Science

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!


Wonder Woman Pose Works Wonders - Art Imitates Life

Untitled design (10)

I had to laugh. In my editor's comments about my latest novel, STIFF LIZARD, he mentioned that my protagonist seems to put her hands on her hips a lot. Which was not the case in the last three novels that featured the same leading lady.

Why the difference? Why the reliance on the Wonder Woman Pose?

Perhaps it is me, not my character, that needed to invoke the powerful nonverbal stance. Perhaps a year of staying at home and avoiding dangerous misadventures has me needy for the confidence that a well-articulate Wonder Woman Pose can facilitate. 

It's true. The pose works. Watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk below if you want to know the science. But give it a try twice a day for the next week and see if you feel ready to solve mysteries (yours, of course).

 

 


One is more than one: Reverberate in the Affirmative

Untitled design (10)

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! 


More Neutral Zone Considerations - The Power of Temporary Clarity

Untitled design (10)

Yesterday I blogged about how, during a transition/change, we can be more creative while in the messy, ambiguous, neutral zone. But I also mentioned how the neutral zone can be draining and frustrating, because things are fuzzy and in flux. One of the ways to lessen the negative impacts of the neutral zone is to define temporary systems. Make decisions for the next day/week/month. 

Here's how this holiday season will look.

Here's how I will complete this project.

Here's my role because the nonprofit has paused operations.

Here's how I'll get my walking miles in while I'm struggling with some tricky side-effects.

Here's my new budget for the next two months.

Here's what things will look like this week.

Here's how I'll define a great week given all that has happened.

Here's what staying in touch can look like.

Here are the things I can stop doing for the next _____ days/weeks/months.

We need to switch up our lives due to the pandemic, but these neutral zone coping techniques will help with other goals or changes as well. We should consider defining temporary systems, roles, or actions that will help us move toward the new beginning anytime we're hanging out in the neutral zone.


The Human Body is a System

Untitled design (10)

I had few health challenges until I was 35. Then the chaos-theory-reverberation-making-proverbial-shit-hit-the-fan. But this is not a woe is me post. It's a reflection on the circuitous path we have to walk/run/dance/jump when trying to investigate what ails us.

Wait, Lisa. Isn't that what doctors are for?

If I could hire a private investigator with a medical degree, sure. But our healthcare delivery system is fragmented and focused. And my primary care physician - theoretically the overseer of my care - is so overburdened that she is forced to farm out anything requiring more than ten minutes to resolve to specialists. 

I have a lot of "ologists" on my medical team. They're super smart about a few things. They've studied a small number of health problems in depth so they can get really good at treating them.

The problem with this is everything is connected. Human bodies are chaotic systems. Interesting fact: It was in the context of the body that Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, the Father of Systems Thinking, fathered systems thinking

"As long as we single out individual phenomena, we do not discover any fundamental difference between the living and the non-living." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Problems of Life: An evolution of modern biological thought

"In order to understand an organized whole, we must know both the parts and the relations between them." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, The History and Status of General Systems Theory

Having specialists looking at their assigned piece of me is helpful but insufficient. My oncologist doesn't know about diet or metabolism. My endocrinologist doesn't know about cancer or the heart. My cardiologist doesn't know about the digestive tract. My neurologist doesn't know about arthritis or strength. My personal trainer (not an ologist, but on the team) doesn't know about medications and blood test results. But my cancer affects my digestion. And the oral chemo I take affects my heart. And my metabolism affects my thinking and movement. And my diet affects everything. 

My job is to discover how things are connected, make meaning, and fill in gaps. To do this, I listen to my ologists and do a lot of research using reliable sources. Maybe I go back to my ologists with my findings. Sometimes I'm on my own.

It's a lot of work and my most important job. And when I figure something out, it's sweet like cherry pie.


Silly in Serious Times

2020 has ushered in some heavy shit. We had a lot going on before - global warming, healthcare, inequities, high chocolate prices - and now we've lomped on a global pandemic, high unemployment, and a divisive election. And murder hornets. And a record number of wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. None of these problems have been resolved. They keep going on and on and on. 

It's a dilemma for me, because I prefer to be silly and write about silly things. Baby goats jumping around in pajamas, home haircuts gone way wrong, and humorous books, movies, and anything.

Seems a tad insensitive to focus on cat hair sculptures when the world is falling apart.

Cat hair

Image Source: Ryo Yamazaki

Or this...(wow).

But then again, I'm not an epidemiologist or climate scientist or on the select team of biologists searching for murder hornets in Washington State. My super power is being silly. And while my unique capability doesn't come with a cape, and can't prevent someone from getting covid-19, it's all mine. 

Perhaps I'm not giving my small but mighty legion of readers enough credit. Surely they know that while I write goofy stuff, I'm also aching inside for those affected by whatever crap 2020 is handing them. And maybe, a moment of levity is just what some people need to help make Mondays less mondayish. Although a good scream can often help as well.


Is it LUCK or the Self-fulfilling Prophecy?

I've been exploring the self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? Not sure, maybe because I'm keen to generate new or more possibility. 

Check out this 5-minute video that explores if luck really exists and how our approach to luck might change our outcomes. 

Do you have a lucky charm? Say NO to rabbit's feet, please. Rabbits are too cute! You might get some luck and a bucketful of very bad juju, there.

No charm? You might you want to anoint one after watching this video? I'm thinking about this. And isn't this what the biker's bell is - a self-fulfilling lucky charm?

I hope you get lucky today and every day.

Lucky Video


Biker's Bell - Further on the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Lisa and hazel

Yesterday I wrote about the self-fulfilling prophecy and how it can enhance our lives or increase our struggles. 

Here's a humorous (I hope) essay about a biker's bell that demonstrates what can happen when one's self-fulfilling prophecy swirls out of control. This draft is based on a blog post I wrote years ago and have expanded.

Biker's Bell

I find myself in an awkward situation. I need a bell, but if I buy my own, it will not work. And if I ask for the bell, the one I receive will possess fewer protective properties. If I neither buy nor ask for the bell, it is unlikely that I will get one and I’ll have no protection at all. Let me explain.

Perhaps you’ve noticed motorcyclists who have a small bell hanging near their front fenders. Or maybe you’ve heard the little ding of such a bell and wondered why it was there? Legend…superstition…or a clever bell manufacturer tells us the bell protects bikers from road gremlins. Monsters that loathe bikers and show their animosity by tossing debris at us, placing nails in the road, or convincing deer to cross the road at the worst time.

The bell works because as the gremlins rise up from the road to attack, they get stuck in the bell of the bell, bounce around, and then vibrate to death. The little bell is powerful in a chaos-theory-packed-into-an-ounce-of-cheap-molded-metal kind of way. Butterfly effect except the bell and its tiny clapper are what reverberate. Kaboom go the road gremlins when confronted by a jangling bell.

And the gremlins are real. Most many some believe I heard a guy say the gremlins are half jackalope, half iguana; a mess of DNA that enables them to eat everything, outrun anything, and concoct creative ways to bring down motorcyclists. That last trait comes from the jackalope side, I’m sure. The cunning beasts. I once got hit by a warm burrito when there were no cars in front of me. Now where do you think that burrito came from? Who warmed it?

Gremlins are relentless but little bells appear to be the best way to combat them. And it’s not just getting a bell that matters, how we acquire it is important, too. Here’s the hierarchy of effectiveness:

Maximum: Someone gives you a bell without you asking for it—often from one biker to another because bikers understand the importance of having a bell attached to your motorcycle. Like mothers know you need underwear. This rider-to-rider tradition seems more prevalent among cruiser owners, by the way. I see and hear fewer bells on crotch rockets (speed bikes).

Good: Asking someone to buy a bell for you. This is not optimal, however, because you create some bad juju if you request the gift of a bell. Akin to begging for love, which is just sad.

Minimal: Buying your own bell. This approach offers some protection, but it’s better if someone else gives you a bell. They cost just a few bucks and come with a printed explanation of the legend. Most motorcycle stores sell biker’s bells.

Back to my problem. I have a new motorcycle - a lovely purple Honda Sabre 1100. Her name is Hazel (short for Purple Haze). When I sold my BMW R1200C a few years ago, I gave up my biker’s bell, passing it along to a fellow rider because it had served me well.

My challenge, now, is that I live in a new state and spend most of my time with non-riding writers. No one knows, or is likely thinking, they ought to get a bell for Hazel and me. My literary pals are lovely people, but clueless about gremlins and beneficial bell reverberations. What should I do?

This all sounds ridiculous, I know. I get it! I’m assigning meaning, weight, and importance to the bell I don’t have, and by doing so, I’m increasing its power over me. Is the fact that I am thinking and writing about this bell going to affect the quality and effectiveness of my two-wheeled adventures?

What about the fact that I just wrote that sentence? Have I now surrendered to the gremlins by broadcasting that I have no shield? It's a conundrum. I could buy a bell and get minimal protection. But what if I need the extra bit that comes from an unsolicited gift?

Have I now doomed myself by writing that sentence?

The psychologist in me—well, junior psychologist, what do you call someone who got a B.S. degree in psychology and an M.F.A. other than someone full of BS and able to write about it—knows that self-fulfilling prophecies are real. That our predictions, in and of themselves, make outcomes more likely. If we think it’s going to be a terrible hot mess of a day, it likely will be! And if I predict road gremlins will attack and make me crash, then…

I’m wondering if I ought not ride until I get a bell. Wiping out around a gravel covered corner or being t-boned by an SUV driver talking on his cellphone would be unappealing. Yes, gremlins cause those catastrophes, too. I wince thinking about me and Hazel skidding down the road. An eyes scrunching, stomach clinching wince, like how men react when someone mentions being kicked in the balls.

Have I doomed myself by writing that paragraph?

This situation feels like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. I can hear the ringing of the bell I don't have. At first it sounded like a soft little ding but is now bellowing strong like a migraine. As I pull on my full-face helmet, the ringing bounces around my head, crushing all non-bell-related thoughts. It’s unsettling, and the last thing you want to be on a motorcycle is off balance in any way.

“It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night.” Edgar Allan Poe

Have I become my own gremlin?

The quasi-junior-amateur-psychologist in me knows what projection looks like and how it manifests. Am I transmitting my fears and self-timidity about sitting on top of 600 pounds of steel, hot rubber, and gasoline onto miscreant mythical beings made of source creatures who couldn’t possibly have sex? Perhaps motorcyclists everywhere are using the legend of the biker’s bell to displace their guilt for living dangerously when their spouses are begging them to switch to mid-sized sedans.

Maybe the road gremlins exist as a stand in for the devil, or whatever evil supreme being we believe in and dread. That buying a bell is like going to church/synagogue/mosque or praying Hail Marys with rosary beads.

Although that would be transference, not projection. Who’s the amateur now?

Chaos theory, projection, transference, or who knows what’s behind this I’m guessing multi-billion-dollar market for little bells in fake velvet pouches. I’m petrified that I could research every aspect of this racket and be left with one unanswered question. What if the legend of the biker’s bell is true?

Have I doomed myself by writing this essay?

I need a damn bell, and I’m NOT asking for one.


Swirly Thinking - The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Untitled design (10) copy
I believe in the self-fulling prophecy. The sociological idea that predictions make things more likely to come true. 

Example: The young man worries that his girlfriend is going to dump him. This prediction affects his actions. He seems more leery, acts more needy, and expresses more doubts when with her. This makes him a less attractive boyfriend and she breaks up with him. 

The self-fulfilling prophecy is often discussed in the negative, but positive outcomes are possible, too. Human systems are chaotic (as in chaos theory) and our thoughts can be swirly in nature. Future results are sensitive to initial conditions - and every thought and action is like a butterfly flapping (as in the butterfly effect). Everything we do reverberates.

The self-fulfilling prophecy is fueled by swirly reverberations. This is not a linear equation; it's the opposite. And as chaotic beings, we likely have dozens of self-fulfilling prophecies at play at the same time. Some will be in conflict with one another. 

Example:

Swirly thoughts reinforcing GET IN SHAPE: I going to hire a personal trainer and commit to an accountability system for exercise. I can do this and it will work.

Swirly thought reinforcing GAINING WEIGHT: I'm doomed when it comes to health, so I should just enjoy myself and eat whatever I want.

Swirly thoughts reinforcing VEGGIES WILL HEAL ME: If I eat lots of vegetables, I will slow disease progression and feel better.

Swirly thoughts reinforcing DISEASE PROGRESSION: My weight is my greatest risk factor, and if I can't solve that problem, the rest is wasted effort.

Do you see how these conflicting beliefs could co-exist? What might be possible if I could let go of the least helpful beliefs and adopt better ones?

Bottom line: We have the opportunity to be more cognizant of the self-fulfilling prophecies we're reinforcing and deliberate about putting more helpful ones in play. 

BTW, this idea is why something like a Decision Filter can be useful.