No Man is an Island

No man is an island

Well, really, no one is an island.  I can’t say I fancy the gender specificity of John Donne’s poem, but I love his message.

Here are his insightful words:

 

“No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

No man is an island, entire of itself

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s

or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher. Let’s dissect this poem, shall we? In this poem John Donne explores the idea of the connectedness of people. People are not isolated islands. We are all part of a larger thing. Take it apart:

“No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

No one is by [himself]. We are all connected to each other.

No man is an island, entire of itself

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

The “main” is the mainland.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

clod = small piece of dirt.

Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s

or of thine own were.

A promontory is a big rocky hunk of land that juts out into the sea. This line says that a piece of dirt is just as important as a huge mass of land or a beautiful home. Even people who seem “unimportant” to the world are just as important as anyone else.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

Long ago, churches used to ring their bells with clappers signaling that someone had died. 

it tolls for thee.

When we hear the bells ringing, we don’t need to ask who it is. It is as if a part of us died as well, because we are all connected to each other.

 

People eventually wither when isolated from others. Of course there is variation in how much isolation people need or can tolerate, and people fall in different places on a spectrum of introverted → extroverted personalities.

 

Gadzooks!

There is extensive scientific evidence of harmful physiological and psychological effects of isolation and loneliness.  Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. “For some people, even though they have what on the outside looks like a social world, their internal experience is loneliness.” (Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine.)

 

What to do? What to do?

 

Un-isolate yourself. Seek others. Choose face-to-face encounters over social media. Attend a REC Retreats weekend retreat. REC participants are stunned at how quickly they bond with other participants, and many ongoing friendships result from meeting at a retreat.

We can never have too many friends. Will you be my friend?

 

This analysis of the poem is courtesy of “Mensa for Kids”.

For a good read on the negative effects of loneliness, check out this well-referenced article: http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/loneliness-can-really-hurt-you/

 

 

 

Be Happy.

 “Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”  – George Carlin

 

Translated, collecting things in order to be happy is as ineffective as wearing a meal to feel full.

 

WHO doesn’t want to be happy?

Until fairly recently, the question of HOW to be happy has been left [scientifically] unanswered.

Fortunately, there is emerging research in the field of “Positive Psychology”. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of thriving individuals. Positive Psychology assumes people want to lead meaningful lives, maximize their strongest qualities, and have positive experiences in most aspects of their lives – work, relationships, and recreation.

Translated, people want to be happy.

 

HOW?

I’ve been reading about “how to be happy”. Unsurprisingly, I did not find sandwich wardrobes mentioned anywhere, although one message emerged loud and clear. Here are titles from just a few of the articles I read:

Glee from Buying Objects Wanes, While Joy of Buying Experiences Keeps Growing  By G. Lowery

The Secret to Happiness? Spend Money on Experiences, not Things by I. Pozin

Eight Reasons Why People Who Spend Money on Experiences Are Happier by M. Oppland

Seven Reasons Why Experiences Will Make You Happier Than Material Things by J. Beuker (What happened to the 8th reason?)

Spending on Experiences Instead of Possessions Results in More Satisfaction by K. Purdy

The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things by J. Cassano

Buy Experience, not Things by J. Hamblin

Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things by T. Bradberry

Dear reader, are you picking up on a theme, or do you need a translation?

 

WHY are experiences better?

  1. Experiences can’t be quantified. This makes it more difficult to compare oneself to the proverbial Jones’. Comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Inadequacy = unhappiness.
  2. Material items lose their luster. The snazzy car doesn’t stay new and shiny forever. The biggest, fastest, most capable computer is gradually replaced by new technology. However, memories of a pleasant experience can be relived over and over again, often gaining emotional value over time.
  3. Adaptation. Initially, material purchases may feel novel and exciting. Eventually, one gets accustomed to the object, it becomes the “norm” and it emotional value is decreased.
  4. Material possessions describe “what we have”. Experiences contribute to “who we are”. Sailing the Northwest Passage influences who you are, but owning the boat describes only what you have. Our very identities are an accumulation of our experiences.
  5. Experiences are typically social and shared with others. Social experiences build interpersonal connections and strengthen relationships.

 

WHAT is the relevance here?

I established REC Retreats. I already know that participating in events at REC Retreats is fun. A lot of fun. Fun is good. But what is even more important than fun is helping others.

I want REC Retreats to enhance the quality of life of participants. I want participants to experience a sense of belonging in the supportive community at REC Retreats. I want them to try new things, learn new skills, and grow in a safe and accepting environment. I want participants to play and build joyful memories. All of this is accomplished through experiences at REC events.

I did this research because I needed to know that REC Retreats was providing more than a way to have fun. I wanted to know REC Retreats was helping others. Fun is good. But helping others is better.

 

There is a vast collection of happiness research.  One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University, conducted a 20-year study on how happiness is affected by acquisition of possessions vs. experiences. For more information, see: https://www.scribd.com/document/270084557/Gilovich-Kumar-Happiness

Live Within Your Harvest

 

Live Within Your Harvest

“Live within your harvest.”

I saw this saying on a plaque in JoAnn Fabrics, a sewing & craft store. This is an improbable place in which to be consumed by deep, philosophical thought.  However, I walked blindly all over the store thinking about nothing but that quote.

 

What does it mean?

The most obvious meaning to me is “don’t overspend”.  Although, a retail store would be unlikely to want to send that message. There must be more to it. Then I thought, “live within your harvest” must advise, “live and enjoy what you can within your financial means”. Closer, but still not right…

Then I thought, it must mean, “embrace life gleaning what you can from your situation, and do not pine for something that isn’t there.” (In case you don’t know, glean is an agricultural term meaning to gather all the last remaining crops in the fields after the harvest.)

It was only at that point that I found it plaque-worthy.

 

How do I do it?

It could apply to a lot of situations for me personally, but here are two of the most significant:

I live within my harvest in regard to some of my relationships. I have been given these relationships and people as-they-are, and I seize the joy where it is to be found and I do not long for what they cannot give. I love these people deeply, and when I think and act deliberately, I revel in the gifts they bring to my life, but I do not expect anything from them that simply isn’t there. It isn’t easy, but I am getting better at this.

I’ve been given another place to live for the time being. It isn’t a permanent move, but it is a long-term relocation. I can spend the next several years resisting my situation like I have the first several years, or I can live within my harvest and embrace what there is to embrace until my living situation changes. This one is hard. Really hard. So far, I’m not succeeding. I need to repeat the saying, adopt it as my mantra. I need to move the plaque to a frequently-visited location where I will see it often. Maybe the inside of the refrigerator.

I firmly believe in changing what I can to improve situations for me, and for the ones I love. I make plans, take action, move forward. I am a changer, a do-er, a mover and a maker.

 

What if I can’t?

There are times that we simply cannot change, do, move and make. Therefore, I also believe in the saying – “Live within your harvest”. Some may think that this suggests a defeatist, complacent approach to life. I think not… It doesn’t mean we should shrug our shoulders and say, “that’s the best I can do”. It means accepting what is, and what has to be.

Gleaning means working hard to get all the good stuff you possibly can, but the point comes when there is simply no more good stuff to gather, and we should recognize that point, and live fully within it. May you live within your harvest. Happy Thanksgiving.

Portuguese Upholstery

Say what?!?

I compare it to learning how to upholster a wing-back chair by reading instructions in Portuguese.

Everyday, I have to complete difficult tasks that I have never attempted before, and I have to do them in a language I have never studied.

ReCAPTCHA. Pixel code. Permalink. Anchor text.  Bounce. Conversion. Backlinks. Plug-ins. Funnel. And my favorites – the acronyms: CMS. DNS. GIF. VR. LET. AR. SEM (not to be confused with SEO).

Learning Cliff

My learning curve has been steep – a friend of mine would more aptly call it a “learning cliff.”  Running REC Retreats demands that I take on tasks that I have never, ever had to consider before now, and I am learning at a very rapid rate. The good news? I am safeguarding my brain and postponing age-related dementia. How?

Learning a new skill strengthens the connections between areas of our brains. Cognitive psychologist, Scott Barry Kaufman, explains that popular brain games are limited in that they improve certain aspects of short-term memory, but learning a challenging new activity strengthens entire neural networks.

Back to MY brain …

Recently, my brain has been power-lifting. My neural connections are beefing up and building muscle. They are growing strong. How? I am learning at an unprecedented rate.

  1. I was a public school teacher … how would I know anything about marketing a small business? (I had a full class of “customers” every fall, whether I advertised my services or not!) I’m taking marketing classes, talking to experts, and reading articles. I’m definitely learning.
  2. The closest thing I have ever come to designing and sending out newsletters is the annual-family-holiday-letter that would be on-time some years, late others, and yes, missing altogether occasionally. So, learning to manage email lists, to create and schedule automatic responses and to do so in a timely manner requires skills I have not (yet) mastered. But I’m learning…
  3. Websites are for visiting. Not for creating and maintaining. That’s not the case for me anymore. With a tip of the hat, a hearty hug and a sloppy kiss, I say, “thank you” to the wonderful webmaster who keeps me from jumping off this particular learning cliff. She is a fantastic teacher and I’m trying to be the best student possible and learn.

Experts say that it doesn’t matter so much what you learn as that you learn. Benefits are greater with more complex tasks, but learning something that you enjoy matters. Find classes, find tutorials online, read how-to books. (Or say now, attend one of the REC Retreats events.)

No tattoos for you!

As exercising helps keep your body young, learning helps keep your mind young. And both are less painful than getting a midlife-crisis tattoo. Not that there is anything wrong with a tattoo – my nose piercing was the result of a midlife-crisis moment! It’s just that learning hurts less.

Is that a beanbag?

Currently, my wing-back chair upholstery project is resembling a bean bag, but as I learn Portuguese, it looks more and more like a chair every day.

 

On Finding Creativity

The Collections

As I gaze around my garage studio, my eyes move over elaborate handmade birdhouses; a 1950’s pink and grey sewing machine; a six-foot painted “Peace Pole”; vintage Bingo and Scrabble games (with a mysteriously disproportionate number of Ps and Os); a collection of license plates; big bottles of bright beads and buttons; rolls of kraft paper; art quilts; a rainbow of paints and a hodgepodge of paintbrushes; chopsticks, cinnamon sticks and popsicle sticks. All will someday adorn a future project. These supplies are housed in my treasured, antique oak cabinet that many moons ago housed merchandise in an old-fashioned “dry goods store”.

Ten months ago, I would walk through the door from my kitchen to my garage and I would be met by a tangle of bikes; two lawnmowers; surplus rolls of toilet paper; empty canning jars; camping gear; recycling bins; and small hand tools sprinkled on every surface like confetti.

Transformation

My garage slowly transformed into a studio bursting with color and creative energy. As the garage transformed, so did I. Creativity bubbled to the surface as I wiped cobwebs from corners, painted trim, stained concrete floors and hung art. I love my garage studio. I love who I am in my studio.

Now I walk through the door from my kitchen to my studio and my heart lifts, my mind opens and my spirit soars. I am dazzled by colors that I would never dream of using in my living room. Thanks to my patient husband, my studio is bright with newly installed lighting and even brighter when I open the double garage studio door to look upon blooming trees and sparkling sun. Instead of two, I now have three “happy places”; the beautiful island I call home, my garden and now my studio.

Oz

The studio glitters, it is magic! A wall separates the spacious bay used for my “studio” from the smaller bay used for the “garage”. Standing in the studio, one expects to find more magic on the other side of the wall, much like in the Wizard of Oz.

The Emerald City in the Land of Oz glitters, it is magic! On the other side of the castle wall, one expects to find more magic, for it is here that The Great and Powerful Wizard can be found.

Sadly, in the story, this Great and Powerful Wizard turns out to be a disappointment. He is short, somewhat insecure and not so powerful after all. On the other side of the studio wall, one is similarly disappointed. It is here that the tangle of bikes; two lawn mowers; toilet paper; canning, camping and recycling “stuff” now reside. I fondly call it Oz. Well, maybe not so fondly, but I still call it Oz.

True Magic

My wish for others is that they find a space to transform, then find that the place has transformed them. That really is magic.

“I am an artist.”

 

What do you do?

I met an extraordinary woman at our neighborhood party last summer. During our introductory small talk, I asked, “What do you do?” She replied, “I’m an artist.” The next question was forming in my mind: “Do you [paint], [do pottery], [quilt] …” when she added, “I cut hair.” I was stalled momentarily. She filled my silence by adding, “And I garden. And I cook. And I decorate my home. And I …”

I was silent for even longer as I incorporated these new ideas into my existing thinking. My whole life I’ve longed to define myself as an artist. But I’m not an artist. I am a teacher. I am a mom.

Yet, I garden. And I cook (sort of). And I decorate my home. And I throw parties. And I write.  And I …

 

I get it now

I’ve had one year to reflect on my conversation with my new artist-friend Amy, and slowly, I’ve woven her ideas into my own thinking. Of course she is an artist. Cutting and styling hair is a very precise art, and it demands a lot of vision, imagination and skill. Combining a palette of perennials successfully requires an understanding of color and texture, (in addition to the more scientific understanding of plant growth habits). Chefs consider themselves artists – they find complementary, sometimes unexpected, combinations of flavors, and their plates function as the frames for their works of art. Home decor often evokes emotions – patterns and form combine to create a mood, just like we experience when looking at a painting.

 

I AM an artist.

Last night, my family and I attended the annual summer block party. Amy and I chattered away about so many interesting topics, and somewhere in the middle of our conversation, she said, “You would understand. You are an artist.”  This time, I didn’t miss a beat. I knew exactly what she meant.

 

Serious or practical purpose? No.

 

Again!

My eyes are stinging. My back hurts. I think I have a sunburn. Let’s do that again!!!

This weekend, I spent 10 hours cruising the waters of the Salish Sea. The bright light and salt spray assaulted my eyes, the bouncing from the boat jarred my spine, and the blistering sun toasted my face.

It. Was. So. Much. Fun.

 

All work, no play

Historically, I have not made room for much play in my life. There’s work to be done, there are chores to be completed. I love being productive. It is rewarding to start and finish a project. I particularly enjoy tackling an unpleasant or challenging project. Really. The reward is even greater when those jobs are completed. So, I can honestly say that most of the time, I enjoy my chores.

But enjoyment that comes from the completion of tasks is different from the enjoyment that comes from play.

 

What is play?

This is the definition of play according to the Oxford Dictionary:

play  verb  to engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Long ago, I dated a very good man. He was not THE man, but he was a very good man nonetheless. He was remarkably good at playing. It stressed me out. If I was so busy playing, when would my chores get done? In the spirit of compromise, I went along with all of that playing. It made me uncomfortable. But it was really fun.

 

Choose play

Gradually, with enough practice, I began to really enjoy play. Maybe, just maybe, I preferred it to chores.

This good man and I parted ways amicably after a few years. We kept in touch, and during one phone call, he asked what I was doing for fun. I hesitated and realized that I had reverted to my wicked ways, and while I was finding enjoyment in life, it came exclusively from completing projects, and none from simple play. I told him this, and after a pause, he replied with genuine sadness in his voice, “That’s too bad.”

Those words ring in my ears.

It is too bad. I lost, or at least misplaced, my ability to play.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to play. I have an unfathomably long chore list, and I didn’t hesitate with my decision. I chose to play.

Today, somewhat ironically, I am in the “business of play”.  Through REC Retreats, I provide opportunities for adults to simply … play.  In my REC Retreat role, I am able to blend my pathologically precise planning with my penchant for productivity as well as practice my own playing – perfect!

Seeking more playful ideas …

Some of the play that I love most isn’t free. In fact, it can be prohibitively pricey. For some of my favorite play activities, I need “toys”: a boat, a motorcycle, scuba gear, a snowboard (and lift tickets).  There is plenty of free fun to be had, however, and I am always looking for fresh ideas of how to play inexpensively. If you have some creative thoughts, please share them with me using the “Contact Us” link on this website. With enough suggestions, I may put together an article (“Play for a Penny”) and share it here.  Now, go out and HAVE FUN!

Box o’ Memories

 

Treasures from the Attic

Late last night, I was rummaging in the attic for something when I discovered a very dusty box that I realize now hasn’t seen the light of day since 2005. I am considering it an “unintentional time capsule”. I don’t even remember the original purpose of my foray into the attic, so distracted I was by this large shoe box.

I struggled out of the attic, balancing the box as well as balancing important details like turning off the light, avoiding a fall down the stairs, and keeping mouse poop from falling in my hair.

Inside this shoe box (actually, a large boot box), I found a jumble of cards, letters, and scraps of paper. Taking the first item off the top, I started reading. There was a very rough system of accidental organization. Over time, I would throw a special note in the box, so the years stacked up roughly in order.

 

Life has Many Chapters

The notes chronicled the chapters of my life starting in my late teens. I laughed and sobbed myself through major (and minor) life events. With the help of these pages, I remembered …

… ruffled teenage feathers. But I couldn’t remember what ruffled them to begin with.

… high school graduation and the fragmentation of a tight-knit group of friends as everyone scattered to different universities.

… the speech my mom gave at my college commencement party describing my winding road to graduation. That long road was filled with detours and frequent rest stops, but ultimately, without the aid of a map, I arrived.

… dark days as well as comfort and condolences following the death of my father.

… The Golden Pencil Award – a recognition similar to the “People’s Choice Award” from my former students and colleagues.

… predictions from friends, reassuring me that I would discover strength and resilience that I didn’t know I had. These words followed a sudden, life-altering experience, and by golly, they were right!

… former boyfriends, whether I wanted to remember them or not.

… the Natalie Merchant song that my dear friend, Kellie, used to predict the gender of my first-born.

… viewing the ultrasound suggesting twins. Twins?? Twins.

… a wonderful, love-filled goodbye party as my young family prepared to leave Colorado and relocate to Washington.

… the abrupt end of my marriage and my sudden status as a single mom.

I appreciated all these memories, the good, the bad and the ugly, but I was especially delighted with two discoveries.

 

Discovery #1

I found a playful, fictitious resume created by a former beau.  It must have been written in 1989; it included a last name I no longer use and an address that no longer exists. Below are the “publishable” resume excerpts.

Kjerstin Satter

Personal Objective: “To be happy and not have to work at all. Buy a house in Washington and watch the boats go by.”

Education: “Expected graduation date: The sooner the better.”

Experience: “World Traveler – Washington, Boston, California, Oregon” 

Other skills: “Great company. Problem solving and communication expert. Very cute.”

The “experience” category makes me smile – his list of worldly destinations is somewhat short.

 

Discovery #2

Another favorite I unearthed was a collection of “coupon books”. Like many parents, I received “coupon books” from my kids on birthdays and Mother’s Day. These charming childhood gifts are simply pieces of paper stapled together, and each slip of paper is good for a service: one free breakfast in bed; one free head scratch or back rub; one free closet-cleaning; one free batch of cookies; one free day of help in the garden … They were adorable, these coupons with misspelled words written in chunky letters.

I’m glad that I’m a saver. I had a single depository of treasure for about 20 years. Since the boot box was “buried” in the attic in 2005, I have been saving my treasures in random places like dresser drawers, closet shelves, and jacket pockets. I find them in a variety of locations: bankers boxes in the garage, the glove box in the truck, and under our bed.  I use them as bookmarks and post them on my bulletin board.

 

Today’s To-dos

I plan on doing two things today. I’m going to find a large box, and begin collecting all of these memories in one place again. And I’m going to redeem a few coupons.

 

I am … illiterate?!?

 

Illiterate in the 21st Century

“The illiterate of the 21st century will be those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”    – Albert Einstein

As a teacher, I dream of eradicating illiteracy. In my opinion, in developed countries, there is no acceptable reason for any person to be put at a gross disadvantage by not knowing how to read and write.

 

OMG!

I’m horrified to think that I am consciously choosing to be illiterate. I enter into new technology kicking and screaming. And pinching, biting and hissing. My husband, whose entire career and life-blood has been in software and computers cannot relate to me at all. I can’t relate to him, either.

It isn’t that I’m not smart enough. I’m not interested enough.

 

Say it isn’t so

I am aghast to think that Albert makes a good point. We live in a time and society that demands we change frequently, rapidly and fluidly, especially when it comes to technology. In order to avoid being put at a gross disadvantage, we must be able to learn new technology, unlearn old technology, and relearn emerging technology.

Unfortunately, Albert confuses the issue by also saying, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”   I have both of these quotes posted on my bulletin board , so I remain completely conflicted and bewildered. I believe both to be true.

 

Where do you stand?

Albert’s two positions don’t need to be mutually exclusive, but they are for me, for some reason. One can be savvy with software and still remain personable with people. Yes, both are completely achievable – simultaneously. However, I find myself so firmly established in one camp, that I just can’t seem to step into the other.  I am all about human interaction – ALL about it. The relationships forged on social media seem lacking to me. The nuances of a person’s expressions, tone of voice, and body language are all lost through social media, and most people would agree that those things are enormously important in establishing and maintaining relationships. I absolutely appreciate keeping up with old friends through posts and watching children grow through photos on Facebook. There is no way I would be able to do this without social media. Despite being abreast of the minutia of my friends’ lives, I feel lonesome. Hollow. Wanting. What is that all about?

I am still bewildered – I don’t know why I feel such a void when I sit at my computer. When I sit at a computer, doing whatever it is I am doing, I am tuned out to everything around me. I’m unaware of the minutia of my own world. I’m so focused that I miss the bird song, the changing light as the hour passes, or the feel of the air on my skin. These are all things I notice when I am not working on my computer. I love those things – and I don’t like the idea that I am missing them.

 

Missing out

One must spend time at a computer to learn, unlearn and relearn technology. (For some of us, it takes much more time than for others …) When I spend time becoming “literate” with technology, perhaps I am making too big of a sacrifice by forfeiting the other experiences – I’m missing out.  Hmmmm – but wait … just as being literate with reading and writing can expand one’s world, so can technology. When I resist learning, unlearning and relearning, I’m also missing out. I don’t know how to reconcile these two ideas. Where is Albert when I need him? He has some explaining to do.

For the time being, I will have to live with my discordant thoughts, stumbling along until I find the balance that must be out there somewhere. For now, I’m signing off so I can notice the sparkle of light on the water, the buzz of a household waking up, and the warm aroma of a new pot of coffee.

 

* Full disclosure: Einstein is frequently credited with the second quote in this article, but there are those who claim he did not say this.

Pish. Who needs an Olympic Medal?

Whistler, British Columbia

I recently had the very good fortune to tag along to a conference that my husband was attending in Whistler, British Columbia. He sat through seminars. I sat at the pool. He listened to speakers. I listened to the lounge singer. He sipped stale coffee. I sipped White Cranberry Cosmopolitans.

 

Olympians, Actors and Astronauts

I would meet Jim briefly between seminars and he would tell me about the keynote speakers. Without fail, the speakers would be phenomenally accomplished. (That morning the speaker was an Olympic medalist.) Jim attends many conferences internationally, and has listened to many men and women speak about their incredible careers and stunning life experiences. To say these people have accomplished “phenomenal” things is almost an insulting understatement.  He has had the privilege of hearing Olympians, actors and even astronauts give motivational speeches.

These speakers are contracted to inspire and challenge others to greatness. They serve as role models and they share their secrets so others can experience similar sensational success. This is the purpose of motivational speakers.

 

In Defense of Mediocrity

I was talking to Jim during one of his breaks between seminars (I was on a break between a manicure and a nap.) He sat, somewhat slump-shouldered, and admitted to feeling rather under-accomplished in the presence of such magnificence. He declared that he was going to give a Ted Talk “In Defense of Mediocrity.” He thought that surely, there was merit in sitting on the couch. In defense of my husband, he works very hard, running a family in Washington and a software company in Canada. He is no couch slouch. However, in comparison to the Olympian, the actor and the astronaut, he lacks “bling”.

His words rang in my ears, “in defense of mediocrity.” I couldn’t stop thinking about them. In fact, I thought about them during my entire massage later that afternoon. Here’s what I think:  Jim is a dedicated father, an unflagging provider, an innovative executive, and a generous companion. Being a dad generally lacks “bling” – in fact, one gets grubby, bruised and sometimes has egg on his face.   The best provider experiences ups and downs and turns in the market. The most innovative executive has challenges meeting the needs of demanding clients, and a man’s companion is not always as generous as he.

 

Balance

Lacking loads of “bling”, however, does not make Jim mediocre. He is exceptional at balance. An Olympic athlete does not earn a medal by splitting his time between watching the kids and training at an elite level. An astronaut can’t always be a generous companion, putting his partner’s needs ahead of his trips to space.

People with phenomenal accomplishments are often single-minded and of single-purpose. Their entire lives are dedicated to reaching that pinnacle. They have to be.

Jim rarely misses his son’s hockey games. He has grown his software company from employing two people to providing 25 people with secure, gainful employment. He has forfeited his comfort and security, enabling me to pursue a dream.  I’m not seeing any mediocrity in that picture.

I think he’d better get busy with that Ted Talk. There are lots of conference attendees needing perspective: they need to hear how sensational they are. He’d better think of a new title, though.