On the day of our New Zealand hike we were late to meet our guide…Read More
As we head into the summer season of weddings, I have four wishes for all…Read More
It’s time to start thinking about an even better year in 2016. One of my…Read More
I used to believe that if I had to ask you for something then even…Read More
Imagine you have wanted your partner or spouse to change their behavior for a long…Read More
Goodreads Book Giveaway People Tools for Love and Relationships by Alan C. Fox Giveaway ends…Read More
Have you ever heard of Marco Dawson? I’ll give you a hint. He’s an American,…Read More
Our Latest Review from Publishers Weekly on People Tools for Love and Relationships: The Journey…Read More
I believe that every good relationship must be perceived as approximately equal by both…Read More
The first impression you make endures forever. And if you make a poor first…Read More
Whenever I visit a buffet restaurant I eat more than I had intended. This…Read More
Last week, I wrote an article for Fast Company magazine’s on Bottom Line blog,…Read More
“It’s simple,” the all-star defensive lineman explained. “The great ball carriers like Jim Brown…Read More
I am working at my desk. I hear a soft chime, and up pops an e-mail from one of my investors. He’s asking the same question he has already asked me three times in the last two months ago. It would take me an hour to research and answer his question, just as it would have taken me the first time he asked. Now my investor is upset and I am under increasing pressure to perform. What to do, what to do?
When it comes to breakfast I am a creature of habit. Years ago every morning I fried one “over easy” egg for myself. I liked the yolk medium, not hard. One morning, as I dropped the egg into the frying pan, the shell punctured the yolk, which broke. I frowned, and resigned myself to another unhappy breakfast because I knew that when I turned the egg over the yolk would become hard.
I glared at the offending egg. I tried to console myself by thinking about lunch. Then a thought popped into my head. “This egg costs about twenty cents. I can throw it away and cook another egg exactly the way I like it—‘over easy.’”Read More
Have you ever found yourself taking out your credit card to pay for something that you didn’t really want? Have you accepted an invitation to a party when you actually preferred to stay home, or entertained dinner guests far into the night because you weren’t comfortable asking them to leave?
You are not alone. Saying “no,” when appropriate, is one of the more difficult tasks in life. Many brides have told me they married their boy-friend because they were afraid to say “no” to his proposal. Of course, most did say “no,” far more painfully, a few months or a few years later.
The good news is that saying “yes” when you really mean “no” is a pattern that you can change. By paying attention to the following seven steps you can train yourself how to say “no,” and make it stick.Read More
As spring begins to spread across the land, I’ve found myself appreciating the cherry blossoms above me and the green grass below, which is starting to cover the hills of Southern California. And I’ve been thinking about old maxim, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
In 1969 I hired Jessica as a legal secretary for our two-person law firm. She worked for me, on and off, until she retired in 2011.Read More
We all may be intuitively aware that wisdom comes with age. My dad will be 100 years old in July, and I must say that he has revealed a great deal of wisdom in recent years. This means that perhaps, at 74, I still have much to look forward to. Recently I was excited to learn that scientific studies now agree – wisdom comes with age.
In an extremely well-written New York Times article, journalist Phyllis Korkki reviews some of the most interesting research about wisdom and the wise of the world.Read More
They say an optimist sees the glass as half full, while the pessimist sees the same glass as half empty.
Recently I asked an engineer about this hypothetical glass. His answer? The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
I’ll go with the engineer, and shrink the glass so that it is, in fact, full. I don’t have to be either a pessimist or an optimist. I just want to be happyRead More
Last Friday I appeared at the beautiful Barnes & Noble bookstore in Santa Monica, California for a People Tools book signing. The sidewalk was slippery, so I held on to Daveen who was carrying an extra box of books, just in case the bookstore ran out of copies.
Frank, the event manager, walked us upstairs to the auditorium which was filled with chairs. My assistant, Lauren, and her fiancé were seated to the right. My dad, who will be 100 years old in July, took a chair halfway back. Two friends were seated on the left.
Front row center sat a friendly woman, Saudy. I smiled at her, and said “hello.” We had a brief chat, as I thought, “Only one member of the public here? If she leaves I’ll really be preaching to the converted.”Read More
I would like to be James Bond. This is not some passing fancy. I have wanted to be James Bond ever since I saw him, actually Sean Connery, in the movie Goldfinger fifty years ago. I would like to be fit, handsome, and debonair. I would like to rid the world of evildoers. I would like to romp with beautiful women starting, of course, with Pussy Galore. And I have no idea how that name passed the censors.
Of course there is another side to James Bond. He leaps from cliffs or tall buildings. I’m afraid of heights. He is suave. I can’t tie a proper Windsor Knot. Villains shoot at Bond or try to blow him up. My doctor says I am extremely allergic to bullets, and also to the sight of blood, especially my own.Read More
I agree with Ralph Ellison and I am, at least in part, “an invisible man.” How is it possible not to be? I have so many thoughts and feelings that it is impossible for me to convey to you all that passes through my mind. Also, I am selective. That is a polite way to say that I edit before I talk. If I think that you will dislike certain words or ideas I will trim my speech to suit your taste. I will censor myself in an attempt to avoid your disapproval. (And, of course, there are certain topics, which “nice” people simply don’t talk about.)
All of this is perfectly normal. But occasionally I want something which is going to slip away from me forever unless I act immediately and make myself completely visible. This was the case when I first met my wife Daveen more than thirty-five years ago. In the 2011 movie We Bought A Zoo the leading man, Matt Damon, advises his son that to woo and win his ladylove he needed “Twenty seconds of insane courage.”Read More
For me, and perhaps for you, one of the more difficult emotions to deal with is anger.
My father used to get angry a lot. If he was worried about money he stormed around the house and the rest of us stayed out of his way. When I asked for something he didn’t want to give me he shouted. When I broke the glass table in the living room . . . well, I won’t go further into that.Read More
Today I drove 77 miles North from Los Angeles to attend the first 100th birthday party I have ever been invited to. I stopped at a drug store to buy a card for Bill, the birthday boy. Finding no greeting cards for a 100th birthday, I bought two cards congratulating him on his 50th birthday. The cards were funny and turned out to be a hit.
I have been a guest at Bill’s birthday parties for more than twenty years. At first there was a dinner at the home of one of his two daughters, but in recent years Bill has lived in a bed, mostly reading or sleeping, in an assisted living facility. He was born in 1914, before the start of World War One, and has been a friend of my father’s for more than 80 years. My father will celebrate his own 100th birthday in five months, and I’m looking forward to mine on March 5, 2040.Read More
When I was a kid I earned comic book money by pulling dandelions out of the lawn in our back yard. My mother paid me one cent for each dandelion. A comic book cost ten cents. So every week I would try to find twenty or thirty dandelions to yank out. I liked comic books. One time I wanted to make a lot of money, and I remember talking to my mom in the back yard on a hot Sunday afternoon for more than three hours while I pulled out 600 dandelions. I think that was the day my mom stopped paying me a dandelion-pulling fee and I had to find comic book money elsewhere.
But here is the catch. I only earned a penny if I pulled out the whole dandelion, including the root.Read More
The first month of the New Year is fading, and with it, perhaps, our New Year’s Resolutions. It is so alluring – New Year, Fresh Start. “This year I’m going to lose those 20 pounds, earn or save more money, and make new friends or get along better with those I already know.”
I think of a New Year’s Resolution as a charming rainbow which begins in our hearts and ends over the horizon. Such rainbows are enchanting to create, and delightful to enjoy, with our very own pot of gold waiting for us at the end. But we all know that following that rainbow can be more difficult than we expected and the pot of gold we hope to find at the end can often look very different than we envisioned.
When she was four years old my daughter Sara first watched The Wizard of Oz on a video my wife and I bought for her. I was surprised, and thrilled, to see Sara play that video five times over the weekend. She memorized the lyrics to “Over the Rainbow.” Why not? I can’t think of a better song to carry with me every day, or a better singer than Judy Garland, to implant those aspirations in my soul. I’d love to wish upon a star and find a place where troubles melt like lemon drops. Who wouldn’t?Read More
At age 21 I was married and living with Jo Anne in a one bedroom furnished apartment on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. I was enrolled in law school, but during the summer I held a full time job with the National CPA firm Peat, Marwick, with offices in downtown Los Angeles.
I commuted to work each day, and figured it was cheaper to commute by bus for twenty-five cents than to drive fifteen miles each way and pay for parking. When I returned home in the evening the cost of one additional “zone” on the bus was seven cents. Even though I didn’t like walking, I left the bus at Beverly Glen rather than ride another few blocks for seven cents more.Read More
When I drive my car I sometimes marvel at all of the adjustments a driver needs to make, split second by split second. We watch carefully, listen, adjust our course a little to stay in the same lane, change lanes, stop for traffic signals, and avoid hitting pedestrians. As I tell my children, if you daydream in class for fifteen minutes, no big deal. If you daydream for five seconds while driving you could be dead. When I drive I pay strict attention.
Driving a car, or living your life, is entirely an improvisation. There are physical, social, and psychological rules but there is no script. Even when you know what the scene will be – an employee review, appearing in court, or asking someone you love to marry you – you can only practice your part of the opening dialogue. You don’t know what the boss, the judge, or your intended will say, and there are so many possibilities that it’s impossible to prepare your answers in advance. But isn’t that part of why we each want to wake up tomorrow morning? To find out what will happen.Read More
Tonight is New Year’s Eve, when we celebrate out with the old. Good riddance, I say. The coming New Year has all the promise which we could possibly desire – we can lose weight, save money, and improve our relationships. When was the last time we had that golden opportunity?
I remember. It was about a year ago when I viewed the first sunrise of 2013. Funny how each year gets old, just like we do. How can we ensure that twelve months from now 2014 will not join that awful 2013 in the dustbin of our mind?
First, practice laughing at yourself.Read More
Tonight is Christmas Eve and most of us are shopping, anticipating, or trying to complete whatever before year end. Here I am at my dining room table writing a blog. For your sake, and mine, I’ll make it short.
I have an idea for a single gift that will cost you nothing, is already gift wrapped, and will bring joy to you and to hundreds of others for the eight remaining days this year, and the 365 days available in 2014.
Give the gift of yourself.Read More
I have nine children. Three are from my first marriage, two stepsons from my second marriage, and three daughters from my third marriage. (My final marriage, as Daveen would say.) For those few of you who check the numbers like I do, I add one foster child who graduated with honors from Tufts University.
They range in age from 26 to 51. Each has graduated from college. They have earned twelve graduate degrees among them. And every single one was once seven years old, as well as sixteen years old — just like you and me (unless you’re now younger than sixteen – but even so, there is already an adult blossoming inside of you).
I mention all of this not to brag, though I am extremely proud of each of my children, but to point out that every one was once an adult in waiting. I never spanked a single child. I never “grounded” a child. What I did was to consistently expect responsible behavior.Read More
I woke up at 6:32 this morning screaming at my wife, “When does the f***ing ship leave!!!!!”
We were not on a ship. We were in a hotel room. A few mornings before, I woke up Daveen by kicking her legs. Another nightmare, something about my being interviewed for People Tools and not remembering a single fact about my book.
In this morning’s edition my extended family had just returned from our present vacation, but somehow ended up in Seattle, scheduled to leave at any moment on a cruise. Our luggage lay scattered in a motel room with a large door at one end for truck access, but we were on the ship where I was trying to find out what time it was leaving.Read More
I have come to respect budgets.
A budget is nothing more or less than a plan, normally a money plan. If you think you will have $1,000 coming in this month, and want your outgo to equal your income, then you can list the categories within which you plan to spend your $1,000. Say $200 for food, $200 for car payments, $100 for recreation, etc.Read More
So said Henry Clay, Sr. (1777-1852), a lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. He was also Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829.
The question in my mind is not whether I would rather be right than President, because who in their right mind would want to be President? (With due respect to Barack, George W., Bill, George H., etc.)Read More
It’s been quite a weekend. Yesterday at 2:00 PM I attended a performance of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams at the Booth Theater in New York City. Today at 2:00 PM I arrived, front row center, to experience a concert by Itzhak Perlman at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
Yesterday the painfully shy Laura made her unobtrusive yet shocking entrance through the sofa at the back of The Glass Menagerie set. Today the gregarious Itzhak moved on stage from the right wing, performing a double take to be sure the concert master was handing him the proper violin – Stradivari or Guarneri. He plays both.Read More
“Foster” is variously defined as “substitute,” “temporary,” or “short-term.” So a “foster child” is an actual human being who is a “substitute,” “temporary,” or “short-term.” The antonym is “natural,” so a foster child is also not natural.
We met N (No One’s Child) after her mother could no longer care for her. As best I recall, N was about ten years old and a friend of one of our daughters in school. Both were young girls, both were in the same class, both were smart and ambitions. There was one slight difference. N was temporary and our daughter was permanent.Read More
Yesterday afternoon the airplane carrying me from London was on approach to the airport in Palma, Majorca. As I looked through my window I was concerned that we were landing in a rather heavy fog, but I had confidence in ground radar and our pilots. After we landed safely I looked through a window on the opposite side of the plane, to see no fog at all. I looked back through my window. Heavy fog.
Was there fog on my side of the plane and not on the other? No. My window was fogged over, creating the impression of fog outside. Beyond my window the air was clear.Read More
Years ago I was at a comedy show in Inverness, Scotland, and remember one joke which was very funny but still cuts me to my core.
“I’m on a seafood diet,” the comedian said. “I see food, I eat it.”
I have always been on the plus side of the scale. When I was ten or eleven my father tried to help me lose a few pounds. We had a running “bet” – lose weight, he paid me, gain weight, I paid him. That arrangement ended when he realized I was manipulating the scale so that I could instantly “lose” between three and five pounds.Read More
You bought a ticket to the show
So, I guess, you’ll have to go
Even if, that night or day,
You’d really rather stay away.
In 1975 I traveled to Mexico with my parents and my girl-friend Jill. Near the end of our trip we stayed in a resort hotel owned by the Mexican movie star Continflas.
That evening I was sick to my stomach and remained in the room because I couldn’t face dinner. During the night I woke to use the bathroom, but immediately returned to bed.Read More
Tom had never found the woman of his dreams. Although he cared for a ten year old son from a short term relationship, he had never married. Then Tom met Vanessa. Their relationship progressed beautifully. They enjoyed camping out together, practicing yoga, and he found her to be his best companion ever.
Tom was about to leave on a five day camping trip with friends when his cell phone rang. It was Vanessa, sobbing. Tom could hardly understand what she was saying. Through her spasms of crying Vanessa seemed to be repeating the word “Princess” again and again. After a few minutes she calmed down slightly and Tom finally understood her message.Read More
What builds in a relationship over years or decades and can be lost in an instant?
A stand-up comedy show in Edinburgh is a strange place for me to receive the best compliment my wife has ever given me. And this was not in private and Daveen was not even talking to me. She was answering a question asked by a comedian, David Morgan (who I certainly recommend), in front of an audience of thirty people, four of them dear friends.
The comedian was making fun of the fact that few of us feel pretty, and he pointed to Daveen and asked, “Does your husband ever tell you he thinks you’re pretty?”Read More
I am more than sixty years beyond my first childhood, but today I smiled to see children playing the age-old game of hide and seek. Everyone else hid while “it” counted to ten then called, “Here I come, ready or not!”
When “it” found and tagged another player, he or she became the next “it.” Several children ran fast enough to touch home base before being tagged and were safe for the next round. Finally “it” called, “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” and the players still hiding raced for home with many delighted shrieks and giggles.
I was never quick at hide and seek, so I had to be clever in hiding. But I wasn’t clever at hiding either, so I was “it” most of the time.Read More
Back in the early 90’s I met Jack Grapes, a wonderful writing teacher, who taught me a lot about how to write as well as I possibly could. He emphasized three rules:
1. Use your deep voice. In other words, go deep inside yourself. Let popular magazines cover the surface.
2. Write like you talk. If you wouldn’t use a word in conversation, then eschew it when you write. (See what happens when you break this rule? I’ve never said “eschew” out loud in my life.)
3. The good is the enemy of the great. If you are careful and aim for good writing you may succeed, but you will never write anything remarkable. When you take chances, shed your fears and inhibitions, and aim for wonderful, you just might achieve it. Or you may write something awful. But at least you will have given yourself a chance to shine.
I am writing this blog from the perspective of a bed potato. Bed is more comfortable than a couch when I watch TV.
In my twenties – the 1960’s to you – my friend John, whom you met in “Catch the Up Elevator” a few weeks ago, somehow persuaded me to join him on a three day backpacking trip. I understand that a backpack today is a miracle of lightweight construction and rests on your hips for support, but in those days it was just plain awkward and heavy.
John loves the Sierras, and we drove to a trailhead which began west of Lone Pine. We emptied everything from the trunk of my car into our two backpacks, mostly John’s, then he fiddled with mine until it was only twenty pounds too heavy, and we set off on our sweaty adventure. I will admit that John was quite helpful, especially in assisting me to step through the stream which crisscrossed our path. I did not fall in. I did not want to spend the night in a wet sleeping bag.Read More
People say I’m good at multitasking. I say, “Nonsense.”
I can only focus on one task at a time. I just switch from one task to another quickly. As my yoga teacher says, I can go from, “being Buddha to channeling a thunderstorm in one nanosecond.”
But aren’t we missing the point when we admire multitasking? I prefer multi-goaling. It’s far more effective than multitasking and extremely efficient. Consider an example.Read More
When my mind is occupied, a cross country airplane flight of five hours seems short. Otherwise the five hours seem long. On one such flight the movies were boring and the canned music dull, so I listened to a speech by a management consultant. One of his statements was, alone, worth the tedious 15 hours I seemed to have spent in my not-so-comfortable economy seat.
“People with goals use people without goals,” he said. This is one of those statements which seems obvious the moment you hear it. “People with goals use people without goals.”Read More
Years ago I owned, with my law partner and my brother, a cabin in the woods at Lake Arrowhead near Los Angeles. One of our first purchases was a player piano. Put in a roll and the keys would dance and the music played.
One day Kevin, the four year old son of my law partner, visited our cabin for the first time. I started a piano roll for him.
As soon as the music began Kevin’s eyes grew wide. He heard the piano playing, looked at the white and black keys racing wildly up and down, and said to me, “A magic piano. The kids at school are never going to believe this!”Read More
Let’s go for joy and Catch the Up Elevator. And let’s do that without the cooperation of anyone else in the world. If you want it done right, do it yourself.
Where did you start your day today? Tenth story with a Happy View? Ground floor with Starbucks? The Basement of Gloom?
It makes no difference where you started because you can go up from there. Most of my days begin above ground level and end up higher. Especially when I get home in the evening to spend time with my wife and family. But every single day I am influenced either from the outside (by other people), or from the inside (by me).Read More
When you experience joy in your life, what else do you really need?
When I was in the fourth grade I learned math from a thick grey book. The thin red answer book lay on the corner of my teacher’s desk. Life was simple then – one book of problems, one of answers. Today I sometimes don’t know if I’m even asking the right questions.Read More