by John Sandford
Published by Putnam, 2012
Virgil Flowers Novel
In a cold dry spring, the clear air gives the prairie a particular bleakness, if your mood is already bleak.
Virgil had a feeling that there’d be a shooting before the end of the day, that people who were alive and even feeling good right then, maybe asleep in their beds, would be bleeding into the dirt before the sun went down.
Written with his friend Joe Soucheray, John Sandford has penned a terrific Virgil Flowers novel. We get to see glimpses of the fiercely individualistic Flowers while Sanford unrolls a particularly brutal string of shootings by the Bonnie and Clyde style murderers–Jimmy Sharp and Becky Welsh. Much focus is placed on police procedure and the sharp mind of Flowers. The mixture works well and makes for a story I didn’t want to put down.
Flowers’ fight against the mob mentality of the small-town cops after blood makes an interesting backdrop for the killings and poses the question: What do you do with people who throw out the law-book and begin killing their neighbours and even family–just because they can? Do you bring them to justice or do you shoot them like wild dogs in the street? And what about revenge killings by family members of one of the deceased? Do you treat them the same, or is there a different law for those on the side of right?
Mad River is an interesting story about small town folk with big city problems. And no one writes about rural Minnesota and Wisconsin than does John Sandford.
Copyright © 2015 Clayton Clifford Bye
Nothing On the Field: Eileen Rand
When the world looks at you through predetermined eyes what happens when the perception is clouded and wrong? What happens when a huge fog is cast over you and a heavy mist hampers what others might ultimately see if the sun were to shine? What happens when the world expects you to act in a certain way and you don’t? What happens when all you want is to be loved, accepted and understood for who you are and not what others want you to be? What happens will take you deep inside the heart, mind and soul of Eileen Rand who shares a story that I hope will be a wake-up call for teens, young adults, adults and everyone that Anorexia is real, that the battle to overcome the illness takes time, energy and the support of the right people. But first, let’s meet Eileen and join her on her journey from despair and darkness and into the light.
What happens when your family turns a blind eye? What happens when they refuse to help and understand? Eileen’s mom was her champion and her main means of support until she could no longer function. Then there was no one. Beginning with important definitions on pages 7-8 and then followed by a detailed explanation of Eating Disorder Statistics, readers will understand and learn from the start just how widespread this illness is.
Included you will learn the Mortality Rates and discover those at risk.
Imagine being confined to a hospital right before Thanksgiving. Imagine leaving Rhode Island Hospital to be sent to the cold, austere and unfeeling facility at John Hopkins. Some nightmares happen while you are asleep but others will happen during a car trip that set the tone for things to come that would not be what Eileen expected. Left in the hands of the hospital staff, Eileen found out early on that she was no longer in control of her diet, movements or food selection. Her brother Jeff was not sympathetic and the end result was quite frightening as Eileen entered a world unfamiliar to her. At 47 pounds and in serious danger of dying, she no longer had the power to decide or make decisions regarding her care. At UCLA they were kind and helped her when she felt stressed or afraid. But at John Hopkins you might say that a more than tough love attitude was in place and being left to sleep in a cold environment wearing a heart halter monitor and unable to find a comfortable place for herself, Eileen came to realize that this stay was not going to be easy. Afraid that she was going to suffer from refeeding syndrome, which is explained in detail in Chapter 2, Eileen learned just why her food choices and food quantities had to be limited.
At first she thought it would be okay and one nurse was not so bad. But, lunch was a rude awakening when told she had no choices and they would decide for her. Imagine having to earn food privileges. Sounds like a prison environment, doesn’t it? She was 47 pounds and they wanted her to weigh 107. Chapter 3 describes her experiences at John Hopkins, the fact that they treated her like a child using Behavior Modification strategies like a dean of discipline or teacher might implement in a classroom to get Eileen or their students to conform to the behaviors they wanted. Isolated, alone and afraid, Eileen was left to deal with the drugs that she was forced to take, a brother who would not take her home and physical problems that no one took seriously. Constipation, gum disease, told she had to eat at least 3500 calories a day, her blood sugar too high, and from what I could see from what they had her eat, I am sure that more of her bloods had to come back abnormal. She felt disliked, shunned and cast aside, and she wanted to leave but could not. Chapter 4 explains just how bad the constipation became, how it affected her system, lead her to try and escape and to desperately call on a brother who seemed devoid of caring. Added in was the fact that Eileen was the primary caregiver for her mom and her family did not seem to understand the gravity of her illnesses or decline. Eileen’s only anchor was her mother. Chapter 4 continues to explain her struggle with gaining and keeping the weight on. Hoping to leave and go home she begged her brother to get her released but his wife wanted no part of her and the words spoken would and could never be taken back.
The hospital staff was becoming more than annoyed with Eileen’s defiant attitude and the hard time she had following the rules. Learning that if she did not adhere to the schedule and the regime she would be dismissed and understanding her brother would no longer take her back, what was Eileen going to do? Tossed out and left to fend for herself along with bus tokens and a list of homeless shelters that she forgot to take with her and could not longer get, she was blessed in finding help from a bus driver. Her next stop was Karis Home. Chapter 5 tells about Karis Home, the women and children’s division of The Baltimore Rescue Mission, their services, rules and that it is a short-term solution. Learning about the other residents and hearing their stories brought the spotlight on the Karis Home. But, Eileen did not fair too well and with the help of someone she referred to as Miss Jerry she got her coffee which she needed to help her with her stomach problems. Then she got into some serious trouble back at the hospital regarding the food and food choices and the end result she was she was made to leave permanently. Karis Home kept her until her brother Jeff relented and found Cortland Place where she would have her own space. But there were other humiliations, and Eileen missed her mother, her warm hugs and her unconditional love. She has two brothers: Jeff and Greg. One would desert her and cast her aside and the other frustrated, angry and afraid for his sister, appeared to be hanging on to his hard line when it came to her unrelenting attitude, that she got what she deserved and the nagging feeling that she just might die.
Read Chapter 6 to meet Eileen as a youngster, to see her relationship with her father, to discover her punishments and to learn that she is quite smart, does and did well in school and eventually graduated college. A childhood where she felt isolated from other kids and at times bullied and shunned. Rich kids usually got it all but some kids, like Eileen, were victimized and little was done to help them. Chapter 7 focuses on her bout with appendicitis and why her family wanted little if anything to do with her. A father who became angry and cast her aside when he heard that she did something that would change her life. Losing her bedroom, forced to work to live in her own house, Eileen became a prisoner not only of her obsession with weight but within her own family and self too.
Throughout the book we hear Eileen’s voice pleading to be heard, understood and respected. Heartfelt and heartbreaking, this story is being told to send a message to everyone that Anorexia is serious and as she relates can cause you to do things that you might not otherwise consider. Chapter one ends with her trying to explain to her family why her mother needed private care and help and that without her she would not survive. There was the time she ran away to a hotel room, her brothers not wanting any part of her and being told by someone that she was going to find herself in Acute Care in Colorado. But, would this help? What would it take for Eileen to realize the devastation she was doing to herself? The treatment by the doctors, family and the fact that all she wanted was to be accepted for herself, Eileen attempted to make herself sick by taking sleeping pills, wanting the attention focused on her so that everyone would realize just how much she not only needed them but needed help. And eventually she changes, saying, “My approach to getting well: it’s not something you can force. It happens in God’s time.”
Meet Eileen in the first chapter in Part Two, see how she looks now and understand that after years of enduring this illness she “Wears it on my body, on my person, and I can’t escape that.” Looking in the mirror just what does she see? Herself at a young age, now or the person she would like to become?
Women are often misportrayed in the media—news, magazines, ads and on television programs. How is the perfect body, face or person defined? If you look closely at an actress who is featured in a magazine and then seen on a live talk show you might and should see a world of difference because you can photo shop a picture, airbrush away the wrinkles and the test of time but in person it is different. Anorexia is not just Eileen’s problem; there are so many young actresses, actors and teens that want to be thin, super thin and accepted.
Eileen had many doctors, psychiatrists, homes, bouts with weight gains and losses. She was readmitted to UCSD many times, which I know is an excellent hospital since my mom was there and they saved her life, Eileen needed to be on a program that would focus and help deal with her eating disorder. But, the saddest and most horrific scene is the one between her and her brother Greg that you need to read for yourself to understand the gravity of the situation. The entire book focuses on her stays at many different facilities, her loyalty to her mom and her hope to find a way back to being normal. Understand that she had Anorexia and although you might think it meant she did not want to eat all she ever did was crave food. Some anorexics are misdiagnosed, others commit suicide and some are just written off by their family and friends. The chapters are filled with so much information about the illness, her ability to make food choices and her amazing spirit to survive. Can she forgive her family? Will she ever be able to communicate with Jeff and Greg? Will they realize that all she wants is to be loved UNCONDITIONALLY without reservation? Then meet Clayton Bye the author who recorded her words, interviewed her and her brother Jeff and really brought this story and the information needed to light and to the surface in Chapter 20 and Chapter 21.
The research is extensive and the resources at the end valuable and numerous. Added in Eileen has information about the people who helped her along the way, How Page Love; MS RD. CSSD, LD Supported her and worked with her brother really makes this story come alive not just for Eileen but for readers too.
“ I feel like a creature from another planet,” says Eileen. I say, “Eileen: you are strong, smart, courageous and have created a resource that I know will help young teens, parents, doctors, psychiatrists, medical providers, medical staff, guidance counselors, nurses, school nurses, social workers and adults to understand the warning signs of Anorexia, to pay attention when someone appears to be losing so much weight and is eating. You are definitely not a creature from another planet but someone who is working hard each and every day to become the person she wants to see looking back at her in the mirror. Thanking people and giving back is great but we need to thank you for writing this book, Nothing on the Field. You too will complete and accomplish everything you want!”
Fran Lewis: These are my thoughts
An Introduction to Freemasonry
When Ken Weene suggested I write a piece about Freemasonry for The Write Room Blog, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I am an active Freemason who loves to teach people about what it is we do. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized I was overwhelmed. You see, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons or Freemasons or simply Masons represent the largest, most complicated and dreadfully misunderstood fraternity in the world. People I know have called us a cult, a religion and a secret society. The following will explain why people think these things and will, at the same time, give you a reasonable introduction to Freemasonry.
No one is clear as to when the fraternity known as Freemasonry began. Our own, carefully preserved records claim we were around in the times of King Solomon, when the craftsman lodges of operative Masons began to turn away from the physical labour of building the temple at Jerusalem and moved towards the more speculative nature of the mind and soul, their working tools becoming symbolic tools with which to build a man with spotless morals and good character. Historical research, however, tends to suggest Freemasonry began in the 1300’s (when the first written records became available) and indicates the stories we use to teach our members are only complicated constructs.
Why the confusion? Well, originally, all the work presented to the initiate or candidate for admission to the Lodge was done strictly by memory. Vast lectures were learned word for word by one brother who would then teach it to a younger brother, and in so doing pass the knowledge along from generation to generation. Plays were put on with intricate costumes and great flair, all language being archaic in nature (and kept that way). There were no books to be passed down through the ages, just keepers of the work. If you were an authority seeking to destroy a Lodge—more about this later—all you would ever find were symbolic paintings and drawings that meant nothing to you. The real Lodge was kept safe in the minds of its members. Sometimes Lodges were even mobile, being set up wherever was safe and then taken down when the meeting was done.
There is also another reason the origins of Freemasonry are lost in the mists of time: all Lodges conduct their business behind closed and guarded doors—in secret! Why? What’s the big deal? After all, the only reason Lodges exist is to take good men and make them better. Could it be we are protecting the fact that our initiates are taught a beautiful system of morality that is veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols? No, it is generally understood that our system is taught via stories, poems, paintings and special symbols that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden, moral meaning. The problem actually goes back to the days when teaching a moral message, other than that approved by the Church, was forbidden and its purveyors persecuted.
Today, however, Masonic Lodges are not secret in and of themselves. They stand in the heart of every town of decent size in most countries of the world. You drive by these buildings every day. Some are ornate and some are plain. Almost all of them have our main symbol located somewhere on the front of the building. It is a square and compass surrounding the letter G, which stands for God …
And if our existence isn’t secret and our meeting times are usually posted on the doors, why do the rumours of secrecy still exist? Well, prejudice for one thing. Freemasonry was non-denominational long before separation of Church and State, making it a very unpopular organization. The fraternity, was, quite simply, a form of heresy. Secrecy was oftentimes all that stood between a Mason and prison time or even an untimely death. In fact, even as recently as World War II, Masons in Germany had to go underground. You see, they supported Jews like they supported all other people of the world, and because of this they were persecuted as fiercely as were the Jews. Why, until just a few short years ago, the Catholic Church wouldn’t allow any member to be a Mason. They even went so far as to create their own competing fraternity—The Knights of Columbus. I, for one, am thankful that practice has been stopped. Still, persecution persists: many religions believe an organization that doesn’t follow their particular path of salvation must by its very character be an agent of Satan. And this attitude is the big problem. For a man to be made a Mason, he must swear that he believes in a Supreme Being. We don’t care who or what that is—other than he/she/it must punish vice and reward virtue. We don’t even care what book you study from, be it the Bible, the Quran or some other written work. Freemasonry simply urges you study daily from the pages of your holy book or from the words of your religion. We want you to have a strong moral guide from which to learn. Freemasonry will teach the initiate many lessons about morality, charity, truth, upright character, brotherly love and … but he will learn much more by studying his own religion every day. Some people (religions) just don’t like these practices.
Are such problems, mostly in the past, the only reason Lodges have secrets? No, Freemasonry has always been careful about what it reveals to the uninitiated. For example, we all take an oath never to reveal the secrets or mysteries of a Freemason. Why do we do this? There are several reasons I can’t share, but I can tell you this much: some of the secrets are nothing but ways and means of identifying another Mason when in public. These methods, if revealed to you, would seem foolish. All I can say is remember Hitler. In his day if you couldn’t secretly identify yourself to another Mason, you were as good as dead! I believe these secrets that we must keep also teach us there’s a time to hold your tongue, to keep silent. They make us think about what we say and how we say it, thus helping us maintain a favourable image of ourselves (and thus Freemasonry) when out in the wide, wide world. Because, yes, we are taught to take what we learn as a Mason and use it in our daily life so as to be a leader, to be someone people look up to, to be a man people know is of good character and morals.
And finally, what about the mysteries? What are they and why are they to be kept inviolate? Here you’ll find the strongest reason Freemasonry has been deemed a secret society. Most Masons never study the stories and lectures hard enough and long enough to figure out what the mysteries are. There has been many a book written about the mysteries of Freemasonry, posing hypothesis after hypothesis. But given all the hidden meaning in our teachings it’s really no wonder the average Mason doesn’t know quite what it is he isn’t supposed to reveal. So, do you know what he does? He says nothing at all. In truth, many never even divulge their association with Freemasonry. I was in Masonry for 10 years before my favourite uncle told me he, too, was a Mason. He belonged to a different Lodge than I did and had no reason to expect me to identify myself to him as a Mason. It was just a chance remark I made one day that twigged it for him. So he challenged me with one of our forms of recognition, and I passed the test.
If we, as Masons, don’t know for certain what we can tell you about our unusual fraternity, then who are we to cry out when someone says we are a secret society, a religion or a cult? Only education, spurred on by us Masons can do that. Here’s what I tell people: We are not a secret society; we are a society with secrets. Freemasonry is not a religion; it does have religious aspects. Our fraternity is not a cult; it does teach a moral system through the relating of ancient stories and through the description of certain symbols, like the square and compass.
May I finish with a poem? It tells about our obligations and some of the ways to recognize a Mason (you can find them all on the internet, by the way, I just won’t tell you them myself); it also gives one the sense that there’s depth and goodness at the heart of this thing we call Freemasonry.
The Old Master’s Wages
I met a dear old man today
who wore a Masonic pin.
It was old and faded like the man,
Its edges were worn quite thin.
I approached the park bench where he sat,
to give the brother his due.
I said, “I see you’ve travelled east.”
He said, “I have, have you?”
I said, “I have, and in my day before the all seeing sun,
I played in the rubble, with Jubala, Jubalo and Jubalum.”
He shouted, “Don’t laugh at the work my son,
It’s good and sweet and true,
and if you’ve travelled as you said,
you should give these things their due.
The word, the sign, the token,
the sweet Masonic prayer,
the vow that all have taken,
who’ve climbed the inner stair.
The wages of a Mason
are never paid in gold,
but the gain comes from contentment
when you’re weak and growing old.
You see, I’ve carried my obligations,
for almost fifty years,
They have helped me through the hardships
and the failures full of tears.
Now I’m losing my mind and body,
Death is near but I don’t despair,
I’ve lived my life upon the level,
and I’m dying upon the square.”
Sometimes the greatest lessons
are those that are learned anew,
and the old man in the park today
has changed my point of view.
To all Masonic brothers,
The only secret is to care.
May you live your life upon the level,
may you part upon the square.
Cross My Heart
Mass Market Paperback
Alex Cross, James Patterson’s famed detective whose storied life has entertained millions of people for decades, has unintentionally wounded the ego of a supreme egoist, someone with no conscience, only a black and white philosophy that life just is. As such, this man has developed the belief that he can do anything he wants—and he does. A mass murderer, rapist, troublemaker and attacker of the “norm,” this criminal genius has turned the full force of his intellect and beliefs on Alex cross and his family. His plan? To kidnap Cross’s entire family and kill them one by one while Cross watches helplessly. Will he succeed? Will this be the case that crushes Cross once and for all? Read on my friends.
No one tells a story like Patterson. His words literally race across the page. His chapters are small, usually limited to one scene, so this 400 page book has 112 chapters. His prose is sparse but perfect, and his plotting quite intricate. For example, this story devotes many scenes to how the master criminal, and his equally twisted lover, operate. In fact, most of the book is devoted to the criminal and helping us understand him, his motivations and his actions. Thus, when the full force of his anger is finally thrust upon Cross and we see the tormented man begin to deteriorate, we are more than ready for our superhero detective to emerge. But he doesn’t. Instead it’s those around him that rally, and as the denouement comes and passes, one is absolutely ready for the Cross we know and love to emerge victorious.
What we get is nothing of the kind. What we get is one of Hollywood’s current tricks. We get an abrupt end to the novel and the promise to return to the story in November of 2014 in a book called Hope to Die. What a total disappointment. In fact, I was so angry that it has taken me weeks to write this review. Great book, stupid ending. That’s all I have to say.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
A stunning new memoir about what it is like to live and die of anorexia
Nothing on the Field: A message of hope from a recovering anorexic
by Eileen Rand
Chase Enterprises Publishing
When my mom passed away last September, my brother Jeff said something I think about a lot. He said when mom left this world, she left “nothing on the field.” He went on to explain that when a soldier, a good soldier, dies in battle having given it all, he dies leaving nothing he could have or should have done undone. Mom did that. When she left, she left having accomplished her mission, which was, primarily, to be a successful person. Far from perfect, but perfectly who she was supposed to be, carrying out her mission with true sincerity, love, grace and humility. Her life was about learning, teaching, giving and moving on. I guess that’s about as successful a life as any one of us can hope for. This whole life is nothing but a great big school ground where lessons, skirmishes and battles are taught, learned and fought every day. A good soldier tries to follow his commanding officer (God) and assist his comrades as they fight for the common good. He passes on what he’s learned in previous battles and hopes his fellows take what they can from his experience to assist them in their duties and in times of need. Everyone’s position or role here is unique and there’s always some “takeaway” lesson to be learned from our experiences here, even the so called unsuccessful ones. This is just another one of those lessons from the field. My particular story is still being written, but hopefully when I leave someone can say about me what Jeff said about mom. I’d really like that because I don’t want to report to my CO that I did anything less than what he asked me to do.
Jane, Volume 1: Revival (Jane the Hippie Vampire)
Leigh M. Lane
Published by Cerebral Books,
Sept. 24, 2014
Jane is a collection of 3 novellas and 1 novelette about a vampire from the 60’s who’s frozen in time as a teenager-turning-adult. We follow her as she travels from town to town, somehow running into trouble wherever she goes. Why does Jane get into trouble? I think it’s because she’s an atypical vampire. First of all she was turned while on the streets running from an abusive father. Then, the vampire who turned her was far worse than her father ever was, raping her in unimaginable and horrific ways. These experiences drive Jane to feed on no one but the evil. Hence, Jane must seek out the evil, which invariably leads her into troublesome situations.
To tell you any more about the stories would be to spoil the surprises which await you in each tale. Let me continue in this way: The only thing that bothered me in these delightful and saucy stories was the soul-searching that Jane should have dealt with 50 years earlier. Much of the time I felt that Jane was a fairly new vampire instead of one who had been turned back in the sixties. Now this could just be me being picky, because the information had to be brought into the stories somehow. I say these things yet I went through the book rapidly, finding it hard to leave the book closed as I worked. I also thought each story was refreshingly original. But the reason I gave Jane a 5 star rating instead of the four it might otherwise have been is this…Jane was fun to read. When did you ever say such a thing about a horror story? Perhaps this is the reason Leigh M. Lane called the book a dramatic horror story. Yes! This book is a drama with horrific passages. And as horrific as some of those passages were, they were not enough to keep me from enjoying the drama. I felt like I was immersed in a television series. As Jane would say, “Cool.”
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
PROMISE NOT TO TELL
HarperCollins Publishers, 2007
Kate Cypher has returned home to deal with her dementia stricken mother. As a nurse Kate knows the answer to all of her mom’s problems is an assisted living home, but as a daughter she feels a lot of guilt. After all, she has been gone for a long time, leaving her mother in the care of friends. She wants to do the right thing, but Kate keeps getting side tracked by some awful things—the day she arrives the daughter of an old school mate is killed in the same manner as her best friend was killed three decades earlier. And other strange happenings prey on her mind until Kate begins to wonder about her sanity. The questions she is left with are, “Who is the murderer?” and “Are ghosts real?”
Promise Not to Tell is an easy book to read. The pages flow by as you wait breathlessly for more information about the “Potato Girl.” Written with two time-lines, Jennifer McMahon could easily have lost her readers. But she goes back and forth almost seamlessly, leaving you to wonder at the fact that this is a debut novel.
This book could have been a thriller if the author had been willing to take us a little deeper into the darkness. As it is, however, McMahon has given us a mystery and a ghost story. Not so frightening as a thriller would have been, nor so scary as a horror story, Promise Not To Tell manages to be something uniquely strange. At times, because of the 30 year-old timeline, the book has a juvenile feel, then in the present it becomes ever more an adult ghost story—to the point that the two strands become completely entwined.
Do I like the book? Yes. Do I think it could have been “more?” Again, yes. But here I must confess that it is the intricate storytelling that even makes the book possible. So, should I really expect “more?” Not if I want to be fair to the author. This leaves me struggling with my gut, which says this is a four star book, and my head which proclaims Promise Not To Tell as a five star performance. Let’s go with the pundits and give Jennifer McMahon five stars for one hell of an effort.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
“The course of Frank Mackey’s life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned.
Frank never heard from, or of, her again.
Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He’s cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie’s suitcase has been found…”
Frank Mackey is what I would call an anti-hero. Having cut all ties with his dysfunctional family, he works hard, drinks hard, has an ex-wife whom he still loves and a child he adores. He tries to be honest but is, on the other hand, ruthless to a fault. And when it appears his first love had been murdered instead of dumping him 20 years earlier, he also throws away the rule book. He takes time off and goes back to his old life.
Nothing has changed. And just when Frank thinks he can’t take any more of his crazy family, his brother Kevin is murdered. To make matters worse the murder squad blames his brother for Rosie’s murder and decides that Kevin killed himself by taking a header out of a window in the same abandoned house where he had supposedly killed her.
Frank knows the investigators have it wrong and he sets out to find the local he knows has killed his brother. But what he finds threatens to be his undoing. Frank feels the whole world breaking apart and he doesn’t know what to do—at first.
It is at this point the novel finally begins to move and take on the feel of a thriller. Prior to Frank’s discovery Faithful Place is a rather plodding sort of mystery. Dealing more with relationships and the creation of characters who are real and interesting, Tana French gets too involved with the little world she’s building, making the novel more of a character study than a mystery or a crime novel. Faithful Place is definitely not the thriller one would expect from French.
Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye
A True Story.
I came home one evening from a fourteen-hour workday, having had three hours of sleep the night before. I was tired, cranky and hungry.
My wife met me at the door and said “Can you take us over to the church for Kid’s Club?”
My gut-level response? Gripe!
Yeah, that’s right. I wanted to say no. I wanted to remind her that if she had a driver’s license she wouldn’t need to ask. I wanted to say that the kids could skip their meeting this week. I wanted to ask “What about my dinner?”
But what I wanted wasn’t the best response. It wasn’t even the right response. It was a typical response.
Here’s what I forced myself to do instead: I smiled. I said “Sure.” I trudged out into the cold, scraped the frost off the windows of the car, started it up, went back inside and gave everyone a hug. I did this because it was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do.
This story took place several years ago, yet similar choices are required of me every day. It’s something that will never change. Success demands you choose actions that are out of the ordinary – every day. Are you prepared to make that commitment?
The Incredible Power Of Contrarianism.
You want a better than average life? Stop doing what most people do. Begin right now. Don’t wait until later today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Make some different choices – right now.
I’m serious about this! Change is one of the most universally hated events. You should be prepared to welcome it for that reason alone – just because most other people won’t. Call it Contrarian Thinking or Contrarianism. It’s a way to force yourself to look at your choices from a different perspective.
Here’s the drill… When you want to generate better results than you’ve been getting, consider choosing a behaviour opposite of what you (or most people) would normally select in this particular situation. Now, I’m not saying you have to follow the course of action this exercise points you toward. Just give it serious consideration. Does this choice offer the possibility of better results? Do you have anything to lose by attempting this task? What other alternatives can you think of that might lead you away from the ordinary and toward the extraordinary? Make the best decision for you – based on the results you’re after.
In concise terms, Contrarians believe that the average person isn’t overly healthy, wealthy or happy – that these people just don’t make the right choices, or take the right actions, that lead to a better lifestyle. Contrarian philosophy also suggests outstanding achievement might be as simple a matter as choosing behaviours exactly opposite the average.
Emulate the exceptional not the ineffectual.
Let me ask you a couple of direct questions. Do most of the people you know deal with change well? Do you? If the answer was no (and it should have been), then there’s the justification for becoming a Contrarian. Simply put, if the results most people obtain in a given situation aren’t outstanding, why would you want to behave the way they do?
Let’s use this article as an example of what I’m taking about. A lot of people tend to read self-help literature passively, using the same approach they’d choose when sitting down with a novel. Be a Contrarian; do the opposite! Stop reading the moment you finish this paragraph, and act on what you’ve learned so far. Do something that opposes your normal choices. Not overly affectionate toward your spouse? Get up and give the guy or gal a hug. Say “I love you.” Better yet, put on the coffee, get them something to read and do those dishes they were about to do; show them you love them. It’s the opposite of what you’d normally do, and yet it makes sense, doesn’t it? We all know intuitively that better behaviours lead to better relationships. So, try what I’ve suggested… Put the article aside for awhile, and do something that’s out of character, that’s the exact opposite of what you usually do.
Convinced? Probably not. But that’s alright. Success is a journey, not a destination. The key is to keep moving in the right direction, to make more good decisions than bad.
Let’s look at another example of the kind of success-oriented movement that can be generated through Contrarian thinking. This one deals with procrastination, a problem of epidemic proportions.
Most people, I’m sure you’d agree, have problems with their to-do lists. I know I did. The pressure of things left undone was a constant in my life, and there were always tasks that seemed to get put off until they became so urgent they superceded everything else, wreaking havoc with scheduled work, interfering with more pleasant pastimes, threatening the quality of my life. Solution? Using Contrarian philosophy, I began to do the exact opposite of what I’d been doing. Specifically, I made the commitment to do my unpleasant tasks at the beginning of each day. After these tasks were completed, I’d go through the rest of the day working on a list of prioritized goals, refusing to worry about items shelved for another day because of time constraints. The results not only astounded me, they changed my life.
A Powerful Contrarian Technique.
Step 1: Find the most distasteful job on your to-do list and get it done. Why? The choice represents contrarian philosophy as well as any example I could give you. There’s something invigorating about clearing a repugnant task from your list of things to do – and it’s uncommon behaviour. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.
Step 2: From now on, begin each morning by doing the least preferable job(s) of the day. Chances are you’ll feel so good about yourself procrastination won’t seem half so attractive.
Step 3: Go through the rest of your day working from a list of prioritized goals. Recognize that worrying about things left undone is counterproductive, that a steady, energetic and worry-free progression through your most important goals will leave you further ahead at the end of the day than anything else you could do. It’s another uncommon or Contrarian choice.
Remember: When you’re prioritizing, don’t fall into the habit of putting jobs at the bottom of your list because they’re difficult, or boring, or nasty or… You get my drift, right? Arrange your tasks according to their importance and urgency – not by degree of difficulty.
I have many such examples of Contrarianism in action…
Are you, or have you ever been, a couch potato? I have. Here’s how I beat the habit: I made the decision to give my wife $5 for her personal shopping fund every time I thought about turning on the television or renting a movie. The end result was I don’t watch as much television as I used to, and my wife was able to enjoy several months of shopping at my expense.
Do you have the habit of laying blame when something unpleasant happens? You’re not alone. The Contrarian (and difficult) choice is to take responsibility where most people wouldn’t. After all, there’s a staggering probability that at some point in the chain of events there was an opportunity for you to have done something to change the results you experienced. The Contrarian would also find out what it was they could have done to get better results and would make the decision to alter their behaviour next time around.
Have you got the idea? By identifying the things most people aren’t willing to do – then doing those things yourself – you put yourself way out in front of the pack. So, stop wasting time. Make the change right now. Get contrary. Get different. Get on the high road to success.
Stop doing what most people do, and start doing what successful people do.
Is that all there is to it? Do successful people just choose behaviours that oppose the average? For the most part, yes. In general, successful people set goals they’re going to enjoy pursuing, work hard on a daily basis to achieve those goals, do the best they can within the realm of their abilities and spend little time worrying about what they can’t do or what others think. You must know, you must recognize, that the average person doesn’t go through life this way. The average person is reactive, rather than proactive. The average person doesn’t chart and adhere to a specific course but tends to be at the mercy of the winds of change, a statement supported by the lack of preparedness often exhibited when a strong wind blows through.
Think I’m being too harsh? Then consider this course of action: Get a pen and paper and write down exactly what you want from life, when you want these things to happen and the resources you’ll probably need. Break each of these large goals down into smaller and smaller tasks until you get to something you can do immediately. Do this thing. Then do the next task. And the next. And so on.
What? It’s too hard? It’ll take too much time? Well, you’re right. It should become obvious that this exercise is one without end, that will take you a lifetime to complete. But that’s the point. I’m convinced there are few people in this world who make the decision to spend each of the days they’ve been given on this earth “on purpose.” Yet this is exactly what I’ve observed successful people doing! If there’s one ability these individuals share, it’s focus. Successful people “dig in.” They refuse to be daunted by the lifelong challenge implied by the word “success.” Successful people know what they want and go for it.
Be willing to cultivate experiences which will move you relentlessly toward your goals. Why? Because the average person won’t, and the successful person will.
Spend the rest of your days “on purpose.”
This insight is important! If you can manage to interpret your future experiences in positive, constructive or proactive ways, I’m convinced you can accomplish virtually anything you can envision. Why not begin now?
Get On Purpose.
1. Review the patterns in your life, making a list of things you enjoy doing that you’re also good at. If you come up with zilch, go out and try new experiences until you do find a pastime you can enjoy. Reasoning? If you can’t enjoy what you do, you’ll never achieve an enjoyable lifestyle.
2. Lurking within this list of things you enjoy are thousands of opportunities. Your next job is to find a product, service or idea you can sell that’s related to this list. That’s right – sell. The only way anyone ever makes any money is to sell a product or a service or an idea. Every job in the world is, in some way, a service. All businesses sell something. And behind every one of these businesses and services are ideas people have either discovered or bought. It’s something everyone should think about, if not understand.
3. As for achieving outstanding success in the field you’ve chosen, the procedure is simple… Your earnings will always rise in direct ratio to the following:
a) The demand for what you do.
It’s up to you to find this demand, or create it.
b) How well you do it.
This is where the enjoyment comes in. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you’ll never put in enough practice time to become outstanding at it.
c) How difficult it is to replace you.
The more valuable you make yourself in the eyes of your direct customer, the more difficult it becomes to replace you.
Alright, that was a global approach for getting “on purpose.” But what do you do about staying focused on a daily basis? I like to use what I call the 4 A’s of Achievement. It’s a system I devised for keeping me focused on the results I want from life. The system has helped me to maintain perspective, and it has led me to some outstanding achievements. I know it can do the same for you.
The Four A’s of Achievement.
Awareness: Know what you want – from life, from this day or even from your current task. Plan each leg of your journey “on purpose” and with daily enjoyment in mind.
This is so important! Specific destinations give you a target to aim for, or a direction in which to travel. They give you that all-important thing called focus. Having fun while you’re at it increases the likelihood that you’ll repeat the behaviour.
Action: Get moving! Small achievable steps, taken on a consistent basis, will get you where you want to go.
Virtually any vision you can hold in your mind can be accomplished in time. And as this is a life you’re planning, the only thing with the power to actually stop you is death itself. So, get moving!
Analysis: Keep your eyes open. Learn to recognize when you’re on course and when you’re not.
Think about it: Those miles you rack up every day will only get you to your next port of call if you’re travelling in the right direction. Look for signs. Write things down! Check up on yourself. Stay on course. Get “on purpose.”
Adjustment: If you find a good vehicle or a good road to travel, stick with it long enough to make some progress in the direction of your goal(s). But please! If you take a wrong turn, never hesitate to make a course correction. All good navigators know that staying on course is primarily a matter of small and continuous adjustments to keep from drifting off target.
Be prepared to modify your behaviour and actions as required.
That’s it. The uncomplicated but never easy path to the good life: Consistent and purposeful action over a lifetime – with a vigilant eye on the results.
Figure out what you could enjoy doing with the rest of your life, then put your focus on behaviours with the potential to get you living that way. Pay attention to the results you get, making adjustments when needed. Become a Contrarian. Do what others are unwilling to do. Strive to find positive and productive meaning in each experience you have, rather than thinking, feeling, talking and acting as you have in the past. Dare to be different! If nothing else, you’ll end up with a more useful set of beliefs about what you’re capable of and about how the world works. Personally, I think the ride’s going to be more exciting than you could ever imagine. Have fun.