May 23, 2023

How to be extraordinary in three easy steps

by Rod Smith

Say “please” and “thank you” and “well done” and “nice to see you” and look people in the eyes when you say these golden words. Make this a practice and you’ll be a one-in-a-million kind of person and others will consider you extraordinary. Not only that, your lens with which you see the world will shift to see beauty and kindness where you previously may have missed or ignored it.

Evaluate and solidify your core values and then perhaps decide you will return to no one evil for evil or unkindness for unkindness.  Rather you will respond to selfishness and deceit and indifference with engagement and generosity and offer goodness. This will make you extraordinary and enhance your days and bring you unadulterated and lasting peace. 

Decide who and what you are —- this will take extended alone time and a pencil and a few sheets of lined paper — and then slowly begin to declare who and what you are by living out your values. This act — always unfinished — will make you extraordinaryily self-assured and you will become a rock of confidence both to yourself and those seeking stability and guidance.

May 21, 2023

Culture shaping…..

by Rod Smith

I enjoy moments when life places me with people of diverse cultures. I love it when individuals are sufficiently comfortable to discuss the power that culture has in shaping our lives and our perceptions.

Mary is amazed that Anvi met her husband for the first time at their wedding. Mary is further surprised that Anvi says she is happily married. Anvi tells Mary she could never have been brave enough to pursue a “love marriage.” Anvi says her parents, whom she does trust, know her better than she knows herself and therefore knew what kind of man she would want to marry.  

John is amazed to hear that I’m willing to respect women leaders. John is even more surprised to hear I raised two babies without women to change their nappies (diapers). He tells me I insulted the men of his culture by doing “women’s work.”

Sunmi is confused at hearing June is unwilling to give up her career to take care of her aging mother-in-law. She expresses that such a choice in her culture would be considered unusual. 

A child, to the annoyance of some of the adults, interrupte his mother while his mother is talking. The mother considers it perfectly “normal” for a child to exhibit such behavior and is unaware that a child interrupting an adult in many cultures is considered gross disrespect.

May 16, 2023

Mountains into molehills….

by Rod Smith

Do your part to make the mountains you face become molehills 

  • One day at a time, the Twelve Step mantra is really helpful. Not everything you face has to be faced today. 
  • Learning to “hold onto yourself” is a skill really worth developing and will reap huge benefits. 
  • Gaining some distance to improve perspective is always helpful.
  • Listen more than you speak. When you listen for what people are really saying rather than what you hope they are saying. Our hopes can distort what others are trying to tell us. 
  • How people treat any one person is how they can treat everyone. Watch out for those who treat others poorly. You may be, you probably are, next in line. 
  • We see the world and others not as the world is and as others are but as we are. The lens you use is always in your pocket. 
  • The best thing you can do for the people you most love is to take care of yourself. If you do not, no one else will. 
  • Watch how people behave rather than listen to what they say. If the two don’t seem to match each other it is a signal that you ought to be aware.
  • Plan tough meetings in great detail. Flying by the seat of your pants will result in others taking you to the cleaners.  
May 14, 2023

The Day After Mother’s Day

by Rod Smith

With no wish to “rain on anyone’s parade” – an American phrase I found rather fascinating when I landed in this great country three decades ago – I do want to write a few things about mothers and motherhood in the wake of Mother’s Day weekend which is so correctly and widely celebrated. 

Please join me in acknowledging:

Mothers who try to hold families together “for the children” whether you or I agree with such a necessity or not. Every family and every family issue is unique. When women “stay for the children” the women deserves respect and support for their choices.

Mothers who love with an illogical and irrational love and appear to be supporting or enabling an addiction or the poor choices of a son or daughter – or a spouse. Women have their reasons. Judgement and ridicule from outsiders are painful and unhelpful.

Mothers (and fathers) who have buried a child and for whom the wounds of grief are brutally fresh and, it seems, it will always be as if the death occurred this very morning.

Women who’d give anything to have or have had a fruitful womb but now must observe with dignified reserve those who shower them with platitudes.

Women who chose adoption (and often secrecy) for one – or two or three – babies born to them and now for whom these people are growing, grown, distant and unknown.

May 11, 2023

Mother’s Day returns – a longer post than usual

by Rod Smith

Mother’s Day. 

It’s here. 


Beautiful and brutal. 

Gut wrenching for the Smiths from a dozen angles while also displaying a vast array of flowers, tropical, indoor-outdoor whites, greens, shades of purple, yellows, sturdy, strong and luscious, endless developing beauty — reaching for sunlight, proclaiming life and charisma  — even within our motherless home. 

It’s the early 2000s and Mother’s Day: the boys wake, wander into my room, at least one son is aware of the day given the many things he had to draw, cut, glue and color at school for me, his dad-mom. He’s also performed in “Mother’s Day Bunny” where I was the only dad in attendance. The school’s admirable efforts to include us, or rather efforts to never exclude us, get a little ridiculous but I play along lest some real mother get whiff that my children be faced with the truth that they don’t know their mothers, a reality from which we, in the privacy of our home, have always openly addressed. Blanket strewn over his shoulders and with an inspiring attempt at positivity, he says, “Happy Mama-Day, Dadda,” and I embrace him and then his brother trailing dutifully behind and I leave it at that.

We meander through the morning, sometimes sluggishly, but with momentary caffeine-stirred urges to “make it memorable for the boys.” 

At lunch the restaurant tables are packed with girls-and-boys-with-mothers and flowers and gifts piled high with color and sweetness. Octogenarian mothers swoop in to hug multiple generations vying for hug-inclusion as raucous laughter buzzes through the air.

Friends see us and platitudes flow as they do when people don’t know how to talk about loss or abandonment or death while attempting kindness to quell their glaring uneasiness. 

“You’re in a better place.” 

“God knew your dad could be both.” 

“You know it’s extra special to be ‘chosen,’” a mother says to my son as if she’s the first to offer adoption this spin.

I’m uncertain. Should I laugh, cry or lead the boys out the door and flee the overload display of all my boys don’t have?

Instead, we’re three-strand strong, and face it as if nothing can touch the Smith-bulwark.

It’s Mother’s Day and about 2015: my first-born off-handedly reports he’s going to make a gift for his mom and, his car loaded with equipment, he leaves. Mid-afternoon he returns, buries himself in his room to emerge hours later with a 4-or-so minute movie that still blows my mind every time I watch it. I don’t know if his mother ever saw her gift on YouTube but within 24 hours he was interviewed on a local news station and his “letter” had traveled the world. I have a hunch his mother did see it but I know she did not respond. A few years later he reached out very directly to her to be firmly and gently rebuffed.

“Adoption is a very powerful tool,” I whispered into his ear as I tried to comfort my distraught son as he sobbed and sobbed. 

“Thank you for the choice you made. I didn’t mean to upset you,” he wrote, time-stamped seconds after his biological mother expressed her wish not to hear from him again. The boy was ashen, disoriented, for days.

Yes. Adoption is a powerful tool. 

Rest assured, my boys’ mothers, despite their physical absence, have been more than present in our lives. They are not sitting proud at our all-male out-of-the-way Mother’s Day table, but they are ever-present guests as we steel ourselves for life together. 

Nate did not learn his gentleness from me. He did not get his unflappable nature from me. I’ve spent much of my life in a hurry, and, apart from when on sports fields or a basketball court, he’s never rushed a moment in his life, not even when chasing the dog. I didn’t teach him to anticipate when I’m not feeling well and to silently — late in the night — enter my bedroom and place ice water next to my bed in the event I may want it. 

I like to think we as a family are generally kind people, but, I tell you, Thulani’s natural kindness cannot be taught, tutored or trained. 

He was born kind. 

Kindness tumbled down through generations of his kin despite the traumas and brutality they knew. Kindness flowed into my boy from unknown generations like the mother’s milk he never tasted. 

My sons’ mothers may not be at the table with us on Mother’s Day but I meet them every day in the beauty with which each of the generous women stamped their claim on the lives of our shared, fabulous sons. 

Had I an opportunity to reunite with my sons’ mothers I’d say a deep and welled up “thank you” for the gifts of two magnificent humans with whom I’ve shared the last 25 years. I’d say “thank you” for the bravery it took each woman to make her generous choice. 

I salute you, your bravery, your untold story, your capacity to engage in enduring, long-distance and painful, love. 

Happy Mother’s Day to birth moms everywhere.

Artist: William Onker
May 8, 2023

A Leadership Golden Key

by Rod Smith

A golden key -one of many- to leadership resides in the wisdom to know how to handle anxiety provoking events in any community.     

There are people in your business, church, school, any workplace, who tend to step-up or amplify anxiety.  

They react to any circumstance provoking stress or worry.

Their reactions exaggerate matters and tend to make things worse. 

They overreact at stressful times and spread anxiety to all and sundry, even to those who can do nothing about it. 

They apparently cannot be anxious alone and must be sure all in their environment  –  and beyond – are as anxious as they are. These people act as step-up transformers when it comes to stressful times that come to any community.

There are people  – wherever people gather – who step-down anxiety. 

They hold onto it, giving themselves time to assess and time to respond to whatever the trigger for the anxiety in a community may be. Step-down transformers assess who needs to be included and who does not and try to decide what will be helpful to the community as a whole. 

Step-downers include those who are empowered to take steps to reduce concerns in a community. They try to take steps to reduce anxiety and know who and what will only serve to escalate matters and do so unnecessarily.

May 7, 2023

Who? What? How?

by Rod Smith

Pivotal moments; defining people, unexpected challenges, undiluted courage — identifying the moments of highest positive return in your life. 

What experiences shaped your life in powerful, beneficial ways? Who are the people who turned you around, pointed you in a new and helpful direction? Who was the teacher or coach who restored your confidence when it was shaken?

Please, let me know. 

Taking stock on your history and the people who shaped you and the moments that shifted your trajectory is usually a healthy and rewarding exercise. 

Richard Morey (RIP) was my English teacher in high school. He took an essay I had written and put red lines through most of it with comments like, “you’re wasting my time” in the margins.

Near the end of my essay he circled a portion and in the margin he wrote: “Do more of this: this will make you a writer!” and so I did.

Frank Graham taught me Afrikaans and knew of my debilitating stutter which I tried most unsuccessfully to hide. While caring and kind, Mr. Graham never backed off, he offered me opportunities to speak like every other student and imparted the idea that I really had something to say.

Fifty countries later traveling as a writer and speaker I have much for which to thank these two fine men.

[Written in Malaysia]

Room With A View
May 6, 2023

Things to try….

by Rod Smith

Things to try for a few days in the hopes will soon see they are life-style habits worthy of developing:

Plan your day. 

Plan who you will seek to empower and encourage. 

Write (using a pencil and paper) a few ideas as to how you will empower others no matter what your station in life. 

Oddly, the more you plan, the more you will allow for a serendipitous life. 

Besides, getting yourself ready for a great day will sharpen your eyes to recognize when great days come your way.

Plan your day as if planning a great day is in your power to do so. 

Write a few notes to yourself about how much money you will spend, how much you will try to save. 

Plan what and whom you will avoid because some things suck the life out of you. 

As you plan your day, remind yourself that you are not all-powerful and that things happen to derail the best made plans. This does not mean a plan is not worth making.

Plan your responses to tough or challenging circumstances and situations so that you are unlikely to spend the day in a reactive mode with fight or flight as your defaults. Write a few notes to yourself about what you will or will not say and whom you will and will not engage.

May 3, 2023


by Rod Smith

Recap on anything the group would like to look at again or to reconsider.

The Humble Samaritan – why it this such a radical parable?

Fables and other resources

Post-traumatic Growth

Helpers’ Lives

POWER Balloon

Every person has been given a Power Balloon that represents an allotment of power. This is the power to have a voice, to decide, to be, to have opinions, have fun, learn, experience, to be autonomous, to be intimate, to be fulfilled and to love.

Within every person’s capacity (power) is the ability to do research and to decide things for oneself, to worship, pray, accept, reject, remain free of abusive relationships and to create and enjoy safe relationships.

Every act of manipulation, of cruelty, of “over-functioning ” and of “under functioning ” is the denial of the power of another or of others.

People, for various reasons, will try to burst your balloon, boost your balloon, take your balloon, give you their balloon or render your balloon insignificant.

Resist such acts from others and resist doing such acts to others. Care for your balloon only; leave others to the divine task of caring for and nurturing their own balloons. This is not selfish.

Think of how selfish it is to say to someone, “Here, let me take away your power from you,” or, “Here, I do not want to take care of my own life but you have to do it.” Not even God will take your balloon from you. Your balloon is God-given to you for your care and nurture. (God has God’s own balloon to care for).

The power for you to be fully human is yours and that power should be offered to no one under any circumstances and the position of exercising power over our own lives should never be abdicated except in extreme situations of medical emergencies.

Every baby and child has his own balloon to be respected as much as the balloon of every adult. This, of course, does not mean that babies should be caring for themselves or that children must be given their every whim. Reaching such a conclusion is to misunderstand the concept of what it means to have personal power. The art of parenting a baby, of nurturing children involves respecting and nurturing their sense of personal power. Parenting is exercising the kinds of discipline and care that do not diminish a child’s self-worth or distort their capacity to discern and appreciate the power that is their birthright. Anything less is to “spoil and child.” It is to “spoil” their capacity to see and know themselves with accurate personal assessment.

May 2, 2023


by Rod Smith

I hope you are learning a lot and seeing a lot and enjoying what we are doing together. 

My goals are very simple. 

I will consider myself as having done a good job if:

You live more powerfully from today than you did before by making very simple decisions to speak up more than you did before and to clarify yourself more than you did before. Self-advocacy comes with immediate feedback and rewards. Keep in mind that not everyone you know will applaud your renewed or “discovered” voice, especially those who have benefitted from your choice (known or unknown) to function at lower levels. If you are stronger on some days than you are on others do not despair, you are human. No one is highly functional everyday although we can by practice and newly formed habits improve our averages.

I have given you an overview of a subject I love and around which I have built my life. There is far more to Family Therapy and to most topics of mental health and counseling that can be covered in a week. Those of you who enjoy this particular approach to mental health and counseling will find yourselves motivated to go deeper. You’ll immerse yourselves into the readily available vast array of books and reading on this and many related topics. Try to read as much Roberta Gilbert as you can. Robeta has several books available and two that come to mind are Extraordinary Relationships and Extraordinary Leadership.

Today we will finish the 8 principles and then look at some disguised but real client family stories.

We will close the day of teaching with an overview of The Formidable Triangle. 

Your DAY 3 challenges:

  • How is  your Backbone? If it were a tank of courage is it running on empty or full? 
  • You were a creative child – what have you done with that God-given capacity? 
  • How is your Voice and are you using it for its intended purpose?