Silence Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q4

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • If you have nothing nice to say…
  • We could all use a little more quiet in our lives and we can all practice being a bit more quiet.

Silence is against my nature. I like to talk, interject, state my viewpoint, and shoot from the hip. Needless to say, it gets me into trouble. That’s why I’m amazed by people who can sit silently during a board meeting, a story, or an altercation. They always manage to avoid that foolish, foot-in-mouth, guilt-ridden incident, while remaining gracious and empathetic. It’s inspiring.

Before this year I would routinely get into trouble for firing from the hip: wife, parents, kids, friends. To be honest, I never really thought about being Silent. Most of the world doesn’t: “this is my viewpoint, and dammit, you’re going to listen.” The funny thing is, as I practiced being more quiet externally, my world became more quiet internally. It took time, but it happened.

Silence is golden. It really is. Shutting that internal, nagging voice is worth its weight in gold. Think about how much time and energy you’ve wasted: Why did I say that? Did I sound stupid? I wish I hadn’t said it? I’ve certainly spent my share of hours and days exhausted and taxed by a ceaseless, internal self-critique. A lot of that goes away with speak not but what may benefit others or yourself.

This year has really given me a chance to see where the holes were. One hole was not giving more to the important relationships in my life: listening to my wife, listening to my friends, listening to my kids. A depth grows as deeper roots take hold. Silence is key to that growth. Without really listening to or understanding those closest to you, roots remain shallow and upend in the passing storm. Save yourself a million hassles and a million sorries, let the angst wash away. Practice Silence and watch your happiness grow.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q4

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Short week with a lot to do;
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving.

With the short week ahead, use Order to ensure everything gets tucked. Don’t roll into the holiday with work angst or a to-do list. Enjoy Thanksgiving and remember to be grateful for the loved ones around you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Silence Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q3

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • Shut up and cut the sarcasm;
  • If angry, do not say anything, it’s a losing proposition;
  • Practice listening;
  • Limit the gossiping;
  • Get away from useless conversation.

Sometimes I’m quiet too much; sitting and sulking and degrading everyone else’s mood; benefitting no one. The mind inflating insignificant thoughts and ballooning them into anger. The pressure would ease if only the words could escape, but they’re stuck; trapped within.

The annoyance lingers, sometimes it disappears, but mostly it sticks around, and grows, and inevitably hurts the very ones I hoped to shield. That is the worst silence, the one where anger simmers underneath, waiting for the right amount of tension and irritation to erupt and catch loved ones by surprise; it’s almost always loved ones. The contradiction between intent and result is stark and firm.

What’s the correct action here? Certainly not Silence; burying down anger until it boils over is a wrecked path to failure. Communication is key, and I remember that each time I fail because I was silent. “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself” is about Communication. It’s reminding us to not waste time on fools; for that practice Silence. But for the ones we love, for the people who are close and meaningful and worthwhile, practice communication; it will benefit everyone, including yourself.

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Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q3

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Busy week ahead, plot it out;
  • Do not over plan, keep it manageable;
  • Each task is usually composed of several steps, list them out;
  • Provide cushion; fill it if needed, enjoy it if not.

Order is not about planning each minute of the week; I’ve done that before and it is folly. Order is about navigating a flexible path, one sure to survive calm waters and thrive in turbulent storms.

Have a great week

Silence Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Two, Q2

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • Remember to be silent!
  • Ask why, and then listen to the answer.
  • Limit “hate watching” during TV.
  • Extend to the cyber world: FB, social networks, etc.

A couple walks up to a house, the color of the house is pooh brown. The interior: a 1980s kitchen with scattershot pooh backsplash, pooh painted walls, and dark pooh floors, which I guess is a good thing if you own dogs. The pooh house sat on a lot that can only be described as a repurposed military base: square brick rows separated by tiny plots, no trees, no fences, a cracked concrete slab posing as a patio. The type of craftsmanship that screamed “made by the lowest bidder.” During the viewing of the home, my wife and I joked incessantly about poor taste and even poorer design; surely HGTV showed this home to fuel our self-esteem. But when the buyers decided to purchase the home, our collective hate-watching kicked into overdrive.

I’ll be honest, it was fun making fun of the buyer’s poor decision. But as I sat there afterwards, I wondered why we gleefully ridiculed people? Why didn’t we think: “Well, they’re happy. Good for them for buying a new home.” Better yet, why weren’t we silent? The old adage of “if you have nothing to say,” popped to mind.

On Mother’s Day, I made my wife cry because I couldn’t be silent. All I had to do was shut-up, but I couldn’t help myself and let go a hurtful comment. For a second I stood there fully satisfied, then the second after I felt horrible, wishing I could undo the mistake. Over the next hour I apologized profusely and did my best to make amends. We talked and shared a lot. Turns out we weren’t communicating: I was mad about troubles I kept to myself; she was silently carrying burdens.

When we should have been talking, we were silent. When I should have been silent, I shot my foot off. Yes, you should listen and empathize with others this week, and be sure to avoid useless conversations, but give those closest to you, those you love, the conversation they deserve; engage constructively. And be careful of those fun, snide comments, they can become a knee-jerk habit that ruins Mother’s Day.

Subtlety of Silence

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Two, Q1

Silence “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Younger and dumber, I was on the phone, sitting on a bench and looking at my feet. There happened to be some recently chewed gum on the hot, gator concrete. Still wet, the bubbly saliva glistened in the Florida sun. Ants picked up on the sweet smell. An army of them crawled all over the discarded treat. Wow. Nature is super interesting. I spit on the ants.

“Are you listening?!?” interrupted my shrill phone.

“Wait? What? Of course I’m listening.” My back straightened, head tilted, eyes looking to the back of my brain for an answer. “I think your phone cut out. What’d you say?”

“I JUST said that ‘I feel like you never listen to me!’ ” yelled my now ex-girlfriend.

Haha. Well, sometimes that stuff happens. But it’s true. I wasn’t listening. I was checked out. And it wasn’t isolated to her. There were times I barely listened to anyone. During conversations my brain silently contemplated what I was going to say next. I was more important. My wisdom will blow people away. A superior intellectual experience.

It sounds terrible because it is.

When I saw that this week was entitled “silence” it didn’t do much for me. As the week went on, the act of being silent was harder than imagined. After all, we talk. We talk a lot. We’re social animals. But in my effort to be heard I was not giving those I care most about my honest attention. I didn’t listen. To listen, I had to be silent. To be silent, I had to constantly remind myself to shut-up.

There were times I wanted to cut off my wife mid-sentence. Say something sarcastic. A quick quip. Move on to something else. “What’s for dinner?” I mentally had to remind myself to stop and listen. Repeatedly whispering “silence” in my head. If I forgot she would gesture her fingers in the “shut your mouth” motion. It’s an effective reminder.

At dinner one night I intently focused on a good friend. Active listening required effort. The effort yielded surprising results. There was a gush of emotion. Words waiting, burst out. He opened up: anxieties about life, the difficulty of saving for his wedding, the lack of joy at his job. Gone was the traditional “How ‘bout them Yankees?”

How did it take me so long to realize the importance of listening? A common courtesy to be quiet and attentive to those closest to us. Our friends our families, our loved ones. The impact of this week was far more subtle than the physical impact of Week One but maybe more important. I’m almost ashamed to write this because it forced me to be honest about myself. I have to apologize to my loved ones for the courtesy I did not give you. But today is a new day. I promise to be quiet and listen.