I have noticed lately that I dive back into those “remember when” moments when things are tough and I want to think back to the good old days.
As I move forward in my career meandering journey...as I think back to the days that the kids were still kids...everything seemed easier “back when”.
It’s easy to remember the good old days without remembering the difficulties that came with them. That’s not fair to the present and it’s not even real. It’s just my perception of what was.
The other day I was with my younger son watching sports on TV and the Tennessee Titan football team came on briefly. “Oh,” I said, “I remember when you were a little boy and you had a sports crush on the Titans. They were the first team you really loved.”
My mind began a lovely tale of moments picturing my young son in his Titan jersey and Titan banners hung proudly on the walls of his room. It was such a warm feeling to enjoy the memories. I knew for a fact that it was the Titans and no one would be able to question those memories because they were real and factual. I can see everything perfectly to this day and in great detail.
Then, poof, my younger son said to me, “Mom, that wasn’t me. That was my older brother (name being withheld as both sons will kill me if they know I am writing about them).
“Wait, that wasn’t you?” I asked. “No, don’t be ridiculous,” he said.
That’s what life is like. You swear that your memories are EXACTLY they way you remember them. How could they be any different? You remember every detail. But, you don’t.
We remember what we want to remember or sometimes we just forget.
I am keeping that thought close to my heart now when I think of the good old days and I want everything to go back to the way it was. It’s difficult to try new things...some work, some don’t, but they are part of who you are now and where you are going at this moment.
It’s not to say memories are not wonderful and helpful. I just want to remember to take them with a grain of salt, especially when I am using those old memories to help me learn lessons and move forward.
I lost my voice last Friday. I don’t mean I was hoarse. I mean I picked up the phone to call someone and nothing came out. If you know me, you would know that I am not a shrinking violet and keeping my mouth shut is a non-experience for me.
I must have had a cold and then just ran myself into the ground, but I am a firm believer that every experience is a lesson.
I kept asking myself through all this quiet time, “what I am I learning?”. First, I learned that I am grateful for my voice. It is really hard not to be able to talk. And, I learned that I am stressing myself a bit too much these days and I need to take it easy. Those were easy lessons to see.
But, the next two lessons were surprising to me.
I did have a few conversations (one sided) in person and a few on the phone (though nothing coming out on my end). I realized that I am a terrible listener. When I was forced to listen (and had no choice), I did. I didn’t interrupt though I so wanted to (as I do often). I didn’t give advice because I couldn’t. I just listened and I realized I don’t really listen to people. I am usually thinking about what I am going to say, giving my two cents, but not actively listening to people’s words and emotions as best I could.
Suddenly, I was. I could feel a difference. As I very slowly get my voice back, I hope I will continue to actively listen to others more often.
The last lesson I learned is that I was more peaceful. I talk a lot and sometimes I think that causes more anxiety than just sitting or even listening. I remember a teacher I had in high school used to always say, “if you’re talking, you’re not learning”. Sometimes, I learn when I am teaching students, but more often than not, I learn more when I listen.
My voice is hoarse today and that is a huge step forward. But, I am hoping not to forget what it feels like to give someone my full attention.
One of my favorite professors at Stanford, Tina Seelig, is repeating her online course on Creativity, but this time she is using music to complement it and will be working with recording artists from Warner Music such as Linkin Park, Jason Mraz and more. You will learn how to develop creativity skills through music.
“Creativity: Music to My Ears” is an online course which begins Wednesday, April 2nd. The class is free.
There is more info in the links below as well as a short clip with Tina and Jason Mraz.
“The notes without the music.” I had never heard that phrase until a few weeks ago.
I have been teaching college students for the last two years and, ordinarily, I create the content of my lecture and then present it on my own. This quarter, I am working with some extraordinary mentors and I was asked to present their material in my lecture. It was a big moment for me as it was a bit of a test to see how I would teach with this format. I prepped every day for a week.
It was both new to me and difficult to teach someone else’s content. I prepared as best I could, memorizing the material and presenting it the way I thought my mentors wanted.
Ironically, the topic of my presentation was about emotional intelligence and listening to your gut instincts. I have worked so hard for the last couple of years to follow those gut instincts and listen to my own voice. I don’t know if it was because I was new in this particular class or I wanted so much to please my mentors, but I made a mistake. I didn’t follow my gut. I memorized the materials, hit every point that I was supposed to, and I didn’t even choke. But, in the end, I felt like a little of my soul had died. I hadn’t taught the lesson the way "I" would teach it. I taught it like a lawyer and not the new person I had discovered in myself over the last few years, that is, someone who had found great joy and fun interacting with college students as they make important choices going forward with their lives.
I have been teaching that failure is important and that learning from failure and improving the next go around is how you become the best “you”.
So, in my mind, my latest lecture was a failure because I was not me. I was trying to be someone else.
In the end, my mentor was kind and supportive, but he smiled and said, “It was the notes without the music”.
That phrase caught me by surprise. That was it. He had said in just a few words what I have never been able to encapsulate.
It wasn’t just about this experience. It was about all those times in life when it looks like everything is right. There is nothing from the outside to indicate what is not working...a job, a relationship, or an experience. I never had those exact words to describe when something is just missing.
The notes are there, but there is no music. That is what happens when you don’t follow your instincts. It’s very hard to describe in words, but you know when the music just isn’t there.
How ironic that the topic of my lecture was exactly what I was not doing.
“The notes without the music” in just a few words reminds me when I need to be aware that even with all the checklists marked, it can still be wrong. Even though it may be difficult to describe why there is no music, what is important is recognizing that it’s not there.
Just having that awareness can be a huge step in helping us to go forward.
What if instead of internalizing ideas and thoughts or discussing them with a friend, we periodically explained the problem out loud and talked it through to an inanimate object?
I know it sounds strange, but a friend of mine who is a computer programmer told me about the “Rubber Ducky” debugging idea. I am about as far from a computer programmer as they come, but I love this concept.
Rubber Ducky debugging is when a software engineer is stuck on a problem with the coding. To help them work through the issue, they put a rubber ducky on their keyboard and try to describe the problem line-by-line or in great detail. The idea is to explain to the duck the issue at hand, assuming the duck knows nothing about the problem or coding (which is not too much to assume).
By doing so, the engineer is forced to explain what should be happening (or what he wants to be happening) versus what really is happening.
I tried this a couple of times and I found it to be very fun. Of course, it’s like talking to yourself, but when you are forced to explain a problem you are struggling with to an object that has no background on the issue or your past emotional baggage, it’s quite illuminating and extremely productive. You have to like to play games and not be concerned about how silly you look. It does force you to closely analyze what is really happening.
I love the idea and the image of the rubber ducky sitting on my keyboard listening to me is pretty silly, but it has worked wonders.
Having immersed myself in design thinking for most of 2013, I find myself being quite a bit more creative and a lot less judgmental of all sorts of ways to be a more grounded person.
I’ll be writing more about Creative Confidence in my next post.
I have been at war with the concept of “uncertainty” for most of my life. I like the lyrics in the song above because it helps me on my journey of trying to make peace with wanting to know what is next or feeling the need to make things black or white.
There are a number of reasons why I am slowly, very slowly coming to see uncertainty as my acquaintance, not yet my friend, but at least not my enemy.
When I want certainty so badly, I shortcut life’s lessons. Most of the time, it takes a while to let things play out. When I do that, I have more information with which to work. I have more clarity because decisions I think I need to make don’t even come to pass because things change as life unravels at its own pace.
It helps if I take things more slowly and not jump to a decision. It tends to feel more in alignment with who I am. By not rushing things just to have that feeling of certainty, it allows my internal voice to speak more loudly and stand out against the noise of other’s advice and even my own inner critic.
Also, I find that if I don’t feel such a desperate need for certainty, I don’t make assumptions that aren’t necessarily true or miss red flags all in the hopes of shortening the process and feeling I am in control.
So, I am trying the motto, “Make It Up as You Go”. It’s not easy, but I have to admit I am beginning to enjoy it.
I ask myself what experiences over the last couple of years have been most meaningful and most in alignment with who I am. They have been those I didn’t see coming and that had no certainty in them. In fact, I just made it up as I went along and stayed open to opportunities. I let things take their time and I didn’t rush just so I would feel certain.
As 2013 comes to a close and the new year is around the corner, it seems to me interesting questions to ask ourselves are: “What if you were really comfortable with uncertainty? How would that change your life? What would you do differently?”
I heard a friend of mine say he was living by that motto. I have great respect for this individual and I was struck by this concept.
It seemed selfish to me and it didn’t seem as if it took the other person’s needs into account.
I asked him about that and he said, “This has nothing to do with ignoring other's needs or not being empathetic. In my version of the idea, this is all about aligning your objectives and your heart with the future that you are trying to manifest. My experience is that I "get" exactly what I imagine my future will be. When I'm fuzzy about what I want, I get a "fuzzy" future.
It is also a personal challenge to myself - I have a hard time believing that I deserve what I want. I've come to realize that I pretend that it's all about the "other’s needs" when it's really just managing some fear and self-worth issues.”
I had a better understanding after he explained his thoughts on the idea. I have wanted to write about this concept, but I was still thinking hard about how I felt about it.
Now, I feel more comfortable for two reasons. One, I think not demanding, but letting another person know what you are looking for is helpful. It doesn’t mean you expect it, but it does put it out there and you never know what kind of compromise is possible. You certainly don’t know if you don’t communicate it.
Second, I agree with my friend who first mentioned the statement to me. It is important to really ask yourself: “what do I want?”. I think we are “fuzzy” sometimes about what it is we really want and taking the time to seriously consider that question leads to clarity.
It’s not so much about clarity in the details as clarity of the vision. I wrote about this a few years ago regarding putting the emphasis on the “whats”, not the “hows” of your life.