Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pigs with Lipstick

By Julie Rahm

Pigs are a frequent theme in my newspaper column. My husband, John, is responsible. Many of his leadership lessons use one-liners with pigs as metaphors. So, pigs are a frequent topic in our home. For example, John’s friend recently leased a luxury car. He is leasing the car from a dealer who has no morals or conscience. The leasing arrangement is a terrible financial decision. However, John’s friend persists in trying to convince us on the merits of leasing this particular car. John accuses him of putting “lipstick on a pig”. You see, no matter how thick the lipstick, the pig will still be ugly. In spite of color and amount, there is no way you can make a pig a beautiful with lipstick. John’s friend will be financially burdened with this lease for many years. I see other examples all around.

Our good friends purchased a 35-year-old sailboat with intentions of fixing it up and going cruising. The boat is tired and needs a major overhaul. They are spending enough on the old boat to have purchased a new boat. Sadly, after spending a new-boat amount of money, they will still have a 35-year-old boat. However, while wondering if they will actually get to cruise, our friends still expend a lot of energy trying to convince others in the wisdom of their choice. We find it awkward as all discussions seem to lead back to their boat choice. But, no matter how thick the lipstick, the pig is still ugly.

My husband, John, and I had a whole herd of lipstick-wearing pigs living in our house. Now, we don’t bother with the lipstick which makes life with pigs a lot easier. Recently, John got caught up in some good marketing and purchased a rigid dinghy for our sailboat trip. Almost immediately, we realized the dinghy was too unstable. Rather than take an unsuitable dinghy, John admitted his poor choice and purchased an inflatable dinghy with a hard bottom. It was an expensive mistake. But, John didn’t try to put any lipstick on his pig. He “fessed-up” and moved on.

It is difficult to “fess-up” when we’ve made a poor decision. So often, we are engaged in image control or have fear of being judged. However difficult, it is necessary to confront our failures and move on. Most often, others already know we’ve made a mistake. There is no sense in trying to convince them otherwise. However, if you do find yourself applying lipstick to your pig, stop! My metaphorical tools can help. The level lets you know you are off center. Shine the flashlight to examine your mindset. Use the pliers to remove those unhealthy motives. And finally, use the measuring tape to visualize your progress. And, most importantly, don’t put lipstick on your pigs!

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Ultimate Designer Drug

By Julie Rahm

Illegal drug use hasn’t subsided much over the years. Awareness education has been intended to reduce the demand. And, law enforcement has intended to reduce the supply. But, despite our efforts, illegal drug use is still a prevalent part of our society. Any teenager can attest to the availability of illegal drugs. Even the variety can be difficult to comprehend. Recently, some students were prosecuted for taking cat tranquilizers stolen from a veterinary clinic! As if abuse of illegal drugs isn’t enough, abuse of legal prescription drugs adds to the problem.

My husband John and I don’t abuse drugs. But, that doesn’t stop John from having fun at the pharmacy. While waiting in line for a prescription, he routinely tries to get a “custom” pill from the pharmacist. His usual request is a concoction of Grecian Formula for gray hair, Rogaine for more hair, Prozac for his attitude, Coumadin for his heart, Lipitor for high cholesterol, Vicodin for aches and Viagra for you know what! Most of the pharmacists now recognize John and look forward to his banter. Of course, all can see he is joking. But, unknown to most, his joke is deliberate and calculated. He intends to lift the spirits of those around him. Those needing prescriptions are often hurting. John makes everyone laugh and improves their day. Once, I was mortified when John asked an elderly man in his 80s if he wanted to share some Viagra! The gentlemen replied indeed it was difficult keeping up with both a wife and girlfriend but he didn’t need it yet. I almost fell down laughing. I asked John why he does this at the pharmacy. He replied, “I took my own pill today.” I took the bait and asked for clarification. His answer was brilliant. He contends the most powerful pill in the world is the “Give-a-damn” pill. When people take their “Give-a-damn” pills, great things happen. Spirits are lifted at the pharmacy and men get to walk on the moon. There is not a more powerful narcotic than the “Give-a-damn” pill. The effects from Cocaine and Heroine pale in comparison to the results of a few “Give-a Damn” pills. They are the ultimate designer drug. Because someone gave a damn, life on this planet improves. So my message this week is to keep taking those “Give-a-damn” pills and there will be no limit to your achievements! But, if you find yourself out of “Give-a-damn” pills, my metaphorical tools can help. The tilt of your level gives you warning that your attitude is slipping. The flashlight points to the cause. Use the pliers to pluck out those negative thoughts and feelings. The hammer rebuilds a good mental framework. And finally, the measuring tape helps you record your progress back to a renewed and healthier mindset.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Singing Pigs

By Julie Rahm

There are over 8,800,000 pigs in North Carolina making pig farming one of the top economic activities in the State. Economists and politicians pay close attention to the welfare of the State’s pig farming. Even though there are few pigs here in Pamlico County, residents still expend a lot of effort on “pigs”. Unfortunately, the effort expended is a waste of time. You see, some residents expend a lot of effort trying to teach “pigs” to sing. They just don’t know or haven’t learned; “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It is a waste of time and it annoys the pig.” “Pigs” are stubborn. They will not change their point of view. You will not get them to sing the words you want to hear. Despite your best efforts at a rational argument, a “pig” will just go on believing what he wants to. No matter what you say, the “pig” will not come around to your point of view. Trying to convince the pig to some other view will simply be annoying.

Admittedly, it is difficult to prevent yourself from trying to teach a pig to sing. It takes a lot of mental discipline to refrain. Often, the conversation is well underway when you find yourself pitted against an unreasonable and unchangeable point of view. It takes a measure of mental toughness to leave a person alone with his own faulty opinion. And, it is often hard to extract yourself from a dialogue that has turned distasteful. My husband has mastered the art of abruptly leaving a conversation. John simply announces very loudly, publicly and without embarrassment, “Holy cow, I’ve got to go to the bathroom!” I’ve seen him do this numerous times. After his proclamation, all talking will stop and he simply walks away. Even an unyielding and argumentative person will release you from the discussion. This is the best technique I’ve seen to leave a conversation! Anyone with an ounce of compassion will not detain someone who needs a trip to the bathroom, especially if the need is forcefully vocalized.

So, don’t try to teach a pig a sing. It is a waste of time and it annoys the pig. And, if you find yourself in just that situation, stop and spare yourself the frustration. Recognition can be the key. My metaphorical tools can help. If, during a conversation, you feel your emotional level begin to tilt, break out the metaphorical flashlight and examine the dynamics of the conversation. Use the pliers to puck out the urge to be right and use the hammer to build some emotional resilience. Lastly, the measuring tape can help you get some distance between you that that adversarial opinion. And, as a last resort, you can always announce your way to the bathroom!

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Electric Fences

By Julie Rahm

My husband, John can be very direct. His time in the Marine Corps certainly didn’t help. He reminds me, “The Marine Corps is not the Girl Scouts”. My husband is comfortable saying just about anything to anybody. The truth is his directness is always dead right. It is descriptive and exact. And, it usually sums up whatever situation we’re talking about.

As a small example, we were discussing some repeat criminals whose names keep showing up on the courthouse docket. My husband’s comment was simply two words: “electric fences”. Now John was raised next to a farm with electric fences. The fences kept the Angus cattle in the pasture. At age seven, John would routinely step through the electric fence and short cut his way to the bus stop. He taught his younger brother Jimmy the proper “step through the fence” technique when Jimmy was barely old enough to walk. So, I didn’t know where John’s comment was leading. I was afraid to ask. But, I couldn’t help myself. “Okay, I give up. What do you mean electric fences?” John explained, “Some guys have to pee on the electric fence before they learn.” There it was; a life lesson in a nut shell. The offenders at the courthouse hadn’t yet peed on the electric fence so they haven’t learned it is electric. Some people must learn the hard way. It is not enough for some to be told the fence is electric. They must pee on it to believe. It was a simple explanation for repeat offenders at the court house, “electric fences”.

John has a touch of the electric fence syndrome. When we eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, the server always warns John, “The plate is really hot.” Without fail, John will touch the plate, get burned and exclaim, “Wow the plate is really hot!’.

As another example, John’s brother bought us an electrified tennis racket for zapping bugs. The warning label clearly states, “Do not touch the mesh when electrified”. Of course, both brothers had to touch the electrified racket! It packed “quite the wallop”. John’s arm was numb for half an hour.

It turns out that electric fence syndrome is contagious. If you see me gasping over my sushi at M&M’s Restaurant, don’t worry. I simply added too much wasabi to the soy sauce after John warned me that it was “volcano hot”!

So friends, don’t learn the hard way when confronted with one of life’s electric fences. Make a good decision. Don’t pee on electric fences. My metaphorical tools can help. Use the level to stay in balance and make good choices. The flashlight can reveal why you don’t believe the fence is electric. The pliers can remove the unwise thinking. Then, hammer in better decisions and use the measuring tape to record your success.

Get your free 52-week online guided journal by joining the Mindset Mechanic Community at Listen to the Mindset Mechanic, Saturdays at 5PM on FM107.1 WTKF.
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