Monthly Archives: May 2007

Stumbling on Happiness- Start With Your Brain

I’m reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (well, listening to it- I love Audible.com – great for commutes and car rides not taken up by podcasts).  It sounds like another pop psych book, but it’s really about one of my favorite topics- How the brain works.

The lump of matter between our ears can be compared to a computer, electrical wires, or many other things, but I see it as a starting point for understanding most everything about people.

The brain is not static, but changes over time.  As we grow, it grows, and different parts “come online” over time.  For example, all of the classic child developmental stages proposed by Piaget have been found to coincide with changes in brain structure and growth.  When you learn that the frontal lobes, responsible for things like higher order thinking, judgment, organization and the like don’t finish their large growth spurt until about age 22, it’s no wonder insurance companies don’t cut young people a break until they reach age 25.

Then take facts like developmental windows, where it’s easier to learn certain tasks like foreign languages when you’re young,  or how hard it is to unlearn things you never learned properly the first time- like those few multiplication facts that always tripped you up, or those words you always seem to misspells in an idiosyncratic way….You rapidly conclude there’s something to this wiring thing, and when you accidentally wire a defective pathway, it’s really hard to shut it down and rewire it to the right information.

The great thing about Stumbling On Happiness is its discussion of how bad we are at previewing what will make us happy.  There are all sorts of tricks our brains do to get us through the day; our adaptive, hard-wired responses to things that cause us always to assume we’ll be happy only if __________________ (fill in the blank).  We make a million dollars.  The person of our dreams loves us back.  Our children are budding geniuses.  We have a vacation home.  You name it.

However, you often find once you reach the end point or goal, the fun seems to have been in the striving and not in the end point itself. I’ve been struck at how many Oscar winners say it was a great moment, but the cache of the achievement wears off pretty quick- you get a couple of months of special attention, and then you were that guy we saw on TV again, nothing so extraordinary.

For kids with LD, many have quirky wiring.  Their brains may do some things very well, but other things are much slower and ponderous by comparison.  This means you can have incredibly smart and intuitive people who are great at coming up with new ideas, or linking ideas together, yet when it comes to making these great ideas concrete action steps, they are hopeless.  Other kids learn much better auditorily than visually, making audio books great for them, but written books painful.

Kids on the autism spectrum, for example, often have extreme sensitivities to touch, smell , sounds, and other external stimuli they can’t control.  There seems to be some indication that these kids don’t have their neuron highways trimmed down to high speed T1 lines, but maintain a series of highly connected back roads, meaning every stimulus lights up the whole brain, not just selected parts.  This overstimulus is often too much for them to process and bear, causing them to freak out.  Not unlike when I snap at my kids when both are vying for my attention while I’m also trying to make dinner and talk on the phone.  My system gets overloaded and I freak out, even if I don’t want to-my system simply breaks down over the stress and needs a reboot, so to speak.

I believe if we can understand how our brains work and process data, how we behave and act makes a heck of a lot more sense.  Then we can make more conscious decisions about what we really want to do, what will really make us happy – once we understand that happiness is not a set of external circumstances, but really about our perceptions and expectations.

Once we really understand happiness as a satisfaction of needs, maybe fewer people will expect other people to make us happy.  Instead, happiness can be achieved by taking control over ourselves and our choices, good and bad.  And frankly realizing I have control over my own happiness is a lot less frustrating than waiting for the happiness fairy to show up (rotten bastard never seems to come on time, does he?)  Or for that matter, expecting other people to do something to make me happy- they aren’t trained seals, after all- no one can make you happy.  Other people can bring joy into your life, share their ideas and opinions, share themselves in a multitude of ways – but in the end, they can;t make you ahppy or sad- that is a choice you make on your own.

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The Biography Meme

My friend, Chris Brogan, has started a biography meme, so I thought I’d give it a try so you can learn a bit more about me.

The Thing Most People Know me for is:

Well, here’s a tricky thing. Online, People know me as the producer of the LD Podcast, a podcast about learning and learning disabilities. I also helped organize PodCamp NYC and am one of the lead organizers on PodCamp Philly, Sept. 7, 8, & 9th at Drexel University. I also regularly contribute to the GNM Parents Blog, which has more readers than my podcast has listeners.

In “real” life, I’ve written a book on Public Assembly Facility Law, helped design the NFL’s Americans with Disabilities Act compliance program, and have been the teasurer of the Junior Board, a major fundraising and service organization for Christiana Care Medical Center in Delaware. Then there’s always the stint as Chair of the Community Education committee and CPA President at Centreville School, while my kids were still there.

So what I’m most known for largely depends on who you are talking to and which hat I was wearing at the time.

The people I associate most with are: Well, there’s my family, the parents I work with on PTO projects like the Book Fair, close friends, many of whom have kids with LD, and neighbors. I have a few close childhood friends who I see when I go to visit my Mom in Rochester, NY, but Ive been developing more and more close friendships with people I’ve met in new Media and Social Media, including Chris Brogan and Chris Penn, CC Chapman, Linda Mills of Podcast User Magazine, Paige Heninger, Dennis Gray from 101 Uses for Baby Wipes, John Havens, Kathryn Jones, Eric Skiff, Howard Greenstein, Laura Allen, Jason Van Orden (Podcamp NYC Organizers) and others.

People who have influenced my life most are:

* Steve Roth– Chair of the Biology Dept. at Penn and founder of Neose Technologies, a biotech firm. Steve was one of my first mentors, and told me words that stick with me to this day: “If your choices in life are whether to get a PhD in Biology or go to Law School, you have no problems.” The bottom line being- do what your best at, and don’t get hung up on anything in particular. Let your talents guide you.

*The children, parents, teachers, and experts who have spoken at Centreville School. It’s seeing parents and children in emotional turmoil about school issues- parents desparate to help, but not sure what to do; kids frustrated with school; teachers dealing with children and parents who are emotionally exhausted and fragile, and experts who come in and try to put all of it in perspective. They are why I started writing the book and later, my podcast. Anything that can be done to help people help their kids succeed and avoid false hopes and promises is worth doing. period.

*Chris Penn and Chris Brogan. Through PodCamp, I started to come out of my shell. CBro, or as I call him, Obi Wan, not only started Podcamp, he has helped me get started blogging, introduced me to many people who are now close friends including Megin and Stu from GNM Parents, has helped me get paid work in new media, and has been an overall inspiration. Chris Penn is my mac guru, a smart, thoughtful guy I feel VERY fortunate to call a friend. We also share project together, a young college student who was in Boston and now lives near me. It kinda feels like I have shared custody of this young person with Chris. After meeting the Chris x 2 in Boston, my life has changed utterly for the better, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Thank you, both of you. What a cool year it’s been. Love you guys like family.

One Challenge I took on and overcame: I think the biggest has to be deciding I would stop talking about writing and write; then deciding that I wouldn’t let others stand in my way of voicing my thoughts and opinions, leading me to start the podcast. It has meant becoming less shy and more outgoing, which after years of being largely a housewife, took a whole lot of courage and has been scary as hell. I love it, but I still get freaked out occassionally about the enormity of it all. When I get emails from the other side of the world, thanking me for helping someone and their child, I feel like my life is worth living every day. It makes having gone through everything to help my own kids worthwhile, to see that these experiences can help others as well. But it means not playing it safe all the time anymore, which is not always easy.

My early years, before you probably got to know me were: I grew up in Rochester, NY. I went to a small, private high school with 40 kids in my graduating class. I was a bit of a geek, building digitizers for early Apple Computers, for my science fair projects, back when hi res graphics was a really big deal. I played squash, and was nationally ranked at age 16. I went to the Univ. of Pennsylvania as an undergrad, where I met Matt Hoffman, now my husband. One of our best friends in college is now the head software designer at Pixar, a guy we used to tease when he’d show us animation using “real world coefficients of friction” and we’d say- “That’s nice -Can we go to dinner now?” Who knew?

I worked in an electron microscope lab, for Steve Roth for a year doing research, and then decided I wanted to try law school. I moved to Gainesville, FL where Matt was in med school, and worked as a legal secretary for a few years before starting law school. I was a geek there, too- wrote onto law review and got an award for research.

You might not know this but: I was once seriously considering med school. I love science, cognition, psychology and the like. That’s been a really good thing, in terms of understanding how the brain works in general and especially with kids with learning disabilities.

I’m Passionate about: My kids. Learning. Books. Helping others. Knitting. New media. Connections you make to others and how seemingly small actions can change the world. Seeing people use their native talents to excel. Really excel. That’s cool.

In the next year or two I hope to: Well, this is hard, because I could never have imagined I would be where I am now one year ago. that does not mean there is no diretion, it just means that heading is constantly being subjected to fine tuning and new opportunities coming down the pike. I’ve considered working for a law firm consulting on new media, but that seems so limiting in some ways. I want to develop a better work flow, explore new oportunities and hopefully get to a point where I can expand the business to employ others. That would be terrific.

So, that’s me in a nutshell, or what matters, I suppose. What about you?

 

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More Thoughts on The Dip- Doing More Than You Think is Possible and Souvenirs

More and more of what Seth Godin said yesterday at his presentation on The Dip keeps surfacing.

He asked everyone to raise their right hands in the air as high as they could.  then he asked us to raise them one inch farther- and guess what- we could.  A clear metaphor that we can all do a little better if we try.

He talked about how he differentiated people in small groups when he was looking for new employees. He asked them “How many gas stations are there in the US?”  Inevitably, there were three responses.  Some people decided this was immediately impossible to know, ‘you’ll never be able to figure that out’ types, and folded their arms. Another few would give a quick answer or insist on more information before they could begin to answer.  The last group would start trying to calculate it, looking at variables, estimates and parameters.  Who would you hire and why?

Another thing that stuck was the concept of Souvenirs.  People buy souvenirs of trips, at various costs, ranging from cheap to expensive, as reminders of experiences they’ve had.  Books at book signings.  Ridiculously priced t-shirts, mugs and pictures at amusement parks.  Jewelry.  You name it.  You can go hear someone speak, but the notes, the memories, the person’s book all act as souvenirs of the experience.  These are the touchstones and the reminders that bring the feelings, concepts, and experiences back to you in a tangible way.  [How else can you explain the number of plastic cups from Disney, Hershey Park, Niagara Falls, and the like in my cabinet?  Besides having young children, that is.]  As a business person, you can make a fair amount of money off these souvenirs- if they are worth something to someone else.  Isn’t this the whole thrust of podcasters/bloggers/websites having Cafe Press stores in the first place?  Online, print on demand souvenirs.

Souvenir comes from the french word that means to remember.  It means a memento, a recollection, or the act of remembering itself.  If we are all trying to be remarkable, we have to make an impact on the memory of others, make it so they want to talk about us, refer their friends and collegues.  We want them to come back and have a new experience, as good as or even better than the last.  We want them to take our ideas with them like souvenirs.  And where do we get compensated for the experience?  By selling souvenirs in other forms- books, speaking engagements, products, and the like.

If you get right down to it, the whole concept of gift giving is based on this concept of souvenirs and remembering.   You give someone a gift on a special occasion as a remembrance of the importance of the day (such as an anniversary or birthday) but also so they remember you in the future.  I can still tell you who gave me most of our wedding gifts, and the special gifts given to each of my children when they were born- hand-knit items, keepsakes, and the like.  I remember authors and brilliant phrases because they made a deep impact on me, like a gift handed to me for reading their book.

We remember what our brains tell us is important; we forget what is trivial or fails to make an impact. There is a lot more to this concept than you might think- This one will stay with me for a very long time- a great souvenir in itself.  Thanks, Seth.

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Seth Godin- The Dip

Seth Godin came to Philly and gave a great presentation on his new book, The Dip: A little Book That Teaches you When to Quit (And When to Stick).  It was an amazing presentation.  The PowerPoint slides were simply pictures that illustrated his points, in that “a picture’s worth a thousand words” way.  He uses stories and examples that bring his points to life in a tangible way- I learned as much about great presentation style as I did from content.

One of the main things I am still mulling over eight hours later was prompted by a question in the audience- “If you’re giving this all away for free, how are you making a living? Where does your money come from?”  And this struck me as similar to the question I got from the finance major who asked “What is your five year plan?”

And the answers given in both circumstances were remarkably similar.  Seth does what he does because he believes in it.  It works for him, he’s passionate about it, and other people recognize him as remarkable.  He gives ideas away for free, but if someone wants a one on one consultation or a special speaker’s event- that’s expensive.  And it works for him.  He doesn’t want to be the Walmart of marketing- mass produced but average.  Instead, he wants to be special and accessible and exclusive (I mean exclusive in the “Best of the Best” way.  Seth is really all about including everyone in the opportunity to be the best at what they do.).

When I was asked about my five year plan, I said there was none, giving the finance major an opportunity to roll his eyes and become immediately dismissive.   Yet isn’t being flexible, growing and adapting as need be, and adjusting course as necessary more important that an overall fixed goal?  I want to be the best podcaster about learning and learning disabilities around.  I don’t want to be the best NBA player, or dogcatcher or nurse.  As long as I love what I am doing, I work towards being the best and being remarkable- isn’t that what it’s all about?  It certainly gives me more confidence and sense of accomplishment than any day spent doing laundry or filing law suits.  Both of those tasks have good and bad points and are within my skill set- but they hardly bring me the joy my podcast does;  The joy helping other people does.

In the end, money is at best a poor measure of success.  It may be a metric to follow, and I am not adverse to money, but I do know a whole lot of other things make me a lot happier than working at a job just because the salary is great. And feeling like I have another great day ahead of me each morning when I wake up is worth more than just about anything.  In fact, it becomes hard to imagine how anything else could matter.

I hope I’ll be able to teach my children the joy of being the best at what they do, and finding what they are best at.  Their islands of competence and their unique gifts.  Because this sense of feeling whole, useful and successful is better than any drug could possibly be.    And being able to face each new day  as another adventure, even on those days where you get lost in the brush and come back scraped up and disheveled, is better than safe, boring or soul-robbing jobs will ever be.

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Thinking Outside The Box

Thinking outside the box is a maxim that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? Some people might say it means breaking rules. I think it means innovation and synergy. It means taking what might appear to be disparate concepts, tossing them together, and seeing what happens. It means taking a look at a problem from a completely new perspective. It means considering that there is no right or wrong answer, just infinite possibilities and choices, some of which will lead you in one diretions, others down a totally different path.

Some people naturally think “outside the box”. They come up with ideas that seem off beat, kooky, funny, original. They aren’t looking for just an answer- they are looking for spectacular. I have a paperweight that says “An Original is Hard To Find, But Easy To Recognize.” This is the “Oh, Wow! Neat-o!” moment. The thing that catches your attention for its originality and novel approach. But it’s also hard to be “original”, particularly on demand. Is there a trick to it?

Think about how much easier it is to use a phillips head screwdriver than a regular screwdriver on a phillips head screw. It can be done, but not as quickly or efficiently. Sometimes the right tool makes a job so much easier, you can;t imagine what life was like beforehand. Take reading for kids. Once you know how to read, your life is fundamentally different than it was before, and you can’t go back to a time when you didn’t know how to read, at least without major brain trauma.
Kids with LD often need what we refer to as a toolbox- a set of skills and tools they can use to approach a novel problem. A set of strategies, so that if one doesn’t work, they just merely grab another intellectual wrench out of the box and try again. Most people have their own personalized set of intellectual tools they have developed and invented on their own. Sometimes being shown a new tool by a friend opens up a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities- work can get done more efficiently, better than ever before- now that you finally have the right tool for the job.

So in order to “think outside the box,” you need to use your whole toolbox, even the wrenches and hammers and screwdrivers you never thought you could use in this way before. Consider:

1. You are a summation of your life experiences to date. There’s no rule that says you can’t use what you learned in freshman psychology to your current work situation. You need to be able to apply what you learned in Area A to Area B. I use my undergrad studies in biology as a framework to think about how people act and develop. Add psychology classes, and my law degree, and you end up bringing disparate skills sets together in a way that makes me a perfect blend for producing my podcast on Learning Disabilities. It requires an understanding of how people tick, how the law structures what services kids can get to help them in school, and a logic and discipline that come equally from the exactness of science and the reasoning required in the law.

2. Don’t Assume Something is a Waste of Your Time. I have gotten some great ideas from really odd situations. I can take the problems someone is having and try to find a new approach, a new order, a new solution that at the very least, offers a different possibility to consider. I wrote about a friend who was considering buying a small business. After we dissected why she wanted to do this and did what amounted to a business autopsy, she decided she would try to work for the business for a few months, to see whether or not it was a good fit for her. (A suggestion we discussed). A much better plan than jumping off the financial cliff into business ownership, without preparation. You could contend this might have seemed like a waste of my time, but it presented an opportunity to really look at a business objectively, pros and cons, without bias. It gave me not only an opportunity to help a friend, and as it turns out, she might help me complete the long-stalled book project, so it ended up being win-win for us both- something I did not anticipate.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Try the Router. You never know when a new tool or strategy will really help. Whether it’s using gmail, or having learned the quick mental math to figure out percentage discounts, you never know when a new tool will come in handy. Collect them, even the odd ones, (well, keep expense in mind) because you never know when you’ll need it. Or at least know which one of your friends has those tools, so you can borrow it or get a recommendation when you need it. (There are many people I rely on for this role, including the Mac Ninja, Chris Penn.) This is when twitter is really useful- crowd sourcing problems to friends.

4. The Answer You Seek is in Another Section of the Bookstore. The interesting thing here is a concept I read about initially from CS Lewis many years ago- he has a great book all about the things he learned on his way to looking up other things. Follow your curiosity, and don’t be afraid to look in other topic areas for answers. My favorite example of this is that most management books apply equally to parenting children as they do to employees and vice versa. You can learn more about getting your children to be responsible, maximize their achievement and the like from Marcus Buckingham as you can from T. Berry Brazelton or Dr. Mel Levine. And at the heart of the matter, many of the concepts are the same. The business language of “Finding Your Strengths” is the same as finding “Islands of Competence” for kids as suggested by Dr. Mel Levine. And should we really be so surprised? If you can teach and manage children, adults are easy by comparison. If you can capture the attention of a room full of fifth graders with your story telling, presenting to a conference room full of executives is essentially the same.

5. Simplify Down to the Core. Many problems become so much easier to solve if you take a reductionist approach. Ask yourself- what is my goal here? What is the bare minimum, and what is the “Lexus” version of things? What do I want versus what do I need? Can I make do with Good enough? It’s like my friend Jen says- You can have it Cheap, Fast or Perfect- Choose two. You can get it cheap and perfect, but it’s gonna take a while lot longer. You can get it faster and perfect, but it’s gonna cost you. A lot. Or you can choose Cheap and fast, but perfection is not gonna be there.

Thinking outside the box takes a willingness to use every tool in the box if need be. Don’t assume it’s one size fits all, or that your lunch with a friend is pleasant but a waste of time, or that the idea that flashes while on the phone is crap- write it down and see what happens- it may be a tool you’re going to need a little farther on down the path. Grab those tools from all over your life, and apply as needed. Cross pollinate. It works.

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A Year Ago…

I’m coming up on the 1st anniversary of my podcast. This, coupled with a recent blog post from a friend, referring to a post of his from almost a year ago, gave me pause. What has happened to me in this past year, since becoming involved in new media?

-I have a podcast (The LD Podcast) which is successful. I am no longer sitting for hours, writing, wishing for the day when a publisher finally takes a look at my book project. I am no longer desperately searching out the approval of an agent. I am in charge of my own creativity and have my own voice. And surprisingly, at least at first, others are paying attention.

-I no longer feel mute. I felt I had something to say for a long time, but no where to say it. It was frustrating. Now I have a podcast and two (well, three really) blogs, where anyone can hear me 24 x 7 if they so choose.

-I feel so much more self- assured than ever before. I am no longer looking to others to pass judgment on my life and determine its worth. I’m sure plenty of people have opinions about me, good and bad. The freedom I feel in expressing myself is much more important to me than the fear of judgment.

-I have a new group of friends from new media whom I love with abandon- the exchange of ideas, the support, the energy, the passion to take risks and try new things, and the depth of emotion is truly incredible. Just take a look over at If Not Now, When? , a great blog and video project from Kathryn and Nick, exploring what makes us tick and what holds us back from our dreams. The questions they pose, along with the openness and honesty of the responses is moving, and gets you thinking about where you are and where you’re headed every day.

-I am no longer afraid all the time. When I find myself on the fence about something, unable to decide, I now ask myself the tougher question- Am I really afraid? What is the best/worst outcome? If I can deal with the worst, then heck, go for it! So many of my inertia problems over the years have stemmed from some inner fear- fear of success, fear of no longer having an excuse, fear of having to put up or shut up, fear of failure, fear of feeling like a fraud, fear of not being good enough. I am really trying to get rid of fear in all its forms, as much as possible, because it insidiously poisons us with doubt and keeps us from living.

So I’ve decided the theme for the next year in my new media experiment is discovery and passion aggression.

Discovery is the simple one. I want to use my natural curiosity, adventure and exploration to expand my horizons. try new things. Talk to more people. Explore my world beyond the “sides of the fishbowl”

Passion aggression is when you are full out pursuing your dreams, even when there is significant risk that you may come up short. It is swinging for the fences, and enjoying the rush. It is riding the out of control roller coaster, where things move faster than you’d like, but there’s no brake or even slowing down in sight.

I love the passion and energy new media folk have. They are, by far, the most energetic and enthusiastic people around. Talk to someone like Julien Smith, CC Chapman, Kathryn Jones, Chris Brogan, Laura, Chris Penn, Mark Blevis, Paige and Gretchen, and so very many others, and you immediately sense their aliveness.

In every day circles, you see many people who are merely phoning it in at their job or at home- they aren’t engaged or energized by what they’re doing. Not the new media people. If anything, these are the folks who have so much they want to accomplish in any one day, they would gladly clone themselves or even better, lobby for 40 hour long days, just to have the time to see their ideas come alive.

I feel so lucky to be a part of this world, and to know these people with such boundless energy.  They inspire and energize me when my energy lags, and I hope I can do the same for them.  It’s been a heck of a year, and I can’t wait for the next!

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Rules of the Red Rubber Ball and The Not So Big Life

I went to my favorite bookstore yesterday (Chester County Books) and found two remarkable books: Rules of the Red Rubber Ball and The Not So Big Life. (Link to Amazon here) Red Rubber Ball is a small book that would be easy to overlook on a shelf; the not so big life book attracted my attention because it’s written by one of my favorite architects, Sarah Susanka. These books might seem worlds apart from their titles alone, but they share more than just my passing interest.

The Rules of the Red Rubber Ball makes my list for the imagined and oft contemplated New Media School. The author, Kevin Carroll, has had a fascinating life, starting out with few if any advanatages other than believing in himself, and ending up becoming an athletic trainer to the Philadelphia 76’ers, and working for Nike, before staring his own consulting business. The Red Rubber Ball for him symbolizes his early love of the playground and sports. The playground became a center, a keel for Kevin, a place of escape and place to dream. In the book he asks provocative questions about what is our “red rubber ball”-

  • What Would you do for free?
  • What Activities Enthrall you?
  • What in life do you find irresistable, a source of inspiration, a reason to get out of bed?
  • What Dream Do you Chase?
  • What Topics Do you Love to Discuss and Ponder?
  • What is your Primal Source of Joy?

And from these questions (There are even tear out sheets so you can take these with you….I suggest you do…) identify your Red Rubber Ball. Once you have it, Kevin offers additional advice key to getting to the point where “the source of your play become[s] your life’s work so much so that no one- not even you- will be able to tell the difference between to two”.

I’ll talk about this more in future posts, but for now, let me say the happiest and most successful people I know follow this rule- the difference between their work and their play is virtually indistinguishable.

Sarah Susanka’s book, “the not so big life- making room for what really matters” took me by surprise on the shelf. Sarah is by far and away one of my favorite architects of all time, along with Robert Stern, dean of Yale’s School of Architecture and the designer of houses and vistas that fill dreams. Sarah’s books on home design and architecture are about making the most of small spaces, but also lean towards an esthetic of “less is more”.

In a day where square footage in new homes seems more important than design and comfort, the idea that excellence can come in modest packages appeals. In fact, when we bought our house three years ago, we moved to a slightly smaller house than the one before, but its design and architecture made me feel at “home” more than I ever did in the one before. I now know what I long suspected- design and use of space counts for so much more than palatial square footage in terms of making you feel “at home”- a place of rest, rejuvenation and inspiration.

Susan has taking this theory from architecture and translated it into life lessons. From the book flap:

Most of us have lives that are as cluttered with unwanted obligations as our attics our cluttered with things. The bigger-is-better idea that triggered the explosion of McMansions has spilled over to give us McLives. For many of us, our ability to find the time to do what we want to do has come to a grinding halt. Now we barely have time to take a breath before making our next call on our cell phone, while at the same time, messaging someone else on our Blackberry. Our schedules are chaotic and overcommitted, leaving us so stressed that we are numb, yet we wonder why we can’t fall asleep at night.

[Sounds like I am speaking to any number of my New Media Friends. Looking at Chris Brogan’s blog, just to pick on him as one of many convenient examples, and you see someone whose life is filled with excitement and travel, yet I worry in a motherly/sisterly way about the stress all this connectedness can cause. (It’s hard not to feel like family in our rather insular world).]

The book goes on to use Susan’s thoughts about uncluttering homes and living better by restructuring what we have, as metaphors for the rest of our lives. This is why I can’t wait to delve into this book further-what happens if we decide we have enough, and use what we have to its maximum, than always aspiring to “more”?  Do we know when enough is enough?  Do we know what really matters in our life? Do we know how to use time effectively, and live in the now?  Or are we constantly chasing the elusive “someday” without doing anything today to make someday a reality?

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that today is the someday I thought about in college.  Today is much different and unexpected from the someday I imagined years ago, yet it’s special and remarkable in ways I couldn’t have predicted.  It’s exciting and fulfilling, but I also know if I don’t take time to appreciate the Now, I won’t realize what I already have.

There’s a great temptation to try to “outrun” your problems.  Change jobs.  Move.  Change spouses, significant others, accusing others of holding us back.  But guess what?  Like Buckaroo Bonzai said- “Wherever you go, there you are.”  All the rest is merely a distraction  from yourself.

So the take home point from this overly philosophical post is that you need to be centered and comfortable with you before you can be happy.  Happy is not a destination, but a state of being, and it comes from within, not from outside.  You can’t outrun yourself and your personal demons, so as tough as it is, confront them.  Cope.  And know that you are good enough, right now, if you can only take the time to see what is, rather than what might be in the future.  We need dreams, goals and aspirations, but to create that path to the future, you’ve gotta start today with what you have.

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