January 28, 2020

Healthy Habits #3

by Rod Smith

Healthy Habits for a Fabulous Week #3

Know, state what you want

Clarify what you want using very few words. Revise and study it. Don’t write what you want for your children, spouse, or your parents. That’s a copout. Develop a statement of what you want for you. This is neither selfish nor indulgent. It’s about self-awareness. It is a lack of self awareness that results in selfishness and indulgence. Besides, how will ever know if you have what you want and are doing what you want if you don’t know what it is?

Just for today:

  • Know what you want.

  • Steer your life towards it in ever-increasing measures.

  • Try to refuse the things that will derail you from what you want.

Be careful. I am not suggesting you do not meet your already-established commitments or avoid participation in the common pool of human tasks required of all. We can do all those things and pursue what we want.

Here’s mine – for today:

I want to communicate by all possible means that people can live healthy, powerful, effective lives and be a strong an effective parent, generous brother, and a positively contributing member of a local community.

January 27, 2020

Healthy Habits #2

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Daily Habits for a Fabulous Week #2

Rid your inner-work space of unwanted books, chapters, and unfinished essays with their faded, ripped pages and thumbed edges.

It’s useless clutter – all of it.

That story, told and retold to anyone who will listen, and told even if no one is listening – rip it out. Dispose of it. Not only is it boring to hear, it’s doing no one any good. Especially you.

The let-down story, the lost-job story, the overlooked-for-promotion story, your list of slights – these are the unfinished chapters.

Toss them. Never tell them again.

Just for today.

They are the bad poetry of your life.

Rip them out. Burn them.

Just for today.

You’ll know you have finally cleared your inner-desk when these old stories cease to be your default talking points and when you realize you have so much that is new and positive to share.

But, be kind. Be kind to yourself. Such ripping and ridding cannot usually be done in one foul swoop. We have carried these things around with us for years. We have played host. They have served a purpose and will return like carpet stains.

The things we remember, the stories we tell about ourselves, not only become rehearsed shtick, but become stepping stones that shape our futures.

Write a new script – just for today.

You may even get a few new and eager listeners.

January 26, 2020

Healthy Habits #1

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Daily Habits for a Fabulous Week

I am going to present one inner-discipline per day for a week. They are inner-conditions and therefore can be exercised without announcing the decision.

#1 Plan your emotional boardroom

Make an executive decision about how you are going to be for the day (not the week, or month, or forever). It’s just for the day or for the morning if you have to break up the day into parts.

Making the decision is crucial – it is a beginning. You may or may not be successful but you ensure failure if you refuse to plan.

Three things I will do today:

• I will speak well of myself and others.

• I will advocate for myself and others by speaking up when necessary.

• I will affirm, thank others, and be highly cooperative as far as possible.

Three things I will not do today:

• I will not be a victim to anyone no matter who they are or what position they hold.

• I will not victimize anyone at all – not in subtle or gross, covert or overt ways.

• I will not say “yes” when I mean “no” or no when I mean “yes.”

January 21, 2020

It takes a thinking brain to mend a broken heart

by Rod Smith

In the grips of a recent heart-break there are some things you can do.

He/she broke your heart, not your brain or capacity to think. So, think. 

During this tough time and you may feel deep, powerful feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and you may regret the time you had together. It may seem wasted. It’s not, unless you waste it. You can learn and grow, or not. You decide. 

No one is discounting your feelings and neither will it be helpful if you do. But, you still have the capacity to think, plan, to guide yourself out of the mire. So, think and plan, through the mist and pain. 

Remember, you think yourself into a new way of feeling. You do not feel your way into a new way of thinking. Let your fine mind lead. You got yourself into this; you can get yourself out. 

While it seems paradoxical, you entered the relationship alone, and you leave it alone. You have what it takes within you to rebuild a meaningful life. You are stronger than you feel. Don’t beg.

Walk, run, drink lots of water. Seek out old friends. Revisit places you went as a couple. Nothing is wasted unless you waste it.

January 17, 2020

Leadership

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

The Genius of Powerful Leadership

• Is not that you, the leader, get your way. It is that those whom you lead discover their own skills, talents, and beauty and, as a result of your style, they are willing to apply their cache of potential to your mutually declared goals.

• Is not that you, the leader, are recognized. It is that those whom you lead are empowered and sufficiently “free” to make their own mark on your mutually declared goals and are positioned to receive appropriate credit.

• Is not that you, the leader, are the one with all the brilliant ideas. It is that you have created a context where the development and exchange of ideas is a way of life and your shared brilliance becomes difficult to pin on one lone genius or a singular heroic leader.

• Is not that you, the appointed or official leader, lead at everything. You understand that your ability to lead meshes with your ability to follow. You get out of the way, you assist, you encourage those who are better equipped at any task to assume the awe-filled position of leader when it is necessary.

• It is that you, the leader, know that how you handle yourself is pivotal, and far more important to your success than how you handle your charges.

January 9, 2020

Lies to girls and young women

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

Lies to girls and young women – sometimes overt, mostly covert……

It has been my joy to interact with female audiences in several nations. Despite diverse cultures and languages, these messages, these lies, remain strong and consistent. They are even sometimes promoted as Biblical. Perhaps saddest, with the discovery of personal faith, young women seem to expect God to be the ultimate male who makes similar demands:

• Your body is more important than your brain. Don’t be, or appear to be, more educated than a man who wants you.

• Men don’t want women who are more educated than they are.

• Everyone you meet is more important than you are. You are born to serve others, especially men (and – in some cultures- their mothers).

• Once a man loves you, you give up yourself for your husband and your children. The “half” you are will be made whole when a man marries you. If you don’t marry you’ll never be complete.

• Your greatest calling is to be a wife and a mother. Other (foolish) ambitions will compromise serving your husband and your mothering.

• Your only worthwhile ideas pertain to cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Leave thinking about sciences, technology, and mathematics to males.

• If you suffer in silence God will reward you. Suffering comes with being a woman.

January 6, 2020

Tenderness

by Rod Smith

Tenderness can be very helpful. If I can be tender in my response to my sons when something is brewing in me, annoying me, rather than be bullheaded and confrontational, the outcome can be remarkably positive. When I am hot on an issue, no matter how significant or insignificant, I can see the rising resistance in my son (either son) before he’s even aware of what I am on about. It seems instinctual. 

If I am pursuing an apology, or if I express the mistaken idea that I am the only one who ever does anything around the house, it becomes rapidly evident that my zeal stimulates an equal and opposite reaction and things can escalate. 

My forcefulness, willfulness, my zeal, is met with an equal and opposite reaction. 

If I am tender, if I ask about things that are important to my son and if I take time to listen, and then carefully express what it is that is bugging me, the entire exchange quickly shifts. 

Tenderness dismounts me from my high horse and reason prevails. 

When I am tender my son is always willing to put his most cooperative foot forward and resistance flees, reason prevails, and neither one of us comes out hurting.

December 28, 2019

Families can change

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

I love families no matter how complex, and all are.

No exceptions!

After many years of being in a family and consulting with families here are a few enduring truths:

• Faith, language, culture, nationality, wealth or poverty, educated or uneducated, make very little difference in how people love and hurt each other. Jealousy is jealousy, selfishness is selfishness. Brave love is brave love and forgiveness is powerful no matter where or who you are.

• Themes repeat in families despite loving efforts to avoid negative generational patterns. An ignored problem does not disappear. It will go into hiding, brew, and emerge into something more pernicious than when initially denied. But, change, real change, is possible. Authentic change comes at a cost that is well worth it. Nonetheless, there will always be some family members who resist it. Bank on it.

• Keys to family change are held by any family members who are willing to risk everything in pursuit of individual emotional health. Those who are determined to remain “connected” to family while simultaneously refusing to be sucked into the family issues are the ones who are most empowered to bring lasting change.

• All growth and change, even when planned and desired, will involve grief, and loss, and will require the courage to move into new, unknown territory. “Unknown”? Yes, if “growth” leads you into what you planned or attempted to control, it’s probably not real growth.

December 24, 2019

Today I’m 65

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

On Christmas Eve I’ll be 65. My grandparents were 65. Then, dad. Then my sister, brother.

Now it’s my turn.

Our mother died at 53.

I won’t ask where did the time go. I know where it went. I watched it, year by year, felt them coming.

Soon I will have spent more of my life in the USA than South Africa. That’s astounding to me.

For almost a third of my life I have woken every weekday to write for The Mercury, a newspaper thousands of miles away. I also spent a good portion of life playing music at Umhlanga’s Oyster Box Hotel.

Most fulfillment has come from being a dad, a sibling, traveler, and speaker. I frequently look at an audience and consider the irony. Any second my life-long stutter can rise and arrest every sentence and bring it to a grinding halt.

I have been loved beyond reason. I have used and hurt people. There are times the memories of my willfulness and selfishness stop me in my tracks, keep me awake at night. Unsettles my bones.

The years reveal that, like you, I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” They confirm I am flawed, fallible, often fragile.

They loudly declare I have known grace, kindness, and generosity wildly beyond my deserving.

Despite common belief, Christmas Eve is a great day to have a birthday, even if you have to draw attention to it yourself!

December 19, 2019

Teach your daughters

by Rod Smith

Parents please teach your daughters:

• You never have to shrink, soft-pedal, or sell yourself short, in order to secure a loving, lasting relationship. Any potential partner that is threatened by the power of your personality or the breadth of your talent is not worth your time or investment. Move on.

• You do not have to give up your dreams, talents, desires, and skills in exchange for a loving relationship. The potential partner who is man enough to love you will amplify your dreams, talents, and skills. He will do nothing at all to try and silence you. This is to be especially noted in religious circles – flee communities that silence women.

• You do not have to hide your imperfections or pretend they do not exist. The person who is man enough to respect and love you will not expect you to be perfect and will seldom notice your shortcomings. A loving man will regard your imperfections as assets.

• You will benefit from having Zero Tolerance for people with less than perfect manners. If a potential partner swears at people, if he’s short-tempered, if he’s unkind to strangers – move on. There are myriads of men who are pure-mouthed, patient, and kind. Why would you spend a minute longer with one who is not?

As requested by Luther Matsen.