It’s not some behavioral anomaly, it’s merely your humanity
Here’s a page out of the middle manager’s handbook.
They call you into their office and ask you to shut the door and have a seat. And instead of responding dramatically, they calmly, sadly and regretfully tell you that you’ve really let them down. Their hopes were high, but you failed to deliver, so get ready for the kiss of death, that dreaded ominous phrase, they’re disappointed in you.
Just like your parents used to say when you were a kid.
They’re not mad, just disappointed.
Does this tactic still work on you? When someone tells you that you have disappointed them, does it ignite shame and regret and motivate you to apologize profusely and change your behavior instantly? …
It’s faster and safer and cheaper
Koontz writes in his suspense novel about a father who loved his car more than his family:
Harlo had nobody to whom he could give the love that he lavished on the car. A can’t return the love you give it, but if you’re lonely enough, maybe the sparkle of the chrome, the luster of the paint and the purr of the engine can be mistaken for affection.
Have you ever made that mistake? Turning turn to material things because they’re more predictable and less complicated than human beings?
It’s an easy trap that so many of us fall into. Myself included. We reach for something, rather than to someone, to get our needs filled. Because it’s faster and safer and cheaper. …
If you want to dethrone her, start by removing the audience.
Think about the biggest drama queen you know.
Do they spin small anxieties into outsize disasters? Do they cry wolf at the slightest sign of trouble? Do they assume disaster is around every corner? Do they spin everything into a vortex of negative thought?
Do they take minor provocations as personal affronts? Do they believe they are the only one to ever experience bad events? Do they have zero sense of proportion? Do they overuse hyperbole to the point of bursting from it?
Do they employ nonstop histrionics and search of the spotlight? …
The shape of our creative life
When somebody makes the comment, you’re all over the map, that’s not an insult, it’s a compliment.
Because none of us are fixed artistic entities. The world wants to govern our growth by insisting that we never diversify. People want to pathologize anything that’s diverse and experimental.
But the reality is, we’re not supposed to be one thing in this life. Having a clean and linear and tidy career narrative is extremely rare.
What’s important is that we honor our delight in variety. That we embrace a changing curriculum of own own making based on our promiscuous passions and pursuits of the moment. …
Assuming life is going to give them closure
Switch to draft
Linklater is one of my favorite filmmakers because he is notoriously allergic to plot.
In many of his interviews, he explains that plot is this agreed upon structure we all sign up for hang moments on. It’s this contract with the audience. And although people think they want it, it’s really just a fake thing that they create that assumes life is going to give them closure.
But the reality is, life doesn’t have a plot. There may be turns in our narratives, but what most people remember about their lives are moments. …
When people get together and trust each other
Emerson once said:
As the traveler who has lost his way throws his reins on his horse’s neck and trusts to the instinct of the animal to find his road, so must we do with the divine animal who carries us through this world.
But what if he wasn’t referring to about the imaginary bearded lifeguard in the sky? What if he was talking about actually people on the ground?
Because that’s where faith and trust play out on a daily basis. …
The opposite of belief isn’t disbelief, it’s experience
Beliefs are just guesses based on incomplete evidence.
They’re thoughts we’re in the habit of thinking. Things we actively keep reindoctrinating ourselves with.
That’s why the opposite of belief isn’t disbelief, it’s experience.
Because no matter how skillfully we construct our precious little mythologies to help us deal with the unknowable, eventually life takes the wind out of us and reality comes crashing in.
Can you think of memorable moments in life when your belief system failed you? …
Bigger and more meaningful than some category
The primary obstacle to expanding our creative life is way we view ourselves.
The actual language we use to describe the work that we do.
For the first two decades of my career as an artist, referring to myself with specific words like writer and performer and entrepreneur and agency creative and startup employee, those labels really mattered to me. And they served me quite well.
But once afternoon, my mentor posed an interesting question. She asked:
How do you hold your career identity in your mind?
After ten seconds of silence, she smiled and responded, well then, maybe you don’t, and that’s good too. …
This doesn’t lead to ostracism and loneliness
When we’re young, we assume that being disagreeable leads to ostracism and loneliness.
As a result. we quickly learn to align our feelings and opinions with those around us as a survival tactic.
Which works to a certain extent when we’re children. Especially if the people around us are angry and yelling and we don’t want to add fuel to the fire.
But as adults, if we have not properly named, tamed and reframed that fear, then we’ll start to feel obliged to choke down anything that doesn’t jive with us. …
You can execute simple tasks calmly and competently
Rogers first developed the concept of unconditional positive regard for his psychotherapy clients in the fifties.
It’s defined as the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what they say or do.
The encouraging part is, we don’t have to pay two hundred dollars an hour to benefit from this experience. Each of us can deepen our sense of awe for our own existence. We can learn to relate to ourselves not from place of narcissism, but from a place of compassion.
One tactic is not over identifying with an individual success or failure. Setting boundaries on our tendency to allow single events to define us, either positively or negatively. …