December 31, 2014

Planning 2015 / Become your own CEO

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – January 1, 2015

Ways to think about the New Year that will lead you into new dimensions of living that you design for yourself:

All behavior has meaning. Assess your behavior – your responses, your attitudes.

Try to see the behavior of others (good or bad) as none of your business.

Draw. Using stick figures of various shapes and sizes, draw your family according to the influence you perceive them to have.

Think about your patterns. Diagram your relationship traps and triangles.

Chart your position: how it’s changed over the years and how you’d like to see it modified in the future.

Use colors.

Give the colors meaning. Track the information-flow.

Until you become your own Chief Executive Officer and Human Resource representative in your own family you will not see the changes you’d prefer. While you are not in charge of you, someone else will be.

Keep your drawing private. You are looking for change, not an argument.

Everyone sees his or her family differently because we all live in different families – EVEN if we are siblings.

Allow yourself, and everyone else, the kind of grace you’d like shoveled your way. This is partly what it means to accommodate homeostasis (yesterday’s column). Allow for some degree of regression and failure on all of your parts.

December 28, 2014

Don’t forget the power of homeostasis when making your New Year resolutions…..

by Rod Smith

When making your New Year resolutions – whether they involve very personal matters like ridding yourself of excess weight, changes you’d like to bring to your family, or how you conduct yourself at work – consider and respect the power of homeostasis.

This is the systemic pressure for things to return to “normal”. It’s the pressure that resists change. It’s the force that wants things to go back to the way things were.

Think of the power of homeostasis as an influential undercurrent, an invisible force. It’s why losing weight in the short term is easier than keeping it off in the long term. It’s not only that you may just get slack about watching what you eat. It is more than that. Your body is reaching for, even aching for, a state it once knew.

Understanding homeostasis will help you understand why some people will leave one abusive relationship only to appear to welcome another.

It’s why the “new broom” boss was only able to change things at work for a short time.

If you can accommodate the power of homeostasis in your plans you are more likely to succeed.

Understand this pressure is real.

Embrace it, build your plans around it, and you are more likely to harness it.

Awareness is a powerful tool.

December 26, 2014

Decisions for 2015…..

by Rod Smith

What gifts will you offer yourself and others in 2015?

Here are mine…

I shall make every attempt to be clearer about what I need and what I want, knowing full well that clarity and definition on my part do not guarantee that I will get what I need and want.

I shall make every attempt to be softer and gentler with my opinions, clearer with my humor, and less terse when annoyed both in print and in person. Readers have been more gracious than I deserve in pointing out this necessity to me and my close friends have been kinder than I deserve in accommodating my strong views.

I will use my skills and my privileged platform to promote the gifts and the skills of others.

I will vet requests on my time more carefully than I have done in the past so that I may give myself more fully to the things I love and to the things about which I am passionate.

I will look for the treasure in others, treasure that is so often hidden behind tough façades.

December 22, 2014

Not like other children at Christmas….

by Rod Smith

Perhaps I was not like other children and the differences I experienced were as profound as they felt.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps all that separated me from what I perceived was the experience of other children was amplified in my young heart.

You know, you know how children are said to amplify things.

Who can tell these many years later?

But the things I wanted for Christmas when I was very young, and I mean as young as 7 and 8 and up until I was 10 and 11, required no batteries or remote devices or charging.

I wanted safe adults. I wanted adults whom I could trust. I wanted them sober. I wanted them sober all the time, not just in the mornings.

I wanted my dad to be as sober as my mother always was.

I wanted a peaceful home.

I wanted to live in a house where people didn’t live on the edge of financial ruin and where the anxiety over lack of resources was not repeatedly temporarily eased by very excessive drinking.

You can think I am exaggerating if you want. I’m not.

I did get it – I got all I wanted for Christmas when I was 12.

Dad stopped drinking.


December 21, 2014

Text for help from a woman who is cutting……

by Rod Smith

“There’s a young woman cutting herself outside my flat. What can I tell her?”

(Text received from South Africa)

Assess the level of urgency.

Does she need an ambulance or your presence?

If it’s the latter, your presence is more important than your words.

Be very respectful.

Be calm.

Be gentle.

Ask if she wants you to say anything at all.

If she tells you to be quiet, be quiet. Tell her you will sit with her in silence.

Allow the quietness between you to settle in, and this could take a long while, then tell her gently that you are willing to listen to her for as long as she wants to speak, and that you will not say a word while she talks or try to rearrange her thoughts or mess with her feelings.

If she tells you that you may talk, tell her very gently, after much silence, that there is help available to people who think that hurting themselves is helpful; that while her strong feelings that result in her inflicting pain upon herself may offer her a tangible outlet for her strong feelings, there are steps available toward more permanent relief from whatever she is facing.

October 18, 2013

What provokes you to write a column to girls……?

by Rod Smith
“What provokes you to write a column ‘to the girls I know and the billions I don’t’ as appeared in yesterday’s Mercury? Please tell me what prompts the exhortation.” (Heavily edited)

Hope provokes me. I write it in the belief that some young girl will read it and decide to take it to heart and see herself as beautiful, courageous, and strong, even if she doesn’t fit the stereotype propagated by glossy magazines.

I write with a particular girl in mind: the one who has been told “any man is better than no man,” the girl who’s been taught that it is her body and not her brain that will lead her to success. I write to the girl who thinks that life’s entire meaning pivots on marriage, childbearing, and obedience to a man.

Teaching children (as I do) I have noticed that at around 13 or 14 years of age, girls tend to second guess their opinions, raise their hands less and less, and begin to believe that it is really a boys’ world.

It’s these misconceptions I aim, with my very limited platform and power, to correct, and, if only one child, somewhere takes it to heart, sees herself and talented and powerful, even partially as a result of what I have written, then every column I have ever penned is worth the time and the effort – and if it comes to my attention, even I shall dance.

(When I’m excited I write long sentences).

October 18, 2013

To the girls I know, and the billions I don’t

by Rod Smith
Without exception every one of you is gifted, talented, uniquely curious.

You are to be treasured.

Believe your parents or care-givers or teachers when they express something similar.

It’s not just “adult talk.” It is not said just to get you motivated.

Talent, power, and bravery are divinely endowed. They are yours.

They are in your bones, your soul; in the very depths of your spirit and your being.

In the best of company your uniqueness, your talent, and the power within you will be encouraged, respected, and deeply valued.

But, some will try to exploit, ignore, or squelch you, and do so often in the “nicest” of ways, and even in the name of God.

Don’t cooperate. Not ever. Not for money, fame, recognition, or even to belong.

Stay out of control.

Arm yourself by chasing education (the only thing worth chasing), rejecting the foolish, pervasive belief that beauty is skin deep. Use your strong voice as early, quickly, and as loudly as possible. Stand up for yourself. Speak up. Express your views. Don’t hold back. Do it now so it becomes a way of life. Flee ALL who are more interested in your charm or your beauty than they are in your appreciating your brain and respecting your voice.

October 8, 2013

Times are tough……

by Rod Smith

“With regards to your article of 10/7/2013: Times are tough right now globally. We here in Durban have not been spared. Allowing someone into your home for a month is well within the spirit of Ubuntu.”

Allowing an adult woman and her mother into ones home for a month would indeed express the spirit of hospitality, generosity, and openness typically associated with the spirit of Ubuntu – if both the decision makers in the home were comfortable in seeking to offer such hospitality.

The husband’s spirit of Ubuntu surely loses its power and meaning, and is perhaps therefore not an expression of Ubuntu at all, when it is expressed at the cost of his wife’s well being.

Hospitality, like generosity, and charity, begins at home.

October 6, 2013

Should husband intervene between his wife and mother?

by Rod Smith

“What’s your opinion on this quotation by TV relationship expert: ‘If your wife has a problem with your mother, it is your job to intervene and try to fix it.'”

A husband could intervene and try to “fix” a problem between the two important women in his life but the results will be temporary and playing superman will get old. Intervening in others’ conflicts is the springboard to burnout.

And, he’ll be signing up to intervene in many more conflicts, which, except for the conflicts they mutually enjoy, will have nothing to do with him.

If a wife can’t negotiate with her mother-in-law she’s likely to fight with many.

Besides, trying to fix a relationship from the outside, encourages participants to think the issues stem from the outside.

Here’s an axiom: problems between two people are seldom about the “other” person. I’d suggest each woman deeply consider what it is about herself that conflict seems to be a worthwhile pursuit.

If a wife really wants to fix her relationship with her mother-in-law a good place to begin is with her own mother – go authentically deeper with mom, and she’d be amazed at how much else will begin to fall into place.

So, I think “TV relationship expert” is incorrect.

September 29, 2013

Sheeping it…..

by Rod Smith

ImageApart from thinking “outside of the box,” my challenge, to myself, my sons, and to my students of all ages, is to think alone.

Yes. Think alone.

Have thoughts, plans, aspirations, that are not determined or shaped by commercials, fads, friends, or even by immediate and extended family. 

Tough? O course.

Liberating? Yes.

I encounter many people, especially teenagers, who appear somewhat terrified to allow an independent thought to cross their beautiful minds.

The joy of owning and enjoying their own thoughts, of exploring unique possibilities within their own heads – before external wet-blankets, naysayers, derail any semblance thinking alone – it appears, will not be theirs.

The fear, fear of standing out, of being different, even thinking differently, cripples.    

Speaker, writer Seth Godin used the term “sheepwalking” in his best seller entitled Tribes to describe mindless following.

We’ve extended his metaphor in my family and my classrooms and talk about:

“sheep-thinking” (the inability to have an original or contrary thought, or to be too afraid to express one if it reared its head),

“sheep-talking” (to sound just like everyone else sounds),

“sheep-feeling” (to feel what everyone else feels),

or simply, to catch it all, we might say we recognize that “sheeping” is happening.


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