Sunday, April 1, 2012

On Recreating Childhood

I have a friend who lives for her childhood.

She has spent much of her adult life dedicated to recreating the magic she experienced in those early years, and has channeled this through the meticulous purchasing of furniture to replicate that of her childhood home, filling her cabinets with familiar comfort foods, and watching re-runs of favorite Disney movies.

I describe this behavior as being associated specifically with her, but of course I know it is not. Of course I realize that many people, everywhere, do the same thing, to varying degrees. (While I in no way yearn to drag my parents' furniture into my bedroom, and am largely a "future-oriented" individual who is happy to leave the past well enough alone, I acknowledge the fact that I, too, have probably strived to recreate it in some way - namely, perhaps, my consumption of poached eggs, which take me back to summers spent with Grandma.)

For many of us, though, this "meticulous recreation" is what life is - a weaving and reweaving of one fabric; continuing on with the story that's established for us early on; and a filling-in of that initial outline. It's the reason we buy houses in the suburbs, the reason we still make turkey and greenbean casserole on Thanksgiving, and, yes, the reason we watch age-old favorite movies (whether The Lion King or The Christmas Story) in the moments we most want to be reminded of the associated memories.

This is how traditions are built. It's the way our sense of existence is defined.

It's these stories - their initial introduction, their acceptance, their embodiment at the individual level, and their willful, dutiful recreation - that serve as the narrative for our society.

And though I myself do not partake in the recreation with quite the same zeal with which my dear friend does, I acknowledge - and value - the role she plays in preserving our social fabric. I understand that, while some, like myself, commit themselves to the exploration of new meanings, new avenues, and the new context in which to tell a new part of our story, she - and many like her - are working hard to ensure the story's textiles hold strong.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knowing yourself? Not as tricky as you think....

Assessment #1 (DiSC):
D – Dominant – confident, controlling, adept at dealing with issues
I – Influencer – communicative, convincing, magnetic, enthusiastic, warm
S – Steadiness – secure, stable, calm, possessive, undramatic
C – Conscientious – rule-abiding, regulated, structured, cautious, neat, accurate

Assessment #2 (True Colors)
Orange – playful, assertive, independent, rebellious, quick-tempered
Green – inquisitive, wordy, logical, independent, uneasy with emotions
Blue – compassionate, idealistic, empathetic, nurturing, passive, generous, sentimental, non-confrontational
Gold – consistent, traditional, realistic, responsible, rule-follower, conservative, obsessive

Assessment #3:
Red – leader, promoter: decisive, persistent, problem-solving, authoritative, self-reliant
Yellow – creator, performer: optimistic, enthusiastic, articulate, cooperative
Green – helper, supporter: loyal, agreeable, consistent, attentive, personal
Blue – organizer: logical, orderly, disciplined, precise, thorough, analytical

I’m pretty sure you can see the trends here….

Now, for the new-agers out there, add this one in:
Fire – bright, strong, controlling, confident, authoritative, emotionless
(Sag, Leo, Aries)
Air – talkative, communicative, articulate, idea-heavy, social, objective
(Aquarius, Gemini, Libra)
Water – conforming, emotional, sensitive, personal, trusting, stable, consistent, low-drama
(Cancer, Pisces, Scorpio)
Earth – stable, consistent, practical, accurate, routine, conventional
(Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oprah's Idea of Assessing Happiness

Two happiness quizzes from

(What? We all know I find myself on her site from time to time... don't you?!)

The First One

The Second One

Saturday, March 24, 2012

how to know when an idea is good

I'm pretty obsessed with lifestyle design and the decision-making process that defines it, for good or bad. As such, I'm pretty obsessed with the factors that drive our decisions as well as how decisions - both good and bad - come about. I have recently reflected on how to decipher between the two of these, and offer you my thoughts:

1. Good decisions feel easy.
You don't have to think about it very long to decide to do something that's a good idea. It just seems obvious - even if only to you.

I once put the entire deposit down for a 3-bedroom apartment before even having roommates lined up. It felt incredibly easy to make that decision, I was so sure of the apartment. I stayed sure about that decision for every one of the very happy 365 days I lived there (with the two roommates I did, in fact, ultimately find.)

2. Bad decisions feel "sticky."
The horrible decisions feel obviously not good. If the very process of even having to consider the decision makes you unhappy - if weighing your options feels off - leaning toward the outcome that would create a change won't be good.

On the other hand, maybe a decision does not immediately make you feel exactly ill at ease, and yet there's something about it that just sticks around. You can't say for sure yes or no, and something about it is poking you in the ribs a little bit. Maybe you want to like a certain outcome (say, accepting a job) but the decision feels... sticky. Not easy. Not horrible, but not obvious. Don't accept this job.

 3. Good decisions feel take little imagination
If you can immediately see yourself on the other end of a decision, it's a good one. If you can envision yourself waking up every two hours to bottle-feed a newborn, maybe you're ready to have one. If, on the other hand, you have a hard time envisioning yourself burping a baby, maybe you're not. Because...

4. Bad decisions seem foggy.
If you can't easily visualize yourself working with the team that just interviewed you, maybe you shouldn't accept the offer. If you walk around a city without feeling "at home," maybe you shouldn't move there. If the idea of starting a bakery seems like a cake deal on paper, but you're not clearly sure where you see yourself in the mix of the everyday business, it's probably not for you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Making of a Horrible Manager

If you’re ever in a position of power and want to ensure that everyone on your team loses respect for you, simply follow these six easy steps:

1. Refuse to actually “manage.”

I know, I know. This one probably comes as a shocker to some – I mean, you would assume that when you accepted the role of “manager,” someone, somewhere, probably expected you to actually “manage.” Never mind all that… after all, the whole thrill of being a manager is the kick-ass title, pay raise, and bigger desk, right? Right. The fastest way to break down a team's perspective of you is to outright reject your responsibilities, particulary the most important. Does the concept of not managing sound a little crazy to you? Not as crazy as it’ll seem to your team when you fail to function as they foresaw. Fail to lead your team, and, over time, they will fail to follow.

2. When possible, answer all questions with ambiguity

An especially effective move with new hires, this step actually takes some sophistication to sustain. In short, every time an employee asks a question, give them a round-about answer, talk through it – largely to yourself – with no distinct conclusion, or, if you really want to knock their socks off, simply answer: “that’s just the way it is.” (As an aside, if the opportunity ever presents itself, don’t overlook the infinitely detrimental effect of simply laughing in response to an intelligent or insightful inquiry.)

3. Embody double standards.

If you really want to break down rapport with your employees, foster a double standard for all seemingly insignificant things – the pettier, the better – within your reach. If at all possible, try to target certain individuals in this quest.

Imagine, for example, telling a single employee that it’s inappropriate to wear the color green to work. Weird, maybe… but really no biggie, right? Maybe not at first… after all, they’ve got a closet full of other colors, and green’s not that great anyway. But now imagine the effect if, on the following week, your entire team – short the singled-out soul – is sporting the said “unsuitable” shade. And imagine their confusion when everybody remains blissfully unaware of the consequence of the color – except, of course, for them.

Moves like these are priceless.
And, while on that note...

4. Play favorites. Then give in to gossip.
We all know that you already have pet employees. Just make it really, uncomfortably, blatantly apparent - especially to those outside of the chosen few. Let them have a little too much say in decisions that are just a little too big - major points for letting a single team member decide how a peer will fare in a performance review or whether they'll even be around come next year. There's nothing like a little subjectivism to disrupt a team's morale.

5. Don’t follow through on promises

This one really goes without explanation, because it’s so stupidly simple. Tell your team you’ll do something, and then fail to actually do it. While this can be effective with small statements, they’ll take longer to accomplish your task. To really get a group galled, do it with big, important promises.

6. …Especially those promises you made in direct response to their concerns

To really make your charade worthwhile, focus on failing to follow-through on the promises you make in the moments when colleagues have made themselves vulnerable. Whether or not you realize the amount of effort and nerve it takes for employees to approach you to communicate their well-constructed concerns is largely irrelevant; all you need to do is receive this message with what they perceive as sincerity, and subsequently leave them hanging. Do this just once or twice and you’ll forever sabotage your standing in seniority.

So, there you have it: six easy steps to guide you in the making of a horrible manager!
Embody enough of these, and you’ll forever undermine your credibility as a captain.

Happy Inadequacy! Enjoy your sabotage of an entire team’s career satisfaction!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Basics don't cost six digits

Where would you rank yourself in the following statements?

a. I can't even afford the basics
b. I can barely afford the basics and nothing else
c. I can afford the basics plus some extras
d. I can afford the basics and the extras, and I'm able to save, too.

I think most of the people I know - especially those with whom I interact on a regular basis - would probably fall in category "c." I would even go as far as to say that a lot of folks - myself included - could even slot themselves into category "d."

I recently read an article that referenced a study done by WSL Strategic Retail stating that in order to rank as letter "d," you need to be earning at least $150,000 per year.


I don't know what kind of garbage survey this was, but I feel pretty confident that I sit comfortably in the "d" sort of range - affording "the basics," extras," and "saving - and I definitely know for certain that, as much as I'd like to say my annual income is in a six-digit range, I can honestly say it isn't.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one in that position.

So here's my thought on that "research," the "facts" that our buddies over at WSL/Strategic Retail collected, and the viewpoints held by those they surveyed:

You folks need a major reality check in how you define either "basics," "extras" or both. If your definitions of "basic" are this dramatically skewed, you don't need to occupy Wallstreet to resolve it. You need to join the real world and stop looking at it through a gilded lens.