Decide to Be Well

A couple of summers ago, I got really sick. It was over the July 4th holiday, the girls were all up in Michigan, and I was alone at home because of work. It was just as well because there was nothing anybody could have done for me anyway. I was super lethargic, did not really have an appetite, and just laid in bed all day feeling really crappy. Then on the third day, I just suddenly started feeling better. No medication. No doctor treatment. No chicken soup. Nothing. I just was not as tired, felt like getting up, and was famished. I think I went to Buffalo Wild Wings or something (for sure someplace I like that my family does not). The point is, I went from being sick to not being sick. I suppose that is how it usually works. You have a cold, then you wake up without a cold. No idea why but nobody questions it because that’s just how it works.

So, why am I surprised when mental health works the same way? About 12 years ago a psychiatrist said that in addition to my dysthymic disorder I have chronic, low-level anxiety. She prescribed medication, which I still take. It was about a year ago, though, that I discovered what real, acute anxiety is like. We had just started the depositions for the law suit that the buyers of our former house brought. Never get sued. Believe me. Whoever said, “so, sue me,” never went through the actual hell of an actual law suit. My wife went before me. She is genetically and absolutely incapable of lying. This is a good thing because the truth of our situation is our best defense in this lawsuit. She is not only incapable of lying, but she also wants to be helpful to everyone. She also knows that the truth will prevail and I believe she saw her job in the deposition as helping everyone (including the opposition lawyer) get to the truth. This is how I think about things, too. The lawyer’s job, though, is not to get to the truth. The lawyer’s job is to win and to make you lose. There is no such thing as a win/win in a law suit. So, the grilling was brutal. She did a great job under the pressure, but there were many times when she offered information that I had remembered differently, when she guessed, when she agreed with the lawyer’s “guesses”. It went on for over 12 hours. She was tired. I was tired. And I was not allowed to jump in and help. If you know me, staying silent is a huge stretch for me when I feel like I could help by jumping in. About mid-morning, I began to feel sick. My heart rate went above 100. I had trouble getting a full breath. My head was swimming. I thought I was coming down with a cold. When we finished, we stopped for a late dinner and went home. A couple of hours later and I felt fine. I woke up the next day feeling fine. Then we went for day 2 of the grueling ordeal. More grilling. She did way better the second day but I did not. Again, about mid-morning, I began to feel sick. Tight chest. Couldn’t get a full breath. Dizzy. And that feeling in the pit of my stomach like I was either going to puke or the world was ending. We went home. We got some rest. I felt fine again. For a week or so.

Then, I heard from my good friend Mark that he was not doing so well. He was drinking again and he was losing hope. His fiancé reached out to a group of us to see what we could do to support him. I talked to him probably a dozen times over the next few weeks. The last time I talked to him was the day before Thanksgiving as I was preparing to head north for the holiday. I knew Mark would be spending Thanksgiving alone. And deep down I knew there was nothing I could do to stop the inevitable. I texted him a few times on Thanksgiving and I think I may have tried to call. Friday morning, my phone rang Friday morning and Mark’s name came up on caller ID. The pit in my stomach told me it would not be Mark’s voice on the other end. I answered. It was Mark’s fiancé. He finally did it. He ended his suffering using the only option he could see. I began to feel sick. Tight chest. Couldn’t get a full breath. Dizzy. I hugged my wife, my mom, my girls. And that feeling did not go away this time. The law suit still loomed. Mark’s death. Mark’s memorial service.

And there were the financial problems. I took a 20% pay cut two years ago so I wouldn’t have to drive an hour and a half each way to a client. Plus an opportunity came up to work with a firm that I really wanted to work with. Private school (based on my previous pay), lawyers fees, a mortgage, mounting debt (from taking the pay cut). Law suit. Mark’s death. The sick feeling did not go away.

Then one day I was driving to work and my brain just spontaneously decided not to be sick. A voice in my head just said, “this sucks. Let’s not do this anymore.” And just like getting over a cold, I felt better. No more pit in my stomach. I could take a full, satisfying breath. My heart rate went down to about 70 or so. And I have no idea why.

I wish I did know why. I had jury duty a few weeks ago. And now I have that feeling again. And I can’t wait until my brain decides not to be sick.

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Write that book or get off the pot

I listened to a live-recorded episode of the James Altucher podcast this morning (yes I am obsessed but it’s temporary so don’t worry too much)… Altucher’s most recent push is for people to self-publish books. His guest was an author (in the self-help-entrepreneur-choose-yourself genre). During Q&A, at least two audience members said they felt like they “had a book inside of them.” First of all, you might want to get that checked out because it sounds painful. Seriously, though, can you please stop saying that? Metaphorically, everybody has a book inside of them. And most of them are boring crap that nobody would ever want to read. Still, the vanity press industry is thriving. Amazon has millions of self-published e-books that nobody will ever buy nor would anybody even download for free. You have heard the allegorical story that someone asked Michelangelo how he was able to create David using a block of marble that many sculptors had dismissed as useless. Michelangelo is supposed to have said that he saw David in the block of marble and all he had to do is remove all the marble from the block that wasn’t David. If you really do have a book inside you, maybe that’s how it should work. But you are not Michelangelo. You are the block of marble. It will take a skilled artist and craftsman to remove all the things that aren’t your book. So, you have three choices…

  • Hire a professional to ghost write your book
  • Learn how to write, become skilled at the craft of writing, practice your craft until you understand the subtleties of the art, and hire an editor to edit what you write
  • Stop saying you have a book in you. Because some shoddy surgeon will take you literally and try to remove all the parts of you that aren’t your book.
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Choose to be Kind

Note: all children’s names changed to protect their innocence.

My fifth grader walked in the door, set down her backpack, and declared that she had a horrible day. I stopped thawing the pork chops and walked over to hug her.

“Aw, sweetie. I am so glad you are home so you can feel better. Tell me about your day.”

“Well, it all started in English class. We finished reading Chapter 20 of Where the Red Fern Grows. So, we were all sad because that’s a sad chapter. Then we watched a short movie and it was really sad, too. Sarah was crying and Amy said, ‘Sarah, you’re such a big baby. Why are you crying?” which made Sarah cry even more.”

She picked up Basil (the real name of our Min Pin) and sat down on the floor, holding him and petting him.

“At recess, Amy kept saying Sarah was a baby for crying and Sarah kept crying. I went over and gave her a hug and told her it was ok to cry and that was a sad movie.”

I put my hand on my daughter’s head and stroked her hair, “I am so proud of you, sweetie. You are such a good friend.”

“Then, Amy went to Hannah and told her what happened and how Sarah is a baby. Hannah said that it was a sad movie and Sarah is not a baby for crying.”

I was surprised because Amy is usually so polite, “boy, it sounds like Amy was having a bad day.”

“No, she is usually like this.”

“Sounds like a real Eddie Haskell situation.”

“Anyway, Amy came up to me and said, ‘isn’t Hannah mean? Isn’t she dumb?’ and I said, ‘I think Hannah is a good friend and a nice person.'”

I am so proud of my daughter. It is so much harder to choose kindness over just joining in when someone is being picked on.

I don’t know how the story ends because those pork chops were not going to cook themselves…

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Kick Your Facebook Habit

Or at least spend less time on Facebook. But… but… but… I might miss something important. Someone may get away with some total B.S.! Here’s the thing. Your opinion doesn’t matter. Yes, I said it out loud. Nobody else cares enough about you to tell you this. First of all, your opinion is wrong. It is not based on reality. It is based on a million mental maps built in your neural pathways. Mental maps, built when you were a child, the purpose of which were to help you survive childhood. The only reason we made it out alive was because our lizard brain built reliable strategies and wired them in to make sure we avoided getting killed or humiliated or yelled at by our parents. Thriving was not even a small part of the lizard brain’s job description. I have a list of strategies that your brain concocted that got you out of Lord of the Flies alive. These are the strategies that worked to keep you from being slaughtered when you were a kid, but they are a disaster for you now. These strategies not only left scars that have demolished your self esteem, your confidence, and your ability to have a healthy intimate relationship, but they also feed your opinions and cause you to defend them with aplomb on Facebook. Just say no. Stop checking Facebook every 5 minutes. Stop responding to statuses and comments that do not support your opinion. Remember, your opinion is WRONG. And, anyway, so is the other person’s opinion who you disagree with. And nothing you say will change their mind or your mind anyway. So,

DON’T DO IT!

Ok. I know you’re going to do it anyway. So here is one of the lizard brain strategies you can at least notice when you’re using it. Remember, it is for surviving as a child, not for thriving as an adult.

Horrible Strategy No. 1: Stick to your story at all costs. Once you have identified yourself with a path, a candidate, a position on abortion/healthcare/war, a diet soda brand, a sports team (i.e. once you have expressed an opinion about anything), your brain locks in. Studies show that you will stick with our opinion even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. When Lance Armstrong was winning all of those races, there was clear and compelling evidence that he was cheating. But I had cast my emotional lot with him. I bought his lies and stuck with him until George Hincapie admitted that they cheated together. It took someone who I identified in my brain as beyond reproach to snap me out of my stupor. Is my current opinion right that Armstrong was a cheater and a liar? I don’t know. The evidence seems to be pretty clear. But, I know that my opinions are wrong, so I am not going to argue with anyone about it just because their wrong opinion is different than my wrong opinion.

In other words, nothing you hear is true.

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How to Go Pro Without Being an Expert at Anything

Despite that click bait title, I am going pro with this blog. Let me explain. At 49 years old, I am not an expert at anything. I am good at a lot of things. I am paid well for doing some of those things. I believe it’s called Jack of all Trades, Master of None.

I had coffee to catch up with a couple of long-time colleagues. One is a recently semi-retired Project Manager and the other a practicing Project Manager. We discussed how the title, Project Manager, has lost its sheen. “Oh, you’re a project manager? Cool. Me, too.” In his semi-retirement, Ash is taking on consulting gigs as long as they do not interfere with his new-found lifestyle. I asked how he is branding himself. Whether he is using his Project Management title. He answered that he is a Pharmaceutical Regulatory Consultant with Project Management Professional credentials. Ah. I like that. But what am I?

Back to going pro. Those of you who remember 90 Posts in 90 Days may know where this is going. Since I am not an expert at anything, I can’t do what Ash did. There is no “Specific-Thing” Consultant with… For now, though, there is this blog. Every day. Like 90 Posts in 90 Days, it will start out rough. Not every day will be a brilliant insight. You will not be moved by the majority of posts. But there will be some gems. Some day, I will curate the blogs and feature the best ones. For now, though, there is this blog. Ever Day. That’s what going pro looks like.

What does Going Pro mean to you?

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The Life Science Effect

Looking for The Life Science Effect? Click here:

http://thelifescienceeffect.libsyn.com

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Done beats Perfect

Done beats perfect. In fact, Done beats outstanding. Done even beats really really good. You have to be careful how you define done, though. Done means it meets requirements. A survivalist is building a shelter for tonight and rain is forecast. Done means he built a shelter with a roof and something to keep you off the wet ground. “But wouldn’t a climate controlled building with a T.V. be better?” Not if it will take longer than tonight to build.

Another example. The Independent Mindset Facebook Group and the intro video. Clearly, both could be made higher quality, more polished, more perfecter… But guess what. They’re done!

If you came here for perfect, you’re in the wrong place. If you came here for done, well we’ll have a lot of what you’re looking for.

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