Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #58:

“Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks and prefer noisy women with big breasts. Trout fishermen watch McNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags and hardly think about women at all. This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of the time immersed up to the thighs in ice-cold water.”                                                                              Author Unknown

Besides being very long, dated, probably stereotypic, as well as a sexist statement, the unknown author, I believe, is attempting to be a bit playful. Granted it is noteworthy this author is unknown to us and quite possibly prefers it this way. In any event there is more than a possibility here that trout fishermen are not missing out on certain things, but rather they simply are choosing what they prefer.

Can we look beyond the problematic aspects of this quote? If so can we see any valuable lessons or even a point that may prove useful? Whether one fishes for trout or for bass is not important. Pursuing one’s interests and passions is, for me, at the heart of this. You may be a beer drinker, a   Monday night footballer, or whatever it is you love doing; then by all means do it.

Sports metaphors offer us the imperative not to be content to only stand on the sidelines or sit in the bleachers. Rather, we are to get in the game. Engage in life. Engage in your life. May I remind you this is the only life you get to have?

 My last blog was about pursuing one’s art and living fully as an artist. To do so requires we take on purging ourselves of whatever blocks or misperceptions we have that cause us to deter from pursuing a path we are meant to follow. Instead we remain caught up in a ho-hum existence. Ted Williams, someone who knew a lot about hitting home runs, once said this:

“When you are in a slump, don’t swing harder, change your stance.”

Living life powerfully requires us to change our stance – possibly quite often – in order to recover from that which prevents us living fully. Metaphorically speaking we might need to grip the bat up a few inches higher, or move one shoulder out more, or move our legs a further apart. You get the idea. To keep doing the same things over and over (swinging harder) and expecting a different result is foolhardy. It’s also called insanity.   

Here are a few things we need to develop a different stance:

  1. For starters one must believe in him/her SELF. Playing small does not serve anyone. The world needs each of our unique gifts and talents. You and I are a one-of-a-kind, never to be duplicated again, person. You need to have a love affair – with yourself! Take on a practice of stopping at any mirrors you have in your home and look at you. Take a moment and smile at that person you see reflected back. Tell her/him “You are terrific.” Pinch your cheek and say to that person in the mirror, “You sweet thing, you!”

 This is not to make you into a narcissist; it’s to keep you from discounting your goodness. You are the right one for the job!

      2. We need to be willing to see the best in others. This is why # 1 is essential. I often tell people to, “love yourself first, and then see what happens.” The reason for this has to do with accepting one’s own goodness in order to then also to see goodness in each and every other person. When we are ok with ourselves we’re better equipped to bring an open heart to other people and we can treat them without judgment or defensiveness.

 This can have miraculous results. Not always, but often. If I love myself first I get me out of the way. I can now enter into our relationship without looking for something for me. I can be more generous. I can even love you when you do not love yourself. And I can possibly enroll you into your lovability, as well. 

    3. We need to be able to see opportunity everywhere.

What do you to read in this line below of the words that aren’t correctly separated?


 You will read “Opportunity is nowhere,” or read Opportunity “is now here.” It always has to do with our perspective. This pandemic is both a crisis and an opportunity for each of us. It is if we allow it to be. In spite of the terrible tragedy it has been causing, if we are willing to take the time to truly reflect on what we have been doing up until now a lot of good can happen.

 We’ll also need courage to make necessary changes to improve ourselves and our society (our world). This would be a great tribute to those 100,000+ Americans who have died. This promise to make changes that improve our society can be our legacy to them. It has been pointed out that the pandemic has highlighted many of the dysfunctional and unjust discrepancies within our society.

 There are still many injustices present on both a personal and societal level. Mostly we have learned to tolerate things so that eventually they become invisible. We all get what we tolerate. The pandemic has made many of these things become visible; and hopefully intolerable.  

             4.We require a steadfast capacity to focus on solutions.

It has long been said we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. My favorite way of stating this is from an old Pogo cartoon (A parody of American naval officer Oliver Hazard Perry in 1813 after defeating and capturing Royal Navy ships in the Battle of Lake Erie): Pogo paraphrased Perry by saying: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

It is easy enough to bitch and complain. How about taking a risk and offer a possible solution now and then? How about joining in conversations regarding what we can do – will do? We are such a divided nation and people are so quick to judge and criticize whatever anyone else says or does. There is a lot of room for middle ground. Most Americans are okay with finding middle ground solutions – compromises – things that give the most to the most. We can also take on the oath of “not doing harm” in the process of doing some good. Let’s get committed to seeking out these ways to go forward.

  1. We have to have a generative capacity to give to others.

This is a spin-off of the last point. It can mean many things, but basically it is all about our ability to come from a place of love. We cannot remain only in our heads; we need to embrace our hearts, as well. It is easy to be loving to others when they are doing so, as well. But can we bring love to those who are not bringing love? Can we bring love when we are not being loved in return? The short answer is: Yes. But this gets us back to the beginning and why it is so important to love yourself first. Otherwise we are running on empty. I also encourage getting a support system. Find those who love you no matter what.

Because we are each made in the image and likeness of God, we are made of God’s divinity. In other words, we are made of and from God’s divine love. Therefore, we are love. This is God’s indwelling within each of us, so when I am bringing love to my neighbor it is not really my love; it is God’s love that I am expressing. If my neighbor returns love that’s very nice. If he or she is unable or unwilling to so, well that’s okay, too. Perhaps another time. I do not have to get all worked up about it.

        6.We require Persistence.

Persistence overcomes resistance. In other words it is persistence that is key to most accomplishments. Great success comes from long, hard work. It begins with dreaming big dreams. Then it is “Practice, practice, practice.” Success is an inside job. It requires fortitude and perseverance. We need to do the heavy lifting.

This can become daunting and so it’s worth bringing into our efforts a bit fun and cheer now and then. Set small milestones and as you reach each one remind yourself of the overall larger goal. Also celebrate this latest step. Perhaps I’m getting a bit too preachy. Time for a joke:

If at first you don’t succeed, perhaps skydiving isn’t for you.

  1. We need to take Responsibility for our lives.

I once wrote a humorous and paradoxical essay on the “Art and Practice of Victimhood.” It was a how-to essay on how to go about becoming not just a victim, but a successful victim. It was tongue in cheek, and it pointed out various pay-offs that can come from such a life. Namely the big ticket item is that one gets to avoid taking personal responsibility for one’s life.

 I did not make up any of my ten suggestions for becoming a victim. I simply offered those various things people seem to do all the time as a strategy for being a successful victim. I prescribed the symptoms.

 Resolve to take 100% responsibility for everything you are or will ever be. Instead of making excuses, decide to make progress. Wherever you are tempted to say “I can’t,” change it to “I won’t.” You are free to do it, or not do it. By saying “I can’t’ you give away your power. Once you change the sentence to “I won’t” you might decide to change it to “I will.” Either way you are taking responsibility.

Mark Twain once wrote, “There are a thousand excuses for failure, but never a good one.”

 We are meant to grow so we have something to give. Life is growth. Perhaps what may come out of our confinement and slowed down pace is that by not being too busy living, we can use our time to design a life.

None of us gets to choose the various circumstances of our lives. We do, however, get to choose how we respond to these circumstances. And to this extent, I say, each of us gets to have powerful say in the matter of our lives.