A “Normal” person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, “Each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray. – Alan Sherman

Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people. – Martina Navratilova

Most people have become convinced that vanity is a bad quality to have. In fact, it may actually be a cardinal vice which makes it more than bad; it’s terrible. If one explores this negative pronouncement in more depth though, it ain’t necessarily so. For example, Lord Chesterfield said, “To this principle of vanity, which philosophers call a mean one, and which I do not, I owe a great part of the figure which I have made in life.” There you go. Chesterfield thought vanity was one of the keys to his success.

It may be that vanity is little more than one of those things that is just going around. If so, even you may have a little yourself. As Blaise Pascal suggested, “Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired: even I who write this, and you who read this.” No less an icon than Mark Twain said, “There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it;” and there is no end to how clever people can be when concealing it. To illustrate, Louis Kronenberger suggested this strategy, “Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of greater vanity in others; it makes us vain, in fact, of our modesty;” so if you are uncomfortable with vanity, substitute modesty about being not so vane as some people you know. Just be sure to cleverly conceal it.

François de la Rochefoucauld is another one of the folks who got it, “What makes the vanity of others insupportable is that it wounds our own.” Benjamin Franklin got it too, “Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter, wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others who are within his sphere of action: and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.” Antonio Porchia also understood, although he did slip in “ridiculous,” probably as a minor concession to the vanity police, “Without this ridiculous vanity that takes the form of self–display, and is part of everything and everyone, we would see nothing, and nothing would exist.”

Fortunately, there is a much better approach. You can simply re–conceptualize. What folks refer to in you as vanity isn’t vanity at all. Rather, it’s merely a reflection of your positive self–perception. It’s what the psychologists call a good self–image. If someone accuses you of vanity, just smile and say:

I’m not a giant or a meek little lamb. I am me, that’s who I am. I’m taller than a cat and shorter than a tree. I’m the very best me you’ll ever see.

I like to laugh, I like to smile. I like to daydream once in a while. I’m extra special but I’m still just me. I’m the very best me I know how to be.

I always try to do my best. I’m good at a lot of things and getting better at the rest. Here’s the truth for everyone to see. It’s totally terrific being me.

I could tell you more stuff about who I am. I like spaghetti and strawberry jam. Here at last is the most spectacular part. I’m extra special because I’m so smart.

Now you know so there you go.

A New Way to Meditate

Welcome to a new way to meditate. When you think about meditation, what comes to mind? If you ponder traditional meditation, nothing comes to mind. That’s the idea. Suspend reality and turn into your inner self.

If traditional meditation works for you, may the inner peace consume you as you find your center. But when traditional meditation does not work, a new way to meditate is here for you.

The experience you are undertaking lasts about forty minutes and does not require suspension of reality. Use the first segment to focus and listen. If your attention drifts, there is a dancing blue elephant there for your enjoyment. Find her and let yourself smile as you focus on her and the music.

As the music shifts, go with it. Nothing needs suspension. Stay with the music. It takes you on a changing journey to wherever you go. At any time, the dancing blue elephant is there for you, tempting back your attention on her and the music.

If convenient, listen with earbuds or however you like to send the music directly into your awareness. If not, just listen and stay with the journey. Either way, when you come to the end, a better space awaits.

The Secret Why For Writing

The Secret “Why” For Writing

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.  If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” –– John Stuart Mill

When to write? Where to write? What to write? How to write? These four simple questions prompt enough complexity in their answers to fill articles and magazines, books and libraries. They stimulate enough interest and mental energy to fuel casual discussions and writers’ groups, conferences and university courses. They hint at profound mysteries and hidden wisdom, secrets known only by the literary elite, the potential for sudden insight and heretofore elusive discoveries.

We think about these questions. We dream about them. We talk about them. We listen. We read. We ponder and then we try to push the questions away so we can focus on the hundred more important things we absolutely have to do. We try and then there we go again. We think about these questions. We dream about them. We….

Is this behavior normal? Is our preoccupation with when, where, what, and how within the acceptable range so we don’t have to guard against others learning our little secret? Sad but true. It’s definitely not normal and is so unimportant that it falls far outside any range of interest to most people so it doesn’t even make it on the scale where acceptable and unacceptable issues are considered.

I randomly stopped twelve people and posed the questions to them. When should one write? Where should one write? What should one write? How should one write? Three just stared, shook their heads, and walked away. Four didn’t bother to shake their heads. That left five, two of whom asked, “What are you talking about?” Of the remaining three, two said, “Whatever,” and the one still seeming interested thought for a few seconds and said, “It would be easier to just leave a voice mail. Why do you want to write anything?”

Why? Why do I want to write anything? Here I am worrying, nigh obsessing, about when, where, what, and how and then the one person in a dozen asks why. How frustrating is that? What do I say to someone who thinks that leaving a voice mail is preferable to writing? It might work if I can write the message and then read it onto the voice mail, but maybe not.

It’s tempting to dismiss the why question as the query of an idiot but, of course, it is much more fun to write about it and certainly we all know about the attraction of fun. Let’s take another pass at those four questions and add the why question to the list just for fun.

I’ll take a few editorial liberties with the questions since it’s my piece and we all know about editors and their taking liberties. I’ll start with what to write. The best advice as measured by how many times I have read it is to write about what you know. An alternative thought worth considering measured by my experience is to write about what I don’t know but really want to know. When I have done enough research and have given it enough thought so I can clearly explain it to me, writing about it is fun.

Sure, I know. You got me there. When I write about it, it’s writing about what I then know. Those writing gurus, they always seem to get the last word.

Maybe the going will go a tad easier with the where question. Measuring by how often I have read it, the best advice is to have a quiet place where I won’t be interrupted and everything I need is at hand. –– Not in my lifetime. –– Do you realize how organized I would have to be to pull that one off? Suffice it to say that, if I wait until I achieve that level of environmental control and self–discipline, writing would be merely one of those “wish I had” laments. I’ll have to be satisfied with wherever the keyboard is and hope for the best. Maybe I will find the piece and quiet somewhere inside me.

When to write? The writing gurus strongly recommend a regular daily schedule. That’s just fine so long as they don’t mean every day at the same time for the same amount of time or even most days at about the same time for nearly the same amount of time. You don’t suppose they mean that, do you? Sad but true. That’s exactly what they mean and they are very serious about it. It’s sort of like responsible drinking. Only have one or two drinks, always after 5:00, and then doing it most days should work out okay.

Unfortunately, I happen to be one of those binge writers. I can go for weeks without so much as a complete sentence and then there is a day or a week or a month where I can hardly stop writing long enough to get anything else done. Sure, I come staggering back to reality sooner or later but the binge has to run its course. Is it an addiction? Is it a compulsion? Is it an obsession? I don’t have a clue but know that it’s way too much fun to stop or to want to stop. I’ll just keep bingeing.

That brings us to the how question. This may be the most guru–answered of the four questions. The obvious advice is to decide what you want to say and then say it, in writing. Perhaps the next most obvious advice is to write what you think you want to say and then read it. It probably isn’t quite what you had in mind so write it again. Maybe by the third or tenth or twenty–fifth pass at it, you will read what you want to say. There you go. You’re a writer. It’s sure fun, isn’t it?

That does it for the what, where, when, and how questions. Nothing to do now but take a crack at that why question. Here we go. It’s not profound and I already let that cat out of the bag. I’m a binge writer, am having too much fun to stop, and way too much fun to wonder why. One of the twelve people in my survey came up to me later and asked, “You spend a lot of time writing but what else do you do?” I didn’t hesitate, “I write and then everything else is research!”

. . . . .

When to write? Where to write? What to write? How to write? These four simple questions prompt enough complexity in their answers to fill articles and magazines, books and libraries. They hint at profound mysteries and hidden wisdom, secrets known only by the literary elite, the potential for sudden insight and heretofore elusive discoveries. This article opens the door to that secret place, invites you to share in the mystic wisdom. Okay, maybe not; but it does tell you a couple of things you really need to know.

. . . . .

Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. is the Executive Editor of Leadership Village Press and Leadership Village, a network of sites focusing on leadership, interpersonal excellence, personal success, family and parenting matters, and related topics. Learn more about Dr. Crow at http://www.LeadershipVillage.com
Subscribe to the Leadership Village Press monthly Articles By Email! Service for FREE at http://www.ArticlesByEmail.com