As soon as I set foot in New York I am captivated. From the first second, I’m enthralled by new impressions: hundreds of yellow cabs slaloming nimbly between potholes; hot dog vendors on every street corner; a permanent ballet of delivery trucks that will deliver what you want, when you want it; the incessant back-ground noise of the sirens of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars; a noisy and smelly subway; skyscrapers that will give your neck a kink; and billboards staring down on it all. New York is very alive. New York fascinates me.
I love it. Others hate it. Some of them are close friends. How can this be?
Understanding their opinion intrigues me. How can we have tastes that are so different? I try to understand, and – no matter what – I am ready to agree that we will not agree.
And you? – are you able to agree with somebody with whom you don’t agree that you’ll agree to disagree, so that you can move on to other things ?
While waiting for a train, I observe a lovely family on the platform with three small children playing rambunctiously. As might be expected, soon enough the littlest one falls over one of their suitcases and hurts himself.
His mother rubs his arm soothingly, but he holds up his elbow and demands: « Kiss it and make it better mommy, kiss it ! » She smacks two noisy kisses on the elbow and – miraculously healed – he runs off to play again.
So far so normal. Then I spot the learning in the situation: when you want something, be sure to ask for it ! Far too many of us hope that our colleagues, neighbors or spouses have extraordinary telepathic powers. Instead, she could simply say « would you mind kissing me more often? ». Or, « could you please put your dirty things in the laundry basket and not on the couch? » instead of slow cooking in resentment while doing it herself. He could be clear and say « would you mind giving me 15 minutes of calm when I get home » instead of offering monosyllabic irritation in response to reasonable (but premature) questions about his day.
Let’s allow ourselves to be inspired by kids. Is there something you need to ask for, so you enhance the likelihood that you actually get it ?
If I was looking for a word to describe my younger self, ‘athletic’ is probably the very last adjective that I would feel comfortable employing. At school, I was mediocre at sports. At tennis I was just o.k. At downhill skiing I was more scared than skillful.
It isn’t false modesty; I am quite sincerely not talented for any particular sport. I don’t run very fast, I don’t dance very well, etc.
BUT, I love what Ernest Hemingway had to say about this:
« There is nothing noble in being superior to your peers. True nobility is to be superior to the person you’ve been before. »
If I compare myself with others in a particular domain, I am often just mediocre. However, when I compare my current self to my earlier self it is a different story: after having jogged for years I eventually managed to finish a marathon; after having been employed by others, I went on to create my own company; after having written short articles, I wrote 3 books; after singing in the shower for years, I participated in my first show.
So what have you done better today than yesterday? – Be proud of it!
And – because none of us are particularly good at recognizing this kind of thing – make sure you help your friends to see and celebrate their successes!
I was meeting up with an old friend, whom I hadn’t seen in about 20 years. One of the first things he said after giving me a big hug was: « Gosh, you look hot! », which was great on one level, but I couldn’t stay on that level. Not only did I think that it was a gross exaggeration, but also quickly translated it in my head to: « you have aged reasonably well for someone close to fifty ».
Still, however exaggerated I found the comment, I couldn’t help standing up a little straighter, feeling a little younger, holding my head a little higher. I just felt better, even though I didn’t believe in the accuracy of the compliment.
Now here’s the thing. Even if we do not totally agree with something somebody tells us, it has an effect on us. If your spouse said to you as you left in the morning : « gosh you look tired ! » – guess what your day will look like ?!
Have you thought about just how much influence you have on the days of the people around you? We have the power to taint their days positively – or negatively.
So how will you use the power of influencing the lives of the people around you today? And for the rest of your life?
A particular movie has stuck with me for many years: in it, a 12-year-old boy is given an unusual bit of homework. His task? To figure out a way to make the world a better place, and then actually make it happen.
He takes his assignment very seriously, and comes up with the following idea: he will help 3 people selflessly. These three people should then do the same thing for 3 more people, and each of those for another three….etc.
From the beginning, he realized that he couldn’t change the world by himself, but then worked out that he could create a wave of change that would ripple outwards from his initial actions. You might have guessed already; the movie’s title is « Pay it Forward ».
I absolutely love the idea that whatever we put in motion becomes a succession of ripples around us, whether we like it or not.
For example: I come home tired from work, yell at my son because of the mess in his bedroom, who then picks a fight with his brother, who will be curt with a friend. His friend, hurt and confused, unwittingly answers back to his mother. His mother, now annoyed, nags at her husband….
We all need to be careful what we put in motion in the world. And you? What kind of waves do you want to get started?