Why you shouldn’t care who gets the credit

One of my favorite presidents ever had a plaque on his desk in the Oval Office that stated “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  Regardless of how you feel about Reagan, his social or economic policies, or the fact that I partially named my firstborn after him, it’s hard to quibble with the aphorism.  Here are two reasons why you shouldn’t care who gets the credit:

1.  Adoption is more important than recognition

The most successful people in the world didn’t get there because they thought to themselves, “I want everyone to know who I am.”  They got there because they thought, “There is a better way!”  Or, “This is a problem, and I’m going to find a way to fix it.”

In other words, your chief concern should be whether or not the problem is getting fixed, not if you’re recognized as the author of the solution.  The best system, technology, program, idea, or plan in the world is worthless if no one is using it.

You should care more about a million people using it, than about a thousand people knowing it was you who thought of it.

2.  There are no original ideas, so everything is a team effort

The world’s greatest ideas, inventions, solutions, and accomplishments were the result of dozens or hundreds or thousands of people working towards a common goal and each individual contributing his or her own skill, perspective, or bent. Nothing is accomplished solo.

Even if you take the idea from inception to completion and manage to do it with no help, no feedback, no assistance, no outside influence whatsoever…your “original” idea is only a retread of something that was already floating around, just less-successfully implemented.  Nothing is accomplished in a vacuum.

Be humble and recognize that you stand of the shoulders of giants, even if they are giants you’ve never met.

When you guest appear on TV, what will the screen say?

If you’ve recently watched a talking-heads news show, a daytime talk show, the nightly news, or even a sports highlights show, there is a typical pattern when the show hosts guests. When the guest appears on the screen for the first time (and usually many or all subsequent times), below their face is their name, and below their name is a one-sentence distillation of who they are. It might say “Former Adviser to Pres. Bush” or “NFL Draft Analyst” or “New York Times Best-selling Author.” Whatever it says, it is, as a friend of mine put it, “What they are known for.” It is the dominant aspect of their public-facing identity.

The complexity of humanity compels us to acknowledge that no individual can be distilled to just one aspect of whom they are holistically. Clearly the “Nutritionist and Fitness Expert” could also be a “Wife and Mother,” “Painter,” “Aspiring Musician,” or “Wine Enthusiast.” But the concept strikes me as compelling, and led me to ponder two related questions:

  • If you were to appear on a television show to share your expertise, what kind of show would it be? Sportscenter? Meet The Press? Rachel Ray? Dirty Jobs? Dr. Phil?
  • When your smiling face first appears on camera, what does it say below your name?

I think the answers to those two questions reveal a wealth about our identity or our desired identity. They reveal who we think we are or wish we were. They reveal what we want to be known for. They reveal what we believe we are more of an expert in than anyone else. And they reveal our public-facing identity.

When you guest appear on TV, what will the screen say?

The best wife a man could ask for.

My wife, Vanessa, was born on May 5th, 1987 in Sydney, Australia. Mothers Day is always the 2nd Sunday of May. Because of these two facts, Vanessa’s birthday is always no more than 9 days before Mother’s Day. This year, it’s as close as it possibly can be — there are just 3 days between her birthday and Mothers Day.

This has always created a similar dynamic to the HappyBirthdayMerryChristmas that those with December birthdays get. Each year Vanessa and I have been together, I’ve tried to make a strong distinction between the gifts, parties, and dates that were for her birthday and for Mothers Day. This year is no different. But this year, I’m doing something quite different.

In addition to the traditional gifts, spa treatments, dates, and outings with the kids most husbands give their wives for both their birthdays and Mothers Day, I’m giving my wife a unique gift born out of one of my greatest strengths — this blog post.

Vanessa’s childhood was far from idyllic. The standard features of typical Western childhood were drastically distorted or completely absent. Most adults at some time or another look back at their childhood and mourn what they think they should have had — I wish my parents had stayed together, I wish my brother and I had gotten along, I wish my dad hadn’t been in the Navy and moved us around so much…and on the wistful regret often goes. The comforts most of us wish had been better Vanessa didn’t have at all.

And yet, as I intimated to a friend this week, Vanessa is the most emotionally healthy person I know, bar none. Not the most emotionally healthy considering what she’s been through — no. Vanessa maintains a level of self-awareness unsurpassed by anyone I’ve ever met. She is enormously in touch with her feelings and inordinately strong. She has been the pillar of our family as we’ve weathered some of life’s difficult storms.

Vanessa detects disingenuousness faster and more efficiently than anyone I’ve ever met. She has a highly attuned B.S.-o-meter, as I call it. It’s extremely tough to pull a fast one on Vanessa. And, yet, people try. She has exposed hypocrisy, shadiness, and sliminess in others long before it was known to the general public. On several occasions, I’ve remarked how I thought Person A or Person B was so nice or so genuine and she has responded with, “I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about him I don’t like.” She has been wrong so rarely, I can’t remember a time.

Vanessa is the most fun wife to fight with that I can imagine. I don’t mean I enjoy fighting. We have our share of conflicts, as is true in all healthy relationships. I mean that, when we have conflicts, Vanessa rarely resorts to personal attacks, strawmen, red herrings and other ubiquitous devices of argument that most people so often resort to when the facts aren’t on their side. She articulates her feelings clearly and resolves conflict quickly — at least with the other party allows it.

Too many people in our lives withhold love as a means of punishment. It’s like they think they can change a person by emotionally abusing them. Vanessa loves lavishly, maybe even unreasonably. She gives people second, third, fiftieth, and 82nd chances. She so rarely withholds love it doesn’t bear mentioning.

Vanessa rebukes in love. She’s the first to call someone on their wrongs, especially when that person is willfully ignorant or unrepentant about them. She rebukes with integrity and refrains from making it personal. She’s willing to say the hard words that give people the gift of change.

Vanessa has a compassion for others that challenges me. She cares about people she’s just met and people she’s never met. She sees strangers in need and helps them, whether it’s lending her phone or looking after a wayward child until the parents can be located. She takes responsibility for the needs of others even though they’re not her problem.

Vanessa has an emotional sensitivity we should all desire. She cries during movies and sappy commercials. I, for one, am most glad because I’m finally not the only one! She loves Sunday afternoon Hallmark channel B-movies for their simplicity and traditional values.

Vanessa is an extremely talented and creative artist, using photography as an outlet of her talents. She sees photographs before they exist and has an unparalleled eye for a shot. She captures ephemeral moments and makes them some how appear more vibrant than real life.

Vanessa is the most exceptional mother I’ve ever seen. She demonstrates more patience, love, joy, perseverance, discipline, leadership, compassion, and kindness in one day than most of us will achieve in one lifetime. Her kids adore her and love having her as a mom. They don’t know how good they’ve got it.

Vanessa is a relic of a bygone era. She possess the character, passion, and purpose more typical of our grandparents’ generation. Yet God saw fit to put her on earth at this time in human history. I, for one, am grateful. The world needs more women like my wife. She’s the best wife a man could ever ask for and I’m blessed by God to be married to her.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord. — Proverbs 18:22

Why getting the rich to pay their fair share isn’t so easy

Chances are we’ve all heard it from a politician, a talk radio host, or a friend:

  • “It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.”
  • “If only the rich would pay their fair share, we wouldn’t have a deficit/budget/tax problem.”
  • “The rich exploit all these loopholes. We have to find a way to get them to pay their fair share.”

There are a lot of angles to take on this issues, but I want to focus on 2:

  1. Who are “the rich?” — it’s not as easy to define as you might think
  2. What is their “fair share?”

Who are “the rich?”

What’s interesting to me is that any time you hear someone talk about “the rich” it nearly always is a group that does not include the speaker. Listen to a celebrity, a radio personality, or your relative talk about “the rich” and ask yourself one simple question: “Is there any indication that they are including themselves in this group?”

I suppose it’s human nature, but whenever we speak of “the rich” our functional definition is “a group of people with more money than me.” Whether a person makes $5,000, $15,000, $50,000, or $150 million a year and regardless of the means of making this money, “the rich” are a group of people who make more than you. Right?

Wrong. If you’re reading this, you are rich. How do I know? Because you have internet access. Because you have electricity. Because, if you have electricity, you have running water. And it’s probably hot. And you have access to refrigeration. Which means your food has a higher nutritional quality. We could go on. And on. And on.

If we remove the blinders of all the plastic made-in-China crap Western culture says we need to acquire and lug through life to qualify as “rich,” then we free ourselves to recognize the opulence with which we already live.

Check out GlobalRichList.com. In 30 seconds you can find out how rich you are, indexed to the global population. Spoiler alert: you’re richer than you think.

So who is “the rich?” Is it you? Yes. Yes it is.

It’s time to stop using the canard of “the rich” to bludgeon people who have more money than we do. There is more to life than a Benz and a vacation to the South of France. You’re richer than you think and you’re richer than you want to admit.

What is their “fair share?”

If you thought the real definition of “the rich” stung, make sure you’re sitting down for this one. Next time someone whips out the ol’ “rich oughtta pay their fair share” line, just ask one simple question: “How much should they pay? What share of their wealth qualifies as “fair?”

Imagine we inherited from a billionaire great uncle a beautiful island in the Caribbean and we decided to start our own country. We’ll call it…Fairlandia. In Fairlandia, we decide, everything will be perfectly fair.

We start with the tax code. Fairlandia is going to, obviously, attract a lot of people from all ranges of “richness.” How do we ensure that taxes are perfectly fair?

What if we charge everyone the same dollar amount? Every citizen of Fairlandia pays $1,000 a year in taxes. “Nope, not fair at all,” protests your Minister of Fairness. “If a poor person only makes $10,000 a year they pay 10% of their income in taxes. But if that millionaire who owns the beachfront mansion makes $1,000,000 a year, he only pays one-tenth of 1%! That’s not fair at all!”

Ok, let’s charge everyone the same percentage! That’s fair! Everyone pays 10% of their income in taxes. The poor guy still pays $1,000 and the rich dude has to pay $100,000! What could be better? “Hang on a second,” chimes in your Minister of Anti-Lobbyists. “If the rich guy pays 100 times the amount in taxes, he’s going to have too much influence. He’ll march up to the elected officials and say, “Do this for me or I’ll move and take my bags of tax dollars with me.”

Hmm. That’s not very fair either.

What if we figure out how much each Fairlandian needs to live on, say $8,000 a year…and take the rest! Problem solved! The poor guy pays $2,000 in taxes and the rich guy pays $992,000! This is so easy, why doesn’t everyone run for public office! “Um, guys?” The Minister of the Economy pipes up. “I hate to spoil the party but if we take everything from everyone over and above just basic living expenses, who is going to start businesses? Where would they get the money? And if no one starts businesses, how are people going to work?

Damn. This is harder than we thought.

It’s getting late and we’re tired of this problem so we settle on our final solution: set up groupings based on income (call ‘em “tax brackets”) and charge a higher percentage, not just a higher dollar amount, to those who earn more money. So if you’re one of those stinky rich people you pay three and a half times the rate of one of those sad, pitiable poor people. Voila! The Minister of Fairness timidly raises his hand. “Gentlemen, I hate to point this out but…this is possibly the least fair approach of all.”

So, of course, it’s exactly what we’ve done in America. Brilliant.

The point is simple: there is no such thing as “fair.” Some argue that a flat rate (17% is often thrown around) is most “fair.” I happen to agree. But we can see from the above example that others might disagree with this perspective…and they might even have some valid points. I suppose there are some out there who might argue that taxes should be a flat dollar amount but I haven’t heard anyone seriously promote that position. Others think we should have a bracketed system. I have no idea how this leads to “the rich” paying their “fair share,” but I’m willing to learn.

So let’s say we’ve decided that “the rich” are defined as “not us” and “people we hate because we envy their success” and we decide we’re going to pass laws to squeeze more money out of them. We’re also going to call it their “fair share” even though it is anything but fair.

Right now the richest Americans pay 35% of their income to the federal government. That’s more than 1 out of every 3 dollars they earn. Now, why anyone would want to work hard so they have the “privilege” of only keeping 2 out of every 3 dollars, I don’t know. But I digress.

Well, if this was their “fair share” we would expect to no longer hear the shrieking political class calling for more “fairness” so let’s fair the shinola out of these greedy fatcats and jack that rate up to 50%! LOL! We got you now! Is 50% fair? If so, wouldn’t 60% be more fair? And wouldn’t 75% be even more “fair?” Taken to its logical conclusion, wouldn’t a 100% tax rate on “the rich” be the fairest of all?

I’ll close with an illustration I first read a couple years ago and has stuck with me ever since. I didn’t come up with this and the Internet doesn’t seem to know either. Please read it all:

How Taxes Work . . .

This is a very simple way to understand the tax laws.

Let’s put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first 4 men — the poorest — would pay nothing; the fifth would pay $1, the sixth would pay $3, the seventh $7, the eighth $12, the ninth $18, and the tenth man — the richest — would pay $59.

That’s what they decided to do. The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement — until one day, the owner threw them a curve (in tax language a “tax cut”).

“Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20.” So now dinner for the ten only cost $80.00.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six — the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his “fair share?”

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man (who paid $1) and the sixth man (who paid $3) would end up being PAID to eat their meal. So the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so the fifth man paid nothing, the sixth pitched in $2, the seventh paid $5, the eighth paid $9, the ninth paid $12, leaving the tenth man with a bill of $52 instead of his earlier $59. Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free.

But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. “I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man who pointed to the tenth. “But he got $7!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man, “I only saved a dollar, too . . . It’s unfair that he got seven times more than me!”.

“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man, “why should he get $7 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night he didn’t show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered, a little late, what was very important. They were FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS short of paying the bill! Imagine that!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the tax system works. The people eating free don’t understand their good fortune and complain that they “didn’t get anything at all” from a tax cut. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore.

Where would that leave the rest?

How to beat the common cold

It’s cold season again. This time of year, chances are you will ask or you will be asked, “How do you beat a cold?” Here are my favorite home remedies:

Nasal Irrigation

Sometimes called “neti pot” or “sinus rinse,” it sounds downright dreadful. It’s not pleasant the first few times, sort of feels like you’re water-boarding yourself. The feeling is reminiscent of accidentally breathing in water while swimming. But — you’re not doing any damage or getting water in your lungs. And, in my experience, you eventually get used to it.

Here is a how to video from the University of Michigan. At the 31 second mark, there is a nice display of some of the options you can buy at the drugstore for doing nasal irrigation. The how-to starts at 1:30.

This video has a nice animation of what’s going on in the nasal cavity and makes irrigation look downright enjoyable. It’s not, really, but it beats the heck out of post-nasal drip and sinus infections.

Key points:

  • I’ve tried both the teapot-looking things which rely on gravity to get the water through the nasal cavity and the squeeze bottle. I much prefer the squeeze bottle as it provides a little oomph behind the stream of water and makes the whole process go faster. It’s sort of like rinsing of your patio with a pressure washer vs a garden hose.
  • Salt is important. The only really painful experiences I’ve had have been with fresh water. I started irrigating with kosher salt and when my pre-measured packettes ran out I switched to regular table salt (less than $1 for, like, a year’s supply). I can’t speak to any medical effects but I haven’t noticed a difference.
  • Water temperature is important. If you’re going to irrigate in the shower, for God’s sake, mix the bottle with water from the sink before you get in. You want the water to feel neither hot nor cold (about body temperature, i.e. 98.6 F). Most people shower in water that is well over 100-110 degrees. It hurts.
  • Nasal irrigation is practiced by some as a preventative measure. That is, like brushing your teething, you do it daily to clean out any germs living up in your nose. The “common cold” is actually rhinovirus: -virus is pretty self explanatory and if you think about rhino- as in “rhinoplasty” (nose job) it’s clear that this is a virus that originates in your nose.

Zincum Gluconium

You’re not going to see this in big bold letters on the front of a box at Rite Aid, but if you flip the box, it’s the active ingredient of such brands as Cold-Eeze and Zicam. The thing about ZG is that it’s been clinically proven in blind trials to shorten the common cold.

Don’t ask me how, but the stuff works. If you start a regimen of ZG when you first feel the soreness/scratchiness in your throat or nose, it will cut your cold in half.

Cold-Eeze is the cheaper option (usually under $5 a box) but there is a downside. It’s a lozenge that doesn’t taste too bad at first but the aftertaste can give you a weird fur feeling on your tongue that takes a few hours to go away and affects the taste of everything else. What I do to compensate is take one after meals and, as a side bonus, it keeps me from eating for the next couple hours.

Zicam is altogether different. Originally packaged as a gel that you squirted up in the side of your nose (not inhaled), it has now taken on the packaging of individual swabs. You can buy around a dozen or two for a bit more than $10. It’s expensive, but, again, it works. And Zicam leaves no taste in your mouth whatsoever, which is nice.

Key points:

  • Zicam has expanded their product offering and branded a bunch of other cold and flu remedies. Make sure you check the back of the Zicam box to see that the one you’re buying has an active ingredient of zincum gluconium.

Oxymetazoline

Oxymetazoline is wonder-mist. If the cold has set in and you’re as congested as the 405 at 5:30pm (I’m talking can’t-breathe-out-your-nose congested) spray a little mist of oxymetazoline up each nostril. Like magic, within 5 minutes you’ll be breathing clear like a healthy person again.

Again, oxymetazoline isn’t on the front of the box in big bold letters; it’s the active ingredient in name brands like Afrin. I’ve never bought the name brands here, I’ve always gone with the store brand with the same active ingredient and loved it. A 10z bottle will last you the entire cold season and cost less than $5.

Key points:

  • Don’t use this spray too frequently or it can encourage (cause?) nosebleeds. I would say follow the label which says 2 doses in any 24-hour period (once when you wake up when congestion is the worst and once before bed where a stuffed nose can cause troglodyte-like mouth-breathing while you sleep)

I’ve also heard great things about Umcka which is 2-3 times as expensive as anything I’ve recommended but I myself have never used it.

What are your favorite fail-proof cold remedies?

What I learned when I quit Facebook.

I quit Facebook on January 1st. You should try it. I highly recommend it.

I’ve been off Facebook for over two weeks now. Since I joined Facebook more than half a decade ago, this is far and away my longest stretch off Facebook. I learned some important lessons, which I want to share here:

  • I missed sharing.
    • This one caught me by surprised. Before my quit-date, I anticipated that I would miss reading all my “friends'” updates (I didn’t), I would miss comment threads (I did — sort of), and I would miss seeing everyone’s photos and videos (I didn’t). What I did not anticipate was missing the sharing I do on Facebook. I missed sending out updates but also — most of all — links to interesting articles, videos, songs, and other interesting content to my Facebook friends.
  • I didn’t miss everyone’s updates.
    • Surprisingly to me, I didn’t feel a void from my lack of knowledge of the goings-on in everyone’s life. Maybe this is the “ignorance is bliss” effect but not reading every last status update from former high school classmates, second cousins, or old co-workers didn’t cause loneliness or emotional longing.
  • My IRL* relationships improved (*in real life)
      • Subjective? Sure. But I noticed that my interactions with my wife, my coworkers, my friends, and my family were more engaged. I was more emotionally present in conversations. I was more interested in people. I found myself almost never daydreaming about my online life (e.g. “I wonder what Scooter is posting on Facebook right now…“)
    • I observed actualized passion in my life
      • Maybe this is coincidence, but around the same time I quit Facebook, I noticed a new boldness in my speaking. I am more prone to tell it how I see it. I’m less likely to hold back for fear of how I’ll be perceived. I have a much healthier apathy of other people’s judgementalism. One of my co-workers commented on separate occasions that I had come alive. He was the first to attribute it to my Facebook hiatus.

    Where do I go from here?

    I think it’s fair to declare that Facebook is an enduring aspect of life in the 21st century. If you’re not on Facebook because you think it’s a passing fad, you’re kidding yourself (if you’re not on Facebook for some other reason, perhaps its legitimate).

    For me, it’s unrealistic to consider quitting Facebook permanently. I knew from the beginning that quitting Facebook would be temporary. I would analogize forever swearing off Facebook to rejecting the telephone in the late 1800s because you refuse to accept that your hard-learned Morse code is increasingly irrelevant. Technology marches on. We always have the choice to reject, receive, or redeem it.

    I think it’s a mistake to blindly reject Facebook. This “social network” is an unprecedented game-changer in human communication. It has already changed the world we live in whether we accept it or not. It’s entirely possible that Facebook will shortly rule the internet to an even greater extent than Google now does.

    I also think it’s a mistake to blindly receive Facebook. There are real consequences to letting your online life take over your in-person life. I, for one, think that an over indulgence in online connectedness neuters passion for real life interaction. It certainly did for me and I didn’t even realize it until I gave it a break.

    I also think it’s a mistake of epic proportions to fail to be emotionally present in a given situation. We see this all the time with the dude who’s staring at his phone instead of his kid’s baseball game, the girls who are hanging out in a group but texting someone else, or the gal who’s busier tweeting than talking to her sister who is right there. You know, in the flesh.

    I think the right approach is to redeem Facebook for good. I view Facebook as a tool, like a hammer. A hammer can vandalize a window or build an orphanage. The tool has no moral value — it is the user who determines whether the tool is used for good or evil.

    A plan for Facebook redemption

    • Take a periodic, planned hiatus
      • 1-2 weeks completely off Facebook every 3, 6, or 12 month. Experiment and see what works for you. Even if everything seems great and under control, maybe it’s time for a break.
    • Regularly assess mindset during engagement
      • While you’re on Facebook, assess your mindset. Are you jealous? Angry? Indignant? Joyful? Peaceful? Content? If your activity on Facebook is sparking negative emotions, maybe it’s time for a break.
    • Choose to be here now.
      • Look people in the eye when you’re with them in person. If SMS notifications interrupt your in-person relationships, disable them. If you can’t be present in the moment, maybe it’s time for a break.
    • Believe and behave as though it’s ok to miss something
      • Force yourself to stop scrolling down your News Feed until you’ve read every last post. You’re life won’t end if you miss your buddy’s random comment from 6 hours ago.
    • Hide people from your News Feed
      • Ok, I’ll say it: we all have “friends” we can’t de-friend. You know you do. Instead of throwing manure at the fan and starting a manurestorm, just hide them from your News Feed. Take your mouse, hover over the top right corner of their status until the X appears. You can “Hide this post” or “Hide all from [annoying "friend's" name].” Now you don’t have to read their persistent whinging, complaining, self-promoting, compliment-fishing, or faux depression!

    What do you think? What’s you’re approach to Facebook? Have you ever taken a break? Do you see a hiatus in your future?

    For me, I’m glad to be back. But I’m even more glad that I took a break.

      You’re not late, you’re rude

      Since when did it become acceptable to waste someone else’s time? I’m not talking about the emergencies, the genuinely unforeseeable events of the day.

      I’m talking about perpetual and pervasive tardiness. Chronic lateness. Epic rudeness.

      You know who they are. You may even be one of them.

      It’s the client that agrees to an appointment tomorrow and specifically requests 8am, sharp. You get into the office early and spend half an hour to prepare. At 8am you call. You get voice mail. That’s rude.

      It’s the “friend” who agrees to meet you for lunch at noon. You’re sitting at the restaurant at 12:25 on your second coke when they finally wander in. No apology. No sheepishness. Not even a hint of squishiness about the whole thing. That’s rude.

      It’s the person who you graciously invite to celebrate your birthday with you — you know, that only-happens-once-a-year thing. You genuinely want to host them and celebrate together. You ask everyone to be there at 6. You prepare dinner to be ready to eat at 6:30. They finally roll in at 7:45. No apology. No sheepishness. No shame. They had more important things to attend to. You weren’t one of them, apparently. That’s rude.

      Everyone wants to be the exception so, even as you’re reading thing, you’re probably thinking, “But what about [implausible occurrence] happening? Don’t be so uptight!”

      But it’s not about the truly unpredictable events that you can’t control. Sometimes the tractor-trailer overturns and holds up traffic for an hour and a half. Sometimes the baby has a blowout and you’re wiping poo off your car seat for 20 minutes. Some times aliens invade and Central Ave is closed during rush hour. I’m not talking about that.

      I’m talking about being late as a matter of practice. I’m talking about being late because of predictable events than you can control. This is you if:

      • You don’t get told the true start time of events. People invite you to the barbeque but tell you it starts at 6 and tell everyone else 7. You are still the last to arrive.
      • You don’t get invited to events that have a hard-start like concerts, ballet recitals, or movies. You can’t be depended on to arrive before the event begins.
      • You find yourself coming up with new, evolving excuses for your chronic lateness. It’s your job. It’s your kid. It’s your spouse. It’s your other kid. It’s the wretched traffic in your urban area. It’s that damn GPS, could swear it’s malfunctioning.

      Here is the real issue: everyone is busy. Everyone is cramming their 44-inch gut of activities into the 38-inch pants of their schedule. Some people manage this life-without-margin better than others.

      But when you’re always late, you send a very clear message: my time is more important than yours. I know you bothered yourself to be true to your word and show up when you said you would, but you’re obviously not as important as me. Chump. I see you had the integrity to arrived at the time everyone agreed on but, you see, my world revolves around me and so should yours.

      Chronic lateness is arrogant. It’s a power play. It tells your friends, your spouse, your kids, your colleagues, your boss, and your clients that you think you are better than them. Their time can be wasted at your option.

      Steps to Redemption:

      Admit you have a problem.

      Stop lying to yourself that this is an infrequent occurrence. Stop telling yourself you’ll do better next time.

      Apologize to those whose time you violate the most.

      It’s probably your spouse. It might be your family, your team at work, or your boss. It might be the group you volunteer with. Come clean. Tell them you’ve been abusing their time and communicating a lack of respect. Tell them that will change.

      Clear the clutter.

      Take out a blank legal pad. Before you watch a single minute of television today, write a list of every obligation and activity you have on a weekly basis. Every meeting, soccer practice, date night, church service, workout, trip to the grocery store. If you spend time watching TV, reading a book, surfing Facebook, write it down. You will know you’re done when you can say with confidence, “If it’s not on this list, I’m not doing it this week.”

      Next, prioritize this list. If you could only do one thing this week, what would it be? Put a “1” in the left margin. If you could do that one thing and only one other thing, what would it be? Put a “2” next to that. Keep going until the whole list is numbered.

      Now, here’s the fun part. Take the bottom 25% of your list and don’t do it this week. It’s the least important stuff in your life. If you have to make a call and send your regrets that you won’t be making bridge at Aunt Mildred’s this Saturday, then do it. If it’s in the bottom 25% of your list, it is among the least important stuff in your life.

      What if work takes up 75% of your waking hours? What if you work 80 hours a week? Renegotiate your salary. Tell your boss you’ll continue working 80 hours a week if he doubles your salary. Alternatively, you can scale back to a normal 40 hour work week for the salary you have now. It’s your life. You should, you know, actually live it instead of renting it out to your boss 50% of the time.

      Once you clear the clutter, you have the space to do this:

      Add a quarter-hour margin to every event.

      If you had a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with your favorite celebrity, politician, author, or musician, you wouldn’t show up right on time. You’d be an hour early. Give everyone in your life just a quarter of that courtesy. If the meeting starts at 1, show up at 12:45.

      If the party starts at 7 and it takes you 25 minutes to drive there, don’t leave a 6:35. For God’s sake, don’t leave at 7. Leave at 6:20. If you’re too early (what must that feel like?) you can read a book in your car. Or listen to music. Or take a break to reflect on your day. Or breathe. For a change.

      Stop associating with late people.

      Don’t do business with them. Don’t invite them to parties. Don’t ask them over for tea. Don’t plan to get together some time.

      How can you tell the difference between someone who is chronically late and someone who is usually on time, but late every so often? Here’s a handy guide.

      Time is our only non-renewable resource. I’d rather associate with someone who wastes my money than my time. I can get more money. I can never get more time. If you waste half my afternoon, you’ve taken something from me without my consent that I can never get back. You’re a thief. You steal life…one tardy minute at a time.

      Look, some times people are late. Some times I’m late. Some times the people I love most in this world are late. But own it. Grow some courage and tell the truth to the party whose time you’ve wasted. “I overestimated my efficiency and didn’t give myself enough time to finish what I was working on.”  “I stayed up later last night than was prudent and I overslept.” “I chose shopping for myself rather than being on time for you because I like myself more than I like you.” The truth shall set you free.

      And you may find that — if you have the courage to force yourself to admit the truth that is obvious to everyone else — that the truth of your selfish, self-focused, egocentric life is painful enough that you’ll finally make a change.

      And everyone will respect you more for it.

      How to tell the difference between a late person and a prompt person who just happens to be late.

      Some people are chronically late. They’re never on time because they’re rude and arrogant and they’ve decided they’re more important than you. Some people are prompt and on-time as a matter of practice but arrive late from time to time. How can you tell the difference? Here, for your benefit, are 3 litmus tests:

      1. Attitude. When the person does arrive late, what is their demeanor? Do they indicate that keeping you waiting was a violation of your one non-renewable resource, time? Are they apologetic? Do they offer an explanation of what made them late? Do they seem remotely sheepish or at all remorseful?
      2. Predictability. Think about the circumstance that made them late: was is predictable or not predictable? “I’m late because I had to go grocery shopping” is a whole lot different than “I’m late because the heavy rainfall washed out the main road.”
      3. Control. Think about the circumstance that made them late: what level of control did they have over the situation? Were they a victim of someone else’s bad choice? Were the fully in control of the situation if they chose to be? Was it somewhere in between? Again “I’m late because someone ran out of gas on the bridge” is a lot different than “I’m late because I ran out of gas on the bridge.”

      Finally, it is a safe assumption that if the person withholds the details of the circumstance that made them late it was (1) completely predictable and (2) completely within their control. This person lacks the wisdom to connect choices and consequences and lacks the maturity to take responsibility for their actions.

      Why I’m quitting Facebook

      I’m quitting Facebook. Here’s why:

      1. Facebook fuels sloth.
      • It’s too easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole. Have you ever gone on to Facebook “just for a minute” only to emerge an hour later and wonder where the time has gone? I have. It used to only happen once every few weeks or months. Now it’s happening every day.
      1. Facebook fuels compulsion.
      • I used to be comfortable with missing stuff on Facebook. I’d dip in, catch up on what was happening with my friends in the last few hours and forget about the status updates I missed in the last day or two. I don’t do that any more. I’m driven to read every last update — compulsively. I must read every one. I’m terrified that I’ll miss my former high school basketball teammate announcing he’s got a new job or my former co-worker linking to a fascinating article on the migration habits of boll weevils.
      1. Facebook fuels envy, greed, and covetousness.
      • I find that I spend time on Facebook constantly comparing. Is his life crappier than mine? Is her kid cuter than mine? Do they parent they’re kids as well as I do? Some of you reading this internal monologue I’m sharing instantly start judging me. Fine. You do the exact same thing and you know it. At least I’m honest.

      I don’t think Facebook is the problem. Facebook is enabling the problem. The problem is my sinful nature. My sloth, my compulsion, my fear of missing out on the eavesdropping, gossip, and voyeurism Facebook enables. My envy, my greed, my covetousness.

      I’m also not quitting Facebook forever. I’m going on a Facebook cleanse. My goal is to determine Facebook’s proper place in my life. I’ll come back some day, I’m sure. It might be a week, a month, a year from now. It will be the day when I’m confident that I’ve put Facebook in its proper context in my life. When I’m confident Facebook is a slave to me, not the other way around.

      Maybe you need to join me, starting January 1, 2010. Here is what you can ask of yourself, what I have been asking of myself:

      • Do I use Facebook to enhance and enable relationships or as a substitute for them?
      • Do I feel like something is missing if I don’t check Facebook for more than a day?
      • Do I use Facebook to seek validation? Do I crave the validation of someone “liking” my status, my photos, my comments.
      • Do I spy on my Facebook “friends,” that is, observe their life online without ever engaging with them?
      • Does Facebook fuel a spirit of contention or gossip? Does it provide material that I then use to gossip about others?

      I’m making this announcement now so people who connect with me primarily on Facebook are aware and so others can join me if they like.