Be Vulnerable with the Right People

Brené Brown’s hour-long special premiered on netflix this past weekend. I appreciate Brown’s work on mental health. I read her book Rising Strong when I was going through a really hard time in my life and it helped me a lot. So I watched her special this past weekend. Some of the stories I had heard before but it was good to hear them again. But what was really helpful for me was to hear Brown in conversation with Marc Maron on his WTF podcast yesterday. Maron can be cynical and snarky and so can I.  So it was helpful to hear someone with those personality traits work through some of the research and concepts that Dr. Brown puts forth. Helpful because as inspiring as Brown’s research is, it’s hard to put it into practice. She admits this several times in the interview, that putting this research into practice is hard, even for her.

Here are some points from the interview that stood out for me:

BE VULNERABLE WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE. One of Brown’s main messages is that vulnerability and courage are tied. I agree. I once had a mentor who said, “You can’t be brave if there’s nothing to be afraid of” and I love it that he said that. However, Brown and Maron point out that it’s possible to be vulnerable with the wrong people.  And that’s not brave. It’s just a bad habit. And we do it over and over because we know that they will reject us. And we do it so that we can confirm the painful yet familiar story that we don’t belong or that we are unlovable.

ACKNOWLEDGING THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES. We all do it. We tell ourselves horrible stories about ourselves. How everyone hates us, how we suck at this or that. Our brains are wired to do this. The work then is to be conscious of that storytelling. To say out loud, “The story I’m telling myself is ___.” To be aware that the story isn’t true even though it’s how we feel. Even though it’s something we go to for an odd comfort.

THIS WORK STARTS IN MIDLIFE. In Brown’s observation, midlife is when most folks start to work at taking off their armor. Armor is the cynicism we hold or the things we do to protect ourselves from our own pain and from other people. At midlife, people start to say to themselves, “This armor is freaking killing me. I get it that it used to keep me safe, but I can’t f*cking breathe. It is no longer serving me.” So they start on a path to chip away at it. It’s not easy. We spent years building it up. But taking it down is possible and it’s worth striving for.

SELF WORTH IS A GIFT TO OTHERS. Self Worth is hard for a lot of us. But to strive for it isn’t only good for yourself, but for the people around you. Because when you show up with self-worth, you’re a better person to be around. Plus, other folks don’t have to carry the weight of your self-hate or have to defend themselves if that hate manifests in you lashing out. It’s hard work to gain self-worth. But it’s work worth doing. For more reasons than I had realized. Pro-tip: Don’t beat yourself up when you stumble.

 

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Check out the interview at the link below. It starts about 10 minutes in

http://www.wtfpod.com/podcast/episode-1012-bren-brown

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Low Batch Production – take one

blanks

I’ve just started making leather totes. I’ve made two so far, one at a time. This week I decided to up my production game and try to make three at a time.

I started this challenge by writing out all of the steps in making a bag, hanging that list on my studio wall, and editing the list as I need to. I’ll share that list here:

  1. Rough cut the hide – this makes it more manageable
  2. Cut the straps
  3. Fine-cut the leather with a template including rivet holes
  4. Glue and clamp the sides
  5. Groove sewing lines and punch stitching holes
  6. Saddle stitch the sides
  7. Tamp down the stitching with a mallet
  8. Glue and clamp the gussets
  9. Saddle stitch the gussets
  10. Tamp down the stitching with a mallet
  11. Turn the bag inside out
  12. Rivet the straps

What I’ve learned so far:

STRAPS. I need to cut the straps when before I fine cut the bag. I still haven’t done this and I’ve already started stitching. Why am I procrastinating? Because cutting long straps is a pain in the butt. Hopefully, there’s a strap cutter in my future which will make things a lot easier.

ALIGNMENT. On one of the bags, I forgot to glue it up before I punched the stitching holes. So I’m not sure if things will line up but here’s to hoping that they will OR that I can re-punch the holes that need it without messing up the seam lines.

CLAMPS. I discovered a bottleneck in step three. I can’t glue-up 3 bags at the same time because I don’t have enough clamps.

Oof. Writing this out makes me feel tired but in a good way. I enjoy paying attention to the process. A few semesters back I taught the well-known operations book The Goal so I’ve got that model in the back of my mind, too. Nerdy fun.

 

FOR EVEN MORE FUN (process p*rn)

Making watch straps at Hermes

 

 

Michael Kors on Embracing Self-Doubt

michael-kors-collage

There’s this moment from the show Project Runway that I wish I could find on youtube. In this moment, a contestant is up on the stage receiving critique from the judges. As I remember, the judges liked his work in this round and were giving him positive feedback. Relieved, the contestant starts crying and says, “I had such a hard time with this challenge [sob]. One minute I was happy [sob] the next minute I was in tears and questioning myself….”

At this moment, judge and world-famous designer Michael Kors interrupts the contestant to point something out. He holds up his left hand, points to the contestant and says, “You know that feeling that you are having right now? [long pause]. That feeling [another long pause]. It. Never. Goes. Away. [hold silence].”

When I heard him say that, I felt such relief for the contestant and for myself as a creative person. I thought, ‘If Michael Kors, one of the most famous and successful designers in the world, felt that he needed to stop this contestant to share this insight about his own creative life, then it must be true and it must be important.’

Self-doubt and questioning, this is what creatives do. It’s just how they work. Yes, it makes them a little crazy and it drives their friends a little crazy too (especially the accountants!). That tortured artist thing isn’t a myth. It’s real as alluded to in a well known Kors quote, “Fashion isn’t for sissies.”

So what can we do about this doubt? As with most things that are hard, be mindful of it, even accepting of it. And learn how to manage it. Because that feeling? That feeling that you’re having about your work right now? It. Never. Goes. Away.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Michael’s Night at the Met Gala

repost: The Designer Fallacy

originally posted on this blog in June 2013

Philosopher Don Ihde identifies a phenomenon he calls “The Designer Fallacy.” It takes its cue from an idea in literary theory called “Intentional Fallacy,” which refers to the mistake of thinking that the meaning of a text is restricted to what the author intended; it’s presumed that meanings emerge from texts in various ways. Unintended “meanings” often emerge in design as well. End users of designed objects use them in ways that the designers never intended. The results of this new use can be good or not so good, but I just heard of a good unintended use of a design: there was a bit today in the NYTs on people using parked bikes from NYCs new bike-sharing program in an interesting way:

In a fit of urban guile more likely to affect gym memberships than program memberships, some New Yorkers seem to have identified the newest, cheapest way to tone their lower bodies: hop aboard the seat [of a NYC bike-share bike] and pedal in place — with the bikes still locked — as if the stations were rows of exercise equipment.

Creativity is everywhere, isn’t it?

read the rest of the NYTs piece here

abstract of The Designer Fallacy  here

collection of this fallacy at play here: Thoughtless Acts

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-esteem to self-compassion, 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

Reflecting on 2018

studio

It’s reflection time. I love it. Here are some highlights from 2018:

For the first half of the year, I wrote and published a blog post every day. I always start my day with writing. Mostly I write in my journal. But something about writing for my blog feels different. Blogging helps me figure out what I really think. And it helps me track how my thinking evolves over time. My blog even helps other people – they tell me so!

SPRING. I did a lot of “upskilling” in 2018. In spring, I participated in Seth Godin’s altMBA. It’s a 5-week cohort-based course with lots of great reading, discussion, and exercises on leadership. My favorite reading from that course was The Coaching Habit. In addition to the course content, I loved the actual design of the course and the business model. Very clever.

SUMMER. At the end of summer, I visited Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Maine. While I didn’t study there, the visit inspired me to pick up my own artistic practice when I returned home. This is the major shift I experienced in 2018: a return to my own art and design work.

FALL. This fall while I was teaching Maker Lab at Ithaca College, I was also participating in a 6-week cohort-based course from the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT. This course is geared toward K-12 educators which I am not. But it was free and with a really smart and international crowd, so I signed up and did my best to apply the reading, discussion, and exercises to college-level teaching and learning. Glad I did it.

In addition to these online courses, I took some hands-on courses locally. I took a 5-session mezzotint course and a 4-session course in metalsmithing. I liked getting ink on my hands in the former and loved shaping and joining brass, silver, and aluminum in the latter. I also took a woodworking workshop at the makerspace and made a Shaker-inspired footstool. Fun! And I took a lamp-making workshop at the public library. That was cool, too.

WINTER. Finally, toward the end of the year, I found a studio mate for a very affordable art studio in an old industrial building. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. I’ve been enjoying setting up my half of the space and reconnecting with my tools, materials, and old projects. Projects that I couldn’t really finish when they were set up in my living room or on my dining table. Now I have a space of my own. Well, it’s a shared space. But I like it.

I hope you enjoy reflecting on 2018 and that you are looking forward to 2019.

Onward!

TAKE IT FURTHER

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve significantly cut back on social media. I’ve taken the apps off my phone (I did that this summer when I went to Maine). More recently I’ve blocked most social sites from my web browser. While sometimes they are useful, mostly they are distracting and even anxiety producing. Also, I’m not feeling great about Facebook (and it’s little brother Instagram) as a company. I don’t want to buy what they are selling or contribute to their data gathering activity.

Shorter Sprints in Education

This past week I listened to an interview with SVA Products of Design (PoD) founder, Allan Chochinov. PoD is a graduate design program in NYC that brags in its advertising, “Killer faculty, Killer jobs, No grades.” Love it.

In the interview, Chochinov discussed a few pedagogical tips and tricks that they employ in PoD. One is shorter classes. There are a few reasons to do this. One reason is so that they can bring in top-notch NYC professionals as adjuncts who would find it hard to commit to a 15 weeks course, but can commit to meeting once a week for 5 to 7 weeks. Brilliant.

But the other reason that these shorter courses work is that they edit out the slump that students feel a few weeks into a project. Which just turns into a distraction. They want to change projects, then a few weeks into their second project they want to switch back to their first project. In the end, they have two underdeveloped projects. Not a win.

Now, I used to address this project slump by having students read about it. For myself as an artist, when I discovered that “slump” was a thing with a name, that made it much easier to navigate. But it’s possible that it’s too much to ask of today’s students. It might be better to prioritize teaching and learning agile development over endurance, at least in an intro course.

Graduates these days only stay at a job for 16 months on average. It’s possible that endurance isn’t as relevant as it used to be. Food for thought.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Interview with Allan Chochinov here

 

FOR FUN

Core77 Gift Guide here

Doubt is a form of FOMO. FOMO is a form of Privilege

Making decisions is hard. And even once we make them, having confidence in the decisions that we make can also be hard. Because many of the decisions that we make don’t give immediate feedback that tells us, “You made the right choice.”

It’s often the case with me and the people that I know that making a decision is a form of privilege. So rather than get crippled with doubt about a decision that I’m making or plan to make, I’m trying to channel faith and gratitude. I won’t ignore doubt when it creeps in. That can be dangerous. But I do want to make a connection between doubt and the privilege that allows me to have that doubt. It’s a package deal and a deal that I’m lucky to have.

 

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out

 

 

 

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