Great Ideas

The acknowledgement that feeds us (and what feeds those we care about).

To be a great friend or partner, we should seek to understand the type of reinforcement that means the most to those we care about. It's not safe to assume it's similar to our preferences, and the golden rule (treat others as you want to be treated) may not hit the spot. 

I have one friend who lights up when they're asked good questions in an area where they're proficient. Another who wants to feel they're a nice person. One who needs lots of little acknowledgment, another who craves only occasional praise. And the target of the reinforcement is important, too.

People tell me all the time how organized I am. How on top of things I am. That's nice to hear but does not fuel me one bit. I had a reader tell me I was "wickedly inventive" and another said I had a terrific imagination. Hearing that felt awesome and energizing. 

Sure, it has a lot to do with upbringing and we could judge that being needy in X way is wrong or a sign of low self-esteem. But who cares about whether what they need seems appropriate or excessive?  They need it and we care about them.

My goal is to provide honest reinforcement BEFORE they ask for, or hint for, it (when concern/disappointment has started to bubble).

Humans are enigmatic, unpredictable, and chaotic beings who have lived and been shaped by a circuitous life. Amazingly talented and terrifically flawed.


Why the stories we tell and retell reveal how we ought to live.

Imagine you’re at a gathering with friends. The mood is light and lively.  Adult beverages and tasty snacks abound. Each person tells stories that elicit sighs, laughs, or both. Anecdotes about the time they drifted out to sea on a float, survived an avalanche, drove a riding lawnmower into a canal, or accidentally blew up their work shed. Perhaps it’s the story about completing a marathon is most enthralling.

Now it’s your turn. Which stories will you tell?

Now imagine that you’re in a hospital bed dealing with stage four cancer. You take stock of your life and spend time with friends and family. Once the talk moves past treatment plans and prognosis, you recall and share the experiences that made you feel alive. Which stories will you remember?

Although these two situations couldn’t be more different, I believe we’d share some of the same stories. We love tales with twists, near misses, triumphs, conflicts, and flawed but determined heroes—in fiction and real life. Whether we’re chatting it up at a family reunion, reconnecting with a friend, or navigating a mid-life crisis, the anecdotes we share are often those where things went seriously sideways.  The times we nearly failed or did something we didn’t know was possible. We triumphed, or quasi-triumphed, through grit and a healthy dose of devil-may-care attitude. We played full out.

I’ve participated in lively gatherings and faced serious health troubles and noticed how stories affected my engagement and which tales pulled others in. In early 2020, these observations went KABOOM in my mind and I realized, for the first time in a palpable way, that our misadventures fuel fulfillment and contribution as much as, or more than, trouble-free experiences. Run of the mill successes are important but unremarkable. We don’t boast about the time we saved money for a year and bought a new Honda Accord. It’s the time we snuck into the monks’ hot springs that we brag about!

While this epiphany was fascinating and welcome, something else was brewing. Then I asked myself a simple but transformative question. How should this realization affect how I live?

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These are the opening words of an essay collection I'm working on called, Far From Ordinary

This epiphany is real, and something that is both haunting and shaping my actions. I fear that I've been living far too ordinarily for my spirit to thrive. And I am fueled by the notion that I know how to shake things up.


Progress and Momentum: Broken Windows Theory - Applied to Ourselves

The Broken Windows Theory is, in summary, the notion that small visible "broken" things, like windows, may lead to other/additional broken things (say, peeling paint), and can create downward momentum (the neighborhood in decline). Also, that replacing or fixing small visible features can create positive momentum. Basically, it's the Butterfly Effect as applied to how our environment looks and makes us feel. Cluttered desk, cluttered mind, and all that jazz.

What if this applies to us - our individual physical selves?

  • Broken windows could be - stopped wearing makeup, unkept hair, wearing unflattering clothing, not using a moisturizer/wrinkle cream, an untrimmed mustache/beard, cracked nails.
  • Fixed windows could be - the opposite of the above

I think it does, and I'm experimenting with reversing the downward momentum with the positive. To be clear, this is not intended to be a commentary about how to define beauty - like that everyone OUGHT to _______ (wear makeup, have neat appearance). It's more about bringing out your best - whatever that is.

  • The quirky artist
  • The elegant book lover
  • The sporty sportsperson
  • The anti-trend good neighbor
  • The natural looking best friend

Whatever is uniquely and authentically YOU is the unbroken version.

Speaking personally, since the stay-at-home pandemic started, I've stopped: getting my hair cut and colored (rightly so!), wearing any makeup (I never wore much), using moisturizer (why????), wearing earrings, using the "good stuff" face cleaner (makes no sense), and I haven't updated my eyeglass prescription in 3 years (perhaps understandable during the pandemic). In total, this adds up to a lot of broken windows and a general malaise about myself.

For the last week I've been using my good face cleaner and wrinkle cream again. Didn't have to purchase anything because I already had it. And I've made an appointment to get a fresh haircut and color (in 5 weeks), and will be getting an eye exam next week. This momentum feels good and I think will lead to other small and positive changes that might also reverberate.

It's OK and understandable that a yearlong pandemic has had an impact. And I'm happy to be reclaiming a bit of myself in spite of it still being a challenging time. Fewer broken windows seems like a good thing!


Unconventional Ideas for Valentine's Day

We've been swirling in the covid pandemic neutral zone for a year. It's draining, right? And here comes another holiday dreamt up by marketers (my money is on jewelry stores or florists). Why not try something different? Here are a few fun and covid-compliant ways to celebrate with your bestie (aside from the obvious bedroom antics and I'm not going there).

Adopt a Three-toed Sloth. Nothing says I love you like a sloth photo and plushie. 

Do a lip-synch performance of poetry read by celebrities. Like The Raven read by Vincent Price. Sure, you could just read the poem using your own voice, but let's face it, you're no Vincent Price.

Play opposites day. For one day, wear each other's close and attend each other's zoom meetings. Drink each other's drinks and sit in each other's favorite chairs in front of the telly. Use makeup and wigs if you've got them. This is an idea that will build empathy, and we all need more empathy.

Bake and eat cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A different type of cookie for each meal. Cookies are a synonym for happiness.

Speak like Shakespeare or don't speak at all. Just for one day, of course, it would be taxing to keep up. After a full day being the bard, lay your head down on your pillow and whisper alls well that ends well into your sweetie's ear. Hopefully they won't reply good riddance, wench.

I hope you give one of these ideas a try and report back to me. All the best to you and your bestie!

 


Wish List #135 - Bring Back Big Shoulder Pads!

Today's vibe. "Jane's Getting Serious" by Jon Astley circa 1987. I remember standing with a couple of pals at the crowded bar at Malarkey's in Bethesda, MD, when I first heard this song.

As soon as I heard it, I blurted, "It's the ketchup song!" A Heinz commercial featuring Matt LeBlanc played used the song and its distinct synth and guitar notes.

I love the 80s alternative mojo it evokes. I gotta go gel my hair so it's standing straight up now (the hair had to compete with the shoulder pads, which I sincerely miss even today because shoulder pads make everyone look like they mean business).

 


One is more than one: Reverberate in the Affirmative

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I believe in the power of the butterfly effect (from chaos theory, small changes can make a big difference) and that everything we do reverberates. Kind and helpful acts reverberate and so do mean and unhelpful ones. Everything we do is more than the sum of its parts. Nothing is just for this moment. 

It's an interesting idea to ponder as we plan our days and weeks and make choices about who we'll be in any given moment and how we'll act.

A kind thought is more than just that thought.

A mean thought is more than just that thought. 

Walking 20 minutes is more than 20 minutes of walking.

Eating that delicious donut is more than the five minutes and 500 calories. 

This is heavy. This opens up new possibilities. 

How about a weekly mantra.

One good act is more than one good act.

One is more than one.


Ignite possibility by owning flaws - A life lesson from Eminem's 8 Mile

This is a post about organizing for possibility. I watched the movie 8 Mile, which stars rapper Eminem and is loosely based on his early life.

The movie features rap competitions where rappers battle each other with words. There are several rounds, and during each challenge the loser is eliminated until the final two face off for the championship. These raps are spontaneously generated because they don't know who they'll battle until it's announced. Each performer tries to one-up the other and show how clever and poetic they are (hurling personal insults an such). It takes a lot of talent to compete - a mastery with words, phrases, rhyme, and rhythm.

The winner earns street credibility.

SPOILER ALERT: I'm about to discuss the final scene in the movie.

The dramatic ending of the movie is one of these competitions. This is Eminem's shot to show what he's got. He blasts through the early rounds, destroying his opponents with words. And then he has to battle the champion.

The mood in the room is tense and the crowd is clearly rooting for the champion. There's a coin toss to determine who will go first - most prefer to go last. The champion wins the toss. Eminem will go first.

He has 90 seconds to give his best rap. How does he approach it? A bit shaky at first but then he does something fascinating. He disses himself. He admits his flaws, he acknowledges all the bad names people call him, he fesses up to all the trash talking that could be hurled his way. He gives it to the champion, too, by revealing that he'd attended a private school and came from a finer background than most people knew (which is embarrassing). He ends his rap by inviting the champion to "tell the crowd something they don't about me."

Whoa - he takes the wind right out of the champion's sail! The champion has nothing to say and he caves. Eminem is victorious.

While I was listening to Eminem's final rap, I couldn't help but think that Dale Carnegie would be proud. You might think that sounds crazy. In How to Win Friends and Influence People (still the best book on human relations IMHO) Carnegie recommends that we be the first to be open about our failings. That we own our flaws. That we beat everyone to the punch.

This is not the same thing as being down on ourselves. I'm not suggesting this. We are all highly talented and highly flawed. And when we can be open about those flaws, we are better able to use our talents fully because because we carry mental garbage about it. Being open also allows us to better address our flaws.

And to be clear, even though Eminem dissed himself, he knew he was talented. He had dreams he knew he could fulfill if he did his best.

We can be confident and open about our flaws.

As Eminem walks out of the building after becoming the new champion, the theme song to the movie, a song by Eminem called Lose Yourself, comes on and takes us through the credits. This song was featured in a Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler (and also in 2020 for Biden/Harris). The lyrics are quite well written and motivating. And the last line of the song says it all.

"You can do anything you put your mind to."

This is not a post about being down on ourselves. It's a post about being cool with you, warts and all, such that you can keep growing and improving.

Even though I ruined the ending for you, check out the movie if you haven't seen it. It has a lot of curse words and deals with mature themes, as we might expect from a gritty movie about struggling rappers from Detroit. You've been warned!

I include Lose Yourself on my exercise playlist because it's motivating! 


Planning is NOT a Four Letter Word

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Caveat* I acknowledge that some are not comforted by the idea of planning when faced with uncertainty. But I am. It's December 31st, and I've got my new Panda Planner set up and ready to use tomorrow morning. 

  • I've taped my 2021 plan (it's flexible and might change) into the back of my planner. You can see my plan here.
  • The monthly page is filled out - not much information here as it's a snapshot.
  • Week 1 weekly page is completed - lots of great detail here for how I can have a successful week (taking uncertainties into account).
  • Day 1 daily page is ready to go. I'll fill in the first part of the day tomorrow morning. Five minutes. Then I'll complete the End of Day Review and prep the next day's page tomorrow night. Five minutes. Here's what that page looks like.

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Ten minutes each day. Another five minutes once per week. This works for me, but I'm a plotter, a planner, and a recovering control freak. And agile planner, though! I hope you've created whatever plan - or anti-plan - that works best for you.

Happy New Year! Yippee for 2021! 


How to Have More Microadventures - Outside Online

Outside

I like this piece written by Alastair Humphreys for Outside Magazine called, 8 Principles for Living a More Adventurous Life

In particular, I love the idea of microadventures (and mini-misadventures, which I've written about). Humphreys wrote that the secret sauce seems to be:

"Simple + short + local + cheap = an achievable microadventure, unlike the vicarious adventure thrills you read about in magazines but never actually do yourself."

As you think about ways to make 2021 more satisfying than 2020 was - even with this pandemic still raging - the idea that "there's always something new to try" is worth mulling.


Invitation: Let's Get Planning for a Satisfying 2021

I'll be taking the next two-three weeks to create my 2021 plan. I look forward to generating Big Hairy Audacious Agile Goals BHAAGS (extra "A" intentional) and a scenario plan story that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand and tingle. There's no downside to thinking big, as long as I have a process that allows me to track my progress and make adjustments. I'll use my Panda Planner to take stock of my daily achievements and plan for an adventurous and misadventurous day, week, month, and year. I'll be blogging about this. But for now, here's my first order of business.

Note: If you'd like to work on your 2021 plan, I've created a private and temporary Facebook Group. You can join me here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/736192860340186

  1. December 15-31st. Generate a vision story for 2021. Create a picture for what an adventurous and audacious year looks like. For me, for where I'm at in my life/health, for this time. By the 28th, I hope to have distilled and crafted a story that expresses my intention for 2021. Here's a copy of my 2019 Goal Statement that I'll be using as my template. Notice that the top portion expressed my key themes and thrusts and the bottom was my scenario plan (expressed in past tense). The way you format or color your story plan is up to you. I did mine this way because it's a perfect fit to adhere to the back page of my planner and I love ORANGE.

Lisas 2019 goal statement