Save your pouncing for my throat

Some people are like cats. 

They make you work for their affection. 

You don’t have the right to just walk up and interact with them, they allow you to interact with them. 

Because they don’t trust anything but their own eyes. And if you don’t wait for them to set the pace for contact, then they will consider your actions a threat display, run away, show disdain and spray you in the face with pee. 

That really happened to me once. You’d be surprised just how salty cat piss really is. 

But enough about my bachelor party. 

Point being, these cat people are exhausting. Each time you interact with them, you feel unworthy of their consideration. Like you’re not authentic enough to pass their little test. There’s too much suspicion and too little trust. 

Kind of like an old coworker from my first ad agency job. He was a cat person of the highest degree. The rest of the team wanted nothing more than to say to this guy, look, there is a time for skepticism and accountability, and we appreciate when you do that, but enough of this aggressively authentic, hyper critical, calling bullshit on everything that crosses your path, captain of the integrity police behavior. 

Not every goddamn moment needs to be criticized and picked apart within an inch of its life. 

Congratulations on your feline ferocity, but the rest of us are tired of you sticking a pin in every word we say and taking all the magic, mystery and potency out of our interaction. 

Look, sometimes an ounce of asshole does go a lot way. 

But it doesn’t have to be the default setting. 

Save the pouncing for the jungle. 


Is talking to you a relaxing experiencing?

On twenty years of wearing a nametag everyday

On most days, it barely even occurs to me that I’m wearing a nametag. 

It’s such a fixture at this point. Something that’s been such a part of me for so long, it doesn’t even stand out anymore. 

Unless, of course, I find myself surrounded by a new group of people on a regular basis. 

Like starting a new job or joining a new club or moving to a new neighborhood. Then it’s back to square one, no pun intended. Answering basic questions, satisfying intense curiosities, assuring people of my relative sanity, and so on. 

Why do you wear a nametag all the time?
What about in the shower?
Do you handwrite each label?
What does your psychiatrist think about all this? 

It’s good times. Twenty years of this madness, and it still hasn’t gotten boring. 

Actually, the most fascinating part of the whole experiment is viewing it through the eyes of different people. The perspective is priceless. 

Years ago my new office mate, for example, came into work one morning and shared his user experience, so to speak, of telling my story to his roommates. Apparently his friends turned on a dime when they heard about it. They suddenly became quite angry, arguing what a stupid idea the nametag was, and how much it must suck to be working with a guy like that. 

One roommate even joked to my coworker, wow, this nametag guy must really take himself seriously. 

And my coworker was taken aback. He did not anticipate the magnitude of people’s negative reaction around something like a nametag. But it really does happen. More than you would think. Wearing a nametag triggers people’s resentment and even rage. It’s the strangest thing. 

And the arc of understanding typically goes one of a few ways. 

Some people stick with their initial negative reaction and give me zero benefit of the doubt forever. 

Some people dislike the nametag at first, then meet in person one day, and realize that it’s actually quite useful and fun. 

But my favorite personality is when somebody resents the idea for months or even years. Doing everything in their power to resist it. 

But they reluctantly come over to my side. 

Lesson learned, stick around and continue to be yourself and the correct people will find you. 


Or hate you. How do people experience you?

When we can break though our control programming

Surrendering is not the same thing as deserting. 

Accepting our lack of control doesn’t diminish our passion for practicing. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because once we are willing to accept how not in control we actually are, we’re free. 

Once we learn to trust the process and engage with the world without forcing it to bend to our will, we’ve won. 

When my tech startup announced they were doing corporate layoffs years ago, it was scary, sad, confusing and lonely. Especially for our team, since my office was located six hours west on a completely different continent than the rest of the organization. 

We felt like the last dead limb off that tree to fall in the yard. 

Those last three months were awful. Every week another one of our coworkers would be abruptly cut from the team. With very little closure or clarity around the decision. People just started disappearing like autumn leaves. 

But as painful and disillusioning as that transition was, it was also profoundly freeing. Because it was only a matter of time before the rest of us got the chop. 

And so, why torture ourselves over petty dramas and useless arguments? Why waste an entire hour debating whether or not the pantone color of our display ad was brand consistent? Why kill ourselves trying to win the approval of a callous executive team who were about as loyal as a sardine on a taco? 

Better to just focus on what really matters in this moment, which is navigating this transition with as much grace and wisdom as possible. 

From getting our affairs in order to updating our portfolios to handing off our projects to saying goodbye to searching for new job opportunities, this was our work now.

And by accepting what we couldn’t control, namely, our jobs and the company’s direction; we made room for greater ease and efficiency over what we could control, namely, our attitude and our leverage potential. 

Remember, acceptance over what we can’t control creates space for joy with what we can. 

Surrendering the illusion of control sets us free to enjoy what each new day brings. 


What if you accepted your adverse condition and let go of all resistance to it?

A new awareness of the self in the world

You don’t have to be one thing in life. 

The goal is not to be yourself, but to be your many selves. 

Even if those selves are not clean and likable and moral. 

Hell, there are facets of my personality that are outright repulsive. 

Like when my apathy and cynicism are at their peak and my faith in humanity disappears like a fart in the wind. Or when my sense of entitled defiance ignites, and my inner mutineer starts breaking rules that annoy everyone. Or when the hot rage simmering underneath my calm exterior creates a sudden urge to elbow drop annoying children on the streets.

These selves are not worth being proud of, but they’re not worth running from either. Simply accepting and integrating. True power, after all, is the ability to exert command over our many selves. To welcome opening doors that lead to the experience of the lesser selves. And to use everything in our life to cultivate the whole of our being. 

How many selves do you own? Is there a version of yourself waiting to be realized? 

If so, just know that it’s never too late to join the ever growing community of selves inside each of us. 

If you want to move from your condition of brokenness to wholeness, say yes to it all. 


Are there alluring versions of yourself which haven’t been given the proper chance to live?

People don’t resist change, they resist being changed

Ellis, the pioneer of rational emotive behavior therapy, wrote a compelling book on overcoming resistance from patients in therapy. 

One of his observations was that all humans have a sense of agency, a desire for control, or a sense of independence. And this basic and universal human motivation results in people feeling rewarded for reacting against the will and instructions of others. 

Think about, for example, the last person you tried to change. 

How did that work out for you? How much of a fight did they put up? Did they eventually have a complete shift of heart and come over to your side, or did they simply resent you? 

Truth is, people don’t resist change, they resist being changed. 

Because they’re terrified that they can’t control the outcome of their actions. 

My old ad agency used to hire interns from local colleges to work over the summer. They were sharp and scrappy, but also stubborn. Which meant there was always a ton of resistance. 

One of the principles our founder laid down was this. 

Instead of trying to change the students, try to make change seem attractive and interesting and possible for them. Interact with these interns in a way that makes them say to themselves, I believe this, I can do this, I think I’m willing to try this. 

The goal was to create an environment in which resistance to change could dissolve. 

Naturally, this approach did not always work. But our overall batting average was much higher when we stopped motivate them and starting inspiring them to motivate themselves. 


Are you describing better version of people and the letting them find a way to it?

Keep a bloodhound hanging in the closet for emergencies

We live in a culture of cortisol. 

Everything is a manufactured emergency. 

When psychologists recently found that our stress level was at the highest it’s been in ten years, nobody should have been surprised. 

But contrary to popular conditioning, stress is not an achievement. It’s not a badge of honor, and it’s not something worth bragging about. 

Truth is, we need to get better at planning, not get better at emergencies. Only then will our collective lungs actually exhale. 

My old web developer, at the beginning of every project kickoff meeting, would always ask me the following question. 

What are the rules for what happens when this happens? 

Meaning, give us all the information that we need to assist you on the front end, and that will help us in prioritizing our reply and action when issues come up in the future. 

Forget about websites, that’s actually brilliant strategy for anxiety management. Each of us should ask ourselves. What are the rules for what happens when this happens? When we’re at work or at home or out in the world, and an avalanche starts coming at is that we think we’re incapable of dealing with, what’s the protocol? 

It’s like one of those insane ridiculous survival kits. You don’t necessarily need water pouches, emergency ponchos, survival whistles, fifty feet of nylon rope and three pairs of flame retardant safety goggles. But for a few hundred bucks, imagine how calm you would be in a disaster situation, knowing that you had a plan in place. You just grab the kit and start running until the sun comes up or the zombies fall asleep. 

Stress and anxiety work the same way. When we plan for events in advance, emergencies are less likely to knock us off course. 

For me, my first few panic attacks left me balled up in the corner, frozen, claustrophobic, confused and helpless. But once I finally understood the nature of panic, and put a plan in place to bypass the scrutiny of my dysfunction mind in the moment, the cortisol didn’t stand a chance. 

And so, think about how might be able to bring a higher function to your automatic responses. 

Decide what taking precautionary measures looks like for you. 

Sensitize and train yourself to assess and dispatch anything appropriately. 

Trust your intuitive choices about what you’re doing. 

And soon enough, you will be build a strong practice, you won’t have to make any new choices. 


What are the rules for what happens when this happens?

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