Commencement Day


Dear family, friends, and students,

It’s commencement day, my favorite day of the semester (and not just because I get to wear my cool robes).

It’s such an emotionally-charged day – the end of a chapter, and the beginning of a new adventure that is largely unknown.  It’s exciting, and scary.  There’s a sense of accomplishment, along with the knowledge that there’s still a lot to be done in this world.

I have the greatest faith in the young people I work with.  They’re smart, and ambitious in the best possible way.  They’re going to remake the world, and change it for the better.  Please support our graduates with your prayers, your hopes, and your confidence.  Lift them up.  They’re going to do amazing things.

I believe in you, always.

Dr. Hamel



Strength comes (Joseph Campbell)



“Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment-not discouragement-you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.“

– Joseph Campbell

Self-serving bias


Dear friends, colleagues, and students,

Being “woke” requires a certain amount of self-reflection, and that isn’t always pleasant.  It can be uncomfortable to take a hard look at your own behaviors.  Case in point: this thing we communication scholars call “self-serving bias.”

Self-serving bias works like this:  If I do well at something, it’s because I’m so worthy.  If I do badly, it’s because of some external factor beyond my control.

I feel a certain wry amusement with my students because we study this phenomenon in class, yet they never seem to be able to recognize it in themselves.  If they do well on the exam, it’s because they’re smart and they studied hard.  If they do poorly, it’s because the professor is unfair, the exam is too hard, the room was too warm, the guy who sits beside them breathes oddly, or their shoes were too tight.

I’m guilty of it too, but I only notice when I check in with myself.

Think about it.  If you’re late for work, is it truly because traffic was heavy, you hit every red light along the way, and got stuck behind a slow driver?  Or could you have left the house a bit earlier?  If you forgot to bring materials to a meeting, is it truly because you’re so swamped with other work, you had to take a phone call just now, and the copier was broken?  Or did you forget to write it down and plan ahead?

We all do it.  It’s self-preservation when we feel threatened.  It’s face-saving.  But hardly anyone recognizes it in themselves.

I try to.  Do you?

Be well,





Dear friends,

Today, I am pondering this quote:

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

– Maya Angelou

I find it interesting how Ms. Angelou distinguishes between “encountering defeats” and “being defeated.”

We encounter defeats every day: Things don’t work out as planned, another person disagrees with us, we fall short of a goal.  But encountering defeat is something different from BEING DEFEATED.  Being defeated is something that takes place in the mind and spirit.  It’s a state of despair, of giving up, of abandoning goals and aspirations.  We stop caring, we stop trying.

In the early 2000s, I became seriously ill, and was hospitalized for five weeks in the spring.  Some of that time was spent in intensive care on a ventilator.  I was scheduled to begin my Ph.D. program in the fall.  By the time I was discharged in the summer, I was as weak as a newborn baby, in a lot of physical pain, and could hardly do anything but sleep.  A walk to the mailbox at the end of the road exhausted me.  Still, I was determined.

I moved to a new city that August and started my doc program.  There were times I was teaching a class and was half doubled-over with pain.  There were times when my medications left my mind too foggy to study, read, or write.  These were defeats, to be sure – but I kept plugging ahead.

It took ten years to finish my Ph.D., but I did it.  I didn’t allow myself to be defeated.

Dear ones, whatever challenges you are facing today, please think about this difference between experiencing defeat and becoming defeated.  Get up, get dressed, and enter the world, even when you don’t feel like it.  Reaching a goal … it happens in it’s own time, and it takes the time it takes.

With love,


Journal prompt / thought prompt: set your intention


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Dear friends,

Take a moment, right now, to set your intention for the rest of the day.  And when your focus wavers, consciously bring it back.

Do this over and over again, as many times as it takes.

And it’s ok to change your intention.




Reading is a collaborative act



“Reading is a collaborative act between text and reader, so no text is read ‘objectively,’ and none gives up pure meaning.  We bring ourselves to everything we read – including the people around us, the most complicated texts of all.  We perceive patterns and connections; we foreground some things and subordinate others; some details we fail to see altogether.  The best we can do is to try diligently, continually to expand our vision.  This is where imagination collaborates with fact, taking us toward some kind of truth.”

– Gail Griffin

Do you pick up your toys and go home?



Dear friends,

I belong to a number of social media groups, particularly on Facebook.  From time to time, things can get heated.  This week, two very active members have departed from one of these groups, and they left with a bang, not a whimper.  Both of these people chose to unleash their frustration and anger, then announce they were leaving.  They were quitting our sandbox, picking up their toys, and going home.  So there!

Their frustration was rooted in the fact that other members didn’t agree with their views.  Tensions were rising, no doubt due to the “disinhibition effect” – our tendency to act more freely when we can hide behind anonymity.  Add to that the irritation of being unable to change people’s minds on deeply personal issues, and you can have a recipe for disaster.

The moderator did her best to keep things civil, but in the end, these two individuals chose (separately, on different occasions and due to different issues) to pitch a fit and flounce out of the room.  Some members said “good riddance,” while others wished that fences could be mended.

When do you walk away from a contentious situation?  It’s a tough call, that requires balancing stress levels, effort, and the importance of the issue.  At some point, you might decide that the drama isn’t worth the aggravation, and that for your own sake, you must remove yourself from the situation.  That’s valid.  We’ve all done it.

It takes courage and fortitude to hang in there when you find yourself in the minority, to remain calm, to search for different ways to explain your opinion.  Sure, we’re more comfortable around “our own kind,” and it’s a lot more enjoyable to keep company with those who think as we do.  To stay is to be vulnerable, to open ourselves to attack.  That’s not fun.

But we just might learn something.

I’m not saying that anyone should stay in an abusive situation.  I’m referring to these online arguments where it’s so easy to walk away, to “hit and run,” to unfriend someone because we see the world differently.  While I might never see the world your way, I can developing my critical thinking skills, my tolerance level, and even arrive at a deeper clarity of my own beliefs by listening to what you have to say.

Let’s stay engaged, if we can.  Yes, we must look after our own stress levels, but taking a break isn’t the same thing as walking away completely.  We live in community with others – yes, even with “them.”

We’re divided, but I still have faith that diplomacy matters.





Journal prompt / thought prompt: You don’t get to keep it


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Today’s prompt: Reflect on the objects / belongings you’re attached to.  My reflection is below:

“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”

Pema Chodron

I love this as a metaphor for life, and for attachment.  Many of us get attached to “things” (me included).  I try to remind myself that we don’t *really* “own” anything in this world, we merely get to *use* things for a time.  We come into the world without possessions, and we leave the same way.  While we’re here, we get to use some material objects, but they aren’t a part of us in any real sense.  Or at least they shouldn’t be.  They’re just tools.

I try to remember this when I experience the loss of something (some thing) I’ve deemed important.  I try to remember that material objects have no inherent meaning, other than the meaning I’ve given them.  And I try to examine my attachments, and whether they truly serve my peace of mind.

We get to use things while we’re here.  Let’s use them for our good, and the good of others.

What are you attached to?