Tag Archives: life events

I Propose a Ban on the word “Should”

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Stop saying “should” when you really mean “must.”

My Mother was a very smart lady.  I didn’t realize it growing up. To be honest, we never realize how smart our parents are when we are young. By the time I really started to appreciate her wisdom and wit, she was gone (she died at 59 – too young).  Thirty-two years later, I still hear her voice almost every day.  Not exactly how she actually sounded – that disappeared a very long time ago. I hear her words and her clarity – especially when she needed to make a point very clear to me.

One thing that she used to say, and that I now repeat often: the word should needs to be removed from the English dictionary.

When my sons were young, I tried to never use that word with them. I wouldn’t let them use it in their everyday lexicon. I always worked with them to find a good substitute for whatever they were trying to say.

My mother hated that word because of what unspoken pressure came with it.  If you think about it, when you say, “You should (do, be, say, etc.)” the listener hears something like, “If you don’t (do, be, say, etc.) then you are a bad person, or an unfeeling person, or an ignorant person or any number of other negative attributes that could be applied to the situation. “Should” often becomes a ‘pressure word’ that’s just filled with judgement. The reality is that when you place that kind of judgement on someone, you rarely get the result you were looking for. If you get what you want, then often it’s because the other person is feeling guilty or doesn’t want that negative attached to them. Either way, the other person is not acting because they feel that something different needs to happen.  What you really want from them is an honest change in their behavior – not a change from outside pressure which won’t last.

So let’s all agree – we really should remove the word should from everything we say – we will all be better for it.  My mother said so and she was a smart lady.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

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What happens when you put meaning behind your words.

I had some very interesting requests over the more than 20 years I owned my restaurants. The strangest one came from a mother who was eating brunch with a large group of people one Sunday.  Her son, who was perhaps 6 or 7 years old, was running around the restaurant and had been generally disruptive for most of the time they were seated.

He ran up and down the aisles, pushed open the front doors without regard as to whether there were any people in the way. He hopped in between tables, disturbed other guests, and was generally ill-behaved in every way possible.  A busy restaurant is a dangerous place to be running in the aisles and jumping around – for a boy, patrons, and staff.  There is a continual stream of heavy plates with hot food on them coming out of the kitchen. My staff was having a hard time avoiding collisions with boy.  My manager asked the mother several times to please have her son sit in his chair or at the very least stay at their table for his own safety and the safety of others around him.  The woman looked at my manager, then glanced at her rampaging child with hopeless eyes, and shrugged. “What can I do?” she said.

Eventually, as the problem persisted, I finally asked my manager what was going on. He told me that they had all tried to get the boy under control.  I decided to go speak to the mother myself, the situation was getting worse not better.

I approached the woman, told her I was the owner and was concerned about the safety of her child. I then asked her to please keep him in his seat or at the least at his chair.  Her response me caught me completely by surprise.  In a very soft voice she said, “Can you please tell him? He won’t listen to me.”  I repeated her request back to her just to make sure I hadn’t misheard and she confirmed her wish that I speak to him.  While the request was shocking, I was more than happy to comply.   You see, I’ve never had a problem with saying what I mean – and making sure that people knew it.

I stepped in front of the running boy and wouldn’t let him pass so he had to stop.  I crouched down, looked him squarely in the eye, and said in a quiet, but very firm voice, “Stop running, go back to your chair, and do not move from it until your mother is ready to leave.”  I confess it may have been the same tone I used when I trained my 100 pound Akitas, but I do know for a fact my voice was quiet – and for a 7 year old boy – somewhat intimidating.  He quickly went back to his chair and did NOT move for the rest of their meal.  He would get up and down from his chair but he stayed right in his place and did not move away.  Every so often he would look to see if I was paying attention.  I would catch his eye, he would drop his gaze and not move from his seat.

You see if you always say what you mean and mean what you say, something incredible happens: people believe you – especially children and dogs.  It’s just easier that way.

Practice Makes Perfect? Not so fast.

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Practice something imperfectly, and you’ll be worse off.

We’ve been told since we were very young that if you want to be good at something, you’d better practice. What we often miss is the fact that if you practice something poorly, you will NEVER improve. In fact, I guarantee that you’ll be worse off than if you had never practiced at all.

I’m not sure that everyone understands that concept.  I do, however, always find it fascinating how many people think that repetition is all that is necessary to have a skill.

I can absolutely, without any doubt whatsoever, tell you that if your goal is to learn a skill and to be able to do it really well if you just practice it a lot without paying attention to how you’re practicing (i.e., practicing carefully and correctly) you will not improve – you will simply be continuing to do it as poorly as when you started – just maybe faster.  This holds true to everything from learning a language (where not only vocabulary and grammar are important but also a proper accent) to your workout at the gym, to learning how to poach an egg.  It pertains to every skill you want to learn.

Think about learning how to ride a bike.  Most of us learned at a young age after spending some time on a tricycle and then a two-wheeler with training wheels attached.  Yes, it’s practice – a whole lot of practice.  But, what you don’t think about is that you are also learning how to balance properly on two wheels that are turning, how to pedal at the same time you are in motion in order to keep those wheels turning which will allow you to stay upright or that you are learning how to pay attention to the surface you are riding on in order to avoid obstacles and holes.  It’s necessary to learn ALL of these separate skills well in order to accomplish your original goal of learning to ride a bike properly.

Practice only makes perfect what you practice perfectly.

A Friendship Can’t Rely on Mind Reading

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Can your friends levitate at will? Why should they read your mind?

I’m always surprised when someone is upset because a friend didn’t “just know” what they wanted or what they would do in a given circumstance. “Why didn’t he/she just know how to…” – and you can fill in the blank. The situation may range from truly trivial things to serious situations. And their big surprise is that a friend – without knowing anything – missed a big opportunity to prove the depth of their friendship.

I’ve never understood why people think that others can read their minds. Why not just levitate off the ground or use the heat beam from their eyes? Okay, so that’s over the top – but really – ? It’s like a competition. They’re not satisfied with normal relationships and normal ways of communication – “friends” have to be god-like. And that’s just plain silly.

If you want help with something or want another person to do something for you, with you, at you etc. then you’d better speak up and make sure your friend knows what you expect.  It just doesn’t make sense to me that friends can’t be clear in their needs from the other person but feel perfectly entitled to be upset when the other person doesn’t already know what is needed from them.  Really, I just don’t get it.

Personally, I’d be totally creeped out if my friends could read my mind – I mean, seriously. Isn’t that some kind of stalking? Just sayin.

Do not count on mind reading to get you what you want from a friendship – period.  The Great Carnac only worked on late night TV for Johnny Carson.  Well, actually sometimes not so great for him either!

S__t or Get off the Pot!

Photo by Mallory Johndrow

Why complain if you’re not going to do anything about it?

My father was a really smart guy.  He was actually a rocket scientist when that was a new thing in the 60’s and 70’s.  But, he had very little tolerance for someone who complained continually about the same thing but never did anything about it.  He would always say “they need to s—t or get off the pot”.  I imagine that was a popular thing when he was growing up and there was only one bathroom in the house!

As I get older I find that I often use him as a reference.  It’s always strange for me to hear his “voice” come out of my mouth – but like I said he was a really smart guy and I always feel really smart when I do.  His frustration over people who refuse to change but love to complain is a frustration I hold as well.

I’ve never understood why someone will complain about something that is happening either to them or around them and then just prefers to continue to complain regularly about that same thing but won’t do anything about it.  If the thing is that annoying to them why don’t they just remove themselves from either the thing or the situation that is causing the thing to happen?  Perhaps they just like to hear the sound of their voice and think that if they either complain loudly enough or often enough it will stop.   I’ve got a secret – the thing will continue to happen until the situation changes.

Here’s the deal (and here’s when I hear my Dad’s voice) no one wants to hear about it over and over again.  If they don’t want to change the situation, then they need to change their behavior (at least around me) and just – shut up!

You Might Have to Give Up on a Friend

Sometimes, You Have to Let Go and Move On

This took me a long time to figure out but I’m going to share it so it won’t take anyone else forever to realize this truth.  You cannot, and I mean cannot in every sense of the word, make a friend care about anything.  You can’t make them care about you or what’s happening in your life and for sure you can’t make them care about themselves and what’s happening in their lives if they don’t want to.

If you’ve ever had an addict, drugs or alcohol or anything else, in your family or if they’re a friend you’ve come up against this.  It is one of the hardest things to deal with.  It is human nature to want to help, to “fix” whatever is wrong – at least it’s mine.

It happened with a friend of mine a long time ago and until that person decided to deal with their own issue it didn’t get resolved.  I was lucky; they did decide to change before their behavior killed them.  The old saying that someone has to hit bottom before they can find their way up is very true.

But, I’ve also been faced with a friend who was participating in some really bad behavior who was convinced they were just fine and didn’t want or need help to quit.  It didn’t matter how many wonderful talks we would have on the subject where they would agree that perhaps they weren’t really being that wise in their choices and I would be hopeful that they would change.

I finally had to give up on them and remove them from my life.  I gave up not because I didn’t care about them anymore but because they didn’t care about themselves.  I had to recognize it and accept it.  Cutting them out of my life wasn’t easy, it sure didn’t mean I still didn’t love them but it did make my life easier.  You can only hit your head against a brick wall so many times before you realize that if you stop you’ll feel better.

Online Dating? Skype Before a Visit!

Dating sucks but online dating can REALLY suck. I thought, though, for a hot minute that it was a good idea for me, so I signed up for a couple of sites. I was cruising along checking it all out, finding out that I really didn’t want to go meet someone for coffee just for practice. The acceptable gene pool was REALLY, REALLY tiny!

Anyway, I started messaging with someone who lived on the east coast (I’m on the west coast) and we spent a lot of time on the phone, as well. He had me convinced that the distance was not an issue as he traveled for work and I travel to NYC, as well, so we could meet fairly often if it all worked out. He sounded pretty great on paper, his pictures looked OK and his family looked pretty stable (at least in the photos). Let’s just say that when we finally met in person, after about 6 months of communication, there was more than one reason why he couldn’t manage to send me any recent pictures of himself! My takeaway from all of this…

NEVER agree to meet ANYONE who lives far away WITHOUT SEEING HIM ON SKYPE FIRST!

The First 10 Minutes, Why They’re So Important

I’m reminded regularly of one of my basic truths. A person will tell you who they are within the first 10 minutes of meeting them. It’s funny but we all do the same thing when we meet someone for the first time – we make assumptions about their character, how nice or angry they are, if they seem genuinely happy in their life, if they’re rich or bright. Listen carefully. You know about assumptions.”

This is the thing. That’s why it’s so important that in those first 10 minutes when you first meet a person. You have to listen to what they are saying – truly listen and not assume. This means not only listening to what they are saying but also to what they aren’t saying. When we don’t listen carefully, we either miss the red flags that are waving wildly in our faces or, just maybe, the fabulous person in front of us.

How Many Full Moons Do We Have Left?

It’s funny. We all find ourselves getting cranky over something that someone else has said or done to us that we perceive as mean. I know for a fact that I’m guilty of that. I’ve always said that I may forgive but that doesn’t mean that I forget – mind of an elephant and all that.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was complaining to a really wise girlfriend about just that – a slight that I thought I had received from someone else and what I thought I would or could do about it. She looked at me kind of funny and then she asked, “How many full moons do you think you have left in this life? Is this worth the 5 minutes we are talking about it, much less spending any time actually doing anything about it?”

Her answer stopped me COLD and at that point, I decided I was going to let “it” go. I’ve been reminding myself of that ever since. I think it’s a pretty good thing to remember.

Pushing Through the ‘Fear of Failure’

Thrilled to be asked by LivingBetter50 to kick off their series on Extraordinary Women, on February 10. These interviews came at a great time for me – during the launch of my brand expansion! The interviews themselves: a truly humbling experience. Just to be included in this type of series is a validation of everything I’ve been working on over the last year.

One of their questions made me pause: “How did you push past any fears that came up when making the change from restaurateur to launching Food, Family & Friends Over 40?” There are always those little moments of ‘fear of failure’ that come when you start something new. Fear will make anyone doubt their choices, but you can’t change history – there’s no point in looking back.  The initial reaction has been fabulous and it’s helped me confirm that I AM on the right track. The whole experience has only served as fuel for the fire under me to continue this path, to share what I know and persist in making this journey through the second half of my life truly the best half.

Relationships and Love: The Only Constant in Life is Change

For this Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to bring up Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher who said that the only constant in life is change. He was SO right – thank goodness!

I have found in my life that for all of the things that seem to stay the same; family, kids, friends; it all can change, and in a blink of an eye too. In fact, if you really look around, you find the old philosopher’s perspective everywhere. It seems then that for me to keep a healthy outlook on living means that I have to be open to these changes. Right? Several of them have happened to me in the last several years: divorce, moving (three times), and a major career change. This is not to say that these changes came easily: they did not.

Most of these changes (except moving out for 3 months due to a flood) were my choice but just because I chose to do them didn’t mean they were without pain or sadness, some of which still comes and goes. It probably always will just to lessening degrees (I hope).

The point is that even though change is inevitable, it’s how we deal with the change that will define how we move through this life.  If we choose to wallow in the sadness and become stuck instead of acknowledging it, accepting it and moving through it, however slowly the moving may be, we will walk around with the proverbial rain cloud over our heads and be perpetually sad.  If this sounds like a great idea to you, have at it.  Personally, I don’t love the look. I don’t have any shoes to go with it for starters, and I hate carrying an umbrella wherever I go.

People have said to me that I have moved through these multiple transitions with grace.  I’m not that good, I just choose to do my screaming and internal struggle out of the public eye-behavior strictly reserved for close friends, but if that’s how they see me who am I to argue?  I say thank you as humbly as possible and put one foot in front of the other moving forward.  My theory is that if I continue to move forward then, the change I didn’t like will change again, and I hopefully will like the new one better.  Doesn’t that sound like a better idea?

Pitcher of Convenience and Style

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 8.41.19 PMThere’s a reason why it’s easier to serve wine at a party rather than staying in your bar and mixing individual drinks – you get to refill glasses by just carrying a bottle around the room so you can be with your guests and have fun, too!  Well, if you don’t want wine with your appetizers, I suggest you make pitchers of your favorite cocktail. You can make whole batches of straight-spirit cocktails (margaritas, Manhattans, etc.) in bulk, keep them in your refrigerator (maybe in that empty wine bottle or a glass pitcher). Re-stir them with ice in a mixing glass before serving to make sure they’re properly chilled and VOILÁ – You look like a pro! More fun, right? And the very picture of convenience and style.