Keep Two Thoughts

Personal essays

Yes and - Essay from Newsletter 69

The art of plussing


You have this new idea.

You are so excited about it.

It might be an idea for work or something you want to accomplish in your community or just something new that you’d like to try at home.

You share this idea with someone and they tell you what’s wrong with your idea.

Something that you haven’t thought of.

Some reason it won’t work.

You stop and think.

Either you think, “oh you don’t know” or you think “maybe you’re right.”

It doesn’t matter. Your idea was met immediately with an objection and that changes it.

Attitudes and Anxieties

Lately Annabelle has been following me around a lot.

She walks up to me and places a paw on my foot as if to anchor me in place.

When I cook she is constantly underfoot. I’m constantly walking into her and am worried that I’ll trip over her while holding a hot pot or a knife.

People suggest she’s anxious.

I reassure her. I pay attention to her. I hardly leave the house these days.

And yet - she feels the way she feels and, seeing the world through that lens, she worries.

It turns out that people aren’t that different.

Sian Beilock, author of the book “Choke” says that people with math anxiety tend to do poorly on math tasks.

And yet, their anxiety kicks in when they know they will be asked to do a math task.

So it may not be the case that people who do poorly in math have math anxiety - it may be that the math anxiety kicks in before we start the math task and that anxiety is what causes us to do poorly on the task.

Our attitudes shape our performance.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky

Before I make a suggestion I want to tell a story.

I read a tweet this morning from ToraShae in response to the question, what is something from your wedding that stood out for you?

She answered that she and her partner, “told our officiant we would be getting married dressed as Gomez & Morticia Adams.”

OK. Stop right there.

Imagine you are told that you would be performing a wedding ceremony for a couple who planned to get dressed up as the parents in the Adams family.

What would you say or do?

I’m betting it wasn’t this.

“When we showed up for the ceremony,” ToraShae tweeted, the person performing the wedding ceremony “was in a FULL Cousin It costume.”

Pixar and Improv

Randy Nelson has a great talk about The Collaborative Age.

I was lucky enough to work on a project with Randy on one of my contract gigs for Apple. He was working at Apple University and I got to work with him and learn from him for six months.

When I was a kid I’d seen him perform with his juggling and comedy troop The Flying Karamozov Brothers and was captivated.

Anyway, Randy had been the Dean of Pixar University and he described two core principles of Improv that had guided their attitudes toward collaboration.

The first is to accept every offer.

Imagine if when you take your new idea to your friend they nod and accept that.

“But Daniel,” you say, “I can’t do that in my line of work.”

Did you just hear my story?

A minister (or whomever officiated the wedding) dressed up as Cousin It because the couple was dressing as Gomez and Morticia.

What is it in your line of work that prevents you from being a little open to ideas?

The other principle is make your partner look good.

I read an interview with some of the cast members of Ted Lasso after the show and cast got a record number of Emmy nominations. Two of the actors were saying that part of the trick is that in any given scene two of the shows creators will quietly make suggestions to make the other actors outshine them in the show.

By making the other actors do better, the show does better, and everybody wins.

No Judgement

Check out Randy’s talk and take a moment this week to notice when you’re about to shoot down someone’s idea.

Actually he says you don’t take someone’s idea and say, “hey that’s pretty good” either.

You don’t judge the idea at all.

It’s not that the idea is good or bad.

What gives us that right to say someone else’s idea is good or bad?

When someone brings me a piece of writing or an idea for a presentation, I try to think about what we can do to make this better than it is.

Good or bad - there might be things that aren’t working for me.

I may not know what they are or how to fix them - but I know that I’m losing interest at this point or I’m confused at that point.

What is it that can be done to make it better.

What they’ve shown me is our starting point.

It’s too easy to say “that’s good” or “that’s bad”.

Accept what they offer.

Help make them look good.

Give that pair of techniques a try just one time this week. See how it goes.

Essay from Dim Sum Thinking Newsletter 69. Read the rest of the Newsletter or subscribe

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