Self Talk

Julian Gude circa 1980, Fremantle Western Australia
Julian Gude circa 1980, Fremantle Western Australia

As I walked the other day I was reminded about some books I read some time ago about negative self talk. My own internal dialogue is best described as polar opposites of good and bad. As I’ve grown older I have found more fault in my own actions (and therefore my self talk) but also more compassion for my weaknesses.

Today, what I refer to internally as ‘the real me’ is this sunny blond headed kid with a big infectious smile who is connected wholly to his heart. Every day I live I try to remember him and that me is the one who makes me a better father, husband and friend. From this boy came this simple common sense reminder on a walk the other day and I thought it might be good to share with you.

Negative self talk

“Instead of listening to your own bad advice in the form of negative self talk instead think of giving a good friend advice if they had the same problem. You wouldn’t think of talking to a friend like you talk to yourself.

The next time you give yourself some advice think of it as a gift you would give your loved one or friend.

Try it in business, try it with your relationship and parenting advice, try it on the golf course.  – Julian “

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

cigarmar

Smoking is one of those sins that can be just scrumptious. Like a good brownie or an expensive bottle of champagne.

I stopped smoking cigars a couple of years ago. I had a couple here and there over the first six months but for the most part I stopped. I rarely think of them. But once in a while I just want to have a smoke. My original plan was to keep smoking – just to have a cigar every week or two. I stayed away from that plan because I wanted to really kick the habit. The pneumonia was a damn good reason to as well.

What I’m most mindful of is that cigars served many purposes for me – good and bad.

They provided me with a break from my hectic job. They got me away from the phone and computer. I stared out at the sky and relaxed. I went back to working and got more done. I often talked with other smokers and I enjoyed the socialization.

Feeding the shadow a little
They keep lions and other big predators well fed in a zoo. We all have a big predator inside that Jung called the Shadow.
psyche
I believe you have to feed your shadow and that it is better to acknowledge it (feed it even) then deny it completely. I’ve done complete denial and it only makes your world (and the one that your loved ones orbit) go spinning out of control.  Not good.

With my weight loss over the last couple of years I have found more success in having a nice sweet every so often, or in moderation to be much better than trying for the complete shut out. Denial gets you, the shadow is in there.

The question always comes back to one of balance. A smoke every so often, for the right reasons can be a good thing for me. And if done unconciously, for the wrong reasons, it could be very bad.

I had a smoke a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I could really taste the tobacco and it was good. Before I lit up I made sure I was not under any duress or stress. Just a couple of weeks earlier I had purchased that small box of cigars but I refused to smoke one after buying them. I was under the very duress that would feed an unhealthy addiction. I was clear at the time that if I had a smoke then, it would have been from an unhealthy place. I didn’t give in and that gave me more strength.  Giving in would have been giving in, and that only serves to make me feel a sense of failure, rather than serving a purpose of merit to me. I think it’s easy to confuse what I was saying earlier about giving in to your shadow and giving in. Giving in to my shadow in a good way is about doing it conciously.

I had a smoke today a couple of weeks after that first one. I didn’t feel compelled to. It was fine but not nearly as nice as the first one. I feel like I need to space them out more and this one wasn’t ceremonial enough. I was just outside with the dogs. It needs to be something more like a special occasion. I also felt as I did during the last smoke that I’m not the same man anymore. It doesn’t hold me like it used to and I like that. I’ll leave the next cigar until it feels right and no matter what, I won’t have more than a couple a month (if that). I want to savor the experience of life and occasionally match that to a nice smoke, when I feel life coursing through me in a positive way as I do right now. For me that can be reinforced with a cigar, a run, a motorcycle ride, or a cocktail, or a good laugh with Shannon. I like really loud music as well. 😉

Freud said that being entirely honest with oneself if a good exercise. I try to do that as much as I can stand. Sometimes I can’t stand it at all.  When I’m denying my own shadow I’m in trouble. Freud was also credited with saying ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’ even though most sources say that he didn’t actually say that.

Today was like that and that’s how I want to smoke. Sometimes, every so often, I just want a cigar to be a cigar.

Now where are those Oreo’s dammit!

Resurrection

Rickankiel

Did you ever see the movie The Natural starring Robert Redford? It’s an account of a baseball player’s life and his attempts to get it right, on and off the field. He’s derailed along the way, by his own hand of course but symbolized in the movie as an evil woman that almost kills him. Life is like that, it almost kills us sometimes but if we can survive it truly doesgive us greater character.
My father shares my love of the movie and the story line. He sent me a brilliant article from the Washington Post writer Charles Krauthammer who wrote a poignant piece on real life St. Louis Cardinal Rick Ankiel.

Ankiel has claimed his own place in the annals of history of redemption and resurrection. I find great happiness not only in his story but in the reaction of the fans to him and what he has done. It brings chills to my body and tears to my eyes.

Read the full Charles Krauthammer story titled Return of the Natural here.

Well done Mate!

Hostage Negotiator, Suicide negotiator or Business man?

I have gotten far away enough from the business man I once was to see things with the clarity that one can only find from a distance. And it is not a view that I could accurately hold if I had not been up close and personal.

When I sit listening to my wife speak with staff, clients, bosses and vendors I recognize my own life in business all too well. How it spills over in all areas of our life. How it comes to define us because it is what we do.  She is talking people off the ledge. She is negotiating the peaceful surrender. In this case the hostages are dollars and we win some and we lose some. There are collateral losses. There is collateral damage. There are the occasional celebrations of victory. These moments are a recognition of a sliver of time where we are momentarily ahead of the game.

In the end I can’t find any meaning to it beyond basic survival. Any meaning at all.  It is not a hostage that we have saved or someone we have kept from leaping from a bridge. It is a dollar earned and a dollar lost.

But I wonder.

If we were to to apply our great powers as a people to saving ourselves with the same fervor that we chase the all mighty dollar — what then?  Would it even be any better or would we just fill our life with the same puts and calls with a different currency?

Head slap moment of the month

We’ve all been there before. The Homer Simpson esque head slap. The one where you realize you’ve been doing or saying something galactically stupid and as the moment of realization sweeps over you in a head rushing, oh-god-no moment you realize you have been delivered. Me being me and all, I’ve had more than my fair share of these. I am after all, a Gude.

What’s my latest?

Frustrated to pieces by my 2 going on 3 year old Mac Powerbook G4 (1.67Ghz) I have been pining to upgrade my system. Easy to justify since it is my main business tool and my business is conducted almost completely over the computer. I’ve got the nice monitor (22 inch) keyboard and mouse for the job and the Mac was (and has been) the perfect CPU. But as with all computers it has been showing its age. It got so bad recently I bought a separate USB 2.0 hard disk drive to offload the piles of photos, videos and songs filling up my hard drive. A maxed out hard drive being one of the main culprits of slow-as-death computer performance. I needed the drive as a backup anyway and it only cost $80 at Costco so no big deal. Did that help? Hell no.

My memory is OK at 1GB, I could use 2GB but my problems don’t seem to be helped by running minimal apps, a typical performance hit from overtaxed memory.

I researched huge amounts of Mac optimization utilities. Decided on a couple of freebies that came well reviewed. Ran all of those. Nothing – same symptom.

and what is that symptom?

The Apple multi-color pinwheel whirring away like I was trying to edit a 1 terrabyte video. I got serious about diagnostics today because I almost lost it and was moments away from using my Mac as a frisbee. Instead, it being my main source of income and all, I bore down on Google and as I was doing that something simple occured to me. It didn’t have anything to do with my Google searches either.

My browser. What if my browser was the problem?

And it was. Good old, usually reliable Mozilla Firefox 2.0. Latest production build and all. I fired up Safari and Camino (which has the same Mozilla engine in it but a pretty Mac face). Both ran with none of the delays I’ve seen. Head slap. Never would have thought.

Of course, it probably has nothing to do with Firefox and everything to do with some external Firefox add-on that was hacked together by…well a hack. I need to start removing those one-by-one to see what is truly causing it. Of course, maybe there really is a problem with Firefox. I’ll update this post when I find out.

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To be known as an Amateur

I struggle with the word professional.

It always comes off to me as superior – and so I have a hard time applying the moniker to myself, despite the fact that 22 years as a working stiff probably qualifies me for the common use of the title in my areas of expertise. Speaking of words that I have some dislike for, there’s another: expertise. I dislike expertise for similar reasons since it implies an end-state and I believe we’re all just at varying stages of acquiring knowledge and wisdom. Who would ever want to stop learning? To me that would imply death.

For these reasons the true meaning of Amateur is most profound for me. I often coach myself to strive for a “Rookie’s verve” in things I do. When I get things right in life I can attribute them to acting as an amateur would. No amount of books, knowledge or schooling seem to make up for what this kind of attitude can have in life. I’m certainly delighted to be an amateur running my first marathon since it captures the spirit of the whole thing…quite so. In business too I would much rather act in the spirit of an amateur. Having started my own business a little over a year ago I feel I’m a step closer to that.

In doing some research for my run I have been watching a bit of Chariots of Fire. The movie has always ranked as one of my favorites and that was true long before I was a runner. As soon as I can figure out the intricacies of video encoding I’ll put up my favorite clip from the movie which shows Scot Eric Liddell winning the 400 meter race.

In the mean time I came across an academic from BYU by the name of John S. Tanner who writes about amateurism beautifully (he ties in Chariots of Fire which is how I happened across his piece). Here are some excerpts but I strongly encourage you to read the whole piece.

“Following my appointment as academic vice president, I received many kind notes from faculty colleagues. As the congratulations came in, I thought of sobering remarks by Hugh Nibley:

Anyone can become a dean, a professor, a department head, a chancellor, or a custodian by appointment—it has happened thousands of times; but since the world began, no one has ever become an artist, a scientist, or a scholar by appointment. The professional may be a dud, but to get any recognition, the amateur has to be good. [“The Day of the Amateur,” Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, ed. Don E. Norton and Shirley S. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo: FARMS, 1994), p. 303]”

and this

“The word amateur derives from the Latin for “love.” An amateur is at root a lover—a lover of sport, science, art, and so forth. It is this sense of amateur that I believe we must preserve if we are to achieve a more excellent way. There is much to recommend the professional ethic, including rigor, methodology, high standards of review, and so forth. Yet I hope we never cease to be amateurs in our professions—that is, passionate devotees of our disciplines.”

and this from Dr. Tanner on Chariots of Fire

“The film Chariots of Fire is organized around the contrast between the professional and the amateur. The movie tells the true story of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell—both gifted sprinters and both, eventually, gold medalists in the 1924 Olympics. Abrahams exemplifies the spirit of the professional: he is driven, highly coached, obsessed with winning and personal glory. Liddell, by contrast, embodies the spirit of the amateur: he is joyous, heartfelt, animated by the love of running and the glory of God. Abrahams runs on his nerves; when asked why he runs, he says winning is a weapon against pervasive anti-Semitism. Liddell runs from his heart; he says he runs for God.”

Which brings me to my favorite scene from Chariots, which includes a host of poignant moments including the one where American competitor Jackson Schultz, who understands Liddell’s intent and motivation, hands him a hand written note that includes a quote from the bible:

“Mr. Liddell, it says in the old book
“He that honors me
I will honor”
Good Luck –
Jackson Schultz”

Image from Chariots of Fire “He That Honors Me”

To read more about Liddell and a bit about Schultz read this great account from Helen Thomson.

I rather enjoyed Dr. Tanner’s description of my favorite scene from the movie where Liddell narrates to his sister about his reasons for running and his calling to evangelize in China (which he went on to do) as he runs the 400.

“We see this contrast in their respective running styles. Abrahams’ running is technically sophisticated and fierce; he scowls his way across the finish line. By contrast, Liddell runs like a wild animal across the hillsides. At a certain point in each race, Liddell leans back his head, opens his mouth, and turns on the jets—abandoning himself to the pure expression of his divine gift. This accurate portrayal of Liddell’s running style symbolizes that his running is inspired. Inspire literally means “breathed into” by God. Liddell’s inspired passion for his sport is captured by a famous line from the movie spoken to his sister Jenny, who is worried that he is forgetting his higher commitment to God and to an eventual mission to China:

“I believe that God made me for a purpose. For China. But He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. To give it up would be to hold Him in contempt. You were right. It’s not just fun. To win is to honor Him.”

and this from the previously cited Helen Thomson on Liddell’s life after his gold medal:

“Liddell retired from international athletics immediately afterwards on the grounds that he had now won the Olympics. Four years later he recorded a time far quicker than that of his successor as champion at a small meeting in Asia two weeks after the Games.”

I can think of no moniker that I’d aspire to more than amateur. How about you?

The idea is

Julian here, wearing the hat of master of the obvious. It is one of my favorite roles. Here’s the version and subject of this particular slice of obvious that I was just playing in my head.

I was wondering today why I actually run and how I compare the idea of running vs. the actual experience. The actual act of running is at best difficult (physically) and if you’re pushing yourself hard then it can be downright painful. Despite this, when I think of running, it is more often than not a positive association. I think of quiet time, the feeling of satisfaction from accomplishing something, from the real and subjective physical and mental health benefits, and very much, the time to listen to music. Oh and one more important one: ideas usually come clear to me when running or I will find the resolve to take action on something I’m procrastinating about. Powerful stuff indeed.

These are all things that happen when I run. Most of these benefits, or things that I look forward to, are mental. Physically, running is hard. It hurts. Your muscles can burn as can your lungs. There is a period in most every run where everything starts to feel good, as the endorphins are released and you experience a runner’s high. In contrast to this, I have the exercise that I want to do but have a really hard time sticking with – strength training. This is true whether it is actually lifting weights or my more favored calisthenics that include push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, chair lifts, leg lifts, squats, etc. The idea of strength training is unattractive to me in every way. My friend Eric, who is an accomplished lifter had this to say to me once about my difficulty in strength training: “It’s hard and it’s boring – not a great combo. It takes a certain kind of individual to like it” He had a glint in his eye as he said this. No wait, that was a phone call we had so it must have been a note of something in his voice. With strength training I don’t get quiet time, I don’t listen to music (because I’m in the house), I get interrupted by any number of outside stimuli (I can’t multi-task) and I don’t usually have my breakthoughs in thinking, or the stress relief that I get with sustained aerobic activity because of the typical start/rest/start nature of lifting. There’s no continuity. When I really think about the physical work though, in many ways it is easier than running (at least how I strength train). Eric would make this point. I don’t life heavy weight or strength train like a mad man. The pain is over quickly and there is an immediate feeling of greater strength and well being from all that blood pumping into your muscles in response to the tax you’re placing on them. Hell, you can even look better right away because your muscles get pumped up. While I can imagine that a girl might not see this as a win, a guy like me who has ‘always wanted’ to be built it is highly attractive. My point is that the idea of running, despite its actual physical pain is attractive due to all the ideas I have about what it does for me and the greater pleasure that it brings. Versus my strength training which in many ways is easier physically (again my qualifier is that I’m not doing gut busting 250lb bench presses) but mentally is 50 times more daunting.

The difference in what I actually do most of the time is more based on my mental picture of pleasure and pain and it is not directly correlated to my physical reality.

I can see how this plays out in all areas of life. As a procrastinator a task that I put off for a day, month or year because of the idea of it is almost never as bad in reality. I end up, as most people do, asking myself why I didn’t get on with it earlier. I even find myself enjoying some of these tasks or challenges! Do you? Now to be fair there are tasks that we find JUST as unpleasant in reality as the idea of them. Frightfully, some are even worse. But my point is that those are actually pretty rare. The mental anguish we procrastinators put ourselves through is far worse on our mental well being than the reality of avoiding reality for prolonged periods of time.

There it is. Julian, master of the well known and obvious.

Like many ah-hah moments, there is nothing remarkable or new about this one and my mastering of the obvious is only a temporary respite from my normal mode of thinking. Isn’t it? Why do we forget our mental ah-hah’s and return to our normal mode of thinking?