Misalignment

Being compared to men was always higher praise; my youthful priorities were misaligned along multiple axes.
Tajja Isen

Mine were too. I had been taught that male, white, and dead were synonyms for Excellence. And I bought it. I thought (without thinking) that buying it was the price of admission.

Practice: Identify your synonyms. Is there any reason that Excellence can’t — or has to — look like you?

Related practices: Author’s Statement, Rough Drafts


First Step

If you can’t take the first step, take the second.
James Richardson

This makes no sense at all. It also works pretty well.
Even when depleted, I can sometimes do something. Even two or three somethings. Apparently momentum has a logic of its own.

Practice: Start something, anything, that you don’t know how to start. Or start something adjacent. (The principle being that action leads to action.)

Related practices: Need, Tuesday nights

Optional: https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/134/11/3417/310550


Poses

I don’t mind being called a dumb blond because I know I’m not dumb and I know I’m not blond.
Dolly Parton

Poses have meaning. When you put on a jacket, are you dressing up? Conforming? Wearing drag? Strutting your stuff? Secretly Clark Kent?

Its meaning is in your hands, which means you have options.

Practice: Identify one of your poses. (This may take a while. Once a pose becomes habitual, it feels like who you are.)

Advanced practice: Decide whether it still serves you.

Related practices: Done, Permission


Making Time

You don’t find the time to make things, you make the time to do things.
Debbie Millman

This is putting it mildly: You either make the time or you don’t — and which you do defines who you are. Makers make things. Gardeners spend time in the garden. Activists spend time in the community.

Making time for an activity means it matters to you. The reverse is true as well.

Practice: Your choice. Would you rather update your identity or realign your schedule?

Advanced practice: Explore your reasons to  hold onto an identity that doesn’t reflect the ways you spend your time.

Related practices: Busy, Busy, Busy, Boredom


Pounce

Do you allow the world to come to you or do you pounce on it? Are you acting from impatience? Enthusiasm? Anxiety? Eagerness?

Practice: Close your eyes and let your eyeballs rest comfortably in their sockets. This may take a while. (My breathing slows and my shoulders drop before my eyes relax.)

Slowly open your eyes. Notice whether you use your eyes to take in the world or to advance towards it. Or something else entirely.

Noticing what you tend to do allows you to play with alternatives.

Related practices: Loneliness, Perfect


Go Deep

All social issues are temporary and brief. Go deep.
Howard Thurman

Reading this, I want to say “Huh?” and pretend I don’t understand. But some part of me does understand; something in me knows that confusion is a hiding place.

To learn more about Thurman’s ministry, watch: https://www.pbs.org/video/backs-against-the-wall-the-howard-thurman-story-cgv9gi/

Practice: Replace “all social issues” with content of your own:

My business dilemmas are…
My health problems are. . .
My feelings about . . .

Advanced practice: Identify what gets in the way of you “going deep.”

Related practices: Accordion, Self-attack


Gods of Creativity

Remember: The gods of creativity are not obliged to explain anything to us.
     Elizabeth Gilbert

Creativity, like faith or courage, simply is — which suggests taking a naturalist’s approach. Observe without expectation. Avoid sudden moves. Collect data until you have enough to form a theory, then test the theory.

Practice: Do something you hypothesize will lead to creativity. Notice the results. Do something arguably the opposite. Notice the results.

Related practices: Please, Alert Emptiness, Tuesday nights


Simplicity

Simplicity is a sound ambition but in a complex world we should also check for unintended consequences.
Tim Hartford


Optional soundtrack for this practice: “Simple Gifts” by Cantus

I value simplicity. That said, the status quo is simple. Fearfulness is simple. Passivity is simple. Anything, unexamined, seems simple.

Unconscious bias means people favor those who look like them (gender bias, racial bias) and sound like them (class bias), an unintended consequence. Unless it’s intended.

Practice: Identify a value you hold. Now look where it has led, and whether those consequences are ones you also value.

Related practices: Fresh Peaches, Fluency


Practices for a Pandemic: Tracking

All is not well, but today is a good day, good at the personal level and beyond. I even know the steps that led to me feeling good, that is, I can track what led to my current emotions. Treating tracking as a practice and doing it regularly — I feel good; how did I get here? I feel bad; how did I get here? — reduces the odds of getting blindsided.

1)I got an email from a woman in Oakland that read:

Thinking of you and hoping you are safe and feel safe with the awfulness going on in Portland.

Continue reading


Clichés

Please select one of the following and then we’ll move on: Life is hard; life is cruel; life is random; sometimes good people are forced to do bad things; sometimes innocent people die; yes, Myron, you screwed up, but you’ll do better this time; no, Myron, you didn’t screw up, it wasn’t your fault; everyone has a breaking point and now you know yours.
Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben

Clichés and platitudes crowd the brain, making genuine thought and authentic emotion harder to access.

Practice:When you’re about to say something hackneyed, don’t. Go silent instead.
Wait for something else to surface. The words that come next may sound awkward or even embarrassing. They will also enliven you in a way that no cliché can.

Advanced practice: When an exchange leaves you feeling dissatisfied, locate where you shorted yourself — either by saying less than you actually meant or by making an all-purpose response when you could have been specific.

Related practices: Fresh Peaches, Fluency