I’ve been a huge Peanuts fan ever since the strip first appeared. Of course I know all about Joe Shlabotnik, Charlie Brown’s baseball hero – a minor league player with few baseball skills.
But there’s one thing that Joe Shlabotnik has mastered: showboating. As Charlie Brown explains, Joe is famous for his “spectacular catches of routine fly balls.”
Joe Shlabotnik often pops into my head when I read an article or book that does a spectacular job of discussing routine and familiar ideas. Here, for example, is a paragraph from a November 22, 2019 issue of Parade magazine: “Harry Connick Jr. Already Knows What He’ll Be Most Grateful For This Thanksgiving.”
A few months ago, Harry Connick Jr. gave one of his daughters a life lesson that can only be gleaned through years of tried-and-true experience. “She was telling me that her workload can be overwhelming,” he says. His advice: Take it one small piece at a time. “If you don’t look at what you have to do in its entirety, it keeps you from feeling stressed and defeated.”
It’s good – even essential – advice. But I don’t believe that Connick’s hard-working daughter needed to hear it. Is there any successful person who hasn’t already learned to break big tasks into small ones?
How many Parade readers gasped when they read that paragraph? “Wow – what a great idea! I never thought of that. I’ve always believed you’re supposed to write a term paper/clean the basement/fill out your tax return/ in one non-stop session.”
My answer: None.
But if you thumb through some popular magazines, you’ll often come across similar bits of conventional, I’ve-heard-it-all-before wisdom:
- Are you a parent? “Love your kids – but make sure you set limits.”
- Did you just have a baby? “If she cries, see if she’s hungry.”
- Are you trying to sell your house? “Make sure the lawn is mowed and the rooms are clean.”
Again, good advice – but haven’t most readers already figured these things out for themselves?
Let’s go back to Harry Connick. He’s a smart, talented, hard-working guy. His three daughters are doing great, and he and his wife have been married for 25 years. I’m sure he has some amazing ideas about marriage, parenting, and success. There are probably some quirky stories. Why not talk about who he really is and what his life is really like?
Now let’s talk about you. What lessons has life taught you – and how? Do you have some unusual advice to share and some offbeat stories to tell?
Or are you going to settle for making yourself sound like everyone else – and telling us what we already know?
To put it another way: Are you a Joe Shlabotnik?