As most of you know, for the past six years, I have been suggesting, urging, and even cajoling anyone who would listen to ask their loved ones what my friends now call, The One Magic Question. It’s a simple question really – just some version of the question I asked my mom when I asked her how I could be a better daughter. People have asked their moms, dads, grandparents, children, spouses and even in-laws. The answers have ranged from profound to mundane and have, I’m often told, changed lives just as they did for my mom and me.
Recently, I heard an especially touching story when I interviewed a busy executive mom, Patty, who asked her young sons The One Magic Question. She found out something simple and profound that changed her life and theirs. Interestingly enough, Patty was inspired to do so by Marshall Goldsmith, author and leadership guru; the same person whose words set me on my journey in 2005.
Would you like to give each of the treasured relatives and friends you will see over the holidays something more precious than gold? And would it be even better if it cost you absolutely nothing and might be something that loved one would treasure for a lifetime?
According to Jon R. Katzenbach, author of Why Pride Matters More Than Money, many people would prefer to receive a sincere piece of motivational feedback from their manager to extra money in their paycheck. And you can use this same principle to delight your friends and family.
Some Simple Pointers To Giving Motivational Feedback
What is motivational feedback? It is simply noticing what someone does well and mentioning it to them. If you can link it to the impact of what they have done, even better. And, if you can mention a personal characteristic of that person, now that’s a home run!
Here’s an example. “Aunt Bobbie, the meal you served today was wonderful. The turkey was perfect, the pies were delicious and everything arrived on the table at the same time! I know this takes a lot of time and hard work on your part and I can’t tell you how loved and cared for this makes us all feel. Your love for your family really shines through on a day like this.”
Or it can be much simpler. “Mike, I heard you got a great score on you SAT test. Good work!” or “Brenda, congratulations on your new job. I know you worked hard for that promotion and it paid off.” Or “Vernon, the story you told about your dad was so heartwarming. Those old family stories really make a day special.”
Positive, motivational feedback can make a family day more pleasant for everyone. By focusing on the positive behaviors and attributes of family and friends, you can warm their heart and feed their spirit.
A final word of caution. Please resist, with all your might, the urge to link a lovely positive comment to something negative. “We loved the pies BUT the turkey was a little dry.” Everything you say before the BUT will be forgotten and someone will go to bed thinking, “My turkey was a little dry!” Save any suggestions for improvement for a future conversation and make sure everyone goes to bed with a good feeling about the day and about YOU!
I’ve just been listening to messages from Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Patrick Donahoe, Postmaster General/CEO talking about the state of the US Postal Service. It’s sad news.
Senator McCaskill said that hearts were breaking in her state as 167 post offices are scheduled to close; most of those post offices in counties of 50,000 or fewer residents. And she recommended a solution.
Patrick Donahoe was explaining to USPS employees that the USPS has lost 26% of its first class mail, their most profitable business, and that this shrinking of the first class mail is the major issue resulting in the post office closures and employee cutbacks.
Last week in a television interview, the Senator asked a question and supplied an answer that caused my e-mail to buzz and shake as friends couldn’t wait to tell me, “She’s talking about just what you’ve been talking about for years! You should contact her right away!”
The Senator said, “I am not sure there has been a marketing campaign about the value of a written letter. I really believe that if someone would begin to market the value of sending a letter to someone you love; you might be surprised on how you could stabilize the first class mail.”
As my dear readers know, Make Mom Happy By Mail, the blog and the book, have been recommending just that for the past five years. From the moment I asked my mom what I could do to be a better daughter and she replied, “Just send me more mail.” I have been extolling the virtues of mail to all who would listen. And I’ve reminded them that many elderly folks don’t have, and don’t want, e-mail. They want something to hold in their hand, something to read again and again, something to brag to a friend about.
For two and a half years following Mom’s simple request for more mail, I sent her something by mail several days each week. Post cards, pictures, magazine articles, candy, books, dog toys, flower petals, and yes, even letters found their way into her big country mailbox out by the gravel road in St. Joe, Arkansas.
We called this our “Make Mom Happy By Mail” campaign. And she told me time and time again that it did just that. It also made me happy to be able to bring interesting things into her life and to discuss them with her. It made our relationship stronger, closer and more fun until the day she died. Happily, it has done the same thing for countless others across the US and from France to Japan, as they heard about our Make Mom Happy By Mail campaign and tried it for themselves.
As Senator McCaskill suggested, “…. if everyone with a living elderly relative or friend would send just one piece of first class mail to them each week, we might be surprised how we could stabilize the first class mail.” This could result in increased revenues, fewer closed post offices and more stable jobs for those not ready to retire. Something as simple as a letter could make such a difference to so many people in so many ways.
I urge you to start your own “Make Someone Happy by Mail Campaign” today for five reasons.
It will make a loved one happy.
It will make you happy to make them happy.
It’s just plain fun to do.
You just might save a post office.
You just might save a job of an American postal worker.
Shake up the world – do something big – send something by mail today.
Happy beginning of summer! Even though I live in San Francisco about which Mark Twain is reported to have said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”, I’m still thrilled when summer starts. Last week on June 21st, I was teaching a class and we all decided it would be fun to mark the official beginning of summer at 1:14 PM with a collective “Woosh!” to send spring rains packing and welcome summer. Even though we got busy and missed the mark by a bit, we still did the “Woosh” before we left and wished each other a good summer.
During the day, we shared our plans for summer – travel, camping, hiking, family reunions. When someone mentioned a visit to a national park, it reminded me of The Golden Access Passport I have recommended for years and which I continue to recommend at the drop of a hat. I think I this is one of the most amazing bargains available to seniors. Past mentions of this have brought thanks from friends as far away as Japan. It even brought a smile to the face of a 63 year old friend who hates being 63! She was happy to learn there really are some benefits to being “more mature.”
Indeed, the Golden Access Passport is a wonderful deal for senior citizens It costs just $10 (yes, just $10) for a lifetime pass to most U.S. National parks, forests, refuges, monuments and recreation areas, from Denali National Park in Alaska to the Florida Everglades.
To learn more, just read on, see website, or call the number below. I hope this idea will make your summer, and the summer of someone you love, even better!
Call 1-888-GO-PARKS for specific information or go to – Senior Pass.
Senior Pass Eligibility
As part of the American the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass program, U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are at least 62 years old can purchase a Senior Pass for a one-time processing fee of $10. This Senior Pass to national parks and lands offers benefits to you and your traveling companions.
Senior Pass to National Parks Benefits
In National Parks that charge an entrance or standard amenity fee, the Senior Pass admits you and the passengers in your car or other private vehicle.
In National Parks where a “per person” entrance fee is charged, the Senior Pass admits you plus three other adults (who need not be seniors). This is an especially good deal if you are also traveling with grandchildren, because children under 16 have free admission.
The lifetime national parks Senior Pass also gives seniors a 50 percent discount on federal use fees charged for camping, swimming, boat launching, parking and tours.
In some cases where use fees are charged, only the person named on the Senior Pass will be given the 50 percent discount.
The senior pass is non-transferable and does not cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or concession fees charged by private companies.
How to Buy a National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass
The Senior Pass to national parks cannot be purchased by mail or online. It must be purchased in person at a federal area where entrance fees are charged, or at regional offices of the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Proof of age, such as a valid driver’s license, is required at the time you purchase your senior pass.
For more information about the National Parks Lifetime Senior Pass, call the National Park Service at 1-888-ASK-USGS.
As we approach Memorial Day weekend and many are thinking about picnics in the park, I’m thinking about the beautiful Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium. It is an amazingly beautiful place with 15 full time grounds keepers to make sure it is a place whose beauty will always honor those brave Americans killed in WWII who rest there.
My father, Truman Roberts, is one of those brave young men. Last year at this time, I described the search that led me to his grave and how others could find lost loved ones as well.
Over this Memorial Day weekend, I invite you to reflect on those who have given their lives for our country in wars over the years and to feel grateful. And, if you’d like to know more about Truman Roberts and see the Ardennes American Cemetery, read this earlier Memorial Day post.
While many of us will be thinking of new and different gifts to buy for Mom this week, I’d like to share a beautiful letter written by an 80-year old mother in answer to her grown son’s asking what he could do to be a better son. I’m not going to change a word but let you enjoy it exactly as it was written. Perhaps this will give you an idea of what to do after the new gift is opened and all through the coming 365 days. I hope you enjoy this letter as much as I did.
“How to be the appreciated or a ‘better’ son or daughter? It’s very simple, yet complicated. We are not looking for money or a high style of living or to be more important than your mate. We are looking to feel loved. To be loved and to feel loved are not the same. It’s the phone call out of your busy day that shows you care even if the conversation is mundane. It’s not only your presence in a room that fulfills us. It’s the affection and conversation that is gold. Don’t be afraid to show how much you care. Pretend we are your children, for in the end, that’s who we really are.”
I have recently discovered a very helpful blog written by someone who is actually helping her senior parents in their day-to-day lives. I must admit, I envy her the opportunity to do this and wish my mom were still here to help. This website is http://asourparentsage.net.
Recent posts include; Seniors and Media Literacy, Alzheimer’s: Helping a parent manage financial issues, and Protecing a Senior Parent’s Online Privacy. Each of the dozen or so posts I read contained valuable and well-researched information that would undoubtedly be most helpful to anyone helping a senior parent navigate the increasingly complex world of finances, healthcare, relationships and just general day-to-day life issues. I plan to personally recommend this site to several friends and relatives who are fortunte enough to still have their parents.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Simon & Schuster: 2009 ISBN-10: 1439116881) is a wonderful book. Written by a neuroscientist, this award-winning first novel chronicles a Harvard professor’s descent into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It is a painfully accurate depiction of dealing with this heartbreaking disease and also offers valuable insight for family members and caregivers.
Since reading this book as background research for the book I was writing on ways to bring joy to senior parents, I have recommended it to dozens of friends. I also gave it to the husband of a dear friend who has been struggling with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease for the past several years. Just after reading Stilll Alice, I phoned my friend and asked if we could have lunch. She said she would be delighted, then passed the phone to her husband who now handles the details of their life.
When we met at the restaurant, it was obvious life had become more difficult for her in the year since we’d last seen each other. After reading Stilll Alice, I could understand how the world must seem to her so much better than I had last year. When something on the table looked to her like something it wasn’t, I understood. When she changed subjects in mid-sentence, I understood. When she couldn’t quite find the door on her way out, I understood why her thoughtful husband needed to take her arm and gently guide her to and through the door.
I recommend this book to anyone who cares for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in the hope that understand can make your time together easier for you both.
Be well and bring joy to those you love while you can.
“What can I do to be a better Mother-In-Law?” I can only wonder how many mothers-in-law have been brave enough to ask this question. But it would seem to be a perfect thing to ask one of the most important people in the world; the person who spends every day and every night with the person a mother probably love more than anything in the world – her baby boy or girl, regardless of their age.
A long-time colleague was brave enough. And she got a simple, practical answer. “Just give me a little notice when you’d like to stop by so I can be ready. I’m happy to have your visit but I’d like a little time to get ready.” And my friend said she was happy to do that.
Then, a few weeks later, she was pleased and surprised when her daughter-in-law asked her, “What can I do to be a better daughter-in-law?” She told the young woman that she and her husband were very happy to help the young couple in any way possible and that they would like to feel that their efforts were appreciated. And they’re now getting little messages of appreciation and sincere thanks for special help. Nothing earth-shaking, just a little appreciation.
Since I didn’t hear these conversations, I can only assume that the tone of voice used by both was positive and not accusatory since both had a sincere intent to make their relationship as strong as possible. And both women have tried to fulfill the others request as best they could.
It is my hope that as you read this, you will think broadly about any and all relationships you would like to strengthen and consider asking that special someone, “How can I be a better……” It really is a Magic Question.
It has been some time since I’ve devoted my attention to our Make Mom Happy by Mail blog and am happy to have a quiet afternoon to bring you up to date. As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book to share the concept behind Make Mom Happy By Mail with as many people as possible. That concept is simply to ask your loved one, especially an older relative or friend, “How can I be a better ………(daughter, son, friend, granddaughter, etc.)
I’m fortunate to be working with a delightful agent who has confidence in the book and has worked for several months to find just the right publishers and to put the proposal into the best possible form. Along the way, she suggested we change the title from Make Mom Happy By Mail to The One Magic Question. This made lots of sense to me because it really was the question that started our Make Mom Happy by Mail campaign and resulted in all the great things that followed. So that’s the new title, The One Magic Question.
And, with that as the title, I’m now starting our 100 People Ask The Magic Question campaign to discover how others would answer the Magic Question, “How could I be a better…….” The first few responses were touching. Here’s an example from a young colleague.
“I asked my mother what I could do to be a better daughter. She said, “You haven’t been in touch much lately. Call more often so that I know you’re OK and I won’t have to worry as much.”
My colleague went on to write, “I know that in recent months I’ve been so busy with my work life that I’ve been neglecting my personal life, but I thought it was only impacting me. But through your question, I now realize that it’s been impacting others as well. Thank you for the eye opener and the first steps to getting back on track”
I loved this response because it reminded me of how very simple most requests are and how easily they can be answered. It also reminded me that mothers and dads just keep worrying about the wellbeing of their children, whether those children are 6 months, 6 years or many times that old.
I invite you to participate in our 100 People Ask The Magic Question campaign by asking someone in your life “What can I do to be a better…….” Then, if you are willing, just send me a quick note telling me who you asked and what they said. I’ll let you know the 10 most often heard responses and more sweet stories in future blogs, as well as in the book. And I’ll be very grateful. Oh yes, you might also suggest that they ask someone they love The Magic Question – perhaps you!
Thanks for visiting Make Mom Happy by Mail. Be well and bring joy to someone you love.