On that 8 letter word

Mumbai kids picture courtesy Trey Ratcliff http://www.stuckincustoms.com

I know much has been said about it.  Books and blogs, talk show coverage and The Secret was all over it like a rash.  And you can understand why.  It’s preachy, it’s old and c’mon do we really want another fix it?  But there are no short cuts. 

I am talking about ATTITUDE.  Ok, don’t roll your eyes.  Not yet at least. 

It’s not going to make you rich overnight or cure your relationship maladies or figure out the answer to your mid life crisis.

What it does give you is an emotional, mental and spiritual workout so you can go back into life’s boxing ring.

I was at my favorite Costco off Research Blvd in North Austin, the other day.  Yes I go there a lot and spend more time buying books than the bulk groceries.   I like Costco, despite the fact they need traffic signals and a cop to monitor the rush hour on weekends.   Lee (let’s call him that) is a friendly african american middle aged man who is either at the bakery or at the fish aisle.  He always has a crowd around him.  He has a huge smile, will recognize you (may not know your name) and say something positive.  Lee is part of my Costco experience.  He and some of the other folk who seem like they are genuinely enjoying their job make my trolling that huge warehouse enjoyable and a confirmed repeat customer.  I have been a Costco member for 5 years now.

Take Jill at Southwest Airlines.  We all trudge in…some of us traveling for work, some of us for family and as we get ready for another flight, she takes the standard announcement and turns it into a limerick and adds some show tunes and suddenly we are smiling.  We look at the strangers around us and maybe exchange a few words.

Or my cabbie who tells me that he is a retired police officer who shares an anecdote about his days patrolling the New York neighborhood. 

Or my daughter’s new school bus driver who invited all the kids and their families on his bus route to a pizza dinner last December.  Don sends us an invitation, first of its kind, saying that he would pay the first $50 and over 20 families turn up crowding River Hills Pizza and causing a restaurant overflow.   Who would have thought that one small gesture would be greeted with so much heart.  The previous driver was a surly man who couldn’t manage his students and would brake frequently to get their attention. 

The beauty about attitude is it’s completely reciprocal.  Like begets love and dislike can snowball into something ugly, and unleash in extreme cases civil unrest.

At the end of the day, all these folks that I have written about struggle as hard if not harder with the boulder on their back.  However they choose not to carry it on their face or in their words. 

Signing off with some fun facts

The average woman smiles about 62 times a day!
A man?  Only 8!
Kids laugh around 400 times a day.
Grown-ups just 15

On children, change and bending without breaking

Picture courtesy http://www.fotosearch.com
I wrote this a while ago and thought this was worth reviving given the nature of this blog.
When I allow myself to relax and watch my girls, I walk away with some wonderful insights.

Take the whole concept of change. It is everywhere.  It is constant. Who moved the cheese? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. If you don’t change, you will not evolve. Right, we get it. And over the last couple of years, with the global financial meltdown, even Joe the Plumber gets it. The avalanche has started and it will leave no person unaffected.

We listen to all these mantras and continue to resist change in all ways possible. Why? Because change is a hard six letter word. True change is to re fashion, re mould, renovate. This is hard because we program ourselves to resist. Another ‘re’ word. Darn, I do not want to give up my cozy armchair of old habits and use that new wooden chair with no cushion. Like Goldilocks, it’s too hard, it’s too soft, and I want it just right.

Children, however, are faced with change constantly. Every year, they have new teachers, new classrooms, new schedules, new friends, new enemies and new challenges. My daughters who went to different schools last year went from familiar to unfamiliar with a manic schedule, new faces, a new bus route, more homework and new projects. They experience change again in January when the first semester ends and another one starts with new electives. I am in awe of their resilience and their ability to weather change.

Adapting to change is not easy, like the inverse bell curve, you will bottom out but when you climb out of it, your reality shifts. As we grow older, we tend to relegate discovery to the basement. We become hard wired and rigid. Fear replaces wonder and we lose our agility along the way.

  • Accept the change.
Voluntary or involuntary, the more you fight the change, the harder it gets. Like the Chinese finger puzzle, you sink deeper and deeper into the stronghold. Downsized, laid off, new job, new home, new city, new spouse… It is done. You look at the cards you have and figure out how to work the deck. Kids walk into a new class every year. Yes, they do complain about their teachers but they know that this is a fact of life.


  • Don’t hide your feelings
When you hit the trough of disillusionment (I just love the Gartner Hype Cycle), reach out to your family and close friends. We have no trouble with the happy face but would rather suffer alone than admit that the curve ball that life just threw at you is more than you can handle. That cold, clammy whisper that tells you that you cannot cope is very real and the sooner you talk about it, the easier it becomes. Little ones come home and rattle off their woes. “Hey mama, I hate xyz. She made fun off me in class.” Or “I don’t want to go to school anymore.” The issue is still there but sharing it is great therapy. Everybody hurts, everybody cries.


  • Don’t look back
Or like that Greek myth, you turn into stone. Which is what happens when we stay in the past, we cannot move forward. The past is always sepia colored and despite the flaws in the pictures, we knew the past so it was safe. If you have moved to a new place, embrace it whole heartedly. Don’t hanker for your old home. We cannot live in two worlds at the same time unless you know a lot about time travel and the string theory. Children rarely stay in the past or worry about the future. They might miss it but they are too busy being in the present. And they just don’t have the bandwidth to fear the future.


  • Experiment with change
My 7 year old is always “pushing our buttons.” She is ready to go anywhere with little or no notice. She runs after a butterfly, grabs the neighbor’s dog by its tail, says hello to everyone in the supermarket and lives completely in the moment. Instead of fearing change, we can practice flexibility by starting with small practices like taking a different route to work, ordering the bento box instead of the usual sandwich, or learning a new skill.  Discard homogeneity and embrace diversity.

In the words of the greatest change management guru, Darwin,
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change”