and embrace that those who disagree with us are also people just like us.  We have to fight against our normal nature of craving certainty. Certainty is good until it becomes the thing destroying us.  There is no such thing as a life or a relationship without danger and disagreement.

Conflict and disagreement are necessary for healthy living and healthy relationships. May we actually embrace tolerance as a virtue for our living and not just something we demand of others.

By not engaging in conflict and disagreement we haven't actually solved anything, we've just allowed our muscles necessary for those endeavors to atrophy. And that atrophy is killing our society.

We have to slay the dragon of all or nothing thinking. The idea that someone must agree with 100% of the time or they are a traitor to our humanity is devouring our world. We need heroes to stand up to this pandemic. We need warriors to raise swords of truth and be willing to question the narratives being force-fed to us.

Seek out friends that disagree with you. Converse with them. While you're doing with that, look for all of the ways you agree and connect.

Our world will be better when we learn that a Trump supporter can be good friends with an Obama supporter.

So what do I tell my clients when they ask me who I support. I don't. Instead, I tell them that I support the Constitution. I evaluate Presidents from looking at their policies. I have never met a POTUS, so I have no idea what I think of them as a person. I do know what I think about their policies.

I'd like to think that I could have dinner with both Trump and Biden. And perhaps, all three of us would leave that dinner better for the interaction.

Those who disagree with you are not the enemy. That idea is the enemy.

Let us all be better.


*Not his real name. Nor is he the only one to ask similar questions.






Maybe you should walk away from Facebook for a second.

I feel like I've been talking to so many people lately who feel like they have some sort of bad experience on Facebook because they got caught in some sort of argument with another person. Most of the time, I enjoy Facebook and view it as something akin to free TV, and yet I do have some rules to govern my interactions on Facebook.

I believe you could adopt these, your own experiences might improve.

What is the likely outcome?

One of the questions I often ask myself is what is the likely outcome if I interact with this person/post/idea. There are things we see all of the time that we disagree with, and many people just keep strolling on. In my home town, there is a group of people who stand on a street corner with signs yelling something every Wednesday in the summers. Most people drive on by.

But when those same people see something on Facebook, they seem incapable of not engaging. Often, because they focus on the disagreement, not on the fact that the likely outcome is just them being upset or irritated.

Am I wasting my time? Does this take me off task/mission?

Following the likely outcome question, I will ask myself if this interaction will or did take me off task or mission. Did it waste my time?

At one point, this past summer I was engaged with a man and a woman in a group for counselors. The man had just recently found the group and "was trying to wrap his mind around both its existence and its purpose." He then started expounding on what he believed to be true about private practice and the agency work he had found. Most of what he said, I believe, was inaccurate. I asked some clarifying questions. I told him I disagreed. Someone else (the woman who had a previous professional relationship with him) started explaining how I was wrong. All in all, I thought the disagreement was fine. At some point, the guy decided he was uncomfortable with the interaction and stopped.

Not only did I stop, but I also left the group. Why? Because it was a waste of my time. It took me off the task of cutting my grass and yard work for that day. More importantly, it took me off the task of what I wanted to get done with my life. 

Life is so short. I refuse to spend it arguing with people on issues that don't matter for what I want to get done with my life. I know people who have been hired to work where this guy was recruiting for, and they disagreed with him and called me to tell me. But so what? I knew I was right because I could do simple math. I knew that the guy I was disagreeing with wasn't lying, but he wasn't accurate. His own words were, "I'm fairly confident...." 

He really believed (probably still does) what he was saying. Apply the first question here. How likely is that I was going to change his mind? Not very likely. How likely was he to change my mind? Not very likely. 

But that doesn't mean he was lying. It merely means he believed something that I think to not be accurate. There is a difference between inaccurate and lying.

Does this add value to my life? As I was evaluating the interaction, I had to ask myself some questions. Why did it fire me up so much? I think it is because I felt he was spreading information that was going to make my job and life more difficult. I also thought that it takes zero courage but some huptza to make salary claims on a board like that and not have hard cold numbers to back them up.

But that's his choice.

Which brings me to this question. The interaction didn't add value to my life. I learned that someone else in this field values her worth at a higher amount than anyone is actually willing to pay her. Which again, is her choice. Engaging her was a waste of my time that did not add value to my life.

In fact, I came to the conclusion that being in the group didn't add value to my life or help me to add value to other's lives, so I left the group. Which doesn't mean that the group can't bring value to other people, but it doesn't for me; therefore, engaging in it doesn't seem to make sense. 


That's it. That's how many minutes you get in every day. For me, wasting them in arguments on Facebook that doesn't improve or add value to those minutes seems like a complete waste of time to me. So I disengage so that I can spend my time in other places where I find more value.

To be clear, I like the guy in this story. If the opportunity to have lunch with him came up, I'd probably do it. But life is complicated and messy. I realized in this interaction that I have very little time for people who tried private practice and walked away from it, telling me how it works. What I do with that is one hundred percent on me.

I also like Facebook. I will engage in discussions and debates with friends as I am fortunate to have friends from many walks of life. We don't agree on every issue, and typically we are good at navigating those disagreements. A general rule of thumb that I have is that I will not engage with someone virtually who I would not engage with in real life. If the last 2 or 3 interactions have gone poorly, I'll just stay out of it.

Very few minds have ever been changed on Facebook. That's unlikely to change any time soon. Facebook is a great tool to connect with people to see pictures of people's lives, and it can help friends cover many miles.

It's a tool. We have to be wise in how we utilize it.


Author's Note: I wrote this post quite a few months ago. In this current time of quarantine and the previously unexperienced situations around the world, I think the ideas behind it are as salient today as they have ever been.

I'm still not a part of that group, and to be honest, I'm glad. I know people that are and there it remains something that I am not interested in engaging in at the expense of the things that I need/want to get done for my life.


And the woman I was interacting with? She's out of private practice. I share that not to gloat, but to illustrate how I would have been wasting my time if I had continued to go back and forth with her.


One last thought: You don't have to attend every argument that you invited to join. No one makes you fight. You choose every single time.



We must distinguish between disagreement and attack

I am afraid we have lost the plot when it comes to human interaction.

We have somehow come to the place where we take almost any and all criticism or disagreement as hate or attack.  Think that hot dogs are the best ballpark food and someone offers up nachos?

You can dismiss them as a hater. Or better yet, just call it an attack. We no longer seem to be able to handle having our opinion questioned. Perhaps, because we've come to the place where we all believe that we are subject matter experts in almost everything.

With a few clicks on our keyboard, we can all have an "informed expert" opinion. ShoutOut

Perhaps, because we've been spoon-fed that whatever we feel or believe is both legitimate and accurate, no matter what contrary evidence may exist.

Perhaps, because we all like to whine a little bit. I was talking to a fifteen-year-old about this idea. One of her statements rung louder than others to me. "Everyone has somewhere that they want to complain about how much harder their life is than another person's life. Because being a victim or a martyr is just appealing to everyone on some level."

I think that might actually be closer to the real reason than anything I offered above. Because to some extent, they all lead to her idea.

We are all tempted by greed and narcissism.  I know that idea isn't popular today but we have to see the complexity in humanity which means that we have broken and whole parts. Ignoring the broken parts is detrimental to our overall health. 

If we are going to be healthy people, we must distinguish between attack and disagreement. And I think this is a need on both sides of the communication. Let's talk about both sides for a moment.

The person speaking should:

  • Avoid attacking the person with inflammatory words. Phrases like, "You're part of the problem" or "Are you too stupid to see what's being done..." are unhelpful. Just a few moments ago, I read a comment by a person calling someone else uninformed and stupid. That's not helpful and it is reasonable for the other person to feel attacked in such a situation.
  • Deal with the person's actions. This one seems almost too easy but I often see people being attacked instead of their stated idea or action being questioned.
  • Embrace humility. Present what you think is going on with humility. You are entitled to think whatever you want, and only a fool thinks that they are never wrong.
  • Use the kindest, most generous words possible. There is never a good excuse to be a mean person. Use words that are kind and helpful.
  • Acknowledge the other person's beliefs and feelings. You don't have to validate them, but it is almost always universally helpful to acknowledge them.

The person listening should:

  • Seek to understand the other person's perspective. This will allow you to use the kindest words possible when you are the one speaking.
  • Distinguish between what you know and what you think you know. So often when we are listening we have thoughts that run through our heads as facts but in reality, they are assumptions or interpretations. As such, they need to be vetted.  So many times there have been things that I thought were true but when I tried to verify those thoughts, it turns out I was wrong. The person meant something else completely.
  • Ask yourself what is the most generous and gracious way for me to interpret what the other person is saying?
  • Let the other person finish their sentences completely.  This one seems so simple but can be so difficult. Allow the other person to finish and maybe ask a few clarifying questions.

When we start seeing the difference between disagreements and attacks, we open ourselves to the best possibilities of growing and maturing. We give ourselves the best chance to have true community and intimacy.  Very few people like being told they are wrong but the best communicators embrace the reality that they may be wrong. They embrace the value of someone pushing against their beliefs.

This doesn't mean we have to engage in every conversation that is disagreement. Sometimes, it makes sense to just step away from a conversation. 

This is especially true in times of fear. As our fear kicks off, our reasoning processes tend to shut down. They're not needed in flight, fight or freeze mode.  But that can be hurtful to our emotional health.

My hope is that we can come to a place where we can disagree with someone and respect their humanity. I hope that we can disagree and even passionately disagree while still accepting that humans are beautiful, complex messes.

May we all engage in behaviors that build each other up.

There was an ancient writer who wrote that we should only allow words to come out of our mouths that will build others up and benefit those that are listening. I dream of a society where that is the normal way. When we dismiss everything that disagrees with us as an attack, we are giving away the opportunity to benefit all those who listen to us, including ourselves.








You probably don't need to improve your communication

There is something of a joke amongst marriage and relationship therapists. Everyone we meet, regardless of what is going on in their marriage, just needs to improve their communication.

Domestic Violence? Just help us improve our communication.

Infidelity? Just help us improve our communication.

Financial Issues? Just help us improve our communication.

Criminal Enterprise? Just help us improve our communication

And often, when people are in trouble relationally, they have Communication that looks like a winding road of destruction and mayhem. IMG_1601

There is screaming and name-calling. There is usually vitriol and cursing. There are statements about mamma and poppa.

Incidents from years ago are unleased from the elephant-like memory room in someone's brain. 

Silence might settle in like a heart-pounding fog for hours or even days.

Wait. Doesn't this mean that they do need to improve their relationship?

At this point, a lot of people tend to think I'm disproving my point. All of these things point to lousy communication, right? 


None of those things happened because the person doing them thought they were the right thing to happen.

Not one of the people calling names thought that calling names was the right thing to do. In fact, while all of them probably could add to their toolbox of communication, in almost every case they were ignoring and failing to utilize the tools they already had in the toolbox.

They need to improve their emotional regulation. What they actually need to improve is their emotional regulation, which is actually a misnomer in my opinion.

Emotional regulation allows a person to be angry, upset, or experiencing any emotion and still act in an appropriate manner.

Emotional regulation regulates the somatic expression of emotions. It is regulating your actions in times of stress, which is what most couples need to develop. 

You see, any therapist can teach a couple better communication skills but if the couple learning the skills lacks the ability to regulate their behaviors during times of distress it doesn't really matter what skills they have.

Part of this is on our brain. Over time we develop habits that feel like they are serving us well, but in reality, we are hurting our efforts to be healthy.  Regardless of that, we need to do what is necessary to act appropriately in times of distress.

Being angry is often a chemical response to distress. There is little to nothing we can do about that in the moment. The key to good communication is to make our words match when we are calm or angry. In the above illustrations, no one did what they did or said what they said because they thought it was the right thing to do. Rather, they did what they did because they didn't care about right or wrong.

If you think you need to improve your communication, you may be right but it is more likely that you need to practice your emotional regulation.

It's OK to be angry. It's OK to feel hurt. It's OK to be scared.

It's not OK to act in a hurtful way toward someone else because you are feeling any of those emotions. 

If you'd like to watch a short video on emotional regulation, I have included one below. 

Our words and actions need to build each other up, even in times of distress.







Grieving in a time of grief.

As I write these words, most of our country is under some sort of quarantine.  It sucks. 6a00d83451f27e69e201b8d2d78259970c

No one likes it.

People are afraid. People are scared (not the same thing as afraid). People are angry and there is a lot of effort at trying to control others.

Perhaps, the biggest reason we're afraid is because, at times like this, we are reminded of just how little control we have over all of the things that matter to us the most.

Something, I've been thinking about a lot in all of this is "what about all of the normal cruddy things that people have to face without being locked down?"

Things like cancer. Things like emergency surgery because you tore a tendon. Things like broken bones because you fell. Things like working on your car. I have had clients with all of these struggles. My daughter had to have oral surgery that was impacted by this whole thing. I have clients that were recently diagnosed with cancer. I have clients who have everything I just listed and more. What about the people who are in a hospital or nursing home with no visitors? What about their loved ones?

And I have too. Now, I'm guessing some of you are going to say this is a first-world problem or I need to get over it. But I'm going to tell you anyhow. 

Two years ago today, my friend and colleague passed from this earth. Marissa was interviewing to be an intern with us when I first met her. She was an amazing person. She would make me laugh, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. She had a zest for life.  She was faithful. She was someone who automatically improved the lives of everyone she met.

She worked in every aspect of our business. Some of my favorite memories involve her. This one time she was out sick for a while. There is someone in our field, who does not have a personality that Marissa appreciated. 

So I told her that I was thinking about hiring the person. Her response was pure gold. She just muttered to me on the phone for a few moments.

Even today, I laugh thinking about that conversation. 

Here's my dilemma: I want to go to her graveside sometime over the next few days.  I know she isn't really there but there is something about grieving and being at someone's gravesite. 

I miss Marissa. My wife and children miss Marissa. My son who was five when she passed, mentions her and how he saw his momma cry when she found out Marissa had died.

So today, take a moment and think about people you know who are grieving over something other than the disruption this virus has caused in our world.  I know those are the people who would have been on Marissa's mind today. 

Do something for them today. Write them a letter or email (you might have to google how to do this safely). Reach out to someone you know who might be missing someone today.

Then go and hug your loved ones living in your house. Tell them how much you love them.

None of us know what tomorrow holds. 

I miss you, my Friend.


Dealing with Anxiety. Understand where feelings are "born."

Media Monday is a series where I focus on something that I have created in another form of media. It's designed to help cross multiple learning styles.

Anxiety is not a new feeling. Often people try to deal with it by going to one of two extremes. They will often be tempted to believe that they can do nothing about their anxiety. "It's just the way I am," or "It's just the way it is..." will often be their mantra. The other extreme is that people will often try to eliminate the anxiety by "not thinking about it." This video is my attempt to help people find a more tenable position. With all that is going on in the world as of the writing of this post, I feel as though more of my friends are dealing with anxiety than ever. These are certainly uncertain times. Perhaps, this video will help you process them a little bit more

For important information regarding our company response to COVID-19, please click here.

Responding to COVID-19. Dealing with the anxiety.

This is a post that I wrote for Lowell's First Look which I think will be up later this week. I have received five emails asking me to put something up here, so in lieu of Media Monday, I offer these thoughts.

If you're like me, you're probably still trying to come to terms with everything that happened last week. 

No matter where you turn now, you hear something related to Covid-19. 

Markets are crashing. Sports seasons are canceled for the foreseeable future. 

Not surprisingly, anxiety about the future is on the rise. 

Anxiety about the present is on the rise.  

There is an avalanche of information, and most of it appears to be contradictory. Covid19

I can easily find an article that says the threat is being overblown and that we are giving in to fear. The next moment, I can look and find an article that states how we are not taking it seriously enough. That we should be more afraid. 

And then school was canceled for a month. Gatherings of more than 250 people were banned. More restrictions are coming.

The impact on our families is stressful. 

The impact on our economy is stressful. I know many people who are worried about how it is going to affect their ability to pay their bills. 

How do we handle the stress? How do we talk to our children? Here are a few ideas. 

  1. Limit your media exposure. I know this one is hard. Especially with Facebook and our social media lives today, but as much as possible, take a break from the media. Very few people need to follow the news every minute of the day. Many will benefit from keeping informed of the broad strokes. This is especially true for people who find their stress levels increasing from interacting with the media. As an additional thought here, please don't forget that most of our friends on Facebook are not Virologist. They are entitled to their opinion and to share it, but that does not mean that it is an accurate opinion. You can unfollow people who have posts that you find stressful and anxiety-inducing. You can also just scroll on. Whatever you choose, don't give up your power to run your life based on something on social media. Just this week, I have found this to be true for mainstream media sources as well. One news source posted that there was X amount of confirmed cases in a particular county. Someone from that county's health department page contradicted that headline. It was changed shortly after that. It is important to balance being prepared for what could happen and understanding what is happening. There is almost always a difference.
  2. Don't engage in fear shaming. Regardless of how you feel about the response to this situation, please avoid fear shaming. This particular virus of shame cuts both ways. Someone is afraid and encounters someone who is not or who thinks the current situation might be overblown. Disparagement ensues. Names and mean labels get slung like mud off a four-wheelers tire. Conversely, someone who feels the response is overblown meets someone who believes the current measures are appropriate or may not be enough. Scoffing and mudslinging become the staple of the interaction. Do. Not. Do. This. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from. Try to understand their fear or concern. Above all else, be kind. 
  3. Work to be informed and accept that rarely does information comes without an agenda. A painful truth to accept today is that almost all purveyors of news have a goal. They want you to move people to their position. There is a spin added to the information. We can fight this reality or accept it and allow it to inform how we understand what they are sharing with us. Wisdom would be seeking to understand their bias (and our own) and filter the words through that lens. It can be exhausting and challenging, I know, but it is also incredibly necessary and beneficial. 
  4. Take common-sense precautions. I realize this message has been on repeat for quite a long time, but it is essential. Do what you can to protect yourself. Wash your hands regularly. Utilize good nutrition. If you don't want to go to the gym, go outside for a brisk walk. Try to get forty-five minutes of total walk time. Get adequate sleep. Nutrition, exercise, and sleep can help your immune system. 
  5. Talk to your kids. I think this one might be the scariest for many people. It is also imperative. If you have kids, they are looking to you for clarity about what is going on in the world. They watch you for an interpretation of what is happening. You are either forming their inner voice or, you are their inner voice. Be honest with them. If you don't know something, tell them that. Admitting to not knowing something can be scary. Let them know that the situation that we are in is not normal, and that can lead to anxiety. Let them know that we have to accept change when it comes. Change is constant. We can admit that and still grieve. It's OK for them to feel sad, angry, overwhelmed, scared, etc. They can feel all of the emotions. Remember that the younger the child, the fewer words they have to express their concern. Many families have had vacation plans canceled. Children do not always have the vocabulary to express the emotions that go with these losses. They do not always have the words to express their feelings. This will often lead to expressing themselves through actions that parents find annoying or "naughty." This is a great time to ignore your reaction to their behavior and to teach them words and responses that are emotionally appropriate. If we parent with intensity, we should not be surprised when our children respond to distress with intensity. 
  6. Live your life. Don't stop living. Visit your friends either via social media, phone, or when appropriate, in person. We must find the balance between being proactive and still engaging in our life. This is an excellent opportunity to take some time to slow down and interact with our families. Play board games, go for a walk, hang out with your kids in a non-sports or franchised activity. My son and I have been burning the tires off of our RC cars. We have to accept that we do not know how long this is going to last; therefore, we have to be wise in how we balance living our life and being cautious. 
  7. Consider talk therapy. It's probably pretty clear that I am biased about this as a helper. I implore you to consider talk therapy. Having an opportunity to express and name our anxiety can be incredibly helpful. Allowing someone else to sit with us in that anxiety and distress has proven benefits. I am proud that our network of offices was one of the first to offer telemedicine therapy sessions. They are HIPPA compliant, and you do not need to leave the comfort of your home to engage in the session. If you have been trying to manage this anxiety and stress with your usual coping skills, and they haven't been working, please consider talk therapy. You can go into the office, or in many cases, you can do telemedicine. 

This is not an exhaustive list, and I am confident that there are many more ideas out there in how can respond to this unprecedented incident. I am all for them, as long as they are responses and not panic reactions. We will get through this together. 

Let's end the diseases of complaining and gossip

Screen Shot 2020-03-02 at 9.57.33 AMI've never met Pink. You know, the artist. She came to our little corner of the world for a concert a few years ago and I wanted to take my daughter but it was on one of my busiest nights of the week for clients and I couldn't move them all so we didn't go.

I do follow her and her husband on Instagram. So, it's just like I've met them. 

Last year, someone somewhere was barking at her and her husband about something. And Pink responded. She challenged everyone to go one day without criticizing anyone.

Today, I'm going to raise her. I want to eradicate gossip and complaining. No, seriously, I want to wipe it out like a bad virus.

Because that is what complaining and gossip are: a nasty, relationship killing virus. 

I despise it so much that I am about to institute a policy in our companies. It's simple: if you complain or gossip, you're fired. No write-ups. No warnings. Just gone.

The only way to deal with a virus is to kill it. Destroy it and that is what I want you and me to do. Because it will take all of us to remove this virus.

So let's define these cousin viruses. Gossip and complaining are talking about a problem that you see with someone who cannot fix it or help you solve it.

The problem is that it is so easy to complain about someone else. It is so easy to gripe about a policy.

It is so easy to be the victim.

I saw this all the time when I worked at a local mental hospital. People who were almost always late for work would complain when they were written up.

They would become the victim when they were fired.

I've seen this pattern repeat as a business owner.

I've even heard stories about employees who wanted to pick who they talked to because they "didn't want any feedback, they just wanted to be able to share their thoughts."

That's the heart of complaining. 

This doesn't mean that I think we shouldn't address concerns and discuss things that we see that need improved. I believe the exact opposite.

We need to discuss problems. We need to address areas that can improve. I have built my entire career and my family system around the idea that everyone wants to be heard.

But being heard doesn't mean that you get your way. Gossip

Recently, I was doing a consultation with a company where there was some strong conflict between management and the employees...well, really one employee who was somewhere more than an employee and much less than ownership. He was in middle management.

He had ideas on how they could improve the overall business. But he didn't have the whole picture. If had had, he would have understood why management couldn't do what he wanted.

The temptation for many people in that situation would be to complain and gossip. To his credit, he didn't.  That's the culture I'm going for both in my personal life and in my companies.

So I've developed some questions for myself over the years to deal with potential gossiping and complaining in my own life. They are as follows:

  1. What do I actually not like about this situation? I've found that sometimes, I just need to spend some time defining what I think I'm upset about.
  2. When was the last time I ate? Sometimes, I get "hangry."
  3. What has my sleep been like in the last couple of days? Sometimes, I need to sleep
  4. Did I agree to do this thing for this compensation? This is a simple integrity issue.
  5. Why does this thing (whatever it is) have to be a problem? Not everything that I dislike has to be a problem. I once worked for a guy who bragged about throwing an old rotary phone at an employee in a meeting because he was mad at her. That had to be a problem.
  6. Do I have a possible idea for a solution to this problem? Sometimes, you don't have anything concrete but often we will have some idea of how the problem could be fixed.
  7. Who have I bounced my concern off of? Wait! Wait! Isn' this complaining? I don't think it is because I have one person that I have to bounce my complaints off of. She's my wife. We all need someone to check in with. We need to exercise true wisdom here. What does that mean? Well, we need to have someone we confide in who can validate our feelings and at the same time help us to examine what we are feeling. For instance, I once had someone working for me who was complaining to anyone that would listen that they were had never made less money than when they worked for me. At first, that sounds awful. But when you look into the true circumstances things change a bit. The person rarely averaged six hours a week and rarely worked more than ten. On top of those short hours, they had multiple garnishments on their check. How many of the people that this person complained to about their small pay heard those details? Probably zero. The temptation when we are looking for someone to confide in is that we want someone who will only listen to us. What we need is someone who will listen, validate and be willing to ask some hard questions. Someone once said, "Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I respond it." We need friends to confide in who will remind us of that truth.
  8. Have I expressed my concern or problem to the right person organizationally? This is a big deal for me. If my wife is doing something that is bothering me, complaining to my brother about is not complaining to the right person. Talking about it on Facebook is not the right place to express it. If my boss did something, complaining to a co-worker who can't fix it is not taking it to the right person. Sometimes, public complaints are appropriate. I worked for an institution that had a public team meeting every month where they told us they wanted to hear our complaints, questions, and ideas.
  9. After, I've expressed it, what am I going to do if it doesn't get changed? Ultimately, something changing is on my square. I've talked about the circle and square here and here before.  I am responsible to figure out what it means if the thing doesn't change, whether it's something my wife is doing or something my company is doing. I have to decide how I can best tell the story of my life. And being a complainer or gossiper is not living my best life. I once worked in a school system that created a stupid, reactionary rule. Athletes wouldn't be able to play if they had a tattoo. The best basketball player for the school at that time, got a tattoo the summer between his junior and senior year. In short order, I was called into an administrative meeting where I was told he would be allowed to play as long as he covered it up with a sweatband. At the time, I was the Athletic Director and the Headmaster was also the Basketball Coach. I told everyone in that meeting that we were selling our integrity for 20 points and some rebounds. While I disagreed with the rule, we had put it in the handbook and should live with the consequences of our unwise decision. And the athlete knew the rule when he got the tattoo and told me to my face, "Nah, Dawg! They ain't ever gonna cut me or not let me play!" [sic]. I argued passionately to not let him play or to publicly admit we messed up and publicly change the policy. The headmaster/basketball coach looked at me and told me in no uncertain terms that he was the headmaster and we were going to do what he wanted us to do. When I walked out of that room, I had to decide how I was going to handle the situation. The only thing I ever said when a parent, student or fellow teacher came to me was the decision was made above my head and I was moving forward with the policy. It was up to me to decide what my response would be. Ultimately, I left working at that institution because I believed it had poor leadership from top to bottom. The hardest thing to examine is the areas where I was a poor leader. But that is necessary.
  10. How do I decide if I have to leave? What are my expectations? Sometimes you need to leave a situation or a relationship. But how do you decide? I start with what my expectations are about the situation. I don't expect to agree with my bosses 100% of the time. I assume that those who are in charge have a fuller and more in-depth picture than I do. I don't expect that I'll like or get along with my friends all of the time. But when that leadership becomes toxic or now that I own a business, if that employee becomes toxic, it's time to separate from them with a high degree of intentionality.

I really believe that we could remove grumbling from our own lives if we committed to it. Let's do it!


Your life is written by the choices you make: Thoughts provoked by Hamilton the Musical

Recently my daughter and I went to see Hamilton musical. When it first came out and took the nation by storm, I read the biography that reportedly inspired the production and I loved it. I was struck by a lot of things that struck me as relevant to our day and age.

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 10.21.56 AMSo many parallels between politics back then and politics today.  But something struck me in the production that I've been chewing over since I heard it.

Warning: If somehow you don't know the story there is a spoiler about to follow.

Aaron Burr is played by Jared Dixon (who in the opinions of my daughter and myself stole the show). At the end of the show Burr laments that despite whatever else he had done or would do in his life, he would be remembered for the killing of Hamilton. He sings something to the effect of, "Now, I'll just be the bad guy in your history books."

I've been chewing on that line. Because I think it can be true. There are things that we do that will forever color whatever legacy we leave to those who come behind.


I believe that no matter what has happened change is possible. I believe that you can overcome your past.

Is it just me or do those statements seem contradictory to you? At first blush, they do to me.

But, I think one of the keys to a healthy emotionally life is the ability to hold two thoughts in tension.  And these two thoughts may be held in the highest tension.

Because, some readers of this will either already have made or will make in the future an epic screw-up. They'll do something that will shadow whatever else they do.

Except to the people that know them, really know them after the screw-up. For those people, the legacy will change. The mistake will become a footnote.

Because change is possible. Mistakes can be forgiven and made right.

My daughter asked me what I thought about the musical and I told her that I loved it because I believe there are only two stories ever told; stories of brokenness and stories of redemption. Sometimes, both brokenness and redemption are weaved throughout the story.

To me, that is what makes Hamilton so profound. It tells the story of brokenness and redemption. It shows the messiness that is life.

So to you, my friend and reader I want to offer some encouragement. Your life may be messy. It may be full of regrets. It may be marred by a mistake on a grand scale.

But those things are not the totality of your story. They are not the whole of you. You can leave a legacy of whatever you want to leave.

That legacy will be determined by the decisions you make moving forward from today.

Your story will be told by the decisions you make. Maybe your story will be one of overcoming self-inflicted brokenness or maybe your story will be one of overcoming the pain inflicted by others.

Whatever the situation, you can write your way out by the life you choose to live moving forward.