Friday, May 30, 2008

Imagination Rocks

While searching for a particular quote in the book, Orthodoxy, by English wit G.K. Chesterton, I ran across this lovely writing on true imagination:

There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man's mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them.

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom (16-17).

More power to the imagination; the magnet that attracts us to the good life.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In the Mood for Good Things

Conjure up the image of someone you know. Now, imagine that person is in a really bad humor, you can feel it from a mile away. What do you do? Do you rush up an ask what's wrong, run the risk of getting your head bit off, or do you stay in the background, until the vibes improve?

Most of the time we avoid people when they're in an obvious foul mood. And with excellent reason. We know these people are not at their best, they're not fun to be around, and a lot of times they're not willing to let go of that icky emotion right now.

So realize that if you're in a nasty mood, everyone is avoiding you as well. You don't have say anything, people can tell from your facial expression and body language - you send the message "approach at your own risk".

Time spent in a bad frame of mind is time lost. It's almost impossible for anything good to happen to you when you're like this, so you need to remember that you CAN turn this state of mind around.

Ways to get yourself back to feeling like yourself:

1. Avoid getting overtired, or low blood sugar. Exhaustion is sometimes unavoidable, but it is not a desireable state of being.

2. Set a time limit. "I will not speak to anyone for the next 45 minutes while I have this private anger party." Then let it go.

3. Remember the advice to look for the best interpretation of a message or event. It's possible that you're over-reacting and taking a message in the way it was not intended. Even if you think you KNOW you have the right to be offended, try to be mindful that there is a slight possibility that another interpretation is out there.

Feeling bad, meaning sad, depressed, angry, on edge, does not help you. The energy you spend justifying these feelings is also not helping you. There is a quote I've seen but I don't remember who said it, "Feeling resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die." The same happens with all negative emotions, you hurt others, but mostly yourself. Turn it around, ASAP.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rethink Carpe Diem

The lovely Latin expression, carpe diem, made famous in the hit movie, The Dead Poets Society, provides us with some interesting food for thought. In English, it is translated, "seize the day". Many of us take this to mean, "make sure you cram as many activities and stuff to do as humanly possible into this day and don't stop until you drop," which is sometimes useful.

But, there lies another possibility, not to replace the "get 'er done now" thinking, but to extend and enrich the concept about what it means to really seize this day, enjoy this day, this moment. I've had this nagging thought on my mind lately as I have worked so very hard to get this second dissertation chapter nearly finished, and in my mind, rushing ahead to write the next chapter, and the next, and the next, and then the book.

But what a loss it would be to spend the next six months, or more, so immersed in writing that I don't take time to notice the wonderful sound of spring rain that's falling right now. It would be like winning the battle, in that you finish the project, but lose the war, in that your life escaped without your noticing it.

Of course we want to get as close as we can to the good life. But there is no "there" there. Life is now; it doesn't begin when you finish the project. So take a moment and seize it, savor it, focus on what you enjoy about this very moment. Find the beauty, the goodness, the justice, and the truth, in what you're experiencing right this very moment.

Carpe diem.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Creative Companies Stay Creative

These ideas are about keeping innovative people happy at the companies that employ them. You may want to look these up at the source and show them to the boss; many of these ideas do not reflect the customary thinking at business schools. These nine suggestions come straight from the June issue of Inc. magazine, the commentary is courtesy of Mixonian:

1. Encourage risky behavior. How much risk can your boss tolerate? Find ways to try new things, without bankrupting the company.

2. Get multicultural. A variety of viewpoints means people working together with differing political views, ethnic backgrounds, languages, ages, social backgrounds. It could also mean having lunch at Dale's Indian Cuisine.

3. Provide lots of free time to think. Hmmmm....sounds anti-productive. But burning out employees is not exactly productive either.

4. Hire smart. Review the hiring process to encourage the qualities valued by your company.

5. Bring in outsiders. These can be poets, artists, film directors, theologians, astronauts (i.e. rocket scientists), physicists, musicians. Get their perspective on a your project, or have them talk to employees to widen everyone's views.

6. Do it for free. Reward employees for helping others. The trick is to set it up so it's not just another salary-enhancing practice, keep it unpredictable.

7. Mix up your people. Cross training has been around for awhile, and for a good reason.

8. Be flexible, very flexible. This also means being open, very open, to employee suggestions.

9. Write it down. This suggestion refers to employee-created publications, it could be a simple bulletin board. The idea is to provide a venue for employees to put out some wild might turn into a big home run for the company.

See, creativity is for everyone. Not only does it make for a richer life, but it can lead to a richer bank account.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Knowledge Is Power

"Knowledge is power, if you know it about the right person." -- Ethel Mumford

Well, having the dirt on someone is not exactly what I usually have in mind when I think "knowledge is power", althought that certainly could be useful. Here are some other circumstances when knowledge is power:

-- when you're not worried about touching water after ironing.

-- when you know it doesn't matter whether you eat cake with a dessert fork, or a dessert spoon.

-- when you don't know the latest scoop on the latest celebrity, and you're not even sure who the latest celebrity is.

-- when you realize that your abundance does not come at the expense of others', nor vice versa.

-- when you realize that what we think of as success is in the here and now; it's not a future destination.

-- when you know you can accept greater responsibility for your feelings.

Mixonian wishes all a wonderful Memorial Day. We appreciate the services of our soldiers to bring more peace into the world.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tim Gunn on the Power of Words

Yesterday I found a copy of Tim Gunn's book, A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style, at the local public library. Remember libraries have millions of books on all subjects you can borrow for FREE. They even have electronic audio books. Having discovered Project Runway through Netflix, my daughters, sister, and I are now Tim Gunn fans. He embodies numerous Mixonian ideals: creativity, style, vocabulary, kindness, tough love.

He studied English Literature at Yale; hooray for humanities majors! His career path was unconventional, but he found his way by connecting the dots between literature, art, teaching, administration, showing up when you're supposed to, and doing a great job. Here is his take on the power of vocabulary:

I am mindful of the power of vocabulary; it can unleash limitless quantities of defining and descriptive words and phrases that awaken the listener or reader to new dimensions of understanding....But vocabulary can derail, render impotent, and befuddle meanings or intended meanings. The words that we choose to critically analyze people, places, and things are especially important, and we must be responsibly cognizant of what we intend to say (22).

Sometimes we are caught off guard and spout off the most negative vocabulary free fall, which truly goes further than we intended. On the other side, it's much more helpful to explain why we "love" this dress, this ad, this article. Here are his suggestions on the all-important skill of giving feedback: honest positives and honest-but-not-hurtful negatives.

"I find this (insert item here) to be compelling, because..."
"I respond well to this, because..."
"I'm attracted to this, because..."

"I'm not responding well to this, because..."
"This isn't working for me, because..."

Apart from Mr. Gunn's very useful tool for delivering a more precise and helpful message, he's wise to understand the power of language. Make it work!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Take Responsibility, Not Blame

Taking responsibility for the results in your life is a big step toward living the life you desire. Sometimes we resist taking responsibility because then it can turn in to thinking, "Obviously I'm a total loser because of all the miserable things going on my life." How do you take responsibility, without falling into the black hole of self depreciation?

That's a good question. One thing to realize is that taking responsibility means we have what it takes to make the situation better. No one has magical power to transform the pumpkin into a Lexus, but we can all take small steps to get our lives more fully aligned with our vision of the good life.

There are things we control, and things beyond our control. Discerning the difference is not always obvious, but neither is it mission impossible. Sometimes it's easier to start by considering a situation in the past, to see if you can assume some level of responsibility, even when you acted in total ignorance, for what happened. I did this with my divorce. Now I see with utmost clarity how I damaged the relationship, not out of ill will, but out of unhealthy habits of which I was unaware.

One bad habit I had was expecting someone else to rescue me. I thought that's what husbands did. I thought that my effort to be the perfect wife would pay off in my total happiness being delivered to me on a lovely platter. Now, I know better; it doesn't work that way.

Another unhelpful habit I had was thinking that by conceding to my husband on the vast majority of our inevitable disagreements, he would then concede the remaining issues, no matter what they were. Not so. You teach people how to treat you and if you've been teaching others that your will is not important, then quite naturally these other people think your will is not important to you, or to anyone else.

If you haven't realized it by now, there is no rescue mission on the way. Being happy is your own mission, and it's mostly possible. Not a state of near-continual delirium, but a contentment that reflects your acceptance of responsibility for your life.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Successful People Are Optimistic

In my spare time, I'm researching investment options and yesterday I saw a DVD (from Netflix) by Brian Tracy, who was encouraging entrepreneurship. Right up my alley.

He said there was a study from the University of Pennsylvania, with over 300,000 subjects (i.e. survey participants), on the characteristics of successful people. I'm convinced that most surveys find whatever it is the researchers look for, but in any case, this study's finding was that the top quality of "successful" people is optimism.

Even of greater interest, Mr. Tracy showed four specific exercises to strengthen optimism:

1. Talk about the things you want in life; this helps displace negative thinking.

2. Look for the good in every person and in every situation. If you look hard enough, you will find it.

3. Look for the valuable lesson in every setback. Keep in mind that the presence of problems is a sign of life; every problem is a learning opportunity. Most problems teach more than one lesson.

4. Nourish your mind with beauty and enlightenment. Well, actually Tracy said to feed your mind continually.

Optimists learn more things, try more things, and persist longer when the obstacles show up, as they always do.

These ideas should sound very familiar.

I just found out a paper I submitted to the National Communication Conference was accepted for their November conference. I missed their first deadline, which was mid-February, but the deadline was extended by 48 hours because of a computer glitch, so at the very last minute I remembered a paper I had written in fall, 2005, and sent it in....just in case.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Be Chic, Be Successful

Every now and then you find the most unexpected validation for your idea, maybe someone expresses articulately, what you had vaguely considered for a while in the back of your mind. Once a film professor claimed I had been reading his mail, because our thinking on one subject was so surprisingly the same. And that was for an online class, in which I never met the professor personally.

I enjoy reading and looking at good magazines: Lucky, Domino, Fast Company, Inc., Martha Stewart publications, to name a few. I think seeing beautiful pictures and reading the latest trends in different areas is interesting and stimulating. Usually I don't read many letters to the editor, but Saturday, I was reading the just-arrived June Issue of Fast Company and a reader comment caught my eye!

I've been thinking a lot about our craving for beauty, and how it always pops up no matter how much we repress it. I'm incorporating some of this thinking and some practical aesthetic teaching into my public speaking courses, especially in terms of creating effective visual aids to accompany the presentation. That would be my contribution to confront the "death by Power Point" syndrome.

And this is the fascinating comment from Joshua Letourneau, of Atlanta, Georgia (reprinted without anyone's permission): The ability to convey complex points or large amounts of data with simple images is as much an art as a skill. I'd love to see business schools incorporate an art class.

ME TOO! And furthermore, I think web designers should take Zen art classes to avoid so much clutter. As I told Anita, a computer gal who's helping me develop this into a "real" web site, "I'd rather have a tasteful and not-profitable web site, than a tacky money-making site."

Have a creative and chic Tuesday!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Make a New Friend

Today I met a new friend, and I think you'd like him as well. We can't talk to him because he died in 1975, but he left us some interesting thoughts. Arnold Toynbee (1889 - 1975) was an English historian and philosopher. Here are some quotes I found at

-- It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.

-- America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair. ;)

-- Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.

-- Civilizations in decline are consistently characterised by a tendency towards standardization and uniformity.

Historians have a valuable perspective on things precisely because they get out of the current context. Have a magnificent Monday!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

3 Unexpected Life Lessons

I have spent most of this week-end writing about how Hugo Chavez uses the historic figure of Simon Bolivar in his speeches to legitimize himself and create an identity for his followers. Here are some unexpected fruits of this labor:

1) It's a tradition for Venezuelan politicians to act like they're the re-incarnation of the heroic Simon Bolivar, but it's not a randomly-occurring tradition. Come to think of it, all traditions have their rationales; many times the tradition outlives the rationale. And if you want to, you can probably find a more effective way to celebrate the rationale than the traditional one. For example, make sure you're sitting down, because this example is mind-blowing.

My mother NEVER prepared turkey for Thanksgiving for her family. I mean, not even once. I'm sure for those who know me well, this explains a lot. For the rest of you, let me assure you that we had absolutely delicious Thanksgiving meals, and still do, and the importance of gratitude was firmly imprinted on all the offspring.

2) The most interesting parts of this dissertation happen when I'm able to relate perspectives from history, rhetoric, psychology, economics, and politics. Higher education in the world today (almost) unilaterally encourages extreme specialization, certainly knowing one area really well has its value. It's also true that knowledge gained from one discipline, informs knowledge in another discipline, even if, or especially if the two areas are apparently completely unrelated.

3) Help can come from the most unexpected sources. Today an old friend from high school, I mean from WAY back, called me out of the blue. After sort of catching up with each other, she offered to help proofread this opus. When someone offers you a hand, take it! Even if she can only stand to proofread five pages of this tome, that's a humongous help for me, for which I am grateful.

If you make the commitment to keep learning, to continually increase your awareness, you do it. Look for the answer and it will appear!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Aristotle for Smart Divas

Don't let your eyes glaze over. I promise Aristotle has something for you. As you probably are aware, Aristotle was the star student of Plato, way back a couple and a half of millennia ago. We will not hold it against Aristotle the fact that he did not allow female students into his school like his master, Plato, did. Everyone makes mistakes.

Aristotle made enormous contributions to Greek thought, much of which still affects us today. Part of his contribution was to write out 4 ideals that all human persons strive for: Beauty, Goodness, Justice, and Truth.

Beauty: We all want to look good, and live and work in pleasant surroundings. It's not a mere superficial longing; beauty inspires us. While our Puritan ancestors did not see this, we all need and crave beauty. That's why decorating your cubicle is a great thing.

Goodness: We could call this "love", but today Mixonian does not wish to get into a discussion to define love. Simply put, doing good for others, we do good unto ourselves. Doing something good, and expecting a certain level of appreciation and gratitude is not helpful. Do the right thing because you want to. Ultimately it benefits you more than anyone else.

Justice: This is why otherwise inarticulate two year olds insist "it's not fair". This is why I fail students who plagiarize. It's no skin off my back if they cheat themselves, and certainly it's a lot of trouble to follow through on cheating. However, the compensation system of grading breaks down if students are equally rewarded for doing their own work, or presenting the work of others as their own.

Truth: This is why we want to know if a beauty cream really works or not, if a belief is really "true" or not. The entire truth is far too big for us to really get a good grasp of it, but we all want to know the truth of our own lives.

So, go and impress someone. Mention how Aristotle really talks to you. Have a great Friday!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Advantages of Having No Dishwasher

Let it be known that I truly thought that all American homes were furnished with electric dishwashers. I knew that was part of the American Way of Life. Imagine my surprise when I rented this charming cottage built in 1935, that has no dishwasher, or maid either. Not to worry, there are advantages:

1. Several years ago I inherited several pieces of my paternal grandmother's fine china. I had never used it until I moved into this house. Now it's my everyday china, washed by hand each day. I think I've used it more in the nine months I've lived in this house than over the decades she had it. Using it brings me fond memories and I know she would be pleased to see it being appreciated.

2. I've learned to prepare delicious and nutricious (of course) meals using fewer pots and pans. I do stir-frys, hearty soups, and other one-pan specials. Sometimes I fix these "tapa"-like spreads with cheese, olives, nuts, crackers, and of course, wonderful organic dates. Now that the weather is warm, we eat a lot of super salads.

3. Washing dishes gives me time to think, or mentally vegetate if I prefer. Funny thing, the kids usually disappear quite quickly after a meal, leaving me all alone. I really don't mind, I've delegated other chores to the children and usually, but not always, I wash the dishes by myself. This time washing the dishes adds a nice touch to my life's rhythm. If I really must rush, I leave them soaking and get to them later, and/or get the children to help.

Not having a dishwasher has advantages, but it would be especially nice to have one when we have guests. When we do get our electric dishwasher, I'll be sure to let the children take care of kitchen clean-up, it won't be special any more.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You're Richer Than You Think

Despite my redefining myself as a "high-maintenance" person, my checking account balance is --shock-- the same! Doesn't it realize that high-maintenance babes require more $$ precisely for that high maintenance? Not to worry, there's gold around here somewhere, I just need to dig it up.

OK, the best things in life are free, but there are a lot of really wonderful second-best things, like a Kate Spade wallet, that cost money. If you're wanting to upgrade your assets, take a look at the wealth you already own. Consider the following riches:

- You can get almost any book that's ever been printed, for FREE, at the library. If what you want is not there, ask for an inter-library loan. Entertain yourself, educate yourself, or both.

- Want expertise on hydroponic gardening? There's plenty to be had, for FREE, on the Internet. Any subject, it's there in writing, and in audio form. You can educate your self about absolutely anything these days. And that knowledge can change into another form of abundance, the kind that you put in your bank account.

- Not all of you have this option, but I get to use the gym at ECU for about $20/month. That's almost free. Yesterday I swam one mile in their lovely pool. Usually it's heated, but yesterday it wasn't, because of some maintenance going on, so I got to burn extra calories to keep warm, at no extra charge. You can always keep fit by walking, for FREE!

- Want to connect with the world? Set up your own blog for FREE, at google. Express yourself, sell stuff, connect with people, for FREE.

- Want to raise some cash quickly? You can probably convert some of your books, objects d'art (that French for doodads), or picture you no longer care for. You can sell them on ebay, hold a yard sale, or visit a consignment shop. In any case, a tax deduction converts money owed to Uncle Sam into a much more useful resource. All of these options are FREE.

- Want to be extremely intelligent, ultra hip, super creative, and wildly successful? Read Mixonian. For FREE. Lucky you, you're already doing that. ; )

If it's true that the rich get richer, and it certainly seems to be that way to me, then maybe we can start by realizing that we already are rich. It's just a matter of using our unlimited creativity to transform our assets to better suit ourselves.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Becoming a High-Maintenance Chick, oops, Woman

After some serious reflection upon the need for extreme self care, I have decided to become a high-maintenance gal. I used to think they were superficial. I still do, only now I believe being superficial is a good thing. : )

Actually, declaring to the world that you require maintenance sends out an important message about how you value yourself. In God's eyes we may be all equals, but anyone out of diapers knows that most people use visual clues to decide how to treat a person. Even more important, your attitude tells people how to treat you!

I'm excited about this new "high-maintenance" paradigm for me. On my first date with Mr. Wonderful, I imagine the following dialogue:

Laura: Well, I want you to know I am a high-maintenance woman.

Mr. Wonderful: Oh, really....hmmmmm.

Laura: Well, what do you think of that?

Mr. Wonderful: Oh, I think it's fine. It's just that you don't look like a high-maintenance woman, no offense, you seem to be very down-to-earth.

Well, I haven't figured out my response to that one. I'm not interested in acrylic nails, not willing to make weekly hair-drying appointments, or into wearing that much make-up. I'd rather live under a bridge than look tacky! I'm working out my own high-mainenance details.

For too many years, I've been getting $10 worth out of every $1 spent on clothing. And that's not a bad thing. I've shopped at thrift shop sales (often the junior league ones), gotten great hand-me-downs from my sister and a few friends, and recycled so much clothing that I now wear my own vintage. None of that is bad in itself. One reason I put out so much energy in stretching my clothing dollar is that frankly, most of the time, I'd rather buy a book than a new shirt.

However, life is short and I like the feeling you get when you have something expensive on. It's not that everything on your back has to come from Neiman Marcus. But if your wallet is tres chic, or even your costume earrings are from some famous designer, your attitude reflects positive self worth.

So, here are some high-maintenance options I'm considering:

- getting my legs waxed.
- getting a massage.
- buying expensive vitamins (hopefully I'll take them as well!)
- buying an upscale magazine to get more ideas.
- buying aroma-therapy candles, even though the days are long now.

It is now Mixonian policy to support its high-maintenance readers. Look out for an upcoming drawing for something soft and cuddly, (and it's not my new nephew.) Details on the way.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Power of Beliefs

I know some ladies who are 100% convinced that if you touch water after ironing, the consequences can be severe. They know that touching water with the heat absorbed into their hands from ironing can make them ill, perhaps seriously so.

These individuals, the ones I have met, often must do ironing as part of their jobs. They carefully plan when they do their ironing; they leave it for the last part of the day, avoiding any contact with water until the next day. Some of these people believe that opening the refrigerator after ironing can be just as bad as touching water; they plan accordingly. If you ask them if this planning is really necessary, they can tell you several examples of people who inadvertently touched water after ironing, and got sick as a result.

The memory of these ladies came to mind today as I did a bit of ironing of my own. Even though I've heard stories about how dangerous it is to touch water after ironing, I'm not convinced. I ironed a bit in the morning, and then another bit in the afternoon, and I took a shower that evening. I was not aware of any heat lingering in my body, although I didn't really iron that many items.

I know some other people, fewer in number, who believe that life is relatively uncomplicated and that everything usually turns out for the best. They believe that if you work hard, you get ahead. And for their lives seem to prove they are correct in their thinking.

I have heard that life pretty much turns out the way you expect it to. I have also heard that life is full of surprises. I think both paradigms are correct.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Value of Self Care

Happy Mother's Day! It's 4:30 in the afternoon and I'm still in my pajamas so you all know I'm having a great day.

Today I'm taking it easy, something I should do more often. Usually I go and go, and go some more, always trying to make the most of every moment, never "wasting" time, thinking ahead, and planning. Then I collapse, and rest, and start the cycle all over again. It is far too easy to put off the necessary rests, the self care, until "maƱana." It usually appears that there are too many things to do in too little time.

There is a wonderful word in Spanish that I have a hard time translating. The word is "consentir", which is usually is translated as "to spoil." This word has a more negative than positive nuance, it's thought of as something to avoid doing, as in "What a spoiled brat!" Another translation could be "to take special care of", but the fact that this idea takes so many words to express shows it is a concept of low value in our society. You seldom hear someone say, "She is so well taken care of!"

Extreme self care is considered idleness, or wasteful. Getting a good night's sleep is for wimps. The following exchange expresses it well. I heard it on the movie A Good Woman, based on a play by Oscar Wilde, Mrs. Windemere's Fan.

Gentleman #1: They've gone from barbarism to decadence without bothering to build a civilization in between.

Gentleman #2: Well, that's American efficiency for you.

Well, I haven't come up with a word yet for "taking extremely good care of one self," but I'm working on it. People who don't take care of themselves are cranky, snappy, biting off your head for nothing, unimaginative, and unproductive. And expecting someone else to take care of you great for children, but I haven't seen it work out well among grown-ups.

So, don't put it off, schedule it in: extreme self care. If you don't value yourself, how can you value others?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What Men Say, What Men Mean

Dear Readers. The following was the second-place blog post in the April contest. It was written by a talented former student, Robin. Her blog address is at the end; she's got a fabulous sense of humor.

As I get older and traverse through the different types of guys out there, I find that they all hold one thing in common—the inability to tell women the truth. Whether to further their agenda or exonerate themselves from the responsibility of our feelings, guys everywhere are feeding us lines every day.

The “I’ll call you” line: We’ve all heard it and we’ve all been disappointed when that call never came through. Some of us have fruitlessly waited by the phone, hoping to will it to ring—a perpetual jab at every girl’s self esteem—and some of us even mistakenly called, only to be ignored. In the end, the guy knew he wasn’t going to call, so why say he was going to? Well, because he thought that it was what she wanted to hear. But the thing is, we don’t want to hear those three little words if they aren’t true.

The “I’m just not looking for a girlfriend” line: It’s cute. It’s convenient and freaking fabulous. The truth in this line only lies in the fact that they are afraid to admit the truth, which is he just doesn’t want you to be his girlfriend. Why can’t all you boys, sorry, men, come out with the truth? You’re not interested, just say it, and don’t cover it in an expedient lie that you will later contradict when you start dating your ex-girlfriend again.

The “I’m just really busy” line: We’re all really busy, so this makes for a poor excuse for why something isn’t being done. He didn’t show for something, he forgot to call, he forgot to mention he started dating someone else—“I was just busy” is a catch all excuse for all these instances and more. Really, he was too busy trying to think of a mediocre excuse that he forgot to tell you that he just wasn’t thinking about you.

In the end, the only thing evident in the way men talk to women is that lingering deep in every line is a strategic cover for what they’re really thinking. They blame us for playing games, but they don’t even have the balls to really say what they want, leaving us to decipher through their actions what they really meant—a murky, gray area causing the onset of futile “games” every where. Stop wasting my time.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Make Your Perspective the Best

A couple of days ago, Caroline sent me this clip from AOL. It's from Indra Nooyi, the Chairman and CEO of Pepsico. She says, "My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed."

Hmmmmm. I like this, and it sounds vaguely familiar. Kinda like reframing events, looking for the silver lining. It's wisdom that works. Can't you remember a time when you got sooooo angry and/or hurt, because you assumed the worst possible interpretation of an event, or what someone said? Like, "She's awfully quiet this morning, maybe she's going to fire me." Or, "He's late; obviously he doesn't care about me, or he would be here already."

I wonder why some of us do this. I think the reason is, once again, fear. We jump to the worst conclusion, get really upset, savor the victim moment. The scholarly literature supports the thinking that fear of loss is the greatest motivator behind human behavior. We fear losing our love, our job, our status, and react accordingly.

Incidentally, the first words uttered by Pope John Paul II, right after he was "poped" way back in 1978 or 1979, were "Be not afraid." Maybe he realized the damage we do because we fear.

So, I got a wonderful opportunity to apply this perspective choosing a couple of weeks ago when my son scraped the side of my vehicle against a metal post or something, when he misjudged the turn into a car wash. Spending $500 (my deductible) on replacing what 5 minutes ago was perfectly fine, is not something I normally get enthusiastic about. However, I did remember my own fender-bender as a young driver, and I was delighted that my son got this fender-changing experience involving only one car, no trees, no alcohol.

Other benefits from this incident:

1) I got to deal with my beloved insurance company, USAA. I'm not sure if I really love that company, but the feeling is something like that. I've never dealt with any other, but you hear the worst stories about insurance companies, and this one has always, without one single exception, treated me well. I got through the filing-a-claim process with their customer service person, Dani Andrew, who acted like helping me with this was the best thing that had happened to her that day. Thank you, Dani!

2) As a result of my conversation with Dani, I got some of my other policies updated and got a new one that I had wanted. In other words, I took care of some important, but not urgent matters.

3) I get to drive a rental car for 4 to 5 days next week. Cool. It will be a newer model than my own car, and probably consume less fuel. My kids and I are excited about this.

4) I feel better about my son driving now. A teenage male behind the wheel of the car is probably about as safe as a youngster playing with a hand grenade in the back yard. This incident caught his attention and I think he is now a more aware driver.

The trick is not to go into automatic "tragedy thinking" when the unexpected appears. That starts with the decision to look for the most helpful perspective, always. It's the work of a lifetime, but one that gets you closer to the good life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Powerful Communication for Introverts

After thinking a lot about what I posted yesterday, about what powerful communication looks like in an organization, I kept getting this image of a super pushy person. I don't accept that is the only model for flexing power in an organizational context. Quiet people, or those of use who are not super talkative, do not face a future of permanent subordination.

The main requirement to exude power in a situation is confidence. That comes from experience, doing your homework, knowing yourself, and knowing that any criticism to your idea or proposal is not a personal attack. If you go into a situation knowing you've prepared as well as you could given the constraints, there is no reason not to be confident. And confidence, maybe even more so the quiet kind, gives a powerful message to others.

It's not that your plan is absolutely bullet-proof, although it may well be. But you know it is a sound idea, an appropriate solution, and that someone may actually have a suggestion to make it even better, or more socially acceptable. It's also possible that a member of your audience doesn't quite get it, but with quiet confidence, you explain it again. There is no need to feel threatened.

It is said that attitude is 90% of communication. That means you don't have to be a flaming extrovert to get things done. After all, having power means getting things that you want. Be clear, not necessarily loquacious.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Power in Communication

I'm reading Power and Communication by Louisiana State University's Andrew King as part of my research on Hugo Chavez. I just found some research about how power is communicated in everyday interactions. In this particular area of power, King refers to earlier published research by Martin Remland.

In a given situation, the more powerful people are:

- more relaxed than their subordinates.
- less attentive to the others' communication.
- less vulnerable to space invasion.
- more expansive.
- more in control of floor space.
- less frequently interrupted.
- take more turns in conversation.
- talk more of the time.
- are touched less often.

"In summary, the measure of speaker power is the degree of control over the entire interactive process" (17).

Something to think about as you go through your day. Maybe you need to speak up.

3 Remarks on Plagiarism

Probably most of you get through each day, and to sleep each evening, without thinking a whole lot about plagiarism. I'm usually that way, myself. However, as a writing instructor, my students occasionally bring it to my attention, through their decision to cut and paste, and present it to me as their own writing. It's hard to understand why a young, strong student would choose to sabotage himself that way.

Later today I'm meeting with two students, both of whom will fail the university course they take with me because of their decision to cut and paste, with no citation. Both would have easily passed if they had not made that decision. This particular course requires a lot of writing, and is prerequisite for other courses in the communication major, so having to take the whole course again is not something to take lightly.

I've been thinking over the past few days what to tell these young people in this meeting. I want to shake them tell them how disappointed and insulted I am by this action. But I don't think they really care how their teacher feels about their decision. I resist the very strong temptation to yell at them, "Do you really think I'm a total moron?!?!??!?"

Here are some remarks on plagiarism, a very stupid thing to do.

1. Plagiarism is essentially disrespect. Students who engage in this convey to themselves that they are incapable, that they are not strong enough to do the real creative work of life. This fundamental lack of self-respect is a heavy burden to carry, and it's not easy to let go of it.

2. Writing is an important way a person develops her voice. This is the voice to tell one's very own stories. Choosing to use wikipedia's voice makes it harder to find one's own way. Does anyone really want to go through life as a wikipedian, totally ignorant of one's own personal style?

3. Plagiarism distracts, and it's a deterrent to developing one's own creativity. The sad part is that it really doesn't save the student time and energy, it's simply that the student chooses to be a spokesperson for wikipedia, for free. Their own creative force is ignored, shoved down under more layers of stuff.

Life is too short for plagiarism. I think the reason people cut and paste is FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. Express yourself, not wikipedia.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How to Defend Your Proposal

The first item on the checklist to get a doctoral dissertation signed off is a successful defense of your proposal. It's the same as getting a green light for a film script - it's approval to go on with the project. The proposal committee members want to see that you've done enough research and structured your idea sufficiently to develop a full-blown dissertation that is socially acceptable to the Academy.

I turned in the first draft of this proposal to my advisor last December 17. He took forever and then some to get back to me. I quickly made all the corrections he suggested, sent it back to him in the revised form, and waited another eternity. Then I turned in one small section - the one he said was most important -- in its re-re-re-written form. And I heard nothing from him. Each time someone asked me about the proposal, I would begin my rant on how this guy was slowing me down. And he was. But that wasn't the whole picture; I wasn't ready to defend this proposal yet.

Then I got an attitude. I knew that I knew that I knew this proposal would have to be defended before the end of April. I mean, yes or yes. On Tuesday, April 28, I successfully defended it; my adviser said it was the easiest defense he had ever seen. I was ready!

Each business, school, and organization has its own form of the proposal defense: almost any project you want to undertake requires approval from someone. Your attitude is 90% of your job. You feel confident, and NOT threatened by any comments that seem, or are, negative. You've done your homework, you know your content, and you know the benefits of your project to your audience. Proposal defending is a form of sales, just as is any green-light process.

Your confidence tells your audience more than the words you speak. If you feel confident in yourself, then they will feel confidence in you. Being confident means you are less likely to get thrown off by some unexpected question or comment. Confidence is not arrogance, but the quiet assurance that you've got something valuable to bring to the table. It also means you're delighted to get suggestions on how to make it better.

What undermines our confidence? In one word, fear. False Expectations Acting Real. If you feel fear, you're probably not ready to defend your proposal.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

15 Ways to Be Even More Creative

You create your own universe as you go along. -- Winston Churchill

Imagination is more important than knowledge. -- Albert Einstein

Everybody's got creativity. It comes with the complete human being package, regardless of the version you own. Mixonian readers realize that of course, and seek to develop their creativity, to create at a higher level, both in quantity and quality. For now, we are loosely defining creativity as forming new relationships among people, ideas, and things. This creative process works at the office, on the farm, at home, everywhere. Keep in mind that creative development is not a linear process, but holds more of a circular or spiral form. It's a part of spiritual and mental renewal.

1. Commit to being even more creative. Just make that decision. The ways of carrying out this mission will appear, actually they're right in front of you at this very moment, you just need to see them.

2. Continue your process of spending less time with electronic media. To create new relationships, you need to free up space in your mind.

3. Take a break from reading. What? you may ask. Aren't we supposed to watch less TV, and read more? Yes, you are correct, dear reader. However, even reading can be a way of not creating.

4. Fear not idleness. Unplugging yourself from others' messages frees you to develop your own message. Remember the rests that are written into the musical composition. Creativity flourishes in a pattern of conscious thinking, followed by relaxation.

5. Write daily, even if writing is not "your" medium. It's not going to be graded. It matters not if you're dyslectic. Get your ideas out there, make room for new ones.

6. Feed your creative spirit. It requires exposure to something outside the usual routine.

7. Spend time with other people who are highly aware of their own creative force. They will inspire you, and vice-versa.

8. Make a little sign that says "create". Or it could say "I am creative" or "Be creative". Make it attractive and display it prominently someplace. It could be on your desk, in your bathroom or kitchen, or in your car. It's a friendly reminder of everything on this list.

9. Take a hike. Or go on a walk. Get outside.

10. Think about where you want to direct your creative force right now. Do you want to think of a new way of teaching some material? Working with your clients? Entertaining? Decorating? Gardening? While creativity flows into all areas, it can help you to focus on the place you want to see results.

11. Make one healthy substitution in your diet. Remember the mind-body-spirit connection. It could be whole grain rice for white rice. Steaming spinach instead of sauteing it. Just one change that you know is healthier for you.

12. Clean out a drawer.

13. Download, or buy elsewhere, a new type of music. Listen to it.

14. Abstain from humongous department/discount stores for a time. It's okay to pay a bit more, and buy less. Try a smaller store, especially if it's independently owned.

15. Write your own list of ways to be more creative.

Have a super week-end.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Make Room for Positive Thinking

The Winning Entry! Congratulations, Carrie!

Let me preface this entry by saying I am not a writer. I do not wake up early in the morning effusive with energy and the need to express my brilliant ideas on paper which will no doubt inspire greatness in others; I aspire to get the coffee maker on and the sleep out of my eyes. The topic of connecting and creating is very near and dear to me and I do believe that writing your ideas down gives room for the spontaneous generation of others. My lab is different, though. My area of specialty is in the closet/wardrobe/room petri dish.

I wholeheartedly believe that if you feel good about how you look you will be a more productive member of society and attract positive energy because you put out positive energy. There is that dreaded feeling that most of us have in the morning of “what am I going to wear?” followed shortly by “I have nothing to wear.” Those pants don’t really fit, I have nothing to wear with that top, that skirt’s zipper is falling down, etc are all experiences we have shared and it feels like a Herculean task to figure out what am I going to put on today. I need to look smart, cute, professional, and feel good about it but I have no clue what to put on. Meanwhile, time is ticking by and you are wasting time standing there in your underwear.

We all need to clean out our closets, literally and figuratively, to help guide us on our path to a productive, happy society. I worked with a client this weekend going through her closet item by item and deciding what to toss, what to keep, and what to alter. It doesn’t matter if your closet rivals Imelda Marcos’ if you are spending excessive amount of time trying to figure out what to wear. We wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. But why do we waste precious mental and physical space on the other 80%? Yes, we need that special occasion outfit for a once a year party and I know you want to keep the jean jacket you bought with your own money at age 13 but that still leaves a large quantity of stuff holding you back from making what should be a snap decision and getting on with your day. We all hold on to clothes that were given to us by someone else or part of another life and they weigh us down. That energy spent looking at them and even giving them a second’s consideration could be better spent doing what you actually love doing.

So go into your closet and ask yourself the following questions about every piece of clothing you have:

  1. Does it fit? If it doesn’t, am I willing to pay someone to alter it?
  2. Do I wear it? Any season or occasion?
  3. Do I love it?
  4. Does it make me happy or have positive memories?

The last question is particularly important. We all hold on to things because we think we need to keep them or feel obligated because something was a gift. But what if we thought about it another way: what if giving it away to a charitable organization gave someone who loves it the opportunity to wear it? Then you have 2 happy parties: it isn’t taking up your space and someone is walking around wearing a blouse they think is fabulous. Get rid of things that bring you down. That expensive sweater you wore when you broke up with your significant other? Toss it! Wearing it just brings up bad memories and we need to feel positive when we walk out the door.

Life is short and wasting time wearing things you hate is not worth it. Your energy is wasted on negative thought and you haven’t even dealt with traffic yet. When you walk out of the house feeling good about the way you look you are emanating positive energy which attracts positive things to you. That does not mean that bad things will never happen to you but your attitude is different: you are happy today.