A New Approach

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My mind was trying to fly through molasses. After a week of headaches, my brain was functioning, but not creating – no matter how much I forced it. When I mentioned this to my friend, Kate, she pulled out my weekly astrology horoscope from the trashcan, literally. She had just read and discarded it. The amazing thing was that it was right on target. According to the horoscope, things would be difficult and I’d feel stuck. It’s amazing how the planets influence us.

The horoscope interpretation recommended I find a new approach by brainstorming to break out of the holding pattern. Luckily, mom duties called. The distraction didn’t last long enough. So while five middle school boys ran around the house playing hide and seek, I wasted time on the computer. And it was lucky for me I did. If you haven’t watched The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, do it. It’s stupendous. (You can find it on YouTube.) I took his ideas, put them in the blender of my mind and came out with something new – a new approach – not just for writing, but also for new ways of looking at my world. I am truly grateful for Pausch’s viewpoints, insights, and suggestions.

As usual, I took notes – eight pages of them. Here are a few quotes I’d like to share:

“Brick walls are there to stop the other people – the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

Someone once told him to tell his exceptional students: “That was pretty good, but I know you can do better.” He continued, “You obviously don’t know where the bar should be and you are doing them a disservice by putting it anywhere.”

“When you do the right thing, good stuff has a way of happening.”

Wait just a darn tooting minute. I’d been told this stuff my entire life, but have been rebelling against it. Why was this time different? After a long pause, including a night of sleeping on it, I think the answer is in how it was said.

Before I took the information as a command (and as you can probably tell, force doesn’t sit well with me and in fact slows me down). However Pausch presented the information in an insightful, funny, and yet gentle way. Picture a command as a drawing of a flower – the information is there, but it’s not real. However, by being encouraging and humorous Pausch transformed the flower. He gave it texture, fragrance, and dimension. He allowed me to experience the flower.

Have I done this in my own life? I’ve been the type of parent who has tried to allow my kids instead of force them – and sometimes I succeed. At a recent dinner with Bethany (my oldest), Garett (her fianc√©), and my ex-mother-in-law (yes, we still get along well), I complimented Bethany on her skills in planning the wedding. I’m totally amazed that she can do this – not because I doubt her skills, but because I don’t enjoy party planning. Her face glowed with the compliment. After a beat, I said the word “but.” We laughed at my implied control. She then told me I’d always been supportive and encouraged my kids to do whatever they wanted.

My brick wall (planning a wedding) was overcome by giving Bethany and Garett the privilege of planning their own wedding. After all, both of their jobs include project management. And besides they know what they want and are capable of doing it. Along the way, I keep expressing my amazement at what they have done. Setting the bar was up to them. I’m there to boost them if they need it (which they don’t) but I don’t limit them by setting the bar too low. And I do it the right way (by respecting them) and good stuff is happening.

So, Randy Pausch, thank you for helping me see things in a new way. By the way, my mind was buzzing and my fingers were itching to write by the end of the lecture. Where I’d been stuck just hours before, my writing flowed. I was looking at the world from a new angle. I had tried a new approach. I was allowing myself. Thank you Randy Pausch.

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