Monthly Archives: November 2015

Success vs. Failure

What’s your definition of success? If I answered that quickly, without thinking, I’d say that success was about earning a lot of money… i.e. a successful business, a successful songwriter, a successful athlete. If allowed a moment to ponder it, I’d say that success is about achieving a desired outcome… such as the party was a success, or academic success.

I saw this meme (below) and it made me laugh. It’s not meant to be funny, but it cracks me up! Maybe because I’m always finding the funny. I don’t know who wrote it, so I can’t give them credit. My guess would be that it’s creator is either in high school or is an adult who never got over their own negative experiences in high school. I read it as a passive-aggressive message directed at someone in particular. But it’s there on the internet for everyone to see (and make fun of).

The first thing about it that made me laugh was right there at the top, “Unsuccessful People.” Who is unsuccessful at being a person? What happens if you’re an unsuccessful person? Are you demoted to a lower station on the food chain?

This list makes the assumption that one can only follow one column – the left or the right. So let’s examine our choices. First, it says that successful people read every day and unsuccessful people watch tv every day. If I have to pick just one, call me unsuccessful. With the exception of a week at camp every summer as a kid, I’m certain that I have watched tv every day of my life.

Compliment or criticize. I stop total strangers in public to compliment their hair or clothes. I compliment to the point of being accused of flirting. But if successful people never criticize, then again, I’m unsuccessful, because I do (such as criticizing this meme). Next on the list is embrace change versus fear change. I just covered this extensively in another blogpost (Change).

Forgiving vs. Holding a Grudge – Johnny Carson was a successful entertainer whose ability to hold a grudge was legendary. Celebrities were frequently blackballed from his show for offending him in one way or another. These days, that wouldn’t mean much. But Carson hosted the only late night talk show and he could make or break a career. No one can argue that Steve Jobs was a success. He was also known for holding a grudge. He once said he would spend his last dime and everything that Apple had to destroy the Android.

Talk about ideas vs. talk about people – I love talking about ideas. There’s nothing more intellectually stimulating that listening to someone else’s thoughts and ideas, especially when they differ from my own. But let’s face it, if you’re out with friends, are you more likely to discuss alternative fuel sources or a mutual friend’s boob job?

As far as the next three things go… I believe there are many successful people who think they know it all, blame others for their failures and have a sense of entitlement.

Lastly, goal setting. I don’t know if it’s possible to “never set goals.” My employer makes me set yearly goals. I once wrote a list of short and long term goals. One of the long term goals was to visit Australia. That would take a lot of money as well as a lot of time off work. In the meantime, my husband and I took a trip to Hawaii. As we were exiting the plane, after an exhausting ten hour flight, the guy next to us said, “Enjoy your vacation, I’ve got another 12 hour flight before I reach Australia.” My goal changed that very second.

Setting goals is certainly important for direction, but it can also set us up for disappointment. I have a plan to accomplish certain things every day when I arrive at work. With rare exception, the day does not go as planned. Does that make me a failure?  Last year, I set a weight loss goal. Unless I lose 30 pounds in the next month, I will not reach that goal. Does that make me a failure? Does that lessen the weight that I did lose? Should I stop trying to lose the rest since I wasn’t successful in losing it in exactly one year?

Of course I don’t think I’m a failure. I’m certainly not going to let one hostile meme make me believe that I am. I’m just pointing out the absurdity. I could go on, but I’ve got to go. My dvr is full and I’ve got a lot of tv watching to do.

 

I Am A Government Experiment

It has been hard to find funny lately. I have four friends who lost parents this week. Four! As if losing a parent isn’t hard enough, Doug Flutie lost both of his parents on the same day. Terrorist attacks around the world have us all on high alert. Americans are divided over whether we should allow refugees into our country. I haven’t weighed in, and I’m not going to. I’m just glad that I don’t have to make the decision.

I have no idea what our government will do about the things going on in the world right now. I do know that whatever they do, it will be wrong according to half of us. Sometimes they get it right. Other times it seems like they’re just experimenting on us. I have been an unwitting participant in a couple of government experiments myself.

In the fifth grade, I started riding a bus to a school far from my neighborhood. We passed a dozen other schools on the way to mine, but I thought nothing of that. My previous school was walking distance from home, and now I was riding 45 minutes on a school bus, but so was everyone else.

As an adult, I read that busing (I think it should be bussing) was a failed government experiment. Wait, what?  First of all, I had no idea that was an experiment. I thought I was just getting a ride to school! Secondly, failed? I disagree. I met kids that I never would have met otherwise. Kids who became adults that I’m still friends with today. We were in diverse classrooms… I’m talking multiple races across the socioeconomic board, learning together. We weren’t learning about stereotypes. We learned that people are people.

While I can’t prove that this next thing was a government experiment, I’m convinced that it was. It was probably someone’s college thesis topic to take an average student and put them in a classroom with geniuses, to show that the average student will eventually adapt. They put me in a classroom full of smart kids, and told me I was one of them. I knew I didn’t belong there. Even my parents thought they sent the letter home to the wrong family. They took us out of the classroom setting, and taught us how to think outside the box. This class for gifted students was called CLUE… Creative Learning in a Unique Environment. The other kids in this unique classroom were so smart. They knew about things I had never heard of. They were fluent in current events and history. Most of the time I had no clue (no pun intended) what we were talking about.

 

The government is lucky that this experiment didn’t backfire. I could have brought all these geniuses down to my level. But after five years of discussions, brain games, logic problems, and various film projects, they finally convinced me that I was smart. Just ask me, I’ll tell you how smart I am. My kids are smart too and I take full credit for that.

Whatever our government decides to do, I have hope that something good will come of it. Maybe some average kid will find out that she’s not so average after all.

Change

Change… Heraclitus said it’s the only constant. Some people believe that change is always good. Some are quite resistant to it. Me? I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is, well then something needs to change.

Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of GE, stressed the importance of change. He said “willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion…”  Sounds crazy to me, but many companies have adopted his model.

In nursing school, an instructor was teaching us about a condition called DIC. She said it used to be called something else, but we change the names in medicine every few years so that people will think we’re making progress. Truer words were never spoken.

There’s a line from a movie that I often quote. In Meatballs, the 1979 summer camp film starring Bill Murray, his love interest tells him that she’s going to change the record. He pulls her toward him and jokingly says, “You can change the record, but don’t you change.” Obviously, I can’t directly quote that because no one plays records anymore, but I paraphrase it often… “You can change your clothes but don’t you change.”

The point is that we consider it a good thing when people remain the same regardless of what life throws at them. “You’ve changed” is more often uttered as an insult than a compliment. Billy Joel said, “Don’t go changing to try and please me.” Jennifer Lopez wanted us to believe that she was still Jenny from the block despite her fame and fortune.

A friend recently wrote that “change is good, it widens our circle of friends and increases our knowledge of the world.”  I respectfully disagreed that change isn’t always good. She respectfully counter disagreed saying that it’s all in the attitude. My attitude (that change isn’t always good) has been formed by the many changes I’ve experienced that were not for the better. Some changes brought people and knowledge into my life that I would prefer to have never known.

 

Once or twice, a manager has commented that I don’t like change. I wait for the “but” or “and,” but it never comes. Just a period. I mean, if they’re going to make random statements that have nothing to do with job performance, why not balance it? “She doesn’t like change, but she does like strawberries.”

The point isn’t whether one likes change, but whether one adapts to it. As an adult, I’ve lived in eight houses, had nine jobs, and two husbands. That’s a lot of change. Of those nine jobs, one was with an agency which meant my assignment could change every day. My favorite job was in the ER, which was a change every minute.

I’m not bragging about these changes. I’m embarrassed by them. They represent an unstable period in my life. But I adapted to every one of them. I’ve never returned to anything from the past just to avoid change. Once it ends, it’s over for me. Like it or not.

On a related note, I don’t believe in trying to change other people. I learned a long time ago, that my children were born with distinctly different personalities. When my second daughter was born, I tried to treat her exactly like my firstborn… same schedule, same routine, same everything. We weren’t bonding well. It took me four months, but I finally realized that she was a completely different person with a completely different personality. Once I started treating her accordingly, things got much better for both of us.

If you don’t like someone’s personality or behavior, your choice is to change your attitude toward it, or your proximity to it. Some people spend a lot of time trying to change others, rather than changing themselves. Gandhi said it best…

 

I’ve had bosses who wanted to control and change the people on their staff. This one needed to come out of her shell. That one needed to be less aggressive. Another one needed to grow some balls. People are the way they are for a reason. If they feel the need to change, that’s their prerogative but no one else’s. Like I used to tell my kids, when you’re perfect, then you can start telling other people what to do.

 

The best changes in my life have been the ones that led me to stability. Marrying my husband was the best change I ever made. I’ve been married fourteen years. I’ve lived in the same house for those fourteen years. I’ve had the same job for six years. These are all personal records for me. The lack of change is the best part. Some may think that stability equates with stagnation or mediocrity. I say it’s all in your attitude. I worked hard to get here and it’s the best place I’ve ever been.

 

My Mother and The President

My mother has been a good sport about me telling stories about her in my blog. In this one, I won’t be making fun of her, or anyone else. This time she gets credit for something good. I don’t think she’s ever heard my side of this story…

In 1973, Ronald Reagan came to Memphis for a convention. My mother heard that he was in town, found out where he was staying, called the hotel and asked to speak to him. I didn’t know who this man was. My mother explained that he was the governor of California and a former movie actor. Little did either of us know that in just a few years, he would be President of the United States.

At that time, I had no idea that my mother grew up extremely poor. Her family did not have a television. The first time she saw a movie in a theater was as a teenager while dating my father. So, she’d probably never seen any of Ronald Reagan’s movies. But, she was a fan nonetheless and wanted to extend some good old Southern hospitality to him.

I listened as my mother spoke to… well, I don’t know if she was speaking to a hotel employee or the Secret Service. I remember they asked her who she was with, as in what organization. She said, “I’m not with anyone. I just wanted to call and welcome him to Memphis.”

I can picture the scene as if it just happened. She was sitting on the side of her bed, using the phone on the bedside table. I stood near the foot of the bed listening. I remember not liking the anonymous person on the other end of the phone. He was being unkind to my mother. I had no idea that calling a famous person was not a normal thing to do (I don’t like my use of the word “normal” here, but I’m at a loss for the correct word).

When I think about that day, this is probably the moment that I realized that people are just people. No one is better than anyone else. Ronald Reagan may have been a famous actor and future president, but he was still just a man. A man that my mother wanted to welcome to her hometown.

As a nurse, I have worked with people who believed that their position made them better than those in other positions. I have never had respect for a person based on the letters that follow his name. I will, however, respect them if they treat people decently despite those letters.

Several years ago, a new pastor came to my church. My entire extended family befriended him and his family. We bonded almost instantly. He told me that the reason he felt drawn to us was that we treated him like a man rather than a preacher.

People often comment on my self confidence. I used to associate that with being cocky or arrogant. It’s not that I think I’m superior, it’s that I don’t think I’m inferior. I owe that to my mother and her bold attempt to contact Ronald Reagan.

My mother never did get to speak to Governor (future President) Reagan, but her attempt became a profound moment in my development.

He’s saying “You go girl!”