Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stop and Smell the Tiptoed Tulips

The more careful readers of this publication may have noticed I’ve been absent for several weeks. Real life often gets in the way of desired life. Writing this column is one of my favorite things to do. Much of what kept me away from my writing was unavoidable and unpleasant. This got me thinking. Why can’t the desired life and the real life be the same thing more often?

I envy the people whose everyday job is tailored to their best skills and their favorite things to do. As part of my regular job I have been assigned to read books about leadership (leadership is one of the skills I am supposed to have in my everyday job which makes me downright positive I was born to be a comedy writer). One of the books I read postulated it was a fallacy that the most important thing to do for success was to work on areas of weakness.

Isn’t that what we all grew up hearing? You have to work,work, work on the things you aren’t good at in order to get to the top. Stop and think about it. Think back to high school and the thing you did over and over, trying to get it, trying to master it, trying not to roll up into the fetal position on the floor, clutch a small piece of velvet, rub it against your cheek with OCD repetition and cry softly to yourself (a.k.a. geometry). Did you become a geometry whiz? Probably not. Did it make you a high school graduate so you didn’t bounce from one low-paying-zero-prestige job to another eventually finding yourself sleeping on your best friend’s couch stealing the Fig Newtons from his secret cookie stash for mere sustenance. Those hours killing yourself over the Pythagorean theorem did pay off if the Fig Newton scenario was the only alternative. Other than that, what good did it do for you?

The book I referred to says people are better served by practicing the things they are already good at. The margin of improvement working on a skill set you have a facility with is much greater than the margin of improvement on a skill set you can’t do well. This makes sense. It is better to go from talented to fantastic at something (reciting the album and song titles recorded by Dean Martin) than to go from stinking up the joint to barely passable at something else (singing like Dean Martin).

This finally brings me to the point of this column. I am going to try to spend more time doing the things I am good at and much less time doing the geometry-type things in my grown up life.

I am one of those extremely lucky men who has a home life which far surpasses anything else he has. I genuinely like everyone who lives in my house and all the ancillary folk who frequent my living room. I like sitting in my recliner writing and listening to the others go about their business and occasionally calling out a comment or a question. I have to ask a lot of questions because it is very hard to keep up with all the stuff going on with the teenage people surrounding me as well as understanding some of the terminology they use. My wife translates and explains very well.

Here is an example of how my life will change due to my it-is-only-the-second-month-of-the-new-year-resolution. I bought everyone in my family a ukulele. (There will now be a slight pause as everyone takes a moment to re-read that last sentence.) Yesirree, every single person living in my house is the proud owner of a tiny guitar looking instrument made most famous by a seriously unattractive looking man singing about wandering aimlessly through a Dutchman’s flower bed. (If you weren’t alive when Laugh-In was on the air google Tiny Tim – you’re in for a treat.)

We are going to learn to play together. We are going to laugh at each other. We are going to truly stink at something and then get better at it together. We are going to be the coolest family in town. We are going to be the only family in town who thinks we are the coolest family in town.

We dedicate our ukulele folly to my mother. Who inspired us in so many ways. Who showed us that family is the joy that lives with you wherever you are. Who showed us home is the most important thing there is. Thank you…

Christopher Pyle will report the musical progress of the band (hey, Ukulele Folly would be a great band name) at a later date. You can request updates by writing to him at