Month: April 2015

Wisdom lies somewhere in here


Whenever you seek to improve something like your communication skills, you tend to hit a plateau. It’s part of the learning curve, perhaps at the junction between conscious incompetence and conscious competence. In any case, despite putting effort into it, your advance seems to have stopped.

A lot of people quit at this point, especially if they’ve heard the self-help slogan, “Insanity is doing the same thing while expecting different results.” Another version: “If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same outcome.”

That’s a useful insight, of course. No one wants to keep beating his head against a wall.


A paradox is when something is true, and its opposite is also true. Here’s the opposite truth: By this reasoning a hen looks stupid for about 21 days. It looks as if nothing is happening. But then something remarkable happens. A stone mason may hammer on his wedge a hundred times, apparently without effect. But then on the 100th or 110th or 120th blow, the stone face may suddenly shear off.

Just because you can’t see anything happening doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Consider the egg.

So how do you know when to quit (because it’s truly useless) and when to persist?

I don’t know.

I just know that most of us tend to give up too soon.

I think ultimately you develop wisdom that comes from experience, an intuition that allows you to sense changes where others see nothing. That takes a certain vulnerability, the willingness to be wrong, the willingness to make mistakes. You learn more from your “mistakes” than you do from your successes, but always be learning.

And learn to live with paradoxes.

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Conflict is inevitable; effective communication is not

Fear vs. trust

This weekend I will be presenting an education session for the District 63 Toastmasters Spring Conference in Chattanooga. We’ll be talking about Healthy Conflict, aimed at managing such within a Toastmasters club, but the principles apply to any organization.

Here’s the gist: conflict is inevitable. If you are alive, you will experience conflict. Many of us spend a lot of time trying to avoid conflict, and while we certainly don’t need to seek it or cause it on purpose, we should face the reality that it will happen, and so focus on developing skills for effective, healthy conflict. Continue reading

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The 99-cent solution

Flip flops

No getting around it, aging causes some issues. As my bones have gotten creakier and I’ve gotten heavier, I’ve found a particularly painful part of the day to be showering. When I step onto that hard, flat surface, my feet hurt.

I put up with it for weeks until a few days ago when I passed a display at Walmart labeled “99 cent sandals.” They were the kind I used to get to go to the beach, the kind you don’t care if you lose them in the sand or the surf. I picked out a black pair rather than the gaudy ones–after all, no one else would ever see them, but why take chances?

Problem solved. Honestly, I don’t care for the feeling of that thing that goes between your toes, but for 5 to 10 minutes it feels a lot better than the cold, hard bottom of the shower.

There is probably some issue you face that has been nagging you for awhile. In fact, you’ve gotten used to it, and just accept it as part of life. Most of our problems aren’t that simple–but some of them are. Is there a 99-cent solution you are overlooking?

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Connect while you can

Carolyn and Amma

This has been a rough semester.

Three weeks ago today the college’s beloved choral director, Bill Brewer, died after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Yesterday my friend and fellow speech professor Carolyn Buttram died after living with cancer for nearly 20 years.

There’s no way around it. It sucks. But there are aspects around Carolyn’s passing that are sweet, as well as aspects I regret.

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