Finishability

Yesterday I made a lemon pannacotta and I experienced something I read about recently in a book. The concept of finishability.

In Revenge of Analog by David Sax, he talks about a resurgence of print and in particular magazines. This quote stuck out to me -

"A magazine has a defined beginning, middle and end and reaching that end is incredibly satisfying. Finishability."

Many things in life that once had finishability no longer do, and the dissatisfaction you experience from not ever being able to finish something shows up in areas you may not expect it.

Let's take work.

How many of us get a daily sense of finishability in our work? I dare to say not many of us. We are on very long-term projects, we are in a holding pattern waiting for resources, or our jobs are designed to be changing every day so you never really know when you are done. That changing everyday thing... we call that being flexible but it often denotes a lack of something else. We couch it as flexible or agile and call it good. But it leaves us wanting. It leaves us feeling like we never finish anything.

Thinking on that reminds me of a job I had in my late 20's/early '30s. It was the Internet Boom! Once a week I brought a baked from scratch treat into the office. They were gobbled up by colleagues through mouthfuls of "thank you" and "this is really good". My manager once asked me why I did it and I replied that it was something I could do that gave me immediate feedback, something I knew I had done and done well. This was at the start of the work world changing with the advent of ubiquitous internet. Looking back now I see it was a sign of things to come.

Reenter the pannacotta. On the night we got engaged we had lemon pannacotta at Fore Street in Portland, Maine. I have been talking about it ever since. Somehow it dawned on me (during Analog March) that if I wanted lemon pannacotta so bad I could make it myself. So I did. I found a recipe, bought the ingredients, prepared them and then served it after dinner to a husband who was delighted we were having dessert. And then it was done. I finished it. I will make it again, but for yesterday I was able to finish it and it felt satisfying. Finishability.

Emotional Agility by Susan David

Every once in a while, and I am sure you experience this too, you read a book you find so amazing that you have to share it. Today I am sharing one of those books: Emotional Agility by Susan David

This is a non-fiction book found in the personal growth section of your local bookstore. I don't discriminate amazing books to fiction, non-fiction or any time of genre - so you will find me all over the place on this topic.

So why. Why is this book so amazing?

I found the book amazing based on this one little phrase that has stuck with me since I read this in August of 2017 and that phrase is

Who is in charge - the thinker or the thought?

The book is 288 pages so there is clearly more to what she is writing than that. But if you read it and you only get one thing out of it I hope its that idea. The concept that your thoughts are not real. They are just thoughts and you could just as easily have a different thought, which is proof they aren't real. So if they aren't real - then they aren't in charge. You are in charge.

There are thoughts running through your head every day all day

  • "I don't belong here" - not real

  • "I am a failure" - not real

  • "I am amazing" - also not real (it goes both ways)

So if those thoughts aren't real, especially the negative ones, what does that mean for us (for me as I read this book).

It meant I could re-write the narrative of my life that was running through my head. If the thoughts weren't real then I had the power to choose a different thought. If neither were going to be real I might as well choose the one that serves me best.

I choose "I belong here" over "I don't belong here" because choosing the thought that I belong grounds me in this world and enables me to do the work I want to do.

I choose "My work is good" over "My work is not good enough" because choosing that through keeps me going in the work I want to do.

It also means you can re-write the negative narratives in your brain as well. You can choose different thoughts and in choosing those different thoughts you can have a different outcome. Believing in your work, your art, your creativity will keep you going. And in the creation of work, whatever that may be, keeping going is the only metric of success.

Just keep going. It's in the work where you find the answers.

With art or any work we choose to undertake, most of what you have to do is show up.

So if you find yourself with a narrative you aren't happy with I encourage you to try this book. In addition to the mantra I mentioned above you will find some other gems!

**

If you are interested in more on the book here is the official book summary and some places you can learn more.

Summary: The way we navigate our inner world – our everyday thoughts, emotions, and self-stories – is the single most important determinant of our life success. It drives our actions, careers, relationships, happiness, health; everything. For example: Do we let our self-doubts, failings, shame, fear, or anger hold us back? Can we be determined, persevering toward key life goals, but just as importantly, have the insight and courage to recognize when these goals are not serving us, and adapt?

You can hear her on NPR here: http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/03/17/susan-david-emotional-agility

And a quick video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcUkmzQTBhE

Here is the book website: http://www.susandavid.com/new-index/

The Safety Brain

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The Safety Brain

Also a regular brain.

One of my dreams on my list of 10 dreams right now is to be a working artist. I spent some time writing (cause that is how I organize myself) on what that means. I came to a solid working definition of how I would like if I was a working artist. It goes like this.

I, more days than not, create something that people will experience that will cause them to feel something.
— Me

Writing this blog meets my expectations of a working artist. Even if you hate what I write you will feel something! This dream will evolve beyond this current definition, but I left it open and achievable to get around my safety brain.

What is a safety brain you ask? Well it isn’t another brain - its your brain in safety mode. It does this alot because the brain is wired to keep us safe. Any changes to routine, chances of failure, risks to life and limb and your safety brain goes into overdrive trying to change your mind (itself? see its complicated) and get you NOT TO DO THAT.

When I wrote the working artist definition I felt that what was missing was the “what” i was going to create. That is where my safety brain can trip me up and put me in a vicious loop. There are so many things I can create, so many things I am interested in. Illustration and drawing for example - see my brain drawing above! By having so many interests it means I never have to choose. By definition there is no right, no safe choice I can make that will keep me away from failure and heartache. So my safety brain works double time on this because whatever I decide to do or try I am not immediately good. My brain then says to pick something else. Then something else. Then something else. And I am never a working artist. I don’t need to do that, I need to circumvent my safety brain and give myself a chance to do something.

My safety brain also likes to focus on production and by extension "my worth as a human" as it relates to what I produce. How could I ever give myself time to learn something when my worthiness is tied to output! Its the final product not the journey! No safety brain its not.

These are the hurdles I need to cross as I work towards the goal of being a working artist. Ultimately whatever I pick my safety brain will say, and I quote:

NO! Don’t do that you aren’t good at it, pick something else!”
or
”STOP! You aren’t producing enough - you are worthless.”
— Safety Brain

Ah the safety brain. Can’t live with it but sometimes you might die without it.

As Seth Godin says - Just Ship It,

Audra

Guru In Your Ear

This is a 2 minute read.

I listen to a small handful of podcasts regularly. They are about happiness, creativity and living your best life (TM). To keep my dreams of creating and art alive it is mission critical I listen to these.

Why?

George.

As you remember from yesterday's post George is that voice in my head that tells me not to do stuff, that I am not good enough, its a stupid idea...

Everyone has a George and if you are like me George has taken up space in your head for many years.

To live your dreams you have to drop George's incessant talking. But nature abhors a vacuum so if you don't fill it with something else then he will come back.

This is where podcasts have come in for me. If I want to keep my dream alive, moving forward, etc. I have to listen daily listen to a guru to replace that talk in my head. This as essential to my life as exercise and eating healthy. The world bombards us with what is wrong in the world. Its overwhelming, I find it overwhelming and I find it ramps up George and turns down the drive on my dreams. Its not that I don't want my dreams - its I can't complete with the overwhelm.

This crystalized listening to the recent podcast of The Moment with Brian Koppelman. The guest was Seth Godin. At one point during the podcast they talk about how when Seth started out he listened to Zig Zigler - FOR HOURS. He filled in brain with talk and voices that helped him get where he wanted to be. (This starts at 49:10 on the podcast)

We can do this same thing - and with podcasts is free! Before you create a plan to live your dreams you need to put a guru in your ear. Should you like a guru in your ear these are my choices.

10% Happier

Originally a podcast about meditation it is now moving into that realm of wellness. Reading Dan Harriss's book and listening to this podcast got me into meditation. I do credit to helping my personal evolution of the past few years. Even if you don't like meditation its worth listening to for a diversity voices on how to quiet the George in your brain. And its a nice counterpoint to NPR if you listen to alot of that...

The Moment with Brian Koppelman

I watched Billions on Showtime. I listened to this to hear more from the creator of a show I liked. I have lost a bit of touch with Billions but I have stayed steadfast to this podcast. Brian interviews creatives looking for the magic, the routines, the solution to the mystery of what drives people to create and how do they do it. As someone who aspires to create more art (and find fear gets in my way) I listen to this every week.

Don't Keep Your Day Job

It took me a while to warm up to this one but as her audience grew she started to have guests I can more relate to. As the title indicates - this is a job about quitting that day job you don't like and pursuing something you do.

Just Ship It,

Audra



be your own advocate

This is a 3.5 minute read.

Its a great opportunity for you!
— -Aunt Somebody

A college study abroad friend said this (in a jersey accent)  anytime we had a chance to do something new.  It referenced an aunt who proclaimed those words upon hearing of her study abroad year. Of course it was, travel abroad is always a great opportunity.  It was also hard and stress filled and sometimes lonely.  But this post isn’t about that. 

Recently I've got a new opportunity..  I define opportunity here as something you weren’t expecting, that came to you, as opposed to seeking it out.   I had time to think about this before having to make any real choices or start committing my time.  That has been a blessing because during that time I have had to wrestle through some things.    I learned two things

How people react to hearing about your opportunity says more about them than you.

I am deeply influenced by peoples expectations of me.

I love change and newness and ideas.  When the opportunity first arose I was excited and attending an initial meeting and set up the next two.  And then I started telling people close to me and family. Reactions were twofold.  

People got really excited for me.  They were certain that I would pass with flying colors and soon be on to better things.  When I expressed some real doubts they dismissed those ideas and instead gave advice on how I could be sure to win.  As I reflect on those people now I see a group of people who like to win, who love to be working, who would like the opportunity themselves.  So they react the way they would be reacting if they were in my place.  

Other people were skeptical.  Not about my ability in this opportunity but they weren't able to see why I would change it all up in this way.  As I reflect on this I find change might be hard for this group.  After all, I am sharing this with close friends and family. My seizing of the opportunity would mean a change - we might move, we might be less available.  That could be hard for people.  But again, that was more about their level of comfort than mine. 

In both cases I don’t fault them nor do I feel negatively towards their reactions. Isn’t it human nature to see yourself in others?  When someone tells you a story you look for yourself and your comfort. 

Which leads me to my second point - I am deeply affected by what other people think of me. I found myself taking actions after telling people that were in line with what they said.  If they wanted me succeed I found myself doubling down on preparation.  If they seemed put off by the change I tried to think about how we could minimize the impact to them.  Proportionately, I spent much less time figuring out what I want.  I was/am deeply concerned about disappointing these people.  When I finally started to wrestle with the idea that I didn’t want to do this my inner voice (I call George) started in.  They want you to succeed!  You have to try!  They will be disappointed in you!! 

Shut up George.

But getting George to shut up is really really REALLY hard.  Everyone has a George and I have had mine for 45 years.  

But I have to in this case.  

This morning, driving along, I realized that if I could choose what to do next and I never had to speak of it again I would decline the opportunity and refocus myself on some other things I am excited about.  It's knowing that I have to answer the questions of these people that has me scared.  Even worse, I am afraid to tell them I didn’t pass the first hurdle and then hear disappointment in their voice over something I didn't really want. 

I must do what is true for me, as if no one else knows about this.  Those external expectations do not matter but the American cultural influence is strong and it says success and achievement and big money and big corporations are where it's at.  It just not where it's at for me.

Advocating for ourselves is never easy.  Women learn to put their needs behind others from an early age.  We are taught to be smaller, take up less space - physically and emotionally. Fit into the definitions that are given to us.  

The irony here is that in advocating for myself, in doing what is true to me I am doing the most brave thing there is.  I am speaking up!  I am authentic!  Doing the other thing, taking the opportunity, doing work I don't love, becoming something I am not super interested in.  That is the easier part.  Hell, women, including myself, have been doing it for years.  The braver thing is to say no and say it for myself, because my own opinion of myself is more important that what others think of me. 

I have to reinstate that Brene Brown trick of keeping a small piece of paper in my wallet that lists out the people whose opinion of me I care about.  Thinking of the now I realized none of them will care that I withdrew from the opportunity.

So yes, this is a great opportunity for me - its just not the opportunity I want.  

I think I have shut George up for a minute....

Just Ship It,

Audra

Mittens I drew on procreate

Mittens I drew on procreate