Posted in education, know better do better, mindset, parenting

Handy Smurf

A combination of misc details from around life recently…

We have Smurf glasses (think 80s McDonalds collectibles) and The Kid was asking about Smurfs.

One of the glasses features Handy Smurf which got me to thinking about how he was my favorite, and how I would pretend to be him when I was a kid, walking around with my invisible tool belt on and building invisible things. (This also gave me a little bit of insight about my kid playing similar solitary imaginative games. I had forgotten about doing this specifically.)

When I was in late elementary school, my parents put an addition onto the house. My grandfather did some of the work (mainly electrical, as I recall, but it was a long time ago), and I wanted to watch and/or help.

No. Girls don’t do that. (Which is weird, honestly, because my mom and her two sisters worked with him when they were kids.)

I did my science project that year on electrical circuits. (And got a mediocre grade on the presentation because I stood with my back to the class too much. The things that stick…)

What if those interests were cultivated?

(I would still love to be able to build things out of wood. And of course I would love to be able to change some of the questionable electrical at the house.)

A friend posted a lovely story about her kid on Facebook and said that the kid came like that (meaning it’s not her parenting that bestowed these good qualities in the kid).

My response was that while the kid might have shown up with those factory settings, as the parent, she has cultivated—or left space and given guidance for the child to cultivate—those qualities.

It seems that everyone has some spark in them that their parents or societal expectations have tried to extinguish, possibly have turned it into a point of shame. I know so many people who are working to own some piece of themselves that was consistently degraded. Something that they now always dismiss or second-guess or have that subtle constant underlying doubt or would love to do but “can’t.”

If you have no examples in our own life, you’re lucky!

Do a favor for the next generation.

Let them try. Let them explore. You never know where it will lead … even if it’s simply to an adult with less baggage.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Black lives matter, toothpaste, shaving cream

This post passed through my Facebook memories and it helped me to synthesize some of what’s going on. Maybe it will help you, too.


This activity has circulated for a while in parenting and teaching circles in the hope of teaching children to understand the power of words.

In case you can’t read the text on the photo: You give kids shaving cream or toothpaste or something similar and ask them to squeeze it all out; they delight in this. Then you ask them to put it back in the container. Obviously, this is fruitless. The moral of the story is: things you say can’t be taken back. Once they’re out, they’re out.

I saw this and I thought … this is part of why so many white people dig in their heels about racism.*

Acknowledging we are wrong brings to mind years (decades?) of tubes of toothpaste and cans of shaving cream in our wake. All the damage, all the hurts that we were/are (potentially inadvertently) responsible for. We see all of that, collectively in one messy pile, and we feel like a horrible human being.

Nobody likes to feel like a horrible human being, so we don’t acknowledge that messy pile, and we continue to hurt those around us in order to protect ourselves.

To paraphrase Maya Angelou: when you know better, do better.

That messy pile of jokes and slurs and negative assumptions and offhand comments and staying silent? You own that, regardless of where and when you pivot. You own that whether you acknowledge owning it or not. Those around you know you own it, whether you acknowledge it or not.

You can say, “I didn’t know. And I feel stupid and ashamed for not knowing. Now I know. Now I will do better.”

Also know that even in the process of doing better, you’ll still mess up. Because we all mess up, because we’re human. Anyone who tells you that they’ve never spoken or acted in a way that was demeaning to a minority either lacks self awareness or is lying (or both). And also because this stuff is baked in to our culture. Fish not knowing what water is and all that.

When someone tells you their story, listen. To the best of your ability, put aside your own self-defense and listen. If you don’t believe them, if you’re trying to rationalize the other side, pause for a moment and ask yourself: what if what they are saying is true? What about that possibility makes it so uncomfortable that you’re trying to poke holes in it?

We can rant about the system. (And agreed — the system desperately needs an overhaul.) But… we ARE the system. Know better. Do better.

As an addendum to that: support people who are trying to change. Support people who are doing better because they learning. Too often, someone who had a different way of looking at things 5 or 20 or 50 years ago is vilified for flip flopping or for “well, you used to ___.” Maybe they didn’t know then, but they know now. They were part of the problem, realized it, and want to be part of the solution. Let them become part of the solution!

*Applicable to any power differential.

Posted in hope, know better do better, mindset, motivation, podcasts, tips

Yes! I’ll do that! … Later…

Procrastination has showed up in several podcasts in the last few weeks.

The content has conflicted in some ways, but I took some bits from them and plan to use them. (Always: take what you can use and leave the rest.) These things are so obvious and fall into place so easily that I can’t believe I didn’t sleuth them out already. Maybe you have?

The biggest takeaway I had was that procrastination is avoiding a feeling, not a task. Completely resonates.

So I don’t actually put off phone calls because I don’t like phone calls—I’m avoiding feeling intrusive or frustrated or stupid (for a variety of reasons), depending on the call.

And I’m not avoiding writing the book because I don’t like writing (which I already knew!)—I’m avoiding putting it out there when it’s done.

And on and on.

Sometimes, I’m exceptionally productive when avoiding a specific task. The best way to get a daily to-do list done is to put one thing on it that I really don’t want to do. Everything else magically gets done…

One of the episodes talked about the lack of immediate gratification, and that would be true on long-term tasks—or maybe quick tasks with long-term payoff—but it doesn’t fly with “I need to make a phone call.”

They also talked about making yourself accountable to other people, but I have witnessed countless times (and so have you, I’m sure) that often, that doesn’t work. You disappear from view of your accountability partner. Or you tell them you decided not to pursue the thing any more. You eat the money you paid for your accountability group. Or use some other means of escaping the accountability.

Brené Brown’s work ties into this. Shaming yourself for something you have shame about in the first place doesn’t help the problem and does not inspire change or productivity. (Don’t shame yourself. Don’t shame your kids. Don’t shame your spouse. Don’t shame your colleagues. Don’t shame anyone. It. Doesn’t. Work.)


For long-term projects where fear of failure or rejection—often manifesting as perfectionism—are the roadblocks, there’s a plan. Let me recount what they suggested in the specific example in the podcast, and you can take it and adapt it.

The procrastinator was not making the (very short) videos she needed to make for an app she was looking to create. (The app already existed; it just needed content.) By asking her when during the day she would ideally work on this, she was assigned a daily 45-minute block just for making the videos. The first 15 minutes was planning. After that, she would record that day’s video until either time ran out or she had one she was happy with. If time ran out, she would just choose the one she liked best of what she had created and move on.

This creates space to work on it each day, but more than that, it removed much of the paralysis by perfectionism. Just make videos. It doesn’t matter yet if they’re good. Just make them. They’ll get better as you go.

Just write. Just draw. Just practice. Just record. Refine later. For now, just do it.

Of course, not everyone’s schedule allows space to be created so neatly. But most of us can find time on a regular-ish basis to work on a long-term project. (If we have a long-term project we want to do.)

How to make the phone calls?

Create a system where some highly desirable thing happens only when the dreaded thing happens. Perhaps a guilty pleasure type of thing. All of the examples that I’ve read/heard of this use watching movies or TV as the positive—”I can only watch these shows when I’m at the gym;” “I can only watch these movies when I do these unpleasant but long-term necessary health-related tasks”—but I’m sure that if that’s not your bag (like me), you can find something else.

As a general rule, I don’t like food/drink to be reward, but if it’s an infrequent or short-term enough thing, then it might be okay. It’s just … easy to set the stage to create or exacerbate other problems.

Links to the podcasts:

Work Life with Adam Grant

How To with Charles Duhigg (This is the current episode as of when I’m writing. “Procrastination” is in the title if you’re looking for it at a later time)

Armchair Expert

Braincast (This was my least favorite of the four I’ve linked—it’s the only episode I’ve listened to from this guy, and I’m not inclined to make room for more.)

Posted in ebb & flow, know better do better, mindset, motivation, vulnerability

Awkwardness of growing up

Adults often reference the awkwardness of growing up, of adolescence.

And sure, that’s a weird time in life because so much is new and we have no choice but to muscle through the weirdness, surrounded by other people who are in a similar position, led often by people who are condescending and dismissive.

We have to take risks and grow because we have no other choice. Those paths don’t all look the same, of course; regardless, we’re all doing it to some extent.

The problem is that once we find relatively stable ground, many of us stay at that point where we don’t have to risk any more—or feel like we don’t have to risk any more—and we stagnate.

There will be awkwardness any time we’re in a state of learning something new. It might be a new athletic endeavor, a new artistic path, a new intellectual project, a new interpersonal risk, a new intrapersonal journey.

They’re all awkward and uncomfortable and we feel kind of lost and suck at them when we start.

Start anyway. (Or start because!)

Be brave enough to suck at something new.


Posted in education, know better do better, mindset

Keyboard skills

When I was in college, the phrase “keyboard skills” evoked many negative reactions from many of us.

Learning to play piano was, succinctly, not a good time.

But even at the college level, we weren’t handed a Beethoven piano sonata and asked to plunk it out by whatever means necessary.

This is what we’re doing to kids in schools. On the other kind of keyboard.

Technology is a big deal right now, and many people clamor for more and more technology.

Testing is also a big deal, and the majority of the Tests are computer-based.

But at no point are kids being taught how to type. Not in a slow, systematic way that actually yields students who can touch type.

Maybe they’ll be shown where their fingers go and it will be explained some. But kids in kindergarten are being asked to log in to computers, and the only way you can do that is to type in your user name and password.

(What they’re doing after that varies. Working with a mouse or a track pad seems appropriate maybe.)

We didn’t even have computers in school until I was in late elementary school. (Shakes fist at kids on lawn.) And yet we learned to use computers. People my age and older are not in short supply in the tech industry.

Children don’t need to be on computers from when they’re young to be able to learn them. Children do need to be taught to type if they’re going to be effective using keyboards. (I have so many thoughts about what we should and shouldn’t be doing in the lower elementary grades and younger, but that’s a series of rants for another day.)

I was talking to a friend who does IT work. He said that they have young programmers who hunt and peck. Pretty quickly, but still.

Delay computer use in schools. Teach keyboard skills.