Category Archives: Better Than Before

Do You Struggle to Give Up an Object that Once Served You Well? For Me, My Laptops.

laptops4“We conceive…a sort of gratitude for those inanimated objects, which have been the causes of great or frequent pleasure to us. The sailor, who, as soon as he got ashore, should mend [build] his fire with the plank upon which he had just escaped from a shipwreck, would seem to be guilty of an unnatural action. We should expect that he would rather preserve it with care and affection, as a monument that was, in some measure, dear to him.”

–Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

I love this passage, but the old-fashioned language may make it difficult to understand Smith’s point: when some object has done us great service, we’re reluctant to get rid of it.

Do you feel this way? I sure do. Continue reading

Direct Communication

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For a long time, there was a point in our lives where the things we were saying were not being heard. Nobody was listening, and we didn’t understand. But we saw our mothers and fathers get things done in more evasive ways. They never came out and said directly what they needed or what they wanted done, but things got done. As we got older, we noticed that we had picked up the habit, but that other people didn’t communicate in the same way. They felt no shame asking someone for what they needed, and they didn’t have to stomp around, cursing and making noise in order to get a message across.

For the most part, passive-aggressive tendencies are not appreciated. For instance, someone I once knew moved to college and was put into a suite with several other ladies. Having an early class, and not wanting to wake the other girls, she left a note that asked if the person that left the dishes in the sink could please clean them up. Well intended as the note was, it did not have a happy reception on the other end. The note ended up causing tension, and the writer of it did not understand what was so bad about it. In her mind, she was doing what she was taught – tell someone something indirectly when she felt like she couldn’t directly. She felt since the note wasn’t angry or very urgent, it wouldn’t make sense to wake someone up just to tell them that. The other girls, however, thought that she was too afraid to go directly to the person that left the dishes and ask them. Of course, things were returned to normal afterwards, but it led the note writer to examine her communication skills, and find that she really was not very direct – even though, in this case, it worked out. Continue reading

One of the Biggest Happiness Mistakes that I Keep Making, Over and Over.

canettielias“One lives in the naïve notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past.”

–Elias Canetti, The Human Province

I continually remind myself of this truth. Too often, I tell myself, “I’ll have time for this when summer comes,” “Things will slow down in the fall, and I’ll be able to tackle this,” “Next year, I’ll do it.”

No. Now is the time to do the things that are important to me.

It’s false to believe that there will be more time in my future than there has in my past.

How about you? Do you promise yourself, “I’ll do this — later?”

Continue reading

5 Tips to Deal with Insomnia

Insomnia tipsRecently I had a bad night of tossing and turning. I was up for a few hours, then overslept the next morning.

And while I was lying there, unable to sleep, I knew I was violating some of the beat-the-insomnia advice that experts give. Though, true, to give myself credit, I was following some advice.

These tips were on my mind, because I’d just read Andrea Petersen’s Wall Street Journal piece “Middle-of-the-Night Insomnia Blues.”

I violated one of the most basic back-to-sleep tips — the tip to get up, rather than toss and turn.

If you have trouble with insomnia, here are some of the tips from the article: Continue reading

Mildly Medicated: Wall Street, Parkinson’s Disease and the Music at the Root of it All

Michael Basile is the manager and the “man behind the scenes” of the modern rock bandScreen Shot 2016-07-26 at 11.40.37 PM
Mildly Medicated”, a group of very talented young people all sharing the bond of a medical disability. In his old life he was in investment banking on Wall Street until the world changed forever in 2008 and he re-invented himself as the owner of a school that teaches rock and roll music to budding musician’s. He is the modern day Rubin Kincaid to Mildly Medicated, producing their music, booking shows, and of course paying all the bills, which over the last 4 years have amount to around 150K. A diagnosis he wasn’t expecting changed his perspective on life and the work he is doing.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned.
If someone told me I’d be in this position 20 years ago, I’d have said they were nuts. I thought I had cut a deal with the universe that I’d be the modern day Peter Pan. I surely felt invincible at the time. But as I’ve learned, life provides no guarantees, and sometimes you have to play the cards you’ve been dealt. Just to give you some background, I came from a lower middle class family in Brooklyn and an only child because my father really didn’t like children. When I asked him why he even had me, his reply was straightforward and honest, “That was your mother’s idea”, and then he resumed reading the morning addition of the New York Times. My father never quite understood me. When I was in art school pursuing a degree in film, he handed me a copy of the entrance exam to the postal service. In is brute honesty, he proclaimed, “Let’s face it Michael, you’re not capable of anything more complicated than that. Look on the bright side, you put 3 or 4 years in the sorting room and maybe they will promote you and let you sell stamps behind the window. At least you’d have the honor of handling money which is a great responsibility, and after 30 years there will be some sort of pension.” It’s fair to say my father and I did not see eye to eye on most topics. At best he tolerated me. In the late sixties and early 1970’s, dyslexia wasn’t really understood, or even recognized. In the third grade I was labeled “stupid” and a “daydreamer”. I think that was hard for a parent to deal with. Truth be told, I’m far from stupid. I’ve been label a savant, but honestly I think I’m more idiot than savant, but that is a story for another time. In the fourth grade I realized on my own that I had a very strange ability to memorize things, even things I didn’t study. If I saw it sometimes it stuck in great Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 11.41.34 PMdetail, like the electrical schematic of a microwave oven. I wasn’t even conscious of doing it. My best friend Kim from the old neighborhood will sometimes call me and ask “What’s my password for my online checking account?” and I’ll know it. Yes, I’m weird. During the summer between the 3rd and 4th grade, I realized that I had the ability to “Pattern read” so I memorized the entire pattern of words. To make this easy to understand, I memorized shapes. A lot of them. For me “eht” and “the” is the same word. This ability allows me to read very fast. My friend gave me his discarded copies of Popular Mechanics and I found a partial set of the Encyclopedia Britannica in a garbage can. I spent my summer reading them all and memorizing. By the end of the summer I was able to read with blinding speed, because I could read an entire word at a time, forward and backwards, and just to keep myself from getting bored, I tried to read as much as I could while holding the book upside down because the pattern of words would change. I was devoid of the concept that I was different. I actually thought everyone was like me because no one bothered to tell me I was different, just that I was born stupid. When the fourth grade rolled around, we had our bi-yearly standard testing, and my reading level was off the charts. I was many years ahead of everyone, and the school and my parents accused me of cheating. They tested me again, all alone to be sure I had no help, and I scored even higher. The school was forced to put me in the IGC class, which stood “Intellectually Gifted Children”. I hated it because I just didn’t learn that way, and I was bored. To spare you reading more of this, let’s fast forward to High School, that I completed in 3 and a half years, excelling at things that involve abstract thinking, like music and art. I can play multiple instruments, all self-taught because my parents had no money, and those skills were not really valued at home. When I applied to art school in NYC, my father went ballistic. He was right. When I got out, I could barely make a living. I was literally starving. Things needed to change. Continue reading

When No is a Complete Sentence

NOWe all have a right to say no.  Most of us are used to hearing this phrase in terms of drug use or consent (“Just say no!” and “No means no!”).  Many of us feel as though we are obligated to do things, or that if we commit to something, we cannot change our minds and back out.  This is false.  We have the ability to make our own decisions, and to say no whenever we feel we need to.

Saying no can be hard!  There are people that we want to impress, and a lot of the time, we truly don’t mind doing something for a person here or there.  There are some of us however that feel overwhelmed with how much we have agreed to do, and we find ourselves unable to say no.  Perhaps we want to seem like we are always willing to help, or we want to give a good impression of ourselves.  Maybe, we don’t even realize that our problem is saying yes to everything.  The good news is that there is always room to grow. Continue reading

Struggling with Tasks That You Don’t Want To Do? Try These 7 Tips.

Tips for a task you don't want to doHow many times each day do you try to work yourself up to tackle some undesirable task? If you’re like me – several times.

For instance, I’ve been refining my Four Tendencies Quiz. Almost 500,000 people have taken the quiz — which is extraordinary — and I’ve made adjustments to it, along the way, to make it better.

Analyzing the Quiz results takes a very different kind of brain work from the kind that I usually do — and it’s not the kind of brain work I like to do. And so I put off that work, and put it off, and put it off. And then when I finally do the work, I get through it quickly and am so relieved to have it done. So why procrastinate?

If you face similar struggles, try these strategies: Continue reading

7 Simple Reminders When Dealing With the Stress of Death

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You know it’s probably not a good thing when the phone rings at 1am.

My mom called me from the hospital and woke me with terrible news. My stepfather died from a massive heart attack. How can this happen to a “healthy” and vibrant person?  He was only 64 years old. She was in shock.

Most people aim to have a smooth, steady and orderly life. Stress is an invasion into that “peaceful” environment. The death of a loved one is #1 of the top 5 causes of stress.

The grief from a death is intense. It effects your emotions, body and overall life in many ways. A sudden death, like my stepfather’s, just feels unnatural and can challenge anyone’s confidence. An incident like this can turn your world upside down.

There are different stages of grief and it’s important to deal with the process. Don’t rely on alcohol and drugs; they only numb the pain temporarily and can prolong the recovery process of mourning. Mourning is the psychological process of healing and is different for everyone.

Here are 7 simple reminders to help deal with the stress of death and the grieving process: Continue reading

The Dangers of Helicopter Parenting During Rehab

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Parents understandably want to be their children’s biggest advocates. When a child’s recovery from drug or alcohol addiction hangs in the balance, that’s never truer. During rehab especially, that natural parental impulse to do anything to help can kick into overdrive. A well-meaning effort to support a child’s recovery, often amplified by a sense of guilt or responsibility for that child’s substance abuse, can feed a strong “over-parenting” reflex to save a child.

“Helicopter parenting” is the term clinical psychologists have attached to this phenomenon. It’s a fitting way to describe unhealthy parental hovering over a child’s every move: like pilots at the controls of a Black Hawk military aircraft, some parents at the first signs of a threat launch a full-scale air assault or swoop in and deploy a quick getaway for their child. And parents of children in rehab are especially vulnerable to this form of parenting, because they know their child’s risks of relapse pose harmful and potentially life-threatening consequences.

But what parents of children in rehab also need to know is that an “interminable ‘swoosh-swoosh-swoosh’” over their child’s every move can pose even greater dangers to that child’s recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Knowing what these pitfalls to lasting sobriety are is key to boosting a child’s chances of success in rehab and beyond.

Helicopter Parenting and “Failure-to-Launch” Children
Helicopter parenting in rehab can result in the following dangers, all of which can account for a child’s failure to launch toward lasting freedom from drugs or alcohol: Continue reading

The Mood in the Music… How Your Spiritual Intent is Affected

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It’s a nice day outside… the sun is bright, a few billowy clouds in the sky, a slightly warm but yet refreshing breeze caresses you, birds are singing, not a lot of extraneous noise… in short, a perfectly beautiful day is before you as you step into your patio to enjoy the morning’s moment and sip that first and best cup of coffee. Ahhh, it’s great to be alive and to be able to have this brief but important time to reflect spiritually and to cleanse your mind.

Then it starts. Not real close or real loud, but it’s enough to break the solitude you were basking in and to distract you from what God had just so perfectly served up. You don’t recognize the song or the artist… nor do you really care right then… but it’s raucous and harsh music and it just ruins everything! You pick yourself up out of your ever so comfortable cushioned patio chair and go in the house… firmly closing the French door behind you to shut out the sound… and go back to the kitchen for more coffee, a little disgruntled.

That ever happen to you?

I think it’s happened to many of us… it certainly has happened to me… and more than once I might add! One could say that’s the price we pay for living close by other folks, in the city or suburbs, where we have stacked ourselves either vertically or sideways next to or on top of each other. So close you can sometimes hear the neighbor sneeze… right? (I’m speaking from personal experience here…). Why does that seem to happen so often, that “the mood” was shattered usually by some noise… sometimes loud music… that is discordant to that moment, that perfect setting? You may have had a little Mozart spinning on the CD player helping you relax, to ponder the upcoming day… or not. Doesn’t matter. That moment’s light mood is gone forever, replaced by a somewhat darker mood. You’ll get over it for sure but you won’t forget it. And the reason you won’t forget it is because moods in life are somewhat like negative and positive numbers in mathematics… with some emotion thrown in for good measure. It’s a fascinating study in the physics of life.

Connecting oneself to the pluses and minuses of life starts out as an automatic function of daily routine. You awake, you arise… you go through your little ritual to get yourself ready to meet the day… and the one thing you present to the world every day is your mood. How that mood comes to be is a combination of often complex circumstances and conditions, some of which you have no control over. Others you DO control: Continue reading

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