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Idiot’s Guide

THE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO BEING A BETTER LISTENER ©

STEP 1. Just shutup. Being a good listener actually means you have to listen…some of the time….not all the time, but some of the time.

STEP 2. Use your head…literally. Make use of your whole head and nod frequently while they are speaking. It is an act of affirmation that you are actually interested. Plus if you are known to be a “nodder” you can disguise when you are falling asleep. For you quick studies out there, you also might want to try scratching your chin simultaneously while nodding your head. Not as challenging as rubbing your belly and patting your head. Try it out and see what you’re comfortable with. Start slowly and work you way up.

STEP 3. While you want to refrain from speaking too much, you’ll still have to speak every so often. (Girls will do most of the talking here. Remember to just let her talk about her favorite subject….herself!) Now most girls are somewhat insecure and need a lot of affirmation. (Not any girls reading this, but people you know.) So if you are too quiet, these girls tend to think that you are bored and disinterested by what they are saying.

Notice that whenever you are quiet for an extended period of time girls think that you find them incredibly boring or they’ll ask you if something’s wrong. You don’t have to actually speak, but you must make a sound. This comes naturally to us men who are genetically programmed to making grunting noises, but you will have to elongate the grunt. So it’s good to make comforting noises/sounds intermittently. i.e. “mmmmm” this is my personal fav. This sound is doubly effective if combined with step #2 and done simultaneously. So nod your head while scratching yoru chin and say, “Mmmmm.” Looking perplexed also helps to add to this effect. Again start slowly and work your way up.

STEP 4. This is the clincher fellas! Nothing is more painful than awkward silence. There are times when you just don’t know what to say. I’ve been there! The conversation comes to a lull and you can see that the ball is now in your court to get the conversation rolling again. So the poor girl just got done spilling out her soul and guts, and now she’s looking to you for words of affirmation, comfort, and encouragement (I have no idea why girls expect that from us guys), but there she is waiting expectantly for you to speak!

Don’t panic! Stay cool. When you come to an awkward pause and you really feel like she is waiting for you to say something, and you don’t know what to say….just follow my lead and do what I do. You might want to write this part down!

Repeat word for word the last sentence she uttered, BUT make certain to repeat it in the form of a question. (hint: just like Jeopardy)

Girl: “blah blah blah….and so it really hurt my feelings when she did that.” (looks at you expectantly)

You: “uhhh…So it really hurt your feelings when she did that?”

Girl: “YES! ZOMG! Like really! You totally understand! You soooooo get me. anyway like…blah blah blah…”

Trust me, she will go on for another 20-30 minutes before you have to say anything again. The beauty of this method is that it works even if the girl knows you are doing it! You can even tell her to read my post and then use my patented method 10 minutes later and she will think you are the best listener in the world. So for all you nervous guys that have a hard time talking to girls you can relax. Just take a deep breath in (remember to exhale). Follow these steps and you’ll be fine.

Stay posted for future Idiot’s Guide editions! God bless!

*DISCLAIMER* Just remember though, I actually take the time and effort to really listen to your problems because I really care. 😉 Peace

the dance

Those who danced were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” – Angela Monet

She nervously fumbles about and examines the room one last time. Tonight would have to be absolutely perfect. Any moment now he would come bursting through that door, and she tells herself she must be ready. With a furrowed brow that belays her concern she examines and inspects the room one last time to ensure everything is in its final and proper place. With nothing more left to do she allows herself to release a deep sigh, and sinks back into the welcoming arms of the sofa…and waits.

Waiting was always the hardest part for her, and it was something she never quite outgrew. But on the contrary she doesn’t even seem to be aware of how long he is taking tonight. Slipping in and out of the present reality, she sits and relives the memories of when their paths first crossed. Her mind travels into the past to the day they first met. She remembers the time and the place; she can see what he is wearing, and recalls the smell of the wet grass after the rain. She even remembers that she had been so preoccupied with her magazine that she had not even noticed him at first, but that it was he who had noticed her.

As she is carried along by the current of her memories she is jolted back to the present by the sound of the jostling of keys, followed by the familiar turning of the lock. Her heart swells with anticipation, and before she even realizes she is running to open the door. She catches the surprised look on his face as his keys dangle from the lock, and she loves him for it. Like a child on Christmas, she grabs his hands and she forgets all of her composure and her rehearsed lines. She ushers him into their new home, and like a proud mother she begins to describe in detail all the work she has done to make this their special place.

She shows him how she has arranged the furniture to make the tiny apartment feel bigger than it really is, and how the once out of place table now perfectly compliments the worn but still comfortable sofa. She is beaming and proud of her accomplishments. But he neither looks at nor notices any of these things. He watches her the entire time etching this moment into his memory. With a love in his eyes so tender they began to spill over onto his face, he gently gathers her into his arms and holds her. His breath covers her face and provides more warmth than the thickest winter coat, and she breathes in the sweetness that surrounds him. And in that moment she realizes that he is her home. He will always be her home.

As they are lost in this exquisite embrace, one can no longer tell where one starts and the other begins. Even the clocks on the wall seem to be stilled and awed into a moment of silence. The food on the table goes untouched and grows cold, but they are both full and satisfied. As the clocks are drawn back to the slow beat and rhythm of time, the couple joins in and they dance the night away.

***
An aging couple shuffles out onto the dance floor as rigid and stiff as old wooden puppets. No one pays much attention as they try to find their way. He gently leads her to the edge of the dance floor, and they take their place off to the side. They move methodically at first like an old clock whose gears have not rotated in some time. They appear out of place surrounded by the more vibrant and youthful couples that are swinging and thrashing about with vigor. But as the couple slips into their dance it’s as if the heavy curtain of time slowly begins to rise. The years made evident by the wrinkles etched onto their faces now begin to melt away like the frost that is touched by the day’s first light. Their steps grow lighter and more lively as old memories of the past overflow and mingle with the present. She begins to drift off into her memories and recalls that first night in their tiny apartment.

Suddenly, she is young and beautiful once again. She is glowing and radiates with a light that shames the younger women present. He stands tall and holds her with such gentle strength that the younger men take notice and concede. The dance floor is now completely theirs. They begin to give themselves over to each other fully, trusting and knowing where the other will be before the next step anticipating and interpreting the slightest gesture. They move with such familiar fluidity and grace that one can no longer tell where one starts and the other begins. No longer bound or constricted by the rhythm or by time, they move only to the beating of their finely tuned hearts. She leans into him and closes her eyes, and once more she hears the jostling of the keys, the turning of the lock, and her heart races towards the one she loves.

I remember the devotion of your youth,
how as a bride you loved me
and followed me through the desert,
through a land not sown… ~ Jeremiah 2:2

As a child I loved all sorts of mythology especially that of the Norsemen. What I admired most about the Vikings (aside from pillaging, ransacking, and awesome helmets) was their concept of a ‘good death’. So long as they fell in battle fighting the enemy with sword in hand they were granted entrance to the halls of Valhalla. Here in this place warriors would engage in epic battles by day, and by night the fallen would resurrect to feast on meat and mead in the great hall for all eternity. It sounded like paradise. In some ways it still does.

So I began to imagine what my good death would look like. It usually involved some sort of valiant act of selfless courage such as running into a burning building to save an infant or pushing someone out of the way of an oncoming car. The city would be so moved by my heroism they would honor me with a parade and Heather, the cutest girl in 2nd grade, would weep uncontrollably at my funeral whilst tenderly placing a flower upon my casket.

During one such moment of fantasy, I happened to be sitting in the front seat of our blue Buick Oldsmobile as my father drove. I asked him at what age would he like to die a good death. He seemingly replied without much thought which told me he had actually thought about his answer. With a far off look in his eyes he replied,

“90 years.”

His answer sent shivers down my spine. I turned my face towards the window and concentrated on the trees as they skipped by. In that moment, I realized I had actually wanted to hear him laugh and tell me that he was going to live forever. He would be the first man to outlive death. I considered the reality that I could live most of my life without my parents and I stepped out of the car with a little less innocence. I did not want my parents to die…not even a good death.

“Most men die by 27, we just bury them at 72” – Mark Twain

Today is a good day to live.

sink or swim

Sink or swim.

Often when we feel like we’ve been thrown into the deep end of the pool these two options seem to be our only choices.

During my childhood summers, I would visit the local swimming pool with my friends. I loved the feeling of being submerged underwater, and using my goggles to glimpse the world as if I had the eyes of a fish.  The only problem was that I had never quite learned how to swim.  I did however master the art of near drowning. (I was also once swept along by the current of the American River and thought it was the end of me, but that’s a story for another time.)

All of this instilled in me a great fear, and at the pool I was the kid that always stuck close to the tiled wall with a kung fu grip.  And while I would envy my friends who were freely swimming about and playing in the middle of the pool having the summer of their lives, I was too afraid to let go and to join them.  And for good reason!

Eventually I grew tired of being limited to clinging to the wall, and I decided that I needed to learn how to swim.

To my surprise, my first lesson was actually the most difficult one. My instructor cheerfully (or was it jeerfully?) told me that I was going to learn how to float on my back. My God was this ever so difficult! Telling someone who has almost drowned several times, and does not know how to swim to simply relax and to fall back into the water sounds like sheer madness. And no matter how many times my instructor demonstrated this to me, my body and mind flatly refused to believe it was even possible. Even though I saw it done before me with my very own eyes, and even though I knew intellectually that I needed to relax my body in order float, every muscle and every fiber in my body instinctively fought against it. It was counter-intuitive. It was frightening!

Several times I came oh so close to being horizontal, but as soon as the water began to creep around my exposed air pathways I would violently jerk forward.  Feeling the liquid claustrophobia creep in around my face, eyes, nose, mouth and ears would trigger a flood of past memories and the fear would awaken my instincts for self-preservation.

Much credit is due to my experienced and patient instructor. After many unsuccessful attempts, I eventually learned to trust that the water coupled with my body’s natural buoyancy would support me. Eventually I learned how to relax, to rest on my back, and to float.

I’ll share a secret with you. Learning to depend on others is one of the those things in life that terrifies me. Many times I’ve jerked forward out of relationships when I felt that I was getting too dependent or that they were too clingy. Relationships became suffocating, and I actually felt like I was drowning.  But while you might feel safer knee-deep in the wading pool, life is not nearly as exhilarating or full.  I’ve decided that I want to live a life where I can love with reckless abandon. I’m tired of clinging to the wall, and it’s time to let go. This past year of building deep and meaningful relationships has been incredible. Never have I been more inter-dependent and yet so free. I admit that I still need some space, but I’m no longer needing distance.

It’s one thing to float in the local pool where you have the safety net of your ever watchful instructor.  It’s quite another thing to float in the middle of the ocean where the waves are crashing in all around you.  But the principles that keep you floating in an enclosed pool are the same in the open ocean.  What once terrified me in the past is now standard operating procedure.  To grow as a person, I need to continually find things that terrify me and face them head on…or flat on my back. And it’s been through the amazing friendships I’ve developed that I’ve become to believe in the greatness that they see in me.

The entertainment sector is one of the hardest industries to break into.  And I know far too many gifted and talented people who disqualify themselves before they’ve ever been rejected by anyone else. I’m putting myself back in the race. It’s time to believe in your God-given talent, and to pursue the desires of your heart. If your dreams are possible then it might be that they are too small for your life.  We find ourselves frustrated with the mediocrity in our lives because in our hearts we know that we were meant for more.

2010 is the year I have committed to taking more risks. I’ve wasted time as if it were eternity. I’m weary of being the warden of something that was meant to be shared with the world. It’s time to dream impossible dreams.

This is the year to RISK with COURAGE and AUDACITY.

What will you risk in 2010?  What dreams will you pursue?

DREAM BIG

I’ll see you in the deep end