My version of self care might seem despicable and disgraceful, but I disagree.

As snow was falling last week and the roads were getting white and slick, I stepped out of my car and into the gym for a work out.

The gym was practically empty. The rapidly falling snow had kept the masses at home, at least for one day.

I felt amazing.

Not because I had my choice of equipment. Not because I’m anti-social. Not because the grunts and groans of the attention-seeking power lifters on the first floor bother me.

I felt great because I knew that many, many people were skipping their workout yesterday because of the snow, but I was not. It made me feel so much better than so many people.

And that, quite often, is my version of self-care:

Whenever possible, I try to put myself in a position to feel like I am doing better than other people. Accomplishing more. Making the most of my day. Outpacing my fellow human beings.

This is what makes me feel good.

I know this sounds despicable, but bear with me.

So often when I hear people speak about self care, it comes in the form of reduction, simplification, or departure. .

Take a hot shower or a warm bath.

Get a massage.

Cuddle with a pet.

Listen to music.

Play the lute.

Mediate.

All of these are fine ways to feel good, but I can’t imagine a better way to feel good than to boost your confidence and self-esteem by crushing humanity.

For me, this can come in the from something as simple as working out during a snow storm when everyone else is staying home. Playing nine holes of golf at sunrise and stepping off the course while knowing that many people are still in bed. Choosing a book or writing over television. Attending a Patriots game in sub-zero temperatures while so many of my fellow fans choose to stay home. Surprising Elysha in some remarkable, original, make-all-the-other-husbands-look-terrible kind of way.

On Sunday, we took the kids to the Boston Children’s Museum. While Charlie was climbing inside a ceiling-high apparatus, I watched, waving each time his head poked out from an opening and taking lots photos. Sitting on benches behind he were about a dozen parents whose children were also climbing inside the apparatus.

Every single one of them were staring at their phones.

Noticing this, I leaned in, shouting encouragement to Charlie. Telling him I loved him. Urging him to climb higher and higher.

For those ten minutes, I felt like the best parent in the world. And when Charlie finally emerged from the apparatus, he ran to me, jumped in my arms, and said, “Dad, you’re the best.” I don’t think he really noticed the parents on the benches behind me, but it was a perfect moment nonetheless.

Earlier on that same day, I drove to Starbucks to pick up a coffee for Elysha. As I pulled into the parking lot, I counted the number of cars in the drive thru.

ELEVEN. Eleven cars wrapped around the store. So many cars that the eleventh car was partially blocking one of the entrances to the parking lot.

Inside the store, not a single person was standing in line. The place was nearly empty. I picked up Elysha’s coffee, returned to my car, and re-checked the drive thru line. Two cars had left while I was in the store, but three more had joined the line.

For the next hour or more, I felt like a champion. I was honoring the precious commodity of time in a way those drive thru line lunatics were not. When I arrived home, I made a point of tickling Clara and Charlie because I had the time to tickle them.

I hadn’t wasted my time sitting in an endless drive thru line.

I know. This method of self care might still sound slightly despicable. Or deranged. Or rotten.

But here is the truth:

Confidence is powerful. Feeling good about yourself can change your entire day. Feeling like a champion is invigorating and life affirming. We live in a world where people so often focus on their struggles and defeat and fail to celebrate their achievements.

I talk to writers who finish their first novel but are hesitant to celebrate because the book isn’t published yet. They spend a year or two or ten doing something that most people will never do - writing a book - and yet they are unwilling to take a moment to acknowledge this accomplishment.

I talk to storytellers who find the courage to stand in front of an audience at The Moth for the first time and tell their story, but instead of celebrating this momentous first step, they are upset with their sixth place finish. They have just conquered a fear that most people will never conquer, but they refuse to let themselves feel great about it.

The desire to achieve more is wonderful. Striving for excellence is essential. Understanding that your journey is just beginning is fine. But take a moment to celebrate each positive step forward. Take note of the moments when you are doing better than those around you. Take a moment to notice when everyone around you is simply not doing as well as you.

Sometimes those steps are enormous. Finishing novels. Conquering fears. Making hard, bold choices.

More often they can be as simple as exercising in a snowstorm. Engaging with your child while the rest of the parents are not. Getting out of your car to grab a coffee while others are willing to throw away their precious time to stay warm and dry.

It doesn’t mean that you are a better human being than the rest of us. It doesn’t make you an arrogant jerk. It simply means that in a particular moment, on a particular day, you are making better choices or more courageous choices or harder choices than the people around you. If you’re willing to recognize that, acknowledge it, and celebrate it, you’ll feel better about yourself.

Those people kind of suck at this moment, but I don’t. I’m killing it. I’m a champion.

That, in my mind, is the best version of self care.

Do you know who Madame CJ Walker is?

Madame CJ Walker is credited as the first woman in America to become a self-made millionaire.

Unlike the President, who started his career with tens of millions of dollars of his daddy’s money (but lied about the amount for decades), Walker started with nothing and amassed a fortune.

Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867, near Delta, Louisiana. After suffering from a scalp ailment that resulted in her own hair loss, she invented a line of African-American hair care products in 1905.

Her invention and the company that she founded made her a wealthy woman at a time when women, and especially African American women, were afforded scarcely any of the opportunities that white men enjoyed.

He rise to wealth was truly extraordinary.

Later in life she became a philanthropist and an activist, making financial donations to numerous organizations and became a patron of the arts.

Nothing like the President, who claims philanthropy but was forced to shut down his foundation (and is still facing prosecution) after investigators found that he used donations to purchase paintings of himself, reimburse personal travel expenses, and more.

I tell you all of this in the event my daughter, Clara, asks you who Madame CJ Walker was, and when you say, “I don’t know,” you’re not forced to suffer the scorn that I was just subjected to.

Clara does, "I'm disappointed in you" very, very well.

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Advice from The Beatles

So many times in my life, I see something clever, brilliant, or truly inspired, and I think to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Just last week, the trailer dropped for Danny Boyle’s latest film, Yesterday. It’s the story of a musician who wakes up in a world where The Beatles never existed, except that he knows they existed. He knows their music. He knows their songs.

He’s the only person on the planet who knows their songs.

Suddenly he’s in a position to become The Beatles. He can claim every Beatles song for himself. He can become world famous on the backs of other great musicians.

What do you do?

Elysha told me to watch the trailer, so I did. When I finished, she said, “I knew you’d like it. It’s the kind of story you would write.”

I thought, “It’s the kind of story I should’ve written! Damn it!”

So clever. Maybe even brilliant. Also an idea just waiting for the taking, and I didn’t take it. Screenwriter Richard Curtis did.

I had similar thoughts when I saw this Beatles graphic a while back. So clever. So whimsical. And again, an idea just waiting for the taking, and I didn’t take it.

Sadly, I don’t know who to credit for this one, but take a peek. You’ll love it.

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Speak Up Storytelling #37: Steve Brouse

On episode #37 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling along with storyteller and guest host Steve Brouse! 

In our followup segment, we talk about how a listener is using Homework for Life to remain in communication with his son, who is completing basic training. We also review listener feedback on the epic debate over the description of telepathy in Maire Greene's story. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about turning an unexpected snowball fight into a story that pushes back against conventional norms, and Steve Brouse shares his Homework for Life moment, combining two moments into a single idea for a story. 

Next we listen to Steve Brouse's story of a missed phone call and all that happened because of it. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. The value of opening windows into worlds we might not otherwise ever see 

  2. Effective ways of teaching our audience about content needed to understand our stories (without bringing the story to a halt)

  3. When and how to use humor effectively in a story

  4. The way in which the crafting of a story can also be a discovery process for the storyteller 

  5. Managing emotions during the telling of a story

  6. Identifying and fully developing critical scenes in a story

Next, we answer a question about teaching storytelling to children. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

  • Crashing on HBO

Matt:

  • Commissioning portraits of meaningful places for loved ones (via Etsy)

Steve:

  • Puzzles comprised of family photos (via Shutterfly)

 

Why you should embrace every snow day

We had our first snow day last week. A glorious, slightly unexpected day off.

Many teachers hate snow days, knowing how each one eats into our summer vacations.

A day off in February means another day of work in June.

But they are wrong to think this way for one simple reason:

It’s exceedingly presumptuous to believe that you’ll be alive in June. A multitude of disasters could beset you or the country or the planet, ending your life prematurely.

Take your days when you can get them. Assume nothing.

People think I’m kidding when I say this. They laugh. One person actually suggested that I use this rationale in my standup. “It would be a hilarious bit,” he said.

I’m not trying to be funny. I’m serious.

But I understand why people don’t think the way I do. I remember what it was like to walk through life so blissfully unaware of the razor’s edge.

For me, that all went away on an April night in 1992 when a man put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. That was the night that I stopped assuming anything about my future.

That was the moment when I started taking my days when I could get them. Taking hours and minutes, too.

I told this story at The Moth if you’re interested in watching.

On rare occasions, I encounter someone who I am certain would feel the same about snow days as I do. Someone who I feel as connected to as almost anyone in the world, even though in some cases, we’ve never even met. Someone whose experiences mirror my own.

Recently I heard Stanley Alpert tell a story on The Moth Radio Hour, and I experienced that feeling of connectedness. The belief that he and I move through this world with the same purpose and philosophy.

The certainty that he understands the razor’s edge as well as I do.

I can’t recommend it enough. You should stop everything and listen now. It’s brilliant.

A perfect collection of birthday presents

Yesterday was an especially delightful today for me. It was my birthday, and the gifts that I were given were brilliant.

It started off in the morning with Elysha. Her family has always given their gifts at the crack of dawn, which was decidedly different than the after-dinner gift giving that I was accustomed to for all of my life, but I’ve decided not to fight this tiny bit of crazy.

She’s excited. I get it.

Elysha gave me two gifts:

  • Tickets to the 20th anniversary tour of Rent, a favorite of mine. I saw Rent at least three times with the original cast when it debuted back in the late ‘90’s at the Nederlander Theater on Broadway, and I can still sing all the song by heart.

I was thrilled.

  • A portrait of Kaleigh, my best friend who passed away in 2018. Elysha sent photos of Kaleigh to an artist who produced a beautiful rendition of my little friend of more than 17 years.

    She always finds a way to make me cry with her gifts.

Then I went to school and was greeted by my students who gave me some entirely unnecessary but delightful gifts. One student gave me a handmade ceramic bowl with a card telling me that I was to keep paperclips in the bowl for those moments when I might need to throw them at students.

Another student asked me what I wanted for my birthday earlier in the week, and my list included a bucket of kittens, a time machine, a lifetime supply of cheeseburgers, an addition to my home, a robot, and a cage to hang over my desk to imprison naughty children..

So she built me the cage.

Using baling twine and wooden hoops, she created a perfect replica of the kind of cage that the witch in Hansel and Gretel stuffed the children into as she prepared to cook them.

I immediately hung it over my desk, much to the delight of my kids.

A few hours later it was time for lunch. I’m a member of a secret birthday club at school, and my friend, Wendy, revealed that she was my birthday buddy. My gift was a surprise lunch, complete with a white table cloth, birthday centerpiece, Chipotle burrito, and my good friend and former colleague Rob Hugh.

She gave me time with my friend. An hour to catch up and eat.

What a perfect gift.

When I arrived home later that day, I was greeted by my in-laws, who had spent much of the day with our kids. They handed me a renewed membership to the kids’ favorite museum, where they had spent much of the afternoon, and had so many kind things to say about how well behaved and polite our kids were throughout the day.

Future fun with the kids and the knowledge that they had a great day together… I can’t imagine a better gift.

I’m not the kind of person who gets excited over gifts. I’m a minimalist at heart who doesn’t really care much about things. But yesterday I received the things that I value most:

Experiences. Originality. Creativity. Thoughtfulness. The happiness of my children. Storyworthy moments.

Every single gift that I received fit at least one of these categories. It was a day filled with beautiful gestures of kindness and generosity.

I couldn’t be more thankful.

I leveled up.

I both love and hate this little meme.

levels.jpg

I love the idea that I am leveling up today. Level 48. Yes, that’s badass. Severely badass.

I’m leveling up today.

But you’re certainly not an old person at age 43, and you’re also most certainly not an old person at age 48.

Correction: There are some 43 year olds who behave as if they’re old people, just like there are some 48 year olds who behave like old people, too.

I happen to know a 34 year old who acts as if he’s ready for the grave. Perpetually exhausted. Chronically cranky. Endlessly pessimistic. Unwilling to take risks. Incapable of trying new things. Unable to muster the energy to do anything after 8:00 PM.

Yeah, that guy is old.

The argument that age is a state of mind is not a new one, but I think there is a lot of truth to it. But it’s not only a state of mind. I think age is more importantly a reflection about how you spend your time. How you choose to live your life.

I know a 71 year-old man who has recently transformed his life by diving into something new and difficult and ultimately joyous.

I know a 74 year-old woman who runs her own online business and has recently revived her career in art and just started licensing her work.

I know a 72 year-old woman who retired four years ago and has launched an entirely new second act of her life. She is traveling, trying new things, and playing lots and lots of golf.

These three people are living younger lives than others who I know who are decades younger.

A positive, youthful state of mind is nice, but it’s how that state of mind informs your decisions and behavior that count.

Are you trying new things? Taking risks? Exploring perviously ignored corners of yourself? Are you still making friends? Trying to make the world a better place?

My students know that I’m turning 48 today. They occasionally take great pleasure in referring to me as old. They are obviously struggling with a limited intellect. But a young lady recently came to my defense after a boy lobbed one of these “old man” claims at me, shouting, “He does more stuff than all of us, and he can even do a back-bend!”

That young lady will never know how much I enjoyed that comment.

It was a lovely birthday present.

The worst thing about Valentine's Day

It’s Valentine’s Day.

I know that a great number of people can’t stand Valentine’s Day.

They reject it as a fabricated, commercialized Hallmark holiday

They protest the inflated flower prices and packed restaurants.

They are offended by the reminder that they are still single. Or newly single. Or endlessly single.

These are the folks who say things like, “I don’t need the calendar to tell me to give my wife flowers” and “Our love doesn’t wait for February 14th.” They snipe at happily married couples and blossoming romances.

Ask one of these folks what they have planned for Valentine’s Day, and they might stab you with their ballpoint pen.

Some of these complaints might have some validity, but here’s the real worst thing about Valentine’s Day:

All those people who complain about Valentine’s Day.

If you don’t like Valentine’s Day, just treat it like any other day. Ignore the roses and candy and hand-holding. Walk right past the boundless romance and starry-eyed attraction. Pretend it never happened, because complaining about Valentine’s Day has three significant problems:

  1. It attempts to ruin the joy of others for entirely personal reasons.

  2. It makes you look like an unpalatable, sour-puss jerk face.

  3. Worst of all, complaining about Valentine’s Day is wholly unoriginal. It’s been done so many times already, and I assure you, it’s been done better than you will ever do it. We’ve all heard the complaints before. You’re not saying anything new.

    And trust me, even worse than being alone on Valentine’s Day is being unoriginal.

valentines day.png

My binder clip IQ test

Here’s a simple test to determine the intelligence of a small child:

Pry open a large binder clip. Ask a child to put their finger in the binder clip.

  • If the child puts their finger in the binder clip, the child is probably dumb.

  • If the child refuses the request, the child is probably smart.

  • If the child slides their finger horizontally into the space at the back of the binder clip, the child is probably a genius.

This test would probably work on adults, too, but it’s socially awkward to ask an adult to put their finger into anything, so I would advise against it.

Binder clip.jpeg

I did not speak like this when I was ten years old.

The children are trying to argue with me that they are no longer little.

“We’re big kids now!” Charlie said.

I insisted that they are still little. “Look at you,” I said. “You’re short and tiny. I can still pick you up!”

Clara’s response:

“When I refer to myself as big, Daddy, I’m speaking in relation to the little ones. You know, preschoolers and such.”

Maybe she’s not so little after all.

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Speak Up Storytelling: Marie Greene

On episode #35 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Matthew and Elysha Dicks talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we talk about our confusion between Tom of Brisbane and Tom of Long Island. We also discuss the origin of "telling stories from scars and not wounds" as well as advice on handling our explicit episodes of the podcast. 

We also announce our Seattle ticketing for this summer's workshop and performance. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about finding memories from the past through Homework for Life. We also discuss list-making in storytelling and the importance of having as many options as possible when crafting stories.

Next we listen to Maire Greene's story about grave shopping. 

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Subtlety in storytelling  

  2. The power of bringing an audience into a new world

  3. Small sentences that build stakes and momentum in a story

  4. Accessibility of the story (Elysha and Matt disagree like never before!)

  5. Reminding the audience of key characters and plot points if they have disappeared for any length of time

Next, we answer questions about displaying visuals during talks and additional outlets for storytelling. 

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

Seattle workshop on August 17: https://bit.ly/2E1QU0S

Seattle solo show on August 17: https://bit.ly/2URekLY

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

Speak Up logo.png

This map is terrible. So is this administration.

The Trump administration is not a fan of details.

This was apparent early on when Trump’s official inauguration photo contained the sentence:

“No dream is too big, no challenge is to great.”

So stupid.

Since then, the American people have been subjected to misspellings of every kind, as well as obvious errors in administrative procedures and a fundamental lack of understanding of how the American government works. For example:

  • The disastrous attempted rollout of a racist travel ban

  • Children separated from their parents at the border that still cannot be found

  • Errors in his tax cut legislation that have prevented whole industries from benefiting from the cuts

Time and time again, the Trump administration has proven to be unconcerned and unaware of basic policies and procedures that govern this nation.

Which brings us to this map, which Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stood beside last week.

See anything wrong with the map?

First, the United States is cut in half. Maps shown by United States officials don’t typically short-shrift our own country, particularly when countries like Russia and China are shown nearly in full.

But even worse (considering the cloud of suspicion that the Trump administration is under):

The symbol representing the White House is placed smack-dab in the middle of Russia

It might turn out to be symbolically accurate when all is said and done, but it’s just another detail that this administration has ignored and makes them look stupid.

map.jpg

Ignoring details isn’t always a terrible thing. I am famously ignorant of many, many details in life, so much so that it occasionally irritates colleagues and friends, including Elysha, who has an artistic eye and will obsess over aesthetic details that are completely lost to me.

I was once asked what color house we own, and I answered incorrectly. I argued vehemently that I was right until we arrived home and was forced to concede my mistake.

In the words of Plato Karafelis, I am the eagle (a position on a Native American spirit wheel). I see the big picture but am rarely close enough to attend to the minutiae.

Elysha, he went on to say, is the mouse. Detail-oriented (which is true) and able to see the small but significant things (also true) but sometimes unable to grasp the larger context.

Elysha pointed out that eagles eat mice, which didn’t make her feel good and was perhaps not the peppiest of pep talks for a wife who wanted to strangle her husband.

But not untrue.

All of this is fine, of course. because I am me. If I miss a detail, a test score doesn’t get entered in some probably meaningless computer software. Or I miss a row or three while mowing the lawn. Or I somehow put on two pairs of underwear before leaving the house.

But when you have your hands on the nuclear football, or you’re cruelly and indiscriminately separating kids from families at the border, or you’re enacting enormous and complex legislation designed to return money into the pockets of the wealthiest Americans while screwing the middle class, details are important.

They really, really matter.

The Trump administration, through their own actions, disagrees, and that should frighten us all.

Spielberg didn't hire me. Big mistake.

When I was 14 years-old, I went to see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at The Stadium in Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

After seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark three years earlier and loving it, I couldn’t wait to see the latest installment in this franchise.

When I left the theater after seeing the movie, I went straight home and wrote a letter to Stephen Spielberg, explaining to him that I thought he was a brilliant director who told fantastic stories but needed someone to watch the finished film to show him all the dumb parts so he could take them out.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is filled with dumb parts.

To her credit, my English teacher at the time found the address of Paramount Pictures and sent the letter off for me, which was not an easy thing to do in a pre-internet 1983.

Spielberg, you’ll be surprised to hear, did not respond.

Honestly, I thought he would. In my 14 year-old mind, I felt certain that I had made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

More than 35 years have passed since that day, but I remain firm in my belief that filmmakers would do well to ask me to watch their movies and point out the dumb parts.

Recently, for example, I wrote about how in both Mary Poppins Returns and Wonder Woman, a white guy ends up saving the day when that job should’ve clearly been put in the hands of the female protagonist. These mistakes were so egregious that I can’t begin to imagine how those films ever made it to the screen without someone correcting the errors in these stories.

Last week Elysha and I watched Spielberg’s latest film Ready Player One. I had read and adored the book a few years ago, so I had low expectations going into the film.

It’s rare that a movie outpaces a book, though Spielberg has managed to accomplish this feat more than once with Jaws, Minority Report (a short story), and maybe Jurassic Park (I’m still not sure).

My low expectations were sadly realized.

Still, even though the film was never going to be better than the book, there were moments of real stupidity in that story that didn’t need to be there. Odd decisions by characters never paid off, shifts in tonality that tilted the film on its side, and at least one moment where an exceedingly obvious solution to an enormous problem was ignored by literally hundreds of people.

All would’ve been easily corrected had Spielberg asked me for advice. Had he answered my letter in 1983 and partnered with me then.

His loss, I guess.

Even so, things have worked out surprisingly well. Today I spend an enormous amount of time helping storytellers revise their stories.

I’m working with a documentarian, reading and revising scripts, looking for ways to improve her storytelling.

I’m working with an ad agency, helping to infuse more effective storytelling into national ad campaigns.

I’m working with small businesses, large corporations, universities, religious institutions, and hospitals to help them craft stories about their products, services, and missions.

I’m working with writers, reviewing their books, book proposals, magazine pieces, and television and film scripts and offering suggestions to improve their stories.

And I work with storytellers, listening to the stories they tell on stages and at the pulpit, in board rooms and in classrooms, at commencements and sales conferences, and everywhere in between.

Oddly, I’m doing the job that I first proposed to Spielberg 35 years ago.

It took me a little longer to get there, and perhaps I’m more skilled today than when I was 14 years-old, but it’s surprising - shocking, really - to realize that I have been on this same path for far longer than I would’ve ever imagined.

Ever since I was a kid, I was watching and listening to stories and trying to find ways to make them better.

It only took me 35 years to realize this.

No wonder Spielberg didn’t hire me back then.

Why the Kit Kat is a terrible candy bar

Here’s how I know that the Kit Kat is a terrible candy bar:

It’s not because it’s cheap chocolate poured over a tasteless wafer bar.

It’s not because it’s dry and crumbly.

It’s not because eating a Kit Kat makes you thirsty.

It’s not even because it tastes like despair.

No, it’s none of those things.

I know a Kit Kat is a terrible candy bar because it’s designed to be highly shareable. Nestle, the maker of the Kit Kat, knows that no one has ever wanted to eat a whole Kit Kat, so they have made it possible to share this awful excuse for a candy bar with up to three other people.

The Kit Kat isn’t a good candy bar in any sense of the word. It’s simply designed to make you look generous. Except the thing that you’re sharing is disgusting and unwanted.

That’s a Kit Kat.

kit kat.png

Storyworthy: The Illustrated compendium

Someone far more creative and clever than I will ever be read my book, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling and created this amazing illustrated set of notes.

If you read the book, you’ll see how remarkably accurate these notes are. They truly capture the most important aspects of my instruction.

It’s really something.

Its also always an incredible honor to see someone engaging in something I have made in such a meaningful, personal, and creative way.

Makes me feel terrible for never building a diorama based upon a Kurt Vonnegut novel or never writing an epic poem about Ben Gunn’s life on Treasure Island.

Sketch notes for Storyworthy.jpeg

Trump demonstrates his ineffectiveness with startling clarity

Here’s a particularly stupid act of Trumpian stupidity.

Back on January 4, 2018 Trump congratulated someone (I have no idea who) when the Dow exceeded 25,000 points for the first time.

Traditionally, Presidents don’t tout the rising of a stock market because the market can be unpredictable and exceptionally fickle. Attach your success to a rising Dow, and when market turns south, the implications are obvious:

You suck.

Also, the economy is far too complex for a President to credit himself for any short term rise in any index.

Every President before Trump has understood this and avoided taking credit for any short term changes in the market lest they end up looking stupid and ineffective.

Case in point:

On January 30, 2019, almost exactly one year after that first tweet about the Dow exceeding 25,000, Trump once again tweeted the news that the Dow had exceeded 25,000. This is because between last year’s tweet and this year’s tweet, the market had fallen considerably and spent the end of 2018 climbing out of the hole.

Essentially, what Trump did was point out that within the previous calendar year, the Dow had failed to grow at all.

In other words, he sucked.

In fairness, Trump probably didn’t realize any of this because he knows nothing about economics, nor does he seek the advice of economists or even invest in the market.

He’s simply an ignoramus when it comes to economics.

In fact, had he taken the $60.7 million that his father had given him (not the $1.5 million dollars that Trump claimed for years) and invested it in a simple index fund, Trump would be far wealthier than he is today and wouldn’t have needed to pursue a Trump Tower in Moscow throughout the campaign while lying about it to the American people again and again.

Gratitude and perspective on the eve of the Super Bowl

I’m writing this an hour before the kickoff to Super Bowl 53 to remind myself about how I’m feeling right now in case some ridiculous catch or devastating strip sack ruins my night.

My friend, Steve, says that as a Patriots fan, I’m spoiled, and he’s right. But more than spoiled, I’m so incredibly fortunate.

For the past 19 years - in the prime period of my adulthood, in a time when I’ve owned season tickets and attended most of the Patriots home games, I’ve had the honor of watching the greatest sports dynasty maybe ever.

The Yankees might contend for that title, but since I’m also a Yankees fan, I don’t need to squabble over positioning.

The point is that I realize how lucky I am. Truly.

I have watched the team I love - the team that I first fell in love with while sitting at my grandfather’s feet on Sundays, cheering on the team - play in 11 Super Bowls.

21% of all Super Bowls ever played.

I watched the Patriots lose in ‘86 while sitting in the living room of my childhood home. I was 14 years old, and I wept that day.

I watched them lose again in ‘96 in my friend’s living room. As Desmond Howard ran back a kickoff for a touchdown, I threw my shoe through the wall above the TV, angering my friend’s wife quite a bit. .

Then I was sitting in Shep’s living room in 2001 when the underdog Patriots beat the same team they play tonight for their first Super Bowl championship.

I wept that night, too.

Beginning that year, I have spent countless Sundays and the occasional Monday and Thursday night in Gillette Stadium watching this team play brilliant football.

I have watched Tom Brady’s team play in 13 AFC championship games. I have personally attended 7 of those games.

I’ve watched the Patriots go undefeated in the regular season. I’ve watched them win a record 21 games in a row. I’ve watched Tom Brady win 11% of all Super Bowls ever played.

Yes, there has been disappointment, too.

The goddamn helmet catch. Mario Manningham’s catch. The Welker drop. Brady’s lost season. Last year’s strip sack. Singular plays that cost the Patriots three more Super Bowl championships.

But I also watch the Patriots win their first Super Bowl as the clock ticked down to zero. I watched Adam Vinatierii make two impossible kicks in the snow to send the Patriots to the AFC championship game. I watched an unlikely cornerback named Malcolm Butler intercept a pass in the end zone at the end of a Super Bowl to secure a Patriots victory. I’ve watch the Pats come back from 28-3 to win a Super Bowl in overtime.

It’s been a glorious run. And thankfully, I’ve been in a position to enjoy every moment. Tom Brady took over the team when I was 30 years old. Old enough for me to have watched those two early Super Bowl losses. Old enough to know the pain of a 2-14 season back in ‘92. Old enough to remember Steve Grogan and Stanely Morgan and John Hannah and Andre Tippett and Steve Nelson. Old enough to remember the snowplow game. Old enough to have lived through so many losing seasons.

Also old enough to watch every single game of this remarkable run. Almost half of them in person with some of my best and closest friends.

Yes, I’m spoiled. And win or lose tonight, I will consider myself so very fortunate to have been a Patriots fan through this remarkable period in the franchise’s history.

Having said that, I really, really hope we win.

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Speak Up Storytelling #35: Ophira Eisenberg

On episode #35 of the Speak Up Storytelling podcast, Elysha Dicks and I talk storytelling!

In our followup segment, we hear from a teacher who is using Homework for Life in her classroom and a listener who had to do one of the strangest things I've ever heard of in a storytelling show.

We also get a little more information on Harry Belafonte. 

In our Homework for Life segment, we talk about how we're often in the middle of the story, and if we're patient enough, an ending will eventually reveal itself (as unfortunate as that ending might be). We also talk about choosing the structure of a story based upon the time frame of your story.

Next we listen to Ophira Eisenberg's story about a mysterious box in the closet.   

After listening, we discuss:

  1. Effective humor throughout the story

  2. Stakes!

  3. Echoing the thoughts of your listeners 

  4. Effective pacing in a story when the surprise is no longer surprising

  5. Specificity

Next, we answer a question about extending stories told on the stage to the written form.  

Finally, we each offer a recommendation.  

LINKS

Harry Belafonte on The Muppets

Homework for Life: https://bit.ly/2f9ZPne

Matthew Dicks's website: http://www.matthewdicks.com

Matthew Dicks's YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/matthewjohndicks 

Subscribe to Matthew Dicks's weekly newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicks-subscribe

Subscribe to the Speak Up newsletter: 
http://www.matthewdicks.com/subscribe-speak-up

RECOMMEDATIONS

Elysha:

Matt:

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Bravery beyond compare

Last night I did something exceptionally daring. Some might say courageous.

Elysha was in the middle of a sentence when she stopped, searching for a word that she could not find.

I thought I might know the word that she wanted, but I hesitated for a moment, because we all know that this can only go two ways:

  1. You suggest the correct word, and you are an instantaneous hero. A champion. Finding the word that your beloved is searching for is a perfect indication of your intimacy and shared human experience. You were made for each other. This relationship was meant to be. It’s likely that you’ll be making out before long.

  2. You suggest the wrong word, and your loved one dismisses your suggestion like a piece of trash. You shrink under the weight of their disappointment and scorn. You can’t believe how stupid you are.

    Then, in an attempt to make things right again, you suggest a different word. That one is wrong, too, and now your loved one thinks of you as human garbage. Their voice is filled with irritation and disgust. Suddenly your entire relationship is drawn into question. A chasm tears open between the two of you as your beloved wonders how they could’ve ever thought that this relationship was meant to be.

Offering a word to your loved one is treacherous ground. Sometimes deadly. Oftentimes it’s better to simply remain silent and allow your loved one to flail about unassisted.

But last night I steeled myself against possible ruination and suggested the word that Elysha might be seeking, and I was right.

Huzzah!

Champion-status attained. Relationship validated. We lived happily ever after.

Sometimes we have to step and be brave in the face of possible disaster, people. Last night I did just that, and it paid off handsomely.

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An answer to the stupid question, "How can it be so cold if global warming is real?"

Trump tweeted about the weather at least twice last week, calling into question climate change and global warming given the cold temperatures that have recently gripped the nation.

This is so stupid and so dangerous. Climate change is one of the greatest threat to our country. American intelligence agencies, including the Pentagon, have said so repeatedly.

This is no joke. Our inaction will cause enormous suffering for our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

And the science is clear and peer-reviewed. Seventeen of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 18 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Isn’t that enough evidence? In the 169 years that we have been methodically recording global temperatures, the last 18 have been warmer than the previous 151. Beyond the mountains of data collected by climate scientists, isn’t that enough to convince even the most willfully ignorant that climate change is happening?

When faced with one of these climate-denying morons (like Trump) or someone who is honestly and naively questioning the science because of an especially harsh cold spell, this xkcd comic might be helpful:

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