Entries in relationships (147)


The Challenges of Sharing Your “Gifts”

Regrettably, I didn’t save the blog entry that triggered musings leading to this post about sharing our gifts. (If I find it again, I’ll rectify the sin of omission.)

The entry posited that each person should share his particular talents or gifts, as our individual strengths would then complement each other and improve the world.

I agree.


How do you define your gifts?

After all, everyone struggles to see himself clearly. Personally, I feel a little egotistical calling something that I can do a “gift.” I may have worked pretty hard at it—which makes it a skill, not a talent. Or perhaps I believe I perform a certain activity with proficiency, but not extraordinarily well enough to feel I have something important to share.

And maybe no one else would consider what I consider a gift my particular strong point. Maybe I don’t even particularly excel at something—and yet I completely miss that fact.

Or perhaps I kick tail at a particular activity—something others would value highly—but it bores me?

A bookkeeper once told me that she didn’t want to volunteer doing what she labored at all day in the office. Instead, she wanted to build houses or feed the hungry. Yet I knew from personal experience with the nonprofit in question that having help with bookkeeping and clerical tasks would have helped its operations immensely. And she didn’t know a thing about carpentry.

Wouldn’t this person better serve the nonprofit by using her actual gifts—even if doing so feels like more of the same?

Further, we all have many gifts. Perhaps I don’t particularly value one of my talents—if I could define any of them in the first place—yet someone else considers it highly useful. If someone else values a particular skill of mine highly, does her estimation weigh more than my own?

How do you define and share your gifts?

P.S.—As with a previous post, I wrote this topic in tandem with Will Pora, who planned to post on the same topic one day later. Check out his blog, why don’cha.


Human Nature and Intolerance

Try as I might, I can’t eradicate my fear that intolerance has permanent roots in human nature.

I want to believe otherwise. I want to believe that we can love more easily than we can hate. I want to believe that the violent and frightening clashes seen across the globe today over race, religion, class, culture, and often all combined result simply from some awful trend that we can reverse if we put our shoulders into it.

When did we tip from peace and tolerance into extremism and fear and loathing? Never. A historical review didn’t turn up such a utopia. Not fifty years ago. Not last century. Not at the beginning of recorded time. Sumerians and ancient Egyptians wrote of dynasties, slavery, and warfare.

Researching, I found calls for tolerance throughout history—and few signs that they worked. Instead, I found a melancholy-inducing survey from Time Magazine highlighting intolerance in the United States. I found a historical review noting that people frequently couch intolerance in the language of “protecting values” and “preserving culture.” (Sound familiar?)

I found a psychological analysis of adolescents that addresses how open-minded children turn into hateful young adults. The need for acceptance during a stage of increasingly intense insecurity causes intolerance for differences. I’d venture that insecurity begets fear that begets anger and hate in adults just as often.

And I found a thought-provoking article showing that I, too, foster intolerance. I can’t tolerate hate. I can’t tolerate small-mindedness. I can’t tolerate willful ignorance. These traits make me angry.

I can’t tolerate what we often mean by “intolerance.”

And in this vein, if no other, I’ll stay intolerant.

What I wish for the world, for all of us in it today and for the generations to come? I wish for a world grown more loving, more thoughtful, more understanding. I wish for a world in which all of us had gained perspective. A world in which my current intolerance no longer has basis.

Yet after long, deep, hard thought, I have very little hope.

All I can do: Work as a force of one to eradicate hate and intolerance and spread love and understanding. Perhaps I can convince one or two other people to join me. Can I end intolerance worldwide? No.

Yet infusing even the smallest amount of love into the world has to prove better than doing nothing. And it’s the best any of us can do.

Can we separate human nature and intolerance?


Friday Links: Reading to Get You Thinking

Assorted reading materials on my coffee table. October 11, 2014.

Let’s try something new.

I read everything I encounter: Magazines, books, packaging, direct mail. Flyers stuffed in my fence by landscapers.

Sometimes I have to consciously stop myself: “Wait. Why read the fine print about the return policies for a men’s shaving club? Quit that right now.”

Often, what I ingest and mentally masticate gets regurgitated in essay form on this site. You readers help me shape my thinking. (I love you for it, too.)

So I’ve decided to share links to the great things I’ve read over the past two weeks each Friday. I only do two Friday posts a month, so it shouldn’t overwhelm anyone—just periodically give you a resource for great reading.

Don’t worry:

I’ll spare you links to text on packaging. And the fine print on advertising. Also, I may still write whole posts about the contents of one or more of the links I post. Yet I figure good, chewy writing should get spread as far and wide as possible, even the texts that don’t prompt me to write an article in response.

And therefore, here, in list form, I’ve listed the thought-provoking things I’ve read over the last few weeks:

My biweekly list will likely get longer, as I’ll remember in future to bookmark the great reads I encounter.

What have you read recently that I should read?


What Fear Should You Face?

When preparing to record the next FrogDog Marketing Minute, I recalled to a colleague my father’s program of filming my book reports each morning throughout elementary school. As a litigator who had gotten recorded and critiqued for closing arguments during his legal training, Dad thought the exercise would help me get over my fear of public speaking.

Aside: Before my mother moved out of my childhood home, the remaining, mostly unlabeled VHS tapes stayed stowed in a drawer in the game room. In the last one I remember watching during a trip home, I wore pink pajamas as I talked through an autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt and leapt off the fireplace hearth between takes.

I suffered from crippling shyness until I forced myself to shed it in young adulthood—so I started well behind outgoing kids in the speaking regard. Thanks to Dad’s videos, my starting point had to place higher than it would have otherwise, once I put my shoulder into gaining confidence about speaking.

And, without video book reports, who knows how much longer it would have taken for me to gain a foothold in business, where I’ve had to regularly give sales presentations and speak at conferences and before groups. When you start a company, you must speak up.

No options. Sink or swim.

Today, though I’ve had colleagues and friends balk at standing in front of cameras and audiences, I walk right off the pier. Though I don’t like seeing myself on screen or hearing my voice (do I really sound like that?), I’ve gotten over myself.

Because, let’s be honest:

Obsessing about your appearance on camera or in front of an audience presumes that people pay the same amount of attention to you that they do to themselves—and that you pay to yourself.

And they don’t. As I’ve outlined before on this site, people worry so much about themselves so much of the time that they don’t have enough bandwidth to pay too much attention to someone else.

Further, with the remaining bandwidth people have to notice anything other than themselves, they notice your attitude more than what you say—whether for good or ill. Sound confident, speak with authority, and carry yourself well. Done.

Yet I wouldn’t know any of this if I hadn’t had public-speaking practice starting in elementary school, which I continued in college and graduate school and then forced on myself through my choice of career. Most people never practice what they hate—even though the more you do something, the better you get.

Without question, looking away feels easier than facing a fear—even if conquering it could transform your life. I know overcoming my fear of speaking up gave me the only way toward success in business.

And so I wonder: What else should I face that I avoid out of dislike or fear?

What skills do you need to practice? And how can you get the practice you need?


Crying Doesn't Work

Rarely can a movie or commercial or cheesy viral video choke up my gullet and brim my eyes with tears. Per the copious personality profiles I’ve taken, it seems I come across as cold and matter-of-fact to most people.

I promise I have a soft core. In fact, I have recent proof: Though we don’t need to enter the reasons right now, I’ve had recent occasion to dissolve into tears and sobs more than once in a few-day span.

And every time I broke down into a wet and snotty mess, I felt worse afterward. My head felt fuzzy, my eyes bleary, my body worn out. And these after effects lasted hours, even days.

Physically and psychologically, crying exhausted me.

I felt better when I managed to dam the impending flow and distract my mind. If I took a few deep breaths and changed course the moment I caught my thoughts roving into dangerous territory, I could soldier on.

Doesn’t this run counter to the widespread notion that bottling up our emotions and jamming them down makes things worse? Haven’t we all heard that we need to get things out of our systems? Don’t people say that sometimes we just need a “good cry?”

You readers know me: I go to the research.

From what I could uncover, it seems only one major academic study has assessed how people feel after crying. Though one report indicates that over two-thirds of mental-health practitioners actively promote crying as a therapy tool, researchers at the University of South Florida published research in the Journal of Research in Personality indicating that crying rarely helps.

In 61 percent of the study’s cases, crying neither helped nor hurt a person’s mood. Only 30 percent of study participants felt better after crying. And 9 percent of people reported feeling worse after breaking down into tears.

Count me in the 9 percent.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the people who reported feeling better after crying often had cried the hardest and they frequently had someone to comfort them while they sobbed. Further, tears seemed more beneficial if their trigger had resolved or passed into the past.

Learning lesson? We should give up the notion that weeping universally helps. Yet if we must have a meltdown, doing it with a loving shoulder nearby and while heartily leaning into the sobs will give us the biggest benefit.

Though neither will help with the resulting puffy face and eyes.

How do you feel after a cry?

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