Category Archives: Courage

My Blunt, No-Nonsense Answers

Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan is widely known in the business world as an expert in the strategic management of change.  To name only a few, his client list includes American Airlines, IBM, eBay, Federal Reserve Bank and presidential cabinet officers in two White House administrations.  Dr. Duncan recently asked me to comment on personal responsibility, ethics, values, and moralities of today.  You can read my interview at his website: DoctorDuncan.com

Married with Friends of the Opposite Sex

If you are in an intimate, marital relationship, you need to be sensitive and appropriate when it comes to friends of the opposite sex because it’s a very complex and delicate situation. 

The most important issue you should be concerned about is the safety, comfort, and trust of your spouse.  Too many times on my program, I hear from people who care more about their friend than their spouse.  To me that’s a dead giveaway that the friendship line has been crossed, whether you’ve been naked with the person of the opposite gender or not.

I want to discuss some ways you and your spouse can be protective of each other, but still have friends of the opposite sex:

What does it look like?  If you are getting together for a drink with someone who is on the verge of leaving a relationship, lost their spouse, lost their boyfriend or girlfriend, or is known to fool around, it’s inappropriate.  Plain and simple.  You’re only fibbing if you say, “Well, I’m just trying to be helpful and solicitous.”   Especially if your spouse says they don’t want you to be helpful and solicitous to somebody in that situation and you argue that point, it means you’re interested.  Just have the person go see a counselor, a member of the clergy, or family.  Your marriage is always supposed to come first.

Be careful of that little “edgy” sexual tension.  If either one of you is feeling a little horny about the other, or if you’re touching, talking, or acting a little suggestive, seductive, or over-the-line cutesy toward each other, it needs to be over.  If your relationship with a friend in any way makes you question or stress about your boundaries and limitations (which every relationship does at some point), you could be led toward temptation, which will change everything in your universe forever.

You should always make sure you introduce all your friends to your spouse.  Have them over for dinner or a barbeque.  Have them be familiar with the family, and have everything be on the up-and-up and open.  Full disclosure makes it clear to everybody that it’s a friendship – solo time is where the problems start.

You need to socialize with others who are also in committed relationships.   People tend to hang with people who share their same values, more or less.  So, if couples are friendly with each other and everybody has clarity, then everyone is sharing the same values.  Your wife can go with your friend’s husband and do archery while you go do a mini-marathon with his wife.  As long as it’s all on the up-and-up and everybody is sharing the same values, that’s the important thing.

Be careful about using the words “sweetie” and “honey.”  “Sweetie” and “honey” should be saved for your spouse and should not be used on a friend.  Use the person’s name when talking to or about them, and save the lovey-dovey stuff for your spouse.

Give your partner power.  In addition to honesty and openness, you have to be willing to give your partner power.  If your spouse is really uncomfortable about a particular outside relationship, I recommend you honor that and make the appropriate adjustments.  However, if your spouse just freaks out at anybody with the opposite genitals, then that’s an insecurity that has to be dealt with, probably by a professional.

What it all boils down to is that all the choices you make have to be in the best interest of your marriage first.  Otherwise, you’re not being nice, and it’s all going to come back to bite you.

My Opinion About the Shootings in Colorado

I know everyone’s glued to the news right now trying to figure out what piece of information they can get out of the “Batman” movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado to keep themselves safe in the future.  However, the fact is there isn’t any. 

You could say, “Well, since children were killed and injured, perhaps the parents shouldn’t have brought children to a movie theater at midnight in the summer (much less a 6-year-old) to see a PG-13 movie.”  But that’s not fair.  They’re not in the slightest way responsible for what happened.  They should have the right to take their kids to a movie if they want to (even if it has a PG-13 rating).  You could argue, “It sounds like the shooter put some tape on the lock to the emergency exit to get into the theater and somebody should have noticed it and prevented this from happening.”  But seriously, who looks for tape on door locks?  The first thing you’d think is that some kids had wanted to sneak into the movie, and if they were already inside and saw the movie, why would they try to sneak in again? 

“What about checking people before they went into the theater?”  But tear gas, guns…who imagines that?  Interestingly enough, a lot of people thought this was a fun thing the theater did for the “Batman” movie.        

And of course somebody already said to me, “Oh my god, how crazy is he?”   To people like that, I can only shake my head.  Crazy is talking to lampposts.  Crazy is seeing elephants that are pink.  Crazy has to do with hallucinations, delusions, and the like. This guy is not crazy.  He’s just evil.  He planned out everything beautifully.  He was totally prepared with guns, a bulletproof vest, and canisters of tear gas.  I mean he even picked The Dark Knight Rises at midnight.  This was drama.

I’m sure he’s going to get some defense attorney who’s going to argue that he was molested by his mother’s cousin’s uncle’s grandpa, and when he got to this age, he just felt compelled to kill people.  I mean just ridiculous crap.

But in my opinion: he enjoyed every moment. 

When you think back to things like the Bataan Death March, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the concentration camps in Germany, Russia massacring millions of people, and the wholesale murdering of innocent people in Syria, Egypt, and Africa, all of these tragedies were orchestrated by evil people – people who enjoyed it.  If you’re a German soldier throwing a baby up in the air and using it for target practice, or lining up children and mowing them down, that’s not insane, that’s just plain evil.  A lot of you want to think these people are crazy because then you can fix them with a pill or therapy.  But people like Charles Manson and all his little buddies, they weren’t crazy.  They weren’t disconnected from reality at all.  Instead, they wanted to change reality into something for them to feel more powerful, special, and connected.  That’s not crazy.

A lot of you don’t want to accept that there is evil.  One of the reasons the world has gotten so dangerous is that the level of sociopathy has increased dramatically.  Today, we’re surrounded by heroism for bad guys.  I mean when I grew up, everything I saw on TV or in the movies was the good guy wearing a white hat, the bad buy wearing a black hat, and the bad guy always got it in the end.  I didn’t grow up seeing all these gangster rap videos with females gyrating all over the place and guys calling for people’s deaths, hating women, and hurting people.  I just didn’t grow up seeing that as entertainment.  When I grew up there was right and wrong, right won, and you took care of wrong – you didn’t just stand by. 

So, when I look at this horrible tragedy, the lesson learned is not about parents taking their kids to a PG-13 movie late at night or tape on a lock.  The main thing to learn from this is that we need to keep our eyes open, and get involved if we think someone is a problem.  Bring them to the attention of the police or FBI.  I ask people all the time on my program, “This has been going on how long?  Children have been at risk how long?  Who has called Child Protective Services?  Who has called the police?, etc.”  And do you know what answer I normally get?: “I haven’t told anybody.  I didn’t want to get anybody mad.”  Stop worrying about upsetting people.  Bad people need to be “cut off at the pass.”

For all you folks who choose to stand by and don’t do anything because you don’t want to upset your family, know that you’re also perpetrators.  No, in fact, you’re worse.  You’re cowards.

To Complain or Not to Complain?

Recently, I took three of my lady friends and husband out to lunch at an amazing soup and sandwich place (by the way, my husband handled being surrounded by four women very well).

When the food arrived, the salads and sandwiches were great, but the soup was horrible.  It was watery, had no flavor, and the vegetables were not cooked.  The lady who sat us came over and asked how everything was, and I said the sandwiches were incredible and the salads were magnificent, but the soup was not very good.

Not three minutes had passed when the chef arrived at our table asking what was wrong with the soup.  Now, I felt kind of bad, but I thought, “You know what, I’m paying and this is a service, not a favor.”  So I told him we have soup there all the time and it’s always been really good, but today was a fluke.  He said, “I appreciate you’re telling me that,” and offered to make us some dessert.  As we were finishing up, the manager also came over.  He said, “Thank you very much for telling us.  This is the kind of feedback we need.  We are very busy for a reason, and we try to take care of the customers and make the very best food we can.  So thank you very much.”

I got thanked for complaining!

We have an innumerable amount of complaints and dissatisfactions during a day, but certainly not all of them are important to discuss.  Women in particular tend to have a little a-tisket-a-tasket basket in which we accumulate a million little irritations throughout the day.  We often call our friends and bond by bitching about the things in the basket.  And when our husbands walk through the door, we start in on them.

When considering whether or not to complain, the first rule is don’t complain when you’re angry.  Calm yourself down, or else you’ll look like an idiot.  And you’ll look especially stupid if you get crazy about something that just happens as a part of life.   For example, if you go insane when you go out to the parking lot and find a little ding on your car.  You know, it’s actually sort of good when you get your first little ding because then you don’t have to be neurotic about the car anymore.  You need to remind yourself that things just happen, and if you stay crazy and irate, the only person you’re hurting is yourself.  The problem with complaining is if you just want to complain, you’re going to annoy a lot of people and make yourself sick.

The bottom line when considering which complaints to voice and which to let slide is you have to think through the full implications of leaving the problem unresolved and the long-term impact of solving the problem.  You have to learn the difference between something you can change and something you can’t.  It’s all about solving the problem.

For example, let’s take something trivial that happens at home.  Your spouse finishes the roll of toilet paper and doesn’t replace it.  Instead of complaining, just get a cute little basket and put some rolls of toilet paper in it.  Then you can just say, “Sweetie, I know it’s a big pain in the neck to schlep all the way across the house, so look what I got.  This makes it very easy to put a new roll on.”  When you’re thinking about bringing something to your sweetie’s attention, think about what the resolution could be and offer it.  Maybe they’ll have an even better idea about to resolve it.  But either way, make the problem something to be resolved rather than a fight to be had.

So, the next time you’re thinking about complaining, ask yourself the following questions I found in the article titled, “The Squeaky Wheel”:

1. Would leaving the complaint unresolved affect the health or mental health of anyone concerned?

2. Could leaving the complaint unresolved erode the relationship with the other person over time?

3. Do you find yourself thinking about the issue frequently? Has it nagged at you over time?

4. Is the frustration, hurt, or disappointment you feel about the issue substantial?

5. Would resolving the complaint improve your quality of life?

6. Would resolving the complaint improve your mood in the short or long term? (then it’s worth dealing with)

7. Does leaving the complaint unresolved make you feel powerless and helpless?

Getting Rid of a Toxic Friend

According to a new survey, 84 percent of women and 75 percent of men say they’ve had a bad friend at some time in their lives.  On top of that, 83 percent of both men and women say they have held onto a friendship longer than it was healthy.

Why is it so hard to dump a bad friend?

People keep toxic friends for the same reason they stay in all kinds of relationships:  There is something in the friendship they don’t want to lose. They find something about it compelling, familiar, and/or comfortable.

Essentially, they are afraid of the consequences.  They are afraid of what will happen, or they think the friend might turn on them and things will get even uglier, or not having very high standards, they just don’t really want to let go because they think it will be OK.

My standards for a friend are very, very, very high.  He or she has to be a really decent person.  I have friends of all different religions, sexual orientations, ethnicities, personalities, and genders.  The commonality amongst them is that they are decent people.  That is where I put the bar.  If I know someone is not a decent person, then I’m not interested.

You know when friends aren’t friends.  They take, you give.  There’s no balance.  They do not accept who you are.  They betray you, they’re negative, they have no respect, and they’re ultra-critical with digs, put-downs, and sarcasm.  They diminish you so they feel better.  It’s pathetic how vicious some people can be.

But do you know what?  People who are really crappy human beings somehow still have friends!  It’s either because birds of a feather flock together, or it’s because some people are OK being friends with a crappy person as long as the crap isn’t turned on them.

So many times on my program, this has been heard:

Caller: “I’m just stunned they did this to me.”

Me: “Were they doing it to other people?”

Caller: “Well, yeah, but I’m really stunned they did it to me. I thought we were friends.”

Me: “Have they done that before?”

Caller: “Well, yes, but I thought this time….”

It doesn’t pay to play blind.  If you are friends with someone who is indecent, it is eventually going to splatter.

Some friends just bring out the worst in you.  When you’re trying to take care of your health and not eat or drink as much, they’re the ones who drag you down.  They say, “This is not necessary, let’s go have coffee and cake,” or “Let’s go have a drink.”  It makes you so aggravated you either become withdrawn or ferocious.

Other friends always disappoint you.  They don’t do what they said they were going to in the way they said they were going to do it.  And each time you just say, “Well, stuff happens.  I’ll get over it.”  But they do this because they don’t like or respect you, your spouse, your kids, and/or your family.  There may be some legitimate issues with them, but usually they are just insecure, jealous, or mean.

So, how should you break it off with a toxic friend?

My suggestion is you have an honest conversation with him or her.  Just say that these things typically happen.  Say you’ve gotten tired of him or her, you’ve lost interest in the relationship because it hasn’t changed, or that he or she has hurt you.  Suggest the two of you take a break and after some period of time, see how you both feel about it.  That leaves the door open for the person to do a little bit of soul searching.  He or she probably won’t, but at least you’re not coming down with a hammer.

If you really don’t want to interact, it’s probably best to click delete on their messages whenever possible and do not respond to protestations or attacks on you out of defensiveness.

Life is very short.  If people aren’t decent, kind, accountable, responsible, or responsive, man up and get rid of them.  Put your time, energy, and sweat into becoming a better person and having better people in your life.  If you don’t do this, your life will not be as good as it could have been.  Besides, the friendship is probably going to end someday anyway.

Here’s a list of “12 Types of Friends You Should Break Up With”

My Final Visit With My Friend Karen

I want to talk about my friend Karen, who is in the last stages of cancer.  I went to visit her this weekend and got to see how a woman who is suffering still has class.  While I was there, the family showed me a tape of Karen.  In the video, Karen was receiving an award for Employee of the Year at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and she was being interviewed about the award.  Now, you’re probably thinking, “the DMV?”  Most of you get very aggravated with the DMV – the waiting in lines, the rules, not feeling like you’re being helped, etc.  But until Karen came down with cancer, she hadn’t missed a day of work in decades.

Just before receiving the award, Karen had a stroke and the interview was conducted while she was in the hospital.  Some very big “mucky-mucks” came to see her – the head of the state DMV and the lieutenant governor – because it was such a big award.  She was sitting in a wheelchair struggling to talk, and she was asked how she felt about getting the award.  She said (and I’m paraphrasing – she said it much better), “I feel very honored.  I and all of us here work very hard to serve the public.  We do the best we can to be considerate and compassionate, and to do a complete job.  That’s our job.  It’s our responsibility; it’s our obligation to serve.  I enjoy serving the public, and I enjoy helping people.  I’ve always been that way.” 

There she was, only 49 years old with terminal cancer and now a stroke, sitting there glowing with modesty and talking about our responsibility to serve well and with the right attitude.  If even 5 percent of the people in this country actually do that, I’d be amazed.  It just shows what kind of a person she is and what kind of a person we’re losing.

I told her later, sitting by the side of her bed in her house, holding her hand, and wishing I had magic, that I was really impressed with her attitude.  She’s never been interviewed before and didn’t know in advance what she’d be asked, but she just talked from her heart and said, “You know what?  It doesn’t matter what the economy is like.  When you have a job, it’s an honor to have that job, and you should do it to the best of your ability without resentment and without attitude.  You should be grateful you have a job and understand the value of what you do to serve other people when you have that job.”

Karen’s words got me thinking: What if people had the same attitude about their families?  What if they thought, “It’s a blessing to be fortunate enough to be a member of this nice family; I’m going to honor that great fortune, and I’m going to do the best I can to serve the people in this family.” 

Unfortunately, most people only think about themselves.  This is why I loved that line from John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  It’s a great concept.  There are so many terms we can substitute for “country” in that phrase, and it still rings true.  You could replace “country” with “job,” “spouse,” or “family.”  

So for the rest of my life, anything useful and wise I come up with on my program, I dedicate to Karen, one of the most decent, sweet, lovable people ever.  Everybody in her family will tell you no one disliked her.

Think about that.

Do you know anybody who’s liked by everybody?  Karen’s the only one I know.  She is so genuinely generous.  She’s not one of those manipulative people-pleasers who uses people to get what she wants.  Karen was created to give with a good attitude, even with terminal cancer and a stroke.  There’s just something special about her.  If you’re lucky enough to have a handful of friends anywhere near like that, it is a major gift from the heavens.  Anybody who’s around a person like that is changed forever.

Pregnant and Sacked

People feel entitled to challenge everything these days.  Even if they’ve understood the rules and they’re reaping the benefits, they decide they’re above the system and the rules don’t apply to them.  They get lawyers, go public, and cause grief.  These people make me sick.  So when I recently read about the Christian school teacher who got knocked up out-of-wedlock and sued the school for firing her, I was disenchanted yet again. 

Here’s what happened:  A 29-year-old science teacher and volleyball coach was fired from a Texas Christian academy for getting pregnant out-of-wedlock.  She says she has a fiancé, and defends herself by saying, “I’m not just some teacher that went out to a bar and got pregnant and went back to school saying it’s okay.  I was in a committed relationship the whole time and probably would have been married if things had gone differently and this would be a non-situation.” 

She’s absolutely right.  If she had done things the right way – went on a date, received a ring, got married, and then had babies – this wouldn’t be happening.  By the way, a committed relationship is called marriage, not shacking-up.

She then claimed she had no idea she would lose her job over the pregnancy. 

What??

She teaches at a Christian school!  If you want to live a free and easy life don’t teach at a religious school.  She wasn’t fired because she wanted pregnancy leave.  She was fired because she broke the moral rules of a Christian school and became a bad role model for little kids.  And getting married at this point wouldn’t work , because she’s already knocked up out-of-wedlock and the kids all know.  

The school’s headmaster said she was fired for violating her contract, which includes a clause requiring teachers to be Christian role models.  “It’s not that she’s pregnant,” the headmaster said, “the issue here is being an unmarried mother.  Everything we stand for says that we want our teachers, who we consider to be in the ministry, to model what every Christian man and woman should be.”
 
I can’t believe this twit has the gall to sue.  If this had happened back in the day, she would have been ferociously embarrassed, kept her mouth shut, and gotten married 20 seconds after she took the little pee test showing she was pregnant,  because her behavior would have been considered unbecoming a lady and unbecoming a teacher in a Christian school in particular.  These days, if you don’t tolerate something, no matter what it is, you’re a bad person.  In my opinion, how dare she sue.

The Teenage Mind

Many people call me all the time saying, “It’s so great to have kids.” And I joke with them, “Just wait until they’re teenagers…” 

What is the teenage issue?  Well, there are a lot of changes happening in society and in our physiology which explains some of what happens with teenagers.  Kids today reach puberty a lot earlier than they did in previous years.  And they reach adulthood a lot later.  It’s amazing to me how many callers say, “I have a kid age 23, 24, 25, 27…etc. living at home and not doing anything.”  Plus, we never know why kids don’t think something through.  Somebody once said, “If you think of the teenage brain as a car, today’s adolescents acquire an accelerator a long time before they can steer and know how to brake.” 

  • Puberty is kicking in earlier and earlier.  A leading theory points to changes in energy balance – -as “Mother Laura” has said many times. 
  • Kids are eating more and moving less.  Weight gain seems to have something to do with kids entering puberty earlier. 
  • Children also come to take on adult roles later and later.  Think about 500 years ago.  Shakespeare knew the emotionally intense combination of teenage sexuality and risk taking could be tragic.  Look at Romeo and Juliet.  Had they not belonged to warring families, they probably would have gotten married at 13. 

So what happens when kids reach puberty earlier and adulthood later?  They have a lot more problems because they don’t have an established identity as an adult. 

Psychological and neurological systems need to develop in concert with each other.  According to a recent study from Cornell University, emotion and motivation is tied in to the hormonal changes of puberty, and the areas of the brain that respond to rewards reveal adolescents aren’t reckless because they underestimate the risks.  Teenagers don’t seem to have a neurological issue, but instead overestimate the rewards or find the rewards more rewarding than adults do.  So, they will engage in behaviors with no hesitation and no breaks because the little “zing” is just everything – e.g. the incomparable intensity of puppy love.  What teenagers want the most are social rewards.  They want to be respected and liked by their peers.  That’s the built-in mechanism. 

The second crucial system in the teenage brain has to do with controls.  That’s the system which inhibits impulses, guides you in decision making, and encourages long term planning.  This system requires learning.  And we don’t do much of that.  Think about what most teenagers do today.  They mostly hang out…party…party some more…party a little bit more and after that, play video games and text — they spend their lives doing anything but learning. 

In the past, you had to practice gathering, hunting, cooking, and caregiving all the way from childhood to early adolescence in order to become a good hunter, gatherer, or caregiver.  The part of the brain responsible for learning all this then gets wired appropriately for adult use.  But today we don’t have kids apprenticing at anything.  We have them mostly playing all the way through childhood.  We have very few kids working on a farm, working in stores, or working with their parents.  Few kids are working anywhere.  Very rarely is this seen anymore.  We have prolonged childhood forever. 

In contemporary life the two systems that have to do with control and risk taking are not worked on by experiences, because our kids aren’t having any.  Our kids are having very little experience with the kind of tasks they will have to perform as grownups.  I remember when I was in middle school, I had classes where I learned to sew, type and cook.  It didn’t matter if I was going to do that for a living or not.  Everyone had to learn these basic things.  Guys went into shop classes and learned how to make things.  We were teaching our children by experience to build things, to be patient through the process, and to apply themselves.   We don’t do those things anymore.  Just think of the things we all grew up with that taught us to be responsible, control our impulses, and postpone our gratification.  This was very important.  Now our kids are getting into all kinds of trouble, and they are not able to function as young adults.

So, what do we do?  

We have to start with our kids earlier.  It’s not just because we are “disciplining them and teaching them character.”  It’s because their brains actually need this exercise in order to function in a mature way.  They need it.  Concretely, what we need to do is to stop babying our babies.  They have to take on responsibility.  That’s why I think all 18 year olds should go in to the military.  After spending two years in the military, they’ll learn a lot about responsibility and controlling their impulses.   I really like that in the Mormon religion; young people have to go on a mission  someplace in the world to help others and perform tasks.  They learn a tremendous amount, enrich their brains, teach themselves control, postpone gratification, and learn to solve problems.  They don’t just turn to mind altering chemicals.

For a more in-depth perspective, Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at the University of California Berkley, wrote a good article in the Wall Street Journal called “What’s Wrong With the Teenage Mind?”