No pressure.

We’re about a month away from a rather big event for our family.

My oldest nephew, Blair, graduates from high school at the end of May. In fact, he graduates from the same high school I went to, which gives me an added sense of pride (and sentimentality) about the whole matter.  18 years ago, I was walking across the stage to get my own diploma. Funny enough, my nephew was there that day – although he was still three months away from being born.

In the years which have passed, Blair has grown up (and up… and up… far taller than any of us in our family) in what seems like the blink of an eye. It’s unfair that time passes so quickly, but it’s selfish to wish it’d linger on. I’m filled with excitement to see where he’s going to go and what he’s going to achieve.

Inevitably, occasions like a high school graduation give way to unsolicited advice. I’ve come to think we offer graduates our “words of wisdom” because we look back on our own experiences, and want to help encourage the great moments in life while placing caution signs for the things we’d choose to do over again.

As a mentor of mine once said, advice is given with the proviso that responsibility for it ends with the person who receives it.  They can choose act on the advice, or put it on a shelf in their mind.  It’s their call.  Whatever my nephew does with the following, I offer it to him and to any of the other members in the class of 2016, with best wishes for the journey which lies before them.

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What comes next

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
– Winston Churchill

It’s true – as we go through life, opportunities arise every day (although they can often be disguised as adversity, setbacks, or failure.)  Our perception of those opportunities will often drive what we do with them.  Do we forge ahead, throwing caution to the wind?  Do we turn down the opportunity for reasons of comfort, convenience or conviction?  Or do we miss seeing the opportunity in the first place because of bitterness, anger, and resentment?

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Nobody kicks a dead dog (2014)

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

My job isn’t much different than that of a preacher.

Well, aside from the content of our words (mine can be a little more risque and biting while theirs are inspirational and spiritual.)

And, the gravitas of our positions.

And, the robe.  I can’t pull off the robe.

Okay, so maybe it is different.

However, we go out every day, put ourselves out on stage, perform a little to get people’s attention, and hope the things we say will create some sort of positive emotional impact with our audience.

Maybe the biggest difference between a guy with a microphone in a radio studio and a (wo)man standing at a pulpit is that while it takes a special kind of heathen to tell a (wo)man of the cloth they stink, the various ways we’ve given the audience to connect with us in broadcasting makes hurling an insult as simple as whipping out a cell phone and hitting “send.”

I hate to give credit to the existence of trolls by writing a piece about them, but they’re one of those things that any of us who work in the media seem to face.

On Sunday, CTV National News anchor Lisa LaFlamme had one such troll hurl an insult at her on Twitter, and she shut him down (much to the celebration of her followers.)

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My buddy Seth Armstrong at Saskatoon’s Rock 102 FM also had a bout with a text messaging tough guy a few months ago, taking the conversation from the keyboard to the air.

On Wednesday morning, I had one particularly ugly texter try to get my goat as we talked on the show about a number of topics.  It was a pretty lighthearted show, in fact, including the story about the US snowboarder who wanted to take home a whole bunch of stray dogs from Sochi (posing with the puppies for a picture that’ll make his current fans swoon and newcomers go gaga), and the awesome Aurora Borealis display the night before (it was amazing!)

texter

Unlike Lisa or Seth, I left the texts alone.  In fact, we have the luxury of being able to send them to a digital garbage bin – which is where crap like this belongs.  Not because I didn’t have a comeback, but because I’ve grown to believe the best response is no response at all.

Some experts, like digital mastermind Seth Godin, make it a personal rule not to expose themselves to negativity.  In The Icarus Deceptionhe talks about how writers (in particular) look to reviews and blog comments not to determine the economic success of their work, but rather (to their detriment) feed their egos.

…I realized what I was doing with the comments and reviews I was reading.  I would read thirty of them, and twenty-nine would be positive (sometimes extraordinarily so) and one would be a direct hit job, a brutal takedown of who I was and what I was trying to do.  And for the next few days, all that my lizard brain would let me think about was the bad one…

…I was amplifying the negative at the expense of the positive, not to serve any useful function, not to make my writing better, but to destroy it…

…I haven’t sought out and read a review or tweet since.  This is not cowardice; it’s the act of someone who wants to keep writing and is determined to do it for an audience of his choosing.  Shun the nonbelievers…

(Excerpt from Seth Godin’s “The Icarus Deception.”)

Unfortunately, in my line of work, you don’t have to go seeking out the negative.  It gets delivered to the studio in real time – on a big, bright LCD screen.  Like a heckler in a comedy club, they’re right there in front of your face.

Seth Godin’s advice about “shunning the nonbelievers,” is the right tactic.  But, sometimes, you need another tool in your arsenal to get past the negativity staring you in the face.  That’s where I lean on the legendary Dale Carnegie.

In his 1948 book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” Carnegie wrote a piece titled, Nobody Kicks a Dead Dog.  The story is about how roughly two decades earlier, a “boy wonder” had become president of the University of Chicago at the tender age of 30.  Criticism of the young academic came from all sides – and a friend of the boy’s father told the man how shocked he was at the horrible things being said.

“Yes … it was severe, but remember that no one ever kicks a dead dog.”

Yes, and the more important a dog is, the more satisfied people get in kicking him.

When you are kicked and criticized, remember that it is often done because it gives the kicker a feeling of importance. It can often mean that you are accomplishing something and are worthy of attention. Many people get a sense of savage satisfaction out of denouncing those who are well educated, forthright, or functioning in a contributing manner with work, friends, and the task of intimacy…

“…If you get your head above the crowd, you’re going to be criticized. So get used to the idea.”

Make it a rule to do what you can and put up your umbrella to let the rain of criticism drain off of you instead of running down your neck.

(Excerpted from Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”)

Combining the advice of Godin and Carnegie, I’ve come up with my own personal guidance for dealing with trolls.  Don’t go looking for the negative, and when it lands square in your face, consider the source.  A response might make you feel better, but it achieves nothing in the long run.  Head up, eyes forward, onward.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

– Dr. Seuss

In the ultimate example of being handed a heckler and making heckler-ade, I leave you with the hilarious Deepak Sethi.  His takedown of a big mouth at a comedy club in Las Vegas went viral a few weeks ago.  While not my tactic, it is entertaining and fits his craft.  (Note : some may be offended by the language.)

If you’re on my side of the microphone, I’d love to hear how you’ve learned to live with and deal with the texting tough guys and social media sadists.

 

Featured image credit : Shutterstock