Life Lesson #2: How to Avoid Drama

This is the 3rd in the series around the life lessons I've learned since June 2011.  It expanded on the illusion of control and now we come to this: how to avoid drama. People who have a lot of drama in their lives come in two flavors.  Let's start with the most obvious types--the one I know you thought of when you read the title of this post. They're the ones who enticed you in--just as they're wont to do in real life. The Drama Creators.

Their hallmarks include numerous, messy entanglements, excuses and a general lack of concern for your feelings. These Drama Kings and Queens and oh yes--both genders have 'em--will entice you--at first. My experience has shown them to be shockingly charming, drawing you in like a moth to the dangerous light. Aliveness may permeate throughout you in those first few interactions, soon to be replaced with a feeling of confusion, exhaustion and a serious case of emotional whiplash. And there isn't a carton of ice cream or bottle of Tequila big enough to anesthetize it. 

The only thing you can do when you find yourself faced with a Drama Creator is to move away. Exclude. Minimize. It's a hard lesson to learn but one you'd be wise to do the very moment you discover you have a life filled with these kinds of people. Or, even just a few especially if they're a primary relationship like a boss, client, lover, best friend or family member.

The thing is...they're not whole. Not yet. They're so filled with their own internal angst that baby they don't have an ounce of energy left for you. In fact, they're more likely to rob you of your precious energy rather than fill you with more. They're stuck in inner trauma---probably from a bygone era. Unwilling to do the true hard work to heal, they're stuck frozen.

They're not going to change.

Identify. Leave. Exclude. Minimize.

Then there are those who have drama surrounding them. Let's call them the Drama Allowers. This sort of type seems to attract drama without directly (or intentionally) causing it. Except they do have a part in this melodrama. Being passive may not seem as harmful as those who actively create drama but this alas, is untrue.

The rub is that passively allowing others' drama to seep into and pervade your life leaves you spent, unavailable for good to infiltrate and ultimately leaves you feeling disempowered. This in turn leaves you much more susceptible to other Drama Creators, creating a cycle which is a bit like a dangerous undertow that churns you around, scrambles you up and renders you useless. If this is you--stop it. When someone injects a bit of drama in your life pay attention to the big old yellow flashing sign. Slow down, take care to see if this is isolated or the way this person lives their life. If it's the latter--well, do I really need to tell you what to do?  Drama Creators will hijack your life, taking it over with their narcissistic concerns and you farther away from your dreams.

Identify. Leave. Exclude. Minimize.

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" Mary Oliver

I hope you won't spend one more moment squandering your precious time on creating or allowing drama. It's simply an luxury you can't afford.

I used to be a dyed-in--the-wool Drama Allower, whipped around in a frenzy by Drama Creators until I just got tired of it and let them all go. Bosses, boyfriends, friends--really, anyone with a penchant for the dramatic. These days my business is snap, crackling and popping along with all sorts of goodness. My life is too busy, too precious to waste it on drama so I simply don't allow it in my life. The result in my life has dramatic itself. My productivity and happiness levels shot straight up like one of those hockey stick charts investors are always looking for. If I was investing in myself I'd say it was the best one I could have made.

All this talk about drama has me a bit drained. But if even one of you lets go of being a Drama Creator or Drama Allower it was worth it. And now, I'm off to gain some energy by working on a project that invigorates me: writing my book I've been dreaming of for years.

Postscript: Credit goes to Cheryl Strayed for reminding me of the Mary Oliver quote. It's a good one and should be taped to everyone's refrigerator.

Lesson #1: The Illusion of Control

The 11 Important Lessons I Learned This Year post was so popular that it spurned a great deal of conversation on Twitter and in real life. So, I thought I'd unpack the lessons a bit more. Since I think in circles, swirls and stars this may not be a completely linear process so we'll start with #1 and see how it goes.

Here we go.

1. The more control you try to assert the less you actually have.

Control is just an illusion. We can have some control over some mutable things. But there are plenty of things that are immutable and some that are purely out of our control. It's true wisdom to learn when you can enforce some measure of control over a part of your life. Pay attention to the part about "your" life. You can't control anyone else. No matter how much you think you might be like a hypnotist who can make anyone do anything you wish. You may get a small measure of control for a bit but it will always be fleeting. The reason? Free will baby.

The other way that people try to exert control is in getting the job done. You seen or done this right? In this case, a person gets so focused on getting. the. job. done. that they all end up trying to control everything--including you. Oh, they would tell you that the job just needs to get done. It seems like in their head it's life or death. They take over your job--and everyone else's. They yell, scream, demean, manipulate and generally engage in all sorts of other unbecoming behavior--all as a means to gain control in order to get the job done. You know what happens when a person is faced with something this acute. Yep. Frantic efforts for some measure of control.  It's also just as useless. Oh, you might get the job done but you'll piss off so many people in the process that you'll lose relationships like water from a leaky bucket.

Control is a tool often employed to make up for insecurity. It's a lack of trust. When we say we don't trust others it's actually more often true that we don't trust ourselves. Or we don't trust that things will turn out exactly as they need to without our intervention. I know it may be hard to hear that your attempts to control are misguided, insecurity-driven and ineffective. I'm open to other reasons people try to control--I just haven't found a legitimate alternative yet.  And I don't want to pretend as if this is a method that will ever give you true happiness, success or peace of mind.

The more you try to control another person or a situation the more it will slip out of your hands like a loose knot that easily unravels with one good pull. Worse? It just makes you feel worse and makes you feel even less secure. And that's not helpful.

True strength comes from trusting yourself. Trusting yourself is actually something you have a measure of control over. That's a really good place to put your efforts to control someone or something.

On Self-Respect

"Self respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth." Joan Didion

A while back, I had a conversation with a friend who said she had trouble loving herself just as she is. Well, she liked most of herself but not some parts of it. This makes me so sad. Not loving yourself in the very moment you're standing is just no way to go through life. While you may love everything about yourself except for your thighs that's still a problem. Um, because they're a part of you and you're a whole person. It's not like you can just take them off when you want to right? This is a clear lack of self-respect.

Unfortunately my friend is not alone.  Many people I suspect feel this way. I'll be happy with myself when I'm x lbs. I'll truly accept and love myself when I meet the person of my dreams. I'll be lovable when I have that killer designer wardrobe. I'll feel ready to make a big move when my revenue reaches x. It's so easy to fall prey to the someday illusion.

Admit it. You've done it right? I know I have. The thing is it's just an illusion. Once you get there you'll discover another plateau while staring off at a new mountain to climb.

The answer is not waiting until you're perfect to be present to your present, to love yourself, to have happiness. Appreciate this moment exactly as you are and exactly as things are.

Perfection is just a perception problem. That's right I said it. Your perception is off. You're not seeing the world through the right lens. Rather than rose colored lens' you're seeing it through more like a murky shade of brown. Perfection is in the moment, not in some far off artificial landmark you create.

It breaks my heart to hear someone hating on themselves. It breaks your heart when you do it too. Every time you resist this moment of you a little tear develops and weakens you. Please don't break my heart or yours.

If all of this hasn't convinced you yet, consider this:

When your parents had you they didn't think, "This baby kinda sucks but wow he or she will really be great when they're an adult. They'll be perfect when they stop pooping and eating and crying." They thought: Look at this perfect, beautiful creature we just brought into this world. He (or she) is perfect in this moment. All shriveled up, crap all over you, screeching so loud you could break some dogs ears.

Remember that the next time you want to hate on yourself or the current moment. Again, I call on the wise Joan Didion:

"To have the sense of one's intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent."

Don't wait to respect yourself. Self-respect is the foundation for success and happiness. Do it today. Actually do it right now in this moment. Just appreciate who you are and what you have in the moment you find yourself reading this little ditty.

I'll wait.


Doesn't that feel much better?

You Can't Trade a Sister for a Prada Purse

There's something about a sister. You love 'em. You can't turn 'em into a brother.

Or, a really nice Prada purse. I'm sure my sister, a major fashionista, would appreciate a really nice pair of Louboutin's rather than having to deal with me sometimes. You can't blame her. I mean, unlike me, shoes don't ask to stay in your extra bedroom, drool all over your expensive clothes and use you as a personal concierge right?

My sister and I have always been a study in contrasts where our differences were more numerous than our similarities. Other than a lovely pair of parents and two older brothers that is. After spending more than a decade in Chicago, I decided to move to Boulder nearly 3 years ago. This month I decided to go back to visit after a 2 year absence. This time the differences in who we are and how we live our lives became even more pronounced.

My sister generally lives a life of stability and order. She married, became a mother of two beautiful girls, is an immigration lawyer for a major corporation and remained a very pragmatic woman with a great deal of focus and will power.  She has impeccable taste and always looks amazing.

Her sister is not any of those things. Single and childless, I have a strong wanderlust and once lived in 6 different places in a year and a half. I help tech startups and growing businesses create strong marketing programs and haven't held a "real" job in a number of years. While pragmatism runs in the family, the stronger part of me leans more towards creativity, independence and fluidity. My style tends to be much more casual, my clothes don't always *quite* match and I'm prone to wearing skulls on my clothing and jewelry.

As you can imagine, the lenses with which we view the world come in very different shades. Let me demonstrate...

Upon seeing this photo of my dog my sister asked:

"Is your dog wearing a necklace?"
Um, that's a dog collar.

I'm still chuckling over that one.

Of course a few hours later I was the one who uttered:
"I think she hurt her paw."
About my 6 year old niece.

I'm sure my sister thought it was a very good idea that I didn't have children.

Families are funny. Sisters even more so. As the holidays rapidly come to a bittersweet end I'm sure you can relate. You might be wondering if an alien stork brought that sibling or cousin to the doorstep instead of a version that seemed more like you. But having someone who shares your blood but a very different perspective is a good thing. Difference is what makes the world a rich beautiful place and what makes it turn on it axis.

And? While trying to walk in my sister's size too big Louboutins may not be easy at least I get some really nice hand-me-downs that I'd never be able to afford. And, she gave me the two most beautiful nieces I could ever have hoped for.

Yep. I'm a lucky girl.

The 5 Best Decisions I've Made

One of my favorite bloggers, Schmutzie recently wrote a post about the 5 Best Decisions of My Life. Inspired, I decided to pick through my life to find mine.


Even when no one else is reading. It helps me sort out my thoughts on things. It also means that my creativity isn't limited to just shopping and putting together interesting outfits. what happens when I stop writing. Blogging in particular provides a connection channel with others. Sometimes my writing shows up in the form of websites for clients other times it's blog posts. Other times I simply write my thoughts in Evernote, my favorite app for writing. Wherever I do it...writing is a daily imperative. One of the best decisions I make again. And again.

Making Travel a Priority

I grew up spending my summers in Starcraft pop-up with my family crossing off national monuments and national parks like I was a girl with a bucket list. By the age of 16 I had visited every continental United State except one: North Dakota. This set me up for lifelong wanderlust. In the past few years my travels have taken me to: Morrocco, Madrid, Barcelona, Sweden, Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, London, Austin (2x), New York (3x), Colorado (before I lived here), Santa Fe, Los Angeles (2x), Bahamas, Miami, New Orleans and California (5x).

At the moment I don't have any impending trips in the near future and I'm like a man in the desert desperately in need of water.

Web1.0 and 2.0

The first time I saw the world wide web was I was hooked. Getting involved with building this communication medium called intranets back in 1997 was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Managing the development of web sites during web 1.0 came next. My work during this time was my favorite ever. I loved exploring into new ways of communicating, connecting and selling through the internet. Although I went away from it professionally for a bit coming back a few years ago was an even better decision. I love the pace, creating new things, the social aspect and being to connect with people all over the world. Can't imagine not being in the internet tech world.

Being a pain in the ass

In one time in particular. It was back in the late 90's. I was very sick. The kind where you have a 102 degree fever for 3 weeks and have trouble walking up even slight inclines but the doctor passes it off as a bad sinus infection. Landed in the ER 2 days after that appt with a 105 degree fever. I begged, pleaded and pretty much refused to leave the hospital until the doctor admitted me because something was really wrong. Indeed it was. 2 days later in Cardiac ICU I flatlined due to bacterial strep in my pericardium. If I hadn't been in the hospital I would have died. Luckily, I was willing to be a pain in the ass. Life giving decision. Literally.

Moving to SF & Then to Chicago

I've done this a bunch and I'd say most of them were great decisions. The two best moves I made were from Michigan to SF in the mid 90's and from SF to Chicago in the late 90's. The move to SF opened me to a bigger world beyond provincial Detroit. This was also where I truly started to know myself. The move to Chicago was great because it gave me financial stability and most importantly, let me spend the first 5 years of life with my nieces and my sister. Both of these were career changing moves. And? Offered me the chance to get to know myself and my family better. Moving to Boulder allowed me to get back in touch with my love of tech startups. Great moves.

Intuition features prominently in all of these decisions. Thinking that following the gut and the best decisions are hand holders.

None of these decisions are permanent. They can all be changed. (well the 5th one could have been permanent as in no longer here.) It reminds me not to fret too much about decisions and if I make one I don't love I can just make a new one.


What are the 5 best decisions you've made?