Why Do Whiners Whine?


Few things are more annoying than having a person in your group who whines about everything.  The weather is too hot, the walk is too long, they have too much to do, they don’t have enough money, they have aches and pains, they are disappointed with everyone and everything.  How can they be so discontent all the time?

Believe it or not, there’s a logical explanation for their thinking and their behavior.  It’s called “Calibrated Self-reference”.  There you have it.  Now, you know everything that I know.  Oh… I’ll bet you want me to clarify that a little, huh?

OK.  We all know by now that who we are is a by-product of our personal experience.  In our lives we will all experience different levels of physical and emotional discomfort.  As a child and while we’re growing up we will rate every new discomfort by comparing it to what we’ve already experienced. Continue reading

About the Minimum Wage

The debate about raising the minimum wage resurfaces every few years – usually in an election year. I’m not sure why the advocates of a “living” minimum wage stop at $9.50 or $10.10 per hour. Can you really live comfortably on that? Can you travel, buy a nice house, buy a new car, send your kids to college, have a swimming pool in your yard if you want one, or all the other things that people with regular jobs can do? Why not ask for $20 per hour for people who make hamburgers, change your oil at Jiffy Lube, or bus tables at a restaurant? Seriously – those who advocate for a higher minimum wage, please answer that question for me. Maybe those jobs that pay minimum wage were never intended for anyone who was trying to support a family in the first place.  But, there are some who are using McDonalds to survive. Therein lies the problem.

A lot of people deny the negative implications of raising the minimum wage. Most simply say that the company should just absorb the cost, but that’s a discussion we’ll have on another blog. It’s not just the rising costs of goods and services at that workplace that negatively affects the economy. Consider this:

I’m a worker who has gone through hours of training to improve my skills so I can qualify for a better job. I’m paid $18 per hour. It seems reasonable that a sixteen year old kid, trying to make just enough money to pay his cellphone bill, who goes through three hours of grueling training to take orders at McDonalds will make considerably less than I do. If the kid’s wages go up, arbitrarily without even requiring any new skills or efficiency, I think I should be making at least $22 per hour to keep things “fair”. When wages go up without market pressure, the costs are passed on to the consumers.  The price of goods and services go up and higher wages are needed just to stay even with where you were.  Pretty soon, the workers who were pitied at $7 per hour today are pitied again at $9.50 per hour tomorrow.  Nothing has changed and new legislation will be passed to raise the minimum wage again.  And the beat goes on.

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Your Mental War Room


What is a war room used for, anyway? It’s a place where strategies are created to accomplish a goal, typically in a war setting – hence the name. How could this have any relevance with an individual trying to make it in life? (Side note here)

This is a perfect example of a time when you should ask me, “what does ‘make it in life’ mean – to survive?, to succeed?, to excel at something?” That would be an appropriate question if you wanted to understand the “Deep Structure” of my words. You’ll know what I’m talking about if you read the last blog – “Say What?”.  If you didn’t, you can see it posted just below this one.

All of us have an undeniable need to avoid emotional pain from rejection, betrayal, abandonment, humiliation, embarrassment, etc. and the need to gain pleasure from having a sense of being loved, having a place of belonging, a sense of having value and knowing you’re safe. When I say that you made it in life, I mean that you’ve learned how to achieve these goals. The likelihood of choosing very dysfunctional strategies to meet these goals is very high, indeed.

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Say What ?

Picture of child with multiple languages in his mind

Sometimes – maybe most of the time – we’ll look at our partner in the middle of a conversation and ask, “WHAT?  What did you just say?”.  It’s like they’re speaking in a foreign language.

With all the practice we have communicating with everyone around us, it’s stunning how ineffective our communication can sometimes be. As I’ve pointed out in a previous blog, the meaning attached to words we use doesn’t necessarily match the meaning that someone else has attached to the same word. So, we can’t assume that the listener is really grasping the meaning of the words we’re using.

We have two levels of language that we use. One is Surface Structure Language, which is comprised of the words we actually say. The other is Deep Structure Language, which is the meaning of the words we use. Let me give you an example.

A young man, Charles, comes home one day and instantly notices that his wife is a little upset. Before he gets too far into the room, he hears the four words that few men ever want to hear – “We have to talk”. Well, Charley feels pretty secure at the time and, after all, he’s quite a bit bigger than she is, so he replies, “OK. What do you want to talk about?” His wife says, “Charley, you’re just not there for me.” In reality, that statement has no meaning to anyone except the one who uses it. As a man, Charley definitely doesn’t have a clue. So in the absence of clarity about the Deep Structure of those words, Charley is going to put his own Deep Structure to those words and defend himself. Remember, Deep Structure is meaning. So Charley stands up tall and says, “Of course I’m there for you. Every night I come home, I grab a beer, turn on the TV and sit right there in the lazy boy. I’m there for you every night”. Well, as you can imagine the poor wife goes running off to the bedroom, sobbing, and Charley just learned to never again say “OK” if those four deadly words are spoken again. Of course, that’s a humorous exaggeration of a possible disconnect in this couple’s communication. But, that’s the way it really works. Continue reading

Have it now, Have it later, Have it all the time.


I’ve noticed a shift in the way today’s young people plan their lives as opposed to my generation back when Moses was still around.

When I was twenty one years old, after my discharge from the Marine Corps, I felt I had a limited number of choices about my future. In fact, I didn’t think I had any choices. Now, none of my decisions were made under duress and, in retrospect, I regret none of them. When I got out of the service, I set out to get married, get a job where my dad worked, have 2.3 children (actually, the .3 didn’t work out) and do the life that all married men of the day with two children did.

I’m incredibly happy with my life as it is now with my wonderful gracious wife, my unreasonably fantastic children and grandchildren, and my economic situation going into my “Golden Years”. I can’t think of anything of which I’ve deprived myself and I don’t feel “cheated” in any way, either.

Anyway . . . Getting on with this new bunch of young people. They have so many options to consider. I’ve listed three general ideologies that I’m witnessing with the young folks that I know. Here they are: Continue reading

Balance of Influence


We’ve spoken before about how we form our beliefs and meanings about things – experiencing the same information over and over until it settles in our mind as the truth.  Well, there’s another element that must be included if we want to have an impact on certain people around us.

We may be modeling our values consistently in front of our kids, but there are others with whom our children associate, who model their values as well.  Who’s going to win the battle for the hearts and minds of those whom we cherish the most – our children?  Here’s one answer – whoever has the opportunity to model their values for the most amount of time.  This is where the Balance of Influence comes in to play.

It’s at this point that I have to qualify the content of this blog.  What I’m writing about is immaterial if your values and principles already match those of everyone else with whom your children will come into contact.  Or, if you believe that every religious belief is basically the same as all the rest and if you look at the world around you and determine that the moral fabric and general character of our society is what you want for your children anyway, then you have nothing about which to be concerned and you can stop reading right now.  If not, carry on. Continue reading