Thursday, December 31, 2015

B+ Kind of Person

I’ve always been a B+ kind of person.  In school I was a good student, but not outstanding.  My typical grade was B+.  I became a good tennis player, but never made that last leap to become a top player.  In my work career I did a good job and moved up to be a solid manager, but never an outstanding leader.  My writing is improving, I have eleven published books, but I haven’t broken into the top tier..

When I undertake new responsibilities, I want to do a good job.  There is part of me that strives for excellence so I continue to put in the effort to succeed at whatever I undertake.

Like in Lake Wobegone where all the children are above average, I tend to be above average in whatever I do.  I’m a pretty good father, husband and grandfather.  I made a good income.

There’s part of me that wants to be the best.  When I played competitive tennis, I wanted to be a champion.  In my working career, I wanted to excel.  I want to do well as a writer. 

Then there’s another part of me that says, “No, I don’t want to make the sacrifice to really go for it.”  I never wanted to sacrifice my family for my career.  When I played tennis, I wanted a life beyond competing.

Were these just excuses?  Not everyone has the talent and perseverance to be a champion.  I took my tennis to the next to top level, but didn’t have the disposition and attitude to reach the next rung.

I always felt I had potential.  I still feel I have potential, it’s just that now I’m seventy-one-years old.  I’ve come to terms more with my strengths and weaknesses.

So I’ll continue as a B+ kind of person, doing pretty well at what I undertake.  I’ll keep learning and improving.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll become an A- kind of geezer.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Mystery Writer's Christmas Wish

Some people view mystery novels as dealing with a gruesome topic: murder. I view mystery novels as holding hope for overcoming adversity and that justice can prevail. But the justice needs to be based upon the crime committed, not lead to an arbitrary act of retribution against someone who doesn’t believe the way we do or who looks different. With all the hate and violence in the world today, my Christmas wish is that we can all embrace the basic message of our various religions to act on love not hate.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fear and Punching the Monster in the Nose

There exists a fine line between fear and worry.  Worry tends to be the first manifestation of fear.  When I wake up at four in the morning worrying, what am I afraid of?  Not getting my next book published?  Making a fool of myself?

It’s always helpful to go through a sequence of what is the worst that could happen.  What if I don’t complete my manuscript?  Then I won’t be submitting it to the publisher.  Then what?  It won’t get published. Then what?  I’ll have to finish it and submit it to another publisher. Oh.

Some fears are grounded.  Having a gun pointed at you, being in a lightning storm, seeing an out-of-control car careening toward you on the highway provoke legitimate fear.  Other forms of fear are anticipatory or imaginary.  Anticipatory fears, the realm of worry, can be addressed through planning.

The secret is to take the necessary steps and then detach.  Rather than being fearful about my manuscript, I do everything that I can to produce quality results.  But if the publisher goes out of business, this is beyond my control.  I do my best and then need to detach from the outcome.

When our kids were very young and had bad dreams about monsters, I told them to talk to the monster.  Tell the monster that I was going to come punch it in the nose.

We’d all like to have someone who can punch our own personal monsters in the nose.  I’ll have to remember that the next time I wake up at four in the morning.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


I am and always have been a worrier.  As a child, I worried about everything.  My mom gave me a wooden worry-bird which I kept on the dresser in my bedroom.  It’s purpose was to worry for me so I wouldn’t have to.

As a teenager, I became a good but not great tennis player.  What held me back was my mental attitude.  I’d be playing well and then would start worrying.  What if my serve fell apart?  What if I started missing forehand shots down the line?  Sure enough, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It takes me a long time to make decisions.  I look at each side of the issue and worry about the consequences.  Then after I make a decision, I worry if I made the right one.

The only positive part about being a worrier is that it turned me into a good planner.  I’ve always been able to anticipate problems, think through alternatives and come up with contingency plans.

As a kid, I was always attracted to Mad magazine.  What greater appeal that Alfred E. Neuman and his, “What me worry?”  I envied that attitude.

Now that I’m older, I’ve tempered my worrying during the day.  But my worries still accumulate at night, and I’ll pop awake with my mind going a mile-a-minute about all kinds of problems. 

It would sure be nice it that darned worry-bird just did its job.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


We are always under some form of stress so the secret is to find the right balance.  Too little stress leads to boredom and too much stress leads to health problems.

A wake up call for me came when I suffered a heart attack two years ago. Although I had a healthy diet and was doing the right things, it snuck up on me. As I lay in the ICU recovering, I realized I had overcommitted and was trying to do too many things, leading to stress. I made the decision to pull back to a reasonable number of activities..

It’s important to practice letting go and taking a break.  One of the big de-stress activities for me is exercise.  I’m a lot less stressed if I can get out for a workout, followed by a hot shower.  This resets my mental engine by giving me a break to enjoy the outdoors before I have to resume dealing with everyday problems.

Other important elements of dealing with stress for me include being around people I care about, laughing and focusing on the positive aspects of life.

The bottom line: stress is always there.  I just need to use it as a positive force without letting it control me.  I have to remember to take a deep breath, look at the scenery, then get back to the task at hand.