Thursday, October 24, 2013

ARRESTED: a poem

Clouds, like feathers
flung as darts
suspended on the spectrum
between pink and blue,

Ocean pulsing,
roaring with
a crash, dispersing congregants;
its fury now

Heaven as soprano sings
with alto sea
a harmony
whose song is un-

And with an artful
their Author speaks
to him who seeks
til strivings cease
producing now
abundant peace
in his reflective soul,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How To Be A Loser

I'll start by talking about a couple of winners.

Example 1: Colin wasn't taller than 5' 5", a half-Chinese, half-Filipino, Hawaii-born freshman at the University of Oregon. Pound for pound, he was the quickest, most consistent shooter on the court. Before every pick-up game, he would take about 20 or 30 shots inside the first block of the key (a foot away from under the hoop).  When I asked him why he warmed up that way, he said he wanted to see the ball go in as many times as possible.

Example 2: TK has been one of the Top 100 Realtors in his state for the last three years in a row. He tells me the more a client says "Yes," the more likely he is to make a sale. Here's a hypothetical dialogue:

TK: "So, it seems that you like the house."
Client: "Yeah, but I don't really like (random aspect of house)."
TK: "Great. So, except for _____ you really like it."
Client: "Yeah."
TK: "Great. You said your budget was _____ ."
Client: "Yes."
TK: "Great. So you probably don't want to pay (some higher number)."
Client: "Yeahhh, that's too high."
TK: "Great. So if you were to make an offer, what would it be?"

And thus begins the momentum toward the sale.

So it seems the amount of successful small shots contributes to the confidence and capacity to make bigger shots. And the number of small yeses can stack up to bigger yeses, then perhaps, one big yes.

Professor Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School calls this the "progress principle." In her study she reports that realizing and appreciating our "small wins" can increase our sense of competence. We then are able to "leverage that confidence" to achieve bigger wins.

Now, I like to win, so the prospect of winning daily really appeals to me. Flossed last night? Win. Made my bed this morning? Win. Posted a blog last week? Win. Followed through on a commitment to a friend? Worked out? Avoided McDonald's? Win, win, win. Give me a shot at something bigger, because I'm on a roll ...

But, as with all principles, the inverse also applies. If small wins boost my self-concept, small losses deflate it.

An understanding of both sides of this principle may motivate us in life's mundane moments. Sometimes life is boring, and in those times, it's difficult to maintain focus and a sense of purpose. We're convinced we have a handle on the consequences of our irresponsibilities and may think things like:

"If I don't turn this in on time, I could probably still pass the class."
"If I don't make this call today, the business won't fall apart."
"If I choose to sin, I'm still going to heaven."

Whereas all these suppositions may prove to be true, these thoughts are destructive to my inner man because they turn me into a loser. 

Just as my diligence in small things today will become food for future success, so my current lack of discipline will feed my failures tomorrow.

But if I realize small wins make big winners, I realize that everything I do counts. Wait, what? Everything I do counts? Flossing, replying to emails, arriving on time, being honest, praying, believing? Yes. Everything I do will contribute to the next big win or devastating failure. The little things matter.

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much." - Luke 16:10

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stood Up (An Interactive Blog)

Stood up. I am sitting alone in Glazer’s on South King St., where the …


      1.     coffee is                   a. hot
2.     the clientele is         b. flowing
3.     and creativity is       c. fresh

Flighty. This is the word I now use to describe the muses who, in the past, have hooked my Bohemian heart. Nelly Furtado captures their essence: “I’m like a bird / I’ll only fly away / I don’t know where my home is / I don’t know where my soul is”

Now, I’ll be the first to admit: we artsy/feely types don’t tend to have much structure in our lives. But once in a while – say, every 3 months or so, give or take a year – we’ll realize the ramifications of our unharnessed fluidity. Possible omens include:

1.     abandoned                   a. projects
2.     low                              b. friends
3.     disappointed                c. account balances
4.     empty                          d. sense of self
5.     lost                              e. refrigerators
6.     deleted                        f. clients

So, last week, after freshly experiencing the pain of (select one item from the above list) my gypsy friend declared to me her desire for structure. This came after I confessed how terribly inconsistent I am in writing and editing blogs. The solution to both our problems: We’ll do it together! Wednesday morning! At Glazer’s on South King! I love that place! Me too!

I should clarify at this point that this was not supposed to be a date. She is hardly the Lenny to my Manti. She is, in fact the …

a.     girlfriend
b.     ex-girlfriend
c.     crush
d.     inspiration
e.     all of the above
f.      none of the above

of my …

a.     best friend
b.     room mate
c.     worst enemy
d.     future self
e.     a. and b. only
f.      c. and d. only

It was an attempt by two artists to improve our art by fostering the very unartistic characteristics of consistency, reliability, and accountability.

But she canceled. Little did she know that today was the day I would be bragging on her, about how she is the gifted photographer responsible for every image on my latest album Overhead and that I would be referring people to her site:
Alas, who will tell me whether I’ve mistakenly used one adverb too many? Or suggest that readers won’t know off-hand who Lenny and Manti are? Or question whether “alas” is too archaic a word to appear in any form of digital media at all?

In asking myself these questions, the answer becomes clear: I will. I have to. At the end of the day, no one is responsible for my artistic output but me. I may blame weather or laundry or my dad, but in reality,

if I am willing to accept applause for my efforts, I must equally accept responsibility for my lack of output. 

It seems my blog against the inconsistencies in others has proven to be a tirade against myself. I am the inconsistent flight risk, undisciplined even in activities I enjoy. Paul captures my essence: "Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." 

And so, Ms. Heaston, my ghost-partner-in-crime and mirror image of myself, I forgive you. And I am calling us out. Let's give this world our best. Let's end the apathy, you and me and every other writer of a thousand unfinished poems -- mothers and fathers of aborted drafts. Our abandoned art awaits us, alone in a coffee shop, crying out for the appropriate adverb.