Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If you can't articulate a problem, does it exist?

What do you call it when you have educated intuition? I'm actually not even sure if that is a term, but it should be, or at least there should be a term for it. What I'm talking about is not the sixth-sense sort of intuition, but more the sort of intuition you have about something you're familiar with.

For instance, I know a woman who bakes a lot of bread, and she can look at the dough and say "Not enough yeast" or "It's too sticky" or even "I can't make bread today--it won't rise in this weather."

So far, she's never been wrong with these assessments, but I can't see what she's talking about. Bread-making is not my skill-set. (I am very good at baking, but bread-making is a whole other branch of culinary chemistry.)

In general, this educated intuition is good--it's why I can do a high-level review of files and find the error. It's how cooks know to add a little more of one seasoning and not another. It's how we make a lot of day-to-day decisions that we may not even realize we're making.

But this educated intuition can be frustrating, too, when either you don't have it, or you can't access it fast enough.

I was recently at a writing conference where possible titles were being suggested for an as-yet unpublished work, and I knew that the facilitator was listening for a certain rhythm, or cadence, or structure as he rejected titles or put them on the mental "maybe" list. But I am not a professional writer (yet) and I don't have years of experience (or any at all) in the publishing industry. I couldn't hear the difference between suggestions like "The Stone of God" and "God's Stone." (Which one would you be more likely to buy based on title alone?) (Also, if you google image these two phrases you get some similar, but mostly different results. Crazy, right?)

This is frustrating because as a would-be author, I want to market my writing in the best possible way. I want a title that works for the book, catches publishers' and readers' eyes, and is easy to promote. But I have no idea what this sounds like.

Similarly, I work with a woman who is very familiar with her field (we call her a SME--subject matter expert. Oh corporate America and your acronyms!), but when we're in meetings lead by strong personalities, she sometimes pauses before she speaks and by the time she decides what to say, the meeting has moved on to a new discussion point. When I asked her about this, she told me that sometimes she hears an idea, and it clicks around in her brain for a moment or two as she processes it. So she's nearly always a beat behind.

This is unfortunate in two ways: when her educational intuition says "that's won't work" but she can't pinpoint why, people move ahead with plans that have already been tried, or don't have enough data to be useful, or have some other limitation, when a more useful solution could be found if the matter were discussed a little longer. Secondly, when she hears something that sounds workable she doesn't speak up, so the rest of the room doesn't know that they're on the right path.

So obviously, in the first example, experience is a huge help, but it's also fairly easy to google book titles in your genre, or *even crazier* go to a book store and look at what sells (fantasy, for example, has a lot of titles where the structure is The [object] of [some location, person, etc.] as in The Sword in the Stone, while historical fiction uses a [Main character's name]:[His/her unique identifier] model, such as Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World.

But what do you do when you can't access the data quickly? Should you interrupt the meeting and say, "I think you're going to find some problems with that suggestion, but I'll have to get back to you on them"? That sounds pretty lame. And you don't want to schedule another meeting to resolve something you thought was already resolved but turned out it wasn't, although this sort of thing happens all the time.

The problem, it turns out, is in the ability to articulate the problem.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Getting rid of stuff that's not working

As part of my Transform campaign, I'm working on making some changes in my life. But this process is largely trial and error. After reading Gretchen Rubin's book about habits, Better Than Before, I learned that the reward system largely does not work (e.g. If I lose 10 pounds, I can buy myself those cute shoes). Nonetheless, I still harbor the idea that if I do all of this hard work, I should get some sort of treat. I really don't know why this is.

I did learn that I am motivated by external sources, not internal (this was a bit of a surprise to me, too!). This doesn't necessarily mean other people--I love watching the little arrow progress around the treadmill's track signaling that I'm closer to completing another lap. But, this is also why I'm doing a sugar-detox diet with friends. Left to my own devices, I think I'd only be eating scrambled eggs and veggies. And I'd be doing a lot of crying. And I'd probably give up after about 5 days.

Part of this Transform journey is figuring out what works, but another part is figuring out what doesn't work. As it turns out, I really don't like exercising in the morning. When I lived in Oregon, I could manage it because I would work out with friends who lived in the same apartment complex, and we would use the complex's gym. Convenience, it turns out, is super-important to me. I am more likely to exercise at work, even if they don't have all of the equipment I'd like to be using, than I am to drive to my local gym. Mostly because I'm already at work.

I'm more functional when I have time to get up slowly. This morning I got out of bed at 6:40 am and left for work at 8:40 am. I'm pretty sure most people do not spend two hours getting ready to go to work, but I like to sit at the kitchen table and read while I eat breakfast, and whenever I don't do this, I feel sort of off-rhythm all day. Sometimes I do productive things before work, like pay bills, but most of the time I just read.

I've discovered that meditation does not work for me, at least not right now. It simply became another thing for me to do, and while I was meditating, I really, really struggled to turn off the "monkey mind." In theory, that's sort of the point of meditation--to be able to turn off the monkey mind, but I actually found my pulse speeding up while I meditated instead of doing whatever it was I needed to do IMMEDIATELY AFTER I FINISH MEDITATING. So I decided to stop trying to meditate. I might try again in the future, but right now, it is not a good fit.

As it turns out, this Transform project is also a project of self-discovery!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Not yet

I am a chronic over-scheduler. In general, I say it's because there are so many interesting things to do, and my job isn't one of them. But, alas, I have bills to pay! So I try to maximize my "free time" to the point where I literally fall asleep on the floor mid-post-run-stretch.

This is maybe not the healthiest approach to life...especially since I'm no longer in my twenties, when you can still conceivably beat up your body and get by. So, I'm practicing making "not yet" decisions.

To be clear, this is not a form of procrastination (like my constantly changing outlining of my novel may or may not be). This is for stuff that I'd really like to do, but there is no realistic way for me to do right now. This is not something I get to say about making credit card payments, going grocery shopping, or even scheduling dental appointments. That would be procrastination.

"Not yet" is for great ideas: we should go to Peru! It will be amazing! Yes, I'd love to go to Peru, and I'm sure it will be amazing (I mean, hello, llamas!). But, not yet. Let's put that on the 5-year plan.

"Not yet" is for decisions I don't have to make right now. Would I like to be a life coach? I think so, but I'll need to look into it a lot more. Is this something I can realistically take on right now? No. Well, then not yet. I cannot become a life coach yet.

"Not yet" is about realizing that there is a time/money/energy gap between many of the things I'd like to do, and my current availability to do them. It doesn't mean I can't ever do them, it just means I can't do them YET. It means I'm actively deciding to postpone decision making on things that don't need a decision YET. It means I can relax about some of the nebulous anxiety around ALL OF THE AWESOME THINGS I COULD BE DOING IF ONLY I WASN'T STUCK AT WORK!!! I'm just not doing those awesome things YET. It is not about giving up, or quitting; it is simply about acknowledging limitations, including that I can't possibly be doing everything all of the time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The tragedy of jogging

Somehow, I have become a jogger. I used to be a runner, but I am now sufficiently slow that I do not feel that "run" is the verb that accurately captures my forward momentum, or lack thereof.

As you have probably guessed from the title of this post, this is not a development that I am pleased with.

A friend wants to run the Portland Marathon in 2016, a race that I've already completed three times. Immediately after finishing my most recent marathon (not Portland), I swore I would never run another again, but as my running partner prophesied, I'd change my mind. (She didn't. She's still over marathons.) Which means I have a year and 5 months to turn myself not only back into a runner, but back into a marathoner.

I have several books related to running, including anatomy, specific workouts, and even a few memoirs. The first step is, honestly, to lose some weight. Not because I'm trying to be skinny, but because I'm about 25 pounds over my  marathoning weight, and that's a lot of extra weight to carry for 26 miles. (I blame all of the thug muscles I've gained doing CrossFit. And the squats. Don't get me wrong, I still love CrossFit. But for me, CrossFit and marathons are not compatible.)

I'm trying to up my running (and cardio in general) to get to a consistent number of miles a week so that I have a base on which to build a training platform. (At least I sound like I know what I'm doing!) Oh, wait, I do know what I'm doing! I'm becoming a runner again. I'm becoming a marathoner again. I'm transforming my self and my life.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Virginia does not share hot chocolate!

My company is doing a 30-day meditation challenge, in which everyone who is interested is invited to meditate for 15 minutes a day for 30 days. We have some group sessions on campus, and we receive links to online resources, as well as daily inspirations. This is today's inspiration:

As I'm sure you can imagine, I don't find this particularly inspiring. 

I signed up for this meditation challenge because meditating is part of my transformation ideology. And actually, deliberateness is, too. I want my life to be less hurried, less rushed, less frenzied. But I find that whole sentence above to be confusing. 

I don't want to come back to this day, as if it was the final day of my life. This day has been spent at work, doing workish things. I would rather come back to Saturday, when I bought Captain America the smallest hot chocolate in the world because he wanted two sips of mine and I told him that Virginia does not share hot chocolate! (Also, I asked him, remember that time we went out to dinner and I was starving and you finally took me to get something to eat? And he told me, that's every time we go out to dinner. He understands me so well!)
This is so much more inspiring, because it is so silly! And, Captain America reported that it was THREE sips of hot chocolate! He even got a bonus sip!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This is why I get nothing done at work, even when I don't spend the day in meetings.

I show up at work this morning and immediately attend a meditation session (yes, I work for one of those kinds of companies).

Then I get back to my desk and I sit down to finish listening to the Excel training I started yesterday (by Jeff Lenning--he's crazy enthusiastic about excel. I'm crazy enthusiastic about anything that automates my job and therefore makes my life easier. Or at least allows me to spend less time at work. Unlike writing this blog post.)

Except, I have a friend who's looking for a Conservation Biologist to talk to a high-schooler with leukemia about what her job is like. And I know a Conservation Biologist. So then I spend some time connecting the two of them. The C.B. is currently driving across the country, and may or may not be headed through Spokane, WA, where Cody makes Disney-themed drinks. (I can't make this stuff up. As far as I'm concerned, this might be the only reason to go to Spokane, and I haven't even had one of his drinks.) So, of course, it is basically my civic duty to inform the C.B. of this.

But my new manager wants me to look into getting a company-issued phone, so I start to research that, and I reach out to the woman I'll be shadowing to see if she actually has a company-issued phone, and we get into a whole conversation on when I'll be moving to my new location so I can actually be of some use to my new team.

At the same time, I coordinated a women's group lunch to make sure all of the attendees understand that we have two lunches this week--one with our group and one with another group. Then I had to remove an attendee who TOLD ME LAST MONTH that she wanted to be part of the group, so I added her to everything, and then TOLD ME TODAY that she is too busy. She's an administrative assistant. You'd think she'd have a better understanding of scheduling.

Meanwhile, I'm also taking a Facebook class or something on becoming a Beach Body Coach--which I am killing, by the way--today we are supposed to 1) Make a healthy choice. Meditation it is; 2) Reach out to a friend--nailed it! I've reached out to, and connected, two of them FOR PHILANTHROPIC REASONS, and it's not even lunch; and 3) do something to grow yourself. I guess I could count mediation for this one and then do something else healthy, like not eat out of the snack drawer. If only I could get paid to be this awesome! But, tragically, this isn't really my day job. It's only what I've been doing at my day job.

Monday, June 15, 2015

I might be turning into Marlon Brando. Or not.

Basically this is a post with a lot of pictures. So it's a lot like a children's book, but even more random.

I've lost my voice. Which is generally sub-optimal, but even more so since my instant message communicator at work was causing my Outlook to crash. So basically I had to learn morose code to communicate today. It's a lot like Morse code, except you can also use it to communicate with Grumpy Cat.

(It's a good thing I can entertain myself, since I'll probably have no friends left after I force them all to learn morose code.)

Anyway, a coworker said I sound like Marlon Brando. When I try to talk. With my non-voice. Which I suppose is a step up from yesterday when I sounded like a drowning Muppet.

At any rate, I told said coworker that I was going to take a class at our gym taught by an incredibly enthusiastic 62-year old. This is him playing the role of Cupid on Valentine's Day. Obviously he suffers from low self-esteem.

Coworker says, I don't have the energy to take Cupid's class.

I say, I haven't worked out in a week. I might be turning to mush. Sort of like Marlon Brando when he got old.

Young Marlon Brando was hot. Old Marlon Brando looks like everyone's great-uncle Nelson. Which is fine for the great-uncles of the world, but not so much for a woman.