‘There Must Be A Pony In Here Somewhere!’

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If you’re old enough to remember simpler times, you’ll recall this title as the punch-line to one of President Reagan’s favorite jokes. The gag revealed not only Reagan’s engaging sense of humor, but also a lot about his political philosophy and his outlook on life.

The essence of the story goes something like this. It’s Christmas morning and two young brothers hurriedly amble towards the Christmas tree to discover their gifts. On one side lay piles of wonderful toys for one of the boys. He looked at it and sorrowfully said, “They’ll all be broken in a day or two.” The other boy’s gift, on the other side of the tree, was nothing but a pile of manure. He quickly grabbed a shovel and began to dig, joyfully telling his dour sibling, “There’s must be a pony in here somewhere!”

It’s the age-old tale of the wonders of optimism contrasted with the annoyance of Continue Reading “‘There Must Be A Pony In Here Somewhere!’”

The Great American Maxim: Stand Alone And Win

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The Conqueror“The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. Let the game do its work… If a champion defeats the meaning for which the game was designed, then he must lose.”

So says Mr. Bartholomew in 1975’s classic film Rollerball. It’s an American tale. An epic retelling of the classic mantra that fills the heart of every red-blooded citizen from the very founding of our country.

Don’t believe me? Just look at some of the most popular books, films, or any other place where a character must confront personal and public obstacles in heroic fashion. The most compelling of those stories are built around a single individual.

No, it doesn’t take a village to succeed, it takes self-discipline, self-reliance, and, ultimately, Continue Reading “The Great American Maxim: Stand Alone And Win”

Let’s Start Laughing Again!

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Everybody loves to laugh. So why don’t we anymore?

This isn’t funny. It’s true.

If you want to know the reason why, go to almost any social media platform. For that matter, read any headline. Whether from the right or from the left, you’re vilified once you stray too close to the shoulder of an ever-narrowing path.

Time was you could walk smoothly in a sea of honest humor. You’d laugh. You’d cringe. You’d get that awkward feeling. But it was all good. You accepted this variety of hits and misses because you liked to laugh. And there were enough hits to keep you laughing which made the trade-off worthwhile.

It seems today people would rather get angry than laugh. They’d prefer to take the easy Continue Reading “Let’s Start Laughing Again!”

How Has Your Workday Changed?

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It’s been a year. For twelve months we’ve been (or at least many of us have been) working from home. Even those fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on your perspective) to have returned to the office have discovered there’s no going back to what once was.

If you can take a moment (do you even have a moment anymore) to sit back and consider the evolution of work, it may strike you we’ve come full circle.

Skipping caveman times, let’s accelerate right up to what is known as the “Agricultural Economy.” You remember learning about that in school, don’t you? It existed pretty much Continue Reading “How Has Your Workday Changed?”

Forget About The Known Unknowns, It’s The Unknown Unknowns That Get You Every Time

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There’s an old adage that stipulates “generals are always fighting the last war.” This says more about the stultifying effects of age and experience than it does about military acumen.

As we live our lives, we accumulate knowledge. We use this knowledge to provide convenient short-cuts when we make decisions. That’s a good thing.

But those short-cuts assume a certain kind of status quo that cannot exist. That’s a bad thing.

Since we’re on the subject of old adages, there’s one from ancient Greece which warns “you can never step foot in the same river twice.”

At first that makes no sense. Why, just about any GPS will lead you to the same river time and time again. You can even dip your toe in each and every occasion.

Ah, but is it really the same river? Has not the water you touched that very first instance traveled far down the river and probably emptied itself into some larger body of water?

You see, a river is like time. It is constantly moving. The only way to make it stand still is to Continue Reading “Forget About The Known Unknowns, It’s The Unknown Unknowns That Get You Every Time”

Blackballed Again: Are You Prepared?

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Be honest. If the title had been “Are you prepared to be cancelled?” would you be reading this first sentence? Or how about “Are you prepared to be de-platformed?”? Would that have lured you in? Or does it sound too geeky?

The fact is, those modern-day synonyms merely reflect an awful tradition that dates back centuries, if not to the beginning of man’s time on Earth.

Indeed, there’s a really bad 1986 movie called The Clan of the Cave Bear. It stars Daryl Hannah, whose main character is ostracized from her Neanderthal family. As far as I can tell, they blackballed her because, unlike all the brunettes in the clan, she had blonde hair. (Of course, being caveman times and the lack of adequate shower facilities, perhaps it would be more accurate to describe her as a “dirty blonde.”)

In terms of good cinema, there’s always Looney Tunes’ 1953 cartoon “Bell Hoppy,” featuring Sylvester the Cat voicing the phrase “Blackballed again” when the Loyal Order of Alley Catz Mouse and Chowder Club declines his membership.

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of being left out. It usually happens when Continue Reading “Blackballed Again: Are You Prepared?”

Criminal Hubris: It Gets Them Every TIME

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Search for the term “criminal hubris” and chances are you won’t find anything (except, hopefully, this woeful column). We know what a criminal is. We know what hubris is. But there is no definition of “criminal hubris.”

Yet there is, and it’s staring at us right in the face. Metaphorically, it’s all around us. Cinematographically, it resides on the screens we watch. Its roots, however, lie within the body of literature – both philosophical and dramatic – we ought to be most familiar with.

Whether as a metaphor for real-life, a character in a story, or an actual crime, “criminal hubris” is easy to spot (if you’ve got a trained eye), hard to avoid (if you’re arrogant), and, best of all, wonderful to watch (because it hoists offenders with their own petard quite regularly).

Before I reveal the “7 Steps of Criminal Hubris” let’s explore the origins of “hubris” and Continue Reading “Criminal Hubris: It Gets Them Every TIME

OK, I’m Ready To Admit It…

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I’m finally confused.

What day is it?

Maybe it was the Holidays. Maybe it was non-stop football. Whatever it was, my internal chronometer, once an adept timepiece, can’t tell whether Monday, or Thursday, Tuesday or Saturday, Wednesday or Friday.

And Sundays? Isn’t every day Sunday now?

Lest you think this represents a sudden onset of temporal disorder, bear in mind that, for a few years now, my question has been “What week is it?”

You see, when you write for publication, you write for a deadline. That deadline rarely is Continue Reading “OK, I’m Ready To Admit It…”

What 2020 Revealed About Us (And Maybe You, Too)

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“The Sea Rises,” 1894, an engraving in The Writings of Charles Dickens, volume 20, A Tale of Two Cities

It began as the best of years and ended as the worst of years. Did it?

Or perhaps it was the best of years and it was the worst of years.

If that second phrase sounds familiar, you’re either an astute historical observer or you’re well versed in Victorian literature (or both).

In 1859, Charles Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities. The novel opened with the following:Continue Reading “What 2020 Revealed About Us (And Maybe You, Too)”

Would You Rather Experience Joy or Satisfaction?

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Now that you’ve exploded your stomach celebrating Thanksgiving, here’s something that will explode your mind.

Don’t be afraid. This is a good thing, for what grows back will be stronger. You’ll be stronger. There’s a reason for this. After you discombobulate your brain, things settle in a way that reveals greater understanding about you and about life in general.

Let’s start with a couple of simple definitions.

Definition #1: Joy. According to Merriam-Webster, joy is defined as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” It is akin to such words as “delight,” “gaiety,” and “bliss.”

Definition #2: Satisfaction. Merriam-Webster defines satisfaction as a “fulfillment of a need or want.” It is reflected in words like “contentment” and “gratification.”

These two definitions sound very familiar, don’t they?Continue Reading “Would You Rather Experience Joy or Satisfaction?”