Alan's People Tools Blog

Why I Hate Poetry

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.

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Go Climb A Mountain

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.

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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.

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People With Goals Use People Without Goals

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.”

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The Magic Piano

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!”

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Catch the Up Elevator

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).

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