Living has risks without certainty. So do you want to try raking leaves on a windy day?

Managing lives effectively requires finding out what we don’t know, but need to know.  But if life is an ongoing ‘crap game’, what are the odds a gambler will live the life of her dreams?

regrets - once liked

Even in my little corner of the globe, in person and through the internet, many people ask me to help with more or less complex problems such as these:

  • “Should i accept my first teaching-job offer, even if it’s a school in South Korea?”…
  • “Should i leave my abusive partner with whom i’ve lived for 15 years?”…
  • “Should i move across the country for that higher paying IT job?”…
  • “I hate how i seem to be on a treadmill going nowhere. How can i become that someone who knows where they’re going and how to get there?
  • “Should i go back to school, leaving the job i hate and the security it offers so i can do what i really love with my life?”…

….  Such life-changing questions are being asked and answered every day by people across our planet. I also see how many were never taught how to make complex decisions mindfully.

Hope, each morning

This is what i believed 51 years ago when my “best laid plans of mice and men” were derailed. Thanks to an out of control driver and his four wheel missile, i lost a lot of memories, how many i’m still finding out. My personality also seemed to have been replaced with a stranger’s and i had lost the use of much of my body with a less than positive prognosis for a full recovery. I was faced with a blank slate, or so i mistakenly thought.

The pain of physiotherapy for months took my mind off my insecure future, was worth the efforts, but then i found out that the real work was about to begin.   Looking back on my life, i had obviously done what i needed to do. But it took years of study, experience, reflection, and learning for me to articulate how i managed to become more than i had been before my imposed metamorphosis.

Unfortunately, many believe that their outcomes will depend mainly on chance, luck some call it.

decision making-Luck and opportunity

When you are facing challenging decisions, here are three critical elements you will need to consider if you plan on getting what you need and want.

  1. You need to appreciate what you know.
  2. You need to identify what you don’t know, and need to know.
  3. You need to know what part of what you want to do can be done now, what parts needs to wait, and what they need to wait for. Timing will always make a difference. 

Most successful people will admit that luck played a part in achieving their successes; most also agree with Branch Rickey’s aphorism: “Luck is the residue of design?”

planning without action

Many years ago, I interpreted Rickey’s words to mean that if i plan effectively, 2 benefits will accrue;

  1. First, i will the minimize the potential damage inflicted by unexpected bad-luck bombs;
  2. Second, i will allow good luck to jump in so i can satisfy what i set out to accomplish.

That’s been my experience. So before, during, or after i make plans important to me and my life, i perform a S.W.O.T analysis.  I use this tool to analyze my plans, my actions, my outcomes as a reality unfolds; and always, i apply it to myself.

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Reality for me is always the bottom line, whether i like the outcomes or not!

 We can never envision everything which might happen, but we can mitigate the potential damage of threats which could happen. 

Mindfulness pays.

decisions - today creates tomorrow


If “Money makes the world go round, and sex makes the trip worthwhile,” why is Andy still frustrated and unhappy?

“Some people find self-destructive behaviours almost impossible to resist!”

Andy said to me that he believes “Money makes the world go round, and sex makes the trip worthwhile.”

He has compulsively and usually successfully chased both, but is still obsessed with accruing more; why?  Why is ‘more’ never enough for Andy? 

Peggilee Wupperman Ph.D., Beyond Self-Destructive Behavior suggests thatSelf-destructive or dysregulated behaviours provide relief or even pleasure in the short-term – but ultimately get in the way of living a life that feels satisfying and fulfilling. These behaviours can include alcohol/drug abuse, binge eating, compulsive computer gaming and sex, self-injury, smoking, or a host of other behaviours that feel helpful (satisfying) in the moment but are and turn out to be harmful over time.”

I can’t tell you why Andy keeps hurting himself specifically, but after a few drinks and who knows what else, a new manic, hypersensitive, mercurial, and ‘desperate to have fun’ Andy emerges.  Andy seemed oblivious to the changes which came over him, but like the hamster on his exercise machine…..hamster running wheel  … Andy just kept running faster and getting nowhere.  Andy was not his real name,  and he’s certainly not alone running among the many who remain unhappy with their realities and blame bad luck for their frustrations and unhappiness. But the real answers to ‘why me’ are never that clear or simple.

decision making - luck & bad decision - cheers

So is Andy delusional, suffering from an undiagnosed psychosis, demonstrating what used to be called characterological behaviour? What we know for sure is that Andy is like Hans Christian Andersen‘s “Emperor” and his invisible “New Clothes.” 

confusion 3 knowing - baby see me when i close my eyes

From the time we’re born, we try to make sense of our world. Some are successful, but many aren’t. Once we actually leave our cribs and have to make decisions more complex than whether to play with that pretty flickering flame, we need to start learning the lessons life teaches us every moment.

We need to remain strategically confused and curious.

ignorance_Learning by pissing on fence_rogers

The first step on the path to knowing anything requires being confused, then admitting to ourselves that we don’t have the complete answer, especially when we face complex challenges like ourselves.

confusion - those who aren't don't understand

Our Assumptions, Perceptions, and Expectations convince us that we have all the answers we need. So if you want to see the world as it really is, start looking for what you don’t know; if you’re ready to face the truth and the lesson it’s offering you.  Whatever your plan, there will always be unexpected challenges to which you’ll have to  react or respond.

Remain curious then search for the unanswered questions in any experience.

Those questions will lead you to the answers you’ll need to more effectively navigate your future.

self reflection - dinosaur

Reflect mindfully with clear eyes, an open mind, and an optimistic heart.

intelligence & curiosity

Learning_When student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-appear.

“The Razor’s Edge:” How people manage extreme changes to their realities. It’s a story as relevant today as it was then.

Life is change growth is optional

The world is changing faster than ever before, and many have become unsettled, displaced, and stressed. Jobs are changing, the digital world has invaded most people’s realities to a greater or lesser extent, and everywhere we look, people are stressed trying to cope with personal, societal, cultural, and technological upheavals.  And historically, it’s all happened before.

Razor's Edge - he moves to india

No, i didn’t, and you don’t have to sell everything and move to India;  “The Razor’s Edge,” by W. Somerset Maugham is an opportunity to read how people in the past managed extreme changes within their societies and their world. As in real life, their decisions are more or less effective than they expected, or preferred.

“The Razor’s Edge” title comes from a translation of a verse in the Katha Upanishad, given in the book’s epigraph as: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to ‘enlightenment’ is hard.”

The book follows the spiritual and physical journey of Larry Darrell, a sensitive, intelligent young man who refuses to conform to the prevailing social norms of post-World War I America. Instead, he goes to Paris searching for answers to questions about man, God and the meaning of life. The Razor’s Edge delivers a compelling narrative that follows American Larry Darrell’s search for the answer to basic human questions about change, life, and living. It is about men and women in post-World War I America and Europe, reacting and responding to unexpected major upheavals.

learning from others - Fraser

Many people however, see changing their lives as an insurmountable challenge. I remember during a class debrief of the first day of an intensive, 3 day immersion workshop on resolving conflict, one student shared his anxiety and confusion:

“I’m learning things. But generally, i don’t know what the stuff that i’m learning means.”

By the 3rd day, he was obviously feeling more confident, demonstrating that he was beginning to understand, and to apply what he’d learned.

Adults learn most effectively by personalizing what they’re trying to learn, then applying and learning from the experience. Adults need to interpret and reinterpret what they see, hear, or read so it makes sense to them in words which are useful.

BUT we all need to be patient with ourselves since we all learn in our own time, and at our own speed. Which is where books become invaluable; books are the renewable and reusable resources for ideas, reflection, observation, and personalization. They offer learning which lasts.

W. Somerset Maugham is a brilliant author who makes his characters come to life. The lessons his characters derive from their experiences, positive and negative, with all the emotions they experience, are learning opportunities for the reader.  So using  The Razor’s Edge  as a teacher, here are some ideas if you need to change parts of your life which are causing you stress.

changes small for large

  1. Be patient with, and kind to, yourself.
  2. Be honest about what you’re feeling and accept that your feelings are valid and true, even if you prefer that they change. 
  3. Personalize what you’re reading to see parallels between your life’s experiences and challenges, and the joys and pains experienced by characters in the book. Be open to new ideas and epiphanies.
  4. Reflect on the causes of their stresses, the emotions they experience, how they manage their emotions, and how they resolve their stress-catalysts; or not
  5. Then interpret and translate the words and ideas into words and concepts which make sense to you and which you can use. 
  6. Now do your own emotional inventory using the same criteria you used to analyze the characters’ challenges. The emotions you feel are the benchmarks; they’re the sign-posts you can use to find new paths towards where you want to go. 
  7. Then it’s time prepare a road map and transportation options for the next stage of your journey. 

transitions personal-bridges

And there is help if you choose to find and access it. Here’s a place to start if you decide to become your own change-agent. Transitions by William Bridges is just one of many books which deal with change strategies, But since no one size fits all, find a resource which makes sense to you, and which helps you get to where you want to go.

searching for life's lessons

Learning_When student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-appear 2 - star wars.

One beauty in life is that our learning opportunities are around and within us every moment of every day. So when we’re ready to see, we do. 

Why Judging Others Is Our Natural Instinct, Harvard Psychologist Explains

There are many ways in which we are guilty of judging others, however, not just on first impressions.

A Harvard psychologist, Dr. Amy Cuddy, an expert in first impressions, points out that what seems to be a split-second judgment of someone is actually you asking yourself two things:

Can I trust this person, and should I respect this person?

judging others - black cat

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Dr. Cuddy went on to write “Judging others is a natural instinct, and we are all a little judgmental at times. For the most part, we are doing so for survival. We want to surround ourselves with people whom we can trust because it makes us feel safe and secure. We push away those we deem untrustworthy because we fear they may harm us.”

“However, we cannot let our judgments control us. It is easy to misconstrue information and deem someone as less trustworthy than they really are. To really get to know someone, we have to give them a fair chance and get to know someone before we decide. We may find that their personality only comes out once they reach a certain level of trust in you.”

“The instincts we have on judging others served us well in our efforts for survival, but we have evolved past the point where survival is life or death. Now, we are protecting emotions and status. We should be careful who we judge and why, as we may not be judging the wrong people for the wrong reasons.”

You can read Dr. Cuddy’s whole article at:

judging people - the happy & unhappy

Judging or analyzing people for work or play? Don’t assume that what you see is all that there is!

She laughed. “Spenser you’re like a hammer after a nail. You’re a very interesting man. One might misjudge you. One might even underrate you, and I think that might be a very bad error.”

“Here you are a big guy with sort of a classy broken nose and clever patter. It would be easy to assume you were getting by on that. That maybe you were a little cynical and a little shallow. I half figured you got me in here just to make a pass at me. But I just saw you at work, and i would not want to be someone you were really after.”

Spenser + Susan - Spenser For Hire
Robert B. Parker’s Spenser For Hire

About 30 years ago, my bias became a potential trap when a new cohort of learners had walked into the prerequisite, introductory course of our Conflict Analysis and Management program. As the class filled, i suddenly felt my  inner-defences escalating when a 6 foot + angry-looking man walked into the classroom and took a chair at the back. His long, blonde, shoulder-length hair, tattoos, and muscular build in a short-sleeve sweatshirt said watch this guy, he looks like trouble.

Iceberg-4 humans-most hidden

My inner fear, which is what my reaction really signalled, came from my experiences when some learners had challenged me and the new behaviours i had suggested they try. Often this course was a test some if not all learners wanted me to pass. They needed to believe that i knew what i was talking about, and that the theories which i presented were not just useless psycho-babble.

thoughts - false

My erroneous perception was way-off-base as i intuited, so i didn’t let the fear-based bias affect my relationship with Bill. In fact, he turned out to be a gentle, curious, considerate, engaged, and popular student.

Judging a person defines you

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. suggests these 5 ways to contribute to functional relationships. “Solid relationships with others depend on solid evidence. Allow yourself to take the time and willingness to suspend judgment, and your relationships will be all the more fulfilling.”

When any situation challenges a person, the APEs always affect how we see it, our conclusions, and how we try to resolve it to our satisfaction.


These APEs are our:

  • Assumptions
  • Perceptions
  • Expectations (including fears triggered by unhappy past experiences)

So when relationships are important to you anywhere they cross your path, take the time to explore the other person with an open mind and heart. You could be missing a gift if you don’t.

learning_when student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-appear.


Would you die for love? What would you die to protect or to get?

People always do everything only for reasons important to them.

My mother risked death during the Holocaust crossing Nazi barriers with false papers as did my Aunt. To these heroic women, their families were important enough to die for. Fortunately, they both survived.

But when desperate enough, some are prepared to die for what’s in a cash register, for drugs, or following orders in a far away land because it feels patriotic

Bottom line, we all put a value to our lives, consciously or unconsciously, as we do for most things. That value maybe be monetary, emotional, or most probably, is motivated by a host of cognitive and emotional catalysts.

dying - nothing inside is worth sign

Now turn “dying” into a metaphor or simile for the decisions you make every day in your life. I know that’s too dramatic for much of what we do daily,  but the principle is the same.

Everyone one of our decisions will have reasons why, even if we are not aware of them specifically.

So when you know why you do what you do, at least the important stuff, then you can decide whether you want to do it again, do it differently, or not do it at all.

So if you’re not living the life of your dreams, you may want to step back and reflect about why you do what you do; but you have to open up honestly to yourself if the reflection is to be of any lasting value.

Learn from what you see but don’t beat yourself up when you see something in yourself which you don’t like; reflecting on your behaviour will be the directional signs, the benchmarks. Then just self-actualize or re-invent yourself, which ever term you prefer.

Value added life

Choose to reach a stage of emotional intelligence and emotional competency which brings you closer to the life of your dreams.

  • Be aware
  • Be mindful
  • Be reflective
  • Be honest

Then using the tools at your disposal, live strategically to get what you need.

life decision making-large

Remember, your cognition, your emotions, and your curious brain are your tools, but if you’re not using them competently, it will be like having a power drill without a power supply.


learning_when student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-appear.

Now get out there and appreciate the joy-ride! I have for over 50 years, and still do, even when it feels like white water. LOL

chaos managing - white water

Have you ever stopped to consider how lucky we Americans are to have the neighbors we have?

One American’s take on the U.S.- Canada trade war.

Canada US friendship

Have you ever stopped to consider how lucky we Americans are to have the neighbors we have?

Look around the globe at who some folks have been stuck sharing a border with over the past half century:

North Korea / South Korea
West Germany / East Germany
Greece / Turkey
Iran / Iraq
Israel / Palestine
India / Pakistan
China / Russia

We’ve got Canada! Canada. About as inoffensive a neighbor as you could ever hope for.Canada-US border

In spite of all our boasts of “American Exceptionalism” and chants of “America first,” they just smile, do their thing and go about their business.
They are on average, a more educated, have a higher standard of living, free health care, and no gun problems Country. They treat immigrants respectfully and already took in over 35,000 Syrians in the last two years.
They’re with us in NATO, they fought alongside us in World War I, World War II, Korea, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War, Afghanistan, the Kosovo War and came to our defense after 9/11. There was that one time when Canada took a pass on one of our wars: Vietnam. Good call.
They’ve been steady consumers of American imports, reliable exporters of metals and petroleum products (they are the biggest importer of products from 37 states), and partnered with NASA in our space missions.
During 911 many aircraft were diverted to Newfoundland, 9-11 newfoundlandan island province on the east coast where over 6000 Americans were housed, taken care of, and treated like royalty.  
In return this administration slapped a 20% tariff on the products of their only paper mill thereby threatening it’s survival.
And what do Canadians expect of us in return? To be respected for who and what they are: Canadians. That’s what I call a good neighbor.
But the King of Chaos couldn’t leave well enough alone.   Trump- smug face
Based on his delusions of perpetual victimhood, out of the clear blue, he’s declared economic war on Canada. On CANADA! And he did it based on Canada being a national security risk to the US! For no goddamn reason, other than the voices in his head told him it was a war he could win. So why not?
Trump went ahead and imposed his tariffs on aluminum and steel even though we have a trade surplus with Canada on those products! Trudeau retaliated in kind. And now this morning, the White House is preparing a new wave of tariffs in retaliation for Trudeau’s retaliation. This time he threatens a tariff on automobiles even though 70% of the components originate in the US! It’s just a temporary spat, right? Except for that smile on Vlad’s face in the Kremlin as the NATO pact unravels a little more with each passing day.
Again, we’re talking about Canada. Our closest ally, friend and neighbor.
On behalf of an embarrassed nation, people of Canada, I apologize for this idiotic and wholly unnecessary attack. Please leave the back channels open. We the People of the progressive persuasion stand with you.
Our Canadian Friends-Natl Geog article02,1990