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An antidote for stale, flat days


“Lately my days feel like a bottle of champagne that’s been left open and lost its fizz. You know…a little stale and flat.”

 Maybe a little more zaniness would help. That’s the prescription in today’s excerpt from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade:

 The gift of zaniness is one of the great gifts that human beings have…How stale and flat the day when nothing zany happens. How badly we need jokes: the old Sunday funnies; the comic strips and cartoons; Krazy Kat; Buster Keaton; Stan Laurel; Harpo Marx under his curls and hat squeezing his bulb-horn honker…The spirit wants to leap with the joy of young kids—both goat and human—to change direction in midair. It is as if the spirit at its freshest and most free is zany.”

Unfortunately, zaniness often gets a bad rap. It’s sometimes viewed as unprofessional, irresponsible.

Zaniness is the black sheep that gets banished from the office, the classroom, and sometimes even the living room. “We have to be serious around here!”

But note that line: “the spirit at its freshest and most free is zany.”

Maybe zaniness is not so frivolous after all! Maybe it really does contribute something important: it helps freshen our spirits…and keep the fizz in our lives.

So go ahead. This week, you have permission to do something zany.




The sand in your shoe


“Lately it seems like everything is getting to me, even the little things. Especially the little things.”

 Okay. Stuff happens. We’ve all been there. And we’ll probably be there again tomorrow!

But if possible, we’d like to make sure that the little things getting to us don’t keep us from getting to the big things—like doing quality work…and spending quality time with someone…and cultivating the qualities that makes us more human and more genuine and more alive.

As Dr. Donald Tubesing said,

“[Don’t] spend ten dollars’ worth of energy on a ten cent problem.”

And Robert Service said,

“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”

This week, if things start getting to you, take a quiet moment to empty the sand out of your shoe.

And then…enjoy the climb!

The best-educated human being


You say you got the wrong education, and that has severely limited your options?

 But you may already be enrolled in the best school of all! As Hellen Keller said:

“The best-educated human being is the one who understands most about the life in which he [or she] is placed.”

From this point of view, every problem, every situation, every challenge we face is part of our education.

Every person we know—from the people we love to the guy who seriously gets on our nerves—is also part of our education.

Success, failure, friendship, loneliness, achievement, disappointment, boredom…all are part of our education.

Keller reminds us that life itself can be our teacher and can teach us things that matter, things that make a difference, things that even a double Ph.D. might miss.

So the question is, what is my life trying to teach me? Yes, I’m sitting in life’s class room…but what am I learning?

Soar with your strengths


“Sometimes I think my weaknesses are holding me back…holding me down.”

Have you tried soaring with your strengths? Do you know what your strengths are?

Jonathan Swift said,

“Although men are accused of not knowing their own weaknesses, yet perhaps few know their own strengths. It is in men as in soils, where sometimes there is a vein of gold which the owner knows not of.”

What would it be like to find and mine your “vein of gold”—in spite of weaknesses?

In their book, Soar With Your Strengths, Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson tell the story of the Chinese Olympic Table Tennis team. Their key player was a man with a very powerful forehand but a weak backhand. The coach tried to help him strengthen his weakness, but the more they worked on the backhand, the more discouraged the player became, and the worse he played.

So the coach quit working on his weakness and encouraged him to simply focus on the power of his forehand shots. And he won the gold medal!

Of course, sometimes a weakness is actually a strength in disguise. Mark struggled for years as a standup comedian. He was very self-conscious about his looks; he had virtually no chin and big ears that stuck out like satellite dishes!

One day a friend suggested that, for a comedian, his looks were actually an asset. He started talking about his looks in his standup routine.

He would stand in front of the crowd and, as they giggled, say, “I know what you’re thinking!” (Nervous laughter.) He continued: “I’ll have you know that I was once a model!” (More laughter.) “It’s true. I modeled socks!” (Even more laughter.) “On the radio!” (Great laughter.)

After he started using his looks in his routine, his career took off. He had discovered that what he thought was a weakness was actually his “vein of gold.”