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Category: Life

The importance of attitude

Saturday was a long day. I woke up early and gutted our sunroom, and worked on other home projects. After about 6 hours of this, I ran 9 miles as part of my current half marathon training plan. The 4.5 miles out was easy with the cold wind at my back. The return trip was much more challenging. When I got back home, I continued the sunroom project. At around 8:30 that night I decided to head over to the local big box building materials store to get drywall. I like going to the building supply store near closing time. It’s easier to get in and out without dealing with crowds and parking.

I asked for help loading the cart. They sent over a guy who was in his mid-60s. He was fit, fun, and didn’t complain at all. I love to talk, and also enjoy hearing other peoples’ stories. He’s retired and works to stay busy. He likes people. I thanked him for helping load the cart, and pushed the 300+ pound cart to the registers and paid.

I asked for help loading my truck. The cashier turned to an employee nearby and asked him to help me load. He grumbled that it’s not his job, and made some vague comments about the indignity of having to load a truck. He caught me off-guard, since I wasn’t expecting to have the person assume an attitude in front of me. He grimaced at me while grabbing his jacket, then followed me out. I pushed the cart to my truck. He trailed far enough behind to not feel obligated to help push.

When we got to my truck, I grabbed one side of the first sheet. He asked me how I wanted to put them in the truck – as though there was more than one option. When I explained that we’d lift the sheet off the cart and carry it to the truck, he said he had a bad back and couldn’t do much. He insisted I drag the drywall across the cart. Then he chose hand holds on the sheet opposite of mine, and then carried the sheet down the other side of the truck. Like a wing…

I felt like he was intentionally being difficult since he didn’t want to load my truck. With minimal damage, we got the first sheet in. As we started the second sheet he doubled-down on his attitude, rubbing his back and groaning. Brushing the chalk off his stylish jacket. Moving slowly. I calmly told him to go away. I then converted my anger into energy and loaded the rest of the drywall alone.

Driving home I thought about what it takes for someone to arrive in such a negative space that they choose to project an attitude instead of finding a solution. Maybe his happiness is founded in irritating others. Maybe he’s trapped in a job he doesn’t like. I’ll never know. Regardless, his attitude can’t do a lot to help his current situation.

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The waiting is the hardest part

Anticipatory stress is the worst stress. It’s generally more harmful to our health than the actual event we stress over. It keeps us from sleeping. We’re not present with our family, friends, or colleagues. Our mind is stuck in an endless loop of re-runs that deny us of peace.

Dig into the issue and identify the root cause. Confront it as soon as you can. Address the issue, not the person. Do it now.

After you confront it you can move forward without all the extra emotional baggage. Most of the time the issue will be a tempest in a teapot.

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Choosing the right tool (or person) for your current problem

All of us will need someone to help us at various points in life. It can be simple help, like how to find a cross-street while in a strange city. Or complicated, like what to do with the rest of our lives.

Make sure you pick the right person to provide the type of help you need. Asking an uncle who spent a career assembling widgets on a factory floor won’t help you much if you’re trying to resolve an issue with a challenging colleague or manager. Their skills may be more around the mechanical issues that arise in your life.

Aligning your needs with the expertise of the person you’re engaging will save both of you time and energy. Keep this in mind when you’re asked to help someone else. If you lack the context or expertise needed, let the person know this. Offer to connect them to someone who can provide better insight into resolving their issues.

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My list of excuses

I have a list of excuses not to run. I’m tired, it’s cold, it’s raining, I don’t have the time, I’d rather read a book, it’s boring, my favorite jacket is in the laundry. It’s easy to find one at a moment’s notice.

I also have the antidote for excuses. It’s having a goal that I can’t ignore. Like a race. I used to do lots of 5 kilometer races. Then it became boring. Why drive somewhere, stand around waiting for the race to start, then for the
finishers, then drive home so I could run for 20 minutes? It didn’t make sense.

Last year I signed up for my first half marathon. I downloaded a 12 week training plan, and stuck to it. Okay, I missed a week of it, but I still kept to it. I ran in cold rain and in sweltering heat. I destroyed my iPod Nano, a Garmin 305 GPS, and a pair of running shoes. There wasn’t any room for excuses.

After the race I slacked off. I ran a few times, and pulled out my list of excuses, removing the dust and using them again. Then my wife said “why don’t you do another half marathon”? Because I swore them off. I had no intention of doing one again. Never. Again.

While attending a neighborhood Christmas party, an avid runner told me that I’d change my mind. I’d run another half marathon. A couple days later I decided I’d plan on doing three of them in 2017. I signed up for a half marathon in Newport, Rhode Island on April 15th.

Goals are the best way to overcome your excuses. Pick them carefully and then focus on them. Excuses are for other people.

 

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