Write down your goals, or not?

I have a dear friend who writes about goals. You can find Meg’s work at Goals Happen Here and the soon-to-be-launched Goals With Heart.

I have not spoken to Meg about it, but I am guessing she is like me, having heard that you should write down your goals. This has taken on the form of a covenant between self-help gurus and their flock.

As a sometimes member of that flock, I took it as an indisputable truth. I try to read, listen, and watch critically, but I sometimes take things at face value. I am the sort of person whose default mode is to trust until proven wrong.

And I have been proven wrong, at least when it comes to an oft-cited study about writing down your goals.

Alternatively attributed to Yale and Harvard, this Goal Setting Study purportedly followed MBA graduates and found that those few who wrote down their goals were much more successful than those who did not. It has been debunked as an urban legend. No such study was undertaken.

Does this mean that writing down your goals is not a path to success? Not necessarily. I still think it does. It remains logical to me.

But I think it is a good idea to examine your beliefs from time to time, even (especially?) those that you hold onto the tightest. If your beliefs cannot stand examination, then they are weak beliefs.

In fact, there are a number of smart and successful people out there who not only do not write down their goals, but have no goals at all.

From Leo Babauta’s insanely popular Zen Habits:

“So what does a life without goals look like? In practice, it’s very different than one with goals.

“You don’t set a goal for the year, nor for the month, nor for the week or day. You don’t obsess about tracking, or actionable steps. You don’t even need a to-do list, though it doesn’t hurt to write down reminders if you like.

“What do you do, then? Lay around on the couch all day, sleeping and watching TV and eating Ho-Hos? No, you simply do. You find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing — you can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.

“And in practice, this is a wonderful thing: you wake up and do what you’re passionate about.”

I cannot go as far as that, but I do believe your goals should be flexible. Sometimes life throws you a curveball (like a broken ankle). Life forces you to adjust your goals or at least to adjust how you plan to achieve them.

I am still writing down my goals, and pursuing them with passion.

On living well

Way back in the Dark Ages, when I was in college, I took a journalism course. One of the two textbooks for that course was On Writing Well by William Zinsser. It has remained my favorite book on writing ever since.

on writing wellI am not alone. The book is now on edition No. 30. My copy is the 25th anniversary edition, and by that time more than a million copies were sold. It is quite a bit more than a million by now. How many textbooks do you know that have been this popular?

Until recently, Zinsser was still writing. Glaucoma has taken his eyesight, but at 90 years old, he still works as a writing coach.

A few items from On Writing Well have always stuck with me. One is the admonition to get on the plane, to go where the story is. One reason this stuck with me is that I felt somewhat offended by it on my first reading.

“That is easy for him to say,” I thought. “He can afford to do so.” As I grew older I began to take responsibility for my own life, I realized the folly of that thinking. If Zinsser could afford to go where the story is, it is because he earned that ability. He started at the New York Herald Tribune in 1946 and never stopped working at his craft, even after being blinded at the age of 90.

As I write this, I am nowhere near having the ability to go where the story is. But it is a goal of mine. Part of my lifestyle design plan is to be able to work from anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection.

To get there, I need to make more money. Money does not drive me, but I am driven to have enough money to live the life I want. I believe that distinction is not trivial. So how do I get there?

The answer is clear.

Recently, I took inventory of the skills I have now, and the skills I could develop. It became clear to me that my destiny is to improve myself continuously, to strive to be the best person I can be, and to be a beacon to others through writing about those struggles for improvement.

To get there requires daily habits. If I want to get fitter, I need to develop daily exercise habits. To lose weight and be healthier, I need to make good food choices daily. And to be the kind of writer I am capable of being, I need to write every day. It will not be easy, but I know I can make a living as a writer.

To be honest, I have not been doing all those things since I broke my ankle. It was a severe break and I am not allowed to put any weight on that foot. Since I got out of the hospital, my stamina has been lacking.

And I have used those facts as excuses for not doing what I know I should. While I have been eating OK and have lost weight, I have hardly exercised at all, and I used the lack of stamina to not write as often as I should.

While it is true that I cannot exercise as strenuously as I could before the injury, I can still find ways to exercise.

And while my writing may suffer because of a lack of stamina, that does not mean I should not be writing as often as I should. It may mean that I write fewer words or that my work needs better editing, but it is no excuse not to write.

In the introduction to On Writing Well, Zinsser was asked what he does on days when it is not going well. Zinsser replied:

“I then said the professional writer must establish a daily schedule and keep to it. I said that writing is a craft, not an art, and that the man who runs away from his craft because he lacks inspiration is fooling himself. He is also going broke.”

Success is a numbers game

Almost all of my memories of childhood are fond ones. I always feel lucky to have grown up the way I did.

We were the prototypical working class family, or so it seemed to me. A three-bedroom house in the suburbs, a dog, a big enough yard in the back for us kids to play in: it seemed idyllic and it was. Even though my parents divorced when I was 9 or 10 years old, I still had it pretty good. We did not have a lot of money but I do not ever remember going without anything I needed.

It was a good life. But let’s go back to the three-bedroom house for a moment. There were three of us kids and that meant me and my brother shared a bedroom. Aside from the fact that I had to listen to my brother snoring away (and sometimes even sleepwalking), I also had to endure listening to every single good play (great in his mind) that he made in sports over and over again. Of course, he had to do the same with me.

We have always been a competitive family and that sometimes created immodesty in the form of one-upsmanship. So when the principal came over the intercom before classes began one day to talk about what a great play my brother had made in a baseball game, I cringed a bit.

Silently, I was proud of him (if you tell him I admitted that, I will deny it), but I knew I was about to get a play-by-play recap of the play every night for the next few weeks.

That immodesty has plagued me off and on throughout my life. I have curbed it at times, simply by acknowledging its existence, but from time to time it still gets me.

I tell you all this because I am about to say something that sounds awfully immodest.

I have always believed I am capable of greatness. Now the unfortunate part: I have not achieved greatness or anything resembling it.

This is not me bashing myself. It is merely an honest assessment. Certainly I have some achievements in my lifetime, but nothing I would call great. There are any number of possible reasons for this, but I will focus on two.

It could be that I am overestimating my capabilities. If so, I would not be alone. Humans are terrible at judging their own abilities.

Despite recognizing this could well be true, I am choosing to ignore it. While this willful ignorance can be dangerous, it can also be advantageous. Let’s just say I would rather be too optimistic than the alternative.

The other possibility, and one I acknowledge, is that I simply have not persevered enough. Too many times I have started a project and then quit before finding out if it would have been successful. To be sure, many of those would have failed, perhaps all of them. But I did not persevere long enough to know.

Success is a numbers game. All you need to do is come up with enough ideas, and then keep executing them until you find one that works. I have not done that in the past.

But the past is past, and this is now.

Who needs Megabucks?

Living in Las Vegas is quite an experience. In some ways, it is like any other city.

We have churches, grocery stores, schools, parks, and just about anything else you would expect to see in a metro area of almost 2 million people.

But Las Vegas is different, of course. Most of that difference is a result of the gambling industry, which dominates the economy here. One result is that Vegas is a 24-hour town.

The casinos here are always open. Open on Thanksgiving, open on Christmas, open all the time. With so many folks working for casinos, businesses in town cater to their needs. That is to say, many of them are also open 24 hours a day.

I am sometimes flummoxed when I go somewhere else and hear talk of “closing time.”

Gambling is pervasive here. They do not have slot machines in churches, not that I know of anyway, but they are in just about every grocery store, and just about every drug store, and even in the airport.

I rarely play slot machines. I find them boring, plus I care about my money. The only forms of gambling I participate in are those in which my decisions matter, such as sports betting and poker. Theoretically, at least, I want a chance to win.

I do sometimes joke about playing one of the better known slots, Megabucks. What made Megabucks famous is its huge jackpot, which resets at $10 million after it is won.

I have no idea what the odds are of hitting that jackpot, but I can guarantee you it is greater than 10 million to 1. So, although I have played the game sometimes as a lark, I do not usually play. I have not done so in months.

That does not stop me from joking about it, usually with my co-workers. “Once I hit Megabucks, I will forget all about you people,” or some variation of that is a favorite of mine.

But I began to think, what if I did win Megabucks? How would that change my life? While I would like to think I would not actually forget about my friends at work, I most certainly would quit my job and begin to live the life I dream about.

No doubt you have heard stories about lottery winners who squandered it all away. I would like to think I would not be that guy. But who knows? Although I believe I would make a great multi-millionaire, you never really know how you will react to a situation until you actually face it.

I am not going to tell you that winning Megabucks would be a bad thing, but more and more I am convinced I would rather earn my millions than win them.

If I earn my money, I would appreciate it more. Also, if I earn it, it is likely to happen over a longer period of time than it takes for the wheels of Megabucks to spin to a stop. That time would give me an adjustment period.

Here is the thing: I do not think I have to earn $10 million to enjoy the lifestyle I could enjoy with such a bounty.

I do not need the $10 million, just what $10 million can do for me. The lifestyle I am designing includes being free to go wherever I want to go, whenever I want. I could come up with the money to do that, or I could find another way. Maybe I can find freelance work that needs to be done at my destination. Maybe I could barter my way to my destination. There are many possibilities.

I certainly do not believe I need to win Megabucks to get the life I want. But I would not complain if I did.

Time traveling with a broken ankle

Lately, I have been devouring the blog of author and entrepreneur James Altucher. As with every other writer I read, I do not agree with everything Altucher believes.

But Altucher is unafraid to open himself on his blog. He talks freely about his thoughts of suicide, how he lost everything he owned, and various other sundry items that most folks consider too much information. It is fascinating to read in an I-cannot-believe-he-said-that way.

I have read so much of Altucher’s blog, and watched the many videos of him floating around the Web, that I do not remember the source of the following quote: “Don’t be a time traveler.”

What Altucher means by that is to live your life in the present. That has become one of my core beliefs. Another is to take responsibility for everything in your life.

I have had time to think about those two, and more, over the last several days.

My hope is that at least some of you were wondering where I have been since my last post here on Friday. After all, I was committed to writing every single day. I was not necessarily committed to posting here every day, but I had to write.

If I did not post here since Friday, then one of two things must have happened: I gave up, or something bad happened to me. Either of those would be bad news, but it was the latter.

Late Friday night, while walking up three stairs to a hallway of the hotel where I was staying, I took a wrong step and broke my ankle. It was not a break where you put a boot on and wait a few weeks for it to heal and you will be OK. It was a break where your foot is suddenly facing the wrong direction and the bone is protruding and there is lots of blood. And shock. I do not know much of what happened specifically since I was in shock.

So after a helicopter ride back to Las Vegas, I was prepped and went into surgery Saturday morning. I was released from the hospital on Monday night and spent the next 24 hours prepping for my limited mobility for the next little while.

I am out of work for six weeks, maybe longer. I may need further surgery on the ankle. Since I cannot drive a car, I am now stuck at my apartment for some time. I now have plenty of time to think.

First I have thought about living in the present. Although I truly believe that, there are times when it is right to think about both the past and the future. Let me explain.

I have thought about the past and wondered: Where would I be if I had done things differently? Where would I be if I had made better choices? What if I had gotten in shape and lost the weight I need to lose? Would I be sitting here with hardware holding my ankle together? Would I be wealthier and healthier?

That line of thinking can be destructive if you sit there and say, “Woe is me.” But I am not falling into that trap. I use the same line of thinking to plan my future.

What kind of choices do I need to make to better my life? For example, where would I be in five years if I gave up alcohol? Let me be clear, I am secure with the knowledge I am not an alcoholic. I sometimes go weeks without a drink and without missing it. When I do drink, it usually is not to excess. I am no drunk.

But I do drink maybe three times every two weeks on average. What if I eliminated that? Would it make my healthier? No doubt. Would it make me more productive? Possibly, if I use the time I would have normally spent drinking doing something worthwhile. Would I make better food choices? Likely. I do not eat bar food when I am not in the bar. So maybe I will do that, along with some other changes. I am still formulating these thoughts but I truly believe the following is healthy:

Remember the past, dream of the future, but live in the present.

Now for the second Big Idea: taking responsibility.

There was a time in my life where I would have gotten angry at the world over my injury. And I would have stayed angry, and that would have led to apathy. After all, if I am not responsible for the things that happen to me, what can I do to change my fate?

The answer is, of course, that I can do plenty.

I admit to spending some time immediately following my injury thinking “Why me?” Back to Altucher, who says you should treat negative thoughts as you would guests at a dinner party. Invite them in, make them comfortable, hope they have a good time, and then at some point it is time for them to leave. I like that.

My “Why me?” guests were ushered to the door sometime Saturday. My thoughts since then have focused on getting something positive out of this. I can use this to spur me on to lose weight and get healthier. I can use the extra time I now have to write more and finish that book I have been working on.

I have already been learning how to be more mobile without being able to put weight on one foot. If I can gain the mobility I need quicker than what the doctors believe, I can do even more.

After all, I am responsible for myself and everything that happens to me.

I am disgusted with myself, and that’s OK

Last Sunday, I had a bad day. Like most of my bad days recently, it involved eating.

Since mid-September, I decided to do daily tasks in an effort to improve myself. Three of the most important to me are: writing, exercising, and eating correctly. The first two I have been generally pleased with but I have not been successful with the third.

It seemed to me when I started that eating would be the easiest of the three to get right. I have created an ambitious schedule for myself in the last month and that made it difficult at times to make sure I write and work out each day. But I pushed myself to do those every day, and am on track on both to be where I want to be.

But I aim to be productive, fit, AND thin. I have no desire to be the fit but fat guy. To me, the three intertwine to form overall good health. So to be successful in two areas but fail in the third would be a failure.

I keep track of my progression in all three areas. I want to write at least a certain number of words each day, both here at my blog and on a book. I want to increase my walking distance each day by a certain amount (1 percent more each day) and increase my strength training each day (1 percent is not practical here, but I do have a system). While not perfect, I have done well.

But I also set weight-loss goals. Maybe they are too ambitious but I do not believe so. I set out to lose 0.33 percent of my total body weight on the first day. I would slowly lower that number each day since I know losing weight gets progressively more difficult. I set up an Excel spreadsheet to track this. Let me give you some hard numbers on that.

I started at 280 pounds on September 15 with the goal of reaching 220 by the end of the year. On the first day, that meant losing 0.33 percent of 280, or 0.93 pounds. By the end of September my goal was the lose 0.30 percent of 274 pounds, or 0.81 pounds. By the end of the year to get to 220 pounds, I would only need to lose 0.33 pounds on the last day, or 0.15 percent of my total weight.

That seemed doable to me when I first started. If I had managed to accomplish that, today I would be at 261 pounds. I weighed in last night at 271. You might think losing nine pounds in 25 days is good, but it puts me far behind schedule.

I am resisting the urge to try to catch up. Part of me wants to go on a five-day fast to try to get back to where I feel I should be. But I know that is both dangerous and foolish.

Back to Sunday: I ate and ate and ate all day long. I have always been particular about the foods I eat. I have never liked vegetables. But veggies are supposed to be the go-to food on my diet plan. I had the idea that I would slowly try different vegetables until I found enough I could stomach to add to my diet. But that has not happened.

Not only did I gorge myself on Sunday, I did so without eating a single vegetable. The proper reaction would have been to admit my mistake, strive not to repeat it, and pick back up doing the right things on Monday.

Did I do that? No. What I actually did was get disgusted with myself and punish myself by going to the gym late at night for the second time that day. Then on Monday I hardly ate at all. Neither of those are part of my plan.

Getting disgusted with myself when I fall is not a good idea. Then I started thinking the opposite way: What if getting disgusted could be a good thing? What would I have to do?

Sometimes getting disgusted is where you need to be before you can finally make the changes you need to make.

Sometimes you need to look in a mirror and get disgusted seeing a fat man where a thin one should be.

Sometimes you need to meet a great woman and have her never find out what a great guy you are because she does not want to be with a fat man.

Sometimes you need to feel the need to puke after you tried jogging and could only make it a quarter of a mile.

Sometimes being disgusted is just what you need before you can truly change.

Feeding my inner nerd

Earlier today I did something I cannot recall ever doing before.

I volunteered.

Now I have volunteered before but always with a big group of people, notably with my fraternity brothers a fair amount in college. “Social service” as we called it was an important part of membership in our fraternity. It may not have come close to drinking beer in importance, but it was something we took seriously.

As part of my birthday week, I have been giving gifts to many of the people I know. These were not physical gifts but gifts from the heart. A poem, a thank you, an “I am here for you,” a list of ideas, an “I am thinking of you,” were the sort of gifts I have been giving.

I like giving. It makes me feel good. Just like forgiving is more about you instead of the person receiving the forgiveness, so is giving in some ways. I usually get at least as much from it as the recipient.

Although some people might rather have a jet ski than a poem, I am fresh out of jet skis. But sometimes a gift from the heart is more valuable. And sometimes a gift of your time is needed more than anything.

I only spent two hours this morning cleaning up donated books for a charity here in Las Vegas called Spread the Word Nevada. This group collects new and gently used books to donate to children in at-risk and low-income communities in southern Nevada.

Although I am becoming more and more of a minimalist, I still have loads of books. They comfort me and enlighten me all at once. I do have one fewer as I donated one to Spread the Word Nevada.

As a child, I loved to read. One of my earliest memories – I must have been 4 or 5 – is annoying my brother and sister by reading roadside signs as we rode past them. All of them.

I was not trying to pester my siblings; I just loved to read. I can remember a few years after that filling afternoons and early evenings by reading encyclopedias. It may have been the nerdiest possible thing to do, but the reading habit I developed at a very early age has been so helpful to me over the years. Some of my lifelong habits, such as the foods I eat, have not been as kind to me. I still love to read.

So when I saw the opportunity to volunteer at Spread the Word Nevada, it felt like the right place for me to contribute.

Something else occurred to me as well. There is no reason why I cannot give random gifts to my friends and family. It does not have to be a birthday or Christmas. If giving feels good to me, why not give all the time?

I did not do much at Spread the Word Nevada, just cleaning up some books, erasing scribbles left by previous owners, determining if the books were salvageable, etc.

I was a bit saddened to find out that the Internet has rendered encyclopedias useless for teachers. I suppose I should not feel that way. It is easier than ever to find out information. Nostalgia, I suppose. But I still feel pretty good today.

My non-bucket list

I wrote today for my friends over at The Angry Sheep today. Please check it out when you get a chance.

So instead of my usually daily post here, I want to share with you a few things I think I would like to do. This list is not finalized by any means, nor am I sure it will ever be. I do not call it my bucket list of things to do before I die. What if I complete that list? Does that mean it’s time to die? We always need new challenges.

Nope, for me this list will always be fluid and never be completed. This is not all there is to my list, but is a sampling of 10.

1. Give a TED talk.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, TED started as a conference of people from Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Its mission now is to spread ideas. I have plenty of ideas that I would like to spread. The form I have always used is the written word. But I think it would be good for me to learn public speaking. It does not actually have to be a TED talk, but something like it.

2. Immerse myself in a foreign language.

I have heard that the best way to learn a foreign language is to live somewhere where that language is spoken. I think it would be great fun to live somewhere for about two months or so to learn the language. My first choice would be Spanish. That is the second most popular language spoken here in the United States and I think it would be an advantage to speak it. I still remember some French from high school, but I could see myself living in Paris for about six weeks to add to my repertoire. Why stop there? I could add German as well.

3. Learn to play an instrument.

I kind of believe the guitar would be easiest to learn, but part of me wants to learn piano.

4. Travel the country in an RV.

This may be one of those that sounds better than it actually is, but I am enamored with the thought of taking a year to see places that I have never seen. Just bounce around wherever the road takes me. This is a big country and there is so much of it that I have not experienced.

5. Take up yoga.

I know next to nothing about yoga. I have never done it. This would be an easy one to check off my list.

6. Run a marathon.

Very recently I wrote that this is not one of my goals. Ever since then a thought has been rattling around in the back of my head, “Why not?” I can walk probably six or seven miles right now, but I do not think I could complete a mile jogging, so it would be quite a challenge. I like challenges. I have not committed myself to this one yet.

7. Become an actor.

I just need one line. It can be an obscure film that only my close friends and relatives will see. Or a television show. Or even a commercial.

8. Learn to dance.

I already know how to two-step. I am poor at it but I know how. I used to be an athlete so I believe I could do it. I need a partner for this one. I am thinking some form of ballroom dancing.

9. Volunteer.

I have known for some time that giving makes me feel good. But for some reason I have limited that giving mostly to people I know. This one I am actually doing. I am volunteering at a local library for two hours tomorrow and am excited about it. I may write more about this soon.

10. Write a book.

This one I am also doing. I admit to being disappointed not to have accomplished it by now. I did complete an e-book once, but it was short in length and I do not count it as a true book. I will not stop at one.

My busy body

About 10 years ago I moved to Las Vegas, fat, broke, and miserable.

I weighed well in excess of 300 pounds. I wish I could tell you exactly how much I weighed but I do not know for certain. It was less than my biggest of about 340, but certainly more than 300. Let’s call it 320.

My plan was to make a living doing freelance work, mostly writing but also some web design. I also became fascinated with poker. It soon became apparent that the freelancing was failing, and the modest income from poker was not enough.

So I got a job dealing poker. This was in the midst of the poker boom that swept the country in 2004. To say we were busy would be grossly understating it. We had a 20-table room and it would not be unusual for us to have all 20 tables going on the weekend, with a lengthy waiting list. So I was working a great deal.

Dealing poker had not yet sucked all the joy out of playing for me, so if I was not dealing poker I was playing. Of my roughly 112 waking hours per week, it would not be unusual for me to spend 100 of them either playing or dealing poker. I was not trying to lose weight and had not changed any of the foods I ate.

I lived in an apartment that was a dump but was near the Strip. I walked everywhere I went. You may think dealing and playing poker is not good exercise, but only if you have never walked the Las Vegas Strip. It is like the reverse of your passenger side view mirror: objects are farther apart than they appear.

These casinos are massive and I would walk from casino to casino trying to find the best poker game. So I was walking probably five miles a day.

Then one day I woke up and realized I had run out of holes in my belt. I needed a new belt and new pants as well. I knew I had lost weight, of course, but I had no idea how much. I weighed 275 pounds. This happened over four months or so.

I was making decent money so I bought a car and moved to a nicer place, a house about 10 miles from work. With poker booming, many more casinos opened poker rooms, taking some of our business from us. We were no longer as busy as we were, so that meant fewer hours for me.

I was no longer walking everywhere I went and had not changed my eating habits. Before I could say Del Taco, I was back up to 315.

Playing and dealing poker all the time is not a healthy lifestyle, so what was it that made me lose the weight? Walking everywhere helped a great deal, but I am convinced a major part of it was that I stayed busy.

I realized there were two times when I would eat that had nothing to do with hunger: when I was bored and when I was emotional about something.

When I was spending 100 hours per week on poker, I did not have time to be bored or emotional.

These days, I have done several things to recapture that busy lifestyle, with some healthier replacements for poker. It is good for me to stay busy.

Some of the things I do every day:

    Write.
    Work out at the gym.
    Clean my apartment.
    Check email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
    Do something fun.
    Eat healthier.

I also still have my poker dealing job that I work three or four days per week. I play poker about once per month.

I was originally going to title this “The World’s Greatest Weight-Loss Plan” but that would be hyperbolic. But it seems to be the best one for me. I am down about 10 pounds since mid-September.

Stay busy, my friends.

Give more, receive more

I hate to get all men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus on you, but there are very real differences between the sexes, both physiological and psychological. No doubt I will get criticism from some people for pointing out the obvious, but so be it.

I realize that pretty much of all of you reading this understand the physiological differences between men and women. I have no desire to turn this into a biology lesson, so I will leave that for someone else.

Of more interest to me are the psychological differences. Such as:

Men are more jealous as a result of sexual infidelity while emotional infidelity makes women more jealous.

Another example: When a woman talk about a problem, most men want to give advice for possible solutions. Women often feel like men are listening when this happens. What they often want is for men to talk about what a woman feels about the problem.

One last one, and this one gets to the point of this blog post. This comes from Margaret Rucker, a consumer psychologist at UC Davis.

Rucker says that men tend to look at a gift as merely an exchange of goods, and women are more concerned with the romantic aspects.

I have been firmly in the camp of most men for much of my life, but that is beginning to change. I am making a commitment to be a better gift-giver. In fact, I am starting a new tradition to that effect today.

Today happens to be my 49th birthday. Happy birthday to me! For a long time now I have gotten more satisfaction out of giving gifts than receiving them. But I have been guilty of poor gifting, such as “gag gifts, practical gifts, generic items, additions to collections, and objects that represent both low cost and little effort.”

My heart has been in the right place but my head has been all wrong.

Starting with this birthday, I am going to be giving gifts instead of receiving them. Since I am celebrating my birthday all week, I have all week to get to the giving.

These will not be practical gifts, or even gifts you can buy in a store.

For example, Saturday night I met a nice young lady (I can use the phrase “young lady” to describe an adult since I am now 49) who I got the idea that she just wanted someone to listen to her and commiserate with. She was completely supporting her boyfriend, who evidently is a lazy sack of no-good. He refuses to work, complains whenever she wants to do anything fun, is extremely jealous, and shows no gratitude for her support.

I resisted the urge to offer solutions and instead talked to her about how all this made her feel. I also asked her what she thought she could do to fix the situation.

We connected in a totally non-sexual way, and I did not want anything at all from her. It was me giving her the gift of my presence. You may think that arrogant of me but sometimes that is exactly what some people need. They just need someone to be present and understanding. For a couple of hours, I provided that presence.

In the process of all this, I learned something about myself. I have been thinking that I want to help people grow and better themselves through me writing about my own ambitions of personal development. But now I know it goes beyond that.

I love making people feel good. I need to do more of that.

At the end of the evening, I received the most fantastic hug from her. And I felt better than I have in a long time.

When you give, you receive. It was a great beginning for a marvelous new tradition of mine.