The Science of Love

Love is a mysterious thing. Some of us profess to understand it--um, not me--but most of us don't. Even science doesn't fully understand how love works. If you're not a romantic or in a relationship, you may say that don't care about Valentine's Day. That may be true but I bet you'll think of love--your current one, or maybe a lost love or how to get more love--at least once today.

Given my dating history I may not be an expert at love but I do know how to find people who have a few intelligent thoughts about it. Let's listen in for a bit of a lesson on how the heart--and the brain--on love really work.


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A Simple Question

It's that time of year. Yep. New Year's Resolution time.

If you're anything like me let me tell you what's going to happen. Feeling fat and loathsome after a long holiday of eating, being sedentary, spending too much and not doing much you...

Step 1: Make a whole bunch of resolutions that are largely unachievable.

Step 2: Break all of them within a month.

Step 3: Feel like crap about yourself so go back to eating, being sedentary, spending too much and not doing much.

Step 4: Feel guilty. Berate yourself.

Step 5: Go back to Step 1. And repeat.

Don't do this. Now, let me offer you something that really works. Something I also do randomly all year-round is to ask myself a very simple question.

Is my life better or worse than a year ago?

It started as a random wandering of my brain many years ago and has evolved into a practice. This barometer check allows me to quickly break things down in a very black and white way so that I can assess and take action. It's like my very own Timehop but with action.

I did it reflexively today. My mind wandered back to what I was doing a year ago today. At that time I was in an unhappy relationship. I didn't know what I wanted to do next. Trust in myself. Pretty close to negligible. This year? I'm happily single, I'm doing work I love and I trust myself to make decisions that put myself first. Also? I trust that everything I need will come to me.

Like my assessment today the answer is generally yes. On the rare occasion I can't honestly answer in the affirmative it means it's time for a reinvention, refocus or double down.

So...Is your life better or worse than a year ago?

3 Ways to Get Out of the Answerless Desert

I had FOUR (count 'em) Thanksgivings yesterday. Well, I was invited to Four. I actually only made it to two. Now I know that's only 50% but still--it's probably more than you made it to--am I right? [Smiles smugly]

My second Thanksgiving was with my friends Sarah Welch, Ef Rodriguez, Jeremy Tanner and their lovely other halfs. The reason I never made it to the last two was this little game called Mad Gab. There are all sorts of rules that I'm pretty sure I don't remember so let me just tell you the essence of the game. The goal is decipher a bunch of words into a real phrase. Here's an example:
Puzzle: Plea Center Europe As Ward

Answer: Please Enter Your Password

There's a coach who assists while the rest of the team guesses. The coach's job is to help you get closer to the solution without actually seeing what the rest of the team was seeing. We quickly discovered that reading the phrase over and over again while looking at it got in the way. Even though the guessers knew it wasn't right their brains struggled to see something different. As the coach it was interesting to hear people practically saying the phrase without knowing how close they were to getting it right. As usual, I see parallels to life. What can I say--I'm an observer of life and once a coach always a coach.

As the person looking for the right answer it's sometimes hard to see that you're thisclose. It's easy to feel as if you're lost in an answerless desert. All you can see is what's right in front of you. In the beginning and even in the middle of all that guessing the answer can appear to you as clear as mud covered glass block. And, make you feel like you have swim across the Indian Ocean to get to the answer. Um, that's not fun.

Getting Out of the Indian Ocean

Back to my Mad Gab experience. We won the first game by luck. And lost the second by not paying attention to the rules and won the third by developing a strategy. Our winning strategy was essentially a good old tag team effort. When one person said the phrase while the others listened (without looking at the card) they were more easily able to get it. They were close enough but not too close.

3 Ways to Find The Answers To Your Biggest Questions
When we're too close to the answer here are a few strategies to get around solution block to solve your problem.

1. Take a walk on the beach. Walk away from it for a while. This may give you perspective so that answer becomes more readily apparent.

2. Assume that you're closer to the answer than you think. Rather than believing that you're a mile away from a solution assume that it's mere centimeters away. Then just make tweaks to the solution rather than overhauling it completely.

3. Find a neutral person to talk to. Spill the puzzle as you see it while they listen. Their job is to tell you what they're hearing. Not what they want you to do but what they actually hear you saying. Often times they can hear what you're saying and articulate it back to you so you can actually hear it.

No more feeling like you have to swim across a large body of water for answers. Time to wring out that bathing suit.

Just for fun let's end this lil post with some of the best quotes from last night:

- Which way to Heaven? [My guess. It wasn't right but I swear one day this phrase will be a part of urban dictionary.]

- Say it with an accent. [This actually helped the team guess the right answer  (Panama Canal) very quickly.]

- Although it wasn't a quote one of my favorite puzzles had Chewbacca in it. The answer was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Combining Star Wars with a Victor Hugo novel? Genius.

A Tiger & His Stripes

Over an excellent coin style marg (where all the best conversations happen) a friend made a proclamation. We're diametrically opposed he said. The  biggest differences between us is that he is (and will always be) a glass is half empty kind of person whereas I decidedly am not. And, he announced that his half empty view of the world wasn't going to change.

He was right about my propensity for looking at the bright side of life. I also think he was pointing at a belief that...

We are who we are.

While we can tweak some things, on the whole we're going to stick true to our predispositions. In the past I've wailed and gnashed against my natural predilections. Sometimes I even saw them as a curse rather than a blessing. They had to be changeable. But my views changed as I was largely unsuccessful in changing my natural ways of being. These days I think having a stable predisposition from which we're not likely to deviate from is largely true.

Sure, I can start waking up earlier in the morning but I'm always going to be a whirling dervish  at midnight like the true night owl I am. Another example are my math and accounting abilities. Um, I don't have any. I pretty much made it through high school math by flirting with the smart, cute math geek who sat in front of me. With my inherent communication and persuasion talents you're far more likely to hire me as your CMO  than as your CFO.

Where you stand on this?

Are we the way we are or do you think the Tiger can change his stripes to spots?

Or can he just make his stripes appear a different color?

Owning My Inbox

I'm generally a pretty organized person. A place for everything and everything in its place definitely describes my philosophy. Organized by sleeve length and then by color my closet looks like the stores I used to work in back in my retail days. And I de-clutter on a regular basis in part because organizing relaxes me.

My life was pretty simple but I longed for even more. It lead me to Leo Babauta's new book, The Power of Less. He advocates that you start to simplify one habit at a time.  I've already been doing many of the things on his list except for one glaring omission.

Process your inbox to zero.

This is a tough one for this never-want-to-miss-anything, information sponge connector. It's left me constantly fighting with my inbox. I selected it because it's the #1 tangible thing I complain about most and because it would have a BIG impact in simplifying my life. So I decided to take his 30 Day Power of Less Challenge which means I agreed to Process my inbox to zero daily. Yep, as in everyday.

I am gonna own you inbox!

I've done a few things already to help me win this battle.

  • Unnecessary email subscriptions about the latest sales, etc. have been canceled.
  • Using HighRise and BaseCamp on a couple of projects so that's definitely helping to keep my to dos and tasks in one place.
  • Serendipitously this post from Amber Naslund arrived in my inbox this morning. (It been read AND filed). She uses Gmail features extensively and it's something I'll check out.

How do you quickly and effectively manage YOUR inbox?