I fought off a pit bull in order to save my dog's life. This guy did one better.

Years ago, while walking my dog in a local park, a large, apparently angry pit bull managed to pull itself free from its chain and came after my dog, a small Lhasa Apso named Kaleigh.

Seeing the pit bull sprinting across the field at her, I picked my dog up, held her shoulder high, and fended off the attack my planting the sole of my foot in the pit bull's face and pushing back until the owner managed to corral his dog back onto its chain. The dog bit my ankle in two spots and nearly pulled off my shoe, but thankfully he didn't manage to break the skin.

The pit bull wasn't hurt, and the owner was deeply apologetic. A nearby woman approached a moment later and complimented me on my quick reaction and willingness to hold my dog aloft and almost assuredly get bitten as a result. She thought I was a hero, though honestly, I think any dog owner would've done the same.

Fighting off a pit bull for 30 seconds is one thing. Boxing a kangaroo to save your dog is another thing entirely.

This guy is the real hero.

Daily affirmations don't work (for me, at least)

I have always thought that the notion of daily affirmations - the repetition of uplifting, positive, goal oriented statements designed to boost self confidence and self esteem and improve a person's drive, focus, and overall outlook in life - was silly. I thought they were probably a waste of time and made little or no difference in a person's life.   

But in an attempt to try things that I previously discounted (one of my New Year's resolutions), I decided to give the practice of daily affirmations an honest try.

I started by choosing my affirmation. Psychology Today recommends that you tailor your affirmation to a specific area of personal need. Thankfully, I have an extensive list of flaws and shortcomings, updated annually, so I simply turned to the list to find one of my more pressing needs.

I choose # 5 on my list. It's been a problem for a while, and I have a couple friends who are fond of pointing it out to me: 

It is hard for me to empathize with adults with difficulties that I do not understand, do not think are worthy of sympathy, and/or are suffering with difficulties that I would have avoided entirely.

In accordance with the Psychology Today recommendations, I designed a positive affirmation that is essentially the opposite of this flaw.   

My affirmation:

I will feel empathy for those who have made mistakes and have failed to reach their full potential because all people are deserving of my respect, appreciation, and love.  

With my affirmation in place, I began.

For the month of October and part of November (five weeks in all), I began reciting my daily affirmation three times as day - as recommended by many sources, including Psychology Today. I recited these words while walking the dog twice daily. I also recited it in the shower while shaving (because looking at yourself in a mirror while saying the words aloud is supposed to enhance the power of the affirmation).

I recited the affirmation at least five times during each of the three daily recitations, for a total of at least 15 total recitations per day. I missed six instances of recitations in all over the course of five weeks and therefore recited the affirmation more than 600 times in total.

The results:

1. It was hard to memorize my affirmation. Maybe my affirmation was more complex than most, but I found myself reading it off my phone for the first three or four days. 

2. I feel no change in my general disposition regarding my chosen flaw, and therefore the recitation of the daily affirmations seems to have had no effect. I still hold people to an uncommonly high standard and rarely accept the reasons why they have failed to attain their goals and make their dreams come true.

My position remains the same:

If I could do it, so can they. Hard work trumps all. 

Perhaps I have changed in a way that I cannot detect, but I don't think so. I feel as dead set on this belief as always.  

3. After five weeks, I feel as though these recitations were a waste of time. While it may not seem as if showering or walking the dog are exceedingly productive times in my life, they are actually exceedingly productive. I develop stories for the stage, brainstorm ideas for books, and review prior moments in my day for the purposes of reflection, evaluation and revision during these times, and this work is extraordinarily beneficial to many aspects of my life.

In fact, I never go for a walk or take a shower (or oftentimes drive somewhere) without a specific purpose in mind related to one of these areas. I get a great deal of work done during these times, and these daily affirmations cut into this production significantly.

I came away from the practice of daily affirmations with the belief that the time spent affirming could be better spent. If you want to achieve a goal or feel better about yourself, use the time spent on affirmations on actual goal attainment. Find a way to be productive during this time.  

Of course, I'm also willing to consider the notion that I do not benefit from the positive effects of a daily affirmation while others may benefit greatly from the practice. Perhaps some people need these daily affirmations and others do not.  

This is not to say that I think this true. It is merely an acknowledgement that it may be true. 

The results of my experiment may also be another indicator of my lack of empathy:

If I don't need a daily affirmation to feel great about myself and what I'm doing, why should anyone else? If I can achieve my goals without daily affirmations, you should be able to as well.

Either way, I will not be continuing the practice of daily affirmations. They did not work for me, and frankly, I could not shake the idea that I was wasting time and doing something ridiculous each time I engaged in the practice. 

My heart and mind were truly open to the practice, but some things seem so silly that you can only open your heart and mind so much and for so long.

Which is funnier? Saturday Night Live? Trump's response to SNL? Alec Baldwin's response to Trump?

Follow this timeline, especially if you don't use Twitter and haven't seen any of the Donald Trump-Saturday Night Live sparring matches. 

I'm honestly not sure which is funnier:

Saturday Night Live's weekly skit on our President-elect:

Donald Trump's inevitable, almost immediate, thin-skinned, sad trombone response to the skit via Twitter:

Trump tweet.png

Alec Baldwin's eventual and always brilliant response to Trump's tweet:

All are truly comic gold.

Also, can you believe the world that we live in now? We have a President-elect who watches SNL and then tweets about how they make fun of him.

Does he not know how this show works?

Also, praise be to Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin, and anyone else willing to stand up and call out the ineptitude, dishonesty, immaturity, and ego-driven nature of our President-elect. These are the people who will bind us, make us laugh, make us think, and speak out against an Emperor who wears no clothes for the next four years.  

We need you Alec Baldwin. More than ever. 

How I stand against the vile, intolerant, hateful speech and policy proposals of the President-elect (and how you can, too)

You may have noticed if you follow me on any form of social media that I haven't been quiet about my opposition to the President-elect.

I can't be.

This is not a Democrat-Republican or liberal-conservative divide. Those who have known me for a long time or read this blog on a regular basis can attest that during previous Presidential campaigns, I have been far less vocal about my political positions, simply because I felt that Americans were faced with the choice of two serious minded candidates who were both more than fit for the office. 

While I certainly preferred one candidate over another, I did not think that either candidate was bad for America, and therefore, I did not feel the need to be overly vocal. 

In the case of Donald Trump, I believe that we have elected a fundamentally indecent man who has said vile, despicable things about enormous numbers of American citizens and proposed unconscionable policies that in many cases would violate the Constitution of the United States and the fundamental rights of American citizens.

I do not believe that he is fit for the office of President of the United States.

Since he will soon be the President, I have sought ways of personally counteracting his hateful speech, his xenophobic policy proposals, and the fear that he has instilled in so many of the people who I know.

If you are feeling powerless, hopeless, angry, or afraid, it's important that you take action. Doing something productive and meaningful will always make you feel better and stronger. I promise you.

So far, I have done this by embracing, supporting, and promoting the things that he he has stood against most often.

For example:

  • I have strongly supported my Mexican, Muslim, female, immigrant, and disabled friends and promoted their acceptance and success whenever possible.
  • We have purchased subscriptions to The New York Times and Slate Plus in an effort to support the journalists who will work tirelessly to hold Trump accountable for his words and deeds.
  • My wife and I have called Senators and Congresspeople in order to express our opposition to appalling Presidential appointments like Steve Bannon.
  • I have sought to engage in constructive discussions with reasonable people who voted for Trump in an effort to understand them better and promote a more positive, liberal agenda to them.
  • I have sought to bring the voices of the marginalized and the maligned to the Speak Up stage in order to allow them to be heard beyond the hateful speech of Trump and his surrogates.
  • I have shared, endorsed, and proliferated news stories and other bits of media that stand against the Donald Trump's racist, misogynist, religiously intolerant, and xenophobic speech and policy proposals.

This holiday commercial for Amazon, starring an actual priest and imam, is exactly the kind of thing that I am talking about. It offers a beautiful message of religious tolerance, inclusion, and understanding. It has also incensed the religiously intolerant and xenophobic supporters of Donald Trump (especially when it aired during NFL games last weekend), so sharing it whenever possible warms my heart.

I'll do what I can, whenever I can, to stand against Donald Trump's vile and hateful speech and unconscionable policy proposals. Sometimes this simply means embracing and sharing the opposing voices.

Resolution update: November 2016

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

I still have fluid trapped behind my eardrum after more than a month, making it impossible to hear out of my left ear, and now I think it might kill me. I am losing my mind.  

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I gained three more pounds in November, mostly because extenuating circumstances have kept me from the gym. Twelve pounds down and eight to go. Looking unlikely... 

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done.

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week.

My shoulder is fully healed. I am ready to begin. I plan to jumpstart my yoga practice at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in a week. 

WRITING CAREER

5. Complete my fifth novel before the end of February.

Done!

6. Complete my sixth novel.

I have two novels that are more than halfway finished and one that is finished but requires a complete re-write. However, I'm not sure if any of these will be my next novel.

Not surprising, my editor has some say in this.

I turned in final revisions on my next book today, so the decision process begins next week. The book will not be finished by the end of the year. 

7. Write a proposal for a middle grade novel.

Done! The editor and her team love the book. Some minor revisions are needed, and then we hope to have an offer.

I begin those revisions next week. 

8. Write at least three new picture books. 

One of my now former students and I are writing a picture book. Now that we are back in school, work has commenced again. Our first draft should be completed soon. 

In November, I wrote a picture book about the Presidential election that I sent to my agent and a children's book editor. Both had very good things to say about the book but feel that it is too closely aligned with a specific moment in history to be marketable.

I was disappointed. I think it's a great book. I'm thinking of finding an illustrator and creating a version of the book online.   

One more picture book to go. I've already started writing it.  

9. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

Done! Five chapters are finished now, plus an outline and comparisons have been re-sent to my agent. She LOVES it. Hopefully a publisher loves it just as much.  

10. Write a new screenplay

No progress yet. I could bang out an idea in a week if I really apply myself. 

11. Write a musical for a summer camp

Done! I had the pleasure of watching the musical performed at the summer camp, and it was fantastic.

12. Publish at least one Op-Ed in The New York Times.

I've submitted two Op-Ed pieces to the New York Times and been rejected both times.

I am still working on a new piece. I hope to submit this month.

13. Publish an article in an educational journal.

No progress yet. 

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress yet.

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

I spent a week backing my car into parking spots (which initially struck me as insane) and wrote about it in August. It actually received a lot of attention from readers.

In September I engaged in a month of daily affirmations. I am nearly finished writing about my experience.   

In November, I engaged in the "sport" of bottle flipping, which is all the rage amongst many young people. I will also be writing about my experience this month.  

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,000.

Done! My subscriber list now stands at 1,220 readers. My list has grown by 34% in 2016. 

If you'd like to join the masses and receive my monthly newsletter, which contains a writing and storytelling tip, an Internet recommendation, book recommendations, free giveaways, and more, subscribe here:

17. Collaborate with a former colleague on an educational book.

This project has been cancelled. After meeting with my collaborator, we determined that I am not best suited for this project.  

Oddly enough, that collaborator is now my principal. 

STORYTELLING

18. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

Done! We produced a show at Real Art Ways in November, bringing our total number of shows to 17 in 2016. Two more shows scheduled in December.

19. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done twice over! 

I spoke at TEDxNatick in January. The title of the talk was "Live Your Life Like Your 100 Year-Old Self." 
Here's the recording: 

I also spoke at the TEDx conference at The Country School in Madison, CT in April. The title of the talk was "Speak Less. Expect More."  
Here is the recording:

20. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

Done! In October, I attended a Moth StorySLAM at Oberon in Cambridge. This brings my total number of Moth events in 2016 to 24.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

Done! I attended one StorySLAM in November and won (four slams in a row now), bringing my total number of wins to four for 2016 and 27 overall.

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

Done! I won the Moth GrandSLAM in Somerville in March. 

23. Launch at least one new podcast.

I have a name. I have begun recording episodes. I still need a logo and I'll be ready to publish.

24. Launch a storytelling project that I will otherwise remain vague about here but will become a primary focus of 2016. 

Work on this project is specifically tied to the sale of my storytelling book. 

NEW PROJECTS

25. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

No progress.

26. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

I cooked two new meals for Elysha in August thanks to Blue Apron and a friend who was kind enough to pass on meals to me.

I made barbecue pork burgers with onion straws and corn on the cob. I also made curried catfish with coconut rice, green beans, and a raisin chutney. 

I could easily make both again. 

One meal to go. I have an idea.  

27. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

I'm still seeking a location for the reunion near the Heavy Metal Playhouse (since the apartment complex does not have a room to rent) and will then decide upon a date.

MISCELLANEOUS

28. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

No progress. 

29. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

No progress. I was hoping Elysha would take care of this. 

30. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played one round of golf in November and shot a 51.

As stated previously, I have begun a serious and committed change of my swing under the guidance of a friend who also happens to be an outstanding teacher. As a result, I am hitting the ball farther, higher, and less consistently.

I also have a new grip that I will practice all winter long. 

31. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

I played one game back in April. This saddens me. 

32. Do not speak negatively about another person's physical appearance except when done in jest with my closest friends. 

Done. A wife asked me to comment on her husband's recent weight gain,  but I refused, stating my belief about avoiding commenting on the physical appearance of others.   

Here's a potentially new idea for next year: 

I will not comment on physical appearance - good or bad - in any way unless I am speaking to my wife and children. I already adhere to this policy in the classroom as a teacher, so why not expand it throughout my life? 

My goal is to reduce the amount of attention paid to physical appearance in this society, shifting attention to things that truly matter: words and actions. I understand that one man's crusade may not change the world, but perhaps it will change my world and influence those around me. 

Change often starts small. Sometimes it begins with a single person. And I believe in this cause.  

I'm not sure about this goal yet, but I'm considering it. Thoughts?

33. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done.

This is what the Democratic Party must do now to protect voting rights

It’s time for the Democrats to wage a two front battle on protecting voting rights:

  1. Work tirelessly to eliminate needless and egregious voting restriction laws. 
  2. Get a voter ID card in the hands of every American, starting with every battleground state. Do this now. 

This strikes me as a no brainer. 

I'm also more than willing to run for President in 2020 if they need me, but this might be a tougher sell. 

I thrive in possibly inappropriately competitive situations.

Next month I will be teaching storytelling at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. This will be my second year teaching at Kripalu and I'm already scheduled to teach there in 2017 as well.

The fact that I teach at Kripalu astounds many. Though my students at Kripalu have assured me that my teaching and beliefs closely align to Kripalu's philosophy and mindset, there are also many way in which I do not seem to fit:

I skip their world class meals and pick up burgers and fries and Egg McMuffins at McDonald's instead.

I was told that I "walk aggressively" and swear more than anyone in Kripalu history.

At silent breakfast, it turns out that even when I don't speak, I still make more noise than anyone else in the room.   

Though I take advantage of their sunrise yoga class, I found the whole thing slow, tedious, and devoid of any competitive incentive. 

This has been my problem with yoga:

 No one wins at the end of a class. 

In fact, it's the competitive element of The Moth that probably helped me to initially fall in love with storytelling and eventually turned me into a teacher of the craft. It's always an honor and a thrill to stand on a stage and perform for an audience, but when my performance is assigned a numerical value and there is a chance to win or lose, I tend to enjoy the experience a lot more.

In fact, if given the chance, I think I'd rather compete in a Moth StorySLAM than perform in any other show. Give me a couple hundred New Yorkers crammed into a used bookstore with teams of strangers poised to judge my story over a beautiful, acoustically pristine theater filled with a couple thousand attentive audience members and zero competition.

Crazy. I know. But probably true on most nights. 

This is why I was thrilled to discover the sport of competitive juggling. No longer are jugglers permitted to just stand and entertain. Juggling is now a full contact physical sport, complete with strategy, teamwork, and body-on-body physicality.

Competitive juggling is tough. And there are winners and losers after every match.

See for yourself:

My little boy is expanding his horizons.

I opened the pantry this morning, and this is what I found.

Apparently his bedroom isn't big enough.  

Melting ice sucks, but projectiles to the head are bad, too.

There’s been much fear and consternation over the potential loss of the polar bears as a result of the rapid melting of polar ice. Many environmentalists have adopted the polar bear as their symbol of the dangers of global warming.

With this in mind, I think that it might be prudent to revisit the Oslo Agreement, which permits the hunting of this vulnerable species. The treaty allows hunting "by local people using traditional methods," although this has been liberally interpreted by member nations. All nations except Norway allow hunting by the Inuit, and Canada and Denmark allow trophy hunting by tourists.

More than a thousand polar bears per year are killed under the auspices of this treaty.  

While I believe that the preservation of longstanding Native American traditions is a good thing, there are certain customs that we may want to put the kibosh on. For example, scalping was a common practice for certain tribes of North American Indians, but we don’t allow this sort of thing to take place today.

If we are really concerned about the possible extinction of polar bears, why not keep the bullets and arrows out of their heads?

No thanks to give on this Thanksgiving

One of the problems with being a reluctant atheist is that there is no one to thank for much of my good fortune. I was born a healthy white male in the United States in the late twentieth century. That alone provides me with advantages that billions of people do not enjoy. In the grand scheme of things, these facts alone are the ones that have made the greatest impact in my life, yet it was only blind luck that made it happen.

Had I been born in parts of Africa, the Middle East, South America, Asia, or hundreds of other locales, I would’ve likely faced hardships that I will never know as an American. Disease, hunger, a lack of basic human rights, Third World economic limitations, and millions of other factors could have hindered my success.

Had I been born a woman, I would have spent my life battling against the proverbial glass ceiling, sex discrimination, unfair wages, the threat of violence, perpetual chills regardless of room temperature, and the stupidity of high heels.

Had I been born a minority, I would’ve undoubtedly faced prejudice and racism throughout much of my life.

Had I been born earlier than 1971, I might have faced combat in Vietnam, Korea, or in the European or Pacific theaters during either of the World Wars. I might've suffered through the Great Depression or the Civil War, or been subjected to untold numbers of diseases that have since been eradicated.

I was born at the dawn of the Internet, a member of the last generation of human beings who spent childhood without the Internet but entered adulthood during its emergence. As a result, I enjoyed an offline childhood but an online adulthood.

Perfection in my opinion.

I'm also healthy and intelligent. I don’t require a great deal of sleep. I have have exceptional blood pressure.

Without even mentioning my remarkable wife, my perfect children, or my assortment of amazing friends, I am already ahead of billions of people on this planet, and it was through no real effort of my own. It was simply a geographic, genetic luck of the draw.

Unlike so many of my idiot white male counterparts who were born on third base believing they hit a triple, I acknowledge the home run that I was born into. 

I feel incredibly fortunate, but I'm left with no one to thank for some of my greatest blessings. I can feel thankful for my good fortune, but there is no one to thank. 

Religion provides some people with the notion that God has placed them in this place, in this time, for a specific purpose. Fate and chance had nothing to do with their birthplace, the color of their skin, or the period in history in which they were born. For the devout, God had a hand in all of these decisions.

At least they have someone to thank.

While I'm envious of the idea that a life is not determined in great part by luck, I also find it inhumane and cruel to believe that an all-powerful deity has blessed a person with such great fortune ahead of billions of other human beings who are doomed to a life of poverty and subsistence living.

What would God say if he was generous enough to place you in America during a time of relative peace and prosperity only to find that you spent 30 hours a week watching television?

If he’s the Old Testament God, watch out for the trapdoor that you’re likely standing on.

I would love to give thanks to someone for being born where I was, when I was, and as I was, but in the end, it was nothing more than dumb luck.

Deep thoughts in the early morning hours regarding an important consumer product

First words spoken by my daughter at 6:14 this morning:

"Daddy, when I have a baby someday, I'm going to make sure that I have plenty of diapers in the house. And you know what? I'm going to buy Pampers. You know why? Pampers are the number one choice of hospitals."

Three thoughts:

  1. Who wakes up thinking about the diapers she will need for a baby that had better be at least two decades away from existing?
  2. I'm not opposed to her future use of Pampers (she wore Pampers when she was a baby), but damn, advertising is powerful. She's seven years-old, and Pampers already has its claws in her.  
  3. If Pampers is looking for a surprisingly articulate, exceedingly cute, shockingly loyal spokesperson, I have just the right person for them. 

Things I Do #3: I talk to dead trees.

I speak to the stumps of long lost trees that I once loved. I tell them how much I miss their leaves and shade and majesty. 

Yes, I speak to these stumps aloud, and yes, I use the word "majesty."

Not always, but sometimes. 

There are three of these stumps in the world that I am currently speaking to on a regular basis. One is on the golf course where I frequently play. Another can be found on the playground of the school where I work. The third is in a local playground.

Sometimes I sit on the stump if I have a moment to chat. 

As I've said before, I'm basically a walking, talking nostalgia machine that suffers from a permanent existential crisis. 

Humility is lovely and oftentimes lacking in this world

I've been performing onstage for more than five years and producing shows for more than three, and here is something that has become abundantly clear to me:

Humility is a quality to be prized, and it is sadly lacking in many.

As a performer, I oftentimes find myself listening to fellow storytellers lament the ineptitude of the judges at a story slam or the stupidity of producers who refuse to cast them in their shows.

As a producer, I find myself reading emails from storytellers who think it necessary to explain their enormous degree of talent and accomplishment and sometimes even insist on being cast in one of our shows based solely upon that talent. 

None of this makes any sense to me. None of it makes me ever want to cast these storytellers in my show, even if they are truly talented and accomplished. I never do.  

I am not suggesting that there is a problem with possessing confidence or even assertiveness. But when you lack humility, three things become abundantly clear to me:

1. You will be difficult to work with. Your willingness to accept criticism and collaborate will be seriously compromised by the size of your ego and the certainty of your talent.   

2. Your lack of humility demonstrates a fundamental disrespect for your fellow performers. When you complain that the judges were ineffective or wrong, you denigrate the rest of the storytellers competing in a slam and imply that the winner was undeserving. When you argue that the producer of a show should've cast you, you disrespect the storytellers who were chosen instead of you. 

There is nothing wrong with thinking that you should have won. There is nothing wrong with confiding with your closest friend that you should've been cast in the show. But announcing your perceived slight to the world demonstrates a fundamental lack of humility that only causes people to distance themselves from you and never want to work with you again. 

3. Anyone who needs to compliment themselves repeatedly and publicly - absent of any irony or humor - possesses the thinnest of skins and will invariably be an unpleasant and difficult person to work with.

Here's a rule to teach my fifth graders that would serve many adults in this world (including our President-elect) well:

Compliment others. Allow others to compliment you.

It sounds like common sense, but for many, it is almost impossible. 

My agent once told me that she would turn down a project from a writer if she felt that the person would be difficult to work with, even if she knew the project would be profitable. I thought she was a little nuts at the time, but now I understand completely.

Give me an inexperienced, hard working, receptive storyteller willing to accept feedback and looking to improve over any naturally gifted or experienced storyteller who can't stop blustering about his or her talent or what he or she deserves.

Pausing the action preserved my chest, my career, and my freedom

It turns out that I tend to be exceptionally calm and collected when under pressure. I'm not sure why this is the case. Perhaps my previous experience with pressure packed, life or death situations has inoculated me from panic. 

While this ability to maintain my composure under pressure can serve as a great asset, it also frequently frustrates and even angers friends and colleagues when my response to a inflammatory or high stakes situation is less than urgent.

Sometimes I know that I can seem aloof, dispassionate, unconcerned, or even uncaring. While that's not usually the case, I understand that I can appear this way.  

But this composure has also assisted me tremendously on many occasions. Two in particular.

Back in 2007, a bit of something got caught in my throat while eating a bowl of soup in a restaurant. Struggling to breathe, the paramedics were called. I was rushed to The University of Connecticut Medical Center, where doctors attempted to extract the object from my throat with forceps and a trans-nasal endoscope that was passed through my nose and into my throat.

After hours of repeated attempts without success, doctors decided that surgery was required. My chest would need to be cracked in order to open and remove the object from my trachea before it found its way into my lungs.

About ten feet before we reached the doors to the surgical ward, I demanded that the gurney be stopped. "Wait," I said. "This is crazy. Before you crack my chest, is there anything we haven't tried. Think outside the box."

After a moment, one of the doctors said, "Well, we've never tried to use the endoscope that we sent through your nose directly down the throat."

"Could it work?" I asked.

Fifteen minutes later, I was surrounded by half a dozen excited doctors, including one who was operating a video camera, ready to film the procedure. It would be the first time that a trans-nasal endoscope would be used down a patient's throat, and if successful, this would be a big moment for everyone involved. Two doctors held me down in order to counteract my gag reflex and two more went to work, forcing the endoscope down my throat.  

A couple minutes later, a large bay leaf emerged from my throat at the end of the endoscope.

bay leaf 2.jpg

The doctors were excited. They had found a new use for a old tool. 

I was excited. My chest was intact, all because I forced everyone in their haste to stop and think.

When the stakes are high, slow things down. Stop the action. Give everyone - including yourself - time to think.

The other time this ability to stop and think while under intense pressure probably saved my chances at a teaching career and kept me out of jail.    

That is a story I told onstage earlier this year: