Tara's Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

words-matter

 

I have long been a fan of the short story form.  In fact, the short story form is far harder than longer forms of writing. Making your intention clear in a limited amount of words is not an easy task. There is a long line of authors whose work I enjoy but top of the list in this regard has always been Harlan Ellison.  There are many reasons I am a life-long, die-hard Ellison fan, but chiefly, my admiration is for his ability to select just exactly the right word for every moment in his stories with never a word wasted.

 Here’s a favorite example: 

 “A foot was planted between my shoulder blades and the fist let go of my shirt, and I was booted forward onto my suitcase, which slid a few feet, carrying me as on a raft.

I fell off, rolled over and tried to sit up. Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death were staring down at me.”

Quoted from All the Lies That Are My Life by Harlan Ellison

 There is no need to give the reader any more detailed description of the four guys who are about to beat up our protagonist. The phrase “Conquest, Slaughter, Famine and Death” tells you everything you need to know.

 Another master at choosing just the right words is Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, who sums up this thought beautifully:

 “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

 

And another famous author offers clarity on the subject. When asked his opinion on cursing Mark Twain had this to say:

“The English language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. I figure we ought to use all the words we got.”

 Notice here that he did not advise using MORE words than needed at one time but choosing the RIGHT words for what you are trying to convey at that moment.

 

 Words matter.  They can offer great kindness but also great sorrow. They can build relationships or tear down entire communities. Words have weight and meaning and sometimes great consequences. 

When you are attempting to evaluate someone’s character listen very closely to the word they choose to use.  Their choices are not casual. They are a result of a lifetime of attitudes and perceptions and are evidence of the state of their inner psychology. 

 The speaker is telling you something about who he is and how he chooses to participate in this thing called Life.  

 Words matter.  Listen closely.

Advertisements

The Sitser Siblings at 6, 9 & 10 years old

    “We don’t see the world the way it is. We see it the way we are.

Talmud

As small children we decide what is real based on what we learn from our parents, teachers and from the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  Those lessons transform in our minds to become what we perceive to be facts. Those “facts” become a map in our consciousness that guides us through future decisions.

The problems begin when circumstances change and the map in our head remains the same.  We begin to act on our assumptions about reality rather than on what actually exists.

When results don’t match our expectations it’s time to re-evaluate the map.

If you find yourself bumping into walls stop and take a fresh look around.  You may find the route you’ve been traveling is no longer there.  You might also find new doors in what use to be solid walls.

Don’t go through life with an outdated map.  You’ll miss a lot of great scenery.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”

Actually – not true.  This one phrase has been said so many times by so many people for so long that most people accept it without thinking.

Here’s the thing:  YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO AN OPINION ON A SUBJECT ABOUT WHICH YOU KNOW NOTHING !!

If a patient is about to have brain surgery you are NOT entitled to an opinion on which technique ought to be used unless you are a brain surgeon.  If your pet dog is chewing up the furniture you are not entitled to an opinion on why he is behaving this way unless you are well versed in canine behavior.  If the political pundits are arguing the merits of a proposed amendment to the Constitution you are not entitle to an opinion, pro or con, unless you study the facts, learn the history behind the amendment, research the possible consequences of it and understand the legislative process used.

I could come up with six more examples but you get the point.  Here is the corrected version of this all-too-familiar but incomplete phrase:

 Everyone is entitled to his own INFORMED opinion.

So the moral of the story is:  Don’t feel compelled to throw out an opinion just because everybody else is spouting theirs.  It is perfectly valid to say “I am not currently qualified to have an opinion on that subject. Let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.”

(With thanks to Harlan Ellison for the inspiration.)

This is an except from Tara’s upcoming book with co-author John Glass, “Speaking Truth: Words That Matter” which will be published later this year.

One of the most valuable sentences I have ever come across is this:

“Let me see what I can learn.”

When you feel resistance to doing something that you know you must do, say to yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.” If you are feeling bored and think there is nothing going on, look around and try this perspective on for size: “Let me see what I can learn”.  If you find yourself procrastinating because you are afraid to face a task, tell yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.” Maybe there is a reportImage: Fork in the road you need to read that you have been avoiding. Or you find yourself in a conversation with someone you don’t know well. Maybe you have to tackle doing something unfamiliar and are afraid you won’t do it well so you’d rather not try. Tell yourself, “Let me see what I can learn.”

This technique works especially well when other people are involved in the scenario. At a party or gathering of any kind if you find yourself seated next to someone you might not have chosen to speak with or who maybe doesn’t , at first glance, look like someone you wouldn’t find interesting, tell yourself this: “Let me see what I can learn.” (Everybody has a story. Try it. You’ll be surprised at the riches you’ll unearth!)

If someone asks you for information you don’t have just say, “Let me see what I can learn. I’ll get back to you.” Boy, oh boy! Do I wish all customer service personnel were taught to do just that!

This one sentence can help you push past your reluctance and fear. It opens up otherwise unseen avenues for exploration that will motivate you to plunge right in. Now you have a task in mind for yourself that will lead you forward in any situation. “Let me see what I can learn.”

“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”  — Martin Vanbee

 This little story came to mind today as I found myself, for the second time in two days, the lucky beneficiary of someone else’s experience. 

A small village had a system of plumbing pipes that had, for many decades, been maintained by one man.  Yacov had spent his years in the central control room learning the intricacies of the pipes and keeping the system running smoothly.

As is often the case, new technologies come along that interfere with the old ways.

One day the village elders came to Yacov’s house to inform him that they had decided to install a new, computerized system to run the town’s pipes. His services were no longer needed. Yacov smiled at them, accepted their decree and went back into his home to brew a pot of tea and enjoy the view of his garden.

Several days after the new system had been brought online the plumbing in the town failed.  None of the technicians could figure out what was wrong. Nobody knew what to do.  After a few days of listening to the townspeople’s complaints, the elders gathered at Yacov’s front door and begged him to please come fix the pipes.

With a small smile on his face and a glint of something in his eye, Yacov agreed.

Back in the control room the elders stood in silence watching Yacov as he stood very still for many minutes. He looked. He listened. Then he took a wrench in his hand walked over to a junction and tapped twice on the overhead pipe.  Lo and behold! the system began to run again.

Later that day the village elders received a bill from Yacov charging them $2000.12 for his services.  Outraged, they once again assembled at Yacov’s front door, this time shouting at him and asking how dare he charge them this enormous amount when all he did was to tap a couple of times on a pipe!

Yacov’s smile was wider than the village square as he said to them, “The 12 cents is for the tapping. The $2000.00 is for knowing where to tap!”

Path

This is an excerpt from Tara’s upcoming book Speaking Truth; Words that Matter co-author, John Glass. More details can be found at www.SpeakingTruthTheBook.com

“If you don’t have a plan for yourself you will end up being a part of someone else’s” –Jim Rohn

“It is much easier to act yourself into a way of feeling than to feel yourself into a way of acting.”

Many of us wonder what we are meant to be doing with our lives. We wait for some sort of emotional sign to tell us that we’ve found the right path in life. Some people do have a certainty about the direction they want to go. They are the lucky few who just know what their life is for. The rest of us search for our place in this world or just go along with the plans others have for us.

But we are given only so much time on this planet and we each have to decide how we want to spend that time.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

It is a common mistake to wait for the “right” feeling before you make a decision. That may happen. Or it may not, keeping you rooted in place while you wait for what may never come. Love, for instance, is all too commonly misunderstood as an emotional state. We want the fireworks and the “chemistry” to be the indication of who we should choose to be with. And when the emotional state changes or fluctuates we fear our love has died. But in fact, love is not an emotion. Love is a decision.

That’s a big left-turn from where most people sit so I’m going to say that again:

Love is not an emotion. Love is a decision. It’s a decision you make every day to act in someone else’s best interest. You don’t always feel the sparkle. That comes and goes. But you DECIDE that each day you will make the choices that support the well-being of your spouse, your children, your students, etc. We don’t always feel like cleaning up after a sick child. But we make the decision to do it because that is the logical extension of our love for them.

“Love is not a feeling. Love is the will to extend yourself for your own or another’s spiritual growth and well-being.” -Dr. M. Scott Peck

The same holds true for personal choices of career and lifestyle. Yes, there ought to be a balance between what your rational brain tells you needs to be done and the life choices that will affirm the spiritual and creative sides of your being. But those are also a product of your own understanding of who you are – an acknowledgement of the gifts you’ve been given. Not a surrender to an emotional state that may or may not have any connection to real world circumstances.

I knew a man who use to make decisions based on whatever popped into his mind first. He thought there must be something magical about that first thought because it came along with a feeling of discovery. That feeling trapped him into many foolish decisions and he continued to pay the price for his bad choices until he gave up the notion that it always has to “feel” right.

It all comes down to deciding what’s really important for you to accomplish before you die. Picture yourself on your deathbed looking back at the course of your life. What will you wish you had done with the time you were given here? I don’t mean take a cruise to Greece or play the harp. I’m talking about the activities that connect us to our communities. Things we can do that make the world a little better place to be. When you define what that is and decide to act on it then you will know you’ve found your path. And the better choices seem to be those that involve us in something larger than ourselves.

Another reason many of us don’t see our way clearly is the fear that we will be making the wrong choice. But there are very few choices that are so irrevocable that we cannot change our minds and say, “Well, I tried that and it wasn’t right. I’ll try something else now.” It is not unusual to reinvent yourself over and over as you grow and learn and change.

You only have one life. Figure out what is most important to you and you’ll know how you want to spend the time you’ve been given.

“The choice may have been wrong but the choosing was not.”
-Stephen Sondheim

“Where your talents and the world’s needs intersect, there lies your vocation.”  -Barbara J. Winter

My last post titled “Are You Sick Of Highly Paid Teachers?” generated quite a bit of buzz. At last count 122 comments on Newsvine.com  [http://tinyurl.com/hue99jl]

Although clearly labeled satire there were those who took the piece at face value and went to great lengths to argue with what they thought the article was saying. Others expended a lot of energy talking about the “privileges” of being a teacher (short hours, 3 months a year off, etc. ) and asserted that teachers need to step up and shoulder their fair share.

Without re-hashing the conversation (you can read all the comments and my replies on my Newsvine page by using the link above) let me just say that, when read as intended, what is offered is a sarcastic title with a Stephen-Colbert-style text that actually DEFENDS teachers and shows what nonsense it is to think that teachers aren’t already shouldering more than their fair share for far less than they ought to be paid.

Sarcasm:  Stating exactly the opposite of what you mean.

Satire: Using humor to show that a point of view or behavior is foolish.

Just recently I’ve seen a number of examples of sarcasm and satire that got interpreted by the viewer as though they were serious statements and a truly surprising misperception of a song lyric that really threw me for a loop.

The focus here is accepting that sometimes the world looks so completely different to the person standing next to you as to be unrecognizable.

The song in question was written by my good friend, singer/songwriter John M.  The title of the song is “My Mother In Me” and is, to most listeners, an ode to his mother listing the many ways John’s mother contributed to what is good and right in his life.

“She taught me how to walk in the light and live by the golden rule

And sometimes how to stand and fight. My momma didn’t raise no fool.

What you see is what you get and if you like what you see

Look a little closer – That’s my Mother in Me.”

Someone took great offense to the song hearing – I know not what or why – that it was an insult to mothers.  (??!?)

(By the way, it’s a great song. Click on over to John’s web site and give it  a listen.)

It seems a great many people these days are looking at what they want to see rather than what is actually in front of them. Others project from within themselves something that isn’t there. Still others, I am told, have a physical brain configuration that makes them incapable of perceiving satire and sarcasm.

How do you talk to someone who is convinced of a reality that your senses and the best evidence available tells you doesn’t exist?  Our perceptions are a result of the long chain of choices we’ve made up to this point in our lives.  To change how you see something requires that you back-track and reassess previously held beliefs.   (Education, by the way, is a big part of how we’ve come to hold our current beliefs. If you have the ability to think critically and analyze your reality rather than just react to it thank a teacher.)

There is an old Jewish saying that goes like this:

“If one man tells you you are a horse ignore him.  If two men tell you you are a horse think about it. If three men tell you you are a horse – buy a saddle.”


Are You An Acoustic Music Fan?

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!!

As a member of the Americana-Folk/Rock band, John Zipperer & Friends, Tara performs in around Los Angeles, CA (with an occasional out-of-town appearance). Come see for yourself why John Zipperer's CD "Full Circle" has been on the top 25 of the Roots Music Report Album Chart for over a year!

Tara Sitser - Author / Singer/Songwriter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,351 other followers

Available Soon – Check back for periodic excerpts & updates!

Speaking Truth - the book - image

A new book by Tara Sitser & John Glass

Tara’s Latest Tweets

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: