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My holiday dessert? Humble pie

My holiday dessert? Humble pie

avoid being dogmatic


A colleague and I were at a publishing conference. We were attending a session on how to be a more effective writer.

“Schedule time every week for serendipity,” advised one of the session panelists. “If you schedule time for serendipity, you’ll make it happen. If you don’t, it won’t; and your skills won’t improve.”

“Did she say to schedule serendipity?” I whispered to my colleague.

“Sure did.”

How ridiculous, I thought even though I’ve been the beneficiary of accidently tripping into discoveries. Despite my past good fortune, the speaker’s counsel troubled me. From my perspective, there was absolutely no way to schedule a fortunate accidental discovery—serendipity just happened. Right?

Curious about maybe having missed a nuance in the definition of serendipity, I did some research. I hadn’t missed anything.

Author Horace Walpole invented the word serendipity in 1754. A Persian fairy tale, The Princes of Serendip, had been his inspiration. In the fairy tale, three princes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.”

That confirmed my belief the speaker had it all wrong. Sadly, I mocked her advice on several occasions.

Shame on me.

And for that, I got my comeuppance.

I was doing online research about dogmatism for my book. I’d just read the definition of dogmatism, a viewpoint or system of ideas based on insufficiently examined premises, when the aha zap happened.

My reaction to the speaker’s words about scheduling serendipity leapt into mind.

Ewww. It hurt to see it and to say it, but I’d been dogmatic. I’d been that person; the narrow-minded one I criticize when I see people acting the same way I had.

I’d blindly accepted as fact that my belief that it was impossible to schedule serendipity without examining her meaning. I had heard her words, interpreted them with my dogmatic filters, and outright rejected her position.

Shame on me again. Her advice wasn’t wrong, it was flat out brilliant.

In a time-starved world where there’s a plan and time slot for everything, it’s pure genius to leave time open for spontaneity. Time to think, daydream, be. Time for accidental discoveries to happen.

Of course, you can’t will the eureka moment to happen in those moments.  However, making time to reflect increases the odds of creativity, inspiration, and innovation happening.

That’s what the speaker had meant. She was telling us to avoid the tunnel vision that comes from having an over-packed schedule and too much to do. She was telling us to make room for unpredictability and possibility.

*big sigh* How could I have been so dogmatic, so obtuse, so blind?

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has an answer for us.

He says it’s incredibly difficult for us to see our own biases. We can easily point to them in other people, but not so much for ourselves.

Fortunately for me, a research aha moment rescued me from my blindness.

I both love and abhor my personal teachable moments. Love them because new paths are revealed, abhor them because I need them in the first place.

Perhaps I’d better start scheduling time for teachable moments in my calendar.


Image credit before quote added: Pixabay




Yep, still applicable. George Washington’s rules of civility

Yep, still applicable. George Washington’s rules of civility

power of civilityWho knew?!

I was delighted to discover the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation that were “copied down” by George Washington as he worked as a young boy to improve his penmanship.

The list of rules is long, 110 of them in all (lots of penmanship copying practice). However, much of their content is incredibly apt today, nearly 300 years later.

How so?

The rules encourage us to think more about other people and less about ourselves—more “we” and less “me.”

Research says that George’s list was inspired by rules put together by French Jesuits in 1595. Many of the rules address civility and decent behavior and…


…reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find. The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of our own self-interests that we find so prevalent today. Fussy or not, they represent more than just manners.



They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together. These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem.

~Foundation’s Magazine

As an advocate for kindness and civility in the workplace (and everywhere), I was both inspired (good reminders that are timeless) and dismayed (will things ever change???) by George’s list.

Take a look:

George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior


  1. Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.
  2. Strive not with your superior in argument; always submit your argument with modesty.
  3. Mock not nor jest anything of importance; and if you deliver anything witty and pleasantly, abstain from laughing at yourself.
  4. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.
  5. Think before you speak, pronounce not imperfectly, nor bring your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.
  6. When another speaks, be attentive yourself and disturb not the audience. If any hesitate in his words, help him not nor prompt him; interrupt him not, nor answer him till his speech has ended.
  7. Always submit your judgment to others with modesty.
  8. Whisper not in the company of others.
  9. Undertake not what you cannot perform and be careful to keep your promise.
  10. Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.
  11. In disputes, be not so desirous to overcome as not to give liberty to each one to deliver his opinion.
  12. Give not advice without being asked and when desired do it briefly.
  13. Speak not injurious words neither in jest nor earnest scoff at none although they give occasion.

You can find the whole list here.

Your take?

Image source before quote:





Fiscal fairy tales without a happy ending

Fiscal fairy tales without a happy ending


Frank Sonnenberg fiscal fairy talesOnce upon a time, there was a brat named Phil T. Rich.

He grew up with everything a kid could want. He had every gadget imaginable, a house that rivaled the Disney castle, and parents who gave him free rein to do whatever he wanted.

Unfortunately, his parents were rarely around for him –– they had high-powered jobs, you know. And when they weren’t working “killer hours,” they were off to the club to play golf and trade gossip with friends. (more…)

Can something imperfect still be beautiful?

Can something imperfect still be beautiful?

life lessons from dead treeSeveral years ago lightning struck and killed the tall pine tree in the small wooded area across the street from our home.

Today the tree still stands tall, its branches bare and bleached, a resting spot for eagles, cranes, and other waterfowl.

To my eyes, the tree is starkly beautiful and endlessly fascinating. Others in the neighborhood see it as a nuisance to be cut down. (more…)