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November 21, 2008

Girl Power

Hugely successful and hilarious relationship advice book “He's Just Not That Into You” might not be what you would expect from the no-punches pulled title. Even Autumn (the kitty) loved it, as you can see, although like many of us females, you can tell she found the information thought-provoking, in some ways distressing and also illuminating.

He's Just Not That Into You

The essence of the book is that women deserve better treatment than what they are often getting in modern relationships, primarily while dating but also applied to lackluster marriages. Comedian author Greg Behrendt and co-author Liz Tuccillo wrote for Sex and the City, which had an episode that spawned this book. The book is laugh out loud funny and written in a great style. But the serious message is not to accept less than you know you deserve and that if you do, you are keeping yourself from the greatness that waits for you. It's a very pro-female book. And while women might sometimes treat men badly too in relationships, it is a uniquely female trait to be overly solicitous to men who have not earned that honor.

Countless examples that most women will relate to of guys who say one thing and do another are given, such as a guy saying "Oh, wow, we really have to hang out," and then never calling or only calling last minute etc. etc. The book says not to give this guy another thought but just to move on whereas lots of women will ponder and agonize over why he would have said he was interested and then not act on it. This book is like having a blunt parent who adores you telling you, "Honey, that is just not what you deserve. And don't you already really know it too?" Once you pick up on the concept, it truly is freeing and you do feel empowered to only have great relationships in your life. Some traditional dating beliefs are espoused, such as that men need to pursue women and not vice versa. Almost all relationship experts agree on this point, powerful modern free-thinking women notwithstanding. This is great reading for any women you care about who aren't in fantastic relationships.

November 18, 2008

Visions of Adulthood Dancing in My Head

Super popular series MadMen focuses on a Madison Avenue ad agency and its inhabitants in the year 1960. I don't have TV but rented the first season on DVD. The plots bring up many interesting social, cultural and psychological issues, set in a period that is our current time's roots.

MadMen

Good writing and acting and a stylish design aside, what has riveted me to the series' story lines is that this time in history is our current time's immediate predecessor. It's so far away and yet just beyond the door. It informs much of what we don't think about. So much has changed since then, it's almost unbelievable. In this time, men work and women are almost all wives or secretaries. There are three maverick female characters who most modern women will relate to, myself included. They are the wealthy and commanding dazzling leader of a Jewish department store, a free spirited unmarried commercial artist living in the Village and a (scandalous) divorcee who moves into the lead characters' suburban community with her two young children and the other mothers can't figure out how or what she's about.

These societal questions have me thinking more deeply than usual about what adulthood is, what adult roles are and what I myself want out of life, relationships, work and love. I've never seen this period portrayed in a way that made me realize what it was like to live in it as a young adult unless it's just hitting me this way because of my own time when watching it.

In keeping with these thoughts, the other day I thought about the Joni Mitchell lyrics from her song Court and Spark:

“It seemed like he read my mind
He saw me mistrusting him
And still acting kind
He saw how I worried sometimes
I worry sometimes”

Like MadMen and other stories and art, there are moments when meaning pops out and talks directly to us. I heard these lyrics differently than I had heard them before and it made me think about Joni Mitchell writing them and feeling them as an adult. When I first heard them, I thought of them at face value. Now I feel that “adult worry” and the worry in a relationship too is such a deep and troubling thing and I get so much more from what she is saying. I guess you never stop growing up in life, if you're lucky, that is.

October 27, 2008

Wake Up Productive

As the internet evolves, it increasingly offers more. In the past few months, I've taken advantage of a few online courses that are beneficial and insightful. Fees can make one hesitant but as with any investment, you get a good amount of evidence with which to decide whether or not to buy the product before you jump in.

Wake Up Productive Eban Pagan Wake Up Productive is a program given by online entrepreneur Eban Pagan and I decided it was worth my time. I've been through two of the sessions so far and am excited by its lessons. Eban has online businesses that focus on different aspects of running your own business and also a successful dating site. He offers tons of free tidbits so you get a sense that the guy has a lot of solid information. And boy, does he. Here are a couple of the concepts that have stood out for me and already helped me from this program. In introducing the background for making yourself more productive, Eban Pagan discusses the competing aspects of our daily lives. One quote he gave was:

“Life is easy if you live it the hard way and hard if you live it the easy way.”

Wow. This really hit home for me. It means that if you try to take shortcuts, eat junk food, always go for instant gratification over long-term investment, you'll get the quick fix that often backfires in the long run. Most of us are good at certain things and not so good at others. I find that I can learn from the areas in which things come more easily for me and then apply those lessons to the areas in which natural answers don't flow as well. Here's another quote:

“Habit is destiny — First we shape our habits and then they shape us.”

Among the brilliant thinkers throughout time who have focused on habit are psychologist William James. When I read James in college talking about the importance of habit, it made sense but I didn't know well how to make habits out of things that were difficult to do. With a program such as this one, you will find tools to help you do so.

September 18, 2008

Progress

Bramwell is a BBC series from 13 years ago (1995) that explores the courageous life of a female doctor in 1895 named Eleanor Bramwell.

Bramwell

This series is captivating. I defy anyone to say that progress has not been made after taking in this series. No matter how dire our current world, we have made strides we usually take for granted. A female physician was extraordinarily rare in 1895 and was frowned upon. It was said that women had smaller brains and weren't equipped to be doctors. Diseases were shushed, operations were undertaken with risky anesthesia (a miraculous invention in itself), racial divides were enormous and squallor and sickness were rampant and misunderstood. A highly recommended show for historical interest, perspective and great period settings.

September 14, 2008

Your Due Season

In the uplifting movie, Daddy's Little Girls, there is a preacher who inspires the lead character, played by Idris Elba, not to grow faint (of heart).

Don't Faint The lead character is a good guy who faces numerous challenges.

At left, Idris Elba as Monty in “Daddy's Little Girls.”

He has three little girls, an ex-wife with a thug drug dealer boyfriend; he served jail time for a wrongful accusation of rape and he is trying to earn enough money to own his own garage despite obstacles.

The preacher says that your “due season” is so close at hand, it's right there almost next to you. He says that the proof is that you feel like you are going to faint. And when you feel like you are going to faint — don't faint. 

It has the ring of truth to it; it's like things having to get worse before they get better. Just when you think you can't take it any more, when you have been beaten down beyond belief, that's when relief is on its way. But there are many times in life when we are all sorely tested. It's why stories like Job in the Bible have so much resonance, because this struggle remains an aspect of life that we have to go through at times to get to the “other side.” (Watch a clip of the preacher here.)

There's no sin in getting weary;
the sin is giving up, says the preacher.

Whatever trial you are going through, these words may be of comfort. Know that when you feel like you are going to faint — don't faint — and your due season is imminent. 

September 1, 2008

Who's Your Audience

Writing a blog on a regular basis is an evolving experience.

Listen to your audience Besides the fact that you will automatically start to think more about written structure and what makes for different types of good writing, other unexpected processes take place. For instance, it occurred to me that when people write their blogs, they are consciously or unconsciously speaking to a certain audience. And the character and style of that unseen audience will influence how you “speak” your blog.

In an informal blog, your audience might be your closest friends, your inner voice or someone you look up to whose opinion you'd like to feel you've won over. In more commercial blogs, they might be speaking to novices or experts in a given field, whether the focus is cooking, politics, music, real estate, children, fashion or anything else. Like most artistic pursuits, which writing a blog is, no matter how casual, it's helpful to become more and more conscious of the sometimes unseen elements that contribute to its final shape.

I have to think a bit more to figure out who I think my audience is. But I realized that I don't speak to anyone I consider an expert. So when I talk about design, I am assuming that people reading don't necessarily know the sources I'm citing. There are lots of design blogs for people “in the know” but for some reason, I feel that my audience is more of a blank slate.

August 25, 2008

Eye Contact

Been thinking a lot lately about relationships and what makes them work well or, in other words, what is a “well designed” relationship.

Eye Contact

People who look others directly in the eye, without flinching, and enable you to feel that you are in that moment being seen and listened to are keen. I was reminded of this likable trait by something I heard today. And since I've been doing a lot of thinking about people lately, what with refreshing summer gatherings, both business and social rendezvous, I was struck by this comment — direct eye contact is a great thing. As much as we need each other, we are often scared and uncertain and avoid this simple unspoken means of communication. Go for it.

August 21, 2008

Below the Surface

There are many cases in life and in people where the most interesting, scary, revealing, important or surprising elements lie beneath the surface.

Below the Surface My scientific client, Pratt & Whitney, makers of engines for aircraft and numerous other purposes, often uses diagrams and charts to explain concepts. And I'm not talking about diagrams of equipment; I mean conceptual diagrams. One of their standard diagrams is called an “Iceberg Chart.” The meaning of this may be apparent, that much of what is important in a project, approach or undertaking lies beneath the surface. And the information and needs that are below the visible surface must be taken into account for a full, productive, even safe picture and a successful outcome.

Like many business tools, the point may seem simple and obvious but the real meaning is deep and useful. I have recently been confronted anew with the startlingly obvious and important fact that much of what is important about people, both good and bad, lies hidden beneath the surface. If we don't pay attention to our own interiors and to those of others, we are walking through a world that is only a small percentage of what is actually there. Not to mention, we will be constantly confused because the real action and motivation lies beneath. So take a dive with me and uncover some real juicy stuff.