Archive for November, 2012

I’m Not Buying It

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

There are MANY articles out there trying to justify "Grey Thursday" shopping.  As if our American consumer greed was not out of control enough, some stores opened on Thursday evening to get a jump on sales.  I see your justifications of "hard times for retailers" and "a lovely way to spend an evening after stuffing your face" or even "it's a free market society."  But I'm here to tell you I'm not buying it!

We can justify this all day long but the principle that is being trampled is still laying there in full view.  The true meaning behind a day of thanksgiving has always been to stop, spend time with family, and count our blessings.  The great value of this pause in one's life, this tiny blip of a pause in the long mad dash of one's life experience, is more valuable than we are giving it credit for.

Certainly many are working, and have worked, on holidays.  But comparing a nurse in a hospital to a Wal-mart worker to justify your consumer greed is not going to work with me.  There's plenty of time for Americans to fight over cheap cell phones and crappy electronics products on Black Friday without sullying the name or meaning of Thanksgiving also.

So I'm not buying it.  I'm not shopping this weekend, and I won't set foot in a store on Thursday to save a buck.  I might just lose a tiny piece of my soul, or my dignity, in the process.

A-hole Magneto!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

My workout partner extraordinaire John Passarella has always claimed to be a first class a-hole magnet, and today he proved this beyond a shadow of a doubt.  In fact, we decided his superhero name should be A-hole Magneto because these encounters with idiots give him special powers.  Or….he gets so mad that he starts to lift super-human amounts of weight.

Today we were training arms and headed to the preacher bench to do some bicep curls.  The gym had just gotten a new cambered (bent) bar for this bench which we loved.  However, when we arrived at the bench there was a gym bag laying next to it and weights on the bar.  We asked the somewhat burly hispanic man standing nearby if this was his bag, and he said yes he was using the bench.  When John asked him how many sets he had left with the bar and bench, the man said "oh, a whole lot, many sets."  Then he suggested we use the other bar on the other bench, but it's truly skinny and horrible.

This is when things got dicey.  

John says "well we like this bar and would like to use it" then the man says "Well, you don't own the gym."  Then he follows up with the zinger "I guess you'll just have to go buy your own bar."

Apparently this man had decided that whatever part of the gym he wanted to use had become his own personal property.  A-hole Magneto turned and walked away in a huff, but I said to the man "Hey, you have to share.  We all have to share in the gym."

We noticed that this man had claimed an entire section of the free weight area as his personal territory.  He was using 10 dumbbells, two benches, two bars with weights on them, a pad and an ab wheel, plus his gym bag was in the middle of it (illegal .)   And he was "using" all of this at one time.

So we used a lesser bar and John began his sets of superhuman strength, fueled by his disgust of this man's behavior.  This is, quite literally, the worst we've ever encountered.  So we did our sets while we watched this man prance around the gym "bowed out" like he was huge (which he was not, nor was his belly attractive) and then we watched him perform sets with terrible form.

Rather than launching here into a tirade about people's sense of entitlement and self-absorption, I'll just say that this is not the way the gym works, or even the way the world works.  I pity this man if we encounter him the next time in a similar circumstance, as A-hole Magneto will not be as diplomatic or show such self-control.  And I, his loyal sidekick, hope to have my phone there to record this a-hole getting his much deserved comeuppance.

Talking Face to Face

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

One of the gifts of my recent time spent canvassing was that I met a lot of people face to face.  Sure, I meet people all the time, but it's a different experience when you knock on their door and don't know anything about them.  When canvassing I did have a name, and sometimes an age or sex.  So it was always interesting to see who would open the door, how they would react, and what kind of person they would be.

In my normal life I spend a lot of time alone, which I like, because I work at home all day in my office.  I have the dogs to keep me company, and I enjoy the quiet.  But it's also nice to get to talk with someone, whether by email or on the phone, or even on Facebook.   This also gives extra emphasis to my time in the gym each day, as I've just spent the day alone and enjoy interacting with my fellow gym mates.  Luckily, my workout partner John is very social and would say hello to anyone at any time.  So we have a lot of friends and acquaintences in the gym which I appreciate.  These friendly interactions are important to my day.

It has been said that the Obama campaign won the election because of the ground game –many folks like myself who went door to door to speak with people.  In an article posted on slate.com by John Dickerson titled "Why Romney Never Saw it Coming", the author says this:

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign was openly dismissive of the Obama ground game. Why are they wasting so much money with neighborhood offices, they asked? (In Ohio, for example, Obama had almost 100 more offices than Romney.) In retrospect, the Romney team is in awe and full of praise of the Obama operation. “They spent four years working block by block, person by person to build their coalition,” says a top aide. They now recognize that those offices were created to build personal contacts, the most durable and useful way to gain voters.

I really do think this personal interaction is incredibly powerful.  If you want to convince someone of something, talk to them in person, face to face.  In this day of texts and tweets and electronic communication, some of this face time has been lost.  Even just Skyping a conversation with video, rather than talking on the phone, can add great power to communication.  But being in person is the most effective.

Many times over the course of the weeks I was walking neighborhoods, I had encounters which were quite powerful.  Standing on the front porch of a man's house as he describes how his business failed in the recession and how he has been working up north to make ends meet.  Talking to a women whose husband was incapacitated last year, and hearing her stories of struggling to make ends meet, running through their life savings, and having no time to herself at all.

One day I met the owner of Anthony's Pizza, and he was an undecided voter.  As I asked him what issues had him on the fence, he described quite personally how he was concerned about his business and his family.  But having the opportunity to discuss issues in person had an influence on both of us, and it felt like a piece of our democracy in action.

At another door I met two Asian parents who had voted.  But the name on my list to visit was their 22 year old son Max.  The parents were thrilled to see me, as they obviously had had no success in motivating Max to care about voting.  During my conversation with them, Max appeared on his way out the door.  I was able to talk with him personally, explain the importanct of his vote, and get him to promise to vote on Tuesday….with his parents nodding and smiling the entire time.  I have no way of knowing if Max made it to his polling station, but I can easily imagine thousands of conversations like this, all over the country, that DID make a difference on election day.

If you want to make an impact, do it in person.  If you need to talk with someone about something critically important, sit down with them and talk face to face.  I have felt energized by this learning experience during the campaign, and feel I've learned something important for my business and my life!  I hope you'll consider these lessons as well.

Less Gnashing of Teeth

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Today, helpful advice on how to have less gnashing of teeth in your life.

We've all just been through an exhausting political election season, and for those of us living in swing states, we've survived an assault of drama, haranguing, and negative ads that cannot be believed.  There was a time when I would find myself sitting around CLENCHED from head to toe, fit to be tied from all the craziness and things that were being said.  However I realized that I always felt MUCH less upset and powerless when I was trying to DO something about it.

When possible, in situations like this recent poltical season, I try to volunteer as much as I can.  Ultimately the small bit I can do is just a tiny drop in the ocean of all that happens in these campaigns, but in MY life it is huge.  I fee like I'm DOING something, however small, to try to help move forward something I care about.  And this volunteering turns out to be as much about feeling empowered MYSELF as it does about the person or movement I'm trying to help.

Volunteers of every stripe will tell you this.  If you can just give a small bit of time, to whatever cause or organization you care about, the benefits that you reap yourself are huge.  There is great power in taking action.

Many people believe that they have to fork over huge swathes of time, but just a few minutes, an hour here or there, really can make a difference for many organizations.

If your schedule truly cannot accommodate any gift of your time, then write a check!  I once heard a wonderful quote that said that "My money can go places and do things I could never do myself.  I can feed people in far off countries, go on great adventures, support causes all over the world."  Your money is powerful and by giving even a few dollars you are making a difference in a way that you likely could not in person.  No matter if you send a check for $1 or $1000, it's no one's business but your own and can empower you greatly.

Also take action at home.  Wish there was more arts and culture in your town?  Volunteer an hour to a local theater or musical group.  Believe me, there is something you can do.  Worried about schools?  Read to elementary school children or be a mentor for a struggling teen.   Hate seeing young people out of shape?  Coach a team or give helpful advice at the gym.

People often think that these bits of volunteering take valuable time and energy, but the opposite is true.  The benefits and empowerment you reap from even small slivers of time can boost your life and energy in powerful ways.  You'll find yourself energized and more productive in your regular work and activities.

In these poltical campaigns, I have volunteered for issues and candidates that have won and lost.  But either way I left the experience feeling better, like I at least tried to help, and even when licking my wounds I knew I had done something that felt empowering.  Think about how you can do this in your own life.  Less gnashing, more smiling, more sailing toward the better world we all want!