Category Archives: perspective

Paradox and the Holiday Whirlwind

I think you should know that successful blog post titles are straightforward; titles like the one above are supposedly confusing to the gods of Google and we blog writers are well advised to avoid them. But as you know, some of us are slow learners and I like to play with words.

I’m thinking you probably had a pretty hectic Thanksgiving holiday. It is such a blessing to share with family, and such a delight to sleep in your own bed again. Or if you played hostess, you’re probably enjoying some peace in your house today.

On our drive to Atlanta, my teenage son played some CDs he made for the occasion. On one of them he had recorded a song, The Rhythm of Life, by Sammy Davis, Jr. It’s a catchy tune, and the lyrics remind me of how our lives hang on the rhythms of holidays, school beginnings, birthdays, and music recitals.


A life well lived certainly has a rhythm to it, and it’s full of paradoxes. Think about these:

Time for family and time for yourself.

Money to save and money to have fun with.

Playing with children and hanging out with adults.

Exercise and rest.

Thinking and not thinking. (And like Einstein, getting your best ideas in the shower.)

Being fashionable and wearing whatever’s clean.

Getting things done and leaving space in your life for getting nothing done.

Making plans and allowing serendipity.

Eating healthy foods and eating chocolate candy.

Connecting with others, connecting with yourself.

Speaking and listening.

I read this by T.S. Eliot, the incredibly cool English poet, Teach us to care, and not to care; teach us to sit still.

In the holiday madness that is both fun and exhausting, I wish for you time to enjoy it all.



Make Your Perspective the Best

A couple of days ago, Caroline sent me this clip from AOL. It’s from Indra Nooyi, the Chairman and CEO of Pepsico. She says, “My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed.”

Hmmmmm. I like this, and it sounds vaguely familiar. Kinda like reframing events, looking for the silver lining. It’s wisdom that works. Can’t you remember a time when you got sooooo angry and/or hurt, because you assumed the worst possible interpretation of an event, or what someone said? Like, “She’s awfully quiet this morning, maybe she’s going to fire me.” Or, “He’s late; obviously he doesn’t care about me, or he would be here already.”

I wonder why some of us do this. I think the reason is, once again, fear. We jump to the worst conclusion, get really upset, savor the victim moment. The scholarly literature supports the thinking that fear of loss is the greatest motivator behind human behavior. We fear losing our love, our job, our status, and react accordingly.

Incidentally, the first words uttered by Pope John Paul II, right after he was “poped” way back in 1978 or 1979, were “Be not afraid.” Maybe he realized the damage we do because we fear.

So, I got a wonderful opportunity to apply this perspective choosing a couple of weeks ago when my son scraped the side of my vehicle against a metal post or something, when he misjudged the turn into a car wash. Spending $500 (my deductible) on replacing what 5 minutes ago was perfectly fine, is not something I normally get enthusiastic about. However, I did remember my own fender-bender as a young driver, and I was delighted that my son got this fender-changing experience involving only one car, no trees, no alcohol.

Other benefits from this incident:

1) I got to deal with my beloved insurance company, USAA. I’m not sure if I really love that company, but the feeling is something like that. I’ve never dealt with any other, but you hear the worst stories about insurance companies, and this one has always, without one single exception, treated me well. I got through the filing-a-claim process with their customer service person, Dani Andrew, who acted like helping me with this was the best thing that had happened to her that day. Thank you, Dani!

2) As a result of my conversation with Dani, I got some of my other policies updated and got a new one that I had wanted. In other words, I took care of some important, but not urgent matters.

3) I get to drive a rental car for 4 to 5 days next week. Cool. It will be a newer model than my own car, and probably consume less fuel. My kids and I are excited about this.

4) I feel better about my son driving now. A teenage male behind the wheel of the car is probably about as safe as a youngster playing with a hand grenade in the back yard. This incident caught his attention and I think he is now a more aware driver.

The trick is not to go into automatic “tragedy thinking” when the unexpected appears. That starts with the decision to look for the most helpful perspective, always. It’s the work of a lifetime, but one that gets you closer to the good life.

Solve Problems through Wider Perspective

One thing I learned from reading many books by Kenneth Burke in my doctorate program is that to widen our perspective on life, we first need to realize that we do see and interpret events through our own particular paradigm. Stephen Covey says that the way we interpret situations forms our reality, so this subject is important enough to take some time to reflect upon it.

Think about the training of a surgeon. This person spends years learning how to operate on people. So it is no surprise that this “cut out the problem” paradigm spreads throughout the surgeon’s personal life. That’s the way he sees relationships, projects, challenges – looking for the part that needs surgical removal.

Similarly, someone who grows up in a fishing community sees life in terms of baits, traps, fishing spots, the “one that got away”. The fisherman may see a situation as involving the wrong kind of bait, or wrong quantity, while the surgeon sees the same problem as one needing the scapel to resolve. A teacher would see it as something that needs to be taught, or reinforced conceptually.

Going back to the WAQ post, the life of a queen is definitely different from (and better than) the life of a commoner. And while most countries have no royalty apart from the celebrity-set, a woman who knows in her heart she is “as good as” any queen, feels more powerful than the woman who perceives in her heart she isn’t good enough, that her life depends upon the whims of the fates.

Making the transition to the Queen paradigm begins in your imagination. What if you were a queen, how would you behave? Think about how this lady would dress, what would she think about, how would she spend her week-ends. Because the Queen has numerous infomers, her perspective on life is indeed wider than that of her subjects. And this wider perspective makes her wise. It’s time to promote yourself to Queen of your domain.

Don’t forget the post contest. Win $50. Contest ends April 30.