Living Your Best Life at Any Age

Posts tagged ‘“making a difference”’

Why I’m Not Writing a Book

book store

For several years I have been writing a book.  Well, I have been talking about writing a book, thinking about it, taking classes, attending seminars and I’ve even designed the cover of my book.  Except the book never gets written.

Now I am clear: I am NOT writing a book.

I am not writing a book because I like to write. (more…)

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Are You Building Your Lemonade Stand?

“When life gives you lemons, you don’t make lemonade. You use the seeds to plant a whole orchard – an entire franchise! Or you could just stay on the Destiny Bus and drink lemonade someone else has made, from a can.”
― Anthon St. Maarten

Let me tell you about two people who felt life gave them some lemons.  One is making lemonade and the other built a lemonade stand!  Which will you be?

Lolly worked all her life at one job doing everything right.  She established a retirement account on her meager earnings and expected to retire at what has been called “normal retirement age”  She achieved the American dream.  Retirement and living the good life into the sunset.  Only it didn’t work out that way.  Medical bills and other unexpected expenses cut into her cash flow.  She is careful with her money and she gets social security.  Lolly is making the most of it.  She is making her lemonade on her front porch.  “It’s OK” she says.  She wishes she had more but what are you going to do when you are on a fixed income.  Good attitude but it’s too bad she isn’t building a lemonade stand.

Eddie is doing it differently.  Eddie is 55 and has worked as a software programer for most of his life.  At his age, he is a pioneer in the industry with a depth of knowledge few of us could expect to learn.  Problem is no one wants to hire him.  As he told me, “55 is ancient and over the hill in the software industry.  Over 30 and your out.  Eddie is facing reality.  He also did everything right — went to college, earned a degree in a highly sought after field, was a good employee and kept current in his field.  Still, reality really sucks.  What is Eddie doing with his lemons?  He is opening his own lemonade stand.

Eddie has way more knowledge than the rest of us when it comes to setting up websites.  He knows SEO, mobile apps and all the rest of the jargon.  This is a valuable commodity.  People pay for this and they usually don’t know where to find someone.  Now they do. They can find Eddie’s lemonade stand.  By doing what he knows better than most, he can build his own website and get a following.  He will have better security than the young whippersnappers getting the jobs because he isn’t going to get laid off or downsized.  His lemonade stand will sustain him.

What do I mean by a lemonade stand?  You’ve heard the adage  “give a man a fish and he eats today, teach him how to fish and he eats forever”?  This is a variation of that.  We’ve all heard about making lemonade when life hands you lemons.  Of course there is the variation that says find someone who was given vodka and have a party but that’s not the point here.

What I am talking about is being and ENTREPRENEUR!  Gasp!  Yes you.  I bet you did it when you were a kid.  Did you baby sit?  Have a newspaper route?  Sell something door to door?  You were an entrepreneur.  You might even have had a real lemonade stand.  I know I did.

I grew up in a time, and most of you did too, I’m guessing, when the goal was a “good paying job”.  You worked up “through the ranks”, and somewhere in your 60’s you were put out to pasture, ehr, retired.  You got a pension and maybe a plaque.  Did anyone actually get the proverbial gold watch?

Folks those days are gone.  The old line companies are phasing out pensions and the new ones never had them.  You are on your own buddy.  The financial planners have been telling us this for years, but most of the boomers didn’t listen and now they are out there picking lemons.

So what does your lemonade stand look like?  Mine?  I made a huge mid life career change and went to law school in my 50’s.  I pretty much believed the folks who told me no one would hire me at my age.  But surprise, surprise!  A well respected mid size firm in Orange County hired me.  Wow,  That felt good!  Too bad I hated it.  I won’t go into what a mind numbing experience it was but suffice to say the dress code almost did me in.  Or was it the mandatory meetings on how to increase our billing?  Not better work, just more billing.  It was definitely time to build my own lemonade stand.

So I “hung out my shingle” as it used to be called.  I had a lap top and a fax machine.  I was in business.  People actually paid me money for my legal skills.  After a while I knew I had to find a specific focus for my practice.  (We aren’t supposed to call it “specialize”)  People kept coming to me with their divorce issues.  Even though it was the furthest thing from my mind when I was a wide eyed new lawyer, I found that handling divorces was a pretty good lemonade stand for me.  Eighteen years and thousands of cases later, I am still practicing — although it has grown to slightly more than a fax machine and a laptop.

So here is my challenge to you.  Are you building your own lemonade stand?  Maybe you currently have a job.  You might even like it — or not.  Start building that lemonade stand because you never know when the lemons might arrive.

Right now — write down three things someone might pay you for.

This is a random list that might jog your creative juices.

  • Give speeches
  • Bake cakes
  • knit scarves
  • travel the world and pick up interesting jewelry or gift items
  • Write a book
  • Teach people how to use Facebook
  • Teach English to non native speakers
  • Start your own community newspaper and sell advertising
  • Design your own clothing line and sell it via kickstarter
  • Sell other people’s stuff on eBay
  • Ghost write blogs for other people
  • Organize garages

Ok, this wasn’t a totally random list I made up.  Each of those represents someone I know who is making money at their own lemonade stand doing just that thing.  Good money?  Some are, some are not.  Depends on the effort and creativity they put into their lemonade stand.  Not only are they making money, they feel good about being creative and useful.  No out to pasture for them

And Lolly, the person whose story I opened with?  We are still working on it.  At least her eyes lit up when I gave her the suggestion. Stay tuned.  I am sure there will be something fun to report about Lolly’s Lemonade Stand.

Make your list today.  Get creative.  I’m anxious to hear about your lemonade stand.

 

369_lemonade_stand1

 

 

ARE YOUR FRIENDS ALL THE SAME AGE?

When we were little kids we all used to like to play with kids our own age.  An older child playing with younger kids was considered weird.  Many folks carry this into adulthood.  I suggest that you learn to play with people of different age groups.

I frequently have “girlfriends’ potlucks”.  It amuses m

e to see that we range in age from late 20’s to, well, a lot older.  (I am generally the oldest person in the room)   I learn the latest social trends, technology and even language from my young friends.  My younger friends recognize the older sages knowledge and learn from it.  We don’t have to read history books — we were there.  We can give a perspective you don’t get from books.

I get diet and exercise tips.  Hopefully my young friends get a better perspective in looking at a long range view of love and romance.  The sages get to tell about the classic movies, the first time we saw the Beatles and  I get to improve my playlist of current songs.  Oh, and the young uns get advice about (gasp) menopause.

The adage “the more things change, the more th

ey stay the same” sure seems to apply.  We find we are not so different.  We lose our fear of aging when we see examples of what lies ahead that are good and wise.

I love my various groups.  I stay current on technology through my younger friends and then I pass on what I learned to my older friends.  I think we enrich each other’s lives.

Other societies seemed to have more interaction among the generations.  It would serve us well to learn from them.

Do you have friends of varying ages?

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What’s your experience?

A FIFTY YEAR OLD EXPERIENCES THE SOCRATIC METHOD

“Fictional characters like Professor Kingsfield of The Paper Chase have contributed to an image of the quintessential law school professor who puts a student in the “hot seat” and delves into what seems like an intimidating and almost torturous line of inquiry.  This pedagogical technique is commonly known as the Socratic method: one of the defining characteristics of the American legal education system, almost universally used during the first year of law school.” ****

Have you heard of the Socratic method?  Did you ever watch the movie or TV show “Paper Chase”?  Why would anyone subject themselves to this kind of harassment, humiliation and embarrassment?

Ms Quirk, What did you think of the ruling in this case?  Really?  Is that what you think?  Class?  Do you agree with her?  

Terror, sheer  terror.  Fear of humiliation – why am I here?  What makes me think I can do this.  I am going to flunk out.  I don’t belong here.  My classmates are all smarter.  One element of the Socratic Method is to prove your ignorance.  Leaving you open for learning — I guess.

This is the study of law.  I love it.  Notice I said the study of law.  Not the practice of law.  The two have no relationship whatsoever.

When did I become so enamored of this study based upon such arcane principles started by some old dead guy of long ago who got poisoned for his actions?  Socrates!  Many a law student has used his name as a curse.

It started for me many years ago with the case of Helen Palsgraf v Long Island Railroad.  I will give you the details of the case later but first let me tell you how I came to know Mrs. Palsgraf.

In the late 60’s I was a young bride married to a military officer who decided to go to law school  I went from wearing hats and white gloves to meetings of the Officers Wives Club to a little more casual attire of the Law Wives Club.  The law wives club, of course, was a supportive group (there were no “law husbands”) of women mainly to help us be supportive of our poor husbands suffering the grinds of law school.

At one of the meetings we welcomed the torts professor, Professor Peck.   Torts we learned deals with a civil wrong resulting in a lawsuit.  Along with Contracts and Constitutional Law it is a core subject.  Professor Peck wanted to give us a sample of an actual law school tort class – along with a demonstration of the Socratic Method.  So he told us the story of Mrs. Palsgraf and her ride on the Long Island Railroad.  He took us through the torture of the questioning method.  How should the court rule?  Do you agree with Judge Cardozo or Judge Andrews?  Really, Mrs. Quirk?  Is that what you really think?  Ladies, do you agree with Mrs. Quirk?  Etc. etc.   He took us through the torture and humiliation of the Socratic Method.

I loved it!  I was hooked and knew someday I would study law.

And I did – some 25 years later I found myself in first year law school torts class.

“When do we get to Mrs. Palsgraf?”  

“Soon Ms. Quirk, soon.”

Ahh, the day came.  Even after 25 years I remembered the facts and that clock on the platform that injured poor Mrs. Palsgraf.  But now came the terror.

“Do you agree with the majority opinion of Justice Cardozo or the dissent of Justice Andrews?” 

Uh, um.  Let me think.

This is a lot more complicated than I thought.  I found that Palsgraf is a seminal case on how far we draw the line in negligence and proximate cause.

See, I was learning real lawyer words now.

As grades came out, I tied for first place in that first year torts class.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  I continue to learn the STUDY of law.  Perhaps you will become motivated also by hearing about Mrs. Palsgraf and you too will want to STUDY law.

So here we go.

In the 1920’s Helen Palsgraf (little is actually known about her) was on her way to Rockaway, perhaps to take her daughter to the beach.  She was quietly sitting on a bench on the platform waiting for her train.  At the same time, a conductor was hurrying some passengers unto a departing train.  He gave one of them a push to speed things up and the passenger dropped a package he was carrying.  It happens that the package contained fireworks.  (Little is known about the passenger and why he was carrying fireworks.  Anarchist?  Probably some Italians on their way to a celebration)   the fireworks exploded causing a large scale to become dislodged off the wall, injuring Mrs. Palsgraf.

Question:  Is the Long Island Railroad liable to Mrs. Palsgraf and should they pay for her injuries?

Now here is where we separate the engineers and the scientists from the legal scholars.  If you are thinking about how the scales were bolted on the wall or what made the fireworks go off or even who the fireworks carrier was, you are missing the point.  The point is:

Did the Long Island Railroad owe a duty of care to Mrs. P? And did they breach that duty?  I.e.  were they negligent by way of their employee the conductor?

A tort requires three factors:  Duty, negligence, injury.  There is no question that Mrs. P was injured and few would argue that the RR has a duty of care to its passengers.  But should they be responsible for paying for Mrs. P’s injuries?

Here is where we would have the famous Socratic discussion that would last a couple of hours.

Are you bored yet?  Exited?  Curious?

The court split in its decision and the debate continues today.  Speaking for the majority, Justice Cardozo went into a long discussion about foreseeability.  Was it foreseeable that a passenger would be carrying dynamite?  Is it foreseeable that an explosion could cause the scale to land on someone?

After pages and pages of discussion, Justice Cardozo went for a pragmatic answer that was basically “We have to draw a line somewhere”.    In his dissent, Justice Andrews railed against drawing a line and said if there was negligence, then all results of the negligence should be included.  Thus giving way to the argument of proximate cause:  never mind the butterfly effect – which would mean a line was never drawn.

Interested?  Excited?  You too might want to engage in the study of law.

Now you know how Mrs. Palsgraf and the Long Island Railroad started me on the lifetime path of studying law.

But I don’t get into too many Socratic discussions anymore.

To Read the case yourself:  http://www.courts.state.ny.us/history/cases/palsgraf_lirr.htm

To read more about the Socratic method

***http://aglr.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/the-reality-of-the-socratic-method-in-law-school-classrooms-a-call-to-preserve-our-longstanding-tradition/

And here is the happy 55 year old:

Law school graduation

YOU CAN MAKE A LOT OF DIFFERENCE IN OTHER’S LIVES

“Your Story can change someone else’s”  1896950_745177378833409_1062714364_n

You, Yes you! can make a LOT of difference in someone’s lives merely by practicing the LOT principle.  Listen, Observe, Tell 
 

Does the name George Bailey ring a bell?  He was the main character in the perennial classic Christmas movie “It’s a wonderful Life”.  (Extra points if you get the bell reference.)   When the movie begins, George is standing on a bridge, ready to jump off.  He feels his life is meaningless – that he doesn’t matter.  An angel appears and as George reviews his life he finds that he did make a difference after all.  In the end all is well, it’s a wonderful life – and his angel gets his wings.

But, I’m no George Bailey, you say.  I’m not sure I make a difference.  I sometimes wonder this myself.  Who am I to inspire others?

I haven’t started a multi-million dollar company; I’ve never played pro sports.  I have not overcome major adversity –no near death experience, no major debilitating disease and I pretty much have most of my faculties.  On the other hand, I have lived to what could be called a ripe old age and experienced success and failure.  I have parented, started a business, married, divorced and even obtained a professional degree.  Yup, I have stories to share — stories that might impact others.  I have a quote on my office wall:  “Your story can change someone else’s” I truly believe that.  The stories we share can make a difference.  To quote our current hero, Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson:  “Why not you?”

Let me give you an example of how someone changed my life:

High school.  The dark ages.  Girls were taught typing, shorthand and homemaking skills.  In ninth grade we were to make a four year plan of the classes we would take to complete high school graduation requirements.  When the teacher, Mrs. McLaughlin saw my plan she remarked that I had not scheduled any classes I would need for college.  College?  I’m not going to college.  People in my family do not go to college. Nope, we are not college people.  Not remotely on the radar.  To this day her reply stuck with me:  “I hate to see a bright student not prepare for college”.

Bright student?  Me?  No one in my then 15 years ever told me I was bright.  Me?  Wow.  What a revelation!  I was impressed. I took Mrs. McLaughlin’s advice and took Algebra, geometry and even two years of classic Latin.  Yup,  Veni, Vidi, Vici.  I came, I saw, I conquered.

Furthermore, I did go to college. When I became a student teacher, Mrs. McLaughlin was my master teacher.  I had the privilege to tell her how she changed my life.  And you know what?  She didn’t even remember me or the conversation!  It was just something she did because that is who she is. She was just doing what was natural to her.   That’s just who she was.

That’s how easy it can be to completely change someone’s life.  And often we don’t even know we are doing so.  Not only did I go to college, ultimately I completed law school.    I know that in my professional capacity I have and continue to impact lives.  But what about the little day to day things we do.

You can do a LOT.

That’s my acronym for Listen Observe Talk.

Listen

Listening is not a passive thing and it involves paying attention to facial expression, body language.  What is this person really saying?  Feeling? Often after I have met with a client they tell me how much better they feel.  How helpful I was.  And all I did was LISTEN.  Truly listening is the greatest gift we can give another person.

 Observe

What did your barista look like this morning?  Did you even notice her?  Later at work, a coworker sighed deeply.  Did you ask what was wrong? Did you make eye contact?  It is amazing how people respond to eye contact.  Culturally we are taught to do so but do we really? We look to the side of the eye, or the bridge of the nose.  Truly make eye contact.

 Talk

Have you ever noticed how someone reacts when you comment on their appearance, or the service they are providing, or their smile?  Is there something they are obviously proud of on their desk or wall?  Comment!

Remember: “Your story can change someone else’s”    Sometimes just the reminder that we all share the human condition can give someone hope and courage.   Not  “I can top that one” but a heartfelt, “I understand.  I went through this also and here’s what I did.”  Or, perhaps, “I can’t even imagine how this must feel for you.  How would you like me to help?”   Talk, tell your story.

The following quote came across my Facebook page the other day:

“ONE KIND WORD CAN CHANGE SOMEONE’S ENTIRE DAY.”

 Think about it.  One kind word can change someone’s entire day.

Here is my challenge to you.

Set out each day to make a difference in someone’s life.  Do so by Listening,Observing,  Talking.

The next time you are among other people,  practice truly connecting with someone.  Listen, Observe, Talk.    After the first, do one more and one more.

I will give you a money back guarantee that by the end of the day your life will be different.

Yes, You can make a LOT of difference and impact lives.

I challenge you.

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