Month: April 2010

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #05

tiny toy cowboy figure with lasso

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week here, but which I post on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a rampage about shitty PowerPoint. Fortunately, the New York Times is picking up the slack. [Tumbled, via Cameron Moll]

Small can be beautiful. Dazzling, even. [Facebook-ed, via Unclutter]

Whose fans are dumber? Yeah, there’s an algorithm for that. [Stumbled]

If you’re just getting started with Twitter, there are other how-to’s you should read first. But I absolutely loved this higher-level, advanced-class writeup of Twitter Best Practices, partly because it graciously and specifically expands on the more esoteric “style” stuff I’m just grumpily alluding to in my own Twitter Policy, and partly because the author would cringe if he knew I’d used the term “best practices.” [delicious-ed, via lonelysandwich]

A four-year-old favorite of many, this is the essence of “sweet puppy.” And the perfect summation of what’s made Flickr magic. [Flickr-faved]


Image by williac via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Right here, right now

people walking on a sidewalk

And now
that time has passed
and this one is here

And this
and this

So? How did it go?

Did you live every minute?
Or did you let a few skitter past
on small wheels of worry
without squeezing out
the last, juicy bits?

What about this quiet hour?
This hazy afternoon?
This sinkful of dishes,
this quick pee,
this run to the mailbox,
this trip to the 7-11
for eggs
and M&Ms?

Did you live those, too?
Did you live every bit of them?

Some day,
if we are very, very lucky,
we will look back
from rockers on porches,
from benches on seasides,
from beds on wheels,
from our own two rickety feet
at those nothing moments
with such wistfulness
and fury
it would stop those young people
scooting around on their thought-cycles
dead in their tracks.

Never wish a moment
past the next one.

Never a better place to be
than this very one.

Never a guarantee
of any other one

after this one…


Image by Vincepal via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Maximum-value packing: getting from here to there in one attractive piece

close shot of suitcase buckle

This past trip to Tacoma was significant in more ways than just initiating me into the TEDx experience: for the first time in too long to remember, I got from here to there (and back!) with something resembling ease.

Some of my new-found attitude can be traced to exactly that: attitude. While I will likely never be worry-free, I’ve whittled it way down just by acknowledging I’m the worrying kind. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but just giving my worry a little bit of voice, rather than my old way, of ignoring it and/or telling it to STFU when it got loud-ish, has made all the difference. Because when I pause to listen, (a), I feel heard, which takes care of a lot of the problem; and (b), I actually take steps to deal with some of the wacko problems that come with being me, which, in turn, makes many of them go away.

Worry #1: What will I wear?

On the surface, this always seemed nuts, as I had more than enough clothes to wear right there in my closet, most of which I really enjoyed wearing. But they were rag-picker clothes, the wardrobe of one who views value shopping as sport, and clothes as a mode of expression.

I cannot believe it took a twentysomething straight male to point out the glaringly obvious, but when I read this post by young Jesse Thorn on the dangers of buying thrift-store ties, it all fell into place: thrift-store acquisitions, however mint and spiff, are the pieces other people let go of because they couldn’t make them work. They can be fantastic sources of cool accent pieces, but the odds of finding cornerstone wardrobe items are razor-thin.

During the Great Purge of ’09, I unloaded everything ill-fitting, irretrievably stained/torn, etc. That removed some of the stress of packing; I no longer had to worry about bringing this sweater I always wore with that shirt to cover up the blotch/rip/etc. But after my trip to DC this year, I had a packing revelation when I realized the stress I was enduring over whether to wear the cute navy-blue thermal tee on the plane or save it for an out-and-about day could be completely eliminated with the purchase of identical cute navy-blue thermal tees. I immediately went online and purchased six. They did not arrive in time for SXSW, alas, but man-oh-Manischewitz, packing for Tacoma could not have been easier, style-wise.

The corollary to this is anti-worry is equally “no duh!” simple: most everywhere I travel to sells everything I need. Last summer, a friend’s mother died while I was in town on a jeans-only trip; amazingly, I found an Actual Department Store that sold clothes, and bought some appropriate pants that would not embarrass me or her family. A Christmas Miracle in July.

Finally, there’s a gigantic bonus-extra to this wardrobe methodology: dressing daily is equally mindless, with the same fantastic Style Quality Control. Gretchen, I should have listened to you sooner!

Worry #2: What if I miss the plane?

I am the daughter of one of the world’s most frequent flyers. Literally. My father is now deceased, but in his day, he was one of an elite group of lifetime AAirpass owners, a privilege for which he paid $250K (a pittance! a pittance, I tell you!). Said AAirpass entitled him to fly first-class on any American (or partner, back in the day) flight for the rest of his life, which he did for almost 20 years, sometimes six days per week. On a whim, he told us, he once checked with the airline to see where he stood in the pantheon of all-time big American Airlines frequent flyers. There were two people ahead of him and they were both professional couriers.1

For a guy who could get on almost any plane to anywhere, he was notoriously nuts about getting there early. I’ve already missed as many flights in my life (one) as I believe he missed in his (not owing to acts of God, anyway). I used to fry my circuits every trip over getting there in time, until I finally arrived at the magic number: two hours. Yes, I get to the airport two hours before every flight, no matter how early the flight is taking off. It is absolutely insane, but in a perverse stroke of irony, it keeps me from losing my mind.

I look forward to the “me” time, and, occasionally, will treat myself with trashy magazines at the airport. Which brings me to my final worry…

Worry #3: Everything is so expensive!

I am not exactly cheap, but I’m not exactly a carefree spendthrift, either. It chaps my hide having to exorbitant prices for staples like water, wifi and trashy magazines. (Okay, those cost the same everywhere, but I almost never buy magazines for full newsstand price.)

I used to carry my cheapskate mentality when I traveled. Then I discovered a miraculous new modus operandi: plan for what you can, and let go of the rest. As I do in my talk about communicating, I advocate a 99-to-1 ratio of planning to letting-go. I generally plan for snacks and sundries at least a week in advance, and with checklists, to coincide with the last regularly-scheduled trip to the store.

I also finally dedicated a Dopp kit and attendant Ziploc quart bag to traveling supplies. They are fully loaded and ready to go at all times (except now, when I just realized I rotated my toothbrush out, and, like a good Mormon, need to replace my stock).

Now that mostly everything is in there, I feel better about not cheaping out on the stuff I either left behind or want to treat myself to because I am at the airport two hours before a 5am flight. Good for me, good for the economy!


I travel nowhere near as often as Dad, or friends like the Chris-es Guillebeau and Brogan. If I get to that point, and a part of me really, really hopes I never do, at least by air, I’ll adapt further.

But these small things have made a mighty difference, both in how I anticipate a trip and how I enjoy it once I’m there…


1For you doubters, here’s a little story about some litigation around the fabled lifetime AAirpass. While it goes without saying my dad was scrupulously honest about using his own AAirpass, we did joke about how he should have gotten one with initials-only, rather than first-initial-plus-middle, so that I might continue to fly as C.A. Wainwright after he’d passed on to that great Admirals Club in the sky. Well, I joked, anyway.

Image cropped from photo by David Masters via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The upside of love, the downside of focused practice

10 male singers from the group "Garden Level" singing at TEDxTacoma

If you put to me the question of how TEDxTacoma went, I would easily and enthusiastically reply with a resounding, “FANTASTICALLY!”

Putting aside how seamless the whole travel experience was (a subject worth exploring in a future post), as well as how much I always enjoy being in the Pacific Northwest (and how my delicate moods affect my enjoyment of things is another thing worth exploring, in more than a post), it was like being on a steady drip of love and inspiration, two things I am always willing to mainline.

The students at Puget Sound University (“PSU” in their parlance) who coordinated, produced and participated in the event, swept me off my feet. I’d forgotten how uplifting it is to spend time around great bunches of young people, period, but I’d perhaps never experienced as an adult what it’s like to be around a group of smart, loving, enthusiastic and focused young people like this: so much energy funneled into changing the world for the better, it’s positively overwhelming in every sense of the phrase. BIG fun.

And Michelle Jones, the professor who went to TEDIndia last November and brought back with her the fire to create a TEDx conference here, this April, yes, less than four months later, as schools break for the holidays, is my new, real-life hero. Like the best heroes, she shrugs off the title, she’s too busy doing stuff to piffle about with nonsense like that. But she’s no humorless zealot, either: every moment around Professor Jones1 is illuminating because, I think, she is pure light; I believe her when she says (which she did, after much getting to know her and prodding) that every single day of her life is as filled with joy and energy as that day we all spent basking in talks, songs, dances and conversations about passion. (Albeit, you know, slightly less epic in scale.)

If, on the other hand, you ask me how I did, I would say, fine.

The room was (mostly) with me, the feedback was good, and my opening talk did what I think it was slotted, and designed, to do: start the day off with a bang. If there is one thing I am rarely accused of, it is of being low-energy. I pulled out all the stops for my 18-minute talk on “connecting to and communicating with passion,” and let the energy flow. I managed to use my talk as a real-time demo of my thesis, which is that when offering oneself up as a conduit for passion, one’s job is to spend the bulk of one’s time preparing, then get the hell out of the way. At some point, the videos of all the talks will be uploaded to the YouTube channel, and we’ll see if it comes across in recorded form. But right there, right then? It worked. That part, anyway.

What could have been better? The list is, if not endless, significant in length. The stories could have been tighter. The transitions could have been smoother. I was Gene Kelly, in other words, when what I am aiming for in all my work is to be Fred Astaire: I made it look sweaty, not easy; the seams were showing.

It’s an odd thing, how one behaves towards oneself once one has committed to achieving a certain level of mastery. I find myself dreading the debriefings because of the inevitable well-meaning (and very useful, in their time and place) Mister Rogers’ like reactions to my self-critiques: “You did great, I’m sure!” and “Don’t beat yourself up like that!” and “You need to really acknowledge what you’ve accomplished!” Make no mistake: I know what I’ve accomplished. I gave up a career I could explain to people, that paid me well, that had prestige and significance in the mainstream world. Then I gave up another one. I gave up hours and hours (and hours and hours) to focused practice. Even more to unfocused wandering, which for me, was far more difficult. I know what I have sacrificed to get here, and I know exactly how good I am. And for a variety of reasons, most of which were within my control, all of which are terrifically clear and obvious in hindsight, I gave a B-/C+ performance on Saturday. Not compared to the other speakers; compared to what I am dead sure my capabilities were going in.2

And this is how we grow: not by celebrating every single solitary thing we do as a work of genius, but by honoring each effort by building on it to do the next thing. Is it okay to pause and enjoy our lovely victories now and then? Yes. Of course. Why not? Is it okay to applaud effort, and acknowledge that we are in there fighting, grappling with the Ugly, doing the work, even if the results are sometimes inelegant? Sure. Here and there, anyway.

I did my job as best I could given the circumstances. More importantly, I know more about what I need to do more of (and less of) next time.

Most importantly of all, though, the joy of the day was not dimmed by my non 9.9 performance. I acknowledged the blow I inflicted on my own ego and kept it in its place.

That may not be a critical component to becoming the consummate professional, but it’s integral to becoming a compassionate human being…


1Which she never, ever refers to herself as, by the way, this capable young lady with multiple advanced degrees. I just went through all of our correspondence around the event and not once, NOT ONCE, was there an auto-sig with a string of alphabet soup after her name. Nor an exhortation to save the goddamn planet by thinking before printing out an email. And she’s moving into a tiny house, not rearranging deck chairs in the Container Store like the rest of us plastic-“recycling”, email-sig-planet-saving poseurs.

2I did also, of course, compare myself to the other speakers as well on wide range of specific (to me) metrics, this is one huge way I’ve learned what works for me with my own public speaking. But it would serve nothing to share my analysis here, so I won’t. I will say that I was profoundly moved by all of the talks in one way or another, and that never happens. Never. Not even at Ignite. This TED was truly an amazing experience.

A non-spectacular shot of the fantastically fun a cappella group, Garden Level, singing at TEDxTacoma, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #04

tiny toy cowboy figure with lasso

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web during the week here, but which I post on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my travels. More about the genesis here.

Imagine it’s Monday. Now, what would make things better? Exactly. [Tumbled, via @mulegirl on Twitter]

Seth Godin is brilliant when he talks about marketing and inspiring when he talks about the need to conquer fear and make stuff. I’m not surprised that he’s also incredibly astute at parsing the reality of why we fall for real estate. [delicious-ed]

Whose fans are dumber? Yeah, there’s an algorithm for that. [Stumbled]

I’ve written extensively about my love for Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity and admitted out loud that Jill Bolte Taylor was my inspiration for the talk I gave at IgnitePDX, but with his talk on music and passion, conductor Benjamin Zander became my official muse for TEDxTacoma . [Facebook-ed]

Like my friend Merlin noted, this is what the future looks like. And I like it. [Flickr-faved]

(One final, unlinked note: keep a good thought for me tomorrow morning, okay?)


Image by via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Glass houses

I wonder about the people
who used to bother me
when I was younger
and where they all went
since I got old.

The rotating hotties
in public displays of affection
who turned my stomach.

The cheaters at Monopoly
who roused my righteous indignation.

That solipsist who
took TWO parking spots
to protect his goddamn Porsche.

What happened to them, anyway,
those stupid, stupid girls
who set us back 50 years
as they prowled the mall on Saturday
in full drag makeup
dressed like Prostitute Barbie?
When were they replaced
by these sad young ladies
who try so hard it breaks my heart?

Where did they go,
the noxious sycophants
and outrageous blowhards
and double-dippers
and holy rollers?

Who sent all these enraging idjits packing
and let in all these glorious clowns?

I should write them a thank-you note
and I will
just as soon as I’ve finished
cursing out
this delusional wreck
of an unsolicited advice-giver
and this able-bodied old man
who is clearly only handicapped
by his sense of entitlement.

Just as soon
as I’m done…


Image by mtungate via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

No more!

gloved hand held up in "stop" motion

I’ve been giving little talks for long enough that a part of me insists I should have some kind of system down.

One that not only has me starting earlier and working more methodically, but that provides some sort of framework and steps for proceeding; some kind of handy-dandy, E-Z-1-2-3!â„¢ process for getting talks out of my head and onto paper before they come back out of my  head.

Alas, there is no system yet. While I marvel at my friend Cliff Atkinson’s excellent “Hollywood screenplay” framework for content creation (which I’m currently re-reading about in his wonderful book, Beyond Bullet Points, for inspiration), using bits and pieces of it as well as Nancy Duarte’s and Garr Reynolds’ brainstorming techniques from slide:ology and Presentation Zen, respectively, something obstinate in me refuses to budge from my old, familiar pace ‘n’ blather method. Sorry about that, neighbors; sorrier than you know.

However, one massively helpful thing I have begun doing is admitting that this spazzy and backwards way of working is, for better or worse, currently my default way. Out loud. Or rather, out loud on my calendar. At some point last year, in a fit of pique, no doubt, I added an all-day event to my gCal “work pods” calendar titled “NO MORE!” In caps, so I couldn’t miss it. In burnt orange, just in case.

Now, when I have something big coming up, like my very first TEDx talk, up in Tacoma, this Saturday, I stick a bunch of burnt-orange “NO MORE!” jellybeans on the days leading up to it. Instantly, those days are shut off, devoted solely to whatever is already on there or whatever big thing I have coming up. I have even learned to stick the burnt-orange “NO MORE!” jellybeans on the other side of the big event, for recovery time.

Because sometimes, the best way to keep going is knowing when to stop…


Image by kasrak via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Hey! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt’s excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.