Category Archives: Attitude


Being shy isn’t just an attitude.  It can be a lifestyle and even a great hindrance to getting what you want in life.

My parents and family tell me that as a young child that I was fairly forward and active.  Not at all shy and I always wanted to be in the thick of things.  So what happened?

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but surely somewhere in my pre-teens I started becoming more withdrawn and quiet.  I shunned being loud and drawing attention to myself.  I even began dressing down.  Not in a somber fashion like a goth but more in a plain fashion.  I started to fade into the background.  See my previous post.

I really didn’t care to stand out in any way.  If I did something praiseworthy I would try to play it down and minimize it as if it wasn’t anything special.

In my mid 20’s I began to notice that this wasn’t the best attitude to have in life.  People that I knew that were less talented than me but more boisterous began getting ahead in life and I was being left behind.  It turned out that self promotion wasn’t a sin.

For a long time I resisted any sort of change. To me, humility was the greatest of virtues and casually discarding that was unthinkable.

Eventually circumstances forced me to be more proactive.  My new position at work, in sales, demanded someone who was more proactive and forward and I started to come out of my shell.  Sometimes too much.  I had to learn just how much I could come out before I got obnoxious.

By my thirties I felt I had emerged sufficiently and I’ve tried maintaining myself at a comfortable level.  It is a struggle.  I have to admit that at times that I still don’t want to engage with the world.  But I also realize that life revolves around the other people in your life and that the only way that it is going to work is if I become more sociable and not less.

never hesitate

I’m 4 years old and I’ve just been put in front of a thousand pound horse and I can’t wait to get on.  Five minutes later the horse slips in a gopher hole and rolls over me, nearly crushing me to death.  Let me try again.

I’m 22 and alone in the Colorado mountains.  I’m standing in front of a raging mountain stream that I have to cross to do an environmental report.  30 seconds later I’m being washed downstream banging against rocks.  I crawl out of the water and crawl to the road where some rangers find me and take me to the local hospital for cuts and a sprained ankle.  Two days later I’m packed and ready to head back into the woods.

I’m 27 and I’m wandering round a “bad place”.  Montrose was a no-go zone for suburban kids back in the 80s.  Where pimps and junkies would just as soon cut your throat as look at you.  Why go inside the loop when you have everything you need in the ‘burbs?  But by the mid 90s I’m hearing things out in the Richmond strip.  Stories about some clubs and restaurants inside the loop.  Around Montrose and Washington avenue.  So I lock my doors, roll up the windows and drive into the city in my Gold colored Saturn and drive round.  Still plenty of tattoo parlors but no drug dealers or junkies, no roving gangs.  Some of the boarded up brick houses are being renovated.  Just then a rock comes flying from out of the dark and dents the passenger side door.  I floor it and end up lost for the next hour till I stumble onto loop 610 and find my way home. For the next few years I would slowly begin exploring the inner loop one street at a time.

I’m 44 and standing in an overgrown wind tunnel about to try indoor skydiving.  The instructor warns me to be careful and not smash my face against the side of the tunnel.  Nothing happened.  I had a good time. Not all my adventures wind up as disasters.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t just automatically walk into dangerous situations just for the hell of it.  I’m not blind to the possible dangers.  I have hesitated at times before embarking on something new or potentially dangerous.

But overall I never find that hesitation is all that worthwhile.  For the most part I find hesitation in any part of my life has done me more harm than good and being bold has for the most part paid off.

I’ve hesitated about opportunities in life, about business decisions, about personal decisions and rarely has it paid off. You totally should hesitate when you find yourself in a totally unknown situation but if you find that you hesitate because of an imagined danger or what you think might or might not happens then I would strongly urge you to put aside that fear and try.

At the very least you’ll come out with a treasure trove of interesting stories.

The grain

We will believe what we want to believe and doubt what we want to doubt and most of the time there is nothing that can be done about it.

Once a person develops an opinion or idea about a subject then it becomes nearly impossible to dislodge.  I’ve found this to be true more often than not in the sales arena.  A client will have some preconceived notion about a product or service and my job has just become that much more difficult.  A good argument for always making the best first impression.

But is there an argument to be made for being more skeptical and allowing ourselves the freedom to doubt even though it might be easier and certainly less time-consuming to blindly go with our first impression?

Why do we even go with our first impression anyways?  Usually it’s to do with experience.  Our mind goes through examples from our memories and compares it to the present situation and comes up with the closest or most relevant scenario and how that turned out.  An opinion is born.

Early on in life this will usually turn out to be wrong as we don’t have that much experience to draw on.  We add in new experiences over time and as we age that “gut instinct” gets better and better all the time but sometimes it’s still wrong.

Not just a little but totally wrong and that’s when we have to step back and realize that we needed to do some analysis on the situation before rendering judgment.

But how do we develop and engender that skeptical voice in our head without becoming paralyzed with indecision?  I think it’s mainly a matter of putting more thought into everything that we do.  We tend to run on “auto pilot” throughout a lot of our day.  We save the analysis and introspection for the “important” things in life.

Granted there are mundane and thoughtless part of our existence.  For me it’s little decisions like what to eat for lunch or what to wear and I save the analytics for what I consider the worthwhile things like thinking about projects or writing proposals or even writing this blog.

In between is the gray area where that “grain of salt” should be.  Being introduced to a new person or reviewing a phone conversation or digesting a news article.

Think about what was presented to you.  Was it fact or merely opinion dressed up as fact?  Is it a matter of cold and unblinking data or is it a matter of belief and preference?

Not everything is at it seems.  The wise man learns to question.

One last note about skepticism.  It is not cynicism.  Cynicism has a very variable definition depending on who you ask and how it is used but lately I find cynicism in society to be a negative force.  An expression and distrust and frustration of other people and their idealized motives.  I admit that I get very cynical at times about some people’s faith in government as others get cynical about things like religion.

But do we ever really sit down and think that maybe the other person is genuinely motivated and enthusiastic about their ideals and is merely trying to live up to what they believe is right?  Should we be more skeptical about our own cynicism?


Bad news can get you down.

Sometimes it seems that nothing that you do is right or that you can’t get anything to go your way.  Happens to the best of us.

The average person wouldn’t believe that successful people have bad days.  I mean you look at people who you consider to be winners and everything always seems to come easy to them.  They never seem to have a reverse or a tough time doing anything and no matter how their day is going they can always muster up an award-winning smile.

And it’s all BS.

Everybody has bad days.  The most successful of people out there have horrendous days.  When you do great things you risk great failures.  That’s just how things go.  Bigger the reward, the bigger the possible pratfall.

So what makes them all that different?  Well firstly, they hide it better.  They see no advantage in letting others see their pain or weakness and they mask it all in smiles and confidence.  For the most part they’re correct of course.  Sometimes they need to share but for the most part if they’re leading people or trying to do something great then there’s no point in showing the pain.

But their really big secret is that they stick to it.  One day, two days, a couple of weeks of bad luck won’t get them down.  They keep going.  They have faith in their abilities to come out on top when all is said and done.

Sometimes they have nothing to base this on and yet they keep on going.

In this life you will see times when even your biggest supporters, your most fundamental building blocks, and what you think are your most essential strengths will either fail you or desert you in your time of need.  You will have nothing tangible backing you.

Faith however will see you through.  You could base your faith in religion, on facts, or on self-confidence.

You could hope without proof that a deity or destiny or some sort universal consciousness is guiding your progress.  You could choose to believe in your experience, your intelligence, or your strength to see you through.  You could have a plan and choose to believe that no matter what happens that if you stick to the plan that things will work out in the end.

If it is true that faith can keep you going when nothing else will then so too can despair bring about your misfortune and dissolution.  Too many times you see those that succeed in life lose themselves because they stopped believing.

No matter what you base that faith on you need it to see you through the toughest of times.

Changing interests

My remodeling caper precipitated a rare burst of cleaning and consolidation on my part.  Amazing how much “stuff” you accumulate in a couple of decades without even trying.

I’m going through a bunch of boxes and realizing that I’ve picked up more than my fair share of statements, and addenda, and advertising, and plane ticket receipts, and pay stubs, and who knows what else.

throw away your bank statements and keep love letters” goes a line from a popular advice column.  Ain’t that the truth?  My paper shredder is getting a workout.

I get past the miscellaneous papers layer and get into some books and manuals.  College textbooks that I thought would help me in my post collegiate career, magazines I saved from 20 years ago because they had one interesting article.  Then I find my engineering notebooks.

Among other things I had been in engineering school for a year.  Aerospace Engineering to be exact.  I was going to be a rocket scientist.  This was part of my “flying” phase that I passed through during my teens.  I was all about airplanes.  I wanted to fly them, I wanted to build them, I wanted to do nothing but talk planes all day and night.

I would go to the library and pore over the latest copy of “Jane’s All the world’s aircraft” and read and re-read every section till I memorized the vital statistics of every plane I saw.  I would hang around the engineering building and talk rockets with professors all the time.  My life was aerospace engineering.

But after a year I found that I was really not cut out to be a pilot or an engineer.  My eyes weren’t up to snuff to be a fighter pilot or a test pilot.  My mathematical ability wasn’t up to the advanced calculus required for the theoretical maths necessary for the latest air designs.

So after my freshman year I quit engineering school and moved over to the geosciences and finally found my way into geography.  A big change, I know.  But it felt right and I can’t say that I regretted the decision.

I’ve never looked back or longed to go back to that career.  I’ve kept these books and airplane plans mainly due to inertia.  They’ve followed me round from place to place and survived past cullings.  Every time I do one of these ‘cleanings’, one or more items from my old life go into the trash.  Most if not all of it will end up in the garbage this time.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed my time as an engineer.  If I would have had the skill to make a go of it I would have been an engineer or a pilot right now and maybe I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I’ve broken away from several other interests over the year and I don’t regret letting go of them.  At some point you have to let go of the last vestiges of that old life to make room for the new.

Besides which, these are “things”, physical things.  They’re not that important.  That advice is correct.  Throw away those old bank statements (things) and keep the love letters (friends and family).  With luck and some care I have maybe another forty of fifty years of life left.

I have enough time to get more things, I can develop more interests, I can accumulate the detritus of life all over again.  The people though.  Those I intend to keep.


Why do sighs feel so good?

You’ve just come out of a frustrating meeting or you’re in the middle of a difficult work out session or concentrating on a complicated project and you?


No, it doesn’t make everything better and you don’t feel 100% again but somehow you feel a little more refreshed, a little more relaxed and you’re able to continue on.  Why is that?  It’s nothing more than an exaggerated breath after all.

Maybe it’s just the act of pausing to refresh yourself.  A brief nod to the body to acknowledge that it’s tired.

Maybe it’s just a break in the routine that let’s you mentally reset yourself so you can go on.

Or maybe it’s the extra intake of air that comes in to replenish the oxygen supply.

Whatever the reason it seems to be a time proven technique for allowing you to continue working.  The physical sigh works great but I think the mental sigh should not be disregarded.  At times your mind needs that mental sigh to clear away your thought process and let you go on working.

It doesn’t have to be something involved like meditation or time-consuming like reading a book or an article.  Just a brief thought about something banal, something whimsical.  Just a tiny pause to untangle the knots that we all tie ourselves up in.

It’s not just alright to do these things, sometimes it’s necessary.

Attitude is everything


“When a cat is at the rat hole, ten thousand rats dare not come out” – Master Wang



We all have challenges to deal with in this life.  But how much harder do we ourselves make life when we have the wrong attitude?  Conversely how much easier does life get when you adopt the right frame of mind?

The cute little video above illustrates this point perfectly.  From a small feline full of attitude and just sitting to a nervous dog that looks at only the perils involved in the situation to the conclusion where the dog faces his fear and decides to go ahead and risk the worst possible fate.

But you say that’s just animals.  Animals can’t think.  They can’t reason and aren’t as advanced as humans.

I say “Aren’t they lucky?”  Humans are at least ten times worse at such things.  Our psyche tends to warp and tangle up our thought process till we’re left immobile and helpless by our fears.  In some ways our supposedly advanced nature is actually a handicap at times.  We can be our own worst enemies and our harshest critics.  Add in the human imagination and some paranoia and you’ll never set foot outside ever again.

We can however choose the route that we take through life.  The above example provides three such paths.

Firstly is the path of the scared dog.  We can look at life as a series of insurmountable challenges, and every decision fraught with danger and potential risk everywhere.  We can see each step as a potential calamity and always go looking for the easiest and safest path to go through life.  You’ll make it but your trip won’t be very long and it won’t be very interesting and you’ll often find yourself stopping and yielding to others.

Secondly is the path of the cat.  If you begin with the right attitude you can see life as something that is owed to you.  Something that you own and have every right to, then you can enter into any situation and act as if you’re the master of all you see. Now, this path can only get you so far.  Bluster and bravado are great but they aren’t substance.  However you can get substance along the way to back up that bluster and get really far in life.

Lastly is the path of the brave dog. After seeing all the perils ahead and considering the risks you proceed on anyways.  You’ve carefully measured the potential down side of the situation and decide that you could live with the possible disaster.  You won’t always be successful and you won’t escape unmarred but you will get through in the end because of your determination.

“He ponders the dangers inherent in the advantages, and the advantages inherent in the danger.” – Ts’ao Ts’ao


Which is the path for you?  That I can’t tell you.  That depends on your situation just as much as it does on your mental attitude.  All I can tell you is that you can’t make a wrong choice or a right choice.  But you are free to choose.



Living a life the best way possible

It’s easy to quit and despair.  It’s easy to say “well I gave it my best shot but it didn’t work” and just give up on trying to move ahead.  It’s quite another thing to see a failure or a difficulty and to shift gears out of one venture and go into another.

This last week the world lost Sir Christopher Lee.  While most of the world knew him as a long time actor, very few people knew about his other exploits before becoming an actor or his other ventures and honors that he accumulated over a lifetime.  I could do a list of all of these things but I think there are plenty of websites and articles out there that do a fine job of this.

Looking at his life in a totality however it is worth noting that he never had an easy or obvious path to success.  This was an individual that faced setbacks and failures quite a few times over the course of his life yet he never allowed this to slow him down or stop his progress.

What’s more he was an individual that actively went out seeking new opportunities and interests on his own.  You would think that someone who had difficulties in his life might be content just to “break even” or just be a little better off but in his case he did not wait for these new ventures to present themselves.  He either went looking for these new ventures or he created them himself.

Like I said above, it’s easy to despair. Despair is easy to do.  It’s comfortable, it can be done at a moment’s notice, and requires little to no investment.  Despair can be such a hard temptation to resist sometimes.

But lifting yourself up, having the presence of mind to look around and plot your next move, getting on with your life as it stands after a setback, that’s hard.

I think that’s something that a man like Christopher Lee can teach all of us.

A time for everything

The rain’s been relentless this past week.  All I hear about on social media and on the radio is how awful the rain is and how it ruins plans.

Yes of course that aspect of the recent heavy rains is regrettable.  The rains affected some plans I had one day and the power outage stopped my office work on another day.

On top of everything when we get real Houston style storms it gets pitch black outside and with the lightning and thunder you get a feel for the fury and power that nature can wield.  Not all that fun but this is the rainy season in Houston.

But the thing is that if we look cross the country we can see what it’s like to have permanent “nice weather”.  California is going into its fourth year of drought and conditions are reaching a critical state.  I hear horror stories from my California friends about dead lawns, livestock, and water rationing and listen to their speculation as to where they may be able to move to in order to escape this disaster.

Of course along with our rainy season we get our dry season in Houston; July, August, and September.  The season when clouds will not dare show their faces unless they have a hurricane to give them backup.  These will be the endless afternoons where the sun will be relentless and refuse to set till after nine at night.

It’s curious to me that during these days that people won’t complain as much.  To me at least, this type of weather is as bad or even worse than rainy days.

For my part, I am glad for these rainy days and rainy weeks.  Every time we get one of these events I comfort myself thinking about all those water reservoirs that are north and east of Houston and I hope that they are topping off with fresh water.  I think about my California friends and their hyper abundance of “nice days” and I hope that sometime soon that they will be able to enjoy a rainy Houston day.


Extra energy

[Author’s note:  This is an edited and reprinted post from April 2007]

So I step out of the house and go to my car this morning and I see that nature has pollinated all over my shiny Dodge.

The formerly midnight blue glossy coat was now covered by a yellow dusty cover. Those harlot pine trees had done all their business all over my car. Nature is in full bloom

Birds and bees are doing unspeakable and I would think unnatural things. Couples out together, the wafting fragrances of Spring are in the air and a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of how long it had been since he had last…..pollinated.

Other species have it easy. Young Rams for example will butt heads to see who is the fittest and strongest one to mate. This has two advantages. One it assures the survival of the species, but a more socially practical benefit is that the losers have such a bad headache they forget all about pollination for the rest of the year and don’t cause trouble.

Human males of course don’t butt heads, and the only other suitable outlets for this frustration (pillaging, war, midnight street racing) are tightly regulated by law these days.

So that tends to leave a lot of pent-up energy that needs to be released. Now people with the time and the inclination will use up this energy with hobbies, working out in the gym, plotting world domination, or discovering unified field theories. Luckily my laziness has evolved beyond these simple pass times to embrace a much more worthwhile endeavor. Beating up orcs in Everquest.

So whenever the frustration is too great I’ll take out my high level character and wander to one of the beginner zones and start pounding the hell out of anything that moves.

No one but computer generated files suffer and after an hour or two of laying waste to an entire culture you get a sense of satisfaction and forget about any other needs.

Of course that still leaves my pollen covered car in the drive way, but that’s what car washes are for.