Byron's Babbles

Tending Our Friendships

Posted in Best Friends, Boston Legal, Communication, Forgiveness, Friendship, Happiness, Leadership, Listening, Metaphors by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 31, 2019

I was touched last night to have my son ask if I wanted to watch a couple more episodes of Boston Legal with him. Hey, it was 10:30pm; what else could be better? Plus, love spending time with the boy. We laughed and discussed the political issues of the time of the show. Then there was a cool seen during Season 4, Episode 20 when my son said, “That was a great metaphor.” As you know, I live by metaphor. Having my son recognize a quality metaphor – PRICELESS!

Here’s the scene: Alan Shore said to Jerry Espenson, “I feel as if I haven’t seen much of you over the past year.” Jerry replied, “Well, you’ve been really busy, Alan. So have I. With work. Work has…Hey! That’s the beauty of being friends, isn’t it? Relationships with long shelf lives. You can just stick them on the shelf. I tell you! Alan rebutted, “What?” Then Alan continued, “I have never ever considered myself someone who puts work before friendships. Seems I do.” Jerry then gave us the metaphor saying, “We all do, Alan. Friendships are a little like back yard gardens. We plan to tend to them. We just always seem to put it off till next week.” Friendships are the cornerstones of our lives. Our garden of friends requires careful tending.

We also need to recognize that people change and grow at very different speeds and different ways. Metaphorically, we need to plant, cultivate, prune, water, and fertilize our friendships. To have a relationship, you must plan, cultivate, and tend to it. Relationships left unattended eventually die.

We need to be grateful for our friends and the people who make us happy. For all the faults in the character of Alan Shore in the show, we do see him always trying to be a good friend. He offers advice, checks in on them, maybe shows up in court just to watch and show support, always seeks to reconcile a squabble with a friend quickly, and always goes and apologizes when he says something to a friend that offended him or her. One of the ongoing plots of the show is about friendships and romances of the characters. I blogged about this in Are We Best Friends?

Let’s not forget to tend to our gardens of friendship as we move into a new decade. In fact, I think I’ll make my New Year’s Resolution be: to appreciate my friends every day and catch more fish.

Keep Something On The To-Do List

Posted in Boston Legal, Dreams, Leadership, To-Do List by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 30, 2019

“The thing about life is you always need to keep something on the to-do list.” Alan Shore said this to Denny Crane while sitting on the balcony having cigars and Scotch at the end of an episode of Boston Legal. In this age of instant gratification it was a great reminder that we need things to look forward to and to be working toward. It’s important to enjoy working toward our dreams. Having long term items on our to-do lists gives us time to explore.

The scene in Boston Legal itself holds the lesson of friendship, relationships, and getting to know those we encounter along the way. These people may be peers or mentors, and we need to make the most of our time together.

Additionally, we need to be open to new things and always give ourselves room to change course if necessary. If we are open to new possibilities, we will be rewarded handsomely. Unexpected discoveries are bound to come our way, especially if we keep things on our list we want to do.

Are you working toward a dream on your to-do list? What are you doing every day to help you enjoy working toward that dream?

Finding Happiness Right Where We Are

Posted in Appreciative Inquiry, Boston Legal, Culture, Happiness, Inspirational, Leadership, Reflection, Self Awareness by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 23, 2019

I’m starting this post with a driving question: Should we try to find happiness right where we are, rather than being obsessed with where we are going? This sounds really good, and makes for good print, but does anyone actually do it? Or, can it actually be done? I believe I come close, but still have much work to do.

This reflection came at the end of another episode of Boston Legal – Season 3 Episode 23. The balcony scene with Denny Crane and Alan Shore had an interaction at the end where Denny was worried about getting old and losing his edge (which he often does). Alan said, “Yes, but don’t you think the real joy in life lies in the promise of tomorrow? The young simply have more tomorrows stacked up. That’s all.” Replying, Denny said, “Happiness… is right now my friend. On this balcony, right now. You and me.” Even though there is the paradox of Denny living in the moment of happiness right now and being obsessed with continuing to be undefeated in the courtroom and losing his edge with age, I was reminded we need to live more in the happiness of right now. The other thing to note about the conversation between Denny and Alan is the part of young people having more tomorrows stacked up. While generally true, this is not necessarily always the case. We really don’t know how many tomorrows we have – none of us know that. Thus, a strong case for being happy right now!

Many times, if we are honest, we find ourselves chasing after something not because we actually want it, but because we somehow are made to believe we need it. This could be a thing, clothing, new job, promotion, et cetera. This belief comes from our constant comparing of ourselves to others. This is a natural trap to fall into. Easy to say, “Don’t do that!” Almost impossible to not do. We need to constantly be grateful for what we have and remember that someone else’s success is not our failure.

This is why I am so obsessed with the final scene at the end of every episode of Boston Legal. While it is clear that Denny and Alan are not perfect at this happiness in the moment thing, they do, however, end every day with a conversion on the balcony. That conversation always leads to the happiness they have in the moment with their friendship and things they are grateful for. Alan Shore’s final comment in that part of the conversation was, “I love how you reduce everything in life to… you and me.” Maybe it is as simple as reducing things down to the simplest things that bring us happiness.

What if we began to think of happiness as right here, right now? Let’s start being happy first and realizing our some days and best days are right now. Let’s stop looking for answers, what’s next, and getting there and start enjoying here. Our typical happiness model according to Neil Pasricha is actually backward. He argued in 7 Ways To Be Happy Right Now that we operate using the model that great work plus great success brings happiness. The problem, as we all know is, that as soon as we reach that success we are really not that happy because we are already on to what is next. Pasricha continued to posit that we should start the equation with being happy and then great work and big success will follow. I would add “Balcony time with a friend” to Pasricha’s seven ways to be happy.

Here are three other posts I did reflecting on Boston Legal balcony scenes: Is It Fun Being You?; Do You Have An Inexhaustible Ability To Just Live?; and, Are We Best Friends? Let’s make sure we are taking time line Denny and Alan to enjoy and be happy in our “now.” Let’s all put happy at the beginning!

Is It Fun Being You?

Posted in Attitude, Best Friends, Boston Legal, Fun, Leadership, Such Fun by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 14, 2019

I didn’t really set out to do a blog series on thoughts following Boston Legal episodes, but it seems I am doing that because this will be my third such post. I’m telling you, those end of episode scenes of Denny Crane and Alan Shore sitting on the balcony discussing their lives, politics, cases, and their day are riveting and very thought provoking. My other two posts are: Are We Best Friends?; and Do You Have An Inexhaustible Ability To Just Live? The scene I am blogging about here was at the end of Episode 7 in Season 2.

Denny Crane says, “It’s fun being me. Is it fun being you?” Alan replies, “Most of the time actually.” To this, Denny reacts, “Then what else is there?” With a nod, Alan says, “Indeed.” I had never really contemplated the question of whether it was fun to be me before. My answer is, yes!And, indeed, there really isn’t anything else.

“Be who you are and say what you feel BECAUSE those who mind don’t matter and those who matter DON’T MIND!” ~ Dr. Seuss

It really comes down to being who you are. I came across the cool sweatshirt pictured below with the saying Such Fun Being Me on it. The Miranda Shop is selling the sweatshirts and I love their description of the sweatshirt: “This is one of my most loved of the new products. It gives me no greater pleasure than to think that people are able to become more and more happy and free in their own skin, loving and accepting themselves to freely be who they are.” That pretty much says it all, don’t you think?

I guess it is all about having purpose and passion in how we are living our life. And, I think those of us who can honestly answer that it is fun being us, would say we still approach life much like a child. So, what does that mean?

To truly be happy, I believe we must get in touch with our inner child. Children are always happy in the moment. They are their true natures; they’ve not been taught they have to fit in (socialized) yet. Watch a child and you will see how free they are and how little they care what other people think of them. Children are pure love and light. Unfortunately, we play roles to fit into our society and then we end up suppressing our true nature out of fear of what others think. Remember, when you find yourself feeling judged, this is the socialized you, not the real you. Maybe that’s why it’s fun to be me; I can still run a toy tractor across the floor making the best tractor sounds ever!

Become freer; play, have fun, and enjoy the moment. It’s fun being me. Is it fun being you?

Do You Have An Inexhaustible Ability To Just Live?

Posted in Boston Legal, Courage, Growth Mindset, Jesus, Leadership, Lifelong Learning by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 12, 2019

Yesterday I blogged about a scene from an episode of Boston Legal that really caused me to think and reflect. You can read about it in Are We Best Friends. Please allow me to post about another balcony interaction of Denny Crane and Alan Shore at the end of another episode.

After asking Alan Shore what he had had for lunch, and telling him he had a steak sandwich with onion rings, Denny Crane said, “Alan, you know, one thing you sometimes forget is, no matter how hard your day, no matter how hard your choices, how complex your ethical decisions, you always get to choose what you have for lunch.” Alan Shore replied, “Daily, I’m amazed at your inexhaustible ability to just live.” Replying, Denny Crane said, “It’s either that or die.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. I believe I have an inexhaustible ability to just live, but just exactly what is that and can we, as leaders, help develop this in others?

Of course this prompted a study for me. What I found was, nothing. So, how do we develop or continue to have an inexhaustible ability to just live? I was actually reminded of a bible verse (John 10:10) where Jesus tells us we are supposed to have an abundant life. Realizing there is a difference here when using the word abundant, I began to think about what really allows us just to live. It turns out that picking what we want for lunch is a perfect example.

It is about what Lolly Daskal taught in the great book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You And Your Greatness. Daskal posited that focusing on using can, want, and will instead of could, should, and must empowers us to live in terms of our own goals and motivations – just like picking what we want for lunch. Think about it: when asked about lunch, we say, “I want…”

Typically, when we choose what we want for lunch it is very authentic. We, or at least I can speak for myself, have no problem having the courage to proclaim what we want for lunch. Why not live and lead on our own terms in other areas of our life as well? Daskal also taught us to have a kinder dialogue with ourselves and focus on leading from within. Could it be as easy as working toward can, want, and will? I think so!

Finally, I believe an inexhaustible ability to just live means to go after what you want without worrying about what others will think. It means continually reaching out for newer, richer, deeper, life changing experiences. So let’s go push the boundaries of ourselves mentally, spiritually, and intellectually for personal growth and the betterment of the world at large. Also, step back and just enjoy the ride that is the journey of our life.

Do you have an inexhaustible ability to just live?

Are We Best Friends?

Posted in Benevolent Leadership, Best Friends, Boston Legal, Conversational Leadership, Forgiveness, Friendship, Listening by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 11, 2019

Do any of you remember the show Boston Legal? It was one of my favorites. The comedy-drama ran for five seasons from 2004-2008. The show focuses on the personal lives of the upscale lawyers and their cases of the law firm Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. Recently, when our cable was out and we could get no channels, my son and I were on the phone and he said, “Dad you know we have a SMART TV so you can watch episodes of some of your old time shows.” I have to admit that I didn’t know that. Then he explained how to get to the shows and that this is what leads to people doing what is called “bingeing.” I also have to admit, I did it – binge watched Boston Legal. It was great and there were so many things said in the show that made me think. So, of course I had to blog about it!

At the end of each episode there is always Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) sitting on the balcony in cool white chairs, which are called Bubble Club Chairs – that you can buy, by the way, drinking bourbon and smoking cigars. The talk is funny, but very deep and meaningful. In Season 2, Episode 8 Denny says to Alan, “What I give to you, I do with no one else (speaking of their time on the balcony each night and ultimately about their friendship). I like to think that what you give to me you do with nobody else. Now that may sound silly to you. But, here’s what I think is silly, the idea that jealousy or fidelity is reserved for romance.” Alan replied, “…But gosh what I get from you Denny. People walk around today calling everyone their best friend. The term doesn’t have any real meaning anymore. Mere acquaintances are lavished with hugs and kisses upon a second or at most third meeting, birthday cards get passed around offices so everybody can scribble a snippet of sentimentality for a colleague they barely met, and everyone just loves everyone. As a result when you tell somebody you love them today, it isn’t much heard. I love you Denny, you are my best friend. I can’t imagine going through life without you as my best friend. I’m not going to kiss you however.” Like I said, some funniness to it, but also very deep.

What does it mean to be a friend, a best friend, or to love, I mean really love, someone today? Do those terms, as Alan Shore lamented, really have any meaning any more? I’m not sure they do. In fact the balcony seen at the end of this episode has caused me to really reflect on my own definitions of love and friends. I’ll bet you were recently passed a card and asked to sign it and you may have thought to yourself, “I really don’t know this person.” I’m not saying that giving birthday cards is bad, but have we become a society of trivializing friendship and love?

So, I ask the question that Alan asked; does the term “best friend” have any real meaning any more? I believe to be a best friend is a privilege not to be bestowed on everyone. Showing another human being that you care about them and that their happiness and presence in your life is important to you on a regular basis is, though it may seem obvious, is a fairly big commitment in practice.

Remember how much easier it was to have a best friend in high school or college? You were with them every day. I find it difficult to be a good friend. Life seems to have a way of inserting itself and does a pretty good job of prying us apart. I think of all the times I’ve said, “We’re going to get together.” But, then never do. I’m a little, actually a lot, envious of Denny and Alan being able to sit on the balcony every evening at the end of the work day and philosophize. The lesson that can be learned from studying the characters of Denny and Alan is that being a best friend involves compromise, trust, and a mutual growth that allows certain friends to last through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Really, friendship is a peculiar type of love. There is no real binding commitment to the opposite person other than what you are willing to put into the relationship. I really do think the term “friend” doesn’t have as much real meaning anymore. How many times have you had someone start a conversation with, “As a friend, you need to know…”? Many times there is not the friendship to be making the observation. That’s why, as the person on the receiving end, it upsets us. Again, we learn from Denny and Alan that a true “best friendship” allows us to:

  1. Love you for you
  2. Listen to understand
  3. Be accepting
  4. Be genuine
  5. Appreciate the humor

Do you know and appreciate the value of your best friend?