Live From Kalamazoo: A New Shot at Love

A little over a year ago, I was invited to write a letter to a newborn baby, Toby. In it, I wrote about the benefits of being generous, and in particular generous in love: “I’ve also given away lots of love. Often that love was returned, but sometimes it wasn’t, which was painful. But as Billy Joel sings in The Longest Time, 'I have been a fool for lesser things.' I believe it is always worth taking a chance for love.”* I remember hesitating after writing that: would I come across as pathetic or needy? Was the Billy Joel reference too common? (Maybe I should have quoted someone more "intellectually impressive"?) But I went with it, and was glad I did. Honesty and boldness are their own rewards, since they help you overcome shame and feel more secure in your own skin. And I did get a couple of emails from people who said my email inspired them to take some risks in love. Here's the incredible thing, though... Not two weeks after writing that letter, in the kind of coincidence you would scorn if you saw … [Read more...]

Who Makes the Best Mentor? And Coming to Terms with My $14,500 Mentor Failure

Who makes the best mentor? According to research, it's not the star performers: In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, for example, Jerker Denrell of the University of Oxford and Chengwei Liu of the University of Warwick counsel us to model ourselves on solid, second-tier performers, not the flashy types who come in first. The researchers reported on the results of a game played in many rounds. Over time, the most skilled players came to inhabit a second tier of reliable competence. Those who succeeded spectacularly—who took their places in the first tier—were often not the most skilled, but rather were those who got some lucky breaks early on or took big risks that happened to pay off. Emulating these top performers would probably lead to disappointment, since imitators would be unlikely to replicate their good fortune. Because luck and risk play a dominant role in extraordinary outcomes, Denrell and Liu write, “extreme success or failure are, at best, only weak … [Read more...]

Designer Milton Glaser’s Universe of Abundance

An important element of perfectionism is a sense of scarcity and deprivation, so this quotation from iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser offers an important antiperfectionist message: "If you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity then it will be...I always thought that there was enough to go around - that there are enough ideas in the universe, and enough nourishment." Want to live and work in a universe of abundance? Then work to overcome your perfectionism. ht Brainpickings' Explore project … [Read more...]

My Inner Critic is a Wise Latina

I had a really bad night's sleep last night, even for me. At one point, I actually dreamt that I was being judged by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor! Could be worse--could have been Scalia or Alito or Thomas. So the yield of twelve+ years work helping others overcome their perfectionism is that my Inner Critic is "a wise Latina woman." Could be WAY worse. (And she wasn't even that bad in the dream!) Actually, I know why I dreamed of Sotomayor: a friend recently recommended her biography to me with extreme enthusiasm. So I will have to check it out, and I recommend you do, too. Meanwhile, this week New York Times health reporter Jane Brody ran a column on insomnia, and most of the comments are from desperate insomniacs seeking solutions. The "most liked" comment makes these excellent points: Going to bed early feels like childhood punishment, and deprivation of all the fun things like TV shows, films, late restaurant eating, snacks, Facebooking and so on -- yet if you must rise at 5:30AM … [Read more...]

My Dad’s Finest Hour

My dad was an intelligent, creative, and incredibly thwarted man who was unhappy much of his life. I suggested a couple of times that he get therapy, and his answer was, "What do you think I am--nuts?" And so he never got happier. So I'm really happy to read that more elderly people are using therapy: “For people in their 80s and 90s now, depression was considered almost a moral weakness,” said Dr. Gallagher-Thompson. “Fifty years ago, when they were in their 20s and 30s, people were locked up and someone threw away the key....So they learned to look good and cover their problems as best they could. "But those attitudes have shifted over time, along with the medical community’s understanding of mental illness among seniors." My Dad would have been 87 this year. He was capable of much more than he achieved, personally and professionally; however, factors including the Great Depression, the traumatic loss of his teenaged brother to cancer, and a chronic obesity problem blocked him. He's been gone … [Read more...]