Tag Archives: positive

An Open Letter to the Pandemic

Dear Pandemic,

I got it. I cry uncle. You win. Whatever it takes for you to leave, I’m ready to do.

I’m not sure you understand the destruction you have caused. You have killed us, divided us, and have brought us to the verge of total chaos. You win. I’m done.

I don’t know why you appeared. Was it to teach us a lesson about the butterfly effect? I already blogged about that in 2012 (“The Butterfly Effect”) in a more positive light.

Maybe you just wanted to stir things up. To teach us a lesson. The lesson I gained was that we need each other more than we will admit. You took everything that brings us together away, concerts, sporting events, weddings, birthday parties, and even simply eating out. At the moment we as a nation may be the most divided we have ever been. There are so many lines drawn in our culture. If you wanted to see us fall, I fear you might achieve that.

Why? Why are you here?

I will admit that personally, you have forced me to reevaluate some things. There have been some positive effects from you being here. I wrote a book, April 2020. The whole family plays tennis now.  We have some new recipes for dinner (also a few that we won’t make again). I do appreciate the time and the people in my life.  But the negative outweigh the positive.

There is an underlying current of fear and anger that perpetuates our everyday existence. There is a sense of mistrust of everyone. That connection of energy from a smile or laugh is gone. Not knowing if someone is positive with COVID weighs down every interaction. The list goes on for us as a country and my personally. You have had an effect on every single person in this world.

Is that the lesson? By taking away our connections, even the simplest gestures of a smile, you are showing us that we are all connected?

If so, this is the toughest lesson I have ever had to learn… I hope we all pass this test, together.

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The Power of Together

I bet you have heard the word Synergy before.

Or maybe have read about how two horses can pull three times the weight of one horse. If you add in the factor that the horses were raised together, they can pull four times the weight. This is the example many people use to show the power of synergy.

But synergy is not just for horses, it is an important element to our lives. There are a few aspects to understand about the synergy concept to gain the most from it.

One, the idea of synergy is often renamed depending on the environment. In sports we call it team. In life it is family and friends. In business it has been labeled tribe and team. At the heart of the matter, it is the idea of everyone working together. Working together for a common goal. That is the second aspect.

Horses don’t just pull 30,000 pounds around the field for fun. It is work and there is a destination for the load. No matter the situation: a basketball season, a happy family, reaching a sales goal, there has to be a unifying destination for the work. A WHY. Simon Senik’s book, Start with Why, is a great resource for diving deeper into this part of synergy. At the surface, though, it means everyone working toward a common goal.

A hard truth here, synergy has always been used to highlight the positive. The truth is that synergy can also destroy. In real life you can have a group of people who build momentum in their negative attitude and destroy a team. Destroy the culture of a business. So called friends that bring you down from accomplishing your goals. Synergy is about how much a group can accomplish together. That means both positive and negative outcomes. This truth highlights the importance of the destination. It also explains the importance of the third factor, the right team.

The example of how much weight horses can pull has an interesting twist. As the story goes, a single Belgian draft horse can pull 8,000 pounds. Two Belgian draft horses that are “strangers” can pull over 20,000 pounds. But a pair of horses that are raised and trained together can pull over 30,000. Consider that idea for a moment.

A team that has been together over time, who have gone through the same training or life experiences, has the greatest outcome. I hate to bring it up again, but that means both positive and negative outcomes. It is important to remember as we deal with changing things for the better. Back to the idea of a team that has grown together and the work they can accomplish.

This is powerful. This is a factor in an outstanding life. At the moment of writing this blog it is state basketball time. Eight teams in each class have made it to the state tournament. Teams have grown together over the season to reach this goal. You will hear the word “team” in the interviews, from both the winning and losing coaches. It might be a cliche in a way, but it is true. It takes a team to get to this level. A group coming together for a common goal. Synergy in action.

The same happens in our personal lives. Our friends, our family, are part of our personal synergy. The difficult part is that there is not always an end goal with these relationships. Sometimes the reason, or the why, of our relationships is lost. Then we feel like we are drifting. Relationships feel shallow. Understanding and working for the WHY of our relationships is paramount. A strong marriage or friendship takes work. There are many ways to do that work. One example from my life is our tradition as a family for each person to choose a word of the year, then displaying that word in a unique way in our home (Living by One Word). Throughout the year we check-in on how we are doing with our words. We grow together.

Creating positive synergy is a powerful element for any team. No matter what type of team you are on; basketball, sales team, or family.

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Was it worth it?

Ever have one of those days?

You know, when you are in a bad mood and you don’t really know why, but you still slam the cupboards or the utensil drawer so that everyone in the house knows you are mad.

Maybe you hit the steering wheel as the crossbars light up for the oncoming train. Maybe you walk down the hall, head down, frowning while people move out of your way.

Was it worth it?

Was making sure everyone knew you were in a bad mood worth it?  Was the time you wasted on negative energy worth it? Did the train pass quicker? Did your family enjoy your attitude at dinner? Did life just magically get better because of your mood?

Was it worth it?

I recently read the book, Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance, by Valorie Kondos Field, the UCLA gymnastics coach. In the book she discuss why choosing a positive, high energy attitude is one of the keys to the team’s success. The book expands on the idea, but the core idea is that we choose our attitudes. And she is right.

For our everyday lives, our attitude is a choice, and we pay a price for those attitudes. We might gain something from it or we might damage something from the attitude we choose. I hate to admit it, but I have lost my cool with my children before, and felt guilty as I watched their eyes turn down and their brow change to the question, “What did I do?”

I have seen athletes miss opportunities because of attitudes. Same for students who bring in a difficult attitude in to class. I’ve wasted time with family and friends because I wanted to brood in my bad attitude. It wasn’t worth it.

Every attitude we choose has a cost for our lives… you decide if the attitude is worth your life.

 

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Your Own

We have a hard rule in our house; you can’t say you dislike anything until you have tried it.  Yes, it helps us to get the kids to eat their vegetables at dinner (there are some vegetables that are not served in our house, but it is because we have at least tried them), but the rule stands also for other issues.  From Justin Beiber to reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  We don’t let the kids just spat out other peoples’ opinions.  Or to just dismiss something without at least knowing something about it so that they can form their own opinion.

This approach isn’t always easy, even as elementary students the playground conversation can get negative and degrading.  I am amazed at times with the negative opinions my children express at the dinner table and the range of topics these opinions cover, from songs about Barney the Dinosaur (not happy songs!) to political issues.  With just a couple of questions, I discover that the opinion comes from the playground.  My wife and I then lead the discussion for them to express what they know of the topic.  We help them to formulate what their opinion is based off what they actually know.  Other times, sadly, we have to simply say, no that is not appropriate.  Usually with songs they learn, but it still expresses an opinion.

As a dad, this saddens me in a number of ways.  I actually enjoy helping them learn about the world.  To discuss issues, to question them and yes, sometimes I over analyze things (did you know how many different themes are present in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast?).  But when did this all become so negative?  What is wrong with liking something?  Why do we have to fight so hard to have our own ideas?

Why is our first reaction to something negative? As an English teacher this attitude is almost a cliché.

Courtesy of Flickr user piper caldwell

“I hate reading.”

“I hate poetry.”

“I hate English.”

I have no problem when a student says they dislike a poem, after they have read it.  In fact, it means the poem actually affected them and gives me something to discuss with them.

What sadness me the most, and not just for my kids but for my students too, is the lost opportunities because of this attitude.  The depth of our life is not created by others’ attitudes but through our experiences.  And those experiences have to be both positive and negative.  Those opposites give us the parameters to build our own views. To make this life our own.

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