Browsed by
Category: Articles

When the wheels fall off…dealing with decline

When the wheels fall off…dealing with decline

The last 24 hours have given me a front row seat on something none of us want to think about: decline.

Photo by Jacob Kiesow on Unsplash

Yesterday afternoon, I visited a dear friend who is dealing valiantly with the limits imposed by a 99 1/2 year-old body. Her ability to continue to be engaged is inspiring. She remembers that I have granddaughters, asks about my time with them after I last visited her, tells me about her family, sees me to the door at her home, and makes me feel about ten feet tall in her opinion of me. She is definitely a gem. But there’s no denying that it’s getting harder and harder for her to be alive physically.

Last night, my son and daughter-in-law were over for dinner. My daughter-in-law is in the unenviable position of having to manage her dad’s finances when he still believes he’s capable as an investor but has reached the point of making mistakes. So far, she’s been able to mop up behind him. She doesn’t want to deny him his identity as a savvy business person, but how many mistakes is too many?

This morning, a good friend is starting a “tile job.” He has done this work for friends for a long time. This time, he needs to do it with one hand that doesn’t work very well because of the combined mess of falling off a ladder and too much delay within the healthcare system. He’s been resilient his whole life. Can he figure out a way to do it again?

These things don’t look similar on the surface, but a closer look reveals them to be the same thing: how to keep on living the best you can when life smacks you with some kind of “disability.”

In other words: What do you do when you can’t do what you used to do the way you’ve always done it? Especially if that activity has defined you as a person?

We need to see it differently than we see it as a culture now. Decline…becoming less able…isn’t some kind of personal failure. It’s a normal part of life and deserves respect. It’s also not “the end.” It’s a turning point–a change in direction. As with all turns in the road, it’s diffcult to see what comes next until you’re through it. You still need to keep going. You may need to slow down to get a sense of what this curve can tolerate, but stopping entirely isn’t even safe, much less interesting. And turning around isn’t an option at all. This is where you are and forward is where you need to go.

You can still have a life, you just need to figure out how to accomodate this new reality in how you go about it. That’s not easy, but after about thrid grade, most of life is not easy. Believe or not, we’re back to Nike time: Just do it.

Start by figuring out what was most satisfying about what you were doing before. It could be the competence you felt. Or the interactions that effort involved. Or what you created. Or one of a million or more other things. What did it give you?

Then work at coming up with other ways, that are more feasible in the new reality, to give yourself that same kind of satisfaction. Choose one and try it. If that does it, great. If not, choose a different one. Keep going. Period.

Not being able to do what you used to do yourself also means you have the chance to learn something most of us never get good at: Asking for help. This critical skill is not taught in our society. We mature either expecting someone else to do everything for us or refusing to admit that we need help at all. Ever. Learning how to ask for the help your really need–and only that–takes skill. And skill takes practice. This is one we’d probably all do well to work on our entire lives. Later in life it’s mandatory if you want to thrive.

Decline is inevitable. But there is a choice in how to deal with it. What you do when you can’t do what you used to is a chance to grow into someone new. Someone more skilled. Someone who’s moved to a higher level on how to gets things done. This is not a bad thing. Unless you decide it is.

Good Work

Good Work

It’s Labor Day. Let’s talk about work.

Did you groan? Or maybe even flinch? If so, there’s a whole lot of stuff that you can’t see in what you’re seeing as “work.”

Photo by NEoN Brand on Unsplash

Work–absent the paycheck and the boss and the nosey cube-mate–is something humans have been doing since we arrived on this earth. Some of it was for survival. Some of it was for the approval of others (another form of survival). And some of it was just because it was fun.

Yes, work can be fun. Actually, work should be fun. We have things really screwed up in our current approach to it, and that’s killing us, individually and as a society. We work work work without feeling joy in what we are doing–and that’s not “good work.”

We need to be doing work that reflects our sense of what’s important. If that’s not happening, a lot of things can go wrong. Physical health. Job performance. And the biggie, mental health. Doing bad work really can kill you–or someone else. This is not safe. Is anybody listening?

Even worse, when we retire, everyone assumes this problem is solved. It’s not. It just morphs. Sometimes there’s still a paycheck involved. Sometimes it’s unpaid–as a caregiver to a family member or to help kids who need child care for their own kids. Work does not stop when you retire. It shouldn’t. But it needs to be good work.

If you do not want to do it, it’s going to be bad work. So a big factor in work once you retire is honesty. If we were doing this right as a culture, that would be true from the get-go. At least in retirement, you have control over what you choose. So put some real effort into choosing well. If your friend wants you to volunteer and you really aren’t interested, don’t say yes. If your service guild needs a President and begs you to take on the role, only do it if you believe you can take pleasure in doing the work.

More important than anything when you get far enough in life to decide whether you want to do things or not is to choose the things that you want to do.

The vast majority of the time, this will not mean choosing to avoid work–which you may find surprising. Work has huge personal benefits even when there’s no money coming in as a result. Work is confirmation of your competence. Doing work says you have value to the world. Work usually gives you the chance to be with other people, too. And we do need to be with other people. Social connections have more impact on our health as we age than everything modern medicine can do.

Once you retire, you’re still going to work. Get used to that idea. You’re going to need something, both to confirm your value and to offer good social contact. You many need some time to figure out what that is once you leave the job. You may have been doing it as a hobby or volunteer effort for years. But you’re going to need it–provided it’s GOOD work.

To Age Well, Be Kind

To Age Well, Be Kind

photo by Guy Basabose on Unsplash

We have an epidemic of nastiness going in the country that’s going to kill us. Not just because politics have become so ugly. No just because Thanksgiving dinner has become a minefield. Because all this nastiness is literally bad for our health–individually and collectively.

Three bits of information that I chanced upon today draw the picture well.

A friend forwarded me a post from a blog he subscribes to and asked what I thought of it. It was a rant about “the Bolsheviks” (liberal Americans) and how awful it was that they were happy David Koch had died. I agree that jubilation over anyone’s death is wrong. But I also disagree with the label the blogger was repeatedly applying. We are never going to get anywhere by belittling other people’s point of view. (Turns out we will get somewhere –the hospital after a heart attack–but more on that later.)

The second snippet was off the internet and was about two second grade boys on their first day of school. The one noticed the other was in distress, walked over and took his hand, and walked into school with him. The boy who helped was black. The boy in distress was white and autistic. None of that made any difference to the kids. Kindness was what was called for and kindness was what was given. (Who do you think is the more mature male, the blogger or the black kid in second grade?)

The third bit of information came from the PBS News Hour this evening (my chosen source of news when I can stand hearing about it at all). They interviewed Dr.Kelli Hansen, an MD whose book, The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness, came out today. Her premise is that the most important resources for maintaining our biomedical health come from our social environment not the healthcare system. Yep. Kindness keeps you healthy. I haven’t had the chance to read her book yet, but I’ve read enough other research on the subject to know she’s on target.

To age well, you need to be kind and to put yourself in situations where you are treated with kindness.

Is this not cool? Instead of worrying about how many reps you did at the gym, you get to play with your kids or your sister’s kids. Or run to the store for milk for your sick neighbor. Instead of worrying about whether you are eating the exact right things to avoid a heart attack, you get to do the things you like to do that someone else needs done. There are a gazillion ways to be kind. They are never boring. They don’t “all taste the same after a while.” Kindness is always a kick.

Perhaps we needed this massive dose of the bitter medicine of conflict to help us embrace the better way. I don’t really think so, but it’s where we are and what we need to start with. When someone is calling names or making fun of people, turn away. When someone wants to fan the “we/they” flames, ignore it. This is simple stuff, but it’s crucial. BE KIND AND HANG AROUND WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE KIND. Not just for the greater good. For your own health.

And for heaven’s sake don’t think you can wait until you are “old” to make the change! Heart attacks don’t wait for you to get old.

The Joy of Complexity

The Joy of Complexity

Maybe we have this “simplify” thing all wrong.  Yeah, we don’t need anywhere near as much “stuff” as we all seem to continue to own.  And maybe we don’t need a lifestyle where the calendar is jammed so full you can’t make it from appointment to appointment without total love from the traffic gods.  And maybe even switching to a single story living arrangement makes sense.  But for heaven’s sake, let’s not get carried away with making everything simple.

We need mental challenges.  We need to step up to things we aren’t sure we can do.  We need to stretch—mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I just got back from one of the best vacations of my life.  When I was on the brink of it, I wondered if I was insane to have set it up the way I did.  I hadn’t committed to climbing Mt Everest or anything dramatically daunting.  But I had committed to doing a lot of different things in a place that I didn’t know my way around easily and totally on my own.  When I laid it all out on paper, I could not help but ask myself “Are you NUTS?!” 

In the course of nine days, I got myself TO Colorado (by plane—with  a ride to the airport from my older son, bless him), rented a car, found the hotel I had also set up, went to dinner with an internet friend and his significant other, found my way back to the hotel (in the dark), made it to the new home of friends from college that I hadn’t seen in 30 years the next night, met with the curator of a mining museum to begin research on the sequel to a western I published a while back the day after that, met with a friend I hadn’t seen in 35 years, found another hotel, toured an underground mine, visited six museums related to gold mining in Colorado in the 1890’s, found the third hotel I’d booked, found the remote address of another set of friends, dressed for and went to a toga party (and danced like I was 19), attended two other parties  with total strangers, drove back to Denver from the high mountains to spend the night with yet another pair of good friends, got myself back to the airport with the rental car full of gas and properly checked in, flew home, and then got back to my house (thanks again to the same son) to start working on a dinner party I’d committed to two days later.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot to you.  If so, you probably haven’t been listening to the well-meaning mess-makers telling us “Slow down.”   I have had that going in stereo from various healthcare providers for over five years now. In this case, I ignored that advice and did what I wanted to.  WOW!  Did I have fun!  And I felt just as good (well….BETTER) than if I’d been doing what the “experts” were telling me was right.

As I write this, my two granddaughters are working on craft projects in my dining room.  They could have just opted to read a book or play with toys that they already know how to use.  No way!  They wanted the challenge of something new—something where they had to master a skill they didn’t already have.  This does not go away.  We still need to do complex stuff when we are older.  NOT expecting that of ourselves is how to get to where we can’t. That’s how you get to “old and decrepit.”   It’s totally natural to want a complex challenge to work on.  At EVERY age.

It might be wiser, as we start to throttle back, to think in terms of choosing the best challenges in what we keep.  You don’t have to keep the challenge of maintaining a 7000 square foot house.  You don’t have to keep the collection of Hummels that your mother so lovingly amassed.  But you DO have to expect yourself to learn new things, to try new stuff, to tackle new challenges.  THAT is what being truly alive involves.

So when someone tells you, “Simplify,” don’t be too quick to jump on that.  Do you really want to let that complexity go?  NO one knows what you need as well as you do.

The 180 Degree Rule

The 180 Degree Rule

One of the ways we can start modeling wisdom is to implement the “180 degree rule”: Go toward what you want to move away from. The benefits of that adjustment are profound. Both personally and for society.

photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

I got a nice reminder of this a few days ago. An online professional friend put out an all-points request for people who held conservative views. She decided she needed to broaden her thinking by conversing with people who didn’t think like her.

She was using the rule and was smart in admitting that it’s too easy to believe everyone thinks the way you do when all your friends do. That’s like thinking everyone drives a Subaru because all your friends do.

I decide where I stand on the political things one issue at a time (yes, a dyed-in-the-wool “Independent”). But I tend to lean conservative on fiscal stuff so I volunteered for her project. It turned out to be a very enjoyable conversation. Finding something we might disagree on became more and more the underlying joke as the 80-minute discussion progressed. Yes, we had differing opinions, but it was more a matter of degree, sequencing, or methods than of outright, irreconcilable differences. I was pleased I’d had the chance to learn that. Again.

Sometimes, the needed “one-eighty” has to do with an adventure. I didn’t particularly want to go on a very long cruise my then-husband suggested. I am oh so happy I did it anyway. Maybe you’re not a fan of Greek food. Go see if there’s something on the menu that you missed. The mousy little person in the corner at the HOA social? She might just turn out to be your new best friend.

This was pretty much what happened when I moved into a new neighborhood as a young mother. The other neighbors welcomed me, but they warned “Don’t be offended if your next-door neighbor doesn’t seem friendly. She just keeps to herself.” The “unfriendly” neighbor became best neighborhood friend. Over 40 years later, we still keep in touch. When we start laughing on the phone, it’s like we are still living next door to each other with young sons instead of 2000 miles apart with grandkids.

Don’t let fear keep you from doing “one eighties”. Fear is a spineless bully. Don’t let other people decide for you. They don’t know what you need or what you’re interested in. Sometimes staying away is a good idea–pit bulls and tsunamis come to mind. But it’s too easy to stay in your comfort zone just because it’s…well….comfortable.

That’s how we end up divided as a nation. That’s how we end up lonely as individuals. We don’t go see what’s really going on. We let what we want to believe get in the way of figuring out what’s real.

We can change that.

And we can lead the charge. We can set a good example for younger people by taking risks and reaching out. We can go toward what we normally would shy away from. We can build bridges and start bucket brigades. We can dance in the street with strangers. Life is too precious to view it from the couch with a triple lock on the door. Get out there.

Age Is a Really Useless Number

Age Is a Really Useless Number

This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter, Put Old on Hold.

Last month, Barbara proposed that we initiate the option of using “perceived age” where chronologic age is currently expected.  That way, people could say they were the age they felt instead of what a document prepared decades before professed to be the case.  Barbara and I agree on a lot of things.  This is not one of them.  It’s a waste of effort to try to find a better version of a really bad idea. 

We need to stop using age as a legitimate piece of information for all but official things like starting kindergarten, getting a driver’s license, and signing up for Medicare and Social Security (and those last two might become suspect eventually).

As a measure of a specific person’s potential, “age” is a pathetic loser.  Individuals vary widely on what they do when in the trajectory of their lives.  Some are late bloomers, suddenly catching fire on something they’re passionate about after being total flakes for five decades or more.  Some can play Mozart piano concertos flawlessly at age 3.  You can become a permanent couch potato at age 28 or run a marathon in your 90’s.  It depends on the person—NOT the number in the blank that says “age”—or its cousin “date of birth.”

We put an incredible amount of weight on age with how we use it now.  We decide people are “too old” to hire.  We decide that being a certain age means you personally…individually…are in a body that can’t do certain things, even if you are doing them every day.  We decide whether we want to get to know someone as a friend or romantic partner.  We decide what a person’s healthcare needs should be.  The date you were born does not have the correlation to life skills, competence, OR needs that we give it. It’s almost as useless as birth weight for assessing a specific individual’s potential.

Often, we are trying to determine one or more of the following:

  • Vitality
  • Thinking ability
  • Appetite for assorted things
  • Ability to do a job/contribute to society
  • Physical stamina
  • Attractiveness

We need to start working with these parameters themselves instead of using age as a universal key on who can do what.  AGE JUST CAN’T TELL US THAT.  I do more complex quilting projects now than 30 years ago.  I also do more complex computer work now. Even my practical jokes are getting more complicated.  I have friends who are the same way about physical strength (often because they now have the time to work on it).  Look at the person in terms of whether they can do, not his or her date of birth.

When we think in terms of “how old” someone else is, we deny much of what they truly ARE.  There’s nothing in that number that holds an accurate accounting of what that person is able to accomplish and how he/she lives life. 

It’s normal human behavior to take shortcuts in processing information.  If we can assume something instead of sorting through a lot of data points, we can make more decisions and take action faster.  The problem arises when what we assume doesn’t come anywhere close to reality.  Judging people by their age is definitely in that category.  It’s a lazy substitute for the legitimate information gained by actually watching that person DO what you are interested in having them do. 

Why “the News” Isn’t News Anymore

Why “the News” Isn’t News Anymore

Why has “the news” acquired a political flavor? When did describing what’s happening in the world become a war in and of itself? The problem has deep roots, and it’s likely they do not grow from competing ideologies. A big piece of the problem started from something that seems pretty plain vanilla and safe–the desire to sell stuff.

Remember when sports stadiums were named for the team? And when buses just looked like buses, not mobile billboards? There were ads on TV, but mostly before and after the show. Now the ads take more air time than the content. You only needed one hour, at most, to get the news and that quite likely included the farm report. “News” was curated locally and offered as a community service to those in that viewing area.

Now, “information” is global and available 24/7. There are a gazillion cable channels–all of which and more are available on your computer or phone as well as your TV. News is everywhere. And it is rarely happy news. It definitely isn’t balanced news. And often, it’s hard to tell the difference between a real thing and reflections.

From the beginning, television has been for profit. They provided programming that people liked and watched. That wasn’t to please their viewers. The way to media profits is ads. They wanted (and still want) to get more money for their ads by showing their advertisers that they had a lot of viewers. So this isn’t about us as viewers. It’s about keeping us looking at what they’re offering. We–as the TV audience–have been “eyeballs for hire” since the start.

When it was curated locally, TV stations gave the local viewing audience the information they needed. But when cable channels entered the picture, programming stopped being regional. News was recruited for the war for eyeballs, and each channel had to find a way to stand out.

There isn’t much room for that in factual reporting. So “the News” became part of the “entertainment” aspect of TV. Entertainment requires conflict. In a good story, something goes wrong and creates tension again and again. To approach the News this way, the sense of conflict is amped up. Recently, we’ve moved beyond even that to generating conflict by challenging the facts themselves–and proposing “alternate facts.”

Our President likes a fight. He likes to get other people fighting with each other. He’s an entertainer. He loves conflict. Others in the public view have jumped in to do the same. So there is plenty of conflict to be showcased. But is it what we need? Valid information that people can use to be informed is not part of this perview.

The media is drawn to these fights; they are “good entertainment” because of the conflict level. “News sources” replay inane, unfounded accusations again and again without any embarassment. As a nation, we are beleaguered day after day with people fighting–as “News.” Even though most of America is going about its business in peace and harmony, we are served up enough discord to believe that we are all at each other’s throats.

Add to that the “news personalities.” The pundits. The talk show hosts. Instead of just the actual conflicts that have occurred being shown a disproportionate amount of the time, the talking heads fan the flames, “interpret” so as to magnify them, and generally create an even higher sense of conflict.

It’s all about entertainment–and eyeballs. And that means it’s all about conflict. The entire world hasn’t broken out in a high school cafeteria brawl, but it seems like it. A significant source of our national stress is probably coming from all this fake fighting in the news.

A democracy encourages differences of opinion. But it also recognizes that the will of the people is in synthesizing them. No one wins if all we do is fight. Except in the eyeball war. Advertisers get to pitch their stuff. The media companies get to take the resulting revenue to the bank. We don’t even get paid to rent our eyeballs.

It’s time for a quiet rebellion on all this. We can take our eyeballs elsewhere. As consumers, we need to get wise to the distinction between entertainment and information and stop accepting the former as the latter. If you decide to watch “the news”, ask yourself “Do I need to know this?” with every article that’s dished up. With everything offered in a news feed, ask “Is this a fake fight? Who gains by frothing this up?”

When they are building angst, they don’t deserve our attention. Take your eyeballs and go home.

Modeling Wisdom

Modeling Wisdom

It’s time to step up. There are ways to improve the situation–ANY situation–instead of just enduring it when it’s become too ugly to endure. Those of us who have lived a significant number of years have been cowed into silence with the cultural assumption that we’re irrelevant. We seem to have accepted that we have no right to weigh on how our society presents itself to each other and the world. We need to ditch that rancid baloney and stand up. We were quite able to be civil in the past. We still know how and can lead the way–by offering ourselves as good examples of good people. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it “The years teach much which the days never knew.”

We’ve been places. We’ve done things. We’ve solved a lot of problems. We know a lot more than we realize. And what we know can make a big difference in how well things go in this world–your personal one, the one that revolves around family and friends, and the big one. It’s starts with the courage to project your wisdom. To be visible to the world in living with kindness, tolerance, and the emotional acuity to see that arm flapping is usually not about the important things.

You may be shaking your head and muttering “She’s not talking about me.” Don’t be so sure. Each of us can live our own lives well and be an example. Each of us can say “I’m not going to argue”–and mean it. Each of us can be kind regardless of what’s going on around us. Each of us can be a beacon for civility.

Modeling wisdom does not come from sentences that start with “When I was your age….” or “Back in the day….”. In fact, it doesn’t start with words at all most of the time. We need to use our wisdom. To put it on display in how we live our own lives. To showcase it in getting the things we are involved in accomplished. By being strong when giving up would be a lot easier. By being patient when things are going off the rails and you want to scream. By being tolerant of rough edges and underdeveloped thinking. By offering a hand in friendship when you aren’t sure you should.

When you do use words, it’s not about “I know better than you.” Sometimes it will be a story of how NOT to do something, based on your own mistake. Some of those words will be things you’re surprised to hear yourself say. Some of it you are just waiting for the chance to share. And waiting and waiting and waiting. That’s when showing is far more effective than telling. If even one younger person sees how to do something better because of how you behaved, you have given the world a gift.

You can watch every relevant TED talk and participate in online forums day and night, but watching something handled well right there in front of you is a whole different learning experience. It’s far more potent. We can be the opportunities younger people need to learn civility. To learn how to solve a problem well. To learn how to evaluate information We knew how to do this before; we can show others now.

This isn’t a matter of telling others how to do things. This is a matter of SHOWING others how to do things with grace and ease. We need to LIVE as wise ones. Pass it on.

Dead-end Friendships

Dead-end Friendships

As we get older, we get wiser–at least that’s the assumption. So it makes perfect sense that as we get older, we stop trying to keep friendships that don’t work all that well going. Sometimes it’s easy because you interests change, and you just don’t see each other. But sometimes, you have to step up and decide. When you know it’s not working for you anymore, you waste precious time and energy continuing with it. And even if the other person is benefitting, it’s not a friendship if you both aren’t working at being friends.

Victoria Kubiaki on Unsplash

So what are the clues that tell you when to say “Enough!” (or to just mutter it under your breath and stop trying)?

  1. How do you feel after you’ve spent time with this person? Are you energized? Or do you need a nap–or a hot fudge sundae–to overcome what you just went through?
  2. What did you talk about when you were together? Is that something you are interested in? Did you feel like an equal in the conversation?
  3. Was it “all about me” for the other person? Were you listening to his/her problems, conquests, projects, and/or glory for most of the time together? How much interest did he/she show in what was going on in your life when you tried to talk about it? (If you are choosing not to talk about yourself, that’s a different issue.)
  4. What are you getting out of being friends with this person? Does he/she provide something you need? Or are you just going along for the sake of avoiding conflict?

We need friends. But they have to be real to meet that need. Is that what you have going?

The reasons we make friends vary all over the map. And having friends does require tolerance and acceptance of the fact that we are all different. But different and balanced are two very different things. If you don’t feel good about having spent time with that person after you do, dig down to find out why. Is the friendship going both ways?

Is she/he helping you become a better person? Sometimes, the dis-ease you feel is because the person reminds you of what you want to be but aren’t working on. In that case, much as there’s a bad feeling after you part, there’s also an “I want to do better” echoing in your head.. That’s a true friend.

On the other hand, if you come home feeling invisible, it may be because the person you were with didn’t really put effort into seeing you. No one needs that. Spending time with that kind of person is a waste of timne. Don’t go there!

What’s in a good friendship?

  • People you enjoy being around. Life’s too short to hang around with Grumpy Gus, Negative Nellie, or All-About-Me Al.
  • No worries about “what people will think.” In the first place, nobody cares who you hang out with except you (unless you are 12–then your parents care and they are right to do that). Age, skin color, social background, etc. make no difference in whether you can be friends.
  • Diversity–but not as a way to be politically correct. A wide range of friends is part of living a big life. That casts a wider net for new experience and knowledge. Be friends with kids, with the very elderly, with CEO’s, with janitors. Be open to friendship whenever you meet someone new.
  • FUN! That’s the bottom line. If a person is fun to be with, he or she is good friend material. Authentic playmates aren’t always about fun. They are the ones who will be with you in thick and thin.

Dead-end friends are not fun. And they are not good for you. It’s okay to let them go (even if they insist you are a selfish, mean, intolerant person because you are no longer their captive audience and/or slave).

Testing Assumptions

Testing Assumptions

It’s way too easy to assume you know what’s going on. And then to take action based on that “knowledge.” Quite often, what we think to be true isn’t the case. Maybe it’s a small thing, like assuming your friend is coming for dinner when they don’t know anything about it. Sometimes it’s a big thing, like assuming someone else is picking up a major client (or grandma) at the airport. Or assuming that you can trust a financial advisor because they have a sophisticated online presence.

In the current political environment, this tactical shortcoming has reached fever pitch. But just pointing a finger at “those people” who are assuming something about you that isn’t true, doesn’t get you what you could have in working with this idea. It’s far more useful to look at how you’re doing it yourself. Then you can benefit from correcting it in everything you do, all day, every day.

“Testing assumptions” is not all that sophisticated. It is mostly a case of asking yourself “How do I know this is true?” whenever you’re using a piece of information to act/make a decision.

What is it that makes you think this is the right thing to do? Why is THAT true? What are the assumptions that provide the base for that underlying assumption? Why is THAT true?

Most likely, you assumed that I screwed up–that the above photo is upside down. The main element is a mountain shape. Mountain tops go UP.

It IS the shape of a mountain–Mount Rainier to be exact. If you’re assuming the photo was taken in Mount Rainier National Park, my favorite playground, you would be correct. But it’s actually the picture of a LAKE. Reflection Lake–with Mount Rainier reflected in it.

Once you look carefully at the photo, there are clues. The reeds don’t make sense as a photo of a mountain. The focus is weird. But you have to LOOK to notice these things. It’s just a fun exercise when you’re looking at this photo. How you make sure what you’re assuming is true as you live your life is far more important. And we want to believe that as we get older we get better at “knowing.” But that’s not always the case.

Don’t assume it’s true. No matter what “it” is. If it’s the basis of a decision check it out. How do you know it’s true?