Remember the days when an ice-cream was enough to make you happy or shift the mood?  Or a chocolate bar?  Or any delicious food thing that felt special?  I remember realizing in a concrete way when I was a teenager that those days were over.  Going to Baskin-Robbins was no longer going to cut it.

I had a similar realization yesterday about my older son:  his ice-cream days are over.   His depth of feeling and comprehension on a gut level of how difficult/disappointing/frustrating/sad life can be has hit a new level.  That’s not to say that things didn’t upset him deeply, even at a young age.  It’s just that before, even the worst things could be soothed by ice-cream or something like that.  When he was just over two and half years old my father died.  I still remember him walking in the room before we told him.  He knew.  He knew and felt that something big had happened.  And, without having the words to describe it, he knew it was sad.  But that sadness or feeling, whatever it was, didn’t step in the way of pleasure.  In fact, there was room for both.

Now he’s a teenager with more independence, more complicated hopes and dreams, more pressure on himself and surely from others.  And I feel sad for him that his ice-cream days are over.  As I watched him struggle the other night, I immediately thought of making and buying food he likes.  I had been on a semi-cooking strike …protesting the lack of appreciation I sometimes feel from my family for all the food I make, but seeing him struggle my instinct was to feed him, both physically and metaphorically.  And although food may not provide the cure-all that ice-cream once did, I believe that it nourishes him in important ways.

 

** Another of my long-neglected drafts finally being published.

I really liked this opinion piece from the New York Times: The Rise of the New Groupthink by Susan Cain.  Her first sentence, “Solitude is out of fashion” immediately resonated with me.  But it was the last sentence of the paragraph that struck that note of, Yes!  That is so true!  “Collaboration is in.”  I’ve noticed it especially in comments my kids make about school.  Collaboration is the new Holy Grail, and it kind of pisses me off!

I’m not against collaboration…it can be wonderful.  But a lot of collaboration is just draining and unproductive, and no one seems to want to admit that.  Why do we need a Holy Grail.  Can’t we just accept that different things work in different circumstances and for different people.   I have found myself flat-footed a few times when my son has complained about his teacher’s insistence on making it work with everyone. I want to back the teacher up and take his side, but I lack conviction because I am pretty solitary worker.  I mean, I get it, they’re kids, they do have to learn how to get along, and all that.  But can we also acknowledge that collaboration doesn’t always work?

Near the end of the article, the author explains that most humans have two contradictory impulses:

…we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy.

To harness the energy that fuels both these drives, we need to move beyond the New Groupthink and embrace a more nuanced approach to creativity and learning. Our offices should encourage casual, cafe-style interactions, but allow people to disappear into personalized, private spaces when they want to be alone. Our schools should teach children to work with others, but also to work on their own for sustained periods of time.

So, how does this relate to coaching you may ask?  Well, I have seen many creative and solitary people become dispirited by the constant feeling they don’t fit in and are different.  So they try to adapt.  And that is often the wrong thing to do.  Wrong in the sense that when you go against who you are and accept that your ways are wrong, you can’t shine.  Although there are plenty of exceptions of people who have stood their ground and done amazing things, the majority of us don’t necessarily have the singularity of vision and the strength of ego to constantly go against the tide.  We put so much energy in trying to just stay afloat that our creative genius is drowned.  I see it again and again.

After reading this article, I will say to my son:  You’re right.  It does sometimes suck to work with people. And that’s okay.  Sometimes it’s great.  Go off on your own.  Be brilliant.  Then ask for feedback and interaction.  Then go away alone again and see what you believe and stand by it.

How do you work best?  Do you like working in a group, alone or a mix?

When I first saw this on the web I thought, “Oh shit, I better not let my clients see this!”  Since then I’ve already referenced it in a couple sessions.  A few things about it stand out for me:

  • you don’t have to be stupid when you take a leap
  • you can test the waters, so to speak, before jumping (they might be frozen!)
  • the guy in the video is in pain but maybe has learned something about himself

Happy Halloween!

I wrote this post nearly three months ago, when I had recently come back from a month-long trip to the East Coast.  I never managed to push the Publish button…I’m not sure why.  Too busy?

This article in the NY Times really resonated with me.  The author, Tim Kreider, starts out:

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.”

I was already cringing by that point, hearing myself say those words.  And then he goes into something I’ve written about in this blog, and also thought a lot about.  Choice.  Busyness is not a choice for everyone, but for many people it is.

It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

We create the circumstances that make us busy.  I sometimes think I’m a slacker because I actively try not to be too busy.  I hate being too busy!  I’m not at my best when I’m running in ten directions at once.  There is no time to think.

Writing this blog gives me time to think.  If I see it that way it doesn’t feel like something that makes me busier, but instead something that makes my life richer.  So, if you’re still hanging in there with me, please expect more.  Soon.

How busy are you?

P.S.  A friend wrote me this morning and reminded me of the great ending to the article…for those of you who don’t read it, here it is.

I suppose it’s possible I’ll lie on my deathbed regretting that I didn’t work harder and say everything I had to say, but I think what I’ll really wish is that I could have one more beer with Chris, another long talk with Megan, one last good hard laugh with Boyd. Life is too short to be busy.

A couple months ago, a friend sent me a link to a TED talk about vulnerability.  I was traveling and didn’t get around to watching it until a couple days ago.  I realized right away that I had already seen the talk, and although I couldn’t remember any specifics, I remember liking it so I kept watching.  I liked it again.  And then I watched a follow-up talk the speaker, Brene Brown, did, also at TED.  This time it was about shame.

Main messages:

vulnerability = good

shame = bad

I figured I must have already written about vulnerability, but I couldn’t find anything on my blog specifically about that, so I thought I’d do it.  I definitely haven’t touched shame.

(Aside #1:  I just finished an article in The New Yorker about the phenomenon of TED talks, and had a pang of feeling cliche to be writing about another TED talk on my site!  The article is very interesting and points out what you kind of know after watching a TED talk:  they are skillfully produced.  And produced to pull you in and make you emotional.  I had to ask myself if I’m just another tool who drank the kool-aid.  But I decided, screw it…produced or not, these two talks bring up a lot of important things and if they give people something to think about and examine about their lives, then so be it.)

(Aside #2:  I watched the videos up in Bolinas, where I was providing moral support for my younger son who was going to a camp up there with a friend.  I was only supposed to stay for two days and then leave him for the rest of the week.  But my son was struggling.  He’s very attached to home and family and he has a hard time stepping out of his comfort zone.  He doesn’t like to feel vulnerable.  Every time I talked with him about staying alone, he would tell me to speak more quietly.  He didn’t want his friend to know he was nervous.  He was embarrassed.  And then I realized I was also feeling vulnerable because I know that some people feel I am too soft with my son.  And I know I am sometimes, but I honestly don’t see the point in pushing him too far too fast.  But at the same time I know he needs to become independent and learn to cope in uncomfortable situations.  What was the “right” thing to do?

After I dropped my son and his friend at camp yesterday morning, I drove away.  Headed back to S.F.  I was struggling with my own fear that it would be hard for him, and knowing it was time for me to get back.  I felt like I should rush home and start working, but then I saw the sign for Stinson Beach and thought there was absolutely nothing so pressing that I shouldn’t take a little time to unwind.

I walked and thought, and thought and walked.  I thought about vulnerability and shame and how closed off so many people are.  I felt glad that my son could recognize his vulnerability and I, mine.  And we could still move forward.

He’s coming home this evening and I will hear all about it.  I did get a text at 6:30 a.m. this morning.  Nothing wrong, just reaching out.)

My asides aside, I think both TED talks are worth watching and hearing.  It’s a good reminder that as uncomfortable as being vulnerable is, it’s what gets people closer together and what brings us to new places.  And, we all have shame.  Don’t let it rule your world.