Dan Schuck is the father to twin boys, and a former financial services technology executive with a degree in Communication from the University of California, San Diego. A survivor of mental health-related tragedy in his family, Dan's penchant for storytelling has led him to author his first "Children's Book for Grown-Ups" to raise awareness and donations for this critical cause.
He is also extremely adept at writing about himself in the third person and doesn’t think that’s odd at all!
Can you tell me a bit about where the original concept for the book came from?
I’ve been intrigued with this “Glass Half Question” my whole life and have often wondered why we are so accepting that it’s a binary choice that determines which of two camps a person belongs. I’ve never thought that was the point of the question.
As a corporate leader and business consultant, I have often used this question to help teams work on ‘developing flexible perspectives”. Being able to look at the Glass from different angles, and in different ways can be very empowering. Is a full glass really good? Or really risky? Don’t we need that empty space in the glass? Without that space, is there any opportunity?
When I met the love of my life, Jill, she had just been coming through a difficult divorce and some real challenges with her mental health. She suffered with bipolar disorder and maintaining a balanced perspective could be especially challenging for her. We used the ‘glass half question’ concepts to talk about it.
It's a children's book for adults. Why did you decide to put it in a children’s book format?
We’ve all heard this question before, but probably have not given it a lot of thought. But as we explore what that question means just a little more, it gets pretty ‘deep’ pretty fast.
This information could have been presented in 200 pages of block text, like a typical self-help book, but the message would have been lost. The concepts in the book, at first, seem quite simple and childish.
The question is best explored with ‘childlike wonder’ and I’ve tried to make this book something fun and simple that you can get through quickly, understand, and then re-read (or at least re-think) as you begin to see yourself in the pages.
Can you explain how the book is an ‘exercise for the mind’?
Whether or not one has a mental health disorder, we all need to work on managing our mental health, just like we do our physical health. We do physical exercises and stretching for our physical fitness and health; this is a form of a ‘mind exercise’ that we can do for our mental health.
This book is really about perspective and balance. It asks the reader to look at the partially filled glass with many different viewpoints. I used to do this very ‘exercise;’ first with the teams at work that I managed, and later with Jill, holding a real partially filled glass in my hand and talking about what the question really tells us.
Originally you were just going to make one book as a Valentine’s Day gift to Jill, your girlfriend. It's a tragic story, but can you tell me a bit about what happened?
I was putting this into a homemade version of a children's book format, with cut out pictures and staples and glue, as a present for Jill for Valentine’s Day. She was going through a particularly rough time with her career and family and really struggling to keep the balanced perspective we’d worked so hard to develop.
But, Jill passed away, horribly and unexpectedly, the week before, the first week of February. Her suicide, induced by a manic-depressive episode, is something I am still coming to grips with.
I decided to publish the book that I’d never been able to give to Jill. Working on it was a kind of coping mechanism for me, and I thought this might make a good gift book (we all know someone who could "use a little perspective").
Donations from the proceeds of this book will be made to a Glass Half Question fundraising campaign for the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.
It cannot escape any of us that Mental Health issues in our society need more attention, action, and compassion.
The books not specifically about suicide, but it does deal with perspective and an overall sense to end your life has been so touched by that issue. With that in mind, what advice would you give to those who are dealing with someone who they feel might be struggling with that issue?
I have 5 Tips for the Friends of Loved Ones of a Suicidal Person
Have Courage and Talk to the Person you are worried about: Ask them if they are feeling suicidal -- don't wait for them to volunteer that. If you suspect it, they've probably thought it. Don't let 'stigma' about the topic stop you from asking the hard questions. You will not create suicide by talking about it; it is more dangerous to hold your concerns than to raise the topic
Try to Control Your Anger: A natural reaction when someone we love tells us they are having suicidal thoughts is to feel anger, often directed right at the person. It can make the person unwilling to share their concerns with you. The argument of “Think about what this would do to everyone you love, especially me” is extremely valid – but might not be the most effective and may even push the suicidal person to keep further thoughts of suicide a secret from you.
No Simple Answers: Another person’s mental state is really hard to understand, and often our wish to provide ‘All you gotta do is…” answers, really miss the mark. Do not try to ‘make the problem’ simple for the other person; you may believe it is, but they clearly do not.
Be an Active Listener: Be there and let this person tell you what their feelings are. But also ask questions that elicit further discussion without being condemning. “Why do you feel that way?” “What would happen if…?” The idea is to keep them talking about alternatives. Many of the “Glass Half Empty? …or Half Full?” concepts are useful for helping to look at the problem with different perspectives.
Ask for Help: Don't keep this secret to yourself. You need the help of the rest of your friends and family, but also consider professional help. Organizations like the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) are ready to help you. Don’t put it all on the person feeling suicidal to call for help. You can take action too. The national suicide prevention hotline is: 1-800-273-8255
What would you like the readers to take away from reading this book?
Perspective and a willingness to accept that perspective takes practice. The book itself can be re-read, and new ideas may seem to pop out. But that’s not because of the book itself, it’s about the kind of day you are having, and where your mental state is today,
Are you currently working on other books or projects?
The “Children’s Book for Grown-Ups” format has proven to be quite effective and very popular. And so, I have a series of ‘philosophy lessons’ I’d like to teach in this form. I’ve started work on a “Chicken or the Egg” follow-up to the Glass Half Question book.
About The Book
Book Title: A Glass Half Empty? ...or Half Full?: A Children's Book for Grown-Ups
The Question of Pessimism vs. Optimism is often misunderstood, or worse yet, misinterpreted. But by taking a childlike and playful approach, we can explore one of humankind's most ancient riddles and learn some of the deeper lessons that The Question can teach each of us.
The Question exists, in some form, in every language across the globe, and its origins are as ancient as the human spirit.
But does this simple question really tell us if one is a Pessimist or an Optimist?
Doesn't it matter what's in our Glass?
Can we use The Question to help us with finding balance, managing stress, and enjoying life?
Using humor and innocence, this book provides us the opportunity to determine the fullness of our own glass, and how to apply it to our daily lives.
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