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September 18, 2011

Guest Blogger, Tammy Kaehler -- Mantras

Take Good Advice Wherever You Find It


I’ve had mantras on my mind lately. Not the dreamy, inspirational sayings that make me think of beaches and yoga and striving for greater things (I’m a fan of those too, and I have them littered around my desk on paperweights or torn pieces of notebook pages). I’m talking about the words I sometimes have to chant to myself through clenched teeth to keep my competitive instincts—or maybe my murderous ones? sometimes they feel like the same thing—from kicking in.

You see, I’m an overachiever. I rise to meet challenges. But part of realizing I’m now a mature adult (since I’m the “old lady” at my day job, where the average age skews very young), is realizing I can't do everything. More importantly, I’ve learned to save my skills and energy for what’s most important to me. This isn’t always easy, when I’m aware that those young kids I work with are wallowing in their inefficiencies without my sage advice. Wallowing!


Or something like that.

Here’s the audience participation part of this blog. You can all say my favorite mantra with me … first, pretend to be Chris Rock, assume an attitude (maybe with an incredulous look and some finger shaking), and repeat, “Just because you CAN do something, don’t make it a good idea.”


Well done.


For a couple years now, I’ve been attributing this quote to Chris Rock—which is part of the fun because I’m about as far from Chris Rock as you could get. I’m short, female, and very, very (very) white. I like to think of myself as kind of a badass sometimes, but I, yes, pale in comparison to him. And I’ve been carefully quoting those words verbatim.

But I should have known better, because I don’t remember quotes correctly. Like, ever. (This is part of the reason why I can’t tell jokes.)

Sure enough, I recently looked up the exact wording of my beloved mantra, only to discover it’s not what Chris Rock said at all. Turns out what he said (more colorfully, of course) was this: “Yeah, you could do it … but that don't mean it's to be done! Shit, you can drive a car with your feet if you want to, that don't make it a good f&*%ing idea!” Moreover, he was talking about bad parenting, which has nothing to do with me trying to establish priorities in my life. 

Close enough. Take the good advice, Tammy. Don’t worry about where it comes from.

What this mantra helps me remember is that what’s important is not that I. Can. Win! It’s that I choose to win what I want to win, and I let some battles pass me by. My day job? I really appreciate that it’s there, I’m committed to doing good work, but I don’t need to lose sleep over the problems. My novels? That’s where I want to spend my emotional energy creating good plots, interesting characters, and a realistic picture of the racing world. Anything else that pulls my physical and emotional energy away from writing is just a distraction. 

My husband prefers Stephen Covey’s version of the same message: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” There’s also the pithy “Pick your battles.” But I find the insouciance—and the simmering potential for profanity, I’ll be honest—of my version of Chris Rock does a better job of stopping my blind rush to Achieve. At. All. Costs!

Dr. Tammy’s prescription? Repeat “Just because you CAN do something, don’t make it a good (f&*%ing) idea.” as many times as it takes to remain sane and correctly focused.

It’s all about figuring out what keeps you on track, isn’t it? So tell me, what’s your mantra?


Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate hospitality introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery. Tammy works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.

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One of my favorites, Tammy! I first caught a variant of this in JURASSIC PARK. Jeff Goldblum, after seeing and listening to all the wonders on the island, says, "You were so caught up to see if you COULD, you never stopped to wonder if you SHOULD." I filed that away immediately, and use it quite a bit.

An equal favorite, and used even more frequently, is from CASINO ROYALE, when M. sternly says to Bond, "I want you to take your ego out of the equation."

Once again, proof positive Everything You Need to Know in Life, You Can Learn from the Movies....:)

Mine is simply 'this too shall pass'. When it worked the first time I was in labor I decided that it was mine. A few years ago, though, I found out it didn't work as well for a kidney stone.

Welcome, Tammy. Fun blog. My own two mantras: "It is what it is" and "Uncurable, endurable."

Live and let live!

Live and let live!

I'm with Margaret - "It is what it is." I'll be honest, though, this is something a former co-worker used to say whenever a decision was made (or left unmade) by the boss that was blatantly detrimental to the business. I still want to "fix" it, and it kills me. She got smart, and got out. My other mantra, along the same lines, is "Let it go." I'm not good at that, either.

Excellent plan, to quote Chris Rock, the sage of our age.

My favorite mantra, which I once found on a sweatshirt that I had to buy as proof, "Attitude is everything". Oh, yeah, my kids rolled their eyes at that one.

Also, God answers all prayers. Sometimes the answer is "No".

Thanks to TLC for having me here and everyone else for the welcome and the comments!

William, I like "take your ego out of the equation." I suspect we all need to do that often.

Judith ... Ouch (and kind of punny!).

Judi, you have a more relaxed attitude than I do, and I admire that!

Sandi, it's hard to learn the lessons, isn't it?

Margaret, Karen: "attitude is everything" and "uncurable, endurable" remind me of another philosophy I've been channeling lately, the AlAnon saying (I think, geeze, I may be wrong about this too!) that all you can control is your response to something or someone. Because you can't fix people, just learn to deal with them, right?

Ah, so much easier to say than to do!

After 30 years as a costumer in a mom & pop company that went belly up due to poor family management..."Change what you can. Tolerate what you can't and don't complain".
It still works for me.
Also "Patience is a virtue". Say it. Repeat as many times as needed.
Welcome to our little corner of the world Tammy!

Thanks, Xena! I think that should be "say it and repeat as many times as needed to make sure I believe and act on it!!"

"I need to find something humorous in this situation" has LONG been one of my favorite mantras. It works, too; humor has helped me to get through some things that a lot of people think of tragic. To my delight, I am learning, in reconnecting with cousins that I have not seen very often in my adult life, that this is apparently a family trait!

Good for you, Deb! We could all learn from you, I think.

My friend Sherry Norfolk shared with me "all will be well," for reassuring nervous worriers.
. . . and when dealing with "difficult people" I like the line from Dervish in the Road, "may the deepest desires of your soul be satisfied" (because then they wouldn't be so mean) . . .
. . . but if they prove incorrigible, there's Emilia from _Othello_ "may his pernicious soul rot in hell half a grain a day."

It's a good life -- enjoy the day!!

Ah, Karen, good thoughts -- no wonder you raised such wonderful daughters! (Quiet, considerate Karen posted quietly while I was still snoozing away -- perfect houseguest!)
Now I'm off to the Rep to see Red -- painter, angst . . . should be fun!

"Patience is a virtue - Have it if you can.
Seldom in a woman, NEVER in a man."

Not really true, of course, but always makes me smile if I can remember it before I erupt.

Another is "What's the worst that can happen?" Once you've visualized the worst, anything better is better, right?

Ah, Mary, I like that Othello quote. I think I'm considerably more grouchy than peaceful by nature!

And Margaret, I am right there with you in always trying to visualize and even prepare for the worst, all the time. Because then I'm less likely to be disappointed. Seems reasonable to me!

"What's the worst that can happen?"
Yes, Margaret, I agree. Another way to put it is "Hope for the best; plan for the worst." When you have a Plan A and a Plan B, you feel more prepared for whatever you end up facing. It works for ME, anyway. This doesn't mean that I have to LIKE Plan B; it just means that I was as prepared as a person can be. I went into the situation with my eyes open.

Two years back, my son needed a quote for his "senior" (8th grade) class. We found "Don't take life so seriously; no one gets out alive anyway" . That and 'You might as well laugh about it, cause no one wants to hear you cry,' are my mantras. Especially after these past few years, I've decided that yes, attitude is everything, (thanks, Karen) so those are my versions of the same thought.

Hey, Tammy . . . Yep.

LOL, I'm not as laid back as 'yep' would imply. I tend to get easily wound up over all manner of things. But, as I just said to my sister on the phone before turning to read this blog, 'Just because some spambot sent little blue pill ads to your mailing list, it's not worth getting your blood pressure up, is it?'

I really try to remember and remind myself of what the consequences are of overdoing, overworking, overtrying, or excessive caring about not-so-important stuff.

So. Yep.

Thanks, Deb and Lora, I like those versions.

Laraine, if we feign calm enough, we'll end up more calm, right? Right?!?

Welcome to TLC, Tammy! I like the topic of your blog, especially the real words of Chris Rock. It reminds me of: "If all of your friends jumped off the (your bridge here), would you do it too?"

When I was little and I asked for something around a close friend of my parents, he'd always say:
"And there's a man in jail wanting out." (meaning-I can want forever, but it's not happening.)

Because I'm a procrastinator, my mantra should be:
"Fiddle-dee-dee. Tomorrow is another day."

But I prefer:
"A truly happy person is one that can enjoy the scenery while on a detour."

Becky, we'll just call you Scarlett, ok?! When I was growing up, I always got the "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride" statement. I like the idea of enjoying the scenery! Goodness knows we all end up on a lot of detours....

I came across this quote lately and I love it:

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
― Howard Thurman

Most of my frustrations stem from people who are so self-centered they can't be bothered to follow rules or help others or even look at you while they're careening their carts through the grocery store. I find myself whispering in my own ear, "You can't control these people."

It doesn't do much good, but I say it often, anyway. That and "I hope karma really is a bitch."

Marie, I love that quote. Great inspiration! That's for my better side.

Gayle ... you are a woman after my own heart. I think I grin evilly at least once a week and comment "karma's a bitch" with satisfaction. Sigh. The greatest word in the world is schadenfreude, is it not? I try to rise above, I really do!

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