Staying Unstuck

“If you feel stuck, move. You are not a tree.”~ Germany Kent

“Don’t wait for the right answer and the golden path to present themselves. This is precisely why you’re stuck. …”

Seth Godin

I love Seth Godin. I took his altMBA class and learned to trust myself. Together, the other students and I learned how hard it is to get unstuck. In 30 days we shipped 13 grueling assignments that challenged our “stuckness.” We found that our growth came from getting unstuck and challenging the resistance (fear) we had as we faced change.

STAYING UNSTUCK?

Three months after graduating, I’m trying to stay unstuck. It’s hard to get unstuck, but staying unstuck — outside with the wind whipping around our psyches, slapping against our egos, and whistling the “you’re not good enough” tune is unsettling. And daunting. I have to revisit the cycle again and again and again.

Start. Work. Try. Sweat. Finish. Publish/Ship/Send. Fail? Repeat.

Start. Work. Try. Sweat. Finish. Publish/Ship/Send. Fail? Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The rug gets pulled out with a tug from fate. From the competition. From an employee, a manager, a brother or sister. And we flip upside down.

Flip.

Flip.

We can choose to quit. On the other hand,

“…You might not end up with perfect, but it’s significantly more valuable than being stuck.

Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”

Seth Godin (again, still)

Here’s another quote about being stuck.


“If you feel stuck, move. You’re not a tree.”
— Germany Kent (American print and broadcast journalist)

If you want to get unstuck and stay unstuck, try something new every day for three weeks. See how it feels. If you want to step it up, level up, play up, check out the altMBA. OR check out any of the many other Akimbo.com workshops.

I like being unstuck. Some days are scarier than others, but unstuck is better. I’m never bored. My unconscious blow-through-the-day-in-a-haze self can rarely file its nails and rock on the front porch of life. That self is always wondering, “What’s she going to do NOW?”

Me too.

Photo credit: Pexels.com

WHAT IF?

At our weekly altMBA check-in meeting, one of our braver souls shared her plan to take six weeks off before embarking on her next “thing.” The thing was not defined, and the six weeks would be time to ponder, reflect, and choose. Or not.

What if you did that? Would you plan a vacation? Take a class? Sneak in some work?

OR, could you somehow push a magic slow-motion button that is spelled break or brake (either one) and step out of your skin to live in the gaps without filling each one with breathless busy?

What IF?

What if you don’t take any time between this thing and the next? Our professional CVs used to shout “loser” if there were gaps, as if to say, “So, you couldn’t find work, huh?” Or, “What was wrong?” or “Did you have a breakdown? Were you sick? You what? You stayed home with your kids?”

So you switch out of Drive and put yourself in Neutral. What if you have two days pass and you have nothing to show for those two days? Can you put away the I’m-useless, this-was-a-bad-idea fear and believe that creating space for your Self to find itself will be a good use of your time, however long that takes?

What if you honored this time? Protected this time? What if you came into an inheritance or won the lottery? And so what if you took even longer? What if you knew you were facing a risky surgery? What if your chance for survival were only at 10%?

Reflection:

Someone in the group talked about the need for reflection in everything we do. Another person asked our brave six-week-off person if she would be fed or drained by the process, or by the decisions she faced at the end of the six weeks.

What if we all had time to ponder our lives, visit our Selves, and find our truth as we’re living through each of our my-brakes-are-broken days?

What if we made a special appointment time to reflect, like we put it on the calendar and didn’t schedule on top of it?

What if?

Photo compliments of Pexels.com.

Save the Cat!

“I think we can learn so much from other disciplines…”

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a book about screenwriting


And what does screenwriting have to do with business and life? I’d like to submit that there’s a huge parallel between our businesses, our lives and screenwriting based on this “Bible” of screenwriting that I learned about in a… wait for it… novel-writing workshop a few years ago.

Why the parallel?
Let’s just start with the first three chapter titles.

  1. What is it?
  2. Give me the same thing… only different.
  3. It’s about a guy who …

The chapters build on the idea of having a successful formula for creating the screenplay including the characters, the storyline, the pitch, the marketing, the writing, testing, etc. that are rules that cannot be broken. Our businesses have (need) some unbroken tenets.

Three-act plays are important only because the rule of three is dang strong. Example: Youth. Middle Age. Old Age. Another: Product life cycles: New, rising to a peak, and fading.

Character arcs: What does your company start as? How does it grow and then change? What are the “bookends” the opening and closing images that we can see about your company? What do YOU see? Can you apply that idea to your life?

Beats. What is the heartbeat of your company? What happens when? Is it on schedule and according to plan? Snyder lays out fifteen beats that define the screenplay. What are those for a company? A life?

The promise of the premise (a.k.a “What is it?”) has to appear on every page, in every scene, in all parts of your company, in all the stages of your life. You’re delivering what your website says, what your promotions promise, and what your families expect.

Okay. It’s a stretch. But people who buy from companies want to like the company and they want to think that, given the chance, the company would save the cat.


ALSO, I think we can learn so much from other disciplines. And from what I’ve seen, this is one of the better books for anyone wanting to write a screenplay. Besides. It’s funny.

Save a cat today.

Fill in the Blanks to Get Unstuck

… while they were totally safe, they were also totally stuck

The _______ (person or persons) chose not to go to the _________ (place) with their _________(another person or persons). It was a scary venture. [Cold. Steep. Deep.] (Pick one or add one of your own).

Instead, the ________ (person) stayed in a ______ (different place) where it was __________. [Warm. Quiet. Shallow.] (Pick one or add one of your own).

After a while, the ______ (person) looked out the window [portal, bars, door, etc.] of the ________ (place) to see what s/he was missing.

It had been a mistake not to go, of course, because . . .

while they were totally safe, they were also totally stuck.

Which would you rather be?

Retaliation

“Is it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice.

* (The name of this painting is “California Street.” See below for artist and detailed publishing information.)

Retaliation in Red

A Short Story

            No one knew how the red spots got there. They just appeared one day, and they were spreading. People’s brains were worn thin from trying to figure it out. The spots grew on the street and slid up along the walls. Sometimes it got in your hair if you weren’t careful.
            Mildred Lee took her ten-year-old son Tony to the cable car that day. As she dropped him near the cable car stop it seemed there were more red dots on the streets than last week and even more than yesterday.
             “Is­­­­­­­ it growing, Mom?” Tony said, concern in his voice.
              “I don’t know,” she said glancing at her watch. “But I gotta run or I’m going to be late for work. Hop on the cable car and I’ll see you tonight, Honey.”

But she would not see him as he was that morning. No. Tony ran after the cable car, but he didn’t reach it because he slipped on the red goo and got a mild concussion. When he woke up he was in a land far away. It was red. The sun was red. Tony’s clothes were red. His hair and skin were red. The people around him were red. They wore red clothes. Bright red. Cinnamon apple red. He was afraid at first, but then, he realized it must be some joke his friends had played on him. He was not hurt. And the color would wash off. He was sure of it. The people seemed friendly enough but they smelled funny, so he wanted to leave right away, but how?

Tony seemed to have found a way out of the red city, because the next thing he knew he was standing outside his home.


            “Hi, Mom,” Tony said, skipping into the house through the kitchen door. Tony’s mom fainted. Who faints anymore? Well, she did.

She came to with smelling salts that Tony’s dad administered. He whiffed some himself.

“What happened to you?” both Tony’s parents said at the exact same time.

“I don’t know. I was running toward the cable car and I slipped. When I woke up, I was in another place. And I was red. But then I fell asleep again and I woke up outside the house, but I was still red.”

“Well, I hope this washes off,” Tony’s mom said, licking her thumb and rubbing it on the back of Tony’s arm. Nothing changed. Tony was still red. Very, very red.

“Tony! Who did this to you?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s kind of cool,” Tony said admiring his face in the dining room mirror.

“It’s not cool because it’s not washing off. I’m calling the school.”

Tony scratched his red head with his red fingers. “I never made it to school that I remember.”

“What? Where were you?” Tony’s dad said. “Now don’t make up stories.”

 “The place was different. Like, the people there were red, and the buildings and streets were red.” He paused. “Even the dogs were red.”

“Maybe you slipped and passed out. You were dreaming is all. Now let’s see if we can get this off you. Come with me, young man,” Tony’s mom said. Then to her husband, she said, “Call the Sedgwick’s.  Their son is in Tony’s class. See if he was at school.”

While Tony’s mom scrubbed Tony’s skin with every thing from spot remover to cleanser and steel wool, Tony’s dad had called five other kids’ parents. It took several tries as the lines were busy. Finally it was determined that out of those five, the three children who were anywhere near that particular cable car line were red. All reported going to the same strange place where Tony went where people, clothes, and dogs were red. And all the children had remained red with no amount of washing that would alleviate the stain. The children peed red.
           Finally Tony’s mom stopped scrubbing. Tony was crying. She was crying. And the next morning Tony’s mom and dad were red, along with everyone else in San Francisco. The lobsters had retaliated. But they didn’t like the taste of humans, so they let them live.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

* Please note: Do you see the red spots on the street? The story popped upon the page from this wonderful piece of art! This post is a pure fantasy riff on the above painting in the book Bay Area Scene Paintings by Gordon T. McClelland & Austin D. McClelland, Copyright 2018. No disrespect is intended.

Page in Book: Page 26 and Cover

Artist: Jade Fon

Title: California Street

Year: 1950s

Media: Watercolor and gouache

Book Description: Looking down California Street from Nob Hill with China Town on the right side, the business district down below and a section of the Bay Bridge is visible through the towering canyon of buildings.

10 Two-Letter Words

“If it is to be it is up to me.” ~ Senator Cory Booker

 

I heard the quote while listening to ‘On Being’ with Krista Tippet’s Podcast .

photo of woman looking at the mirror
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Go for it!

Luck

Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck ~ Daniel Kahneman

green trees beside body of water
Photo by Jonathan Petersson on Pexels.com

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman in his  2011 (my copy) book Thinking, Fast and Slow says “Success = Talent + Luck.” Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book Outliers says it a little differently, but basically that, “…  outliers in a particular field reached their lofty status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and utterly arbitrary advantage.”

“Great Success = a little more talent + a lot of luck” ~ Daniel Kahneman

In the U.S., we like to reward hard work. We want to say that people who put in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” (from the Outliers book) of practice and toil will be successful. People who expend this much time hope to be successful. And they may be successful—if they are lucky.

Leaving so much to luck is a hard pill to swallow!

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We would like to know that at the end of the athlete’s daily three-, four-, or five-hour practice sessions for ten or more years, the athlete will take a Gold Medal at the Olympics. Wait. They have to get to the Olympics first. Sometimes they luck into it by doing particularly well on one day of trials. Alternatively, someone else breaks a leg or sprains an ankle. Good luck. Bad luck. It’s luck.

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote his famous musical pieces in the 1700s. Talented. Yes, but he was lucky enough to be born into a musical family. However, both his mother and father died (bad luck!) when he was nine, but he moved in with his older brother (good luck) because it led to some (fortuitous) events that enhanced his musicality to our benefit.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell recounts the 10,000 hours + lucky paths of The Beatles and Bill Gates and many more successful outliers—in this case, people who are “situated away from or classed differently from a main or related body.”

Tony Robbins has another view on luck:

“The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck.”~ Tony Robbins

The difference is that Tony Robbins seems to imply that preparation and opportunity have a causal relation to luck.  Gladwell (and I think Kahneman) would argue that you’re lucky to be in a position to spend your 10,000 hours of preparation in the first place—like Bach, maybe. It’s a nuanced, but important variation in viewpoint.

I offered a similar sentiment, coming from yet another position in my May 23, 2018, post entitled “Life’s A Crapshoot.” I was not looking at success at all,crapshoot but rather that luck is a fact of life from the very beginning. (I was adopted.) We want to have control over who we are, but we do not. Sometimes that’s great. Sometimes, it’s terrible. Either way, it is frequently plain dumb luck.

It looks like Daniel Kahneman,  winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences,  Malcolm Gladwell, and I agree!

Bottom line: I wish you luck. Both kinds. Why? Because sometimes it is by bad luck that we happen on to good luck. I also encourage you to spend your 10,000 hours to master your art, craft, science, etc., but I don’t want you to think that’s your only path. We have many multiples of 10,000 hours during an average lifetime. Perhaps you want to try your luck at something else. There’s no harm in trying. In fact, it may very well be your luck to fail at the first attempt so you can succeed at whatever’s next.

 

 

4 Acronyms to Challenge Our Thinking

 

adult attractive black and white face

 

Photo by Pixabay on aPexels.com

4 Acronyms to Challenge Our Thinking and Prevent Absorption by Artificial Intelligence (AI)

WIIFM —  What’s In It For Me?

WIIFU — What’s In It For Us?  

WYSIWYG — What You See Is What You Get

WYSIATI — What You See Is All There Is


 A thought piece by Kathryn Atkins at Writing World, LLC 

 

 WIIFM: WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

When selling to a prospect, a seasoned salesperson will put the presentation in terms of what the customer wants: WIIFM. This is a proper strategy for communicating value in a Business to Consumer BtoC interaction.

WIIFU: WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?

When selling to an organization, whether non-profit or for-profit, a salesperson or business entity will take into consideration that most companies consist of teams of people, collaborators, work groups, and associates in departments that create a more inclusive sense of us. People selling in the Business to Business, BtoB, space are selling to us. It’s not WIIFM but WIIFU.

If we are not selling a product, we may be offering an idea. For online content, then, we want to remember that the question on everyone’s invisible electronic lips is also: “WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?” WIIFU? Why should we engage? Why should we listen? What can you help us do? For the salesperson or the online company creating content, today, this is a harder question to answer, but one that should not be overlooked.

WYSIWYG: WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET

The idea of WYSIWYG has an element of transparency. Honesty. Trust. This is what you are getting. That’s it. No changes. No switcheroos. No “We were just kidding.” The WYSIWYG model has an element of Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” Online and in person marketers will be successful if they are careful to engage WYSIWYG as they go to market. No one likes bait and switch.

 WYSIATI: WHAT YOU SEE IS ALL THERE IS

Daniel Kahneman coined the term WYSIATI in his groundbreaking book Thinking, Fast and Slow to introduce us to our bias to make quick decisions by thinking we have all the information we need. It’s an overconfidence Achilles heel that can undermine better decision-making on the one hand, but it can also prove to move us more quickly through the decision cycle. In the old days, they used to call it shooting from the hip. Now we have an acronym for it.

BOTTOM LINE: Business and Life Trends summary. I hope these four acronyms encourage you to reconsider how your customers, prospects, and business social circles see you and how you present your company and your business persona. Of course, we are not our businesses. We are thinking, feeling beings. It is vital that we become aware of our thinking and of how people around us think and feel as we approach the precipice of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We need to know ourselves more surely and more intimately if we are to keep ahead of the bots.

 

Book Launch January 28, 2018

Giving My Self to the Wind

 GMSTTW COVER  I had so much fun.

The top left photo is of my husband Don and my son Ted with me at the Gatsby Books signing. Next on the left, friends Tim and Nancy Thomas, and then my brother Bob and me.  The threesome at the bottom are my friends, Dave Fleck, Candice Brandt, and Jim Larkin.

 

20170128 (1101) (1)Above is a photo of me with with my crazy “pinwheel” pens for giveaways.

I look forward to another one soon.

 

Adolescence. Again.

“. . . I’m the bear standing in the woods with a bullseye on his chest . . .”

My late sixties present me with the most ridiculous angst I’ve felt since I was sixteen. I am no longer a child of forty, and I am not an adult of eighty. Thus, I am an “adolescent” again. Why does it come up now? It dawned on me (after my 50th—there, I said it—high school reunion, for God’s sake) that at this age, we are older, but we are fighting oldness. Gray hair is dyed, colored, and maybe highlighted; straightened and softened to disguise the crinkly, wiry, dry mass that passes for hair. Why don’t I have the soft, pretty kind like my mom did? Dunno. I’m sure it’s because my hair, an enemy of over six decades, does this because it has its own devious mind. My hair knows exactly what irks me.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI have a target on my forehead. I feel like I’m the bear standing in the woods with a bullseye on his chest if you’ve ever seen that cartoon. It’s the target for anti-aging marketers to spot me from 10,000 feet. They don’t need for me to wear the target, though. It’s written in the sneaky wrinkles around my eyes and mouth, and the other ill-mannered houseguests with stupid sunglasses that appeared on my neck and cheeks one day when I wasn’t paying attention. They didn’t have the courtesy to leave.

So, it’s not just the cosmetics products folks; it’s also the dermatologists and estheticians that swear their methods for finding the fountain of youth surpass the others’. For all the Botox treatments, eyelifts, ear-lifts (yes, they have those), and nose jobs, there are face creams and treatments to use between or instead of the unnerving, daunting “cures.” (I would share my chemical peel photos with you, but you’d probably run screaming for the Halloween bar. Yes, I had one. Why? Because I’m still in my adolescence, of course, experimenting as adolescents do.)

Since we’re talking, I thought I might share more nice perspectives to cheer you up. You may be happily getting Botox, chemical peels, and other fine facial procedures to try to fool the calendar, but I’m going to burst your bubble. Are you sitting down? Here goes: There are some telltale signs of advancing age that cannot be removed. As one of my “good” friends said, “You just have to look at someone’s hands to see if they’re old.” Thanks. Thanks so much. I needed that. I have tried to hold my hands above my elbows during pictures to keep from having those lovely blue veins pop out on the back of my hands. Sometimes, though, this is not a good strategy. As in when you’re playing the piano. Or maybe you’re doing a cooking demonstration or giving a knitting lesson. (People still knit. By hand. They do.)

More perspectives: (Spoiler alert.) Hanging, crinkly skin. Yes. Even though we go to the gym, do our due-diligence with weights, on machines, and at endless classes, we are stuck with crinkly skin that hangs off our healthy, osteoporosis-free skeletons if we’re lucky. Yes, we put on lotion. Yes, we tone and stretch. We are limber from yoga. Our lungs are aerobically healthy. Our butts are holding their own underneath. However, the skin that keeps the rest of us in has an un-ironed look about it.

So, when you’re a teenager, you’re dealing with zits, braces, and big ears. The difference is that as a teenager, the zits eventually disappear, the braces come off, and somewhere along the way you grow into your ears. As I age, my wrinkles will not disappear. In fact, they will multiply. Like rabbits. My teeth will get thinner. And my ears AND nose, longer. My hands? More gnarly. (Great word, right?)

What? Get over myself. This is a first world problem, you say? Well, yes, but it’s real to me. Adolescence. Again. Merde! I didn’t like my teen years when I was experiencing them, and I thought I was done. I’m back in them again. And I’d like to think I’m above it all! “I got this,” I say to my face in the mirror, the unrelenting mirror. “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who is that ancient person in the shawl?” The mirror is no help. No help at all. Her best advice is to turn off the lights. Would that all rooms were dark!

I look around me at the people with gray hair. I compare. Oh, that’s dumb. At least I’m not that old, I say to myself. But my next thought is: I will be there soon. I saw a young woman today. OMG. “I used to look like that,” I say. Well, that’s nonsense. I NEVER looked like THAT. Who am I kidding? She was model beautiful. Why do I make this comparison? This thing called aging —even healthy aging, where I’m dancing flamenco and walking miles and doing yoga —is taking too much of my mental energy. It robs me of creativity. It stifles my serenity.

So as with my teens, I know that eventually, the between-ness will pass. I can achieve the next stage and relax into it—gracefully, happily, peacefully. That makes sense. If we fight the force of nature, we tend to carry an aura of angry (I hear it’s a mustard color), which by itself can make us look older and feel worse. (Who wants to look like mustard?)

I suggest that you read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. It’s an homage to living well even as it describes the terminal nature of our lives. We are lucky if we get to experience old age before we die. Dr. Gawande says it better, page 141. “The battle of being mortal is the battle to maintain the integrity of one’s life—to avoid becoming so diminished or dissipated or subjugated that who you are becomes disconnected from who you were or who you want to be.” I’m going to embrace the idea of maintaining my integrity by defining “a good day” in my terms and attempting to attain that. Every day. I will not worry about adolescence. Terrible twos. Teens. Twenties. Middle age. They’re stages, each with their challenges. This aging thing is just another stage. Maintaining my integrity is the goal. That’s all.