The Credentials We Don’t Have

I read a piece in Forbes the other day that listed 10 reasons why smart people doubt themselves. A point that caught my attention was point number 5: They tend to focus on the experiences and credentials they don’t have, rather than on the ones they do.

This reminded me of my professor for an MBA class I took ten years ago. She gave this advice to all women in the class: get your credentials. Note that she was the only female professor teaching in the program and she spoke from experience. She had not one, but two PhDs because having one wasn’t enough.

I’ve heard other credentialed women give the same advice: get your credentials. ‘You want to be able to get up in front of a group of men and be sure that they know that you can do the hard thing. Then they will take you seriously.’

Being smart never feels like it’s enough. You can write smart papers and present them at prestigious conferences, be invited to speak on panels to share your insights on your research and experience. But if you don’t have the right credentials on paper, it can be a major distraction and yet another reason to confirm the story that you aren’t good enough.

But what if you change the story? What if you catch yourself when you fall into the trap of focusing on what you haven’t done. What if you redirect your attention to the things you have done and ask yourself how you might build on those things? What if you say NO to the old and familiar traps and create something new?

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Ten Reasons Smart People Doubt Themselves (Forbes)

Negativity Bias (Psychology Today)

This little drawing from Liana Fink

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From Self-Esteem to Self-Compassion

In the field of psychology, there has been a shift in nurturing self-esteem in children to nurturing self-compassion. You can see evidence of this shift in the popularity of books by Brene Brown and Carol Dweck and the rising interest in mindfulness practice, especially in schools.

What’s wrong with teaching self-esteem? It has been proven to breed narcissism and unkind behavior toward others. It motivates people to put others down in order to prop themselves up. And high self-esteem can have a negative effect on how we react in difficult situations. This is not the outcome we really want or need these days.

Enter Self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff articulates three elements of self-compassion:

  1. Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment. This means being kind to ourselves when we struggle or fail rather than judging ourselves too harshly which can result in a downward spiral of self-criticism. Self-kindness has us respond to failure like so, “This is hard right now. How can I pay attention to how hard it is and move through it?”
  2. Common Humanity vs. Isolation. This means that when we struggle we realize that we aren’t the only person in the universe in this situation. When we struggle, it’s good to remember that we all struggle. This helps us feel less alone and keeps us from falling into a downward spiral of isolation.
  3. Mindfulness vs. Overidentification. This means that when we struggle, we keep it in perspective. It’s the difference in thinking, “I did something stupid” (mindful) rather than “I am stupid” (overidentification). When we are mindful about our struggles, flaws, and failures, we understand that we don’t always behave perfectly but this doesn’t mean that we are “bad.” We’re just human.

When we shift from self-compassion to self-esteem, we create a kinder world together. That said, many systems still reward narcissistic, hyper-individualistic behavior (grades, for example) and I’m not sure how to navigate that in the context of this shift. What do you think? It’s a doozy of a problem, for sure.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

NYSED.GOV report on Mindfulness in Education, July 2018

What Self-Compassion is Not

Change Agents and Distractions

January 1st is a day that a lot of people choose to set new goals for themselves or recommit to old goals that they’ve gotten away from. Now, I’m not saying that you should set goals at the start of the new year. But if you do use this time to think about and set goals (I do), then there is a pair of terms that can help you stay on track: change agents and distractions.

CHANGE AGENTS. This is an exercise in answering the question, “Why now?” That is to say, once you know what your goal is, articulate why now is the time to do it. What has changed in your life to make now the right time? An example might be, “My kids are finally [X age] so I can put more energy into starting a business” OR “I spent the last five years learning about Y and now I’m ready to build on that knowledge and pursue Z goal.” You want to identify change agents so that you can say with confidence “Now is the time.” And when you fall off track, as we all do, you can articulate the change agent to remind yourself why you are well positioned to recommit.

DISTRACTIONS. These often come in the form of sunk costs. Sunk costs are things that happened in the past that we can’t do anything about. Yet they haunt us. They sound like: “I should have done this. Why didn’t I do that?” I really struggle with the distraction of sunk costs. But I find that having a name for them and knowing that they have their own agenda–to distract me from my goals–helps me see them more clearly and find the clarity to move on. Distractions will always be there. The trick here is to train yourself to not let them get in the driver’s seat. Keep ’em buckled up in the back.

Good luck with setting and working on goals if this is something that you do. If your goals feel a little scary, then you have set some good ones! Remind yourself of change agents and call distractions by their name to stay on track.

TAKE IT FURTHER

Check out https://seths.blog/ for some great reads on change management

Understanding Intimidation

Intimidation tactics are an abuse of power–a form of bullying.

Intimidation tactics come in many forms. They can occur in personal or professional relationships. Sometimes these tactics are visible which makes them easier to identify. Other times they are more passive which makes them harder to identify.

No matter what side of intimidation you are on, it’s helpful to understand that it all stems from fear. Fear lives in the oldest part of our brains, the amygdala which is sometimes referred to as our reptilian or lizard brain. That old part of our brain has had a lot of practice over the years and is really good at driving fear-based thoughts and actions. But with your own practice, you can teach yourself to override it.

No matter the form intimidation takes in your life, here’s some advice:

If you are the intimidator, cut it out. You don’t need to make people feel bad in order to do your thing. Try to identify what drives your behavior and let it go. 

If you are the intimidated, ask yourself why you let other people’s baggage get in your way. You’ve got your own stuff to deal with, right? That’s enough.

With practice, you can rise above it. Rise rise rise.

 

How to Harness the Creativity of Your Team

Yesterday I participated in a workshop that helped me articulate the following guidelines for removing barriers to innovation and for harnessing the collective intelligence of a team. Thanks to all who participated for sharing your perspective. It was inspiring.

Below is a list of action items that leaders should address early and often when working with a team. These are also things that team members should ask for:

  • Define what success looks like
  • Articulate priorities
  • Figure out what not to do
  • Check in on team member goals
  • Acknowledge and celebrate the diverse points of view of your team
  • Call in an outside facilitator when you have issues that are too hard to navigate internally

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Yesterday’s workshop was lead by a thoughtful, down-to-earth facilitator, Erica Marx

Connect to long time

In Douglas Rushkoff’s book, Present Shock, he describes how our “now now” relationship to technology is driving us crazy. For this problem, he offers this solution: connect to nature. More specifically, he suggests that we connect to natural cycles, such as the lunar cycle, to slow down our nervous now habits. 

Rushkoff cites the work of Dr. Mark Filippi who claims that our brain chemistry is affected by moon phases and if we pay attention to that, we can consciously leverage the state of our brain. 

This is another one of those theories that I don’t buy into 100%. But what I do like about it is that it encourages us to slow down how we connect to time, to pay attention to how we feel and to patterns of how we feel, when. I appreciate the mindfulness of the practice.  

If you’d like to track your state of mind with the moon calendar, check out my little chart here 

TAKE IT FURTHER

The Long Now Foundation

Custom Moon Jewelry by Elaan Greenfield

How (and why) to help team members articulate their goals

According to leadership experts, helping your team members articulate their goals is an effective way to build motivation and trust in your organization because it helps your team members feel seen and heard.

However, a lot of leaders don’t take the time or effort to do this. Perhaps it’s an oversight, perhaps they feel it will take away from the organization’s goals, or perhaps they just don’t know how.

If you are interested in helping your team members feel seen and heard, help them articulate their goals. Schedule a team meeting or a series of one-on-ones to create a space for active listening. If your team members need a framework to get started, here  is a framework inspired by Zig Ziglar – goals, benefits, obstacles, and people:

GOALS. Ask your team members to state their goals. Goals should be stated within the context of the project, the organization, or mission of the organization. Why are you working on this project? If it’s just for the paycheck, be honest about that. But if it’s to further a professional or personal goal, then say it loud. This is a great thing for all members of the team to know

BENEFITS. As a leader, ask your team members what benefits will be achieved by striving for and reaching their goals. If you feel like you need to explore alignment between team member goals and the organization, ask your team members to do that exploration and to connect those dots

OBSTACLES. Ask your team members to articulate what’s in their way. This is sometimes a hard conversation, but believe me, you want to know

PEOPLE. Ask your team members who they need buy-in from so that they have advocates for, and not obstacles to, reaching their goals.

If you take the time at the beginning of each project to check in with your team about their goals, then you will help them feel seen and heard, you will build motivation and trust among your team, and you will help individuals and your organization flourish.

 

 

How Good Taste Can Get in the Way of Creativity

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.

I adore this excerpt from Ira Glass’s longer piece called “On Storytelling.” Glass points to something that he wishes he had known when starting out writing for radio: That there a gap. There is a gap between your good taste and the quality of the work that you make as a beginner. Your taste is good enough to tell you that what you are making isn’t really that good. At this point, a lot of people just quit. But Glass urges us to push through. And he says that the only way to close that gap between your good taste and the beginner work that you are making is to make a lot of work.

 

CS for All – Program or Be Programmed?

This week my MakerLab students are researching the “CS for All” movement including this short video from Douglass Rushkoff, author of Program or be Programmed: 10 commands for a digital age.

Here’s a taste:

Back in the 1980s, learning to use a computer was the same thing as learning to program one. But as computers got easier to use and more user-friendly, the distance between using a computer and knowing how it worked got longer and wider until we had extremely opaque interfaces in which you do what the program says without any idea of what’s actually going on behind the screen.

 

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Free course on Learning Creative Learning, Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, MIT

 

FOR FUN

class
MakerLab students fabricating v1 of “No Waste Challenge”

 

Fall Into Art

Last November I attended The Fingerlakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute hosted by The Center for Transformative Action at Cornell University. I had a great time chatting with the social entrepreneurs there and left feeling engaged and inspired. That inspiration manifested in a small change at the time: I changed the name of this blog from Make Better Stuff to Art & Invention. For me, the name-change marked a shift in thinking and writing about stuff to thinking and writing about what it takes to make stuff: the emotional and practical world that artists create, define, and live in.

Then in January of this year, I applied to Seth Godin’s altMBA program with the goal of making more art. But once the course actually started I changed my goal from “making more art” to “helping other people make art.” And that’s a trap we fall into, right? We avoid working on our own sh*t by helping other people do theirs. And that’s not all bad. It’s good and it’s generous, but for me, it’s also a form of hiding from my own work. So I’m just trying to hold a light on that in my life and examine it.

Another push toward making art came in late August when I visited the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine. The campus is what I hope heaven to be:  simple modernist cabins built into a tree-lined mountainside overlooking the sea. In each cabin, a different set of tools and materials: hot studios for glass and metal, a graphics studio with ink and roller, a ceramics studio with slip and wheels, a woodshop with saws and clamps, a textiles studio with sewing machines and dyes, and a fab lab with CNC routers and 3D printers . I left there feeling that I needed to go home and create my own space. You can’t make art just anywhere. You really do need a workshop. A place to have your tools out and keep them out. So I’ve done that this fall. I’ve created that.

This fall I’m falling into art. I’m emotionally ready and I’ve carved out the practical space to work.