Finding Your Inner Expert

figure with hand upMeredith Grey Joined Us for Happy Hour

We were sitting at TGI Friday’s last night when Meredith Grey joined us for some unknown reason – not Ellen Pompeo, the real Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy,  but the fictional character who, in the previous night’s episode bravely volunteered to do a risky surgery and said,  “I’ll do it. I’m the best one for it.” That statement must have been sloshing around in the back of my mind since the night before until it found an audience in my husband, Mike, sitting right there at a table in TGI Friday’s. “Meredith Grey!” I said. “Can you imagine being in a room full of people saying, “I’ll do it.  I’m the best one for it?”  Luckily Mike knew what was I referring to and without hesitation he answered a simple, “Sure” while he ordered us two Happy Hour drinks. Not being able, in a hundred years, to imagine a situation in which I would feel comfortable enough to say, “Here, I’ll do it.  I’m the best one for it,” I continued to explore the topic while I waited for my chicken wings.  (How’s that for a pun?)  But I really did order chicken wings. (Mike had shrimp cocktail, but I digress).

“A Room Full of People” Exercise

And then it came to me. I asked Mike, “In any circumstance? “You’d volunteer to step up and do whatever it is you had to do in any circumstance?” “Well…” he equivocated. I forged on. “So , let’s imagine a room full of people from random backgrounds.  There is one task to be done that will save the world.  Under what circumstance would you step forward and say, “Here, I’ll do that.  I’m the best one for this job?” “Hmmm…” By now he knew there was no way out but to answer.  He obligingly responded, “If they would say, ‘You can save the world by getting this 8-ball in the pocket, I’d step up and say, ‘I’ll do it.”‘ “Excellent!” I was half way into my Margarita still waiting for my chicken wings, so of course I decided to take this one step further. (Mike wanted to play Hangman on the bar room napkin, so I spoke while he created blanks for me to fill in.) “Now, let’s imagine a roomful of pool players,” I said. He pointed to the napkin. “How about a t?” He put the t in one space on our Hangman puzzle and said, “Well, let me think.”  “If there was a long shot with very little room for error, and they’d ask for someone to do it to save the world, I’d step up and say, “I’ll do it.” “Ah, ha! So that is your area of expertise!”  I felt I had discovered a gold nugget in the hills of  Azusa. “Yeah, I know that’s what I do best.  So, what letter are you picking?  It’s a phrase, remember.” He pointed to the napkin once again, a little more impatiently. But now I was satisfied that I had discovered some new way to discover one’s inner expert. We finished the puzzle and the Happy Hour appetizers and drove home. As the evening wore on, so did the thoughts in my head during moments of silence. Maybe there was an circumstance when I’d step forward as Meredith and say “Here, I’ll do it.” I tried to imagine what those circumstances might be. In a roomful of people from random backgrounds, I imagined, I might step forward to save the world if the task was to sign a sentence in Sign Language. “There!” Now let’s say I was in a roomful of interpreters! I might not step forward except if, to save the world, the task was to sign a sentence in Signed English. I liked this game so much that I continued finding circumstances where I’d raise my hand and reasoned that someone who might read this little post might like this game too.

“Here, I”ll do it. I’m best at it.” 

You get the idea of how to play the “game”.  You think of circumstances under which you’d step forward out of a given group of people like Meredith Grey and say, “I”ll do it. I’m best at it.”  (Hopefully you don’t invent the task of “yelling out in anger” or “crying from the deep wells of your sorrow”  or some such thing that you do better than anyone else.) Think of all aspects of your life – your work life, your family life, any or every aspect you can think of. “But,” you say, “isn’t it easier to just go the conventional route and ask yourself, as they might in an interview, “In what areas do you consider yourself an expert?” Of course it is, but it isn’t nearly as much fun! Try my “Room Full of People” game/exercise and let me know in your comments if any brilliant insights came to you – or any insights at all, other than this author should discard all ideas that are connected to Margaritas. (My thanks to Shonda Rhimes, Ellen Pompeo, TGI Fridays, and my husband Mike  for their help in inspiring this essay.)





“The Man in the Mirror: Recency Versus Primacy,” Part II

dollop

It seemed so profound a week or so ago – my thoughts on recency.  Now that they’re not so recent, they don’t seem so profound. Hmmm…Is that the whole point? In a way it is the point, but not totally.

What Meaning Can We Attach to “Recency”? 

Let’s face it, finding meaning for our lives in daily occurrences is probably what we are yearning to do.  So when I first was introduced to this word, “recency”, it led me on a Google search for a definition.  It wasn’t easy considering that I had first thought the word I heard was “recentivity”. (Don’t try to search for that one.  Google can’t even find much on a word that is barely a real word.)

You’ll find that looking for the word “recency” will lead you to articles on brain functioning, specifically in regard to memory.  (See previous post for a fast paced informative video). It hit me that perhaps just being aware of how our minds function in this way can lead us to modify or adapt our behavior to be a bit more in control of parts of our lives. It’s like once you know how something works you can figure out solutions or at the very least, not feel stupid.  (When my husband finally explained to me that the reason my natural left-handed approach to using a corkscrew was awkward because you’re left-hand inhibits the proper use of torque on the operation, I felt less stupid and bought myself a left-handed corkscrew.). See how that works?

In a discussion of recency versus primacy you’ll find this definition: “The first item in a list is initially distinguished from previous activities as important (primacy effect) and may be transferred to long-term memory by the time of recall. Items at the end of the list are still in short-term memory (recency effect) at the time of recall.”

While apparently this word has application from everything from education, advertising, to the stock market, and beyond, being of a naturally selfish nature, I wanted to see how the word had meaning in my life. You can’t really search something like that out; serendipity has to make that happen. And, sure enough, a few days after hearing that new word, it did.

Recency In Everyday Life

It was a “Man in the Mirror” moment. I was standing there looking at my reflection first thing in the morning.  (I hate to inform those of you under 70, but one day you will look in the mirror and it can ruin your whole day, or at least the next half-hour.) So there I was, all of these depressing thoughts impinging on my brain – hair thinning, face crepe-y, fat cheeks. Damn. Of course all of us who make valiant attempts each day to stay on this side of the line of sanity, know how desperately we search for something, anything, that will pull us back from the abyss.  And I found it, right there in my newly discovered word. “recency”.

This is just a “today” thought, I thought.  What about that picture a month ago where I actually looked decent?  I couldn’t have changed that much in a month!  So I combed my thinning hair over the empty spots and went smilingly on with the day not wanting to latch on to a recent thought and put it in my mind to make it a primary thought.  Recency can only be powerful it seems to me if it thrown into our long term memory. .

In life, in marriage, in our careers, it might be a good idea to think about recency.  Is the last thought we had about any of these areas really the one we should cling too?  Unless it’s an elevating thought, a thought that makes enhances our life’s purpose, a thought that will make everything better, we need to re-think that very last thought and decide whether or not that is a reflection of the whole.  Is that argument you’ve had with your husband really the sum total of your relationship?  Is that negative thought you’ve had about you, the sum total of all the good you may have done in the world?  Understanding how our mind works in this way gives us power over our very own “hard wiring”, for as great as the wiring may be, the most elegant part of that design is the ability to change itself.

The Myth of Focus

dog on road trip

Day Three: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights

Road trips are great contemplative times.  As I took over driving from Nevada to Utah, I turned off the radio and just thought!  My husband Mike slept peacefully up against the door of our Prius. (Our car is too packed to move the seat back.)
In the quiet of the car, I suddenly started to wonder which direction I was going.  I knew I was on I-15 North, but sometimes roads labeled east actually go south, so I couldn’t be sure at this precise moment what direction I was traveling. The sun was overhead, so that didn’t help. I didn’t want to fiddle with the dashboard to find the map with the compass on the screen, so I just kept driving not knowing if Denver was ahead or on my right (so to speak). It was all fine, of course, but when Mike woke up and told me we actually were going north, everything felt much better. Once I knew I was going north for sure, it put everything else in perspective. I could visualize the map. I could feel Denver to the east;I knew where home was; I could even estimate how many miles were left to reach our summer road trip goal. It was the label that helped!

Billie and Mike at the San Rafael’s, Utah

Let’s face it.  Our businesses, our projects, never have one focus, one direction. The plural of focus (foci) is an awkward word maybe because of the nature of focus itself. Sometimes we feel guilty about not focusing on one thing. But in life we have many “centers of attention.” What if we would put a label on each?  What if we visualize each of the important issues of our life as a direction we are going at one particular moment. If we give a label to each, we might not feel so scattered or pulled or guilty. It doesn’t matter the meaning of the label we use, it’s just a label. For example, if my unfinished novel is labeled north; the marketing of my children’s book, south; my short story ‘zines on Etsy, east; and this road trip blog “west,” I might not feel that I’m skimping on one aspect in favor of another. I’m just traveling one direction, however brief, until I turn in another.

There are those of us who never focus on one task at a time.  My mother was on e.  She’d start washing the dishes , suddenly stop and begin vacuuming. She’d stop vacuuming and comb her hair. This went on all day long.  You get the idea.  I don’t think my mother ever felt she needed to focus. She must just have liked taking the winding road through her day.

…Just a little thought along the road in Utah.

Do You Stop Short of Success?

Do you tend to stop just short of success

Boycott “Shortstops”

Do you stop short of success? Funny I should ask! Today is March 15th. I’ve been working for two weeks on a St. Patrick’s Day marketing idea that would bring people to my website to buy my little children’s book, “Lucky, the Left Pawed Puppy”. I have left myself a whopping two days for promotion.

This article won’t be long because I do realize I’m writing this instead of doing my other work. But this is what I always do. I stop just this short of success, and maybe you do too.  But I’m not going to do that today. screenshot Irish Memory Match Game for St. Patrick's Day

Your Past May Be Present 

So where did this new discipline of mine (if it kicks in soon) come from? Google, of course, is the answer. I simply searched and found two wonderful articles that might help you if you’re a “stopper” like me. The first piece, “The Fear of Success” was written by Dr. Susanne Babbel for Psychology Today, resonated with me the most. Dr. Babbel discusses the surprising link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and fear of success. She addresses, as well, the avoidance of situations that might “get our hopes up. Sound familiar?

The second article, “Fear of Success: Do You Have One Of These 6 Symptoms?” will be helpful in identifying whether or not you fall into this “un-merry” band of brothers (and sisters). There are also insightful questions at the end of the article which just might propel you towards the success you really do want.

I’ll be off now tweeting my promotion because a St. Patrick’s Day marketing scheme just can’t wait until Easter.




Learn Almost Anything, Anytime, for Less Than a Few Venti Frappuccinos

Full Disclosure: I have absolutely NO connection to this website other than having taken classes at the website mentioned in this article.

screen shot of art classes at udemyWhen I was searching craigslist for someone who might do a professionally looking video for me, I found a young videographer who was interested in taking on my project. “First,” he told me, “try some of the classes on udemy.com. They’ll be a great guide for you before starting your kickstarter video and they’re really inexpensive – $10, $20.
I ended up deciding not to go with kickstarter,” but I did find Udemy. I’m not in love with the name “udemy”; it’s hard to remember and people don’t catch it when you tell them about this great offering.  However, I am in love with the classes! You can find hundreds of interesting, informative, and well-produced courses on this website – everything from writing a novel to software development. You can even find “Happiness Classes” under “Personal Growth”. Just use the search bar within the website and you might happen upon something you’ve been looking for for a long time!

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Three Simple Words to Save Face in Election Year 2016 or Any Other Time of Your Life

handsome man looking embarrassed
By November 8, 2016, or possibly before, there is going to be a need for a few people, if not millions, to save face. The conventions are over at the date of this posting, and the debates haven’t started. Whether you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, or any other party, there are several scenarios that can play out in the next few months that can cause many of us to have a reason to save face, preserve our dignity, and regain credibility for the proclamations and predictions we made to friends and family about this election. "Donald Trump will never make it to election day." "Hillary will reverse her decision on TTP". "The Millennials simply won't turn out to vote." 

But this year's election aside, in our everyday interactions, there are times that we make proclamations or take stands with our friends, neighbors, family, and our spouses based on our psychological needs. Why did we have to negate a friend's idea or suggestion? "Oh, I really didn't like the Jason Bourne movies - way too violent for me." Is a statement like this made out of some need to prove our exceptional moral character? Or what about a seemingly innocuous statement, "Hybrid cars are such a good environmental choice," spoken to our cousin who we know loves her Chevy Suburban? Or more importantly, what about our interactions with our spouses? "If you weren't so stubborn, I wouldn't have yelled" - a statement skirting responsibility for our own actions. 

But no matter what the reason for our very human tendency to often revert to the less noble part of ourselves, when our choices or proclamations have been proven to be psychologically needy or unsound or based on illogical conclusions or false assumptions; if we have acted in a way that is embarrassing on a small-scale or a large-scale, there are simply three words that can go a long way in helping us save face:

I WAS WRONG!

Depending on the situation you might want to add a sentence or two in front or in back of this statement.  If you're going for humor, you can add: "What was I thinking?  I must have been on drugs." If your actions directly affected another person, you will want to add a sincere apology: "I'm so sorry."  It doesn't matter whether our positions were of little consequence, as in our opinion about a movie or a restaurant, or of huge consequence, as in action taken against another.  Whenwe say these three words,  "I was wrong,"  we honor not only the other person, but ourselves as well.