I never said they were deep thoughts…

the-martian-movie-posterThoughts I had while watching The Martian (I’ve also read the book and, fair warning, get a little silly about Matt Damon):

1. Mmmm, Matt Damon.
2. As women behind me exclaim over Matt Damon’s torso “Amateurs”.
3. Science is indeed awesome! Yay science!
4. Botany is science. And it’s tasty, tasty science.
5. Sean Bean in a sweater vest is pretty suspicious. And I don’t seem to recall his character dying so… is Sean Bean getting old? Am I getting old?!
6. Nerd humor hahahaha.
7. I got the nerd humor.
8. I do not in any way buy Kristin Wiig in this. Not for half a second. Not even in an Allison Janney as White House spokesperson world.
9. It’s nice that there’s some actual diversity in this movie. But I think Kapoor is ACTUALLY supposed to be Indian? And… Mindy Park? THAT IS NOT A WHITE GIRL.
10. OH NO! I was trying to be quick so I failed at my fundamental duty as a woman: Always checking for toilet paper when you pee!! Panic! No, wait, what would Mark Watney do? (For the record he’s a dude so… What *I* did was make do with pieces of the new sanitary disposal paper bag).
11. This is insanely restrained for a Ridley Scott movie.
12. That’s gotta be a body double right?
13. I am so glad they didn’t schlock this up with a “longingly touching photo of wife and child” scene.
14. I am so glad they focused on this being a series of solvable problems and that it takes math, science, logic and teamwork. Like pretty much everything in life.
15. Every space problem can be solved by the gravity-assist slingshot in the end.

How Hard Could Just Sitting There Be? Turns out…

"Petal", Agnes Martin (1964)
“Petal”, Agnes Martin (1964)

You know how when you’re into something you suddenly see it everywhere? Maybe it was there all along and you were (and this is particularly apt) unaware of it? Or maybe it’s just that you stumbled onto something trendy at just the right time that you accidentally trend-set yourself? Or something like that anyway.

Mindfulness meditation. It’s a thing. And it’s everywhere.

Meditation is not new, of course. It’s an ancient practice. And the whole “mindfulness meditation as a science-based health-assisting practice” goes back a few decades. But here I am, sitting in a weekly MBSR class trying to learn it for myself. And when I open my eyes from one of our sitting meditations, I now see it around me so much.

For a while in the early 2000s, I had a daily meditation practice. I didn’t call it that, because that is way too close to using crystal deodorant and “sprouting my own” for me. I didn’t even really think of it as a “daily” “meditation” “practice” in any sense of those three words. Instead, most evenings, just as I was going to bed, I’d sit on the edge of my bed (or sometimes lied down, but mostly sat) and focus on breathing and trying to relax. I’d start at my head and just work down, trying to consciously relax each part of my body as I went. It took maybe 15-20 minutes and it basically just helped me sleep better. I guess I thought of it vaguely as “cleansing” in some way. I didn’t think of it as reducing stress or have any thoughts about it at all during the rest of the day. It just let me breathe out my tension.

And then, for some reason that I don’t even recall because it probably wasn’t a reason so much as just a change in my routine, I stopped. I knew about formal meditation, of course. I mean: I live in California so it’s impossible not to know about things like meditation and hemp and VC pitching and Burning Man, even if they aren’t things you ever want to actually engage in yourself. But I’ve done a few evenings at the local Buddhist meditation center doing a more formal meditation sitting and listening to their dharma talk. I’m not at all religious or even spiritual, but I enjoyed these and I felt a bit lighter afterwards. So I was predisposed to think there was something in this sitting and breathing for an hour or so stuff after all.

A few months ago, shit got rather real in my life. I’m a naturally anxious person at the best of times. On a 1-10 scale I’m probably operating around a 7 or 8 just being alive. But some other stuff, none of which I’m going to get into on the internet, started piling up and I was not coping well. In the grand tradition of “I just don’t believe in…” that exists in my family I also did that thing where you just try to ignore something is going on and hope it goes away? That didn’t work. Neither did the other option I felt I had which was just to “steer into the skid” and work ever harder. When things are truly out of your control and your photo is in the dictionary next to the definition for “control freak” something’s got to break. Turns out, when I get over-anxious I get hostile. I get angry and lash out and it’s never at the people who truly deserve it. Something really had to give after I would react to someone saying the wrong thing with hysterical crying and losing all the feeling in my hands.

So I signed up for a 10-week class for MBSR for women. Once a week, about half a dozen of us meet and are lead by two instructors through a combination of mediation exercises and some general group discussion. Two months, and one full day in silent meditation later, I can say: it’s helping. I guess? It’s hard to know exactly but I feel better in general so why not ascribe it to this?

I’ve had a hard time with the sitting meditation, which I didn’t expect. Based on my previous experiences I thought I’d pick it back up easily but I really struggle with doing it for any length of time every day. But what I’ve picked up and really started to love and crave is a walking mediation practice. For about 30-45 minutes each night I just… pace pretty much describes it, but leisurely-like, back and forth in my living room/office. The cats think I’m completely insane and probably if anyone else saw me they’d think so too. But it’s actually the opposite of insanity – it’s giving me my sanity back.

I know I’m not the first to the mindfulness party. But like converts anywhere, I feel I need to share what I’ve learned (and am still learning) about a simple-to-learn but not-so-easy-to-really-do practice that might work for others. When I work with coaching clients I’m very clear that I have no training in, nor intentions to deliver, any kind of personal or psychological advice or counseling. I’m focused on their actions and processes around their work, not really their feelings about it but it’s also clear that sometimes there are truly psychological barriers holding us back from achieving what we truly want and have all the best intentions to achieve. For some people those require personal counseling, but for me at this time I seemed to require a whole new way of approaching what the world was delivering to me.

Next week is our last class and I’ll miss that formal reminder/setting. I do well when there’s homework and a structure of reporting to someone else. There are options though, SFMOMA is doing a Slow Art Day tour. Can I look at art for 10 minutes straight? Yeah! Easy! I stared at the Agnes Martin piece here for nearly an hour once.

Happy new year… almost…

Image by Amanda Tomas (via The Billfold)

Happy New Year!

Why yes, it is almost two whole weeks into the new year so I realize this is a little late. I’m taking some liberties and have decided that the end of January is going to be my new New Year.

Historically, I’ve taken some time around the holidays – either around Thanksgiving or Christmas – and done a sort of personal stock-taking. Not necessarily for resolution-making purposes, but just to see where things are at in various areas of my life and try to determine if there’s anything I’d like to consider changing. Mostly it’s just a chance to spend some time in deep thought, which we all so rarely get time to do.

However, this year, between my parents visiting at Thanksgiving and my traveling home to see them and the rest of my family at Christmas, I just haven’t had that chance yet. Work, both in the office and at BrightLight, has been really busy and it’s only just now settling down. So I’ve put off my Deep Thought Session for a little while. Things can roll the way they are right now, at least for a little while longer.

One thing I did spend some time thinking more about is my business coaching business. I tentatively entered that world last year and it seemed to go well. I had some ideas about what I wanted to and a very motivated client and at the end of our sessions together I had learned so much about where my strengths and weaknesses as a coach lay and she really got going in developing some professional skills and habits that had fallen by the wayside. The key takeaway from it though was that the client is the most important thing. Not just that in coaching the focus is always on the client’s needs; that should be obvious. But that my personal ability to connect with the client and for them to be willing to open up to me and to put in a tremendous amount of difficult work, is the key to the success of any of it.

In going forward, I’m looking to take on another coaching client or two. I’ll be very focused on finding the right ones, both in my evaluating them but in being sure they’re also evaluating whether I’m the right coach for their needs. If you’re interested in engaging me for coaching sessions, please contact me at info@getbrightlight.com.

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to update more and more here, which should give these prospective clients some good sense of what my perspectives are and my attitudes towards various parts of both business operations and the sorts of topics we’d cover in any coaching sessions.

Rookie » Embrace Your Ignorance: An Interview With Neil deGrasse Tyson

The recipe for success overlaps from one profession to the other. It’s hard work and determination and focus. That’s true no matter the profession.

via Rookie » Embrace Your Ignorance: An Interview With Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I want people to really recognize this. When I work with clients who are in  creative fields and who think that the business operation part of their enterprise is beyond them, my goal is to bring them to this understanding. It isn’t at all beyond them if they’re already successful in one area: it’s just a different application of the same things that brought them that initial success.

How I Work: Louis CK on experimentation

There’s a lot that I admire about how Louis CK has been operating lately – his independent release of his latest comedy show and his upcoming independently produced and ticketed tour. But even more than that I love that he’s been so transparent about how he’s done these things and the results he’s had. I think he’s not unlike the majority of people I like to work with:

AVC: You’ve similarly talked about how you’ve run your company with a certain degree of pragmatism, but it also seems like in the way you conduct your business and your creative affairs, that there’s also a lot of idealism in that as well. Do you see yourself as a moral, idealistic person?

LCK: I don’t know. I’d be afraid to call myself that. I think I’m more just very curious. I do have a lot of energy, so I will try stuff. Doing stuff like this is really, really hard work. Putting this tour together was a huge amount of work, and it did mean being a little bit brave, because it’s scary. I don’t want to upset any of these people who do this shit. [Laughs.] You know what I mean? So some of it that’s not just practical is that I will try to do stuff that can be a little scary but feels right to me, even if it’s harder. So that’s what I would identify as feeling like that. Outside of just trying to get it done. It’s worth it. And also, it’s exhilarating.

From: Louis C.K. on eating pressure and providing an alternative to The Man

Learn Something from Someone Else’s Intensity…

Learn Something from Someone Else’s Intensity…

A super interesting article from GQ about the Olympic Basketball Dream Team. I always love learning lessons about how to win and how to learn and get better from areas that aren’t directly my own. For me, this is the money quote in that regard:

Marsalis: I saw a lot of the guys around the hotel. I saw Jordan sitting watching Angola on tape, just staring, looking for weaknesses. I said, “I don’t even want to bother you, but why are you watching this game?” And he said, “I always take my opponent seriously. I never underestimate anyone.” It wasn’t lost on me that he was the only guy watching the game.

Read More http://www.gq.com/sports/profiles/201207/dream-team-20th-anniversary-1992-olympics-usa-basketball#ixzz1xceMrU4C

A Different Kind of Satisfaction

A Different Kind of Satisfaction

One of the things I like most about bookkeeping is how it ends. It has finality. Yes, of course, there’s always next month and next year and the receipts and statements and invoices never ever stop. But every month you take your pile of paperwork or emails and you enter all of these transactions and then you reconcile it. Reconciliation is the most fun for me because I get to check things off the list, play detective for anything that’s not right and when you’re done, you’re done. It all adds up and that month is done. That feeling is so incredible, so very satisfying.

That’s not always an easy feeling to have in our lives. Since I’m also a project manager you’d think that I’d get that feeling all the time when projects complete. And I guess you do. At the end of it, if you’re a successful project manager your project launches (or in my case the code gets released) and you do get a feeling of satisfaction but for some reason it isn’t the same. Maybe because these projects are bigger and towards the end are often such a slog, so pressure-filled, that I don’t get adrenaline from it. I know other PMs who do, but I don’t. I just find it exhausting and I’m “so over it” by then. And of course, I’m usually managing more than one project at a time, so it’s not like everything is actually done, just that one is finished, for now.

So when people look askance at me when I say I do bookkeeping as part of this side hustle (and they do, I think they find it weird that I’d do something so seemingly mundane) I try to explain this, that this is a lovely little feeling to have every month. To be able to close the month and move on to the next one.

Does that 3.5 include lunch?

Somehow a copy of Prevention magazine happened into my mailbox. I think the AARP is out to get me. I’m seriously not that old (is Prevention for old people? Maybe it isn’t? I’ve always thought it was). Anyway, after it told me I should be walking and eating kale I saw an interesting little thing on one page. An image was tagged and said that the hours of actual work people complete on Mondays is … 3.5.

What?! That’s insane. Really? Is that true? I can’t tell since it isn’t like there’s footnotes. And I’m not really up to doing any hardcore sleuthing (I bet Prevention reads Reader’s Digest, so you might want to start there for sourcing).

I always find Mondays to be one of my most productive days. It’s generally quieter (and now I know it’s because NO ONE ELSE IS WORKING) and I feel a bit more energized after the weekend. Yes, it probably does take a couple more cups of coffee to really get going but mostly I come in and power through tons of things before the day is out.

Similarly, other days have distinct patterns: Tuesdays are THE WORST of all the days. By then everyone else has their crap together and wants to dump it on me. We have more meetings that day than others. It just tends to be when things spiral out of control. Maybe that’s also why there’s extra incentive to really buckle down on Mondays, because at least on Mondays I’m getting through my own to-do list whereas on Tuesdays I’m the victim of someone else’s. Wednesdays are a disaster for me but that’s because late-night Tuesday curling makes me draaaaag all day. If there’s a day where I’m most likely to reach the magic Prevention 3.5 hours of actual depths of production it’s going to be Wednesday. I try hard not to do any heavy thinking then because it’s very likely completely delusional.

Thursdays are great for meetings and big thoughts for some reason. I’ve never figured out why but people are always most open to longer meetings on Thursdays. And Fridays? Everyone loves a Friday. I use it (or, at least the afternoon) to wrap small tasks up and get myself organized for the upcoming week (probably also a reason Mondays are often quite successful).

But no matter what, no matter how much I’m procrastinating or reading to the end of the internet, 3.5 hours is really really low. And yet, at the same time, as Americans we spend more time at work than so many other countries? I guess we’re not really working.

Perfection is good too… sometimes.

I guess that depends on your definition of “perfect”? I do agree with the other saying that Perfect is the Enemy of Good.

Many of my BrightLight clients find bookkeeping and accounting tasks frustrating. It’s a lot of little details and a lot of things to keep track of and it never ends. There are things they think they should be doing better like better tracking, doing entries themselves, or never losing a receipt. There are things they think they should just innately grasp about how it all gets done and what the numbers and reports all mean. But the reality is… that isn’t real. Not everyone is perfect at doing this and that need for perfection, which in their own businesses, doing their own work is what makes them great, ultimately means they sometimes never start anything at all. It’s okay that accounting isn’t what they’re good at and that they’ll never be perfect recordkeepers. The important thing is to start and keep at it in whatever way works for them. The rest is up to me to work out because I’m the one that that should both get it done and get it done perfectly. And if we’re honest, sometimes that also takes a couple of tries, reviewing my work and going back and doing something again to get it right.

So yes, I guess sometimes being done is better than being perfect, so long as done resembles something useful. Doing something terribly just to do it isn’t the answer either.

Image: yesandyes.org via Mary-Lynn on Pinterest