News flash: It’s better to be impressed than to impress.

I was 9 years old the first time I remember trying to impress someone.

It was about 50 degrees outside.

I challenged my sister Dawn to a run around the block. More like, convinced her that if she didn’t go with me, she could just stay home and continue being bored and everyone would know that I was the fast one. Methods aside, I convinced her to go with me.

The block was probably about 1/2 a mile but at the time, it seemed more like 5. We took off. I loved running. I wanted to be fast. I was the fastest kid in the neighborhood. Note: I didn’t say the fastest GIRL in the neighborhood.

We circled the block and huffed and puffed up the driveway. Dawn’s relentless competitive nature helped her keep up with me, most of the way.

I remember grabbing a glass of orange juice. I knew that was the healthy option so that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be fast and healthy. Dawn casually grabbed a bag of Doritos despite my warnings that she was cancelling out her run with those Doritos. My dad (a known health nut) walked in as we were sitting down for our snack. I caught his attention “Hey Dad, Dawn and I just ran around the block. I’m drinking this healthy orange juice and she’s chowing down on Doritos.”

Dawn said, nonchalantly, “Yeah. Doritos are good.”

Dad nods. “That’s nice.”

Not quite the praise I was looking for. Wasn’t he impressed that we went all that way? Wasn’t he impressed that the healthiness continued with the orange juice?  I’m being who you want me to be, Dad! If I wasn’t doing this to impress someone, then why was I doing it? Why couldn’t I just eat the Doritos with Dawn?

Dawn didn’t care about impressing anyone. At the time, I just looked at her thinking, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you care what he thinks?” In all honesty, I don’t think she did.

So then why did I care so much? Why do I still care?

It’s funny. I’ve spent a lot of my teen and adulthood trying not to care what other people think (especially my dad). This is a 25-year nagging feeling I’ve been fighting against. Yet, it’s made me challenge myself most of my life. Yes, I’ve accomplished things for myself, of course. But a small part (probably bigger than I’d like to admit) of that was trying to impress other people as well. Did it all start with orange juice?

It’s good to care a little bit about what other people think. Everyone cares about what other people think (except for the competely apathetic). As always, it’s about moderation. Spending all my time concerned about what other people think and letting that dictate all of my decisions is very unhealthy. As a teen, that behavior led me to be extremely susceptible to influence. And believe me, the influence was not as positive as my parents would have wanted. I was trying to impress anyone who would be impressed.

My dad wouldn’t be. Other adult figures were barely impressed. Other successful, athletically inclined kids were too busy thinking about their own lives to be impressed by me. I had to find someone who I could impress. This method definitely took my far, far out of the way of the path I originally intended on travelling. In fact, I’m lucky I made it back safely.

Knowing what I know now, I would say that trying to impress people is not a good way live your life. It may be better to be impressed by people. Other people appreciate people who appreciate them. Thinking back to my dad, maybe if he’d been impressed by the things I was doing specifically to impress him, I wouldn’t have gone down that darker path. Maybe I would have. Is this really just about orange juice? Probably not. But, I can’t really blame my parents for everything bad that’s happened in my life, can I?

Showing appreciation and that you’re impressed by another person is a great way to make them feel good about themselves. I know for a fact that I like to surround myself with people who make me feel good about myself, don’t you?

Today I spend more time trying to appreciate other people, notice their accomplishments (no matter how small), compliment them, let them know just how much of a bad ass they are. People need that no matter how much they deny it.

And, maybe sometime, try to impress them. It will fuels your competitive side. And without competitiveness, Dawn never would have gone on that run.

Did Teddy Roosevelt hate Monarch butterflies?

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Teddy Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship in a Republic in 1910.

To me, this quote means that we need to keep trying things, fail or succeed, no matter what others say. Daring greatly means taking risks, even when (especially when) the odds are against you.

I’m horrible at following Teddy’s advice. I care too much about what the critics think and where the odds are stacked. I tell myself I don’t enjoy writing and choose a hobby that’s also enjoyable, but much easier, then I do that instead. I’m working on it, I’ve read the book, I’ve taken small steps toward the arena, I’ve written the blog posts. But eventually I’m going to have to actually take action (write something meaningful) despite my reservations.

When I think of the man in the arena, I think of my husband Donnie. He’s always been the man in the arena, (sometimes I have to push him into the arena) but hes always been different. At nearly 7 feet tall, one gets accustomed to standing out from the crowd. But he embraces it. He lives his life the same way, his way.

Last night, we were watching the life cycle of Monarch butterfly and there were literally hundreds of thousands of

butterflies in one tree (a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope – how cool is that?!). There were so many butterflies crammed on each limb that the branches drooped down. Meanwhile, the tree next to it, same type of tree, was completely empty. I remarked, “Donnie, if you were a monarch butterfly, you’d be on that other tree enjoying your space and mocking the butterflies that were uncomfortably cramped on the other tree, “Stupid butterflies.” He agreed.

 

While, being in the arena has major benefits, one thing Donnie never gets used to is the criticism. Who can? And, boy is he criticized. He’s failed. He’s succeeded. He’s dared greatly. But the other butterflies don’t understand that. They only understand sameness, routine, conformity. It’s instinctive. Donnie wouldn’t survive as a monarch butterfly.

Luckily! We are not butterflies. We are humans (duh). We need to stray from the kaleidoscope and try new things to grow and thrive. We have to go through a lot of pain, dust, sweat and blood to succeed and live whole lives. But it sucks in the arena! (Clearly I’m conflicted) Many of us (me) never enter the arena because we (I) anticipate the pain involved. Unfortunately, if we never enter the arena, we could be (gulp), “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

For the record, Teddy Roosevelt probably didn’t hate Monarch butterflies.

Everyday I’m hustlin’

I know how to play volleyball. I’ve played indoor 6s for two decades. I’m comfortable there. I’m good. I’m reliable. I’m confident. But beach volleyball is something I play a few times each summer with a few people who are just “messing around.”

I read somewhere that when trying something new, you should be humble. Learn all you can. Don’t pretend to know everything. If you do, people will resent you, overestimate you and you may not improve. Which is the ultimate goal when you’re learning.

So, when I started actually playing beach volleyball (no sideline beers), I took the humble route. I let everyone know “Hey everyone, I’m a beginner.” That was very hard for me to do. I don’t like failing publicly (I do a lot of that in Toastmasters… but I’m a beginner there so it’s ok). I don’t like sucking at things. It’s why I don’t bowl. Like, ever.

The reason I went the full disclosure route, is because I didn’t want those players to think that I’m a veteran who just sucks. This way the general consensus becomes “she’s really good for a n00b.”
If you’re gonna fail, it’s the best way to fail.

I made sure no one had lofty expectations of me. People gave me the benefit of the doubt when I messed up and made dumb moves.

It’s like when I used to wait tables and I’d have a bad night where nothing seemed to go right. I’d mess up so many times that finally I’d just tell the people, “It’s my first day.” The rough edges get smoothed, shoulders drop and people have a little more empathy for my errors. What? Everyone did it.

So when I went to my third high level doubles beach tournament, I told all my partners, hey, I’m a n00b. Among high verticals and even higher egos, it was the best approach.

It was a queen of the beach tournament. Basically, the idea behind that is: the best teammate wins. You are matched up with each person in your pool. You start each game with a new team. No prep time. No practice. Just playing. Whoever wins the most games with different teammates, wins the tournament.

This is very difficult because many partners spend years trying to find their mojo. We had 20 minutes and then it was over. But… we were all on the same playing field.

So back to me being a n00b. I was walking around all n00b-like. Putting my sand socks on the wrong feet and sunscreen in my hair (really selling the n00b-status). It was borderline hustling. I wasn’t the best among this group of women, but I definitely was not the worst, not even close. That’s the big problem with the n00b strategy. Employed in a competitive setting, like this cutthroat tournament among strangers, it becomes my glaring weakness.

My partners treated me like a toddler, coaching me and putting me in the least favorited positions. At this point, I know as much about strategy as they did. I’m not an idiot. But… I sure felt like one.

It was even worse that the other teams knew I was a n00b. That means, they picked on me. And BOY, did they pick on me. They served me every ball. Some nails (low and hard) and some lobs (high and easy). But, you better believe every single serve (and most attacks) went my way.

Typically, I can handle being picked on a little bit but this was a little boy on ant hill with a magnifying glass and I was writhing around in the scorching heat (this is an appropriate analogy because it was literally over 100 degrees that day). Even Kerri Walsh-Jennings couldn’t handle being picked on in Brazil at the 2016 Olympics. Competitors finally realized that maybe Misty May-Treanor was the amazing one and they should have been picking on Kerri all along. They more than made up for the misappropriation of serves by taking Kerri way out of her game by serving her off the biggest court in the world. She couldn’t pass, she couldn’t hit. Eventually, she fell apart. I, being a shorter player, never overestimated Kerri and always knew Misty was the real talent. But I felt for Kerri. It happens to the best of us.

So after hours of beatings and humiliation that July day, I was sunburned and dehydrated and so was my spirit.

I learned many lessons that day, which are as follows.

– Never underestimate your competitors or your teammates

– Be honest, don’t try to under promise so much people look down on you

– Be confident

– Hydrate

– Hustlin’ is only effective if you’re a phenom.

I think it’s ok to be honest about being new at something. It’s good to admit when you don’t know something. But maybe I took it a little too far with the n00b volleyball status.

Nice guys finish last because kindness always wins.

“Be nice” is what I tell my kids when they are “not nice.” It’s also what I say to my adult friends, family members, irritable people waiting in line at Firehouse subs, anyone who’s not “being nice.” It never occurred to me to look deeper into what “be nice” actually means.
“I know there’s a difference between being nice and being kind, and I’m going to figure out what it is.”

That’s what I said when a good friend of mine told me she wanted to work on being nicer. (NOTE: It was not in response to me telling her to “be nice.”)

After some research, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s about motive.

Being nice is externally motivated. A nice person craves acceptance and acts nice in order to belong.

Being kind is internally motivated. A kind person cares less about what people think and more about “doing the right thing.”

TRUE CHARACTER IS WHO YOU ARE IN THE DARK

A nice person avoids confrontation and saying no. He will not express anger for fear of upsetting someone, but in the same right, will have anger outbursts due to long-held resentment.

A kind person doesn’t seek confrontation, but will not avoid confrontation if it means being untrue to himself.

A nice person is not true to himself for fear that he won’t be accepted

A kind person is authentic and is not diminished by others’ disapproval.

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE

Being a “kind” person is my ideal self. It’s why I read all those self development books. I would love to always be authentic, true to myself, care less about what others think, no need for approval, honest. Okay, I’ll be honest. The last year, I’ve done way better at the genuine part. 

 In the article I read, it said that most people look up to those who aren’t afraid to be genuine. But, sometimes, the real, fallible you isn’t socially acceptable. Sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t popular. These are the times, when I really look up to those kind people, the ones who are strong, confident and do what’s right, regardless of what other people think.

If you want to stop being “nice” and start being “kind,” stop looking to others for love and approval and look inward instead. 

I think I’m going to stop telling everyone to be nice. It’s the kind people who really have their shit together.

Couples who idealize each other are happier

Michaelangelo believed that his sculptures were resting in the stone, waiting for him to release them. The way I see it, that’s how we all are. We are resting in stone and over time, we are sculpted. Into what, well, it’s determined by the sculptors.
For better or worse, we choose our sculptors. They are the people with whom we choose to spend our time. Our friends, our family, our spouses. They sculpt us. Most importantly our spouses. I think it’s because this is the person with whom we are most invested.

Generally, the Michaelangelo Phenomenon means, “Couples who idealize each other are happier.” But it’s not just idealizing, it’s helping each other become our ideal selves. 

I’m not always so certain that we’re doing this marriage thing right (we learn as we go).  

Are there times when we might have a bit of an inflated opinion of each other? Yes.

Are there times when we annoy the crap out of each other? Yes.

The Michaelangelo Phenomenon exists between us. This is one area in which I know Donnie and I are killing it. We believe in each other, we idealize each other, we sculpt each other. Without that support, it would be damned hard to achieve our dreams.
In fact, I think we annoy other people with our blind support for each other. Donnie regularly thanks me for my “unbiased opinion” of his work. And he knows that this blog has got some pretty eloquent writing in it, and he doesn’t have to read a word. (I’ve read some out loud to him, he’s not much of a reader.) If you asked him if I could be president, he’d probably say “Yes, if she put her mind to it.” That’s how annoyingly supportive he is.

The downside to the Michaelangelo Phenomenon is when one or the other is not working toward his/her ideal self. It can be really frustrating when the person who supports you, believes in you, motivates you, sees you failing. I know I want to write a book. Each day that goes by that a book isn’t being written makes me feel guilty. Not only am I letting myself down, but I’m letting him down. Because he believes in me.

This is the part we try to work on. It may not be the right time. It may not be the right goal. So, we must back off or redirect our annoying support.

All in all, I think, with the right sculptor, the Michaelangelo Phenomenon does make couples (people) happier.

When the sculpture is finally revealed, it’s going to be amazing.

3 bricklayers… and finding my true calling

This morning on my way to work, I heard the parable of the three bricklayers. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this parable before but I forget a lot of things if they don’t directly apply to my life at that present moment. (It’s good to have a blog).

Three bricklayers were working side by side.

When asked: “What are you doing?”
The first bricklayer: “I’m laying bricks.”
The second bricklayer: “I’m putting up a wall.”
The third bricklayer: “I’m building a cathedral.”
bricks

To me, this parable is about perspective. Based on the type of water cooler talk I hear (“Is it 5 yet?” and “I can’t wait until Friday” and “Are you trying to look busy?”), most people are laying bricks or putting up a wall. What I mean by that, is that people see a task and complete that task because they have to. They do the work, they get the money, appreciation, recognition, whatever. They don’t do the work because they love to do the work.

Most people don’t think of their jobs as a “calling” or a “vocation;” To most, a job is a job or a career. I’m definitely not completely exempt. I won’t lie, I’ve dreaded Mondays and watched the clock. I think we all have at some point.

You spend your whole life dreaming that you will someday stumble across your calling and then you will live the rest of your life fulfilling that calling. It’s not that easy.

I think it starts by following aspirations and it ends with perspective. I’m a writer. Am I writing famous acceptance speeches? No. Am I writing screenplays for comedies? Sadly no. But I am writing… a lot. That’s where my calling lies. I write because I love to write. When I’m writing, I’m not watching the clock. Most of the time, I don’t get any special bonuses or awards or recognition. Sometimes, when I’m writing, 5 p.m. on Friday evening can come and go and my mind is so engaged in thought and in practice that I’m practically floating over New Zealand.

To me, that… is building a cathedral.

How to let go of always being in control

Question: How many of you would say you are in control of your own life?
Question: Raise your hand if you agree with this statement. “When it comes to my life. It’s important to always be calm, cool and collected.”

The key word there is “always.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever be calm cool and collected.

BUT… As adults, I think we don’t allow ourselves to be goofy or silly because we think we always need to have it together. Many of us are so worried about what other people think or about what could happen if… We present ourselves as this perfectly put together package. We won’t take any risks because we might fail and then how would that look? When we were kids we wanted to grow up so badly… And look at us now. Just look at us!

Dad in control
When I think of control, I think of my dad. I imagine a time my family went to Wilson Lake. We went to Wilson Lake every summer. But this time was different. I was finally old enough to try waterskiing. We got out on my Aunt Barbie’s boat and she said it’s best that someone demonstrate how to water-ski before I jumped out there. So my dad, the athlete and the “everything expert,” jumped into the water.

My dad had never waterskied before.

He put the skis on, grabbed the ropes and gave Uncle Ken the thumbs up. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned. Dad fell.

A self-proclaimed bodybuilder, my dad was very strong in those days. He had quite a grip. So, that wasn’t the problem. Being the gritty man he is, he tried again. And again, and again.

Each time he went up, his shoulders were hunched and his whole body looked incredibly stiff. We watched from the boat as he leaned back and forth. Then Aunt Barbie said, “He looks like he’s trying to drive the boat.” We all laughed. It really did. He was trying to control the boat from the back.

In only a few minutes, my dad held up the sign for stop and fell back. He didn’t want to ski anymore, he said it was “dumb” and “not fun” and “exhausting.”

Well yeah! I don’t know how familiar you are with waterskiing but… that’s not how you do it. You’re supposed to lean back and let the boat pull you.

He could not relinquish control to the boat. This is classic my dad. He always has to be cool and in control. But, control is an illusion! He had no chance in hell of controlling the boat, so why try?

Me in control
I can articulate my dad’s thoughts so well because, gulp, I’m the same way. I’ve struggled with the illusion of control my whole life as well.

When I was 5 months pregnant, I lost a baby due to a very rare genetic abnormality. Something happened to me when I lost that baby. I was devastated. It hurt more than anything I’d ever experienced. I was confused and I questioned my own mortality. My anxiety skyrocketed. I worried. I worried about my kids. I worried about me. I worried about my husband. I became obsessed with all my worry. At times, my anxiety got so bad that I had actual physical symptoms. Feet, hands numbing. Headaches. Heart palpitations. Digestive issues. Then I really had something to worry about!

I burned my hand once and it got infected. I thought, “Welp. This is how I die” It was about that bad.

I justified that if I think of every possible scenario that could go wrong, nothing will go wrong. Because what are the odds that the very thing your researching, obsessed over, will be the thing that goes wrong? Maybe on some level I thought that’s what happened with my baby. I was caught off guard. I wanted to prevent that from happening again. I was trying to control and predict my future, my family’s futures, with worry.

It felt like no one understood why I was so anxious. Most would say that I worry too much and laugh it off. I just stopped talking about it and started internalizing my worries.

That was not a way to live.

Having worries and negative thoughts is human. Like having hands. Hold your hands up like this. These are your negative thoughts. Bring those thoughts closer to your face. Closer. Closer. Now your negative thoughts are so close to you they are impairing your view of the world. This is how I was living… or not living.

I knew I had to let go. To relax. I was gripping those ropes so hard my hands were bleeding.

A solution

Then I was introduced to Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability. It came out at the perfect time for me. Brene says we should let go of certain things in order to cultivate a wholehearted life. Take a look at the list on the left, which of them describe you? Trace your finger to the right of that one to see what you could have if you let go of perfectionism, need for certainty, to always be in control.

With Brene’s help and meditation, I’ve worked through my anxiety (and it is work). One of my biggest struggles is to be who I am, where I am. I internalize and overanalyze too much.

Sometimes I try to emulate my sister. A woman who has more potential stressors in nearly every aspect of life than anyone I know. And yet, she has no problem letting go. I think the advice “laugh a little every day” started by someone who had met. When she’s having fun, everyone is having fun.

She doesn’t constantly worry about when her son will have his next seizure. She’s ALWAYS living in the moment. She doesn’t worry about being embarrassed, she gets right out on the dance floor and does the humpty dance at the company Christmas Party, with no shame. And people LOVE her for it.

By letting go of being cool and always in control, Dawn’s the coolest person in the room!

I think it is so important to let go of being in control and of what others think because it robs us of some pretty amazing and necessary experiences in life.

What’s more amazing than waterskiing??

Now take a look at you. Are you often in the moment, sitting back, letting boat pull you? Or are you gripping the ropes?