June Recap

In case you missed a post or two this month, here’s a quick recap of what I wrote about during the month of June:

Questions I Asked –

When Was The T-Shirt Invented? – This Wonder Why Wednesday all started when my brother asked why he never sees a picture of Ulysses S. Grant in short sleeves.

Where Did The Phrase “Head Honcho” Come From? – Most people think the phrase has Spanish origins, but most people would be wrong.

What Is The Best Selling Car? – The car that sold the most in 2015 has also been atop the sales charts since the 1980s. Find out what it is.

What Are The Origins of the Phrase “The Pot Calling the Kettle Black”? – Pots and kettles look very different today.

 

Things We Learned –

I have a new goal – It may be the toughest goal I have ever made.

A Surefire Way To Keep Your House Clean – Forget about buying a new Swiffer, just start do this instead.

What Taylor Swift And Rascal Flatts Can Teach Us About Sharing – I know nothing about music, but I found this story very interesting.

How To Let Your Ideas Escape – The advice seems odd, but it might just work.

Why We Should Look For An Old Green Coat – A fun story of a woman named Elizabeth and her creative son, Jim.

Another Great Thing About Sarcasm – In case you can’t tell, I am a big fan.

What NBA Finals Stars Resemble Disney Movie Characters – A fun post I wrote for BrickhousePodcast.com.

Why We Should Throw Our Backpack – Just thinking about doing this scares me.

Donuts may not be good for us – No, I am not talking about those donuts.

Why I shouldn’t write about carpet cleaners and lawyers – Part II of my donut story.

 

Fun With Numbers –

5 Good Things – Feel like there is nothing but negative stories online, on TV and in the newspaper? Looking for a little pick me up? Here are 5 good things going on in our world…

5 Things We Can Learn From Disney Dad’s – I start off the post by insulting my dad (on Father’s Day).

7 Things Not To Do When Writing A Book – If you do any of these, you definitely will not sell many books. Especially #4.

7 Mistakes We Make to Be Successful & What We Should Do Instead – A great post by author Emma Seppala.

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Origins of the Phrase “The Pot Calling the Kettle Black”

If you search for “pots” on Bed Bath and Beyond’s website, you will find 998 products ranging in color from stainless steel to one with a giant Chicago Blackhawks logo. If you search for “kettles” you will see 304 results that feature designs of everything from polka dots to a giant rooster.

These days, pots and kettles come in all shapes, sizes and colors. But apparently that wasn’t always the case.

A popular way to accuse someone of hypocrisy is to say they are “the pot calling the kettle black.” I guess this means that pots and kettles only cam in one color, black, thus it made no sense for one (a pot) to criticize the other (a kettle) for something that could equally apply to both.

I have always considered that saying to be a little odd. Personally, I think it makes no sense for any kitchenware to talk in general, regardless of color (unless they are in the film The Beauty and the Beast).

Where did that term come from? At what point in our history were appliances used as verbal burns?

Let’s find out in today’s edition of Wonder Why Wednesday…

What Are The Origins of the Phrase “The Pot Calling the Kettle Black”?

Phrases.org.uk dates the phrase back to the early 1600s. This was a time when cast iron kettles became covered in black smoke after much use with a fire. Pots too were often covered in black smoke, thus the hypocrisy of a pot pointing out the smoke stain on a kettle.

One of the earliest uses of the phrase appears in the 1620 translation of Don Quixote,

You are like what is said that the frying-pan said to the kettle, ‘Avant, black-browes.’ ”

That line is close to the term we hear today, but not an exact match. Our first match happened in 1693 when William Penn, father of Pennsylvania, wrote,

For a Covetous Man to inveigh against Prodigality… is for the Pot to call the Kettle black.”

The saying must have taken off from then because it is still used today. However, these days the term has come under fire due to its racist undertones. Maybe a better term would be, “that is like the Chicago Blackhawk pot calling the kettle a rooster.”

Or maybe not.

Spaghetti Stains, Dog Bites & A Donut That Slowed Me Down

Before you read today’s post, make sure you read what I wrote yesterday. It will allow the following story to make much more sense, trust me.

A couple of years ago, I was offered a freelance job that involved writing more than 10,000 words about a variety of topics ranging from carpet cleaning to personal injury lawyers. The job required me to finish 21 articles in 5 days. And it paid terribly.

I took it.

Why would I do something so dumb, you ask? I knew it would be tough and not a sound financial decision, but I looked at it as a challenge. I figured that if I could write so many words about things I know noting about, writing posts for my own blog would be a breeze.

I was wrong.

After feverishly researching attorneys and carpet companies, I completed the job with just a few hours to spare. I sent in the work and was rewarded with a paycheck that would barely cover the cost of my dinner.

When I took the job, I had assumed that by doing so much writing in such a short time, I would morph into a writing champion. I envisioned Mr. Pulitzer stopping by my house to tell me he heard about what I did and he would like to name an award after me. I figured knocking out 2,000 words a day, on topics I was not familiar with, would crush any future writers block that came my way.

I was way off.

Upon finishing, I was exhausted, unhappy and in no mood to write. Not only did I feel nothing like a writing champion, I felt more like a writing curmudgeon. After completing 10,845 words, the last thing I wanted to do was write another sentence.

And to make matters worse, I doubt that I improved as a writer. I spent most of a week writing about how to remove a spaghetti stain and why you should hire a lawyer if you are bitten by a dog; neither topic that will ever come up in my children’s books or this blog. Sure I wrote a ton of words, but they weren’t useful building blocks on my path to become a more experienced writer.

I practiced with a donut and all it did was slow me down.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about challenging ourselves as writers. Stepping out of our comfort zone will help us improve in may ways. But when we do, we should try to make sure our effort, as professor DeRenne said, mimics what we will do in the game.

Is It Helping Or Slowing You Down?

Donuts can slow us down.

You may not think that is breaking news, but I am not talking about the glazed kind. I’m talking about the baseball kind.

If you have ever been to a baseball game, you have probably seen them. They are circular weights found in the on-deck circle. A batter hangs the weight around the barrel of his bat and much like how Krispy Kreme adds a few lbs to our midsection, the baseball donut adds weight to the bat.

The idea is that warming up with the weighted bat will allow a hitter to increase his bat speed when he removes the donut and faces the pitcher.

Turns out, those weights may be having the opposite effect. According to one study, increasing the weight of one’s bat by 10-13% will decrease one’s swing speed by 3-5 miles per hour.

This happens for two reasons:

  1. It does not accurately simulate what the batter will do in the real game.
  2. It deprives the hitter of an explosive burst of energy.

Coop DeRenne, the physical-education professor at the University of Hawaii responsible for the study, says that rather than use the donut,

the batter should mimic in his warm-up what he will do in the game—the same weight, the same motion.”

What are the donuts in our lives that we thought would speed us up? Are they helping or hurting? Maybe it is time to take a look and see if what we think is going to improve our work is really just zapping our energy.

Check back in tomorrow and I will share a story of how a donut slowed me down as a writer.

7 Mistakes We Make to Be Successful & What We Should Do Instead

Many times, I will read something online and immediately think, “that was great, I wish I wrote it.” I may not have written it, but I can still share it.

Here’s the latest…

7 Mistakes We Make to Be Successful & What We Should Do Instead by Emma Seppala

When we are getting started in our careers, we think that we won’t be happy until we are successful. We want to do whatever it takes to scale the corporate ladder so that we can one day sit back, relax and enjoy life. In doing so, we often sacrifice joy in the short term and just hope we will get it in the long term.

But is it possible that happiness is actually the secret to success?

Yes! In her book, The Happiness Track, Emma Seppala provides many examples of how happiness leads to success; not the other way around. I’ve written about the book before, but if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, Emma has created an awesome infographic that shows the false happiness theories we believe and why each one is wrong.

In her article, Emma says,

If you prioritize your happiness, you will actually be more productive, more creative, more resilient, more energized, more charismatic and influential. You will have more willpower and be more focused, with less effort.”

Do you want to be more creative, resilient, energized, charismatic and influential? If so, check out the entire article here.

Is It Time To Throw Our Backpack?

Here’s a great line from the book, Happier, by Tal Ben-Shahar.

Goals communicate, to ourselves and to others, the belief that we are capable of overcoming obstacles. Imagine your life as a journey. You are walking, knapsack on your back, making good progress, until suddenly you reach a brick wall that stands in the way of reaching your destination. What do you do? Do you turn around, avoid the challenge posed by the barrier? Or do you take the opposite approach and throw your knapsack over the wall, thus committing yourself to finding ways of getting through, around, or over the wall?”

We set many goals, but how often do we turn around when faced with a barrier? I have never thought about doing what it takes to reach a goal in these terms before, but I like the image.

Don’t get me wrong, I am terrified just by the thought of throwing my stuff over a wall, unsure of how I will climb over to get it back. I guess that means I am not doing it enough.

I’d love to sit here and tell you this quote has motivated me to take a risk and throw my backpack over a wall, but that would be lying. Until I am faced with that situation, I don’t know how I will respond.

But the quote has made me think. And that has to be worth something, right? I hope it does the same for you.

What Is The Best Selling Car?

I am not much of a car guy. If someone says, “V-8” I would picture weird vegetable juice, not a car engine. Changing my windshield wipers is the extent of my automotive skills.

As long as the vehicle gets me from point A to point B, I do not care much about make or model. That being said, I have a car-themed Wonder Why Wednesday today. I am not sure how it came up, but I recently starting wondering about which brand of car is the best seller in the U.S.

Let’s find out…

What Is The Best Selling Car In The United States?

According to a good article from Cars.com, the car that sold the most in 2015 has also been atop the sales charts since the 1980s. Ford’s F-Series trucks sold 780,354 last year, earning the truck its 34th consecutive title as America’s best-selling model.

The top three spots were held by pickups, with the Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram finishing just behind the F-Series. The top 3 were a repeat from 2014.

Apparently American’s like trucks.

What other cars do we like, you wonder? Here’s a list of the top 10:

Car Sales 2015

7 Things Not To Do When Writing A Book

If you Google “How to Write a Book” you will find about 371,000,000 results. There are tons of great articles about what we need to do if we want to hash out our story and finish writing a book (I even wrote one, which you can find here). There is an endless stream of encouraging quotes and how to lists that will help us navigate the wild world of writing.

There is plenty about what we should do, but not as much about what we shouldn’t do. So, I have come up with a list of a few things not to do when writing a book.

7 Things We Definitely Should Not Do When Writing A Book

  1. Write it Backwards

I am not talking about writing a story where the plot is told out of chronological order, like Pulp Fiction. That move won an Oscar and made over $100 million so, by all means do that. I’m talking about actually writing it backwards, as in starting with the last word (on the first page) and working your way to the first word (on the last page). That will just be confusing and hard to read.

  1. Write it in Minion

That language is basically gibberish. Plus, by Illumination Entertainment owns the rights to all Minion-talk and probably won’t be to happy about it.

  1. Write it in the sky

Skywriters are super expensive and not very permanent.

  1. Write it on an endangered animal

People won’t like that and it will be hard to duplicate, because…you know…they are endangered.

  1. Write it on an Etch-a-Sketch

The font will be too tiny and an earthquake could erase all your hard work.

  1. Rewrite Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

That is already a thing.

  1. Use magic ink

Not even if your book is about magic (if it is, it better not be called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, see above).

Okay, so this post was pretty dumb, but the point is…just write a book. Don’t worry too much about what not to do. When you start writing, your story probably won’t be very good, but as long as you don’t write it in the sky or on a Yellow-billed cuckoo, you can keep working on it until it is better.

If NBA Finals Stars Were Disney Movie Characters

Last night’s game 7 of the NBA Finals was a script right out of a movie. The often maligned hero (LeBron James) overcame the toast of the town (Steph Curry) to win a champion for a city that has long been considered a loser. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better story.

Which got me thinking?

What if the NBA Finals stars were Disney characters? Who would they be? Check out a few ideas that I came up with for BrickhousePodcast.com

LeBron James is Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles)

– Amazing powers, but he still needs a team around him

Lebron

Steph Curry is Rafiki (The Lion King)

– Don’t judge him based on his looks. People love it when he is holding that baby.

Curry-Rafiki

Click here to check out the rest on the Brickhouse Podcast Blog.

 

5 Things We Can Learn From Disney Dads

Happy father’s day to all the dads out there! In honor of dad’s day, I thought it might be fun to see what types of things we can learn from the great padres in Disney movies. Enjoy…

1. Dads come in all shapes and sizes

When we think of Disney dads, we think of the commanding Mufasa (The Lion King) , the chiseled King Triton (The Little Mermaid)  and the celestial Zeus (Hercules) . I don’t know about you, but my dad is never going to look like that, no matter how many badges he earns on his FitBit (although, his billowy chest hair does sort of resemble Mufasa’s).

We often forget, but not all fathers from Disney movies are impeccable specimens. The Sultan from Aladdin is pudgy, Marlin from Finding Nemo is nervous and Maurice from Beauty and the Beast is just plain kooky. More than that, many Disney father figures aren’t dads at all. Rafiki (The Lion King)  and Carl (Up) make quite an impression on their young friends, without having any kids of their own. 

Size and strength are not what make a dad feel superhuman.

2. Empathizing > embarrassing

No matter how embarrassing your dad may seem, he has nothing on Goofy. In A Goofy Movie,  Max is constantly hiding his face as to not be associated by his bumbling dad. Goofy spends most of the movie trying to make his son happy, but only making things worse. All because he can’t figure out what Max enjoys.

All that embarrassment is forgiven, however, when Goofy begins to relate to Max and sneaks them into the Powerline concert. An exclamation point is added to their father/son relationship when they bond over a shared experience.

As Powerline says, “If we listen to each other’s heart, we’ll find we’re never too far apart.” (Which is a great line until you start to realize that the flip side means you are not too far apart form becoming an embarrassing bad just like your old man).

3. A family is best team you will be on

As his name implies, Mr. Incredible (The Incredibles) is a pretty impressive dude. As a solo act, he is able to stop about 95% of the bad guys in Metroville. But it isn’t until he teams up with his wife, Elastigirl, and their children Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack that he is able to take down the sinister Syndrome.

Being a family isn’t easy. A quick search for U.S. household statistics will tell us that. We don’t get to pick everyone we are stuck with and they often test our patiences. However, when we are faced with a trial, a total family effort can make us all incredible.

4. But sometimes your kids need to go solo

In spite of everything I just wrote, there will be times when a father can’t (and shouldn’t) be there to save the day. Take Hercules for instance. Zapped of his god-status as a baby, he is raised by mortal parents. He later learns if he can become a true hero, he’ll be able to return to My Olympus and rejoin his dad, Zeus.

If Zeus is really the king of all gods, I would imagine it would be pretty easy for him to show his son how to be a hero and then they would all have one big party in the clouds with their supernatural friends. But Zeus knows that Herc’ has to handle this one on his own.

Letting your son or daughter go on a journey of their own is probably one of the hardest things a parent can do (besides figure out how to work iTunes and the DVR). It had to be tough for Zeus, but in the end Hercules completed the journey by himself and was a much better man because of it.

5. A father’s influence is like a bad credit score

It sticks with you forever. The best Disney example of this, of course, Mufasa (The Lion King). He dies when Simba is just a cub, but that doesn’t mean he is left out of the movie. He shows back up in clouds, water and stars. His short time with his son leaves a huge imprint, which is summed up by this iconic scene…