Tag Archives: mark twain

Hot Topic Fireworks and the Fourth of July

“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” – Mark Twain

That Mark Twain is such a goof.

I have enjoyed the unique opportunity to spend time with a leadership coach over the past few months thanks to a fellowship through Pepperdine University, but our time together is coming to an end. During our penultimate phone conversation, my coach asked if there was anything else that I would like to discuss, and I had to confess that I am now the best leader in world history and have nothing left to learn.

Why the sudden laughter?

You can picture it, I’m sure: a long, deep, fascinating conversation with a wise friend. You are tired and sleepy and have to get up early the next morning, when suddenly an entirely new and wonderful conversation topic emerges and… Well, you just have to call it a night. As much as you would like to go down that conversation road, you simply don’t have the time or energy to invest and have to cut it off before it gets started. Reluctantly.

That is what I offered my coach. Sure, there is much to discuss, but we have neither the time nor the energy to invest and we must simply call it a night. Reluctantly.

This is how I feel in general this Fourth of July. We celebrate the United States of America this holiday weekend, and I am simply unable to imagine opening the door on any of the spectacularly important and touchy conversations that stand before us. Not because I do not care. Not because I do not have thoughts. Not even because I am exhausted by the very prospect, although I am.

Here is why: It takes so much time to love and listen and build the relationship with a single person to simply begin to understand the other well enough to just get started on any of the topics. It is three in the morning, and we have talked all night, and I have to be up at six, and I just have to exercise a teeny bit of self-control.

(This isn’t very inspirational, is it?)

Okay, let me at it this way: Be kind to everyone. Invest in deep relationships with a few. Listen a lot. Speak slowly and carefully with patience and grace. And get some rest because this is going to take some serious time.

And have a great holiday weekend.

Comparison Is the Death of Joy

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“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain

“People watching” is great fun, and a trip to an airport is like working in HR for the circus.

Recently, I was at the gate in LAX awaiting my flight to Phoenix when three ladies sat down beside me in brightly-colored muumuus. They were quite the sight. I think it was a mother and two daughters who could have been grandmothers themselves. The mother looked like Helen Roper as a smoker, and I mean that in the best possible way. From the phone call home, I deduced that they had just returned from a cruise. They told dad/husband that they had a blast but were sure ready for home.

I tried to read my book and not pay attention, but at one point one turned to the others and whispered that “you see all kinds in the airport.” They chuckled condescendingly. I nearly fell off my chair. Airports are awesome.

On my return to Los Angeles, I was a few hours early for the flight and looked for a gate that was not crowded so I could eat my overpriced lunch in peace. There was a perfect row. One young man sat at the end in the lotus position reading a hardcover. He was tall and looked like European Jesus, and with the long hair, beard, black shirt, and blue jeans, I imagined that he had an elective choice in high school and chose Buddhist Meditation over Motorcycle Gangs in a close call and the rest was history.

We sat in peace for a few minutes but were then joined by Frustrated Lady. Of all the open seats in the gate area, she chose to sit directly across from European Jesus. I applauded her choice. She, too, looked like a smoker (what is my deal with smokers?).

Frustrated Lady made several phone calls and made it very clear that she had missed her connecting flight and was not happy with the aviation industry. When she got hold of Alan, who I presume is her husband based on her change to a more unpleasant tone, she told him that the flight tonight to Kansas City would be her last. Next year, when she travels to California, it would either be by car or bus, and I don’t know what Alan said to that, but he was wrong.

Eventually, Frustrated Lady went for some ice cream, which seemed to help. European Jesus seemed happier, too.

I thought about the great sport of people watching and considered something that might be important: When we encounter other human beings, we see ourselves as the norm and consider everyone else the odd ones out.

This thought appeared right after it dawned on me that European Jesus had stories of both Frustrated Lady and Skinny Bald Man when he gathered with his apostles on arrival at his final destination.

So, do with this lesson what you will, but my suggestion is this: Fly Southwest.


No, my suggestion is to keep on people watching, and keep on noticing all the crazy differences in humanity, but resist the urge to make it a competitive sport.

Non-European Jesus once told a story about two people praying: one thanked God that he wasn’t like the other person and the other simply asked for grace. The moral of the story was that you get to choose.


* Click HERE for a good article from Daniela Tempesta on the dangers of comparing ourselves to others.